11 Pentecost – Even 08/24 – 30/2014 new

August 23, 2014

Week of 11 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.
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 Podcast Download: Week of 11 Pentecost – Even

11 Pentecost – Sunday – Even

Podcast: Sunday 11 Pentecost – Even

First posted 08/14/04;
Joshua 24:1-15  –  Choose whom you will serve;
Acts 28:23-31  –  Paul preaches in Rome;
Mark 2:23-28  –   Lord of the Sabbath;Joshua Paraphrase:

Joshua gathered the tribes together at Shechem to renew the covenant with the Lord. Joshua recounted the history of Israel, from the time God called Abraham from Haran (in present-day Syria) to go to a new land that God would show him and give to his descendants. The Lord gave Abraham a son, Isaac, and to Isaac he gave Jacob and Essau. Essau inherited the hill country of Seir (Edom), but Jacob and his descendants went to Egypt.

The Lord obtained the release of the Israelites from Egypt by bringing great plagues upon the Egyptians. The Lord parted the Red Sea while the Israelites crossed over, and then destroyed the Egyptians who were pursuing them through it. The Lord led the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. Then the Lord gave them victory over the Amorites (east of the Jordan River) and led them through the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Balak, king of Moab, had hired Balaam, a Mesopotamian seer, to curse Israel, but the Lord made it impossible for Balaam to do anything but bless the Israelites.

The Lord parted the waters of the Jordan and brought Israel across on dry ground. The Lord gave them victory at Jericho, and drove out before Israel all the people who occupied the land of Canaan, so that Israel took possession of houses, fields, vineyards and oliveyards which they didn’t have to create for themselves. Joshua called the people to serve the Lord in faithfulness and sincerity, since the Lord had been so faithful to them. Joshua told each individual that one must choose for oneself whether to serve the Lord or not, but Joshua was committed to serving the Lord.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul had been arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem following an attack on him by Jews from Asia who had been persecuting him and wanted to kill him. Although Paul was innocent of any crime, the Jews plotted to kill Paul in prison, so in order for any hope of justice he was forced to appeal for trial before Caesar, since Paul was a Roman Citizen.

In Rome, Paul was allowed to stay in his own quarters under house-arrest. Since Paul’s preaching of the Gospel had been the cause of his arrest and trials, Paul called the Jews of Rome together and proclaimed to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Jews came to Paul and he spent the day explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ and trying to convince them that it was the fulfillment of the scriptures of Moses and the prophets. Some of the Jews were convinced but others did not believe, so they left, arguing among themselves. Paul told them as they left that their unbelief had been prophesied in Isaiah 6:9-10. Paul told the Jews that the Gentiles would accept the Gospel and receive salvation although the Jews did not. Paul stayed there for two years at his own expense, and preached and taught about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God to all who came to him.

Mark Paraphrase:On the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were passing through fields of grain and his disciples were criticized by Pharisees among the crowd which followed Jesus, because the disciples had picked some heads of grain and were eating them. The Pharisees declared that this activity constituted the work of harvesting and threshing, which was not legal on the Sabbath.
Jesus replied that David and his men, when they were fleeing from Saul’s attempts to murder him, had eaten the bread of the Presence from the sanctuary, which only the priests were allowed to eat, because they were hungry and it was their only readily available source of food. Jesus pointed out that God created the Sabbath for the benefit of mankind, not the other way around. Jesus declared that “the Son of man” (Jesus) is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

Commentary:

The Lord is good and faithful in every way. It is not the Lord who causes our problems; it is mankind’s sinful human nature. The Lord didn’t enslave Israel; the Lord freed them from slavery. The Lord gave them victory over their enemies, led and provided for them in the wilderness, and gave them possession of the Promised Land just as he had promised.

The Israelites at Shechem had heard of the Lord’s saving power and faithfulness to their ancestors and had personally experienced the Lord’s saving power and faithfulness as they had followed the Lord in trust and obedience to his Word. Joshua commanded them to make the commitment right then to serve the Lord, and then to fulfill that commitment.

Joshua publicly declared his commitment to serve the Lord, and challenged the others to follow his lead in committing to trust and obey the Lord. [I’d like to suggest a perhaps unorthodox proposition that “Balaam’s error” (Jude 11; Revelation 2:14; Numbers 25; 31:16;) was the notion on the part of God’s people that, as God’s favored people, they could not be cursed, regardless of their lack of obedience to God’s Word. This is comparable to the concept of “cheap grace;”* the idea that salvation is by grace alone, without the requirement of obedience and discipleship].

Paul had learned the truth of the Gospel of Jesus and had committed to trusting and obeying Jesus as his Lord. He had personally experienced the power and faithfulness of the Lord. He had personally experienced great persecution because of his proclamation of the Gospel, but nothing was able to silence him. He fulfilled his commitment to serve the Lord.

Those who rejected Jesus hated Paul for no reason except Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was definitely not “self-righteous;” he considered himself “the foremost of sinners” who solely by God’s unmerited favor was given mercy as an example for all who trust in Jesus (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

The Lord’s teachings are given for our wellbeing. The Law regarding the keeping of the Sabbath was not given to oppress us but to benefit us by providing rest and opportunity for spiritual nurture. It isn’t the Lord who is trying to oppress us. It was the Pharisees who wanted to oppress Jesus’ followers because they hated Jesus. The Pharisees regarded themselves as righteous because they thought they kept the Law. They honored the Sabbath (when it was convenient for them to do so), while violating the commandments to love God and love others.

The Church is called to trust and obey Jesus as Lord. As we begin to trust and obey Jesus, we experience the power and faithfulness of Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit which he gives to those who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e, John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b), through whom we have personal fellowship with the Lord. We must choose to serve the Lord, and then fulfill that commitment by trusting and obeying him.

Are we serving the Lord or are we serving the gods of this world? Are we faithfully proclaiming the Gospel or are we trying to be “popular” in this world? Are we preaching discipleship and obedience to God’s Word, or are we preaching “cheap grace” and pursuing Balaam’s error?
Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6


 

11 Pentecost – Monday – Even

Podcast: Monday 11 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/15/04;
Joshua 24:16-33  –  The death of Joshua;
Romans 16:1-16  –   Paul’s greetings;
Matthew 27:24-31 –  Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified;Joshua Paraphrase:

At Shechem Joshua renewed the covenant between God and the Israelites. The people promised to be faithful to the Lord and not to serve other gods. They acknowledged that it was the Lord who had delivered them from bondage in Egypt, had preserved them in the wilderness, and drove out the Canaanites from the Promised Land.

Joshua warned them that the Lord is a holy and jealous God; that the Lord would punish unfaithfulness. If Israel forsook the Lord and turned to worship foreign gods, the Lord would punish and destroy them. But the Israelites promised that they would serve the Lord faithfully, so Joshua declared that they were witnesses against themselves that they had chosen to serve the Lord, to which they agreed.

Then Joshua told them to put away the foreign gods from among them and trust and obey the Lord from their hearts. The people promised to serve the Lord and obey his Word. So Joshua made a covenant with the people at Shechem. “Joshua recorded these words in the book of the Law of God” (Joshua 24:26). Joshua set up a stone pillar, as a witness to the covenant, under the sacred oak at Shechem as a sanctuary to the Lord. Then Joshua dismissed the people to their territorial inheritances.

After this, Joshua died at one hundred and ten years old. In the distribution of the territorial inheritances, the people of Israel had given Joshua the city of Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim (Joshua 19:49-50) and there Joshua was buried. Israel served the Lord during the lifetimes of Joshua and the elders who outlived him who had witnessed the works of the Lord (in giving Israel possession of the land).

The bones of Joseph which the people had brought with them from Egypt were interred in Shechem on land which became part of the inheritance of the descendants of Joseph, bought from Hamor, the father of Shechem, by Jacob for a hundred coins. Eleazar, son of Aaron, died and was buried in Gibeah, the town Eleazar’s son, Phinehas, inherited in Ephraim.

Romans Paraphrase:Paul concluded his letter to the Roman Church with personal greetings. (Christian travelers depended on the hospitality of fellow Christians for accommodations, since the inns of that period were frequented by prostitutes and robbers.) With the exception of Prisca and Aquila, there is no other information on these people except what Paul mentions here. These people loved and helped one another, worked together to accomplish the mission of the church, and risked their health and lives for one another.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Pilate found no reason to execute Jesus, but the crowd demanded it (Matthew 27:23), so Pilate washed his hands publicly as a sign that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood, and turned Jesus over to the people. The people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children! Pilate released Barabbas (a notorious prisoner; Matthew 27:16), and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

The soldiers of the Roman Governor took Jesus to the Praetorium (the Governor’s residence) and mocked and scourged (whipped) Jesus in front of the entire Roman battalion. They put a robe and a crown woven from thorns upon Jesus, put a reed in Jesus’ right hand, hailed him as King of the Jews, and struck him on the head with the reed. After they mocked him they stripped him of the robe and led him away to be crucified.

Commentary:

When the people of Israel had entered the Promised Land they renewed their covenant with the Lord to faithfully serve him. They acknowledged that the Lord had been faithful and had kept his Word to deliver them from Egypt and bring them through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. They acknowledged that the Lord would punish and destroy them if they forsook the Lord. Joshua told them to trust and obey the Lord and serve him with all their hearts, and the people promised to do so. Joshua declared that they were witnesses against themselves that they had chosen to serve the Lord.

Paul’s closing greeting is a roll-call of faithful servants of the Lord of the first-century church who are mostly otherwise unknown heroes of the faith.

The people of Israel rejected their Messiah, the heir to the throne of David, and demanded Jesus’ crucifixion, pardoning and receiving a notorious criminal instead. They accepted the guilt for Jesus’ death upon themselves and their children. The result was that the Jewish religion effectively ended at the crucifixion (See entries for Holy Week, even year). The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and has never been rebuilt, the Jews were scattered to the farthest parts of the earth, and only since the end of World War II have they begun to return to their homeland.

It isn’t what we promise to do, but what we actually do that matters! Our deeds will be our witnesses. It is not those who say that Jesus is Lord who are Christians, but those who do what Jesus commands (see Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46). It’s not membership in the people of God, the Church, but trust and obedience to Jesus Christ that counts. What kind of servants of the Lord will we be?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

11 Pentecost – Tuesday – Even

Podcast: Tuesday 11 Pentecost – Even

First posted 08/16/04;
Judges 2:1-5, 11-23  –  Reason for Israel’s incomplete conquest;
Romans 16:17-27  –  Final appeal and benediction;
Matthew 27:32-44  –  The crucifixion;Judges Paraphrase:

In his farewell address, Joshua had reminded the people of Israel that the Lord had given them the Promised Land, and had begun to drive out the inhabitants of the land before Israel. The Lord would continue to do so as long as the Israelites trusted and obeyed the Lord. Joshua warned that if the Israelites turned away from the Lord and joined into covenants with the inhabitants of Canaan, intermarried, or adopted the customs and idolatry of the land, that the Lord would no longer drive out the inhabitants and they would become a snare and a trap to the Israelites (Joshua 23:3-13).

The Israelites had been unfaithful in their covenant with the Lord, and therefore had failed to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan (Judges 2:1-5). The Israelites had done what was evil in God’s sight and had worshiped the idols of the native people. So the Lord allowed Israel to be plundered and dominated by their enemies, since they were no longer able to withstand them.

Then the Lord raised up judges (military heroes who governed the people) who saved the people from their enemies. The Lord had pity because of the oppression of his people and would raise up judges who would deliver the people from their enemies. But the people would not listen to their judges, and would soon turn from the Lord and his commands. They continued to serve other gods and did not turn from their evil ways, so the Lord did not remove the remaining inhabitants from the land.

Romans Paraphrase:

In Paul’s closing words to the Roman Christians, he urged believers to note those who create dissensions, difficulties and opposition to the scriptural apostolic (as taught by the apostles and recorded in scripture) Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul warns believers to watch out for such people, who are serving their own personal desires, and who say things that sound good and flatter their hearers in order to deceive them.

Paul commends the Roman believers for their obedience, but wants them to be informed of sound doctrine so that they will know what is good and be blameless about what is evil, for then God will give them victory over Satan. Paul closes his letter with greetings and a benediction. God is able to strengthen those who hold onto the true scriptural Gospel of Jesus Christ, and will bring about the obedience of faith in those who trust and obey him.Matthew Paraphrase:

After mocking and beating Jesus, the Roman soldiers marched Jesus from the residence of Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, to the place of crucifixion. On the way, they encountered Simon of Cyrene, who they forced to carry Jesus’ cross. When they came to a place called Golgotha (meaning, “place of a skull”) they offered Jesus wine mixed with gall (any bitter liquid; possibly myrrh, as a sedative; compare Mark 15:23. See Psalm 69:21). When Jesus tasted it he refused to drink it.

When they had crucified Jesus, the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing between them by casting lots (determining by a game of chance; like throwing dice; Psalm 22:18) and sat down to wait for his death. Above his head they placed a sign declaring him to be Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two robbers were crucified, one on each side of Jesus.

Passersby mocked Jesus, “wagging their heads” (Matthew 27:39 RSV; compare Psalm 22:7) and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days (Matthew 26:60-61), save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:39-40).

The chief priests, scribes and elders also mocked Jesus, suggesting that Jesus demonstrate his power to save others, and to prove that he was King of Israel, by coming down from the cross. They also said that Jesus trusted in God; therefore let God deliver him now, if God is pleased with Jesus (Matthew 27:43 RSV), since Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (compare Psalm 22:8).

Commentary:

The history of Israel demonstrates that when people (and nations) trust and obey the Lord, the Lord blesses and prospers them, but when they turn from the Lord and pursue their own interests, disaster follows. Israel never received the full extent of what God promised because she did not pursue it by obedient faith. The Lord gave the Israelites victory over their enemies as long as Israel was faithful and obedient to the Lord. When they turned from the Lord, they were no longer able to triumph over their enemies.

Paul warned believers to be on guard against those who create dissension, difficulties and opposition to the sound doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus as taught by the original apostles of Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible. Believers are to be informed about what is sound doctrine, so that they will know what is right and do it, and avoid doing what is evil. In order to do that, believers must read the entire Bible and know what it says.

Paul restates the theme of Judges, and all the scriptures, which is that when God’s people trust and obey the Lord, the Lord gives them victory over their enemies, but when God’s people turn away from the Lord and ignore his Word, disaster follows. Christians cannot expect God to bless them and give them victory over Satan while they pursue their own will and ignore God’s Word. God strengthens believers who hold on to sound scriptural doctrine and helps to be obedient to his Word those who trust the Lord.

God’s Word is absolutely dependable. His promises are always fulfilled. Jesus’ crucifixion was the fulfillment of scriptural prophecy. Psalm 22 describes Jesus’ crucifixion, although at the time it was written, crucifixion was unknown to the Jews and execution was by stoning. Crucifixion was a Roman execution introduced much later, during the Roman occupation. Jesus never claimed to be King of the Jews, King of Israel or Son of God, but by his actions he demonstrated that those were his legitimate titles.

Each individual must decide for oneself who Jesus is. The charge that Jesus claimed he could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days was a false charge (Matthew 26:59-63) based on misunderstanding of what Jesus had said (John 2:18-22). Jesus did demonstrate his power to save others, by not coming down from the cross, but instead rising, on the third day, from the dead. God did deliver Jesus from death because he was pleased (Matthew 27:43 RSV) by Jesus’ obedience (Philippians 2:8).

This should be a warning to Christians and the Church today, and also to America and other nominally “Christian” nations. The Church is the New Israel (the religion), and Christians are the New Israelites (people of God); America (as well as other “Christian” nations) is a New Israel (nation). If we pursue the idols of the land, such as wealth, worldly power, or pleasure, if we allow ourselves to enter into agreements with the “Canaanites,” (worldly people), which compromise our obedience to God’s Word, if we are unfaithful to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ by ignoring Jesus’ commands and instead, pursuing our own will and interest, we will not achieve the fullness of God’s promises, and we will not be able to stand against our enemies and achieve victory. I believe this is why parts of the Church and also America today seem to be losing ground.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

11 Pentecost – Wednesday – Even

Podcast: Wednesday 11 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 08/17/04;

Judges 3:12-30 –  Ehud delivers Israel from Moab;
Acts 1:1-14  –  Jesus’ ascension;
Matthew 27:45-54 –  Jesus’ death on the cross;Judges Paraphrase:

During the period of the Judges, Israel went through a series of cycles of apostasy, enslavement, repentance and deliverance (see entry for yesterday). After a period of deliverance, Israel fell away from obedience to the Lord and fell under the oppression of Eglon, king of Moab (east of the Dead Sea) who had allied with the Ammonites and the Amalekites. Israel was dominated by Moab for eighteen years.

When the Israelites prayed to the Lord for relief, the Lord raised up Ehud, a Benjaminite (of the tribe of Benjamin) who happened to be left-handed. Israel sent the tax demanded by Eglon, carried by Ehud, who had made a two-edged sword a cubit (approximately 21”) long and concealed it on his right (inner) thigh under his clothes. When Ehud had presented the tax he dismissed his porters and returned to Eglon, saying that he had a secret message for Eglon. Eglon happened to be in a cool chamber on the roof when Ehud came to him. Eglon dismissed his attendants.

When Eglon and Ehud were alone, Ehud drew his sword from his thigh with his left hand, and stabbed Eglon in the belly. Eglon was very fat, and the sword went in past the hilt, and the fat closed over the handle. “The dirt (i.e. feces) came out” (Judges 3:22c). Ehud left, locking the doors to the upper chamber behind him. Eglon’s attendants thought the king must be going to the bathroom, so they left him undisturbed until it became obvious that something was wrong. Meanwhile, Ehud was able to escape.

Ehud returned to Seirah (unknown location in Ephriam) and gathered an army to attack the Moabites while they were in disorganization because of Eglon’s assassination. Ehud’s army attacked and defeated the Moabites, killing ten thousand Moabite troops. So Israel had peace for the next eighty years.

Acts Background:Acts is the continuation of the Gospel of Luke, “the first book” (Acts 1:1), written by the same author, probably Luke, the Gentile Christian Physician and friend of the Apostle Paul. Theophilus (“lover of God;” Acts 1:1; compare Luke 1:3) may be the name of an actual person to whom both books were addressed, or it may address any reader who loves God. The Gospel of Luke ends with Jesus’ ascension (Luke 24:50-53, and Acts begins at that point (Acts 1:9).

Acts Paraphrase:

After Jesus’ resurrection he appeared to his disciples many times (for examples, see Luke 24:13-53) during a period of forty days until his ascension. During this period Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there until they had received the promise of the Father (i.e. the infilling by the Holy Spirit; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 2:1-13) which they had heard from Jesus (John 14:15-16, 26). Jesus told his disciples that soon they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit ( John 1:31-34; compare Luke 3:16).

The disciples wanted to know if Jesus would immediately restore the kingdom to Israel (free Israel from Roman occupation). Jesus answer implies that the disciples should leave such things to God’s sovereign authority; the disciples’ role was to be empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit so that they could testify to the Gospel of Jesus beginning in Jerusalem and moving outward into Judea, then Samaria, and ultimately to the farthest corners of the world.

When Jesus had said this, while the disciples were watching, Jesus was lifted up into the air and out of their sight. While they stood there in amazement, two angels asked them why they were standing there staring into heaven. The angels told the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way they had seen him ascend.

Matthew Paraphrase:

At Jesus’ crucifixion, from noon to three p.m. there was darkness over all the earth. Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?” which means, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; quoting Psalm 22:1). Some of the bystanders though he was calling Elijah (whose return was to usher in the messianic age). One of them gave Jesus vinegar (old, sour wine) in a sponge to drink. But others wanted to wait to see if Elijah would come to save Jesus.

“Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50). The curtain of the temple (separating the Holy of Holies) was torn in two, from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks were split, tombs were opened and many bodies of dead saints were raised, and appeared to many witnesses. When the soldiers guarding the crucifixion saw the earthquake and other manifestations, they were afraid, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).

Commentary:

Israel was repeatedly unfaithful to their covenant with God. But God was always faithful to them. When Israel, under the oppression of Moab, called out to God, God raised up a savior, Ehud, who delivered Israel from Eglon of Moab. When Israel turned away from the Lord and obedience to his Word, disaster followed, but when she returned to the Lord and became obedient to God’s Word, the Lord saved her from her troubles. As long as Israel continued to trust and obey the Lord she continued to have peace.

Jesus trusted and obeyed God the Father, even unto death on the cross. God hadn’t forsaken Jesus, although it may have looked and felt like he had. God saved Jesus from death and the grave by raising him up to eternal life. God has raised up a savior for us in Jesus Christ. All who are oppressed by sin and death can call on Jesus and God will raise us and give us eternal life with Jesus. Jesus ascended into Heaven, according to eyewitness testimony recorded in scripture, and Jesus has promised to return to judge everyone who has ever lived on Earth (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

The tearing of the curtain separating the main sanctuary from the Holy of Holies (God’s presence) symbolizes that Jesus has opened the way to eternal life and fellowship with God. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). No one has eternal life except through Jesus (1 John 5:11-12) Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16; John 1:31-34). Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) does not belong to him (Romans 8:9b) It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). We can have a personal fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The disciples’ mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20).

Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and refused to obey him will receive eternal death in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Now is the time to turn to the Lord and obey him (Matthew 7:21-24). Who do you say that Jesus is?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

11 Pentecost – Thursday – Even

Podcast: Thursday 11 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/18/04;
Judges 4:4-23  –  Deborah;
Acts 1:15-26  –  Appointing Matthias;
Matthew 27:55-66  –   Burial of Jesus;Judges Paraphrase:

During the period of the judges, Israel went through repeated cycles of apostasy, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. When the people cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up heroes who would save the people. Israel was under the oppression of Jabin, King of Hazor. Deborah, a prophetess, became a judge of the people. She sat under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel, and the people of Israel would come to her for judgment.

Deborah summoned Barak from Kedesh in Naphtali and told him that the Lord had commanded Barak to gather ten thousand men from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali to fight against Sisera, the general of King Jabin’s army. Barak agreed to do so only if Deborah went with them. Deborah agreed to go, but prophesied that Barak would not get the glory for defeating Sisera, because the Lord would deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman.

Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses had left the Kenites and was living in a tent near Kedesh (northwest of the Sea of Galilee). When Sisera heard that Barak was at Mt. Tabor, Sisera went out with nine hundred chariots to attack Barak. Deborah told Barak that the Lord would give Israel victory over Sisera that day. So Barak went to fight Sisera with ten thousand troops. All Sisera’s men were slain, and only Sisera escaped.

Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber. There was peace between Heber the Kenite, and Jabin king of Hazor. Jael offered refuge to Sisera. She hid him under a rug and gave him milk to drink. Sisera told her to stand watch at the tent door to deny Sisera’s presence if anyone came looking for him, and then when Sisera, who was exhausted, had fallen asleep, Jael came quietly and drove a tent peg through his temple and into the ground with a mallet, killing him.

Then Jael went out to meet Barak as he pursued Sisera and showed Barak Sisera lying dead in the tent with a tent peg through his temple. After the defeat of Sisera, King Jabin’s power over the Israelites gradually declined until he was finally destroyed.Acts Paraphrase:

Before Jesus ascended into heaven he commanded his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5. 8). There were about one hundred and twenty followers of Jesus all together. The original twelve disciples were to be judges of the twelve tribes of Israel in the new Kingdom of God.

While they were waiting, they decided, based on their understanding of prophecies concerning Judas in Psalms, to select one of their members to take the place of Judas Iscariot, who had been one of the twelve, but had betrayed Jesus. (Here the account of Judas’ death differs from Matthew 27:5, and may have been an attempt to explain the name of the field which is “Field of Blood.”) They decided that the replacement must be a follower who had been an eyewitness to the Gospel from the time of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, which they regarded as the very beginning of the Gospel. Two candidates were suggested: Joseph “Barsabbas” Justus, and Matthias. They prayed that the Lord would make his will known to them, and then they cast lots (made the selection by chance; like throwing dice), and the lot fell to Mathias.

Matthew Paraphrase:

At Jesus’ crucifixion, there were many women who were followers of Jesus watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleopas (Alphaeus), Jesus’ mother’s sister, and Salome, the mother of James and John, wife of Zebedee.

At evening a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus for burial, and Pilate ordered it given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in Joseph’s own new tomb, and rolled a great stone in front of the door to close the tomb. Mary Magalaene and the other Mary were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ burial.

The next day (i.e. the Sabbath) The chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and told him that since Jesus had said that he would rise from the dead after three days, Pilate should secure the tomb until then, so that the disciples couldn’t steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Pilate gave them permission to post a guard (probably soldiers of the Temple police rather than Roman soldiers). The chief priests and Pharisees sealed the stone and set a guard at the tomb (probably that evening when the Sabbath had ended).

Commentary:

When Israel turned to the Lord in faith and trusted and obeyed his Word, the Lord blessed them and no one could thwart God’s will and plan for his people. The mighty general Sisera tried to run away and hide (figuratively behind the skirts of a woman), but was killed by a woman.

Deborah, the only woman in the line of judges, had called for the attack against King Jabin’s forces, in obedience to the Lord’s command, and Jael is also a woman of faith, since the father-in-law of Moses (Jethro) is regarded by most Jewish and Christian scholarship as a convert to Yahwism (he worshiped Yahweh, the God of Israel). Jael became an instrument of God’s purpose. [Hobab may be the same individual as Jethro, or else he may be either Jethro’s father or son.]

Jesus had told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that’s what they were doing. They were studying the scriptures in the light of the Resurrection, and they were seeking God’s will, but they didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit, “the counselor,” so they used “lots” to select Judas’ replacement. Matthias is never mentioned again.  Note also that Judas’ decision not to cooperate with God’s will didn’t prevent it from being accomplished; it just led to Judas’ destruction.

The disciples were waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had commanded, but they should have also waited for the gift of the Holy Spirit before choosing a replacement for Judas. I’m convinced that God’s choice for Judas’ replacement was Paul (Saul of Tarsus), the first modern, “post resurrection”  “born-again” disciple and apostle (Acts 9:1-21). From the time of his conversion Paul became the predominant Apostle in the New Testament. Most of the rest of the New Testament is by or about Paul.

Because the disciples had not yet received the indwelling Holy Spirit they didn’t really know what to expect. This should be a warning to the Church to make “born-again” disciples, and choose church leaders from them. Church leaders should have experienced the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit, so that they can guide their members to wait for the Holy Spirit and teach them to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Too often it seems that “Christians” aren’t taught that the gift of the Holy Spirit is personally discernable, and, instead, they make decisions by praying, and then making their best “guess.”

Even though they didn’t believe Jesus would be raised from the dead, the Jewish religious authorities tried to prevent Jesus’ resurrection by obtaining permission to post a guard at the tomb and by sealing the door, but they were powerless to prevent God’s will from being done. The women among the followers of Jesus became the principle witnesses to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

John is the only male disciple specifically mentioned as an eyewitness to the crucifixion (John 19:26; see also Luke 23:49), but the women were there, according to all four Gospel accounts. Joseph of Arimathea may have been one of the secret disciples, along with Nicodemus. By providing his own tomb, Joseph fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9 that the messiah would be executed with the wicked and buried in the grave of a rich man.

God’s Word is absolutely dependable. What he promises is fulfilled. We have a choice of whether to seek God’s will and obey it, or to pursue our own will. God’s will shall be done whether we cooperate with it or oppose it. If we seek to cooperate with God’s will, he will reveal his will to us and use us to accomplish his purpose. Our choice will determine our eternal destiny.

Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). When we choose to follow God’s plan and accept Jesus as our Lord we need to be discipled by spiritually mature disciples; we need to “stay in Jerusalem” (i.e. the Church) until we have received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; Luke 24:47-49), before we can be sent out to proclaim the Gospel and make other disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

11 Pentecost – Friday – Even

Podcast: Friday 11 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/19/04;
Judges 5:1-18  –  The song of Deborah;
Acts 2:1-21  –  The Day of Pentecost;
Matthew 28:1-10  –  The first Easter;Judges Paraphrase:

Let the Lord be glorified by leaders who lead, and people who follow willingly, in obedience to the Word of the Lord. In the days of Shamgar (a contemporary of Deborah’s who repelled an invasion of Philistines) and Jael (who killed Sisera, the enemy commander; see Judges 4:21), there was such anarchy that caravans ceased and travelers avoided the main thoroughfares, until Deborah led Israel to victory over Sisera. When Israel turned from the Lord to other gods, then war came upon her.

Israel owes gratitude to the leaders who gave themselves for the people. Those who enjoy good life in Israel as a result should remember the sacrifices of those who made it possible. The people of the Lord marched against the mighty enemy in the Lord’s name. The tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir (possibly a part of the Manasseh tribe west of the Jordan), Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali (Judges 4:10; 5:18) took part in the battle. The tribes of Gilead (Reuben, Gad, and part of Manasseh) Dan and Asher did not participate. (Judah, Simeon and Levi are not mentioned). Zebulun and Naphtali are given credit for the greatest contribution.
Acts Paraphrase:On the day of Pentecost (originally the Jewish feast of firstfruits, 50 days after Passover) the followers of Jesus (about one hundred and twenty people; Acts 1:15) were all together in one place. Suddenly there was a sound like a great wind, which filled the house. Tongues like fire appeared on each one of them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, by the Holy Spirit within them.

There were Jews from every nation on Earth living in Jerusalem at the time, and a great crowd gathered at the sound of this commotion, and each heard the Christians speaking in his own native language. The crowd was amazed, and asked how the Christians, who had all come from Galilee, were speaking all these foreign languages, each telling the mighty works of God in the hearer’s native language. The people were amazed and tried to understand what this meant, but some suggested that the Christians were drunk.

Peter stood up and began to explain what was happening. The Christians weren’t drunk since it was only about 9:00 AM. Instead, it was the fulfillment of the prophecy by Joel (Joel 2:28-32), that in the last days, God would pour out his Spirit upon his people, and that there would be supernatural manifestations heralding the Day of the Lord’s Second Coming to judge the Earth. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord (in faith; i.e. trust and obedience) will be saved.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had been crucified on Friday; the Jewish Sabbath was Saturday, and now it was the dawn of the first day of the week, Sunday, the third day since Jesus’ death. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Cleopas (Alphaeus; and probably mother of James “the Little”) came to complete the burial ritual. There was a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord had rolled back the stone covering the entrance to the tomb, and sat upon it. His appearance and clothing was dazzlingly white.

The guards which had been posted by the Jewish religious authorities were paralyzed with fear and “became like dead men: (Matthew 28:4). The angel told the women not to be afraid. The angel said that Jesus, who had been crucified, was no longer there; he had risen as he had said (Matthew 26:32; 28:16-17, John 21:1-23, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). The angel showed the women the empty tomb and then told them to go and tell the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead, and that they would see him again in Galilee, as Jesus had said (Matthew 26:32).
The women hurried from the tomb in fear and great joy and ran to tell the other disciples. On the way, Jesus met and greeted them. The women bowed down and worshiped Jesus, and he told them not to be afraid, but to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, and they would see Jesus there.

Commentary:

The Lord is glorified by leaders who lead according to God’s Word, and by people who follow in obedience to God’s Word. Turning away from the Lord to other gods brings disaster upon a nation. When the people marched against the enemy in trust and obedience to God’s Word, the Lord gave them victory. People who are dwelling in peace, security, comfort, and abundance should be grateful to those who provided those blessings through their sacrifice in obedience to the Lord and his Word.

This should be a warning to America, which was founded by Christians on Christian principles. The peace, security, comfort, and abundance which we have enjoyed has been provided by people obedient to God’s Word who made great personal sacrifice to provide our freedom.

Pentecost was originally the festival of “firstfruits” of the early harvest. It was also, according to Jewish tradition, the day of the receiving of the Law. The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the “firstfruits” of eternal life in the kingdom of God (Romans 8:23). The Holy Spirit delivers us from bondage to the Law, so that we can live according to the leading of the Spirit (Romans 7:6 Romans 8:1-8). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit reverses the curse God placed on the language of mankind at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). The manifestation of tongues of fire is the fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist who said that Jesus would baptize his disciples with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11).

Peter is one of the Twelve disciples called by Jesus to be a leader of God’s people. Peter was trained by Jesus personally nearly twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for about three years, but still wasn’t ready to lead, until the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. In fact, Peter denied Jesus three times, on the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, to a lowly servant girl of the high priest who had just had Jesus arrested (John 18:15-27). Now Peter, empowered by the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit, preached a powerful Gospel message to a large crowd (Acts 2:14-36).

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype and example of a modern, post-resurrection, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple (student) and apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) as all believers can and should become. He had studied Judaism all his life, and yet was not ready to lead God’s people until he had personally met and accepted as Lord, the resurrected Jesus, and been “born-again” by the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:3-6, 17-20).

I believe that Paul was deliberately intended by God to be the replacement for Judas, the one of the Twelve, who betrayed Jesus, and later killed himself. Paul was accepted as an equal by the remaining eleven (Acts 15:4-29). Paul is an example of how the Lord raises up leaders of God’s people today.

Through Jesus, we have victory over sin and death. Jesus is our savior whose suffering made it possible for us to begin living now in the peace, security, comfort and abundance of the kingdom of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus is our leader, whom we should follow in trust and obedience, joining in the spiritual battle in the name of the Lord to bring that salvation to others.

Jesus suffered crucifixion and death so that we might be saved and have eternal life in the Promised Land of God’s Kingdom in Heaven. Jesus won the victory over sin and death at the Cross, and proved it by rising from the dead. Jesus’ word is absolutely dependable. All that Jesus told his disciples beforehand happened as he had said.

Jesus has promised to return on the Day of the Lord to judge all who have ever lived on earth (John 5:28-29). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

11 Pentecost – Saturday – Even

Podcast: Saturday 11 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/20/04;
Judges 5:19-31 –  Song of Deborah Continued;
Acts 2:22-36  –  Peter’s sermon;
Matthew 28:11-20  –  The Great Commission;Judges Summary:

The Song of Deborah records the victory of Barak and the army of Israel against Sisera and the army of King Jabin of Hazor (see entries for Thursday and Friday, above). The kings of Canaan fought against Israel. Taanach and Megiddo were strongholds guarding the passes at Mount Carmel. Heaven fought against Sisera (on behalf of Israel). The enemy was swept away as by the onrushing Kishon River.

Meroz (apparently an Israelite village near the battle) was cursed by an angel of the Lord for not assisting Israel in the battle against Sisera. Jael was blessed for her courage and initiative in killing Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple with a mallet. (Jael killed him while he lay sleeping in her tent, but the poet portrays him figuratively as standing and falling, which is more dramatic). The poet visualizes Sisera’s mother anxiously awaiting his return and suggesting several possible reasons for his delay, but unable to imagine that he has been so utterly defeated and destroyed. The poet concludes, “So perish all thine enemies, O Lord! But thy friends be like the sun as he rises in his might” (Judges 5:31).

Acts Summary:

On the day of Pentecost, a crowd had been attracted by the commotion among the Christians when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. Peter had explained for the crowd what was happening. Peter continued, saying that Jesus had been attested to by God through many mighty works of God done through Jesus. Jesus had been sent by God to be delivered up and crucified according to God’s definite plan and foreknowledge.

God raised Jesus from the dead, having broken the bonds of death. Peter quoted the Psalms of David concerning the prophecy of the Messiah, showing that Jesus’ resurrection was the fulfillment of scripture. God had sworn that a descendant of David would reign over Israel (Psalm 132:11; Jesus was the “Son of David;” Matthew 21:9, 15, Luke 2:4). Peter testified that God had raised Jesus, and that the disciples were eyewitnesses.

Jesus had ascended into heaven, had received from God the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, and he had poured out this which the crowd had seen and heard. Peter quoted Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.” God has made Jesus, whom Israel had crucified, both Lord and Christ.Matthew Summary:
Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Cleopas (Alphaeus) had gone to the tomb early on the first Easter Sunday morning. They had been told by the angel of the Lord that Jesus had risen and they had personally seen the risen Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10). They were on their way to tell the other disciples.

Meanwhile some of the guards that the Jewish religious authorities had posted, to seal the tomb to prevent the claim of resurrection, went back to them and reported what had happened. The Council composed of the chief priests and elders decided to bribe the guards to tell the people that Jesus’ body had been stolen by his disciples to fake the resurrection.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee to a mountain, as Jesus had instructed them. Jesus came and told his disciples that he had been given all authority on heaven and earth. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Trinity; One God in three expressions, or persons), and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded. Jesus promised to be with his disciples always, to the end of the age.

Commentary:Deborah had been obedient to the Lord’s command to call Barak to lead Israel’s army against Sisera (Judges 4:6). Barak had been obedient to the Lord’s call (Judges 4:8). Barak had sounded the battle call and recruited an army from the neighboring tribes (Judges 4:10; 5:14-15a, 18). The Lord fought for Israel and gave them complete victory over Israel’s enemy.

Sisera, the great general, fled in panic, and hid in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, figuratively behind the skirts of a woman. Jael lulled him into a sense of false security and killed him as he slept.  Notice the scorn against tribes which did not come to the aid of Barak (Judges 5:15b-17). These tribes were far from the battle and are thus excused, but Meroz, an Israelite village near to the battle is cursed for not assisting (Judges 5:23).

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit upon his disciples (John 14:15-17; 25-26), and that promise was fulfilled beginning on the day of Pentecost. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit which empowers believers to fight the spiritual battle. The Lord fights the battle for us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice the change in Peter, from the one who denied Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ betrayal (Matthew 26:69-75), to the bold preacher on the day of Pentecost.

We are not to fight the battle in our own power or our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). The Lord has promised us that our enemies will be defeated. Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death at the cross, but the battle must still be fought. The battle call sounded on the Day of Pentecost and will continue until Jesus returns.

The Lord rose from the dead and revealed himself to his disciples. He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8), before they began to carry out his great commission to make disciples of all nations. New believers are to stay within the Church and be discipled by mature “born-again” (John 3:3. 5-8) disciples until they have received the Holy Spirit before they are sent out to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples.

Jesus is our “Barak!” He is the savior and leader that God has raised up to give us victory over our enemies: sin and death. The Son has risen in his might (compare Judges 5:31b). Will we be heroes of the battle, following in obedience to his command and allowing ourselves to be used by God to accomplish his purpose, like Zebulon and Naphtali (Judges 5:18)? Will we be scorned for shirking our responsibility, like Reuben and Gilead, Dan and Asher (Judges 5:15b-17)? Or will we be cursed by the Lord for our disobedience and refusal to follow him, like Meroz (Judges 5:23)? Are we like Sisera, thinking we can hide from the Lord’s judgment, and lulled into a sense of false security by the material comforts of this world (Judges 4:18-21)? Are you an eyewitness to Jesus’ resurrection or do you deny that his resurrection ever happened?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 10 Pentecost – Even – 08/17 – 23/2014

August 16, 2014

Week of 10 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 10 Pentecost – Even 
Sunday 10 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 08/07/04;
Podcast: Sunday 10 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 6:15-27  –  Fall of Jericho;
Acts 22:30-23:11  –  Paul before the Sanhedrin;
Mark 2:1-12  –  Healing a paralytic;

Joshua Paraphrase:

After six days of marching around the city of Jericho once each day in silence while the trumpets blew, on the seventh day Israel marched around seven times. On the seventh time, as the trumpets blew a long blast, Joshua told the people to shout, because the Lord had given them the city. Joshua told the people that everything in the city was to be destroyed, except for Rahab, the harlot, who had helped the Israelite scouts; Rahab and all her family who were with her in her house were to be spared.

All vessels of gold and silver, bronze and iron were to be placed in the treasury of the Lord. Everything else was to be destroyed. The people were warned not to take, for their own use, anything of the city which was marked for destruction, so as not to bring trouble upon Israel.

When the people heard the long trumpet blast, they gave a great shout, and the wall of the city fell down flat. The Israelites went straight into the city from where they stood, and all the inhabitants of the city and their livestock were utterly destroyed by the sword. But Joshua sent the two Israelite scouts to Rahab’s house, and they brought Rahab and all her kindred out of the city and saved them, and they dwelt with Israel for the rest of their lives, because they had aided the scouts of Israel.

Acts Paraphrase:

Jews from Asia, who had hounded Paul there (Acts Ch. 14), attacked him in the Temple in Jerusalem and caused a riot. The Roman military officer had Paul arrested until he could determine the cause of the commotion. The next day the officer brought Paul before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council. Paul declared that he was not guilty, before God, of anything. Ananias, the high priest, struck Paul on the mouth.

Paul retorted that God would strike Ananias, called Ananias a whitewashed wall, and declared that Ananias had no right to sit in judgment of Paul, because Ananias had struck Paul in violation of the law. When Paul was told that Ananias was high priest, Paul apologized, acknowledging that it was contrary to the law to speak evil of a ruler of the people.

When Paul noticed that the Council was composed of both Pharisees and Sadducees, he declared himself a Pharisee, and son of a Pharisee, who was on trial for his belief in the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees believe in resurrection, and in angels and spirits, but the Sadducees do not, so a great dissension arose between them, dividing the Council.  The Pharisees defended Paul, and the dissension became violent, so the soldiers were commanded to remove Paul by force and return him to jail. That night the Lord told Paul to take courage, because Paul would have to testify to the Gospel in Rome as he had in Jerusalem.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus had made Capernaum his home after being thrown out of the Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). He had returned to his home at Capernaum, and when the people found out, a great crowd gathered there, and Jesus was preaching to them. The door was blocked by the crowd. Four men brought a paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed, but because they could not get to Jesus through the door, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and lowered the man down on his stretcher on ropes through the roof.

When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralytic that his sins had been forgiven. Some scribes (teachers of the law) were present, and they thought to themselves that Jesus was guilty of blaspheming, making himself equal to God, because only God can forgive sins. Jesus perceived in his spirit what they were thinking, and he asked them why they questioned in their hearts what Jesus had said.

Jesus asked the scribes which was easier: to say the man’s sins were forgiven, or to tell him to rise and walk? Jesus said he had told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven so that people would understand that Jesus had the authority to forgive sin. Then Jesus told the paralytic to rise, take his stretcher, and go home, and the man did as Jesus had commanded. The crowd was amazed and declared that they had never seen anything like this.

Commentary:

Israel had victory at Jericho because they trusted the Lord and obeyed his Word. Rahab and her family were saved because she trusted and obeyed the Lord. Rahab and her family lived the rest of their lives in the Promised Land with Israel because she had helped Israel claim the Promised Land in obedience to the Lord’s command. God’s Word always divides the “Canaanites” (worldly people) from the people of God. It isn’t the name they profess which matters, but what they do, which determines the division. Although nominally a Canaanite, Rahab believed and acted like a member of the people of God.

Paul was obedient to the Lord’s Word. When he, not knowing that Ananias was high priest, unintentionally broke the command not to speak evil of a ruler of the people, he repented and asked for forgiveness. Ananias, the spiritual leader of the people, had knowingly broken the law and yet was unrepentant. Paul wasn’t able to get justice from the religious council, because the Council was corrupt.

The Council was more concerned with pursuing personal agendas and gaining influence for their own factions than in pursuing God’s will. Paul perceived the division within the council and used it to his advantage. Paul was righteous, but a divided council could easily be manipulated by the unrighteous as well. Paul was committed to trusting and obeying the Lord, without regard to the personal cost. The Sadducees and Pharisees argued about God’s Word but didn’t obey it, and were ineffective as the result.

Lots of people came to hear Jesus preach. Only a few were bringing friends to Jesus to be healed, and many of the rest were just “in the way;” not fully committed, themselves, and making it difficult for believers to get to Jesus.

Jesus’ main mission was the forgiveness of sins. Many people came to Jesus for physical healing or feeding, but Jesus wanted them to understand that without spiritual healing and feeding, physical healing and feeding would have no enduring value. The forgiveness and healing that Jesus offers is only received by those who trust and obey Jesus. Lots of people heard Jesus preach, but the ones that got healed are the ones who trusted and obeyed what Jesus said.

Do we think we can win the victory the Lord has promised without obeying his Word? Do we think we can be Christians and still act like “Canaanites”? Do we desire to hang onto things of this world that have been condemned to destruction by the Lord? Are our churches full of division, and motivated by self-interest?

Do we seek to hear God’s Word so that we can feel good, or so that we can be careful to do it and please God? Do we want the Lord to forgive our sins, or condone them? Do we seek spiritual healing and growth, or do we just want physical wellbeing? Are we bringing others to Jesus, or are we just “in the way,” sucking up resources and not willing to make a full commitment.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 10 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 08/08/04;
Podcast: Monday 10 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 7:1-13    The sin of Achan;
Romans 13:8-14    Love fulfills the law;
Matthew 26:36-46    Jesus in Gethsemane;

Joshua Summary:

The Israelites had been warned not to take for themselves any of the things of Jericho which had been designated for destruction (Joshua 6:18). But Achan, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the condemned things, and brought the Lord’s anger against the people of Israel.

Joshua sent Israelite spies from Jericho to scout Ai, which is east of Bethel. They reported back to Joshua that Ai’s defenders were few, and advised that only two or three thousand troops would be necessary to attack Ai. So three thousand Israelites were sent to attack Ai, but were repulsed and forced to flee from the men of Ai, who killed thirty six of the Israelites.

The defeat caused the Israelites to lose courage. Joshua tore his clothes and covered his head with dust in an act of mourning, and prostrated himself before the Lord. He prayed to the Lord asking why this had befallen them. Joshua feared that the Canaanites would be emboldened by this defeat and destroy the Israelites.

The Lord told Joshua that Israel had sinned; they had taken some of the condemned things of Jericho for their possession. Because of this sin, Israel was no longer able to stand against their enemies. They fled from their enemies because they had become a thing marked for destruction.

The Lord vowed to withdraw his support from Israel unless they destroyed the condemned things from among them. The Lord told Joshua to command the Israelites to sanctify themselves, and to destroy the condemned things in their midst, in order to once again prevail over their enemies.

Romans Summary:

Christians should not allow themselves to be obligated to anyone except by the obligation to love one another. Love is the fulfillment of the law. All the commandments regarding our relationship to others are summed up by the command to love one another. Love does no wrong to another, so love fulfills the law.

The fact of Christ’s imminent return requires watchfulness, so as not to be caught off guard. Christ’s return is closer now than when we first believed. The dark night of sin which reigned in the time preceding his return is nearly over. The day of the light of his righteousness is at hand.

Let us cast off the works of darkness (sin; disobedience of God’s Word) and put on the armor of light (righteousness which is by grace through trust and obedience to Jesus). Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as living in the day of the Lord’s kingdom of righteousness, rather than in the darkness of this present sinful world of revelry (partying), drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness (sensuality), quarreling, and jealousy. We are to put on (the righteousness of) Jesus Christ, and not make any provision to indulge the desires of the flesh.

Matthew Summary:

After the Last Supper, Jesus had taken his disciples to the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. He told the disciples to wait and keep watch, while Jesus went off a short distance to pray. Jesus went apart and began to pray. Jesus’ own preference would have been to avoid “drinking” the “cup” (i.e. to avoid suffering the crucifixion), but that he was committed to doing God’s will. He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

Jesus asked Peter if Peter could not have stayed on alert one hour while Jesus prayed. Jesus said to stay awake and pray to avoid temptation. It’s easier to have good intentions than it is to actually carry them out. Jesus went and prayed a second time, that if his crucifixion was necessary, then Jesus was willing to do God’s will. Jesus returned to the disciples and again found them sleeping. Jesus went a third time to pray. Then he returned and said, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand” (Matthew 26:45b-46).

Commentary:

The Israelites knew that the Lord had told them not to take for themselves any of the things of Jericho which were condemned to destruction. One of their members did, and brought trouble and dishonor on the entire congregation. The entire group was guilty because they had not been vigilant to prevent disobedience by one of its members, and had not even been aware of it. The Lord withdrew his support from them until they removed the sin from among them.

Christians individually and collectively should not allow themselves to be obligated to anyone contrary to God’s Word. Love is a much-abused word in this world. It is not loving to allow a brother or sister to live in sin, nor is it loving to tolerate sin within the Church, but the world is quick to condemn us as unloving and intolerant for condemning sin.

Christians are to live as like God’s people, not like the “Canaanites” (worldly people). We are to behave like citizens of God’s kingdom, not according to the standards of this world. We are to be watchful, ready for the imminent return of Jesus. If we condone sin within our Churches, no wonder that our Churches are losing ground to the enemy. It is high time for the Church to wake up.

Jesus tried three times that night to tell his disciples to stay awake and to pray that they might not enter into temptation. Jesus says that it is not enough to have good intentions, unless those intentions produce results. Jesus was totally committed to doing God’s will, even to the extent of suffering a painful death. The disciples didn’t realize what agony Jesus was suffering for them; they were preoccupied with their own physical needs and comfort.

Are we fulfilling our obligation to uphold God’s Word, or are we allowing ourselves and our churches to become obligated to the world’s standards and views? Are we committed to doing God’s will, or are we committed to taking it easy and doing what we please? Are we keeping watch over Christ’s body, or are we snoozing on the job? Are we allowing the body of Christ to be betrayed into the hands of sinners?   Are we allowing sins condemned to destruction by God’s Word to exist in our midst? Are you ready for Christ’s return?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 10 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 08/09/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 10 Pentecost – Even 

Joshua 8: 1-22  –   Victory at Ai;
Romans 14:1-12  –  Love respects the conscience of others;
Matthew 26:47-56  –  Jesus’ arrest;

Joshua Paraphrase:

Israel had previously tried to capture Ai, but had been defeated by the sin of Achan (see entry for yesterday). Israel had removed the sin from among them and now the Lord told them to attack Ai again. At the Lord’s direction, Joshua laid an ambush behind Ai, with Israelite soldiers. Joshua was to attack the city from the front, in order to draw off the defenders of Ai by turning and fleeing from them as had happened previously. In the morning Joshua mustered the people and went to Ai and encamped north of the city.

When the king of Ai saw this, his army came out of the city early in the morning to attack Israel, not knowing about the ambush lying behind the city. Israel pretended to flee from the army of Ai, while the Israelite soldiers in ambush entered the city and set it on fire. When the main group of Israelites saw the smoke of the fire, they turned back upon the army of Ai, who were then trapped and were completely destroyed between the main army of Israel and the rear guard that had laid the ambush.

Acts Paraphrase:

Christians have differences in their beliefs about eating meat, observing the Sabbath, and drinking alcohol. Paul sees these scruples as weakness of faith, but we are not to let these issues divide us. Those who abstain from such things on the basis of conscience should not judge those who indulge, nor should those who indulge judge those who abstain.

We should recognize that each individual is the servant of the Lord and is accountable to him. The Lord will see to it that each of his servants is blameless in the Day of Judgment. Whether we choose to indulge or abstain, we must honor the Lord in whatever we do. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord; that was the reason Jesus died and rose again for us. We must not pass judgment upon one another. Each of us will be individually accountable to the Lord.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had been praying in Gethsemane, while his disciples waited nearby. Jesus had just finished telling his disciples that his betrayal was at hand. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived, leading a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and elders of Israel. Judas had arranged to kiss Jesus as a signal to identify Jesus to the crowd, so he immediately came up to Jesus and kissed him. Jesus said, “Friend, why are you here?” Then the people with Judas seized Jesus.

One of the disciples with Jesus drew a sword and cut off the ear of the slave of the high priest. Jesus told the disciple to sheath his sword, saying that all who resort to violence will die by violence. Jesus said that if he asked God the Father for assistance, God would send overwhelming, irresistible forces, but that was not in accordance with scripture or God’s will.

Jesus asked his captors why they had come out at night, with swords and clubs, as if to capture a criminal, when Jesus had been teaching in the temple day after day, where they could have apprehended him easily. Jesus said that all this had taken place in fulfillment of scripture. Then all his disciples left him and fled.

Commentary:

Israel had nothing to fear from the world as long as she obeyed the Word of God and kept her conscience clean in God’s sight. While she tolerated sin in her midst she was defeated, but when she removed the sin from among the congregation, she was restored to victory over her enemies.

We are each personally accountable to the Lord for what we have done in life. If we trust in the Lord we will obey what he commands. If we are trusting and obeying Jesus, he is faithful and will see to it that we are blameless on the Day of Judgment. If we are doing what we know is contrary to his teaching, we are not his servants and have not allowed him to be our Lord (Luke 6:46 Matthew 7:21-24).

We are not to fight among ourselves over matters of opinion which should be decided by our conscience. But Paul didn’t condone sin. For example, he did not condemn drinking of alcohol as a sin, but he didn’t condone drunkenness, and he advocated excommunication of members of the Church who lived in unrepentant immorality and sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-11).

Jesus had given Judas an opportunity to repent before he left the Last Supper to betray his Lord, but Judas had refused it and went ahead with his betrayal (Matthew 26:20-25). Now he stood before Jesus, and Jesus asked him why Judas had come to this place. Jesus loved Judas and had called him “friend,” and yet Judas had betrayed that love and friendship. What could Judas say?

Jesus asked the mob which had come to capture him why they had chosen this remote place in the middle of the night and had armed themselves with swords and clubs, when Jesus could have been arrested unarmed in the Temple in daylight. What answer could the mob give? Their own actions betrayed them!

Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but to save it. Those who haven’t trusted and obeyed Jesus will be condemned by their own actions (John 3:16-21). Jesus has promised to return to judge all who have ever lived on earth (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to die for our sins ourselves (Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Salvation is by grace (free gift, unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, not by works (keeping) of the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). On the Day of Judgment, if we have trusted and obeyed Jesus it will show; if we haven’t, it will be obvious. Will you come to the light of Jesus Christ, or will you try to hide in the darkness?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 10 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 08/10/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 10 Pentecost – Even 

Joshua 8:30-35 –  The Altar on Mt. Ebal;
Romans 14:13-23  –   Consideration for others;
Matthew 26:57-68  –  Jesus before Caiaphas;

Joshua Paraphrase:

After the victory over Ai, Joshua built an altar to the Lord on Mt. Ebal, as Moses had commanded (Deuteronomy 27:4-5, 11-12; 11:29-30). The altar was built of unworked stone, and they sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings upon it. A copy of the Law of Moses was written upon the stones in the presence of the people. Half of the people stood on one side of the Ark of the Covenant, before Mt. Ebal, and half stood on the other side of the Ark, before Mt. Gerizim. Joshua did exactly as Moses had directed, reading all the words of the book of the law, the blessing and the curse. (Anyone who kept the commandments would be blessed; anyone who violated the commandments would be cursed.)

Romans Paraphrase:

Instead of passing judgment on others, we should make it our goal not to cause another to sin (disobey God’s Word) by our behavior. Paul was convinced that in Christ, nothing was unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks that it is. We should not use our freedom in a way that causes another to sin. Nor should we let others condemn us for what is good. The kingdom of God is more than issues of food and drink; the issues that really matter are righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Those who serve Christ in those (important) things will be acceptable to God and mankind. So pursue the things that make peace and mutual up-building, rather than the insignificant things which cause division. So we should abstain from anything which causes another to sin. Let us let the regulation of our own behavior be between ourselves and God. If we have no cause to blame ourselves for our behavior we should be content. Anything we do contrary to our faith is sin.

Matthew Paraphrase:

When Jesus had been arrested in Gethsemane, he was taken before Caiaphas, the high priest, and the scribes and elders (the Sanhedrin; the Jewish supreme court). Peter followed at a distance as far as the courtyard, and sat with the guards, to see what would happen. The court sought false testimony so that they could execute Jesus, but found none, although many false witnesses testified. Finally two came forward and testified that Jesus had claimed that he could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.

The court questioned Jesus about this statement, but Jesus refused to answer, so they asked him to state directly if he was the Christ, the Son of God, and Jesus replied that they had said so. Jesus declared that they would see the Son of  man enthroned at God’s right hand, and coming (on the Day of Judgment) with the clouds of heaven (as he had ascended into heaven after his resurrection; Acts 1:9-11).

The high priest tore his robes and told the court that Jesus had blasphemed. The court ruled that Jesus had blasphemed and deserved execution. Then they spat in Jesus’ face and struck him, and mocked Jesus, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you” (Matthew 26:68)?

Commentary:

Joshua was faithfully obeying God’s Word, passed on to him through Moses. Life in the Promised Land depended upon the people’s knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word. As soon as possible after they entered the land they went to the place commanded by the Lord through Moses to renew their covenant with the Lord. Joshua was building up the kingdom of God.

Paul isn’t saying that nothing is sinful, or that one can do anything one pleases as long as one doesn’t believe the behavior is sinful. He is not saying that sexual immorality, for example, is acceptable as long as the parties involved believe it is not sinful (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-11; Romans 1:18-27). The Bible specifically teaches that the practice of homosexuality* is sin.

Paul is just trying to show that, in minor matters which are not contrary to God’s Word, we should be considerate of one another. Righteousness (doing what is right in God’s Judgment) and obedience to God’s Word are among the real issues that do matter.

Believers must ask ourselves if our behavior is causing others to sin. Are we faithfully and accurately proclaiming God’s Word to the world, or are we adopting the world’s standards as a substitute for God’s Word?

The trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin was in violation of Jewish Law. According to the law, formal action could only be taken during daylight, but the verdict was rendered during the night. The defendant could only be condemned on the testimony of two or more witnesses, but the Sanhedrin couldn’t find any, and yet they condemned Jesus on the charge of blasphemy, based on what they said about him in charging him.

The Sanhedrin was composed of the high priest, the teachers of the Law, and the religious leaders. They were unfaithful leaders of the people, who disregarded God’s Word and followed their own worldly agenda. They were afraid that Jesus would destroy “their” religion. They destroyed their religion instead of building it up. Judaism effectively ended at the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Which kind of “believer” are we? Are we the kind of believer that honestly seeks to know and obey God’s Word, who builds up the Church by the faithful and accurate proclamation of God’s Word, or are we the kind of “believer” who ignores God’s Word, leads others to sin, and divides and destroys the Church by our unscriptural behavior?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

* See 1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:24-27; from two Greek words meaning “men bedding (or conceiving) with men” (Strong’s #730 & 2845; see Strong’s #733); i.e., “sodomites,” after the city of Sodom, destroyed by God for its homosexual practice (Genesis 19:4-5 (24-25); men who have unnatural sexual relations with men (and, by extension, women who have unnatural sexual relations with women). The KJV translates as: “men defiling themselves with men.”


Thursday 10 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 08/11/04
Podcast: Thursday 10 Pentecost – Even 

Joshua 9:3-21 –   Ruse of the Gibeonites;
Romans 15:1-13  –  Bear with the weak;
Matthew 26:69-75  –  Peter’s denial;

Joshua Paraphrase:

While the rest of the inhabitants of Canaan prepared for battle against Israel, the Gibeonites (Hivites from the vicinity of Gibeon) devised a ruse to avoid the fate of Jericho and Ai. They gathered worn out clothes and equipment, moldy bread and worn-out patched and mended wineskins, and went to Joshua at the Israelite encampment at Gilgal, claiming to have come from a distant land. They wanted Israel to enter into a treaty with them. Joshua questioned them and they said that they had heard of the Lord God of Israel, and all that he had done in Egypt, and in the Transjordan (east of the Jordan) where Israel had defeated Og and Sihon.

They showed Joshua their provisions and claimed that their bread was hot from the ovens when they set out, and had become moldy on the journey. They said that their clothes and shoes had been new when they set out and had worn out on the trip. So the Israelites saw the conditions of the Gibeonites’ provisions and did not ask directions from the Lord, but entered into a treaty with them to allow them to live among the Israelites.

Three days later they discovered the truth that the Gibeonites were neighbors, and the Israelites set out to go to the cities of the Gibeonites, (four cities including Gibeon, northwest of Jerusalem and south of Bethel). Israel reached the Gibeonite cities on the third day, but they could not destroy the Gibeonites because of their treaty, so they let them live, and the Gibeonites became woodchoppers and water bearers for Israel.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are strong in faith should be tolerant of those who are weak in faith. We should put what is best for our neighbor ahead of our own self-interest. We have as our example, Christ, who did not pursue his self-interest but humbled himself and endured reproach and suffering in obedience to God’s will and for our salvation (compare Matthew 20:28). The scriptures recorded the history of God’s work on behalf of his people for our instruction, so that by our endurance and the encouragement of scriptures we might have hope.

Paul prayed that God, who provides steadfastness and encouragement, might help believers live in harmony so that together all would glorify God. We should welcome others as Christ has welcomed us, so that God may be glorified. Christ came to the Jews in fulfillment of God’s promise, but the promise of salvation was also for the Gentiles, as Paul shows with quotations from Psalms 18:49; 117:1, Deuteronomy 32:43 and Isaiah 11:10. God provides hope, joy and peace through faith, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Matthew Paraphrase:

When Jesus had been arrested, Peter had followed at a distance to see what would happen. He was sitting with the guards in the courtyard outside the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. A maid came up to Peter and said that he must have been with Jesus, the Galilean, but Peter denied it, claiming not to know what she was talking about.

Peter went out to the entry, and another maid told those standing nearby that Peter had been with Jesus of Nazareth, but again Peter denied knowing Jesus. After a little while, bystanders approached Peter and told him that Peter must surely have been with Jesus because he spoke with a Galilean accent. Peter swore that he did not know Jesus, and at once the cock crowed. Peter remembered that Jesus had told him that he would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed, and Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Commentary:

While the rest of the inhabitants of Canaan tried to resist and oppose the people of God, the Gibeonites realized that it was in their self-interest to join the people of God and become servants of the Lord. As a result their lives were spared. The leaders of Israel were deceived and they misguided the people because they didn’t seek the Lord’s guidance; instead they had relied on their own wisdom and judgment.

Jesus came to show us a better way to live. It is the nature of life in this world that if we aim to satisfy our self-interest we will miss. What we think we want is not truly in our best interest. The way to achieve what is in our best interest is to humble ourselves, serve the Lord, and put the interests of others ahead of our own.

The Lord provides salvation and eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven for all who submit themselves in trust and obedience to Jesus Christ. The Bible is our instruction manual for successful living. It is God’s provision for our hope and encouragement. God provides his indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, encourage and sustain those who trust and obey Jesus.

Peter had told Jesus that he was willing to die for Jesus rather than deny him (Matthew 26:35), but Peter denied Jesus, as Jesus had said, because Peter was thinking of his own self-interest instead of how to glorify the Lord. In fairness, remember that Peter had not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost (Acts Ch. 2) Peter had a new character; he’d been “reborn.” After that, he preached with a boldness he didn’t have on the night Jesus was betrayed (see Acts 3:12-26, 4:18-20 for example). Although denial seemed in his self-interest at the time, it didn’t give Peter joy, peace and hope, but the opposite.

Are you joining and working with the people of God, or are you resisting and opposing them? Are you serving the Lord and others or are you serving yourself? Are you seeking guidance and encouragement from the scriptures and the indwelling Holy Spirit, or are you relying on your own wisdom and judgment? Does your behavior glorify or deny the reality of Jesus Christ?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 10 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 08/12/04;
Podcast: Friday 10 Pentecost – Even 

Joshua 9:22-10:15  –   Victory over the five kings;
Romans 15:14-24  –  Personal greetings;
Matthew 27:1-10  –  Jesus before Pilate;

Joshua Paraphrase:

The Gibeonites deceived the Israelites, claiming to be foreigners from a distant land, because they had heard that God had given the land of Canaan to Israel and had promised to destroy all the inhabitants of the land so that Israel could possess it. Because of the treaty which Israel had entered into with the Gibeonites, Joshua allowed them to live among the Israelites and they became woodchoppers and water carriers for Israel and for the altar of the Lord.

The King of Jerusalem, Adonizedek, heard of Joshua’s defeat of Ai and Jericho, and how Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and he made a coalition with four other Amorite cities to fight the Israelites. The kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon attacked Gibeon. Gibeon sent word to Joshua at Gilgal, asking for help. So Joshua led his army from Gilgal to assist Gibeon. The Lord assured Joshua that Joshua would be victorious over the five Amorite kings.

Joshua’s forces came on the Amorites suddenly, having marched all night. The Lord threw the Amorites into panic, and they were slaughtered by the Israelites. The Lord caused a great hailstorm which slew more than the army of Israel slew with the sword. Joshua praised the Lord for the victory over the Amorites, and said that the Lord had caused the sun to stand still until Israel had slain the Amorites. The Lord had fought for Israel and had won the victory.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul sent personal greetings to the members of the church at Rome. Paul urged believers to note those who oppose and dissent from sound scriptural, apostolic (as taught by the apostles) doctrine so as to avoid associating with them. Paul warned that such people do not serve the Lord but their own appetites and desires. They use pleasant words and flattery to deceive those who are simple-minded. Paul commends the Roman Christians for their obedience, but warns them so that they will know what is good and avoid what is evil. If they do that, the Lord will soon give them victory over Satan.

Matthew Paraphrase:

When morning came the chief priests and elders of Israel (the Sanhedrin; the Jewish supreme court) decided to put Jesus to death, and they had Jesus bound and sent to Pilate, the Roman governor. When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he brought back the thirty pieces of silver he was paid to betray Jesus, saying that he had sinned in betraying innocent blood. The chief priests and elders declared that Judas’ sin was of no concern to them.

Judas threw down the money in the temple and went and hanged himself. The chief priests couldn’t return the money to the treasury since it was blood money, so they used it to buy a potter’s field as a cemetery for foreigners, which became known as the Field of Blood. This fulfilled the prophecy of scripture in Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 18:1-3; 32:6-15.

Commentary:

The promises of the Lord are completely dependable; what he promises is fulfilled. We are free to choose whether to trust and obey or not. Our eternal destiny will be determined by our decision. The Gibeonites heard that the Lord had promised to give the land to the Israelites and they believed the promise. They chose to cooperate with God’s plan, and they were saved from destruction and became servants of the Lord. The kings of the five Amorite cities also heard the Lord’s promise, but they chose to resist and oppose it. They were utterly destroyed, as the Lord had promised. The Lord has unlimited supernatural power to fulfill his promises. Scripture will be fulfilled; the question is whether we, individually, will be on the winning or losing side.

Paul advised believers to stay away from those who oppose and dissent from sound scriptural, apostolic doctrine. It is necessary for believers to know the Bible so as to be able to do this. Paul warns believers to stay away from those who serve their own self-interest instead of God’s will. Our obedience must be to God’s Word, rather than to human leaders. The issue is not what our pastor says, or what some theologian says, but what the Bible says. We must seek God’s Word and obey it; then we can be assured that the Lord will give us victory over evil.

The chief priests and elders of Israel were not interested in doing God’s will; they were pursuing their own will. They were not seeking God’s council; they were seeking council from among themselves. They were not cooperating with God’s plan; they were carrying out their own plan. They were the spiritual leaders of the people of Israel. They were responsible for the spiritual welfare of the people, but they encouraged Judas to join them in sin, and when Judas repented they didn’t care, and they offered no help in restoring Judas. People cannot follow such leaders and not be misled.

The Amorites were destroyed because their leaders led them to oppose God’s will. The Gibeonites were saved and became servants of the Lord because their leaders led them to join with the people of God and work with them to accomplish God’s will. The leaders of the Jews chose to oppose God’s will by pursuing their own self-interest. Judaism effectively ended at the crucifixion of Jesus. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and the people were scattered throughout the world. Israel ceased to exist as a nation, until after World War II.

The scriptures warn believers to be careful about whom they allow to be their leaders. Each believer must be responsible to know what the Bible says for him- or herself, to avoid being misled by false teachers and false prophets. We can’t expect the Lord to give us victory unless we make sure we’re doing God’s will. If we earnestly seek God’s will, with the commitment to obey it, he will reveal his will to us.

Jesus has promised to return to judge everyone who has ever lived on Earth (John 5:28-28, Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected and refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal death in Hell with all evil. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Do you believe these promises? Are you joining with God’s people and obeying God’s Word, in order to accomplish God’s purpose?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 10 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 08/13/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 10 Pentecost – Even 

Joshua 23:1-16  –  Joshua’s farewell to Israel;
Romans 15:25-33 –  Paul’s plans and God’s will;
Matthew 27:11-23  –  Jesus before Pilate;

Joshua Paraphrase:

At the end of his life, Joshua gathered all Israel together and told them that he was getting old, and that they had seen all that the Lord had done to give them the land and how the Lord had fought for them. There were still occupants of the land to be dealt with, which Joshua left to them. Joshua told them that the Lord would push these enemies back before Israel as he had done with the others, just as the Lord had promised. Joshua warned the people to be careful to keep God’s Word, as recorded in scripture, and not to mix with the natives of the land or adopt their customs and religion.

Joshua charged Israel not to depart from following the Lord, because it was the Lord who fought for them and gave them victory over their enemies. Joshua warned that if Israel turned from obedience to the Lord and made alliances with the remaining inhabitants of the land and intermarried, that God would not continue to fight for them, and that they would become a snare and trap to the Israelites and cause them all kinds of trouble until Israel perished from the land.

Now Joshua was about to die, and he declared that not one of the promises of the Lord had failed to be fulfilled. But Joshua warned that just as the good promises of the Lord are fulfilled, so are the warnings of evil fulfilled to those who disobey and transgress the covenant with the Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul planned to visit the Roman church on his way to Spain. He had wanted to visit for some time, but had been prevented by other responsibilities. At present he was apparently in Corinth (Macedonia and Achaia were the two provinces of Greece at that time) on his way to take a financial contribution from them to Jerusalem. Paul thought it was only right that the Gentiles who had received spiritual riches from the Jewish Christians, might share their material blessings with the poor among the Jewish Christians.

Paul intended to come to Rome on his way to Spain, after he had delivered the contribution. Paul asked the Roman Christians to pray with him that Paul might be delivered from unbelievers in Judea, and that his objective in Jerusalem might be accomplished successfully, so that Paul might enjoy his visit with the Roman church.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. Pilate asked if Jesus was the King of the Jews, and Jesus replied, “You have said so.” The chief priests and elders made many charges against Jesus, but Jesus made no answer to any of them. Pilate asked Jesus why he made no answer, but Jesus kept silent, and the Governor was puzzled. It was the Governor’s practice to pardon a prisoner each year at the Passover feast, so Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted Jesus released, or a notorious prisoner named Barabbas instead. Pilate realized that Jesus had been condemned to death because of envy.

Pilate’s wife had had a premonition about Jesus in a dream and had sent word to Pilate, as he was sitting in judgment of Jesus, not to bear responsibility for the punishment of Jesus, whom she was convinced was righteous. But the leaders of the people convinced them to ask for the release of Barabbas. So Pilate asked the people what they would have him do with Jesus, and they told Pilate to crucify Jesus. Pilate asked them what Jesus had done to deserve crucifixion but the crowd just kept insisting on Jesus’ crucifixion, without any justification.

Commentary:

Throughout their history, when Israel trusted and obeyed the Lord, they prospered. Many times they had turned from obedience to the Lord and had suffered defeat as a result. The first Temple, built by Solomon, was destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadnezzar) at the time the Jews were taken into Babylonian exile. The Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel and the high priest, Jeshua, from 535 to 516 BC. It stood for five hundred years but was in disrepair when Herod became ruler.

Herod offered to build a new temple in order to win political favor with the Jews. The Jews cooperated with Herod the Great, who had wanted to kill Jesus as a new born baby, and who did slaughter all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region, in the attempt (Matthew 2:16), to build the new Temple (Matthew 2:16).  Herod’s Temple was not yet completed during Jesus’ lifetime.

The Jews had gone into Babylonian captivity because they had not heeded the warnings of the prophets to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord; and they had forgotten the lessons taught by Babylonian captivity. At the time of Jesus’ coming, they were unprepared. They had fallen away from the Lord; they were following the customs of their Roman occupiers.

They had the choice to either turn to the Lord and accept Jesus as their Messiah, God’s anointed king, or to continue to follow their Roman governors and their corrupt religious leaders. The people followed their leaders and rejected Jesus as their Lord and king; they cooperated with the Romans rulers to crucify Jesus. Crucifixion was a Roman custom. The Jewish form of execution was by stoning.

The Jews had the scriptures which contained the promises of God as well as the warnings against disobedience, but they rejected God’s will, and chose instead to pursue their own will. Paul is the example of trust and obedience to the Lord and the acceptance of God’s will (see Romans 15:32).

The Jews rejected God’s Word and God’s will for them, and chose to pursue their own will. As a consequence their religion effectively ended at the crucifixion of Jesus (see Matthew 27:51). The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, the people were scattered over the Earth, and the nation ceased to exist until it was reestablished following World War II.

The history of Israel is also a parable about life in this world. God’s Word continues to be fulfilled over and over, as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. The Church is the “New Israel,” the “New People of God.” We have the scriptures and the promises of God. Let us not forget that the scriptures also contain warnings of punishment for turning away from the Lord, and for disobedience of his Word. There is still territory to be claimed in the Lord’s name.

Are we following the Lord and keeping his commands, or are we adopting the customs and making alliances with the occupants of the land (worldly people)? Jesus has promised to return to judge everyone who has ever lived on earth (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven with the Lord. Those who have rejected Jesus as their Lord and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death in Hell with Satan and all evil (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Are you ready for Jesus’ Second Coming? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 9 Pentecost – Even – 08/10 – 16/2014

August 9, 2014

Week of 9 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 9 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 9 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/31/04;
Podcast: Sunday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 1:1-18 –  The command to conquer;
Acts 21:3-15  –  Paul’s return to Jerusalem;
Mark 1:21-27  –  Healing the man with an unclean spirit;

Joshua Paraphrase:

After the death of Moses, the Lord told Joshua to arise and cross the Jordan and lead the people into the Promised Land. The boundaries were the wilderness in the south and east, the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Lebanon Mountains in the north. The Lord promised to be with Joshua as he had been with Moses, and that he would not fail or forsake him. The Lord told Joshua to be strong and of good courage, because Joshua would cause his people to inherit the Promised Land. Joshua was warned to be careful to obey God’s Word, so that he would be successful and prosperous.

Joshua told the leaders of the people to prepare the people to cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land. Joshua reminded the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh that they had agreed to fight with the rest of Israel to secure the Promised Land, leaving their wives, children and livestock on the east side of the river which was their share in the inheritance of the land, until the whole land was secured. The people agreed to obey Joshua as they had obeyed Moses, under penalty of death.

Acts Paraphrase:

At the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey he returned to Syria from Cyprus, and landed at Tyre. Paul stayed with some disciples (Christians), who warned Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not to go on to Jerusalem. At the end of Paul’s stay they and their families accompanied Paul outside the city to the port, and prayed with him before he left. Then Paul boarded the ship and sailed down the coast of the Mediterranean, stopping at Ptolemais and Caesarea, staying with disciples overnight.

In Caesarea Paul stayed with Philip, an evangelist and one of the original deacons or bishops (along with Stephen, who was martyred). Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Paul stayed with Philip for some days, during which a prophet named Agabus came from Judea, and prophesied that Paul would be bound and delivered to the Gentile authorities. The disciples begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, but Paul answered that he was willing to be imprisoned and even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. The disciples prayed that the Lord’s will would be done, and Paul left for Jerusalem.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath and began to teach. The people were astonished at his teaching because he taught as one with authority, unlike the scribes. There was a man in the synagogue who had an unclean spirit. The man cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked him and commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. The man convulsed and the unclean spirit came out of him. The people were amazed that Jesus had authority even over unclean spirits.

Commentary:

Joshua was appointed by the Lord to succeed Moses and to lead the people into the Promised Land. The Lord warned his people that they must obey God’s Word if they want to be successful and prosper in the Promised Land. Taking possession of the Promised Land will require strength and courage. The people agreed to obey Joshua under penalty of death.

Paul headed for Jerusalem, despite repeated warnings that he faced imprisonment and death. Paul was willing to die for the name of the Lord Jesus. The disciples were willing to accept God’s will, even if it lead to physical death.

Jesus has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is Lord, whether we acknowledge him or not! Demons know that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of God. Even demons obey Jesus!

Jesus is our “Joshua.” (The name, “Jesus” is the Greek form of  “Jeshua,” the post-exilic form of “Joshua.”*) Jesus is the only one appointed by God to lead his people into the Promised Land. His people must promise to obey God’s Word if they want to succeed and prosper in the Promised Land. Physical death is nothing to fear if we know that we have eternal life. What we should fear is eternal death and destruction in Hell (Matthew 10:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Eternal death is the only alternative to eternal life; death is not nothingness; there is no such thing as reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27).  We can be certain that we have eternal life through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14).

We have been commanded to rise and claim the land in Jesus’ name. We must trust and obey Jesus if we want to enter the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven. Demons obey Jesus because Jesus is Lord; they have to. We have a choice because Jesus allows it. The penalty for disobeying Jesus is eternal death (Romans 6:23; Matthew 25:31-46).

Do you know who Jesus is? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Sword Project digital Bible tools: http://www.crosswire.org/sword/index.jsp – Easton Bible Dictionary module: http://www.crosswire.org/sword/modules/ModInfo.jsp?modName=Easton “Jesus.”

Easton: “Jesus:”


Monday 9 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/01/04;
Podcast: Monday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 2:1-14  –  Rahab and the spies;
Romans 11:1-12  –  Israel’s rejection not final;
Matthew 25:1-13  –  Wise and foolish maidens;

Joshua Paraphrase:

Joshua, the leader appointed by God to succeed Moses and to lead the people into the Promised Land, appointed two spies to scout out the land surrounding Jericho. They went and entered the home of a harlot named Rahab. [Because she was a harlot, she was approachable, and since she was known to entertain strangers, it made the presence of the scouts less conspicuous. Also, her house was built into the wall, allowing them an escape route (Joshua 2:15)].

However, the king of Jericho learned that Rahab had received Israelite spies, and sent men to her house demanding that she turn them over. But Rahab hid the scouts on the rooftop under piles of flax (which she was probably drying on the roof). Rahab told the king’s men that the spies had departed, and urged the king’s men to pursue and capture them. The king’s men pursued the spies all the way to the Jordan River, and the city gate was closed.

After the king’s men had left, Rahab went up to the scouts and told them that she knew that the Lord had given the land to Israel, and that all the inhabitants of the land were in fear of the Israelites. They had heard how God had dried up the Red Sea before the Israelites when he had brought them out of Egypt, and how they had utterly destroyed the Kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, in the land east of the Jordan.

She acknowledged that the God of Israel was the one true God of heaven and earth. She asked the scouts to remember the kindness she had shown the scouts and to promise to save herself and her household in return, when the Israelites attacked Jericho. The scouts promised to exchange their lives for hers. If she did not betray their plans, they promised to deal kindly and faithfully with her.

Romans Paraphrase:

God has not abandoned Israel. Paul, who was Jewish, compares himself to Elijah. Elijah had complained that he alone was following God, but God replied that there was a considerable remnant that was faithful to God that Elijah knew nothing about. Likewise there would be a remnant that would be saved by grace (unmerited favor; as a free gift), not by works (keeping the Law). Not all the Israelites failed to obtain salvation (but they obtained it through grace by faith -obedient trust- in Jesus; not by works of Law).

The Jews who failed to obtain salvation didn’t learn and heed the warnings of scripture, and so they fulfilled them (compare Acts 13:27). They relied on their tradition and religious heritage instead of relying on God and God’s Word (Romans 11:9 RSV). The same grace that extended salvation to the Gentiles extends to the Jews now.

Exclusion of the Jews is only temporary, to allow the fulness of salvation to be obtained by all who will receive it by grace through faith. Their temporary exclusion may even be to their benefit, by making them jealous of the blessings the Gentiles have received.  If the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews brought spiritual blessings to the Gentiles, how much more will we all be blessed by their inclusion.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus used the parable of the wise and foolish maidens to illustrate the kingdom of heaven. (It is a custom in Israel for the groom to fetch his bride from her parents’ home to his.) Ten maidens took oil lamps and were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. Five were wise and brought extra oil with them, but the other five were foolish and brought no extra oil. The bridegroom was delayed, and the maidens fell asleep. At midnight they were awakened by the announcement of the bridegroom’s coming. The maidens arose and trimmed their lamps.

The foolish maidens’ lamps were running out of oil, so they asked the wise maidens to lend them some, but the wise maidens couldn’t spare any. The foolish maidens were forced to go to purchase oil from a merchant. While they were gone, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. When the foolish maidens returned, they knocked, asking to be let in, but the Lord denied knowing them. Jesus warned his listeners to be watchful, because we don’t know the day or hour of his return.

Commentary:

Rahab is an example of faith. The Canaanites had heard of the God of Israel. They knew the great saving miracle that delivered the Israelites from bondage to slavery and death in Egypt through the parting of the Red Sea, and they knew the victories of the Israelites over the Amorites in the land east of the Jordan. Rahab believed and acknowledged the God of Israel as the one true God of heaven and earth, and helped the Israelites accomplish their mission to conquer the land. Because she believed and acted accordingly, she and her entire family were saved.

God has extended his grace to all people through Jesus Christ. No one needs to be excluded. Salvation is freely available to all on the same basis: faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ. The world is like Canaan; its inhabitants have heard the great saving miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They’ve heard the message that Jesus leads us out of the “Egypt” of bondage to sin and death, through the wilderness of this world, and into the Promised Land of eternal life of Heaven. They’ve heard of the Lord’s victory over the rulers of this world. They’ve heard that Jesus is coming, to judge the earth; to punish the wicked and to give the Promised Land to his followers.

Do you believe it? Do you confess that Jesus is Christ and Lord? Are you acting on that faith? Are you joining and co-operating with his scouts? Are you helping in the mission to claim the land?

The world is like the maidens, waiting for Jesus, the bridegroom, to return for his bride, the church. Now is the time to obtain the “oil of salvation.” When the bridegroom comes, it will be too late. If you don’t have the “oil of salvation,” (the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit; the “oil of gladness;” Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9), now is the time to seek it. Now is not the time to be sleeping, unprepared and unaware of your need. Jesus is the door, the escape route provided by faith, by which we are saved from destruction. God has provided the door, for everyone who is willing to enter through it.

Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) God hasn’t closed it to anyone, but the day is coming when it will be shut and will no longer be opened. Are you a wise or foolish maiden (or man)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 9 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/02/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 2:15-24  –  The spies report to Joshua;
Romans 11:13-24  – The olive tree;
Matthew 25:14-30  –  Parable of the talents;

Joshua Paraphrase:

Joshua had sent spies to scout the land around Jericho, and they had been aided by Rahab, a harlot (see entry for yesterday). Rahab’s house was built into the city wall, and had a window to the outside in the wall, so she was able to lower the spies by a rope so that they could escape undetected. She told the spies to hide themselves in the hills for three days until the king’s men who were searching for them had returned.

The spies had promised to protect Rahab and her household in return for her aid, and gave her a scarlet cord to tie in her window as a sign to the Israelites to protect her. They told her that she had to remain loyal to Israel by keeping Israel’s plans secret, and her family had to remain in the house in order to be protected. Anyone who left the house would lose their protection.

Rahab tied the scarlet cord in the window, and the spies went into the hills, until the pursuers had returned. Then the spies returned across the Jordan and reported to Joshua all that had happened. They told Joshua that the Lord had given the land into their hand, and that the people were afraid of the Israelites.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul hoped that the reconciliation of the Gentiles would make the Jews jealous and thus draw them to Christ. Since their rejection of the Gospel had extended reconciliation to the world, their acceptance would be a resurrection from the dead. Like the portion of dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the rest of the dough, because it shares the same nature. If the root is holy, the branches will be also.

Paul uses the analogy of an olive tree to illustrate God’s people. The Jews are God’s cultivated olive tree. Some of its natural branches (Jews) have been broken off so that branches from the wild olive (Gentiles) might be grafted in. Gentiles should remember that it is the root that supports the branches and not the reverse. Gentiles should also remember that although natural branches were broken off so that they might be grafted in, they only have been given the opportunity provided that they continue in faith (trust and obedience).

The natural branches were removed because of lack of trust and obedience, and the wild branches will also be removed if they don’t respond in faith. “For if God didn’t spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Romans 11:21). God is kind toward us provided that we respond appropriately to that kindness, but God deals severely with those who do not respond to his kindness. God is able to restore the Jews to his people if they do not persist in their unbelief. Like natural branches, they are more easily grafted back in than wild branches.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told the parable of the talents to illustrate the end of the age. A man, preparing to go on a long journey, gave his servants his assets to manage while he was gone. To one he gave ten thousand dollars, to another, five thousand dollars, and to a third, one thousand dollars. The servant who had been entrusted with the five thousand dollars traded with them and doubled his master’s money. The servant who had been entrusted with the two thousand dollars did likewise and doubled his master’s money. But the servant with the one thousand dollars buried the money in the ground for safekeeping.

After a long time the Master returned and settled accounts with his servants. The servant who had made five thousand dollars was commended by the Master. The servant, having been faithful in what the Master regarded as a small matter, was rewarded with greater responsibility in the Master’s household. Likewise the servant who had made two thousand dollars was rewarded for his faithfulness. The servant who had received the one thousand dollars came forward and told his Master that the Master was known to be a hard man who reaped what he had not sown and gathered what he had not winnowed, so the servant had been afraid and had hidden the Master’s money in the ground.

The Master rebuked the servant for not having put the money in the bank where it would have at least earned interest. The Master took the money from him and gave it to the servant who had managed the five thousand dollars. Jesus said that those who appreciate what they have been given will receive more, but those who do not appreciate what they have will lose even that. The servant who was of no benefit to his master was cast into eternal condemnation.

Commentary:

The spies promised Rahab protection in return for certain conditions to which she had to agree. She was to remain loyal to Israel (by not revealing Israel’s plans), and she and her household had to remain in the house which was protected by the scarlet cord in the window. Rahab accepted the conditions and placed the symbol of Israel’s protection in her window.

The olive tree is the symbol of God’s people, Christ’s body, the Church. Christ is the root. The Jews who rejected Jesus have been pruned off and Gentiles have been grafted in their place. The Lord has been gracious to us in allowing us to be grafted into his fellowship.

There are conditions required of the “branches.” We must be faithful to Christ, the “root” by which we are sustained. We are to serve the Lord; not just expect him to serve us. We should remember that we have been given salvation; we are not “entitled” to it. Salvation has been given to us and it can be taken away if we do not meet the conditions in which it was given. It remains possible for Jews to be grafted back in to God’s people through Jesus Christ.

The Lord has given us salvation and eternal life as a free gift. There are some conditions. We must accept and put to work what he offers. We are to serve the Lord faithfully. We are to use the resources he’s given us to further his interests and his kingdom.

What we can accomplish with what he has given us depends on the value we place on our salvation. The Lord is our Master, whether we acknowledge him or not. If we refuse to accept the salvation he gives us, or if we accept that salvation but don’t serve the Lord, we will be condemned when he returns to settle accounts on the Day of Judgment (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-23; 25:31-46).

Jesus is the “scarlet cord” that saves us from destruction when the armies of the Lord, led by Jesus, return to conquer and take possession of the land and establish Jesus’ eternal kingdom. Jesus is the root of the olive tree to which we must be grafted in order to have eternal life and be fruitful for the kingdom of God. Jesus is our Master who has given us the gift of eternal life, and given us the responsibility for using his gift to enlarge his kingdom. We must abide in the household of faith; we must remain connected to and sustained by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit in order to have eternal life and be fruitful.

Is Jesus your Lord and Master (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Can the world tell by your life that you belong to Jesus? Are you using your spiritual gifts to enlarge the Lord’s kingdom? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 9 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/03/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 3:1-13  –   Preparing to cross the Jordan;
Romans 11:25-36   –   Israel to be saved;
Matthew 25:31-46   –  The great judgment;

Joshua Paraphrase:

The Israelites had been encamped in Shittim, in the plains of Moab, after their conquest of the Transjordan region (east of the Jordan River). Early in the morning Joshua and the people arose and moved their camp from Shittim to the bank of the Jordan River. At the end of three days, officers went through the camp with instructions on crossing the Jordan River. The people would be led by the Ark of the Covenant, carried by the Levitical priests. They were to leave a space of about three thousand feet between them and the Ark.

The Lord told Joshua that he would exalt Joshua in the sight of the peoples so that they would know that the Lord was with Joshua as the Lord had been with Moses. The bearers of the Ark were instructed to stand still in the waters of the Jordan. The waters of the Jordan would be stopped from flowing, and would back up in a heap while the people crossed over on dry ground. This was to be a sign to the people that the Lord was with them and would drive out the inhabitants of the land before them without fail. Joshua told the people to select a man from each tribe to be available for further instructions.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul didn’t want the Gentiles to become conceited because of their apparent displacement of the Jews as God’s chosen people. Paul maintained that the Jews’ displacement is only temporary, until the full number of Gentiles has been saved, but that ultimately Israel will be saved. Although they are presently enemies of God regarding the Gospel, they are beloved for the sake of their ancestors. The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

Just as the Gentiles were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy, so the Jews have become disobedient so that God may show them the same mercy which we have received. All have been consigned to disobedience, so that God may have mercy on all.

Paul breaks into ecstatic praise of the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God, whose ways are beyond human knowledge and understanding. Humankind is in no position to offer God advice or to repay God for what he has done for us. All things have their beginning and ending in the Lord. To him belongs eternal glory.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus will return in glory with all the angels, and he will judge all the people on Earth. He will separate the righteous from the unrighteous, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. The righteous will inherit the kingdom of eternal life which has been prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The righteous are those who have trusted Jesus and obeyed Jesus’ teachings.

The unrighteous will be condemned to eternal Hell which has been prepared for the devil and his demons. The unrighteous are those who have not trusted in Jesus and obeyed Jesus’ teachings. The unrighteous will enter eternal punishment, but the righteous will enter eternal life.

Commentary:

The Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of God’s presence among his people. The people were going to obtain possession of the Promised Land by obediently following the Lord across the Jordan into the Promised Land. The Lord would defeat all their enemies and give them the Land. All they had to do was trust and obey the Lord.

God shows no partiality; he shows mercy to all people, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). God’s promises are unchanging. God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ reveals God’s wisdom, goodness and mercy. God’s plan of salvation is not too difficult for us to follow. All we have to do is trust and obey Jesus, and he will lead us through the Jordan on dry ground, and defeat our enemies, who are blocking our way to eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven. Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right).

Do we mortals think we can devise some other plan? Do we think we can buy our salvation from God? Do we think we can cross the river and defeat the enemy without God’s Holy Spirit leading us and fighting the battle for us? Have we become “wise in our own conceits” (Romans 11:25a RSV), thinking that God is on our side without requiring our obedience to his Word? Do we think that being members of God’s “chosen people” is enough to get us across the river, without following the Lord in obedience?

Jesus has promised that he will return in glory and power to judge the living and the dead in both the physical and spiritual senses (John 5:28-29). He warns that he will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. The righteous will inherit the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; the unrighteous will be condemned to eternal punishment in the fire of Hell with Satan and all demons (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). The standard by which each will be judged is whether they, individually, have trusted and obeyed Jesus Christ as their Lord; their Master. The standard is not what we say, but what we do (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 9 Pentecost – Even

First posted 08/04/04;
Podcast: Thursday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 3:14-4:7  –  Crossing the Jordan;
Romans 12:1-8  –  The consecrated life;
Matthew 26:1-16  –  Jesus Anointed;

Joshua Paraphrase:

The people of Israel set out from their encampment to cross the Jordan River, with the priests, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, leading them. When the priests’ feet touched the water, the water stopped flowing and stood up in a heap far upstream, at Adam (south of the river Jabbok) beside Zarethan, (which is east of Samaria on the other side of the Jordan, about 10 miles north of Adam). The water of the Jordan was completely cut off, so the people crossed over opposite Jericho on dry ground, and the priests carrying the Ark stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until all the people had crossed over.

When the people had passed over, the Lord instructed Joshua to have twelve men, one from each tribe, each pick up a stone from the riverbed where the priests had stood, and carry them to the place Israel was to camp for the night, leaving them in a pile as a memorial to the Lord’s act of bringing them across the Jordan on dry ground. They were to remember what God had done for them and teach it to their children.

Romans Paraphrase:

God’s mercy makes it possible for believers to offer their lives as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable, as an act of worship. Believers are not to be conformed to the ways of this world, but to be transformed by a new way of thinking, understanding that we belong not to the present age, but the one which is coming, so that we may know and demonstrate by our lives what is the “good, acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2c RSV) will of God.

We’re not to have exalted opinions of ourselves, but to examine ourselves honestly, according to the faith which God has given us. The church is like a human body, having many members with differing functions. So believers are one body in Christ and mutually members of one another.

Believers are given varied gifts by the Holy Spirit, which we are to use (for the benefit of the church and the building of the kingdom of God), to the best of our ability. Gifts of the Holy Spirit for building up the body of Christ include prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, contribution, helping (or governing), and charity.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Two days before the Passover, Jesus told his disciples again (the fourth time; see Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23; 20:17-19) that he would be delivered to the authorities to be crucified. The chief priests and elders of Israel gathered in the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest, to plan the arrest of Jesus by stealth, to execute him, because they were afraid that they might otherwise incite a riot. Jesus was at Bethany in the home of Simon the leper.

A woman anointed Jesus’ head with very expensive ointment from an alabaster jar. The disciples (Judas Iscariot; compare John 12:5-6) were indignant at the extravagance, suggesting that the ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus defended the woman’s act. Jesus recognized that she had done something beautiful for him.

Jesus said that there will always be opportunities to give to the poor, but (since Jesus would soon be crucified) that there would be no more opportunity for anyone to do anything for Jesus in his earthly life. Her act was a loving preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. Jesus declared that her act would be memorialized in the Gospel. Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus went to the chief priests and arranged to betray Jesus into their hands in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.

Commentary:

As the people of Israel obeyed the Lord’s instructions in faith, the Lord fulfilled his promise in an act which showed his power and his ability to provide for and help his people. The people were to create a memorial to remember what the Lord had done for them, and to pass that memory on to their children.

Our act of worship to God is to surrender our lives to obedience to his will, which is only possible because of God’s mercy toward us. We are called to be holy (set apart for his service); we are to live lives in accordance with his will. We are not to follow the ways of this world. We are to live as citizens of God’s kingdom, conforming ourselves to God’s ways.

As we trust and obey God’s instructions, we come to know for ourselves and demonstrate to the world the goodness and power of God’s ways. We’re to examine ourselves honestly, so that we know where we need to make corrections. Every member of the body of Christ has been given gifts for building up the kingdom of God. We are to seek the Lord’s guidance and use those gifts to the best of our ability in his ministry as he directs.  Every member must fulfill his role for the body to be sustained and effective.

Jesus knew that he was going to be crucified, but he was committed to doing God’s will completely. Jesus gave everything he had, including his life, for our salvation. Through Jesus’ obedience, God’s great saving act was revealed to the world. The cross is the memorial of that act. The chief priests and elders of Israel responded to Jesus’ ministry by plotting to arrest and crucify him.

The woman with the ointment responded to Jesus’ ministry by giving the very best she could in an extravagant outpouring of love. Her self-sacrificing act of love enhanced and facilitated Jesus’ ministry. I’m sure it must have helped Jesus feel that his sacrifice was worthwhile, and not completely unappreciated.

Jesus’ disciples thought the woman had been “carried away” with her emotions and had been too extravagant in her display of affection. They were being “practical,” thinking of the expense, and of the other things that could be done with the money. Judas was the most “practical” of the disciples; he negotiated what Jesus was worth to him in the worldly marketplace, but actually Judas sold himself. Judas sold his own eternal life in heaven with Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

The Cross is the memorial to God’s great miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus promised that the woman’s extravagant loving anointing of Jesus would be told throughout the whole world wherever the Gospel is preached as a memorial of her act, and so it is. Judas’ act has become the memorial and icon of betrayal. The woman had been transformed; she was worshiping her king! The disciples were still conformed to this world, thinking in “practical,” worldly ways.

What memorials are we creating by our response to Jesus? Are we being transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, or are we being conformed to this world? Are we demonstrating to the world that God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect, and that his promises are fulfilled? Are we passing the Good News of God’s saving act at the Cross on to our children? What is eternal life worth to you? What is Jesus worth to you?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 9 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/05/04;
Podcast: Friday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 4:19-5:1, 10-15  –  Israel at Gilgal;
Romans 12:9-21  –  Christian duty;
Matthew 26:17-25  –  Betrayal foretold;

Joshua Paraphrase:

The Israelites crossed the Jordan River on the tenth day of Abib (Nisan; March-April) and encamped at Gilgal, northeast of Jericho. They set up the twelve stones they had carried from the riverbed as a memorial to commemorate their crossing the Jordan on dry ground by the power of the Lord. When all the kings and people of the land of Canaan heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan until the Israelites had crossed over on dry ground, they were afraid and they lost their will to resist.

Israel kept the Passover at Gilgal on the fourteenth day of the month, and the next day they ate the first of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased and they ate the produce of the land from then on.

Joshua was outside Jericho, and he saw a man with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and asked if he were for or against Israel. The man replied, “No, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Joshua fell on his face and worshiped, and asked the commander for instructions. The commander told Joshua to remove his shoes, because the ground on which he stood was holy; and Joshua did so.

Romans Paraphrase:

Believers are to love sincerely; to hate evil and cling to righteousness. We are to love one another as brothers and sisters. We should try to outdo one another in showing honor to one another. We are to maintain our enthusiasm, be radiant with the Spirit, and be continually serving the Lord. We should rejoice in our hope, be patient in tribulation, and pray constantly. We should contribute to the needs of fellow Christians, and provide hospitality. We are to bless those who persecute us; we are to share the joys and sorrows of others. We are to live in harmony, peace and humility with one another.

We are not to repay evil with evil, but instead do what is noble. We are never to seek revenge, but to leave vengeance to the Lord. Rather we are to be kind and generous to our enemies, and they will be ashamed of their behavior. We are not to be overcome by evil, but instead overcome evil with good.

Matthew Paraphrase:

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, the disciples asked Jesus where they should arrange to eat the Passover meal. Jesus gave them directions to locate a man in Jerusalem who would provide a place for them to use for the Passover feast. The disciples did as directed and made the preparations.

At evening Jesus and his disciples sat down to eat the Passover meal together. As they ate, Jesus told them that one of them would betray him. The disciples began to ask, one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Jesus replied that it was one of those who were eating from the same dish with Jesus. Jesus said that the prophecies of scripture concerning the Christ must be fulfilled, but woe to the one who betrays him. Jesus said that it would have been better for that man if he had never been born. Judas asked, “Is it I, Master?” Jesus told him, “You have said so.”

Commentary:

The Lord had promised to give Israel the Promised Land. All they had to do was to obey the Lord’s instructions and reverence him. They crossed the river without even getting their feet wet!

Joshua was outside Jericho, planning how to conquer the city, and he encountered the commander of the Lord’s armies. Joshua asked for his instructions, and the commander told him that all Joshua had to do was honor the Lord and the Lord would do the rest. The question we should be asking is not whether the Lord is on our side, but whether we are on the Lord’s side.

The wilderness experience can be seen as a metaphor for discipling. Crossing the river represents the infilling of the Holy Spirit; the Pentecost experience; being “born-again.”  Believers should be discipled within the congregation until they have been filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit, before they can start conquering new territory (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5,8). The Holy Spirit is the first fruits of the eternal kingdom, the Promised Land of Heaven. The Holy Spirit is the Lord, the commander of the Lord’s armies. The congregation was to pass on the river-crossing experience to their children (Joshua 4:21-22).

Christians are to obey the Lord’s instructions and reverence him, and the Lord will fulfill his promises, fight the battle for us and give us the victory over our enemies. Are we trusting and obeying the Lord and relying on him to fight for us and provide the victory, or are we trying to accomplish God’s purpose in our own wisdom and strength? If we’re not conquering new territory, why not?

The disciples asked Jesus for instructions in arranging for the Passover celebration, and Jesus provided the arrangements. All the disciples had to do was follow Jesus’ instructions. Jesus knew that not everyone would work with him to accomplish God’s plan. Some would be working against Jesus and against God’s purpose, even among his inner circle of the Twelve disciples. God’s plan has already arranged for that. God’s plan allowed for a betrayer, but Judas had a choice: he volunteered. Even at the last moment before Judas left to betray Jesus, Jesus gave him the opportunity to repent and be saved, but Judas refused.

The Lord’s plan will be accomplished, whether we join with him and trust and obey him or not. Are we Canaanites or disciples of Jesus Christ? If we’re disciples, what kind of disciples will we be; the kind that trust and obey, or the kind that betray the Lord?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Saturday 9 Pentecost – Even

First posted 08/06/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 9 Pentecost – Even

Joshua 6:1-14  –  Marching around Jericho;
Romans 13:1-7  –  The Christian and the state;
Matthew 26:26-35   –  The Last Supper;

Joshua Paraphrase:

Jericho was under siege, and no one went in or out of the city. The Lord told Joshua that he had given the city with its king and its army into Joshua’s hands. Joshua was to march the army of Israel around the city outside the walls  for seven days. Seven priests, each blowing a ram’s horn would precede the Ark of the Covenant. For the first six days, the Israelites would march once each day around the city in silence, with the trumpets blowing continually.

On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times. On the seventh circuit the trumpets would make a long blast and all the people were to shout, and the walls of the city would fall down. When the walls collapsed, the soldiers of Israel were to enter the city directly from their positions around it.

Having received the instructions, the Army of Israel went forth before the trumpets and the Ark, with a rear guard behind, and they marched around the city once in silence while the priests blew the trumpets continually. When they had gone around once, they returned to their camp and spent the night.

Romans Paraphrase:

Christians are to be subject to the civil authorities, since civil authority is instituted by God. Thus those who resist the authorities resist what God has ordained, and will incur judgment. Rulers are no threat to good conduct, but rather to bad. If we do what is right we will have no need to fear the authorities, because they serve at God’s will for our good. We should respect civil authorities, because they are authorized to punish wrongdoing. So Christians are to be subject to civil authority in order to avoid God’s wrath, and also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason, Christians are to pay the required taxes. So we are to pay taxes and fulfill our civic obligations.

Matthew Paraphrase:

As Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover meal, “Jesus took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28). Jesus told the disciples that he would “not drink again this fruit of the vine” until he would share it with his disciples in the kingdom of God. They sang a hymn, and then went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus told the disciples that they would fall away from Jesus that night, because of what was going to happen, in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7. But Jesus told them that after he was raised up they would see him again in Galilee. Peter declared that though everyone else might, he would never fall away from Jesus. Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him three times that night. Peter declared that he would not deny Jesus, even if it meant that he would have to die with Jesus, and the rest of the disciples agreed.

Commentary:

Physical defenses, political and military power are not able to thwart God’s plan. The Lord is able to accomplish his purpose. All that is needed is for the people of God to obey God’s Word and cooperate with one another to accomplish God’s purpose.

The civil authorities are subject to God’s authority, whether they acknowledge him or not. Christians are obligated to obey civil authority and to fulfill our civil obligations, including voting. Note: If we do what is right we will have no need to fear the authorities, because they serve at God’s will for our good.

Maybe today we have the government we deserve. If Christians want better government and better leaders, we should start seriously obeying God’s Word. Unless we do, the “Canaanites” will continue to keep faith in God out of government.

Jesus established a new covenant, ratified by his blood, shed on the cross, for the forgiveness of our sins. A covenant is a contract between two parties. The Lord agrees to forgive all our sins, provided that we trust and obey all that he has commanded. Those who are forgiven will live eternally with the Lord in his kingdom in Heaven.

It is not enough to say that Jesus is our Lord (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-24). Good intentions are not enough. The disciples had good intentions, but they fell away from the Lord, as he had said they would. Jesus knew that they would fall away, but he arranged for them to return to him in Galilee, after his resurrection.

America (and the world) has fallen away from Jesus. Now is the time to return to Jesus and start trusting and obeying him.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 8 Pentecost – Even – 08/03 – 09/2014

August 2, 2014

Week of 8 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 8 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/24/04;
Podcast: Sunday 8 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 27:12-23  –  Moses installs Joshua;
Acts 19:11-20  –   Magic vs. Gospel;
Mark 1:14-20  –  Jesus calls disciples;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord instructed Moses to go to a mountain peak in Moab to view the Promised Land before he died. Moses had been forbidden to enter it because of his disobedience in bringing the water from the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20:2-13; Aaron had also been forbidden to enter because of that disobedience, in which he also participated, and he had died on a mountaintop after being allowed to see the Promised Land: Numbers 20:22-29).

Moses asked the Lord to appoint his successor before Moses died, and the Lord instructed Moses to take Joshua, “a man in whom is the spirit” and lay his hands on Joshua before Eleazar the priest (Aaron’s son and successor), in the sight of the congregation. Joshua was thus to be invested with some of Moses’ authority, so that the congregation would obey Joshua. Joshua would receive his spiritual direction from Eleazar, who would seek guidance from the Lord (with the Urim, a stone of “revelation” by which God’s judgment was revealed; part of the priestly garments) and relay it to Joshua. Joshua was to be the political leader. Moses did as the Lord commanded, and commissioned Joshua in the sight of the people.

Acts Paraphrase:

While Paul was in Ephesus, many great miracles were done by the Lord through Paul, so the people collected handkerchiefs and articles of clothing Paul had touched to carry to the sick, so that they might be healed through these articles. Some itinerant Jewish exorcists started copying Paul’s manner of healing, pronouncing their exorcisms “by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest were doing this, but the evil spirit answered them, saying that he knew Jesus, and he knew Paul, but he didn’t know (or acknowledge the authority of) these exorcists. The demon leaped upon the seven and overpowered them, so that they fled naked and wounded.

News of this spread throughout the surrounding area, among both Jews and Greeks, and they were afraid, and they extolled the name of Jesus. Many converts confessed and revealed their former occult practices (“Ephesus was such a noted center of magic that magical books were often called “Ephesian writings”*). A number of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. The value of the burned books was calculated at fifty thousand pieces of silver. “So the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily” (Acts 19:20).

Mark Paraphrase:

After the death of John the Baptizer, Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God and calling people to repentance and faith in the Gospel, declaring that the time had come and God’s kingdom was at hand. Walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he encountered Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net, because they were fishermen. Jesus invited them to follow him, promising to train them to be fishers of men, and they left their net and followed Jesus. A little further Jesus passed James and John, sons of Zebedee, in the boat with their father and the hired hands, mending their nets. Jesus called to them, and they left their father in the boat and followed Jesus.

Commentary:

Only Moses had a “face-to-face relationship” with the Lord at that time. The high priest used methods of divination common in the culture of the time to determine God’s will. (Balaam had started out using worldly divination methods also, but then was inspired by the Holy Spirit; see Numbers 24:2b).

Joshua was “a man in whom was the spirit,” meaning having an attitude of faith and obedience. [Joshua was one of two scouts who returned from scouting the Promised Land with a favorable report, while the other ten gave unfavorable reports (Numbers 14;6-9).] But Joshua did not have a personal relationship with the Lord; he had to seek the Lord’s Word through the priest.

The priest didn’t have a personal relationship with the Lord either; the priest had to use “divination” to determine the Lord’s will. On entering the Promised Land, the people of God were expressly forbidden to consult practitioners of the occult  (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). It was God’s intention for his people to be led only by God’s Holy Spirit.

In the early church, people were impressed with the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles, and they tried to blend the Gospel with their worldly superstitions and belief in magic. They collected handkerchiefs from Paul, believing that they contained healing power. Exorcists pronounced the name of Jesus over the possessed, believing that the name of Jesus possessed magical power.

The Holy Spirit is not superstition or magic, nor is the name of Jesus. The power is in the living Lord. One cannot appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit or the power of the name of Jesus for oneself (see Simon the magician: Acts 8:9-24). Ephesus was a culture that was greatly involved in occult practice. (Paul is the prototype of the modern “born-again” disciple. He had not known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. He encountered the Spirit of Jesus on the road to Damascus. See Acts Chapter 9.)

Jesus calls his disciples to leave their worldly way of life and their former practices and follow him in a “face-to-face relationship;” to learn from Jesus, and then to repeat the process, calling others to discipleship and teaching them to obey Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

The world in which we live is still greatly influenced by superstition, and heavily involved in occult practices. There are horoscopes in virtually every newspaper, (and on lots of internet portals). Nominal “Christians” (those who consider themselves Christian, but do not obey Jesus and have not received the indwelling Holy Spirit) may read their horoscopes more regularly and thoroughly than they read the Bible.

In America, government leaders and their spouses (who claim to be Christian) have been accused of consulting astrologers. People “believe” in prayer, without understanding and meeting the conditions required for answered prayer (see sidebar, top right, home). God doesn’t have to answer prayer just because we add Jesus’ name to the end. Jesus doesn’t have to give us eternal life just because we call him Lord (Matthew 7:21-23).

Jesus opens up a new and better way to know God’s will; a new and better way to have a personal “face-to-face” fellowship with the Lord, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus calls his disciples to leave the old traditions and worldly ways of doing things behind, and follow him in trust and obedience.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Acts 19:19n, p. 1345, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Monday 8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/25/04;
Podcast: Monday 8 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27 – Joining the battle;
Romans 8:26-30  –  Human weakness strengthened;
Matthew 23:1-12  –  Greatness in God’s kingdom;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Jazer (Jaazer) was a city of the Amorites, midway between Jericho and Shechem, but east of the Jordan. Gilead is the mountainous region between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, but east of the River Jordan. The tribes of Reuben and Gad were herdsmen, and the region was attractive to them for raising cattle of various kinds. Ataroth, Dibon, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon were other cities of the Amorites east of the Jordan, which the two tribes requested as their portion in the inheritance of the Promised Land.

Moses agreed that they could occupy the land east of the Jordan, provided that the armies of the tribes accompany the rest of the congregation across the Jordan and help them claim the land. The Reubenites and Gadites agreed to build pens for their flocks and fortify their cities so that their wives and children would be protected, and then they would accompany the rest of the Israelites across the Jordan and fight with them to gain possession of the land. They promised not to return to their homes on the east bank until Israel had gained possession of the Promised Land. Moses warned them that if they did not fight with the rest of God’s people until the victory had finally been won, they would be guilty of sin and accountable to God (Numbers 32:23).

Romans Paraphrase:

The Holy Spirit sustains and strengthens us. We don’t know how we should pray, but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will. The Lord knows what is in our hearts and minds, and intercedes for us according to his will. We can be reassured that in everything God is working for good with those who love him and are responding to his loving purpose.

That purpose is for those who respond to his call to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, Jesus, so that Jesus might be the first-born of many brethren. Being conformed to Jesus means becoming like Jesus in character, and also sharing in Jesus’ resurrection, eternal life, inheritance and glory.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples and the crowds to obey what the scribes and Pharisees taught, but not to do what they did, because the Jewish religious leaders had inherited the authority of Moses but they didn’t practice what they preached. These hypocrites insisted that others bear great obligations that they themselves would never agree to assume. Their intention was not to obey God’s will, but to appear to obey in order to receive acclaim by mankind.

Phylacteries were originally intended to remind Israelites of God’s Word, but had become symbols of piety, which were exaggerated by the Pharisees to make them more conspicuous. Jews also originally wore fringes on their garments to remind them to obey the commandments of God (Numbers 15:38-39), but they had become empty religious “status symbols.” The Pharisees wanted honor and titles from men.

Jesus told his disciples not to take for themselves titles which properly belong to God. Disciples are not to seek worldly recognition as spiritual teachers, because they are “disciples,” students of Jesus, who is their spiritual teacher. They are not to be called Master, because they are servants of Jesus, who is their master. They are not to be called Father, because they are children of God, who is their Father. The title of honor in God’s kingdom is “servant.” In God’s kingdom, those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Commentary:

The Reubenites and Gadites were not going to be allowed to participate in the inheritance of the land unless they were willing to join the struggle to obtain it. They had to cross the river and make the sacrifice of self-denial, and suffer along with the rest of God’s people in order to obtain the promise.

We cannot accomplish God’s plan in our own strength. We cannot know God’s will unless the Holy Spirit makes it known to us. Only by the Holy Spirit can we pray according to God’s will, because only the Holy Spirit knows God’s will fully, not only as it applies to us individually, but also collectively.

I know God’s specific will for myself at this moment, but not the big overall view. Generally, God’s will is that we become like Jesus in character: an obedient, self-sacrificing servant. We cannot share in Jesus’ resurrection, eternal life, inheritance and glory unless we are also willing to obey the Lord, deny ourselves, and serve others.

The Pharisees were hypocrites because they taught one thing and did something else. Jesus affirmed their teaching, but condemned them for not doing what they taught. The Pharisees wanted glory without obedience and self-denial. They wanted to be exalted; not humble. They wanted to be served rather than to serve others.

How are we doing? Do we want to inherit the Promised Land without claiming the territory with God’s people; without fighting the enemy; without sacrificing our comfort and security; without trusting and obeying the Lord in faith? Are we attempting to appear to be “good” people without obeying what Jesus taught; without practicing what we preach?

Do we seek honor within our church and among our neighbors for our church activities, without practicing discipleship? Are we attempting to build God’s kingdom in our own human strength, without the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Is the Cross of Jesus a reminder that discipleship is self-denial, obedience, and servanthood, or an empty religious “status symbol” to make us seem to be “Christian,” (or just a “good luck” charm)? Do we want the “Crown” and the glory, without bearing the “Cross?”

Are you willing to cross the river and join the struggle? Do you realize that if you don’t join God’s people in the struggle you will be condemned by the Lord on the Day of Judgment (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:31-46; compare with Numbers 32:23)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Is Jesus your Master and Teacher? Are you Jesus’ disciple and student (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the Holy Spirit since you first believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you serving the Lord or are you pleasing yourself? Are you making disciples of Jesus and teaching them to obey what Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/26/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 8 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 35:1-3, 9-15, 30-34  –  Cities of refuge;
Romans 8:31-39  –  Confidence in God;
Matthew 23:13-26  –  Woe to scribes and Pharisees;

Numbers Paraphrase:

On the east bank of the Jordan River across from Jericho, the Lord instructed Moses to command the people to set aside cities for the Levites to dwell in because the Levites were not entitled to receive a portion of land with the other tribes in their inheritance. The Levites also received pastures around their cities so they could pasture their animals. Six of the Levitical cities were to be designated as cities of refuge. Three cities were designated east of the Jordan, and three on the west.

Anyone who killed someone unintentionally (manslaughter) could flee there for refuge from the blood avenger, so that he could have a fair trial. Refuge was provided to the sojourner and stranger as well as to the native. Anyone who killed deliberately was to be put to death on the evidence of at least two witnesses. No ransom shall be acceptable to spare a murderer from execution.

Anyone found guilty of manslaughter was required to stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. No ransom was to be accepted to permit the manslayer to return to his home early. Blood pollutes the land and there is no expiation (amends; compensation) for blood shed except the blood of the one who shed it. The land was to be kept undefiled because the Lord dwelt among his people.

Romans Paraphrase:

“If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31b); compare Psalm 118:6). God willingly gave his only Son to die for us all. God will give us all things with Christ. Who can bring charges against God’s elect? God justifies; who is able to condemn? Christ, who died, was raised from the dead, and sits at God’s right hand, intercedes for us.

Who is able to separate us from Christ’s love? No tribulation, distress, persecution, deprivation, danger or threat can separate us from Jesus’ love. No matter what happens to us, believers are already victorious through Jesus. Whether we live or die, nothing in all creation, nothing natural or supernatural, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus declared woe to scribes and Pharisees, because they were hypocrites (they didn’t practice what they preached; Matthew 23:3b; compare James 1:22). They not only refused to enter God’s kingdom themselves, but they prevented others from doing so.

Jesus condemned the religious leaders for making converts who were more evil that themselves. Jesus indicted them as unenlightened teachers, “blind guides,” chastising them for interpreting God’s Word in ways that allowed them to avoid obeying the intent of God’s will. Jesus criticized them for emphasizing obedience in minor details of the law so as to appear to be righteous, but overlooking major deficiencies regarding justice, mercy and faith.  Jesus rebuked them for being like dishes that are clean on the outside, but full of rottenness on the inside. It is necessary to be clean inside in order to be truly clean.

Commentary:

The Levites did not receive territory in the Promised Land as their inheritance, because they were set apart as servants of the Lord who was to be their inheritance. The Lord provided cities and pasture for them. They were spread throughout the land to sustain the knowledge and service of the Lord among the people. The Lord’s commandments are righteous and just. He provides the means for us to comply. Murder is not to be tolerated, but God specifically provided mercy and justice for those who kill unintentionally. Blood (and all sin) pollutes a land.

Only Jesus’ blood can expiate our sins because he alone was blameless and without sin (Hebrews 4:15). All (humans) have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus was the “sacrificial lamb,” without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19). God loves us and willingly gave his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins, so that we wouldn’t have to die for them ourselves (John 3:16-18). If we are trusting and obeying Jesus, nothing can happen to us that can separate us from his love and fellowship now and eternally.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day claimed to love God, but they hated Jesus, who is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; Matthew 1:23b, John 20:28). They claimed to love God but wouldn’t give him their obedience, except in narrow, humanly-defined ways. They made disciples for themselves, rather than making disciples for Christ.

The Congregation of Israel was obligated to obey God’s Word. They were not to tolerate sin in their land and within the congregation. The religious leaders were obligated to see that God’s mercy and justice were enforced.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ time were not fulfilling that obligation. They were teaching as doctrine the precepts of men (Matthew 15:9). They didn’t have a personal saving relationship with Jesus. They were not disciples of Jesus and they were making disciples for themselves, rather than disciples for Jesus. They weren’t filled with the Holy Spirit because they weren’t disciples of Jesus. Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Only Jesus can cleanse us inside, by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Do we imagine that God is with us in our lands, within congregations, or within human hearts which are polluted with sin and blood? Are our religious leaders upholding God’s Word, or are they teaching as doctrine the precepts of men?

The righteous are not under the Law but that does not free them to do what is contrary to the Law (Romans Chapter 6). “ …the law is not made for a righteous one, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,  for fornicators, for homosexuals [sodomites; from two Greek words meaning men having sex with men (and by implication lesbianism as well); Strong’s numbers 730 & 2845], for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and anything else that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust”(1 Timothy 1:9-11).

Are our lands and churches “cities of refuge” for the righteous or for the unrighteous? God is with us if we are with God, through the indwelling Holy Spirit through faith (trust and obedience) to Jesus Christ as our Lord (our Master, whom we serve obediently; see Matthew 7:21-27, Luke 6:46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/27/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 8 Pentecost – Even

Deuteronomy 1:1-18  –  Stewards of God’s Word; and Judgment;
Romans 9:1-18  –  Paul’s sorrow for the Jews;
Matthew 23:27-39  –  Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

In the plains of Moab, poised to enter the Promised Land from the east, Moses reviewed the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The Israelites had defeated Sihon, King of the Amorites, and Og, King of Bashan and had taken possession of the land east of the Jordan River. The Lord had directed Moses to take possession of the land which God had sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give to them and their descendants.

God had promised Abraham while he was still childless, that his descendants would be as innumerable as the stars of heaven. Israel had become a great multitude, and Moses had appointed leaders of the tribes of the people to help him. The leaders were to be judges to mediate disputes between fellow Israelites, or between Israelite and alien. They were to render righteous judgments. They were not to show partiality in judgment, favoring neither the small nor the great. They were not to be influenced by public opinion, but to remember that they were administering God’s judgment. Any cases too difficult for these leaders were to be brought before Moses for judgment.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul, himself a Jew, had unceasing sorrow for his Jewish people. He wished that he could have sacrificed his own salvation for the sake of his Jewish kin and race. They are Israelites and all the promises, patriarchs, scripture, history, covenants, worship, and relationship with God belong to them. Christ (who is God in human flesh; Romans 9:5 RSV, alternative translation – see note n; see also Matthew 1:21-23; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28) is Jewish according to his fleshly parentage (and only begotten Son of God according to his divine parentage; John 3:16-18). But the failure of the Jews to receive the promise of the Messiah (and their adoption as sons, through him; Romans 9:4) is not a failure of God’s Word (God’s promise).

It is not the physical children of Abraham who are the children of God and heirs to the promise, but the children of faith (see Romans 4:1-5; 9-12; Galatians 3:6-9). God is sovereign, and in working out his plan he is not bound by human conventions. Israel cannot claim special privilege or relationship by being physical children of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. Salvation does not depend upon mankind’s will or effort but upon God’s mercy. This is not injustice; it is entirely within God’s prerogative to show his mercy to whomever he chooses.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, warning woe to the religious leaders who desired to appear righteous on the outside, but were full of sin and hypocrisy inside. Jesus described them as “whitewashed tombs;” beautiful and clean-looking on the outside, but full of rottenness and the bones of the dead. The religious leaders were hypocrites because they didn’t practice what they preached (Matthew 23:3b); they built monuments to the prophets, claiming that they would not have taken part in shedding the blood of the prophets by their ancestors, while proving that they were the sons (by ancestry and by similar character) of those who murdered the prophets.

If they follow their fathers in character and attitude they will receive the inheritance of condemnation (Matthew 23:32-33). The sons of snakes are snakes. Jesus declared, “Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes (writers and teachers), some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth from Abel (the first murder victim; Adam’s son) to Zechariah (i.e. “from A to Z;” from first to last). Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.”

Commentary:

Jesus mourned over Jerusalem for rejecting those God had sent to her to call her to him (Matthew 23:37). Jesus declared that her house is forsaken and desolate, and that they would not have any further relationship with God until they welcomed and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 23:39).

Israel could have entered the Promised Land forty years earlier if she had trusted and obeyed God’s Word (Numbers chapters 13-14). The people who rebelled against the Lord in the wilderness died in the wilderness.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as countless as the stars of Heaven, and that they would inherit the Promised Land. God keeps his Word; those promises were fulfilled. The leaders of the people were to administer God’s justice and righteousness. They were not to be influenced by public opinion or social status.

Paul would have been willing to die eternally to bring salvation to his Jewish people, but Jesus had already died for them to accomplish that, and they had rejected him. The Jews had all the promises, heritage, history, scripture, covenants, worship, and relationship with God but it did them no good because they rejected their God-sent Jewish Messiah. It wasn’t God’s Word that failed; it was their failure to respond to God’s Word.

God reveals his goodness, love, and mercy to us in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). God is not unjust. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God chooses to save all who trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is God’s only provision for salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We don’t get to make the rules; God does. God is not influenced by popular opinion or social status.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had all the promises, heritage, history, scripture, covenants, worship, and relationship with God, but they didn’t believe and obey God’s Word, so all that didn’t do them any good. They wanted to make the rules. They wanted to be righteous by adopting an outward appearance, without a change of inward attitude. They relied on the promises, heritage, history, scripture, covenants, worship and relationship, without obedience to God’s will and without acknowledging God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord.

Jesus predicted that as a result of their rejection of him, they would crucify Jesus, and kill others (Stephen, the first of many martyrs, was stoned to death). Some prophets, writers and teachers would be beaten (for example: Acts 5:40), some would be persecuted from town-to-town (for example, Acts 13:45-14:23). Jesus foretold the dispersion and suffering of the Jews, and the effective end of Judaism at the crucifixion of Jesus. (For more on this topic, see the entries for Holy Week, Monday  through Saturday, even year.)

The Church is the New Israel; the New Jerusalem on earth; the heir to the promises, heritage, history, scripture, covenants (the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, through the Sacraments of Communion and Baptism) the worship, and the relationship as God’s chosen people. How are we doing, Church? Are we trusting and obeying Jesus as our Lord; or are we relying on our heritage, tradition, promises, scripture, worship and membership, but not obeying God’s will, and lacking a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit? Are we faithful stewards of God’s righteousness and justice, or are we bending to popular opinion and powerful, socially prominent people? Are we following God’s rules or are we trying to make our own?

Being born into the church doesn’t save us. Only a personal relationship through the indwelling Holy Spirit saves us (Romans 8:9b). Without the Holy Spirit inside us and inside our churches we are just “whitewashed tombs.” Only the indwelling Holy Spirit can make us clean on the inside. (It is possible to know for oneself whether one has received the fulness of the indwelling Holy Spirit; see Acts 19:2) .

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/28/04;
Podcast: Thursday 8 Pentecost – Even

Deuteronomy 3:18-28  –  Preparing to cross the Jordan;
Romans 9:19-33 –  Cornerstone or stumbling block;
Matthew 24:1-14  –  Destruction of the Temple; end of the age;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

On the plain of Moab, east of the Jordan River, opposite Jericho, Moses reviewed the agreement with the tribes of Reuben and Gad. They had been given possession of the Transjordan region, provided that they cross the Jordan and fight with Israel for the Promised Land until the land was secured, meanwhile leaving their wives, children and cattle in the Transjordan region (east of the Jordan River). When Canaan had been secured for Israel, the men of Reuben and Gad would return to the Transjordan to their homes.

Moses told Joshua that the Lord would give victory to Israel over the armies of the kings of Canaan as he had done in the Transjordan with the armies of Sihon, King of the Amorites, and Og, King of Bashan. Moses asked the Lord to allow him to cross the Jordan to see the Promised Land, but the Lord refused to allow Moses to cross the Jordan.

Moses and Aaron had been forbidden to enter the Promised Land because they had disobeyed the Lord’s instructions and failed to glorify God for providing water from the rock at Meribah. Instead they had taken credit for providing it themselves. Aaron and Moses were only allowed to see the Promised Land from a distance. Moses was to see it from Mt. Pisgah, and to charge, encourage and strengthen Joshua as the new leader of the people who would put them in possession of the land.

Romans Paraphrase:

If God’s will is sovereign and irresistible, why does he find fault with his creatures? As his creation, we have no right to question God. God has endured the wicked and disobedient with great patience in order to show his wrath and power, and the riches of his mercy toward those he has chosen in Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile.

As God reclaimed Israel after she had turned away from God and broken the covenant, God will also bring the Gentiles into saving relationship with him. God promised to make a great multitude of Abraham’s descendants, but he didn’t promise that they would all receive the inheritance. Isaiah warned that only a remnant would be saved and that the Lord would execute his judgment upon the earth with severity and dispatch in a timely and efficient manner.

Numerous times, God would have destroyed Israel completely, like Sodom and Gomorrah, had he not shown mercy, in order that the children might have another chance (for example, the disobedient generation was allowed to die in the wilderness, so that their children might have the opportunity to enter the Promised Land; see Numbers 14:20-35). “The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained it …through faith (in Jesus) while the Jews who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law (Romans 9:31) …because they did not pursue righteousness through faith, but as if it were based on works (Romans 9:32). The stone represents God’s help. One can either believe and build on that help or one will stumble over and be destroyed by it (1 Peter 2:4-8; Jesus is that stone; see Matthew 7:24-27, Matthew 16:16-18; 1 Corinthians 10:1-5).

Matthew Paraphrase:

During the week preceding Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus was leaving the Temple (in Jerusalem), and his disciples commented on the grandness of the buildings of the Temple (Herod was building this new Temple, which was not yet completed, as an act of political patronage to the Jews). (The accounts in Mark 13:1 and Luke 21:5 add that the disciples admired the stones with which it was built or adorned.) Jesus replied that the Temple would be destroyed, and it’s stones thrown down.

At the Mount of Olives, his disciples asked Jesus when this would occur, and what the signs of the end of the age would be. Jesus replied that we should take heed that no one lead us astray. There will be many false christs, who will lead many astray. There will be wars, famines, and earthquakes, which mark the beginning of suffering. Believers of Jesus will be persecuted and put to death.

Many will fall away (stumble) and betray one another and hate one another. False prophets will arise and lead many astray. Because wickedness will multiply, most people will no longer have love for one another. But those who endure (in faith) to the end will be saved. “And this Gospel will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Commentary:

Israel was at the threshold of the Promised Land. The conditions for taking possession of the inheritance were that they all had to cross the river and fight the battles to secure it; they also must obey God’s Word and glorify him. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he had disobeyed God’s instructions at Meribah, and had failed to glorify God in the presence of the people.

God had helped the Israelites from the time of the Exodus from Egypt and throughout their wilderness exile. God had helped the Israelites be victorious over the kingdoms of Sihon and Og in the Transjordan region, and God promised to help the Israelites to gain possession of the Promised Land. The history of God’s dealings with Israel is also a parable of God’s plan for the world.

God has had a plan to create an eternal kingdom of his people from the beginning of Creation. In the beginning mankind was given eternal life in paradise with God, provided that we obey God’s Word. That paradise was lost because of disobedience (Genesis chapters 2-3). God’s purpose has always been to save and restore a remnant to eternal life in paradise. This earthly life is a selection process; an opportunity for us to choose where we want to spend eternity.

Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We can choose to trust and obey Jesus, or to be our own “Lord.” Jesus is either the rock on which we build our lives to eternity, or he is the rock on which we stumble and are destroyed.

Salvation is by grace (a free gift) through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ, not by works (keeping) of the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). We each get to choose, individually, where we will spend eternity; Jesus will enforce that decision. (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Jews had accepted the political patronage of Herod (Herod the Great, who tried to kill the infant Jesus) in building the Temple for them. It was a grand and beautiful building, not yet completed. It looked great on the outside, but inside it was full of corruption (Matthew 21:12-14); a “whitewashed tomb.”

Jesus prophesied the Temple’s destruction, which began at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the veil of the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51; see also entries for Holy Week, Monday through Saturday, Even Year), and was completed by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans. The Temple has never been rebuilt.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is also a parable and a warning to the world, and to the Church. God wants to lead us to the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven. Jesus is our “Moses”, our “Joshua” (who leads us through the wilderness of this life; who brings us into the Promised Land; who is the successor to the “Moses” of the Old Covenant of Law). If we want to enter the Promised Land we must follow Jesus; we must obey his word: we must cross the river and fight the battles to claim the promise. We can’t sit on this side of the river and be comfortable while someone else fights the battles for us. We must glorify Jesus through our obedience to his teachings.

How are we doing, Church? Are we, as individuals and as congregations, pure inside through the indwelling Holy Spirit, or are we “whitewashed tombs?” Are we individually and corporately building on the solid Rock of trust and obedience of Jesus Christ, or are we allowing secular influences to build our churches into something that looks good on the outside, but which is founded on sand. What the Lord promises will be fulfilled. The Lord promised that Herod’s Temple would be destroyed, and it was.

The Lord has promised to return to judge every one who has ever lived on the earth (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. Those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil. Not everyone who calls Jesus their Lord will be saved; only those who have done what Jesus teaches (Matthew 7:21-24).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday
8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/29/04;
Podcast: Friday 8 Pentecost – Even

Deuteronomy 31:7-13, 24-32:4   – Covenant renewal;
Romans 10:1-13   –  True righteousness by faith;
Matthew 24:15-31  –  Signs of the Return of Christ;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Moses told Joshua to be strong and of good courage; Joshua would lead the people into the Promised Land and put them in possession of it. The Lord would go before them and be with them; he would not fail or forsake them. Moses instructed the people to have a ceremony of covenant renewal every seven years, at the feast of booths, when all Israel assembled at the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Deuteronomic Law was to be read, so that the people would learn to fear and obey the Lord.

When Moses finished writing the words of Deuteronomy, he commanded the Levites who carried the Ark of the Covenant to place the book of Deuteronomy by the side of the Ark as a witness against Israel. Israel had been rebellious against the Lord during Moses’ lifetime, and Moses feared that Israel would be more rebellious after Moses death. Moses feared that evil would befall Israel because of their rebellion against the Lord.

Proclaim the name of the Lord. Ascribe greatness to our God. He is our Rock; his work is perfect. All his ways are justice. God is faithful, just and right; without iniquity.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul’s prayer for his Jewish race is that they may be saved. They have a zeal for God, but it is unenlightened. They were ignorant of the righteousness which is a gift from God, and trying to establish their own righteousness [through works (keeping) of the law] they did not submit to God’s righteousness. “Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified (judged as righteous; Romans 10:4)”.

Moses said that everyone who practices righteousness based on the law shall live by it. But righteousness based on faith only has to be received and appropriated; one only must believe in one’s heart that Jesus is Lord and savior, and act on that faith in order to be saved. No one who believes in Jesus will be put to shame. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; the same Lord is Lord of all, and blesses all who call upon him. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus was telling his disciples the signs of the end of the age. Jesus told them that when they saw the desolating sacrilege Daniel spoke of (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; i.e. the intrusion of pagan practices into worship) they were to flee from the temple and city. This will herald the Great Tribulation.

Only by God’s mercy will his elect (chosen; set apart by God’s grace) be saved from that time. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). In that day, the elect are not to run about, seeking the Christ, because when Christ returns his appearance will be universal (not confined to one place) and he will find his elect, like vultures find a carcass (Matthew 24:28).

Commentary:

Moses’ final instructions were to be strong and courageous. Joshua would lead the people of God into the Promised Land and give them possession of it. The Lord would go before them and be with them. He would not fail or forsake them.

The people were to have respect for God’s power and authority, and to obey God. The scriptures were to be the standard against which they were measured. Rebellion against God will lead to disaster and downfall.

God is our Rock; God is faithful, just and righteous. Let his name be glorified.

Jesus is our “Joshua” (the name “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name, “Joshua”). He takes over the leadership of God’s people from “Moses” of the Old Covenant of Law.

It is Jesus, the “Joshua” of the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who leads God’s people into, and gives them possession of, the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Salvation is by grace (free gift; unmerited favor) through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus, not by works (keeping) of the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Jews rejected the free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ, trying instead to establish their own “goodness” through keeping the Law. To be righteous by keeping the Law, one must keep all of the Law all of the time. This is impossible for any human (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Under the Old Covenant of Law, the Priest had to offer sacrifices continually for sin. Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for all sin for all time (Hebrews 9:25-28 RSV). Jesus’ crucifixion ended the Old Covenant sacrificial system (Matthew 27:51a). The Temple, where sacrifices were offered, was destroyed in 70 AD, and has never been rebuilt.

Zeal for God isn’t going to save us; good deeds aren’t going to save us. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is going to save us. Faith in Jesus means more than just believing intellectually; faith requires obedience. If one truly believes Jesus is Lord then one will do what Jesus says (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46).

On the Day of Judgment it won’t be sufficient just to claim to belong to Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46). One must be “born-again” (John 3:3), by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b), which only Jesus can bestow (John 1:33b). Jesus gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to his disciples, who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17; 16:7).

Jesus has promised that he will return to judge everyone who has ever lived on Earth (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). When Christ returns, it won’t do any good to try coming to him then. Christ will know those who belong to him, and will come to them.

There will be many false Christs and false prophets. Those who do not know the Bible and do not know Jesus personally will have no way of avoiding being deceived. Today is the best day of your life to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior if you haven’t done so already.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Saturday
8 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/30/04;
Podcast: Saturday 8 Pentecost – Even

Deuteronomy 34:1-12  –  Death of Moses;
Romans 10:14-21  –  Israel’s responsibility for her failure;
Matthew 24:32-51 –  The signs of the end;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Moses was about to die. He wasn’t permitted to enter the Promised Land, but he was allowed to see it from the top of Mt. Pisgah (or Mt Nebo, which is nearby). The Lord showed Moses the land from the Sea of Galilee to the southern Judean wilderness, and the Jordan River Valley to the Mediterranean Sea.

Moses died there in Moab, and the Lord buried him secretly; no one knows exactly where Moses was buried, somewhere in the valley of Moab opposite Beth-peor. He was one hundred and twenty years old, still vigorous and with good eyesight at his death.

The people mourned Moses’ death for thirty days in the wilderness. “And Joshua, son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him” (Deuteronomy 34:9). The people obeyed Joshua, “and did as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9). No prophet since Moses has had such a face-to-face relationship with the Lord, and none has done such great signs and miracles as Moses did before Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and before the people of Israel.

Romans Paraphrase:

People can’t call upon Jesus who haven’t believed in him, and they must hear of him in order to believe. They can’t hear unless someone preaches to them, but who can preach unless he is sent? Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach Good News.” Those who preach the Gospel (Good News) are blessed, but not all hearers have heeded the Gospel, as scripture foretold: “Who has believed what he has heard from us” (Isaiah 53:1)?

Faith comes from hearing the preaching of Christ. Israel (and the world) cannot claim not to have heard, nor can she claim not to have understood, since even the Gentiles have been able to understand. The Lord has been found by the Gentiles even though they did not seek him. The Lord has revealed himself to the Gentiles who weren’t looking for a messiah, but has been rejected by the people to whom the Lord came to reveal himself.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus tells us to learn the lesson of the fig tree. Jesus declares that when we see these things the end is near. The generation which sees these things will not pass away before Jesus’ return. No one knows the day or hour, not even Jesus; only God the Father knows.

Jesus Second Coming will be like the days of Noah. The people of Noah’s day had ample warning, but they disregarded the warning. They made no preparations; instead they continued their lives as usual, until the flood came suddenly and swept them all away. Believers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Jesus describes two men in a field; one is taken and one is left. Similarly, of two women grinding at a mill, one is taken, and one is left.

Jesus warns that we are to be prepared for his coming because it will be without further warning, like a “thief in the night.” Jesus warns us to be faithful servants, so that when he comes we may be found doing his will. We are not to be like wicked servants who suppose that the Lord’s coming has been delayed, and are surprised and caught doing what is contrary to the Master’s will. The Master is coming at an unexpected hour and will punish wicked servants and condemn them with the hypocrites to Hell.

Commentary:

Israel was on the threshold, ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses represents God’s leading of his people through the wilderness under the Old Covenant of Law. But Moses could not lead the people into the Promised Land; only Joshua could do that, and Joshua was at the door, ready to lead the people home.

In one sense, Israel represents not only the Jews, but the world. It isn’t that people haven’t heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it isn’t that they haven’t understood the message. They have chosen not to believe it. They have not acted in faith on what they have heard!

The Church is the New Israel, the New People of God. Are God’s people learning the lesson of the fig tree? Are we learning the lessons of scripture? The things recorded in scripture happened to Israel as a warning and were written down for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11)! Jesus is our “Joshua;” he’s at the very threshold, about to lead his people home, into the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven.

Are we preparing for his coming as if it will be today? If he comes today, will we be ready? Are we like Noah, following the Lord’s word and getting our families into the ark and trying to get our acquaintances to prepare, or are we like the other people in Noah’s day who continued their daily lives, not taking the warning seriously? Are we faithful servants, doing the work our Lord has commissioned us to do, offering spiritual nurture to those around us for whom we’ve been assigned the responsibility, or are we wicked servants, pursuing our own interests and pleasures, instead of doing the work the Lord has assigned to us?

Jesus has sent his disciples to proclaim the Gospel, to make disciples, and to teach them to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20).  We can’t be sent unless we’ve been disciples! Those who are not disciples do not belong to Jesus! They’re the ones who need to respond to the Gospel.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 7 Pentecost Even – 07/27 – 08/02/2014

July 26, 2014

Week of 7 Pentecost Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 7 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/17/04;
Podcast: Sunday 7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 21:4-9, 21-35  –  Fiery serpents; defeat of the Amorites;
Acts 17: (12-21) 22-34  –  Paul’s speech at Athens;
Luke 13: 10-17  –   Healing on the Sabbath;

Numbers Paraphrase:

From Mount Hor (near Kadesh, on the border of Edom) the Israelites went north  to go around the land of Edom east of the Dead Sea, (because the King of Edom had refused to let them pass through his land; Numbers 20:14-21). The people continued to complain about the hardships of the wilderness: no food; no water; they hated the food the Lord provided. Then poisonous snakes came among the people and many people died from their bites, so the people came to Moses acknowledging their sin for speaking against the Lord and asking Moses to intercede for them to the Lord.

The Lord told Moses to make a bronze image of the poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Moses did as the Lord directed. When a person was bitten by a snake he would look at the bronze serpent and he would live.

Israel sent messengers to the Amorite king, Sihon, who occupied former Moabite territory between the River Arnon to the River Jabbok. King Sihon refused to let Israel pass through his territory and came out and fought with Israel and was defeated. Israel took possession of all his cities, including the capital at Heshbon.

From Heshbon Moses sent spies to scout Jazer, further north, and they captured the villages and dispossessed the Amorites there. From there they went up to Bashan, and defeated the king of Bashan at Edrei, as the Lord had promised.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul was on his second missionary trip, originally intending to revisit churches he had established on the first trip, and then had entered Europe for the first time. He had traveled through Macedonia and had arrived in Athens where he was waiting for Silas and Timothy, his fellow missionaries. Paul was troubled that the city of Athens was full of idols, so he debated daily in the synagogue and in the marketplace with the local Jews and some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.

The Athenians were well-known for their intellectual curiosity at the time, and they brought Paul to the Areopagus, a hill west of the Acropolis, where the Athenian court held session. So Paul began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the assembled Athenians by noting that the Athenians seemed very religious (because of all the idols and altars), and that Paul had noticed even an altar to an “unknown god.” Paul was able to make known the true God, the creator and Lord of heaven and earth, who has no need for men to build houses for him to live in. Paul declared that God had given life on this earth to all of us so that we might seek after God and find him (Acts 17:26-27.

God has not hidden himself very far from us. Paul, who was well-educated, quoted some Greek poems to illustrate his point that we are God’s offspring. We are the handiwork, the creation, of  God; God is not our creation or handiwork. God has excused times of ignorance, but now commands repentance by all people everywhere, because a Day of Judgment has been set, when God will judge everyone who has ever lived by Jesus Christ whom he has designated as his righteous judge; and God has confirmed that Jesus is God’s anointed judge by raising him from the dead.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. There was a woman who for eighteen years had had a disability which caused her to be bent over and unable to stand erect. When Jesus saw her he called her and freed her from her disability, so that she was made straight, and she praised God.

But the leader of the synagogue was angry because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath (healing was considered work), and told the people to come on weekdays for healing, rather than on the Sabbath. The Lord called them hypocrites, pointing out that people unbind their farm animals on the Sabbath in order to lead them to water; they have more concern for their animals than they do for a “daughter of Abraham” (and a child of God) who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years. Jesus’ adversaries were put to shame, and the people rejoiced at all the glorious things Jesus was doing.

Commentary:

When the people sinned in the wilderness by rebelling against God’s will, they were bitten by poisonous snakes and many died. The people repented and asked Moses to intercede for them to God, and Moses did so. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so that it could be seen anywhere in the camp. (The serpent was probably attached perpendicularly (horizontally) to the pole; i.e. “cross-wise”.) When anyone was bitten, he or she could look at the bronze serpent on the pole, and be saved.

The Israelites had failed to enter Canaan from the south, and Edom had refused to let them pass through, but they were able to skirt Edom and they pressed on and were victorious against Sihon and Bashan, giving Israel possession of all the land east of the Jordan, from the River Arnon to the foot of Mt. Hermon, the northern boundary of Israel.

Paul  set out on his second missionary trip with the intention to visit churches he had established on the first trip, but the Holy Spirit led Paul to enter Europe for the first time, instead (Acts 16:6-10). Paul had run into opposition to the Gospel along the way, was thrown in jail in Philippi, and managed to convert the jailer and his family while there (Acts 16:19-34). He had to leave Thessalonica and Beroea because of opposition to the Gospel, which is how he came to be in Athens (Acts 17:13-15).

In Athens, because he faithfully continued to proclaim the Gospel, he had an opportunity to preach to the Athenian court. Paul believed that the meaning and purpose of life on this earth is to seek God, feeling after him (groping for him, because he is invisible to human eye, and we are spiritually blind). God hasn’t revealed him self blatantly to us, so that we are free to choose for ourselves, but he wants us to seek and to find him. He’s just waiting to be found. He has revealed himself in Jesus Christ (John 14:8-9). Jesus is the only way to know and have fellowship with God (John 14:6; Matthew 11:27; John 14:6)

We are all bound by sin, as the disabled woman had been bound by her infirmity. Only Jesus can release us from that bondage to sin. Only Jesus can straighten us up. Jesus came primarily to offer spiritual rather than physical healing. The people were obviously in need of spiritual healing, because they treated their animals better than they treated God’s children. Believers are spiritual descendents of Abraham (Romans 4:11b-12). Jesus is the source of the water of life (John 7:37-40; 1 Corinthians 10:4; John 4:10, 13-14).

“The sting of sin is death” (1 Corinthians 15:56); death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). Jesus was lifted up on the cross, like the serpent was lifted up on the pole in the wilderness, so that all who are under death-sentence because of sin can look to him and live (John 3:14-15). Jesus is our intercessor with God; when we repent of our sins we are reconciled to God through Jesus.

Only Jesus can free us from bondage to sin and lead us to the water of eternal life. God has created us and given us this life as an opportunity to seek and find him. He has given us the choice of whether to seek and follow him or not. When we choose to follow him we will have to go through some wilderness, and we will have to endure some opposition in this world. But if we obediently persevere, God will lead us to opportunities for service, and we will eventually be victorious. By obeying and persevering, Israel was able to occupy and claim the land east of the Jordan. By obedience and perseverance, Paul was able to proclaim the Gospel and claim new territory for Christ.

Is Jesus your savior and intercessor? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/18/04;
Podcast: Monday 7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 22:1-21  –  Balak sends for Balaam;
Romans 6:12-23  –  The two slaveries;
Matthew 21:12-22  –  Cleansing the temple; fig tree cursed;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Edom had refused to let Israel pass through their land and so Israel had gone around Edom and what remained of Moab south of the River Arnon. The former land of Moab north of the River Arnon had been occupied by Sihon, king of the Amorites. The Israelites had defeated Sihon and Bashan, so that Israel occupied the land east of the Jordan from the Arnon to Mt Hermon (see Numbers 21:21-35).

Israel encamped on the Plains of Moab on the east shore of the Jordan River opposite Jericho. Balak, King of Moab, was afraid of Israel because he had seen what Israel had done to the Amorites, and because of the great number of Israelites. Moab and their allies in Midian (south of Edom and north of the Red Sea) decided to send for a Mesopotamian seer named Balaam to curse Israel.

The elders of Moab and Midian went to Pethor (south of Carchemish, near the River Euphrates in Syria). When they came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message, Balaam invited them to stay overnight. The Lord told Balaam not to go with the elders to curse Israel, because Israel was blessed (by God). In the morning Balaam told the elders that the Lord had refused to let him go, so the elders returned to Balak and told him that Balaam refused to come.

Balak sent a second delegation and they promised that Balaam would be rewarded with whatever he requested in exchange for coming. But all the silver and gold Balak might give him would not be sufficient to induce Balaam to go beyond the Lord’s command.  Once again Balaam consulted the Lord overnight, and the Lord allowed Balaam to accompany them on condition that Balaam would do only what the Lord commanded. So the following morning Balaam went with the delegation from Balak.

Romans Paraphrase:

Sinners are slaves of sin. When we are ransomed from sin the Lord becomes our master. We have no business obeying our old master, sin; instead we must be obedient to our new master. Believers are not to be tools that produce wickedness, but rather, tools of righteousness.

Believers do not have to yield to sin, because sin no longer has authority over us, since we are no longer under law but under grace (free gift of forgiveness; salvation). But although we are under grace and not law, we are not free to sin. Whoever we willingly obey is our master. Obedience to sin leads to (spiritual, eternal) death; obedience to the Lord leads to righteousness (and eternal life).

Let us thank God that although we were once slaves of sin and death, we who have become sincerely obedient to the teaching of Jesus Christ have been freed from sin, so that we can serve righteousness. As we once yielded ourselves to ever-greater iniquity, let us now yield ourselves in growing righteousness to spiritual maturity.

As sinners we were not obligated to be righteous, but the rewards of those shameful acts is death. Now, believers have been freed from sin, and the reward for obedience to righteousness is sanctification (spiritual maturity; completion of spiritual rebirth; the result of entire consecration to God) and eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had entered Jerusalem, hailed by the crowd as the Son of David (the Messiah and heir to David’s throne; Matthew 21:1-11), knowing that he would be crucified and raised again on the third day (Matthew 20:17-19). He went to the Temple and drove out those who bought and sold in the temple, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and those who sold animals for temple sacrifices, declaring that they had perverted a house of prayer into a den of robbers. Jesus healed the blind and lame who came to him in the temple. Children in the temple cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

When the religious leaders saw what Jesus was doing, and heard what the children were saying about Jesus, they rebuked Jesus, asking if Jesus was hearing what the children were saying about him. Jesus answered by quoting Psalm 8:2 meaning that the songs of pure and innocent children glorify God.

Jesus left Jerusalem and stayed overnight at Bethany. In the morning as he returned to Jerusalem he was hungry, and seeing a fig tree he went to it and found no fruit; only leaves. (Fig trees produce fruit first, and then leaves). Jesus cursed the tree saying “May no fruit ever come from you again!”  The tree immediately withered. The disciples were amazed when they saw it. Jesus told them that if one has faith and does not doubt, nothing is impossible, and that whatever disciples pray for in faith, they will receive (see conditions for answered prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

Commentary:

What God blesses no one can curse with effect. Moab and Midian saw how God had blessed Israel and had given them victory over their opponents, and Moab and Midian were afraid of Israel. Because Balaam was obedient to the Lord, the Lord was able to use him to proclaim God’s Word (later). Balaam didn’t let desire for material wealth interfere with his obedience to God. Balaam sought God’s guidance before making decisions. God reveals his will to those who are committed to obeying it.

We must choose whom we will serve. We will either serve the Lord or we will serve sin. Jesus gives us the power to make the choice; we can be free of sin if we choose Jesus. Believers are not to use grace (the free gift of salvation) as an excuse for sin. If we live according to our carnal nature we will die in our carnal nature, but by living according to the Holy Spirit we can put to death the deeds of  our carnal nature so that we can live eternally (Romans 8:13). The Lord gives the Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey Jesus. (Isaiah 42:5e, John 14:15-17).  The gift of salvation is free, and priceless!

Jesus came to the city and went directly to the “Church” to see how things were going. He found that people were using the “Church” and their religious affiliations to promote their own selfish interests; to conduct their worldly business; to enrich themselves materially. The “Church” was allowing the blind and lame to go unhealed. The “Church” is supposed to be healing sinners; not encouraging them to remain in the “Church” unhealed. Jesus healed the blind and lame who came to him.

The pure and innocent children saw and recognized that Jesus was the Son of David (the Messiah; heir to the throne of David) and rejoiced, but the religious authorities, those who should have known the scriptures, been able to understand what was happening, and recognize Jesus as the Messiah, instead attacked him as guilty of allowing blasphemy (for allowing the children to call him the Christ). The fig tree is a symbol of what was wrong with the Jewish religion in Jesus’ day. It was mature enough to have borne fruit; it had plenty of leaves, and it looked like a fig tree, but it hadn’t produced any fruit.

How are we doing Church? The Church often isn’t considered much of a threat by our worldly neighbors in this society because many “Christians” haven’t been obedient to God’s Word and persistent in conquering much territory in Jesus’ name. Mostly the Church, in America at least, seems to be more successful in recycling Christians from one denomination to another than in making new converts; and in making “fair-weather Christians” rather than disciples for Christ, who are obedient to his teachings (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Church is warned to avoid being used by the secular government or society to bless what the government or society wants blessed and curse what the government or society wants cursed, in exchange for material benefits and contrary to God’s Word. The Church is to dispense Christ’s healing to sinners; not to enable them to continue their sinful lifestyle by the blessing of the Church.

We must each individually choose whether we will serve the Lord or not. The Church should require its members to be disciples, obedient to Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 28:18-20). Ultimately we will each individually be accountable to the Lord for what we have done (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). On the Day of Judgment, what Jesus blesses will be blessed for eternity, and what Jesus curses will be cursed for eternity.

Jesus’ curse of the fig tree is a parable and a warning to the Church in our day. The fig tree symbolized the condition of the Jewish religion in the day of Jesus’ coming in the flesh. The Jewish religion effectively ended at the Crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:51). The condition of the Church today is very similar to the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus.

Jesus is coming again. Is the Church blessing what the secular world wants blessed, contrary to God’s Word? Do our Churches need to be cleansed? Is the Church healing sinners or enabling them? When Jesus returns will we greet him with Hosannas? Will we be pure and innocent like children, through trust and obedience to Jesus? Is our desire for material riches keeping us from obedience to God’s Word and spiritual blessings? Will we have produced fruit for the kingdom of heaven, or just a lot of leaves?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/19/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 22:21-38  –  Balaam’s ass speaks;
Romans 7:1-12   –  Sin and God’s Law;
Matthew 21:23-32  –  Jesus’ authority;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Men had come from Balak, King of Moab to bring back Balaam, the seer, from Pethor in Syria. Balak wanted Balaam to curse the people of Israel because they were a threat to Moab (see entry for yesterday). Balaam had sought the Lord’s will and had been allowed to go, provided that he do only as the Lord commanded.

In the morning Balaam saddled his ass and went with the men. Three times the angel of the Lord stood blocking the way, with sword drawn, and three times the ass saw the angel and turned aside or halted, and each time Balaam struck the animal trying to make it do what he wanted. Then the Lord caused the ass to speak, and she asked Balaam why he had struck her these three times. Balaam accused the ass of making him look foolish, and wished for a sword to kill the ass. The ass replied that she had served Balaam faithfully for many years and had never acted this way before. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his sword drawn, and Balaam bowed down.

The angel asked Balaam why he had struck the animal. The angel told Balaam that he had come to oppose him because Balaam’s way was perverse. The angel would have slain Balaam if Balaam’s ass had not prevented him from  blindly going ahead. Balaam repented and confessed his ignorance. Balaam promised not to go if it was evil in the angel’s sight to do so. The angel allowed Balaam to go with the men to Balak on the condition that Balaam speak only the Word that the Lord would give him. So Balaam continued on to Balak with the men.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul points out that the law has power only over the living. A woman is bound by the laws concerning marriage only as long as her husband is alive. When the woman’s husband dies she is free to marry another. So believers have died to the law through the death of Jesus Christ, so that they may belong to the risen Jesus in order to bear fruit for God.

While we were living in the flesh our sinful nature was bearing fruit for death, (the consequence of sin under the law; Romans 6:23). But if we have been joined to Christ in his death we are discharged from the law, dead as far as our old master, sin, is concerned, so that we are free to serve the new master, not under the written code, which kills, but in the Spirit, which gives new life.

The law is not sin, but the law reveals sin and incites sin. Once one becomes conscious of sin, one is forced to struggle against one’s own sinful nature, increasing the temptation to satisfy one’s own desires instead of obeying the law. The problem is not the law, because the law is holy, just, and good. (The problem is us; our sinful nature is not holy, just or good).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had entered Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna, knowing that he would be crucified. He had gone to the temple, and had cast out the venders. He had healed the blind and lame. He had stayed overnight in Bethany.  Now he returned to the temple. The priests and elders came up to him and asked him by what authority he was doing these things. Jesus promised to tell them if they first answered Jesus’ question: Jesus asked them whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from men.

The priests and elders argued among themselves. They were unwilling to acknowledge that John’s baptism was from heaven, because they would be vulnerable to criticism for not having believed John. But if they said that John’s baptism was of men, they were afraid of the people, since the people regarded John as a prophet. The priests and elders therefore told Jesus that they did not know. So Jesus also declined to answer their question about his authority.

Jesus then told a parable about two sons. Their father asked each son to go and work in his vineyard. One son said, “No”, but later repented and did as he had been told. The other son agreed politely to go and acknowledged the father’s authority verbally, but didn’t go. Jesus asked the priests and elders which son had done the will of the father. They agreed that it was the first son.

Then Jesus declared that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before those priests and elders, because John the Baptist preached righteousness, and tax collectors and harlots believed, but the priests and elders hadn’t repented and believed even when they saw sinners repent and turn to righteousness.

Commentary:

The account of Balaam’s ass is a parable emphasizing Balaam’s obligation to speak only what the Lord gave him to say. Balaam had a reputation as a great seer, which is why Balak sent a delegation all the way to Syria to bring him back. But Balaam’s ass could see the angel of the Lord blocking the way, while the great seer could not, until the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes. The Lord is able to make an ass speak according to the Lord’s will. Is Balaam committed to being as good or better, as a seer and spokesman for the Lord?

If we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are no longer to serve the old master, sin. We have a new Lord and Master whom we are to serve. We have been freed from the bondage of sin so that we can serve the Lord and bear fruit for his kingdom.

The religious authorities had seen the works that Jesus had done in the temple which demonstrated who he was, and they had full knowledge of the biblical prophecies, but yet they demanded that Jesus prove his authority. They had the Word of God, but it did them no good because they did not apply it to their individual lives. They did not acknowledge Jesus’ authority. The priests and elders wouldn’t give Jesus an honest answer. Instead of telling (or honestly seeking) the truth, they formulated their answer to suit their personal interests.

Jesus formulated his question to expose their hypocrisy. The priests and elders were using their position to pursue their own interests, rather than the will of God whom they claimed as their Lord and Father. They were using their God-given authority to challenge and obstruct the authority of God’s anointed Son. Jesus was the Son of the Father who was obedient to his Father’s command. Jesus faithfully proclaimed God’s Word in the face of opposition and threat of death from the “authorities.” They were the sons who talked like they were obedient, but didn’t do the Father’s will.

The Lord does not need well-educated, famous and successful people to proclaim his Word. What he wants are faithful, obedient spokespersons. Every “Christian” is a spokesperson for the Lord. Do we call Jesus our Lord and not do what he says (Luke 6:46)? Do we call God our Father and yet disobey his will (Matthew 7:21-23)? Christians have an obligation to proclaim God’s Word (and to see that it is proclaimed) faithfully. In order to do that we must read God’s Word, the Bible, and know what it says.

The Lord will open our eyes to see his will and his truth if we earnestly seek it. The Lord will open our mouths to proclaim his truth if we have allowed him to show it to us and are committed to speak it faithfully. We must be careful not to use our “religious authority” to further our own interests and agenda, and we must oppose those who do so. We must be careful not to set out to proclaim God’s Word with unopened eyes, and without having been trained in obedience by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/20/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 22:41-23:12  –  Balaam’s first discourse;
Romans 7:13-25  –  Inner conflict;
Matthew 21:33-46  –  Parable of the vineyard;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Balak, King of Moab had sent for Balaam, the Babylonian seer, to have him curse Israel, because they were a threat to Moab. Balak brought Balaam to Bamoth-baal (“Heights of Baal;” south of Heshbon), where he could see the Israelite encampment. Balaam ordered seven altars built there, and seven bulls and seven rams offered upon the altars.

Balaam left Balak at the altars and went to the top of a nearby mountain to meet with God. The Lord told Balaam what to say, and Balaam returned to declare God’s Word. Balaam said that he could not curse what God had not cursed. Israel was not like other nations. Israel had become vast beyond counting. Balaam prayed that he might die righteous and receive the same destiny as Israel.

Balak was angry at Balaam, because he wanted Balaam to curse Israel, and Balaam had done nothing but bless them. Balaam replied that he must be careful to speak what the Lord gives him to say.

Romans Paraphrase:

It isn’t the law that brings death; it is sin which kills, through what is good (the law), so that sin can be shown to be sin. The law is spiritual, but we are carnal, slaves of sin. We may desire what is righteous in our hearts, but the desires of our flesh go against what we desire in our hearts. If we desire what is right but do what is sinful, we acknowledge that the law is good, and that sin dwells within us.

We may desire what is right, but fail to do it. Whenever we want to do what is right, evil is close by. We recognize the righteousness of God’s law in our minds and hearts, but there is another law in our flesh that is at war with the law of our minds, making us slaves of the law of sin which dwells in our flesh. The mind serves the law of God, but the flesh serves the law of sin. Thanks be to God for providing Jesus Christ, the only one who can deliver us from enslavement to the flesh, sin and (eternal, spiritual) death.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Jerusalem, knowing that he was going to be crucified and raised again from the dead (Matthew 20:17:19). He had thrown the vendors out of the temple, and had healed the blind and lame in the temple. The religious leaders should have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah by the things he was doing, but they refused to acknowledge him as the Son of David (the Messiah; heir to David’s throne) and had challenged Jesus’ authority. (Matthew 21:12-32).

Jesus told this parable (compare Isaiah 5:1-7) about a vineyard: A householder planted a fine vineyard, with a hedge around it, a winepress and a tower. He leased it to tenants and went into another country. At the harvest season he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit, but the tenants killed one of the servants, beat another and stoned another. The owner sent a larger delegation of servants, but the tenants did the same to them. Then the owner sent his son, saying that the tenants would surely respect the son. But the tenants killed the son, realizing that he was the heir, and hoping that they would then inherit the vineyard for themselves.

What will the owner do to those tenants when he comes? He will put those wicked servants to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his fruits in their seasons. Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22-23: “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner (cornerstone); this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Jesus declared that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (the Jews) and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43).

Commentary:

Balaam was a faithful spokesman of God’s Word. He sought God’s will and direction, and then he obeyed and declared God’s Word faithfully and accurately. He acknowledged that no one can curse what God has blessed (and no one can bless what God curses), and he himself was committed to serving God’s will.

Balaam recognized that Israel had special status among the nations; she had prospered beyond human expectations, and she had a unique eternal destiny, because of her relationship with God. Balaam prayed that he might share in her eternal destiny. Balaam acknowledged that, as God’s spokesman, he must be careful to speak God’s Word faithfully and accurately.

We are all sinners and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). God’s Word has revealed our sinful nature so that we can have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We will never be judged righteous by keeping the law, because, apart from Jesus, we are unable to fulfill the law’s requirements (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If we are in Jesus Christ, we have no excuse to continue living in the flesh and sin. If we live to gratify the flesh we will die in our flesh (Romans 8:5-6). We will only have eternal life if we are filled with and obedient to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13-14).

In one sense the vineyard is the Nation of Israel and the Jewish religion. The Jewish Nation lost her special status as God’s people among the nations, and was scattered over all the earth. The Jewish religion effectively ended at the crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:51). The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and has never been rebuilt. Only recently, following World War II, has the Nation of Israel been restored to her land. In another sense, the vineyard is a symbol of the entire earth, which God has leased to us, and from which he expects a return, a harvest of obedience to his Son and his Word.

The parable is also a warning to the Church, and to America, which are each, in a sense, the New Israel. What God blesses no one can curse, and what God curses no one can bless. Be warned that God can and does lift his blessing from his nation, his people and his Church, if they refuse to honor and obey his Son and his Word. On the Day of Judgment those who the Lord blesses will be blessed eternally, and those who the Lord curses will be cursed eternally. It will be too late to repent.

The worldly ruler, Balak, asked Balaam, the faithful spokesman of God, to curse God’s people by saying something other than God’s Word, but Balaam refused. As a result of Balaam’s obedience to God’s Word, Balak built seven altars glorifying the Lord on the “Heights of Baal,” the false god, and through God, God’s people were blessed.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/21/04;
Podcast: Thursday
7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 23:11-26  –   Balaam’s second discourse;
Romans 8:1-11  –   Life in the Spirit;
Matthew 22:1-14  –  Parable of the marriage feast;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Balak, King of Moab, had summoned Balaam, the Babylonian seer, to curse Israel, because Moab felt threatened by Israel. Balaam had blessed Israel instead, in faithful obedience to God’s Word (see journal entry for yesterday). Balak was dissatisfied with Balaam’s discourse, but Balaam replied that he could speak only as the Lord directed him. Balak took him to the top of Mt. Pisgah, where Balaam could only see the nearest of the Israelites, hoping that Balaam would then be able to curse them for Balak.

Balaam had seven more altars built, and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam withdrew to talk with the Lord, and the Lord told him what to say. Balaam returned and began to speak, saying that God is not like man; God doesn’t lie nor change his mind. What God says, he does.

Balaam had been commanded to bless; God had blessed Israel and Balaam could not revoke the blessing. There is no misfortune foreseen for Israel, because the Lord is with them and they acclaim him as king. “God brings them out of Egypt” (Numbers 23:22a). They are strong and unfettered.

No occult techniques will be effective against Israel. God will be glorified by what he is doing with Israel. She is rising up like a lioness, and will not lie down again until she has devoured her prey.

Balak wanted Balaam to stop his oracle; Balak didn’t want Balaam to bless Israel further, but Balaam said that he must do all that the Lord had told him.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are in Christ are no longer under condemnation. The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. The law is incapable of making us able to fulfill its requirements. By sending his Son in human flesh as an offering for sin, he condemned sin to death in the flesh, so that we could fulfill the requirements of the law, provided that we walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.

Those who live in the flesh are focused on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit are focused on spiritual things. Concentrating on fleshly things leads to death, but concentrating on the Spirit leads to life and peace. The mind focused on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not and cannot submit to God’s law. Those who focus on the flesh cannot please God.

If the Spirit of God really dwells in you, you can be assured that you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. “Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9b). But if the Spirit is within us, although our bodies are dying because of sin, our spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells within us, he will raise us to eternal life through his Spirit.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus described the kingdom of God as a marriage feast: A king gave a marriage feast, but those who were invited refused to come. The king sent his servants to the invited guests to remind them that all the preparations had been made and all was now ready. But the guests ignored the invitation and some went on about their business while the rest seized the king’s servants and mistreated them.

The king was angry and sent troops who destroyed the people and burned their village. Then the king sent servants into the surrounding area to bring whoever they found, so that the wedding hall was full.

When the king came in to see his guests he noticed a man who had no wedding garment, and the king asked the man how he had gotten in without one. The man was speechless. Then the king had the man bound and cast “into outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. For many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:13-14).

Commentary:

Balak was trying to use a servant of the Lord to accomplish his selfish agenda, instead of trying to cooperate with God’s plan. Balaam was a faithful servant of the Lord who was committed to proclaiming God’s Word fully and accurately, regardless of whether his patron liked the message or not. No amount of material riches or political power could influence him to alter the message, or procure his silence. Balaam’s message is that God is absolutely faithful, and his Word is completely reliable.

What God says he’s going to do, he does. God was with Israel and there was no misfortune in Israel’s future, as long as she acclaimed the Lord as her king. Unfortunately, Israel later refused to acclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God and the heir to David’s throne. The result was that the Jewish nation and the religion effectively ended (Matthew 27:51; See specifically entry for Holy Week – Tuesday Even Year lections). The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and the people were scattered all over the earth. The people only began to be restored to their land following World War II.

A principle reason that the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus was because they were using their religious positions to further their own selfish agendas; they were manipulating God’s Word to their own advantage, rather than committing themselves to faithfully and accurately uphold God’s Word. They were using God’s Word to further their own wills, rather than earnestly seeking and doing God’s will.

The Jews in the days of Jesus are an example of people walking in the desires of their flesh, rather than in fellowship with God. Balak was pursuing the desires of his flesh; Balaam was concentrating on serving the Lord and obeying God’s will. Each individual must choose for him- or herself whether to live to pursue their own will or to seek and obey God’s will.

One cannot serve or please God apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9). It is possible for one to know for oneself with certainty whether one has received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2), and I personally testify to that truth. God does not give the Holy Spirit to those who do not trust and obey Jesus. (John 14:15-17, 21, 23-24; Isaiah 42:5e).

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). Jesus gives his Holy Spirit only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Jesus Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Heaven is the marriage feast of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and his bride (the Church). We are all invited. All the preparations have already been made: Jesus has been sacrificed on the Cross as an offering for our sins, so that we can attend. Are we concentrating our attention on preparing to attend the feast, or are we making light of the King’s invitation and pursuing our worldly business?

In one sense, the villagers represent the Jews, who were originally invited; but the villagers also represent all those, both inside the Church and out, who are not seriously preparing to honor the invitation. The wedding is entirely free; everyone is invited, and the King has provided everything required for us to attend. The King has provided each one with a wedding garment of righteousness through Jesus Christ, which is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, but each guest must wear it in order to attend.

No one can attend apart from Jesus Christ. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the wedding garment. One must be born-again through the indwelling Holy Spirit in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). The alternative is eternal death and destruction in Hell, separated eternally from God (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). There is no “Plan B;” death is not “nothingness;” there is no such thing as reincarnation; we die once, and then face God’s judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

As much as a warning to unbelievers, this should be a warning to all who call themselves “Christians;” who name the name of Jesus, but are focused on pursuing their own wills, and not focusing on preparing for the “wedding feast” (see Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46). Are we pursuing the Lord’s will and proclaiming his Word faithfully and accurately, or are we using religion to pursue and further our own interests? Are we living according to the Spirit or according to our flesh? Are we willing to hear and obey God’s Word even when it is in opposition to our personal desires?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/22/04;
Podcast: Friday
7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 24:1-13  –  Balaam’s third discourse;
Romans 8:12-17  –  The Spirit and sonship;
Matthew 22:15-22  –  Paying taxes to Caesar;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Balak, King of Moab, had called Balaam, a Babylonian seer, to curse Israel because Balak perceived Israel as threat to Moab (see preceding entries beginning with last Sunday). Balaam realized that it pleased God to bless Israel. He no longer needed to use divination to determine God’s will. He proceeded to act on God’s will and the Holy Spirit came upon him, and he began to speak. He had become a seer whose eyes had been opened. His ears had been opened to hear the words of God; he was seeing the vision of God. He bowed down, but his eyes were uncovered.

Balaam saw security and prosperity for Israel. Israel’s king would be greater than the king of Amelek, and his kingdom would be exalted. God brings Israel out of Egypt. Israel would be politically powerful. Those who bless Israel would be blessed, and those who curse Israel would be cursed.

Balak was angry at Balaam for blessing his enemies. Balak told Balaam to flee to his homeland. Balak had promised to honor Balaam, but now said that the Lord had held Balaam back from honor. Balaam replied that he had warned Balak that he would not go beyond the Word of the Lord, whether good or bad, for any amount of silver and gold; Balaam was committed to speak the Word of God fully and accurately.

Romans Paraphrase:

We are obligated to live according to the Spirit. If we live according to our human desires we will die eternally, but if we put to death the deeds of the flesh we will live eternally. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The Spirit is not given to enslave us and make us afraid, but to make us sons (and daughters) of God. When we are moved by the Spirit to praise the Lord, the Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. If we are God’s children, then we are his heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him so that we might share his glory.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The religious leaders tried to get Jesus to make statements which could be used against him. They allied with the Herodians, who were loyal to the Roman governors, in order to entrap Jesus. They called Jesus “teacher;” saying that they “knew” Jesus to be “true” and to “teach the way of God truthfully” (Matthew 22:17). They also said that they “knew” that Jesus cared “for no man;” that Jesus was not influenced by worldly status. They asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not.

Jesus was aware of their malice and called them hypocrites, asking them why they were testing him. Jesus told them to show him the money for the tax. When they produced the Roman coin, Jesus asked whose likeness and inscription were on the coin, and they replied that they were Caesar’s. Jesus then said that we are to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. When the leaders heard this they marveled at his answer, and left him and went away.

Commentary:

Balaam was committed to doing God’s will. When he sought God’s will with the intention of doing it faithfully and fully, whether good or bad, God revealed his will to Balaam. Once Balaam was certain of God’s will, he proceeded to carry it out; and as he was obedient to God’s will he was filled and guided by God’s Spirit. God had opened Balaam’s eyes to see God’s will; God had opened his ears to hear God’s Word.

The King that Balaam foresaw is Jesus Christ. Balak refused to pay Balaam for his services because he didn’t like Balaam’s message, and he blamed his injustice to Balaam on God. But Balaam hadn’t done it for money. Balaam was committed to proclaiming God’s Word fully and accurately, regardless of whether he was paid or not.

If we belong to Jesus we are obligated to live according to his Holy Spirit. If we continue to live according to our own will and human desires, we are going to die eternally in our own flesh, but if by the Spirit we overcome our human weakness we will live eternally with the Lord. The Lord gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to those who are committed to seeking and doing his will (Numbers 24:1-2; Isaiah 42:5e).

The Holy Spirit makes it possible to resist our human nature, and to accomplish God’s will. The Holy Spirit is not given to enslave us, but to free us. The Holy Spirit is our helper, our counselor, our comforter. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we belong to Jesus and that we have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11, 15-16).

Those who do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9b). It is possible to know with certainty whether or not we have been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2); it is not like “wishing on a star;” it’s not a matter of having the Spirit if you believe hard enough). We must choose to live according to the Spirit instead of continuing to live according to our human nature. We must sacrifice our own wills and do God’s will, if we want to share his glory.

Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing something else. The religious leaders trying to entrap Jesus were hypocrites. They called Jesus “teacher;” claimed to “know” that Jesus was “true” and taught “the way of God truthfully,” when it was obvious from their actions that they did not believe what they were saying.

They were telling Jesus what they thought he wanted to hear, to deceive and manipulate him, so that they could destroy him. Jesus was not partial to any person or group, but although he knows the inner attitudes of each individual, he cared enough for us, while we were sinners, to give his life for our salvation (Romans 5:8). He even cared for his enemies. His answer was an honest and loving response; it offered them forgiveness and life. The leaders marveled at his answer, but they didn’t learn from it and apply it, so it did them no good.

Balak was a secular leader who was attempting to use a spokesman of God to accomplish Balak’s secular agenda. Balaam was committed to seeking and doing God’s will, and proclaiming God’s Word fully and accurately, uninfluenced by money or political power.

Christians are called to be committed to seeking and doing God’s will, and to proclaiming God’s Word fully and accurately, uninfluenced by worldly power or riches. Jesus is our example who sought to know and do God’s will and to proclaim God’s Word fully and accurately, uninfluenced by money or political power.

The religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day were attempting to manipulate the ultimate spokesman of God, Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, the Living Word (John 1:1, 14), to accomplish their own secular agendas. We have a choice: we can live according to God’s will and God’s Spirit, or we can live according to our own will and our own agendas. If we trust and obey Jesus, he will give us his Holy Spirit so that we can accomplish God’s will and proclaim God’s Word fully and accurately. Those who profess to be Christians but live according to their own will and agendas and not according to God’s Word are hypocrites (James 1:22).

Balak sent for the messenger, and then didn’t like the message. He didn’t want to hear God’s Word. Balak wanted to hear what he thought he wanted; what he thought would make him feel good. The religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t want to hear God’s Word; they wanted to hear what would help them accomplish their secular agendas.

How are we doing? Are we willing to hear God’s Word when it is critical of us? Are we seeking God’s will so that we can do it, or are we seeking a message that makes us feel good, and allows us to do what we want contrary to God’s Word? Do we tolerate and encourage religious and political leaders who try to manipulate the Word of God to serve secular agendas?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Saturday
7 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/23/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 7 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 24:12-25  –  Balaam’s fourth oracle;
Romans 8:18-25  –  Christian hope;
Matthew 22:23-40 –  The Resurrection; the great commandment;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Balaam, the Babylonian seer, had been called by Balak, King of Moab, to curse Israel, because Balak considered Israel a threat to Moab. Balaam had told Balak that he could say only what the Lord gave him, and that no amount of money could persuade Balaam to go beyond the Word of the Lord. Balaam had blessed Israel three times, and Balak had not liked what he heard. Balak had ordered Balaam to get out, but before leaving, Balaam had given one last oracle.

The Lord had opened Balaam’s spiritual eyes and ears and mind to know God’s Word. He no longer needed to resort to divination to obtain his oracles, because the Holy Spirit was upon him (Numbers 24:1).

The final oracle concerned latter days (Numbers 24:14); “not now; not nigh” (Numbers 24:17). “A star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). The coming king would crush Moab and break down the sons of Sheth (Seth, third son of Adam; or, “sons of tumult;” see Jeremiah 48:45). Edom would be dispossessed; Israel would be victorious. Amalek, once pre-eminent, would be destroyed (Exodus 17:14-16). The Kenites, friendly to Israel, would endure, but would be captives of Assyria. Ships would come from Kittim (Greece) and afflict Assyria and the Semitic people east of the Jordan River. Balaam had finished his oracles, and he departed for his home.

Romans Paraphrase:

Christian life requires suffering and self-denial, but the rewards of life in Heaven with the Lord will make it all worthwhile. All creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons (and daughters) of God. Creation will be freed from bondage to decay and futility and will share in the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Believers and all creation are like a woman in labor, groaning with labor pains, as we await the “delivery,” although we already have the security deposit on eternal life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We await our adoption as children of God; the redemption of our bodies. This is the hope we received when we were saved.

We have not yet received everything we have been promised. If we already had everything that was promised, there would be no reason to hope for more, but because the best is yet to come, we can wait patiently for it in hope.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The Sadducees (a Jewish religious faction which did not believe in resurrection) asked Jesus a hypothetical question concerning resurrection. If a married man died, Jewish law required the man’s brother to take the widow as his wife, to produce children for his brother.

Supposing a situation in which seven brothers each successively married the widow and then died, the Sadducees asked Jesus whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Jesus told the Sadducees that they were wrong because they did not know the scriptures or the power of God. Jesus said that in eternal life there is no marriage.

He also showed them from scripture that they were wrong in rejecting resurrection. The crowd was amazed at Jesus’ teaching.

The Pharisees (who did believe in the resurrection) heard that the Sadducees had been silenced by Jesus’ teaching, and they asked Jesus which commandment was greatest. Jesus replied that the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all one’s heart, soul and mind, and the second and great commandment is to love others as much as we love ourselves. Jesus declared that these two commandments summarize all God’s Word.

Commentary:

Balaam was a faithful spokesman of God’s Word who was committed to proclaiming God’s Word fully and accurately. He refused to let his message be influenced by offers of money or political pressure.

Balaam had committed to seeking God’s will and then doing it. As Balaam sought God’s will with the commitment to do it, God revealed it to him, and as Balaam began to carry it out in obedience, God gave Balaam the Holy Spirit (Numbers 24:1-3), through whom Balaam’s spiritual eyes, ears and mind were opened to know and understand God’s will, so that he no longer had to resort to his former manner of divination.

Balak was a political leader who attempted to manipulate God’s spokesman with money and political pressure. When Balaam’s message didn’t suit Balak’s purpose, Balak ordered Balaam to cease and leave, but Balaam defied the order and delivered his final oracle.

The prophecy of the star and scepter was fulfilled in the time of King David, who defeated Moab and Edom (2 Samuel 8:2, 13-14) but it also refers to the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, who is the “Son of David;” the heir to David’s throne. The “star” is the star of Bethlehem which led the Magi (“wise men;” practitioners of occult arts; astrologers) to Jesus’ birth (Mathew 2:1-2).

Christian life in this world is like childbirth. There is new life within us now, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, but we have to endure some suffering and self-denial now in order to be freed from this “womb” into eternal life. The spiritual new life we have now is like the life of a fetus. Resurrection is the “delivery.”

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Jesus and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). We have fellowship with the Lord now, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, but not like the fellowship we will have with the Lord in Heaven.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They thought they understood the scriptures and they thought they knew God, and that resurrection was thus impossible because of the “legal” problems it would create. They didn’t understand the scriptures at all, or they would have recognized and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah.

The Pharisees did believe in the resurrection, but they were also “legalists.” The Pharisees taught strict adherence to the Law, but did not practice what they taught. They used the law to manipulate God’s Word to suit their own agendas. They had greatly expanded the Law to narrowly define their obligations (and create “loopholes”). Jesus deleted the loopholes.

Balaam sought and obeyed God’s will, and as he obeyed, God gave him the Holy Spirit. He no longer had to rely on the old worldly practices of divination. He faithfully proclaimed God’s Word, fully and accurately, and it is evident that it was God’s Word, because what he foresaw and foretold was fulfilled.

The Lord has promised to give his Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us new life in Jesus Christ. If we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit we are freed from bondage to the law of sin and death.

We have new life now, and the hope of eternal life in the resurrection. Jesus demonstrated the resurrection. The Sadducees and Pharisees could have had new life through Jesus, but they clung to the old life; the old covenant of the Law of sin and death; “tradition.” Are you seeking God’s will with the intention of obeying it? Have you read the Bible? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 6 Pentecost – Even – 07/20 – 26/2014

July 19, 2014

Week of 6 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

Available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

http://shepherdboy-mydailywalk.blogspot.com/

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

.mp3 Podcasts via Linux Festival text-to-speech and Panopreter Basic text-to-speech are available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/evenyear/wklx_even.html
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Podcast Download: Week of 6 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/10/04;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 14:26-45 –  Decision to attack;
Acts 15:1-12  –   Controversy over Gentile believers;
Luke 12:49-56  –   The end of the age;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The congregation of Israel had rebelled against God. They had refused to follow his instructions to enter the Promised Land, they had threatened to stone Caleb and Joshua for speaking God’s Word, and they had threatened to choose new leaders who would allow them to return to Egypt (see Numbers 13:31-14:25).

Moses had interceded for the people, because God was ready to destroy the people and start over. God allowed the people to live, but he forbade every adult in the congregation to enter the Promised Land, except for Caleb and Joshua who had given a good report and had advocated trust and obedience in the Lord. The ten unfaithful scouts who brought the evil report were struck by plague and died.

The Lord sentenced the people to wander forty years in the wilderness, a year for every day it took the scouts to scout the Promised Land, until all who were twenty and older at the time of the rebellion had died in the wilderness. The people mourned greatly when Moses told them the Lord’s judgment.

The next day the people decided to go ahead and enter the Promised Land, although Moses warned them that the Lord would not be with them, and that they would be defeated by the people of the land. The people went anyway, even though Moses and the Ark of the Covenant remained in the camp, and they were repulsed and defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in the land.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch (of Syria) on the completion of their first missionary trip to what is now central Turkey in Asia Minor. The Church in Antioch was a largely Gentile congregation. When Paul and Barnabas returned, they found that men had come from Judea and were teaching the congregation that it was necessary to be circumcised (and keep the Jewish Law) in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas got into a big argument with these “legalists” (“Judaizers”) and finally the church appointed Paul and Barnabas to go to the apostles and elders at church headquarters in Jerusalem.

On the way they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles to the believers in those areas. At Jerusalem they gave a report of what God had done through them. Some of the members of the Christian Council at Jerusalem were Pharisees, (and they argued that Gentile believers must be circumcised and charged with keeping the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders debated the issue. Finally Peter spoke.

Peter had led the first Gentile (Cornelius; Acts Chapter 10) to faith. Peter pointed out that God gave his Holy Spirit to the Gentile converts just as he had given it to the Jewish believers, without requiring circumcision, making no distinction (division) between them, and cleansing them by faith (Acts 15:9). So Peter asked the Pharisees why they insisted on burdening Gentile believers with an obligation to keep the Jewish Law, when neither the Pharisees nor any of the Jews throughout history had been able to keep it. Peter declared that both Jew and Gentile Christians will be saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. That ended the debate, and Council listened to Paul tell what God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that he had come “to cast fire (judgment) upon the earth” (Luke 12:49), and he longed for his mission to be completed. Jesus warned that he had come not to bring peace but division. Response to his Gospel will divide the most personal of relationships. Jesus also said that people are more alert and knowledgeable about interpreting the signs of changing weather than they are in noticing and interpreting spiritual crisis.

Commentary:

People divide themselves over God’s Word. The Israelites were divided by God’s Word into two groups: those who believed and obeyed, and those who didn’t and died in the wilderness. Many of the Israelites thought they could stone God’s prophets and choose their own leaders who would tell them what they wanted to hear and let them do what they wanted to do. They thought they could be God’s people and still live in Egypt.

When God judged them and sentenced them to wander in the wilderness until they died, they thought they could get into the Promised Land on their own. They thought they could take it for themselves without obeying God. They ignored Moses’ warning that God was no longer with them, and they didn’t notice or heed the sign that the Ark of the Covenant was no longer leading them.

People were divided over God’s Word at Antioch and in the Council at Jerusalem. The Judaizers had not been considering the Scripture as a whole. They had taken one part of it out of context. What Peter related before the council was his personal witness, which has become part of Scripture. The things that happened to the disciples in their relationship with God were written down for our instruction, just like the things that happened to the Israelites, and together they are the Word of God.

When the Law of Moses was considered in context with the history of Israel’s fulfillment of the Law, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the debate was ended. There was another notable division among people in the early Church over God’s Word: disobedience of God’s Word. The early Church leaders dealt with that by ex-communicating those who professed belief in Jesus but who refused to renounce unscriptural lifestyles; those who did not obey Jesus’ teachings (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Jesus warns that his Gospel will divide people. Jesus warns people that they won’t have peace just because they call themselves Christians (see Matthew 7:21-23).  Jesus warns that he is going to return to judge everyone who has ever lived (John 5:28-29). He will divide the “sheep” from the “goats,” according to the decisions they have made!

Those who have trusted and obeyed him will receive eternal life in Heaven with Jesus; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Are we more concerned with, and better at predicting the weather than we are at interpreting the signs of spiritual crisis? Do we know more about the weather than we know about the Bible?

How are we doing? Are we paying attention to the spiritual signs? Are we trusting and obeying Jesus, or are we trying to get to Heaven some other way? Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Do we think we can get to Heaven while living in “Egypt;” living like “Egyptians?” Are our Churches making disciples and teaching them to obey all that Jesus’ taught (Matthew 28:18-20), or are congregations choosing leaders who will tell them what they want to hear and let them do whatever they please. Are we and our congregations filled with the Holy Spirit, or has the Holy Spirit departed and we haven’t even noticed? Are we trying to claim the Promised Land without the blessing and empowerment of the Lord?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/11/04;

Podcast: Monday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 16:1-19  –  Korah’s rebellion;
Romans 3:21-31  –  Justification by grace through faith;
Matthew 19:13-22  –  Parable of the rich young man;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Korah, a member of the tribe of Levi, led a rebellion of other Levites, challenging Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. Levites were set apart to be servants of the sanctuary and of the Priesthood, which was through Aaron and his descendants. Moses had told the people that the Lord’s favor was no longer upon them, and that the Lord had not gone with them when they attempted to enter the Promised Land on their own (see Numbers 14:26-45; entry for yesterday). The rebels denied that the Lord’s favor had departed and that the Lord’s presence was no longer with them and they accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the people of God (Numbers 16:3).

When Moses heard it, he fell on his face (Numbers 16:4). Moses told the rebel Levites that they would all present themselves before the Lord the next morning, carrying censers (burning incense), and that the Lord would choose who would be allowed to approach the Lord. Moses questioned whether the rebels appreciated the fact that the Lord had already given them special status as his servants in the sanctuary, since they apparently weren’t satisfied with that and sought the Priesthood also. Moses warned them that their rebellion was really against God, not just against Aaron.

Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, who had joined with Korah in rebellion, but they refused to come to Moses. They accused Moses of taking them from “a land flowing with milk and honey” (describing abundant and luxurious resources, compared with the wilderness) into the wilderness to kill them and of failing to lead them into a corresponding land of abundance as promised. They accused Moses of not being satisfied merely to have led them to this state, but of exalting himself as a Prince over them.

Moses spoke to the Lord about the rebellion, and the Lord instructed Moses to assemble the group of two hundred and fifty with their censers at the tent of meeting the next morning, along with Aaron with his censer and Moses. When the congregation had assembled at the entrance to the tent of meeting the following morning, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire congregation.

Romans Paraphrase:

The righteousness of God is conferred apart from the Law, although the Law and the prophets bear witness to that righteousness, through faith in Jesus Christ upon all who truly believe. God is impartial. Every human being has sinned and falls short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23); they are judged righteous by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through the redemption (repurchase; as by ransom) which is only through Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus has paid the price to redeem us from sin and the penalty of death; Jesus has paid our penalty himself.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). God sent Jesus to be the expiation (to bear our punishment in our stead) of our sins by his blood [Jesus death was a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin; without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22)]. Jesus died for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to die eternally for them ourselves. Redemption is to be received by faith (Romans 3:25).

God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ demonstrates God’s righteousness. It shows God’s divine forbearance in overlooking our former sins, despite the seriousness with which he regards sin, and it proves that God is righteous and that he regards as righteous everyone who has faith in Jesus. Our boasting is silenced. We cannot boast of anything we have done to merit God’s favor. We are justified by faith, apart from works (keeping) of the Law (Romans 3:28). Jew and Gentile both have the same standing before God. The standard of judgment will be whether each individual has trusted and obeyed Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t mean that we can disobey the Law; quite the contrary, we are to uphold the Law.

Matthew Paraphrase:

People were bringing little children for Jesus to bless, and the disciples told them to stop doing so. But Jesus told them to let the children come to Jesus and not to hinder them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are trusting and obedient like little children.

A rich young man came to Jesus and asked what good deed he needed to do in order to have eternal life. Jesus asked the man why he was calling Jesus good, since only God is good. Jesus said that if the man wanted eternal life he should keep the commandments. The rich young man wanted to know which of the commandments he should keep. Jesus started reciting the Ten Commandments, and the young man asserted that he had obeyed all these from his youth. Jesus answered that if the young man wanted to grow to spiritual maturity, he should sell his possessions and give to the poor, letting what he considered his “treasure” be Heaven, and following Jesus in discipleship. When the young man heard this he went away in sadness, because he had great possessions.

Commentary:

Moses prefigures (he goes before, as an illustration) Christ. Jesus is our “Moses” who leads his followers through the wilderness of this life. Jesus is also our High Priest, who offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and who intercedes for us before God the Father. We need to follow Jesus, not the servants of the sanctuary who aren’t faithful to God’s Word, and aren’t led by the Holy Spirit (and don’t even notice that they aren’t).

Moses was one of the most humble men of all time (Numbers 12:3). The Levites accused him of exalting himself as Lord (Prince), but Moses was actually exalting the Lord and not himself (Numbers 16:4; he humbled himself before the Lord and prayed). It was the rebellious Levites who were exalting themselves and dishonoring the Lord. The Reubenites complained that Moses had dragged them away from “milk and honey” to deprivation in the wilderness and had failed to deliver on the promise of “milk and honey” again in the new land. They wanted their “milk and honey” right now and weren’t willing to endure any difficulty or sacrifice in order to obtain it.

God’s plan of salvation (See sidebar) is eminently good and fair. God loves us enough to have sent Jesus to die on the Cross so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8). Those who trust and obey Jesus will be judged righteous in God’s judgment, and will receive eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. Those who refuse to trust and obey Jesus will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Each individual makes his own choice.

There won’t be any arguing about who did more or less good works than someone else. There won’t be any boasting about what we did to “earn” salvation and eternal life. The standard for judging whether we have believed in Jesus will be whether we have obeyed Jesus’ teaching. (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus used little children to illustrate the childlike trust and obedience of faith. (They also represent innocence. We become as innocent as little children in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ.)  The rich young man asked Jesus what good deed he needed to do in order to have eternal life. Sure, he wanted eternal life, but he was only interested in doing the least he could get by with in order to obtain it. Jesus asked the young man why he was asking Jesus. The point is that what the man needed to do to have eternal life was to recognize that Jesus is Lord! Jesus is God the Son (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28)!

If the young man had truly believed Jesus was Lord, he would have done what Jesus told him (Luke 6:46). Jesus told the young man that if he wanted to have eternal life he should keep the commandments. The young man asked Jesus which of the commandments he had to keep. Jesus named six of the Ten Commandments omitting the three pertaining to honoring God (and combining two pertaining to coveting into one which sums up our obligation to love others just as much as we love ourselves).

The man probably didn’t think he coveted what his neighbors had, because he had much more than his neighbors already. But he didn’t love his neighbors as much as he loved himself, because if he had, he would have given his possessions to those who were poor. Yet the man asserted that he had kept these commandments from his youth.

Jesus said that if the young man wanted to be “perfect” (complete and lacking nothing; spiritually mature) he should sell his possessions and give to the poor, changing what he regarded as valuable from earthly, material things to Heavenly ones, and to follow Jesus in discipleship. Hearing this, the man turned away in sadness because he loved his possessions.

Is Jesus our Lord, or do we want to be Lord? Are we following Jesus, or someone who claims to be following the Lord? Are we exalting the Lord or are we exalting ourselves? Do we want Heaven now without the discipline of the wilderness experience? Are we serving God in the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, or in our own strength? Are we thankful to be servants of God? Are we Jesus’ disciples? Are we trusting and obeying Jesus, or are we trying to get into Heaven some other way?

Tuesday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/12/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 16:20-35  –   Revolt of Korah punished;
Romans 4:1-12  –   Abraham justified by faith;
Matthew 19:23-30  –  With God all things are possible;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Korah, Dathan and Abiram had led a revolt by the Levites (sanctuary servants) against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-19). Two hundred and fifty Levites had assembled at the door of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. The glory of the Lord descended upon the tent of meeting, and the Lord told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation, because the Lord intended to destroy the congregation.

Again Moses and Aaron interceded for the congregation, asking the Lord not to destroy the whole congregation for the sins of a few. The Lord told Moses and Aaron to have the congregation move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and not to touch anything belonging to any of the three households, lest they be swept away with these men’s sin. Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel went to the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and warned the people to stay away as the Lord had instructed. Dathan and Abiram, who had refused to go up with Korah and the Levites to the tent of meeting, came and stood at the doors of their tents with their wives and children.

Moses declared that if these three men died an ordinary death common to all men, then Moses was not following the Lord, but if the Lord did something new and the ground opened and swallowed them up then everyone would know that these men had despised the Lord. When Moses finished speaking, the ground opened up and swallowed all that belonged to Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and the earth closed over them. All the people standing by fled in fear, lest the earth swallow them up also. And fire came forth and consumed the two hundred and fifty Levites offering incense.

Romans Paraphrase:

If Abraham had been justified (judged righteous) by works (keeping) of the Law he would have had something to boast about before men, but not before God. But scripture says “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3; compare Genesis 15:6). One who works receives wages which he has earned; the wages are not a gift. For one who does not rely on works, but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2: “Blessed is the (person) whose iniquities (wickedness; offense) are forgiven and whose sin is covered; …against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

This promise applies to both Jews and Gentiles. Abraham was reckoned by God to be righteous, before Abraham was circumcised. “Abraham received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11 RSV). God’s purpose was to make Abraham the spiritual father of the uncircumcised who are accounted by God as righteous through faith, as well as the father of the circumcised who do not rely on their keeping of the Law for salvation, but follow the example of Abraham’s faith.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had just finished talking with a rich young man who was unwilling to give up his possessions to follow the Lord (Matthew 19:16-22; see entry for yesterday). Jesus told his disciples that it will be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, saying it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The disciples were amazed and asked how, in that case, anyone could hope to be saved.

Jesus replied that what is impossible for humans is possible with God. Peter asked what he and other disciples who had left everything they had to follow Jesus might expect to receive. Jesus said that the disciples would be rulers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who has left houses or family or lands for Jesus’ name’s sake will receive (in this lifetime; compare Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30) a hundred times what they gave up, and will receive eternal life. “But many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).

Commentary:

Korah, Dathan and Abiram had led a revolt of the Levites, against Moses, Aaron and the Word of God. The rebels denied that the Lord’s favor had departed and that the Lord’s presence was no longer with them and they accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the people of God (Numbers 16:3). The Lord warned the People of God to separate themselves from the rebels or be destroyed with them.

It is those who trust and obey God’s Word who are “children of Abraham” and heirs to the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). [Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1, 14).] There is no other way to be saved and live eternally with the Lord in heaven.

We cannot earn salvation by good works. We are not saved by church membership, by inviting neighbors to church, by teaching Sunday School or singing in the choir. Only by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, in a personal relationship, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, will anyone be saved and receive eternal life. The Holy Spirit is the new “seal” of faith; the new “circumcision” (Romans 4:11). The Holy Spirit is the mark and guarantee that one belongs to Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16. The Lord does not give his Spirit to those who are not willing to trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17; 21, 23-24).

The rich young man chose to hang on to his worldly possessions and he turned away from the Lord and did not obey Jesus’ instructions. The love of material possessions and worldly pleasures can make it impossible for us to follow Jesus. Yet our salvation is not impossible for the Lord if we will trust him and follow his instructions. If we will seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, we will have the material things we need as well (Matthew 6:33; compare 19:29).

One possible understanding of the last being first and the first last (Matthew 19:30) is that the Jews, who were originally God’s chosen people, have been succeeded by the Gentile Christians who came to God later through Jesus Christ, but that many Jews will yet be saved during the Great Tribulation. Another possible understanding is that some professing (nominal) “Christians,” who were born and raised in the Church may be the last to be “born-again,” through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, while some who recently turned to Christ may receive the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit before the lifelong church members.

The history of God’s dealing with the people of Israel is also a parable. The Church is the “New Israel”, the new “People of God”. The Church and individual believers are well warned not to have fellowship with those who are in open, unrepentant defiance of God’s Word, not meaning, however, that we are not to associate with such people in normal daily life. Believers are to seek the lost, in order to share the Gospel with them, but we must not participate or co-operate with them in their sin. We certainly should not allow them to have fellowship in the Church. Believers should separate themselves from such congregations.

Jesus said that not everyone who calls on his name will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who obey God’s Word will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will claim to have prophesied in Jesus’ name and to have done great works in Jesus’ name, and Jesus will condemn them to eternal death because they haven’t obeyed God’s Word (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:31-46).

What are our riches? What do we treasure? Do we treasure “Church History” more than God’s Word? Do we treasure “Tradition” more than God’s Word? …”Family ties?” …”Friends?” …”Social position?” …”Houses?” What is keeping you from obeying God’s Word?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 6 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/13/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 16:36-50  –  Plague;
Romans 4:13-25  –  True descendants of Abraham;
Matthew 20:1-16  –  Laborers in the vineyard;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord had destroyed, by supernatural earthquake, the households of the leaders of a rebellion against Moses, Aaron, and the Word of God, and had slain, with fire, the two hundred and fifty Levites (sanctuary servants) who had rebelled (see Numbers 16:20-35). The Lord had Moses make an altar covering from the bronze censers of the two hundred and fifty Levites who had been destroyed by fire. The covering was to remind the people that only the priests authorized by the Lord are to serve at the altar.

The next day the congregation grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying that Moses and Aaron had killed the people of the Lord. The Congregation assembled against Moses and Aaron, facing the tent of meeting, and the presence of the Lord descended upon the tent of meeting. The Lord told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation so that the Lord could destroy the congregation. But Aaron and Moses fell on their faces (in prayer) and Moses told Aaron to take his censer and wave incense over the people and make atonement for them, for a plague had begun among the people.

Aaron did so and Aaron stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. Those who died of the plague were about fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those destroyed in the rebellion. “Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting when the plague was stopped” (Numbers 16:50).

Romans Paraphrase:

God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants “did not come through the Law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). If only the adherents of the Law inherit, then faith wouldn’t count, and the promise would be worthless. Transgressions aren’t counted where there is no Law, but the Law brings punishment.

The reason the promise depends on faith is so that the promise is a free gift guaranteed to all Abraham’s descendents, not just to those who keep the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, since according to scripture Abraham would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Abraham is the father of many nations.

The promise is guaranteed by God, “who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17b). Abraham believed God’s promise, even though he was about one hundred years old, and Sarah had never been able to conceive children (and was past the age of childbearing). “No distrust made him waver, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised” (Romans 4:20-21 RSV).

That faith is the reason Abraham was accounted righteous by God (see Genesis 15:6). The Scripture records this for our benefit; we will also be accounted righteous, who believe in God the Father who raised from the dead our Lord Jesus, who died for our sins and was raised so that we could be accounted righteous by faith in Jesus.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told a parable about laborers in the vineyard to illustrate the kingdom of heaven and illustrate his comment about the first being last and the last first (Matthew 19:30). A householder went out early in the morning to hire day-laborers for his vineyard. He agreed to hire the laborers for a day’s wages, and sent them into the vineyard. Three hours later he was in the market place and he noticed other laborers standing idle, unemployed, so he hired them to work in the vineyard also, and he promised to pay them fairly. Going by again at the sixth and ninth hours, he found others idle and hired them also, as before. Finally at the eleventh hour, he hired still more unemployed laborers.

At the end of the day he assembled the workers and began to pay them for their work, beginning with the last hired. He gave the last hired a day’s wages, so the first hired thought they would get more, but when they were paid they also got a day’s wages. They grumbled at the owner, complaining that those who worked only one hour got the same pay as those who had worked all through the heat of the day. But the owner answered that the first hired had agreed to a day’s wage, and that the owner should be allowed to be generous with what belonged to him. Thus the first will be last and the last first.

Commentary:

There is a plague that is killing people in this world. It is the plague of sin; the plague of rebellion and disobedience to God’s Word. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:6-8). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s only cure for that plague (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Moses and Aaron prefigure (go before, as an illustration) Christ. Jesus is both our “Moses” who leads us through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of Heaven, and our “Aaron,” our High Priest, who intercedes for us before God and saves us from God’s punishment of sin.

Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice to God to redeem us from death for our sins, as Aaron risked his life by going into the midst of the congregation bearing incense when God had announced his intention to destroy the congregation. Christ stands between the eternally living and the eternally dead in this world. Aaron was restored to Moses’ side at the door of the tent of meeting, as Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of God in the heavenly sanctuary.

All of Scripture (the Bible) is written for our instruction (2 Timothy 3:16). God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who trust and obey Jesus will be accounted as righteous as a free gift from God, to be received by faith, apart from works of the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). The faith of Abraham is obedient trust in the Lord.

When God told Abraham to leave his homeland and follow the Lord to a new land, Abraham obeyed; he followed the Lord’s instructions. (Genesis 12:4; Abraham was formerly called Abram; see Genesis 17:5). Abraham grew spiritually as he trusted and obeyed the Lord (Romans 4:20-21 RSV). The Lord causes our “mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31, 17:20) of faith to grow to spiritual maturity as we follow him obediently. As we trust him and do what he says, he is able to show us that he is able and faithful to fulfill his Word. The Lord always keeps his promises!

The kingdom of heaven is like Jesus’ parable of the vineyard. It’s not how long or hard you’ve worked; it’s whom you’re working for that makes the difference. Are we working for Jesus in the Lord’s vineyard, or are we working for ourselves in the vineyards of the world?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 6 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/14/04;
Podcast:
Thursday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 17:1-11 –   Aaron’s rod;
Romans 5:1-11 –   Peace with God through Christ;
Matthew 20:17-28  –  Christ’s passion foretold a third time;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord told Moses to collect the rods, which were the symbols of tribal authority, from the head of each tribe. Each tribal leader was to write his name upon the rod, and then the rods were placed in the tent of meeting, in front of the testimony (the Ark of the Covenant, containing the “testimony,” i.e. the tablets of law). The Lord would indicate his choice of leader by causing one of the rods to sprout, thus ending the discontent (Numbers 16:41-50) among the people. Moses did as instructed.

The next day Moses went into the “tent of the testimony” (the holy of holies, containing the Ark of the Covenant) and found that Aaron’s rod had not only sprouted; it had produced blossoms and bore ripe almonds, while none of the other rods had sprouted. Moses brought out the rods and showed the people, and each leader reclaimed his rod. The Lord told Moses to keep Aaron’s rod and place it back in front of the testimony, as a sign for the rebels, so that they would stop grumbling against the Lord, lest they die. Moses did all that the Lord commanded.

Romans Paraphrase:

Since we are judged righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained the free gift of salvation, and we rejoice in the hope of sharing the glorious destiny God intended for us. We can rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering develops endurance, character and hope. That hope is not unfulfilled, because we experience God’s love now through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

While we were slaves to sin, Christ died for us sinners. Most people would not be willing to die even for a righteous or good person, but God shows his love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were sinners. If we are judged righteous through Christ’s death, we can be sure that we will be saved from eternal death by Christ’s Resurrection. While we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; since we have been reconciled, we will surely be saved by his life. Through Jesus Christ we can have joy and fellowship with God now.

Matthew Paraphrase:

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them that he would be arrested, tried and condemned to death; he would be mocked, scourged and crucified by Gentiles, and he would be raised on the third day. The mother of James and John (sons of Zebedee) brought her sons to Jesus and asked for special honor for them in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus replied that they didn’t understand what they were asking. He asked them if they were willing to endure the “cup” of suffering that Jesus was going to face, and they replied that they were.

Jesus said that they would drink his cup, but that the special honor they sought was not within Jesus’ authority, since it was to be determined by God’s will and plan. The other ten of Jesus’ original disciples were indignant at James and John, but Jesus called the twelve to him and told them that in this world those who are great exercise authority over those under them, but in the kingdom of God greatness is servanthood. Those who want to be great must be the most humble servant of all the rest, just as Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” ( Matthew 20:28).

Commentary:

The Levites (sanctuary servants) had rebelled against Moses and Aaron (Numbers Chapter 16). They had complained that Moses and Aaron had brought them out of “comfort” in Egypt (Egypt had not been comfortable; they had been slaves), into suffering in the wilderness, and had not delivered on the promise of comfort in the Promised Land. (Numbers 16:13-14). The Levites wanted to be the leaders. They wanted to be the Priests and be served by others, instead of suffering as servants in the wilderness.

The Lord caused Aaron’s rod to sprout in order to resolve and end the dispute over who should lead God’s people. It is God’s Spirit that causes us to blossom and bear fruit in his service. Notice that Moses was the Lord’s obedient servant (Numbers 17:11), in contrast with the rebels, who refused to serve or obey.

Moses and Aaron prefigure (go before, as an illustration) Christ. Jesus is both our “Moses” who leads us through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of Heaven, and he is our “Aaron,” our High Priest, who intercedes for us before God and saves us from God’s punishment of sin. Jesus is the righteous branch, the shoot which comes forth from the stump of Jesse (David’s Father; Isaiah 11:1; Jesus is the Messiah, Son of David). It is the Holy Spirit dwelling within believers who causes them to blossom and bear fruit for God’s kingdom.

We will have to endure some suffering and discomfort in this world in order to follow Jesus, but suffering produces endurance, character and hope. Our hope is not the “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by” kind, because believers experience God’s love and fellowship right now through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Believers have a personal relationship with the risen Jesus through his Holy Spirit within us. Because we know, by his indwelling Holy Spirit, that Jesus has been raised to life from the dead and now lives eternally, we can be confident that believers will live eternally with Jesus as he promised.

James and John wanted to be leaders in Jesus’ kingdom. They wanted to sit on thrones beside Jesus. Jesus told them that the way to be great in the kingdom of God was to be obedient to God’s will, to the point of giving one’s life to accomplish it. Jesus is our example of the suffering, obedient servant who came to give his life to save sinners. Believers are called to give our lives in obedient service to God in order to save sinners and to restore them to peace and reconciliation with God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Too many “Christians” want to worship at the altar, but don’t want to be servants of the Lord. Too many “Christians” want to drink the Cup of the Lord’s Salvation, without drinking the Cup of obedient servanthood and discipleship. Do we expect the Lord to provide us with comfort, and complain when he doesn’t? Are we willing to give our own efforts to reach and save the lost, or do we leave that up to the pastor and missionaries?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?
 
Friday 6 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/15/04;
Podcast:
Friday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 20:1-13  –  Water from the rock;
Romans 5:12-21  –  Adam and Christ contrasted;
Matthew 20:29-34   –  Two blind men of Jericho;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The people of Israel came into the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there. There was no water and the people were contentious with Moses over the lack of water. They assembled themselves against Moses and told them that they had rather died with Dathan and Abiram (in Korah’s revolt; Numbers 16). Moses and Aaron went to the tent of meeting and prayed, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord told Moses to take the rod and, in the presence of the people, tell the rock to yield its water. “And Moses took the rod from before the presence of the Lord as he had commanded him” (Numbers 20:9).

Moses and Aaron assembled the people before the rock and said, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock”? Moses struck the rock twice and water came forth abundantly. But the Lord told Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land with the people, because he had not glorified the Lord in the peoples’ presence (but had taken credit for the miracle himself). So the place is called Meribah (contention), because “the people contended with the Lord and he revealed himself holy among them” (Numbers 20:13).

Romans Paraphrase:

Sin and death came into the world through one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience and spread to all people, because all people have sinned. Sin existed before the giving of the Law, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who were not willfully disobedient to God. Adam is a type of (negative; anti-) Christ. The free gift is the opposite of the trespass. Many died as the result of Adam’s sin; even more has the grace of God and the free gift (of salvation) in Jesus Christ abounded for many. Judgment following one sin brought condemnation; the free gift following many sins brings justification (judicial declaration of righteousness; acquittal) through Jesus Christ.

Adam’s sin led to condemnation for all people; Christ’s righteousness led to acquittal for all people. One person’s disobedience made all people sinners; Jesus’ obedience makes many righteous. Law was introduced to reveal sin. Law makes sin known and incites sin (see Romans 7:7-13). As sin increased, grace (free gift; unmerited favor) abounded more. Sin triumphs through death; grace triumphs through righteousness to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus was going to Jerusalem, knowing that he would be crucified (Matthew 20:17-19). He passed through Jericho, with a great crowd following him as he left. Two blind men were sitting along the road, and they heard that Jesus was passing by. They cried out, acknowledging him to be the Son of David (the Messiah; heir to David’s throne) and asking Jesus to have mercy on them and heal their blindness.

The crowd rebuked the blind men, but they cried out even more. Jesus stopped and asked them what they wanted him to do for them, and they asked Jesus to open their eyes. Jesus touched their eyes and they immediately received their sight and followed Jesus.

Commentary:

The people were quick to blame Moses (and the Lord) for every problem that arose on their journey, and didn’t remember or give thanks and glory to God for all the great things that he had done for them along the way. They constantly longed for the “good old days” in Egypt (when they were slaves).

Moses failed to give God the glory for bringing the water from the rock, and he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land as the result. Jesus Christ is the rock (Matthew 7:24; 16:15-18), which is the source of living water (1Corinthians 10:4; John 4:10, 13-14), which God has given us to sustain us in the wilderness of this earth on our journey, out of the “Egypt” of slavery to sin and death, to eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). “The wages (i.e. penalty) of sin is (eternal) death, but the (free) gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

A Day of Judgment is coming when everyone who has ever lived on earth will be accountable to God for what each has done, individually, in life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will be condemned to eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally (John 3:16-17, Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation; the only way to have forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We are saved by grace (free gift) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, not by works (keeping) of the law (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must either follow Jesus Christ to eternal life, or we will follow Adam to eternal death. We will either give God glory through Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation, or we will be forbidden to enter the Promised Land of Heaven.

The two men of Jericho were physically blind, but spiritually sighted, because they acknowledged their blindness, and they acknowledged Jesus as the Christ (Messiah; Son of David). They needed to be healed of their blindness in order to follow Jesus. Jesus healed their blindness, and they immediately followed him.

Only Jesus can heal spiritual blindness. The Lord opens the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). Are we physically sighted, but spiritually blind? Jesus is passing by, on his way to “Jerusalem,” the eternal city in the eternal kingdom of Heaven. Do we recognize our blindness? Do we acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the eternal King; the heir to David’s throne?

Are we following Jesus obediently and glorifying God through his name, or are we complaining to God for everything that’s not perfect in our lives, and failing to glorify and thank him for all that God has done for us, particularly through Jesus Christ? Are our eyes focused on the Lord and the Promised Land or are we longing for the pleasures and sins of this world?

Have you seen Jesus? Are you following Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 6 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/16/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 6 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 20:14-29  –   Death of Aaron;
Romans 6:1-11   –   Dying and rising with Christ;
Matthew 21:1-11   –   Entry into Jerusalem;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Israelites were again camped at Kadesh, ready to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for forty years. All the adults of the generation which had been condemned to wander in the wilderness had died in the wilderness.

Moses sent messengers to the King of Edom, asking permission to pass through his land on the main south-to-north route to Syria, intending to enter Canaan from the east, since their attempt to enter from the south had failed forty years earlier (Numbers chapters 13-14). But the king of Edom refused to let them enter his land. The people left Kadesh and traveled to Mount Hor, near Kadesh on the border of Edom.

The Lord told Moses and Aaron that Aaron (and Moses; Numbers 20:12)  would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, because of the disobedience of Moses and Aaron when they brought forth water from the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13; entry for yesterday). The Lord told Moses and Aaron to bring Eleazar, Aaron’s son, and ascend Mount Hor, and there Aaron’s priestly garments were to be removed and put upon Eleazar, and Aaron would die and be buried there. Moses did as the Lord commanded. When Moses and Eleazar returned and the people saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for thirty days.

Romans Paraphrase:

Christians should not presume upon God’s grace by continuing to sin. By our baptism into Christ we are joined with him in his crucifixion and death, so that we can also share in new life through his resurrection. Our old sinful nature is crucified with Christ, so that our sinful earthly nature might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved by sin.

If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Having experienced physical death once, Christ lives eternally. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once for all so that he might live to God. So we must also consider ourselves spiritually dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus was going to Jerusalem knowing that he would be crucified and would be raised again from the dead (Matthew 20:17-19). At Beth-phage, a village on the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village where they would find an ass and a colt which they were to bring back to Jesus. They were told that if anyone questioned them they were to say that the Lord had need of them and would return them promptly. This was done to fulfill scripture (Zechariah 9:9). The disciples did as directed and returned with the animals.

They laid their clothes on the animals for Jesus to sit on, and the crowd spread clothing and branches on the road for the animals to walk on. Part of the crowd went ahead, and part followed and they all shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem stirred the entire city, and everyone was asking who Jesus could be. “And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matthew 21:10-11).

Commentary:

Israel was again poised to enter the Promised Land, and they didn’t want to repeat their past mistakes. They were ready to enter the Promised Land because the old generation that sinned had died; the new generation didn’t want to follow the same route that had led to the former defeat.

The old generation had been defeated by disobeying God’s commands. God had told them to enter and claim the new life, and they had refused to do what the Lord commanded. Then they had tried to enter the Promised Land on their own, contrary to God’s Word. Moses and Aaron had both been forbidden to enter the Promised Land because they had disobeyed God’s command in providing the people with water from the rock. Both Moses and Aaron died in the wilderness, just as the Lord had said.

Christians are cleansed of sin and given new life eternally through their baptism into Jesus Christ. In Christ we’ve been given a second chance. Believers should be careful not to repeat their past mistakes; not to return to the same old path that caused them to be alienated from God in the past. Moses and Aaron were forbidden to enter the Promised Land because they did not obey God’s Word.

We must remember that Jesus died on the Cross to provide the grace (free gift of salvation) in which we stand. We must not dishonor Christ’s sacrifice for us by using this grace as an excuse to continue to sin and disobey God’s Word.

God’s Word is absolutely dependable. What the Lord says, happens just as he has said! Jesus told his disciples that he would be crucified and raised from the dead, and that is what happened. Jesus told his disciples that they would find the ass and its colt in Beth-phage and they obeyed his word and found it just as Jesus had said. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem fulfilled the scriptural prophecy.

His followers rejoiced at Jesus’ coming and acknowledged him as the Son of David (the Messiah; the heir to the throne of David) coming in the name of the Lord. Some were trying to decide who Jesus is. Some thought he was a prophet. Jesus warns not to call him our Lord if we are not willing to do what Jesus says (Luke 6:46), or to obey God’s will (Matthew 7:21-23).

Jesus has promised to return to judge the earth (Matthew 25:31-46). When he returns, he will not be humble, and riding a donkey. He will come in glory and great power, with all the angels (Matthew 25:31), riding on the clouds (Acts 1:9-11), as the triumphant King of the Universe. Everyone will see his coming (Revelation 1:7).

When he returns, will you still be trying to decide who Jesus is? Will you be rejoicing at Jesus’ coming, or will you be in fear and mourning (Luke 21:26-27)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 5 Pentecost – Even – 07/13 – 19/2014

July 12, 2014

Week of 5 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 5 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 5 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/03/04;
Podcast: Sunday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 6:22-27  –  Aaronic Benediction;
Acts 13:1-12  –   Paul curses Elymas, the magician;
Luke 12:41-48  –  To whom much is given, much required;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord gave Moses instructions for the blessing of God’s people, which was to be administered by Aaron, saying: The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you (show you divine favor), and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you (look upon you with divine favor), and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people (of Israel; God’s people) and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27).
Acts Paraphrase:

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and Barnabas were worshiping with the congregation at Antioch (Syria), when the Holy Spirit directed the congregation to set apart Paul and Barnabas for ministry that the Holy Spirit would direct. So the church leaders laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas, prayed, and sent them off. Directed by the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas went to Seleucia (on the Mediterranean coast) and sailed to Cyprus.

When they arrived on Cyprus at the port city of Salamis (near modern Seryios), they preached in the local synagogue. (Cyprus had a large Jewish colony). They traveled across the island (of Cyprus) to Paphos on the western shore, where they encountered a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Elymas bar-Jesus [“Elymas” means magician and bar-Jesus means "son of Jesus" (or "son of Joshua")].

The governor of Cyprus was a Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, and he had summoned Paul and Barnabas so that he could hear the Gospel, but Elymas opposed Paul’s message and attempted to turn the proconsul from the faith. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit looked intently at Elymas, called him a son of the devil, and enemy of righteousness, a deceitful villain, and suggested that he should “stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord” (Acts 13:10).

Then Paul told Elymas that the hand of the Lord was upon Elymas, and that he would be blind for a time. Immediately Elymas was struck blind and sought people to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had occurred he was astonished and he believed Paul’s teaching concerning the Lord.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had told a parable concerning watchfulness, about servants awaiting their master’s return from a marriage feast (Luke 12:35-40). The disciples asked Jesus if this parable was for them or for everyone. Jesus answered that the parable applied to those who were wise and faithful stewards which the master appoints to serve and feed his household. The master will reward faithful stewards, but he will punish unfaithful stewards. Uninformed (ignorant) unfaithfulness will receive less harsh punishment than willful disobedience. To whom much is given, much will be required. The greater one’s authority, the greater their accountability.

Commentary:

The Lord loves us and wants to bless us (John 3:16). We have to co-operate with God’s plan if we want God’s blessings. We tend to think only in terms of material blessings. God has provided all the material blessings of this world freely to all people [God sends his rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)]. God’s greatest blessings are spiritual and eternal. Moses had a personal relationship with the Lord.The Lord’s face shone (Numbers 6:25) upon Moses; Moses’ face reflected the glory of the Lord from having been in the Lord’s presence (Exodus 34:35) (Jesus’ face shone like the sun when he was transfigured; Matthew 17:2).

The Holy Spirit is a spiritual blessing given by God. The Holy Spirit leads believers to ministry according to God’s will, and empowers believers to accomplish that ministry. The Lord is able to prosper those who are following his will, and he is able to thwart those who oppose his will. It is important to note that Antioch is where disciples of Jesus were for the first time called “Christians” (Acts 11:26b).

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) had himself been in opposition to God’s will by persecuting Christians, although in ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and had been struck blind on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9), by the Spirit of the risen Jesus. He had subsequently heard the Gospel from a faithful disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10-12, 17); Paul had repented, been filled with the Holy Spirit, and had regained his sight.

By his obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit, Paul was repeating the process, bringing Elymas to encounter the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, through Paul. Elymas experienced physical blindness as Paul had, and had the opportunity to recognize his spiritual blindness and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The parable applies specifically to every Christian; everyone who bears the name of the Lord. All Christians are to be disciples of Jesus Christ; that’s what the word “Christian” means (Acts 11:26b). The stewards in the parable represent every Christian, not just the clergy and church leaders; and the Master’s household is the whole world, not just Church members.

Believers have been given access to every spiritual blessing. We are commissioned with the dispensation of those blessings to the world. Christians won’t be able to plead ignorance, or lack of blessings. The world is spiritually starving for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world is spiritually blind, seeking someone who can see to lead them to the light (Acts 13:11b).

In one sense we are all spiritually blind until we see, in Paul’s words, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Have we seen the light? Are our eyes open, watching for our Lord’s return? Are we faithful stewards? Are we ready for Jesus’ return?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 5 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/04/04;
Podcast: Monday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 9:15-23, 10:29-36  –  The cloud over the tabernacle;
Romans 1:1-15  –  Called and set apart;
Matthew 17:14-21  –  Epileptic child healed

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord led his people from slavery to sin and death in Egypt by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). They assembled in Sinai at the Mountain of God, and the Lord descended on the mountain in a cloud and gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the instructions for the establishment of the religion.

When the congregation had prepared for the journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, the manifestation of the Lord’s presence descended on the tabernacle (tent of meeting) as a cloud by day and as fire by night. The people were led daily according to the manifestation of the Lord’s presence.

When the cloud lifted up from the tabernacle they set out. Regardless of how long the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, while it remained they stayed in camp. They did not set out until directed to by the Lord, and they encamped at his command. They were obedient to the leading of the Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul considered himself a servant (slave) of Jesus Christ. He was called to be an Apostle (messenger), set apart for the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ, which was promised beforehand in the scriptures. Jesus is the Son of David (the heir to the throne of David; the Messiah) according to the flesh, (through Joseph, his earthly father; Matthew 1:1-17), and the Son of God through the Holy Spirit by his resurrection from the dead. Paul and all Christians receive the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, and a commission to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught (Romans 1:5 RSV; compare Matthew 28:18-20).

All those who are set apart (consecrated) to God’s service are “saints.” Paul was led by the Holy Spirit (see journal entry for yesterday). He prayed that by God’s will he might visit the Roman church but had thus far been prevented (Romans 1:10, 13). Paul was eager to share spiritually with them, and he was also looking forward to receiving spiritual encouragement from them.

Luke Paraphrase:

When Jesus returned from his mountaintop transfiguration with Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-13), to the disciples that had stayed behind, he found a crowd gathered around the rest of the disciples. A man whose son was an epileptic knelt before Jesus and asked Jesus to heal the son. The man had brought him to Jesus’ disciples and they had been unable to heal him. Jesus healed the boy instantly.

The disciples asked Jesus privately why they had been unable to heal the epileptic. Jesus answered that it was because of their “little” faith. Jesus said that if one has faith the size of a mustard seed (a tiny seed) nothing would be impossible for them.

Commentary:

The experience of Israel in the wilderness is a parable and a metaphor of discipleship and spiritual growth. When we first turn to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in faith, God leads us by his Word, the Bible, and his Spirit so that we can come to him, be instructed in his ways, and begin to worship him.

New believers need to join a congregation of believers. We need to begin to read the entire Bible, and spend daily time in the Bible and prayer. We need to prepare ourselves to be a “tabernacle” to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is Christian discipleship; this is spiritual growth.

We need to stay in “Jerusalem,” i.e. within the church, until we have received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). Once we have received the indwelling Holy Spirit and have learned to follow his leading, then we are ready to move out and be Apostles (messengers of the Gospel) in the wilderness of this world. This is what I believe God’s Word says, and it is exactly what I have experienced personally and testify to be true.

Paul (Saul of Tarasus) is the first, modern, post-resurrection, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian. Paul had not known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry before his crucifixion and resurrection. Paul had a personal encounter with the Spirit of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9). Paul realized his spiritual blindness, repented and turned to Jesus in faith. A disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10), obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, went to Paul and discipled Paul (Acts 9:17).

Paul stayed in the house of a man of Tarsus named Judas until he had received his sight and had been filled with the Holy Spirit. (Paul’s discipling happened very quickly in his case. Remember that Paul already was very well educated in the Bible, and he loved God. Once he realized who Jesus was, he was ready to go.

Not many of us are going to be immediately ready to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Paul was “discipled” by a disciple, who was filled with and obedient to the Holy Spirit.) As soon as Paul received the Holy Spirit he began proclaiming the Gospel (Acts 9:20), led by and obedient to the Holy Spirit (Romans 1: 10, 13; Acts 13:1-12; journal entry for yesterday).

While Jesus is gone away to the Father and we are awaiting his return, what are we doing? Are we hanging around in the marketplace of this world idly waiting for Jesus to show up and solve our problems, or are we out there ministering to the spiritual needs of the world in Jesus’ name? Have we spent the time necessary in fellowship with Jesus to be filled with and led by his Spirit, so that we can do the ministry? It doesn’t take much faith to minister to the world in Jesus’ name; it just takes some!

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Are you bearing fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 5 Pentecost – Even
First posted 07/05/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 11:1-23  –  Murmurings in the wilderness;
Romans 1:16-25  –  God’s judgment on sin;
Matthew 17:22-27  –  The temple tax;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The people of Israel complained about their circumstances, and the Lord heard. The fire of the Lord fell upon and destroyed some of the outlying portions of the camp. The people asked Moses to intercede with God for them; Moses did so and the fire ceased. The people complained about their diet of manna, longing for meat and the fresh vegetables they had in Egypt. Manna was like coriander seed, yellow in color. It was gathered and ground into flour, boiled in pots and made into cakes. It tasted like cakes baked with oil. The manna fell at night with the dew.

Moses was frustrated by the burden of his responsibility for the people, and complained to the Lord that the burden was too great. The Lord told Moses to gather seventy elders of the people, and that the Lord would take some of the spirit which was upon Moses and put it on the seventy, so that they could share with Moses the responsibility for leading the people. The Lord also told Moses to consecrate the people, because the Lord had heard the complaint of the people and would give them meat to eat every day for a month, until they were sick of eating meat and it became loathsome to them.

Moses recognized that feeding such a large group in the wilderness with meat everyday for a month was humanly impossible. The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said, and he assembled seventy elders at the tent of meeting. The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the spirit that was upon Moses and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit rested upon the elders they began to prophesy.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the saving power of God to everyone, Jew or Gentile, who believes. Through the Gospel, those who believe receive pardon and reconciliation, being reckoned as having the righteousness of God, as a free gift to be received by faith. “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Romans 1:17b; Habakkuk 2:4). The Day of Judgment is coming upon the wicked and ungodly who by their sinful behavior suppress the truth.

God can be perceived throughout creation, because he has left his mark of eternal power and deity upon it. So the wicked are without excuse; it is not that they don’t know God, but that they do not honor God and give him thanks. As a result their minds are darkened and their thinking is futile. In claiming to be wise they became fools; they traded the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or animals. God has allowed them to follow the desires of their hearts which has led them into greater and greater perversion, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples for the second time (compare Matthew 16:21; 20:17-19) that “the Son of man” (Jesus) would be delivered into the authority of men, would be killed, and would rise again on the third day. His disciples were distressed by this statement. At Capernaum the collectors of the temple tax (Jewish males were required to pay a half-shekel annual tax to support the Temple) asked Peter whether Jesus conformed to the obligation. Peter said, “Yes.”

When Peter came home, Jesus spoke before Peter had a chance. Jesus asked Peter if earthly kings collected a tax from their own sons or not. Peter knew they did not, and Jesus said that the sons of Kings were free of taxation. Jesus was not obligated to pay the tax, but in order to avoid giving offence, he told Peter to go to the sea (of Galilee) and cast a hook. When Peter caught the first fish and opened its mouth, he would find a shekel, which he was to give for the temple tax for Jesus and for himself.

Commentary:

God had freed the Israelites from slavery and death in Egypt. He had led them in the wilderness, and provided for their needs, but the people complained about their situation instead of giving thanks to God. The Lord was angry with the people because they were complaining to one another about their circumstances, and were rejecting the Lord and considering returning to Egypt (Numbers 11:20b).

God punished the people for their wickedness, but when they prayed to God, he forgave them, and he allowed them to have what they thought they wanted. God is faithful even when we aren’t. God is able to provide for us far more than we can imagine; far beyond what is humanly possible. God’s Word is reliable, no matter how impossible it may sound.

The way to get through the wilderness of this life is to trust and obey the Lord. We all need help to get through the wilderness. The Lord gives his Holy Spirit as a helper to those who trust and obey him.

Believers are not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the saving power of God. Through faith in Jesus we are forgiven and reconciled to God. By believing and obeying God’s Word we can receive the Holy Spirit, which puts God’s saving power within us to help and sustain us in the wilderness.

All creation testifies of the Creator.  Those who deny God and refuse to honor and obey him face God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. They will have no excuse. They have chosen to reject the truth and believe a lie; they have chosen to worship the “creature” instead of the Creator. Their minds are darkened, their thoughts futile, because they have exchanged the wisdom of God for the false wisdom of the world. They have chosen to follow the desires of their flesh, and God has given them over to their desires until they are destroyed by them.

Jesus is the Son of God. He should not be required to pay the temple tax, but he humbly submitted. Jesus reveals his divine nature: he knew what had happened with Peter before Peter had a chance to tell him, and he provided supernaturally for the money to pay the tax for both Peter and himself (Compare Numbers 11:1b, 22-23). By trusting and obeying Jesus’ instructions, Peter’s tax was paid.

Jesus knew that he would be crucified, but he submitted and allowed it to happen, because he knew it was God’s will and plan for our salvation. As the Son of God, Jesus was not obligated to submit to the authority of men; he did it voluntarily in obedience to God’s will. Jesus trusted and obeyed God’s Word, believing that he would be raised to eternal life on the third day.

Through Jesus Christ, God leads us out of slavery to sin and death to the Promised Land of eternal life, if we will trust and obey him. He gives believers his Holy Spirit to lead and sustain us through the wilderness of this life. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus has provided the payment for our sins through his death on the Cross. (Romans 5:8; John 3:16). All we have to do to receive salvation and eternal life is to trust Jesus and follow his instructions. God gives us the choice. If we decide to follow the desires of our flesh, he will let us, until we are destroyed by them. We will all be accountable to the Lord on the Day of Judgment (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 7, 2004;
Podcast: Wednesday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 11:24-33, (34-35)  –  The Lord keeps his Word;
Romans 1:28-2:11  –  God’s Judgment upon sin;
Matthew 18:1-9   –    Warnings of Hell;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord had told Moses that he would give a portion of the spirit which was upon Moses to seventy elders (Numbers 11:16), and that he would provide meat for the Israelites (Numbers 11:18-20). Moses questioned how the Lord could provide that much meat in the wilderness (Numbers 11:21-22). The Lord told Moses the people would see for themselves if God’s Word would come true (Numbers 11:23).

Moses told the people the words of the Lord, and he assembled the elders at the tent of meeting as instructed by the Lord. The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses and put some of his spirit upon the elders, and they began to prophesy.

Two men, Eldad and Medad, were among those registered as elders, but had not gone to the tent of meeting. They began prophesying in the camp. Someone from the camp came and told Moses what had happened, and Joshua, Moses’ lieutenant, suggested that Moses should forbid them from prophesying, but Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29).

The Lord caused a strong wind to blow a huge flock of quail inland from the sea, and they fell dead around the camp. They covered an area about a day’s journey on either side of the camp and about three feet deep. The people gathered the quails for a day and a half of constant labor. While they were eating the meat, many of the people died of a plague. They named the place Kibroth-hattavah, which means graves of craving, because they buried there the people who had craved meat.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who have denied God have been allowed by God to follow their self-destructive course. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, hatred of God, insolence, haughtiness, boastfulness; becoming inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. They know God’s Word that those who do such things deserve death, yet they not only do such things but approve of others who do the same.

Those who pass judgment on others condemn themselves because they are guilty of the same sins. God’s judgment rightly falls on those who do such things (Romans 2:2). Does anyone suppose that one can do such things and escape God’s punishment? Don’t presume that because God is patient and forbearing that he will not punish sin. God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance.

By refusing to repent, one is storing up wrath upon himself in the Day of Judgment, when God will reward or punish each individual according to what he has done in life. Those who have persevered in well-doing (obeying God’s Word) will receive eternal life; but those who have disobeyed the truth and have pursued wickedness there will receive (eternal) wrath and fury. The wicked will receive eternal suffering and distress, but the righteous will receive eternal glory, honor and peace. God will show no partiality.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The disciples asked Jesus who would be considered greatest in heaven. Jesus used a young child to illustrate the standard of greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said that unless we turn, and become like children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. One who is considered great must be humble like a child. Jesus said that anyone who shows kindness to such a one (a disciple) in Jesus name, has done so to Jesus himself; but one who causes such to sin, will receive punishment worse than death. The world will be punished for temptations to sin. Temptations are part of life, but we will be individually accountable for causing or yielding to temptations. The consequences of yielding to temptation are worse than any drastic measures we need to take to avoid sinning.

Commentary:

The Israelites craved meat (flesh) and the Lord allowed them to indulge their craving, but their indulgence cost them their lives. This is a parable about how God allows people to pursue their cravings, at the cost of their eternal lives. (The issue is not vegetarianism.) The Word of God is faithful and true. What God says, happens. The Lord wants to give his Holy Spirit to those who are willing to trust and obey him, to help them do what he asks them to do.

Paul’s point is that God allows people to choose whether to follow God’s commands or to pursue their own cravings, but that departing from God’s Word and following one’s own desires leads ultimately to eternal death and destruction.

The way to eternal life is to turn from pursuing our own desires and to become trusting and obedient, like little children, to our heavenly father through Jesus Christ. God gives us the freedom to make our own choices, but, if we could fully realize the consequences of disobedience to God’s will, no sacrifice on our part would be too great to avoid sinning.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is the only sacrifice that can save us from sin. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). There is a Day of Judgment coming, when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in life (John 5:28-29; Mathew 25:31-46).

God loves us and wants us to have eternal life with him in heaven (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). Forgiveness and salvation are a free gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only through faith in Jesus Christ are we able to resist temptation. Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus has made the sacrifice on the Cross once for all time and all people to save us from sin. Are you trusting and following Jesus, or are you following your cravings? Where will you choose to spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 8, 2004;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 12:1-16  –  Punishment of Miriam;
Romans 2:12-24  –  Principle of judgment;
Matthew 18:10-20  –  The lost sheep; church discipline;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Miriam and Aaron, sister and brother of Moses, spoke against Moses because he had married a Cushite (a Midianite) woman (Exodus 2:21). They challenged Moses’ spiritual leadership of the people, saying that the Lord had spoken also through them. Moses was a very humble person. The Lord called Moses, Aaron and Miriam out to the tent of meeting, and appeared before them in the pillar of cloud.

The Lord called Miriam and Aaron to step forward, and he told them that with other prophets the Lord spoke to them in a vision or dream, but the Lord had entrusted Moses with the stewardship of the Lord’s household and spoke to Moses face-to-face. Miriam and Aaron should have been afraid to speak against the Lord’s servant.

The Lord was angry with them, and when he departed in the pillar of cloud, Miriam had become leprous. Aaron begged Moses for forgiveness for himself and Miriam, so Moses asked the Lord to heal Miriam. The Lord replied that her punishment could not be less than that of a daughter spat upon (cursed) by her father, so she was forced to stay outside the camp for seven days, and the people encamped until the seven days were over.

Romans Paraphrase:

All people will face judgment before God. Gentiles, who sin, although not under God’s law, will perish with all those who have sinned under the law. “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13). Though not under the law, Gentiles who follow their conscience do what the law requires. Those who rely upon the law and boast of their relationship with God, who know his will and his Word and presume to instruct others, ought to keep the law themselves. Those who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. The failure of God’s people to keep his commands causes God’s name to be blasphemed by the world.

Matthew Paraphrase:

We should respect and care for all people, because the Lord cares for each individual and doesn’t want anyone to perish. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus used an everyday image of his time to illustrate God’s concern for each individual. The Lord doesn’t abandon the straying to their fate, but actively seeks them to bring them back to safety. The Lord rejoices more when the lost and straying are restored than over those who never went astray.

Jesus also gave his disciples instructions concerning discipline among his followers. If someone sins against us we should tell him his sin privately and give him the opportunity to repent. If a believer who has sinned against us doesn’t repent, we should confront him in the presence of witnesses. If he still doesn’t repent, he should be brought before the Church. If he doesn’t heed the pronouncement of the Church, he is to be excluded from fellowship. Jesus gave his Church the responsibility for judgment and discipline within the Church.

Commentary:

Miriam and Aaron were suffering from spiritual pride and selfish ambition. They were members of the congregation of Israel who had gained some knowledge of God’s Word and had risen to leadership positions, and were trying to establish their own “empires,” areas of influence where they could dominate. They thought they could replace Moses.

Moses was a person of great humility (Exodus 3:11) and a trusted and faithful servant of the Lord. Moses was not jealous of Miriam and Aaron, or competing with them. Moses was glad to share some of his authority and responsibility with them. Miriam and Aaron did not have a personal relationship with the Lord like Moses did. God rebuked and punished them for using the ministry they had been given to promote their own selfish interests.

All people will be accountable to the Lord on the Day of Judgment for what each has individually done in life (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Christians are not under the Law of Moses, provided that they live in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that Christians can do what is contrary to the Law.

Christians are not obligated to keep Jewish Law, but we are obligated to obey God’s Word. Christians who do what they know is contrary to God’s Word and Jesus’ teaching dishonor the Lord and cause his name to be blasphemed by the world.

The Lord doesn’t want any individual to perish (die eternally). He seeks us when we stray, in order to bring us back to safety in his flock. Sheep are safe when they follow their shepherd; he takes care of them. They get into danger when they go off on their own and follow their own interests. The Lord’s discipline is intended to bring us to repentance.

The Church is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the standards of behavior of its members. Is the Church living up to its responsibility to enforce scriptural, Godly standards among its membership? Is the Church allowing behavior in the Church which is not in accord with God’s Word or tolerable in heaven?

Jesus is the Shepherd of his Church. In one sense, the world is his flock, but some are following their own interests and are lost. Believers are the assistants. Believers need to remember that the church is not our private “empire;” the Church is not our private social club.

Believers need to be followers of Jesus; we need to be disciples, and obey all that he taught, and then go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Church is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the standards of discipleship within the Church. Are we the part of Jesus’ flock that is obeying Jesus, or are we part of the flock that is straying? Is our behavior in the world glorifying or dishonoring Jesus’ name? Are we seeking the lost, or are we driving them away?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday
5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 9, 2004;
Podcast: Friday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 13:1-3, 21-30  –  Scouting out Canaan;
Romans 2:25-3:8  –   Advantage of the Jews;
Matthew 18:21-35  –  Forgiveness;

Numbers Paraphrase:

The Lord directed Moses to send twelve scouts, one leader from each tribe, to scout the land of Canaan. They scouted from the Wilderness of Zin (northeast of Kadesh-barnea), at the southern end of Israel, to the entrance of Hamath, (in the valley of Lebanon) which is the northern end of Israel. At Hebron (about 20 miles south of Jerusalem) they saw three descendants of Anak (Anakim; Nephilim; giants). In the vicinity of Hebron they cut from a vine a large single cluster of grapes which required two people to carry it on a pole between them.

They returned after forty days, bringing the fruit of the land as evidence of its productivity. They reported that “the land flows with milk and honey” (seeming like paradise to wilderness nomads), but they reported that the people of the land were strong and the cities fortified, and that there were giants in the land. Caleb, one of the scouts [and Joshua (Numbers 14:6-9), who later became Moses’ successor], urged the Israelites to enter the land immediately to occupy it, believing that Israel was well able to overcome the inhabitants.

Romans Paraphrase:

Keeping the Law of Moses is of value if one can do it, but if one breaks any of it, one becomes like a Gentile (pagan), guilty before God. If a Gentile does what the Law requires, even though not bound by the covenant of the Law, God will judge him as righteous. One who keeps the precepts of the Law will be judged righteous by God, while those who disobey the Law will be condemned, regardless of physical circumcision, or of covenant relationship.

Real “Jewishness” is internal, not external. Real circumcision (the mark of the Covenant of Law) is a matter of the heart; spiritual rather than literal. Those who are truly circumcised are not seeking the praise of men (by outward display) but the praise of God (who knows our inner thoughts and attitudes).

Then what advantage is it to be a Jew or to have been circumcised? Paul thinks that they have an advantage, because they have the scriptures through which they have been given the promises of God. The unfaithfulness of some does not nullify God’s faithfulness. But their wicked unfaithfulness is not excused by serving as a bad example. Doing evil so that good may come from it is perverted.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had just told his disciples how to deal with grievances among themselves (Matthew 18:15-20). Peter wanted to know if one should forgive an individual as many as seven times. Jesus replied that one should forgive a person every time, as many times as necessary; true forgiveness doesn’t keep score.  To illustrate forgiveness, Jesus told a parable about a king settling accounts with his servants.

When the king began the accounting, a servant was brought before him who owed perhaps ten million dollars. The servant could not pay, so the king ordered the man, his wife, children and all his possessions to be sold to satisfy the debt. The man pleaded with the king to have patience, promising to repay the debt. The king had pity on the servant and released him and forgave the entire debt.

As the servant left the accounting, he passed a fellow servant who owed him twenty dollars. The forgiven debtor grabbed his fellow servant by the neck and demanded immediate repayment. The fellow servant asked for patience and promised to repay, but the forgiven debtor had his fellow servant put in prison until he should repay the debt.

The other servants of the king were distressed by the forgiven debtor’s harsh treatment of his fellow servant, and complained to the king. The king summoned the servant he had forgiven and told him that since the king had forgiven him all his large debt, that he should have shown mercy to his fellow servant concerning his much smaller debt. The king reversed his decision to forgive the debt, and threw the wicked servant into jail until he could repay his debt. Jesus warned that God will do likewise to those who do not truly forgive others.

Commentary:

God wanted to give the Israelites the Promised Land. Sending scouts, they were able to see for themselves what the Promised Land offered and what they needed to overcome. Two of the scouts were enthusiastic and trusted in the Lord that they could overcome the few obstacles, realizing the greatness of the reward. But the others exaggerated the difficulty and made excuses for why they couldn’t accomplish what the Lord required.

We are saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith in Jesus; not by keeping the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). But faith in Jesus means trusting in him and obeying him (Matthew 7:21). No one will be saved by keeping the Law, because if one fails in any point to keep the Law one is guilty of all of it (James 2:10). That doesn’t mean that we can do what is contrary to God’s Word. Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to be forgiven when we fall short.

Real Christianity is not outward appearance but inner attitude. Real Christians are those who are seeking to please God, rather than using religion to be well-thought-of by others. Real Christianity is not a matter of church membership. We have the scriptures and we have the promises of God. Are we living like the New Israel, or are we living like pagans? Are we acting on the promises and claiming the territory, or are we making excuses?  Are we using the difficulty of following Jesus’ teachings as an excuse for not trying? Do we think that doing what is contrary to God’s Word glorifies God’s faithfulness, mercy and grace? Do we think that doing evil will promote good?

Jesus had been teaching his disciples about Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20; see journal entry for yesterday, Thursday, 5 Pentecost – Even ): holding fellow believers accountable for their behavior in relationship to God’s Word. The parable today (Matthew 18:23-35) is about God’s gift of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We have the entire forgiveness of all our sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

Does that mean that we can sin as much as we want, because it has already been forgiven? In the parable, the king condemned the wicked servant because the servant had not benefited from the king’s forgiveness by following the king’s example and doing something of what the king had done for him to others.  The wicked servant had not appreciated the king’s forgiveness and had not tried to do what was pleasing to the king.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord (John 5:28-29). Those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday
5 Pentecost – Even
First Posted July 10, 2004;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 13:31-14:25  –   Moses intercedes for the people;
Romans 3:9-20  –   All are guilty;
Matthew 19:1-12  –  Marriage and divorce;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Scouts had returned from scouting out the land, and Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:6-9), had given a good report, encouraging Israel to enter and conquer the land, but the other scouts gave an evil report. They had seen three giants (sons of Anak; Numbers 13:22) and they exaggerated the number and size of the giants, saying that all the people were giants, and that the scouts had seemed as tiny as grasshoppers in comparison (Numbers 13:32b, 33).

The congregation of Israel wept and murmured against Moses and questioned the Lord’s motive in bringing them there. They were talking about electing a new captain and returning to Egypt. Joshua and Caleb again spoke, encouraging the congregation to trust and follow the Lord and take possession of the land. But the congregation talked about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting, and the Lord was angry, because the Israelites had not learned to trust the Lord after witnessing all the great things the Lord had done for them.
The Lord was going to destroy the congregation and make another greater nation arise, but Moses interceded for the people. Moses told the Lord that if the Lord destroyed the people, Egypt and the surrounding people, knowing that the Lord was leading them, would say that the Lord was not able to bring his people into the land he swore to give them.

Moses acknowledged God’s great power, steadfast love and forgiveness, but also his righteous judgment, and asked the Lord to forgive his people according to his great love and his previous mercies. The Lord pardoned the people, and did not destroy them, but punished them by not allowing them to enter the Promised Land. Only Caleb (and Joshua) would be allowed to enter because they had a different spirit and had followed the Lord fully (obediently). The Lord instructed Moses to lead them into the wilderness.
Romans Paraphrase:

In spite of their advantage in relationship with the Lord, the Jews are no better than Gentiles, because all are sinners. None is righteous before God. “All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong” (Romans 3:12a). They deceive, curse, and murder. “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). The Law refutes and silences mankind’s contradiction of the Law, so that the whole world may be held accountable to God. “For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the Law, since through the Law comes knowledge of sin.

Matthew 19:1-12:

Jesus left Galilee and entered the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. Large crowds followed Jesus and he healed them. The Pharisees (religious leaders; legalists), tested Jesus by asking him whether divorce was lawful. Jesus answered them with scripture, showing that in marriage a man and woman become one, and saying that what God joins together man must not separate.

The Pharisees asked why Moses had allowed divorce, and Jesus replied that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts. Jesus declared that “whoever divorces his wife except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). The disciples realized that it might be better to remain unmarried, but Jesus replied that not everyone can accept voluntary celibacy.

Commentary:

The history of God’s dealings with his people is also a parable of our life on this earth. The people had experienced their deliverance from slavery and death in Egypt and the many great things the Lord had done for them on their journey through the wilderness, and they had heard reports of the blessings of the Promised Land, but they were going to let a few giants (a few difficulties) keep them from following the Lord and entering the Promised Land. They exaggerated the difficulties, and they refused to believe that the Lord could help them overcome the difficulties (Numbers 14:8-9).

They could have been living in the Promised Land right then; all they had to do was follow the Lord. Instead, they wanted to “stone the prophets” who encouraged them to trust and obey God’s Word (Numbers 14:10), and they wanted to elect new leaders who would allow them to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:4). The Lord didn’t destroy them right then; he just banished them to the wilderness for the rest of their lives, and forbid them to enter the Promised Land. But Caleb and Joshua were different; they had a different Spirit and they followed the Lord obediently.

We are saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith in Jesus; not by keeping the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9; see journal entry for yesterday). But faith in Jesus means trusting and obeying him (Matthew 7:21). The Law (indeed, the Word of God, the Bible) is given to refute and silence man’s contradiction of God’s will, so that the world may be held accountable to God. God’s purpose in giving the Law was to make mankind aware of sin.

The Jews had the advantage of being entrusted with God’s Word (Romans 3:2), but they were as guilty of sin (Romans 3:9) as the Gentiles (Pagans; non-Jews). No one will be saved by keeping the Law (Romans 3:20). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus is the one who can give us a new Spirit (Matthew 3:11), the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, to lead us and help us overcome the “giants.” Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to those who follow him obediently (John 14:15-17;  Isaiah 42:5e).

Jesus’ teachings are not impossible or too difficult for us to follow. Indeed, Jesus’ commands (and God’s Word) were made in consideration of our weaknesses. God permits divorce although it is contrary to his will, and Jesus does not require celibacy. The Pharisees were misusing God’s Word. They wanted to make God’s Word more restrictive that God intended, and they wanted to attack and destroy Jesus, the Son of God, the Living Word (John 1:1, 14), with it.

Christians are the New Israel, the new People of God. Nominal Christians (those who claim to be “Christians”) are no better off than pagans. They have the scriptures, but they are as much under the power of sin as pagans. Real Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ. They are learning to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20). Real Christians have been “born-again” (John3:3, 5-8) by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). The Holy Spirit is the mark and guarantee that one belongs to Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible to know definitely for oneself, that one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

The people of Israel wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua for truly speaking God’s Word. They wanted to elect new leaders who would allow them to return to “Egypt,” the place where they were in bondage to sin and death. They wanted leaders who wouldn’t make them fight the “giants” of sin. The Pharisees wanted to crucify Jesus for truly proclaiming God’s Word. Paul said to Timothy, “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 likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

So, how are we doing? Living in the Promised Land begins when we are born-again. We will still have to fight a few giants, but the Lord will give us the victory. We just have to follow the Lord and enter and claim the promises.

Are we willing to listen to sound teaching, or do we have itching ears? Are we following leaders who truly proclaim God’s Word, or are we choosing leaders who will allow us to live in the “Egypt” of sin and death? Are we willing to face a few giants in the power and Spirit of the Lord, or do we long for the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt? Are we willing to enter and claim the Promised Land, or do we want to wander in the wilderness until we die eternally?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 4 Pentecost – Even – 07/06 – 12/2014

July 5, 2014

Week of 4 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 4 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/26/04;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 –   Insatiable desires;
Acts 10:9-23   –   Peter called to Cornelius;
Luke 12:32-40  –   Be ready!

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

What good are wealth, possessions and honor, if a person cannot enjoy them? These are all gifts of God; but it is also God who gives the ability to enjoy them. A person can live many years and have a large family and yet not enjoy his life, nor find rest in death. The teacher says that a miscarried baby, still-born, is better off. It has never seen the evils of this world, and yet finds rest. Though a person live for thousands of years, what good is long life without enjoyment? “Do not all go to the one place” (Ecclesiastes 6:6b)? All a person’s efforts are directed at satisfying his physical needs like food, but his appetites are never satisfied.

What advantage has the wise man over the fool? Both have the same needs and desires. What advantage have the poor who know how to beg? It is better to know what you need and have it at hand than to wander about trying to satisfy your desires. I

t is well-known that a man is not able to dispute with one who is stronger than he. More words don’t make a better argument. “Who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow” (Ecclesiastes  6:12a). Who can know what will happen after he is dead?

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter was staying at the home of Simon, a tanner, in Joppa. At noon (the Roman lunch hour) he went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry, but while waiting for lunch he fell into a trance and saw a vision of something like a great sheet let down by its four corners. It contained all sorts of animals, and a voice instructed Peter to kill and eat. But Peter objected, saying that he had never eaten any animals which were regarded as common (i.e., ritually unclean. Only certain animals were allowed for food, under Jewish Law.) The voice replied, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:14). This dialog happened three times, and then the vision ended.

As Peter was trying to understand the vision he had seen, three men, sent by Cornelius, a Roman Centurion from Caesarea at the instruction of an angel, to bring Peter to him (Acts 10:1-8), arrived at the gate of the house and were asking for him. While Peter was pondering the vision, the Holy Spirit told Peter that the men were downstairs asking for him and that he should go down and accompany them without hesitation.

Peter went down and asked the reason for their coming, and was told that Cornelius was a God-fearing man who was highly regarded by all Jews, and that Cornelius had been told by an angel to seek Peter at this place and bring him to Cornelius. So Peter invited them to be his overnight guests (and went with them to Cornelius the next day).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples that God wants to give us eternal life in his kingdom of Heaven. Jesus advises us to let go of our material wealth and possessions so that we can accumulate the spiritual treasure which is eternal.  What we treasure will determine where our priorities are, and where we will spend eternity. Jesus also instructed his disciples to be alert and ready for the sudden, unexpected coming of the kingdom of God, so that they would not be unprepared.

Jesus used an image of the kingdom of God as the Messianic banquet, and compared it to a Jewish marriage feast. The disciples must be alert and prepared for the Lord whenever he returns. They will be blessed when the Lord returns, if he finds them awake and prepared. The Lord will return unexpectedly. Jesus used the illustration of the coming of a thief in the night as an example, saying that an owner’s house is broken into only because the owner didn’t know when the thief was coming and wasn’t prepared.

Commentary:

What is the meaning and purpose of life? Is the one with the most possessions when he dies really the winner? Is the one who “grabs the most gusto” really the winner? The teacher of Ecclesiastes says that pursuit of material wealth, possessions and worldly honor will never really satisfy, nor will we ever gratify our appetites and desires.

Is this really all there is? Is life meaningless, or are we the creation of God who has a definite plan and purpose? Do we all go to the same place when we die (Ecclesiastes 6:6b)? Who can know what happens to a person after he dies (Ecclesiastes 6:12b)? Is God stronger and wiser than man (Ecclesiastes 6:10)? God’s Word declares that we are eternal; that there is existence beyond our physical death. The issue is where we will spend that eternity.

I believe that the meaning and purpose of this life is to seek and come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 17:26-27). Wouldn’t it be better to know that now, so that we can set our sights on  eternity, than to waste this life pursuing things that don’t satisfy and are not eternal (Ecclesiastes 6:9). No matter how long we live in this world, it cannot compare with eternity.

God’s plan for our eternity offers two possibilities: eternal life in Heaven with God or eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. Note that nothingness and reincarnation are not alternatives; Hebrews 9:27). Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Peter was Jesus’ disciple. He had been filled with the promised Holy Spirit (Acts Chapter 2). He had personal daily fellowship with the Lord in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. He was guided by and obedient to the Holy Spirit. Peter’s vision shows that it is not by works (keeping) of the Law, but a personal relationship with the Lord, in trust and obedience, by which we are saved. Peter was ready when the Lord directed Cornelius to send for him, and God was able to use him to present the Gospel and convert the first Gentile to Christ.

Jesus warns us not to pursue worldly wealth, possessions and honor, but instead to seek the eternal kingdom of God. If we live for the gratification of the flesh, what kind of eternity will we experience when the flesh, and the things that gratify it, no longer exist, if we lack everything needed for life in eternity? Jesus warns us that we need to prepare now for his coming, and to be awake and watchful, because no one knows when the Day of the Lord will come.

Are you ready for the Day of the Lord? Where is your treasure?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/27/04;
Podcast: Monday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14  –  Wisdom and folly;
Galatians 4:12-20   –   Truth spoken in love;
Matthew 15:21-28   –  The Canaanite woman;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

A good reputation is better than medicine; a good reputation at the end of one’s life is better than at the beginning. Sorrow is more common than rejoicing, in this life. Sorrow develops character, but laughter doesn’t.  Those who are wise mourn the ways of the world; only fools rejoice in worldly ways.

It is better to be rebuked by the wise than to take pleasure in the song of fools. The laughter of fools is intense but not productive or enduring, like a fire made with thorns. Oppression renders wisdom useless, and a bribe corrupts sound judgment. Ending well is better than beginning well; patience produces better results than pride. Don’t become angry quickly; only a fool allows anger to be a permanent companion.

The belief that former days were better than the present is not based on rational facts. An inheritance is not much good to a fool, nor to one who doesn’t live long enough to enjoy it. Wisdom is as useful as money in protecting oneself. Who can restore what God destroys? God has provided for both prosperity and adversity in life; enjoy (and be thankful to God in) prosperity and trust God in adversity.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul urged the Galatians to join with Paul by following his example, as he had joined himself to them in order to present the Gospel. When Paul first came to them he was detained by a physical ailment (possibly of the eyes; see v. 15), and the Galatians took care of him, showing Paul special consideration as a messenger from God; as though showing hospitality to Jesus Christ himself. Paul asked what had happened to their feelings for him now; had Paul become their enemy by telling them the truth?

The Judaizers (false teachers who had arisen within the Galatian congregation, teaching that Gentile Christians had to keep the Jewish Laws) were flattering the Galatians and telling them what made the Galatians feel good, not in the Galatians best interest, but to promote the teachers’ own selfish interest. (In contrast, Paul had told the Galatians the truth in love in the Galatians’ best interest, although it made them feel bad hearing it.) Paul agreed that it is nice to be complimented and encouraged when the purpose is good (but consider the motive).

Paul considered the Galatians as his children in the Gospel, concerned that they grow up to spiritual maturity. He longed to be with them so that he could praise and encourage them as he saw them respond to his correction.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus went into the region of Tyre and Sidon (The Phoenician /Canaanite culture which Israel had displaced from the Promised Land), and encountered a Canaanite woman who, although a Gentile, addressed Jesus as Lord and Messiah (Son of David), and asked Jesus to heal her daughter of possession by a demon. Jesus didn’t acknowledge her, but she persisted, and the disciples begged Jesus to send her away, because she was annoying them.

Jesus told them that he had been sent to call the Jews back to God, but the woman came and knelt before him, calling him Lord, and asking for help for her daughter. Jesus told her it wasn’t fair to give what was intended for the children of Israel, to “dogs” (those less favored in God’s eyes, perhaps). The woman accepted what Jesus said, and yet persisted, pointing out that God provides for the “dogs,” allowing them to receive crumbs from their master’s table. Jesus commended her for her faith, and healed her daughter instantly at his word.

Commentary:

Wisdom is contrasted with folly. [Note that it is true, divine wisdom, the wisdom of God by which the world was created, that is referred to, not what the world falsely considers wisdom; see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24].  Ending well is better than beginning well (Ecclesiastes 7:1; 8). Patience produces better results than arrogance (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Rebuke by the wise is better than the flattery of a fool (Ecclesiastes 7:5).

Paul’s rebuke of the Galatians exemplifies the benefit of the rebuke of wisdom over the flattery of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:5). The Galatians had a choice; were they going to accept the painful rebuke of the truth from Paul to their eternal benefit, or were they going to seek the enjoyment of the false flattery of the Judaizers to their eternal detriment? Surely, we can enjoy a compliment, when the motive for it is good, but we must consider the motive.

Paul warned Timothy that the time would come when people would not endure sound teaching, but having “itching ears” they would get for themselves teachers to suit their own likings (who would tell them what they wanted to hear) and would turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Do we want to hear the truth, even if it is painful, or are we only willing to hear what makes us feel good? Believers are expected to grow in spiritual maturity.

The Canaanite woman is an illustration of patience triumphing over pride, and ending well over beginning well (Ecclesiastes 7:8). She addressed Jesus as Lord, and he referred to her as a “dog.” Would we have persisted with patience, responding with faith, or would we have taken offense because of pride?

Is it more important to be well-thought-of by this world, or to be commended by Jesus on the Day of Judgment? Those who seek to avoid all discomfort don’t develop character. Are we willing to hear the truth even if painful? Is living well right now worth losing eternal life in Heaven?

God wants us to inherit eternal life in Heaven. Will we squander that inheritance? Will we perish for our sins by refusing to accept Jesus as our Lord? Money can’t buy eternal life in heaven; trusting and obeying God’s wisdom in Jesus Christ can.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/28/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 8:14-9:10 –  Eat, drink, and be merry?
Galatians 4:21-31  –  Allegory of Hagar and Sarah;
Matthew 15:29-39  –  Feeding the four thousand;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

The teacher notes that bad things happen to the righteous and good things happen to the wicked. The teacher commends enjoyment; to eat, drink and enjoy, balancing and sustaining one’s toil. The world is in constant activity; even though he may claim to, man cannot know all the work of God, no matter how hard he tries.

Everything seems meaningless, since all people seem to share the same fate; since righteous and wicked, good and evil, clean and unclean, religious and non-religious all die. Is God for us or against us?

The hearts of men are full of evil. As long as one lives there is hope, because one is aware that death is coming; once death comes one knows nothing, there is no further reward, and one is forgotten. Enjoy life according to God’s will. Do your work to the best of your ability, because if death is nothingness, there will be no enjoyment or work, wisdom or knowledge in the grave.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul uses an allegory of Hagar and Sarah to illustrate the two covenants: of Law, and of grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith. Abraham had a son, Isaac, by Abraham’s wife, Sarah, according to God’s promise, who would inherit God’s promise to Abraham. But Abraham also had a son, Ishmael, by Sarah’s slave, Hagar, born of the flesh.

Hagar represents the covenant of Mount Sinai (the giving of the Law to Moses), the earthly Jerusalem, bearing children for slavery. But Sarah represents the new covenant of grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and the New Jerusalem which is the kingdom of God in Heaven. Believers in Jesus are the children of the promise, like Isaac. The point is that those who rely upon the Law rather than faith in Jesus will be excluded from the promise, as Hagar and Ishmael were sent away into the wilderness.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus went into the hills beside the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd came to him bringing many who were lame, crippled, blind, mute or otherwise in need of healing, and Jesus healed them all. The crowd was amazed and glorified God for the healings. They had been with Jesus for three days out in the countryside, and Jesus did not want to send them away before feeding them, concerned that they might be too weak from hunger.

His disciples didn’t know how they could feed so many, since there was nowhere to obtain food. Jesus asked, and the disciples told him that they had seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Jesus had the crowd sit down, and he took the bread and fish, and having given thanks, broke them and had the disciples distribute the food to the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied, and collected seven baskets full of leftovers. The crowd was about four thousand people.

Commentary:

Is life “eat, drink and be merry; for tomorrow we die”? If there were no life beyond the grave, that would be valid. Don’t assume that the righteous and wicked both have the same fate because we do not see the wicked punished and the righteous rewarded in this life.

Before the coming of Jesus Christ, people weren’t able to know with certainty whether God is for us or against us (Ecclesiastes 9:1b RSV), but in Jesus Christ we can see that God loves us and wants us to live eternally with him (John 3:16-17). Before Jesus Christ, people weren’t able to know with certainty whether there was a resurrection and eternal life beyond the grave. There were over five hundred eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-7) plus the testimony of countless “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) believers who have personally experienced the risen Jesus through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit since then, beginning with the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8; known as Saul before his conversion: Acts 9:3-5).

Now is the time to seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. No one knows when one will die; only as long as we’re still alive do we have hope of coming to a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Once we’re dead our eternal fate is sealed.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; Ecclesiastes 9:3c). The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23; Ecclesiastes 9:3e). There is a Day of Judgment coming when all will be accountable to God for what they have done in life (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46) Those who have trusted in Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish (John 3:16-17). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We will not be saved by keeping the Law of Moses (Galatians 2:16); we will not be saved by being “good people.”

We are all sin-sick and in need of spiritual healing (Ecclesiastes 9:3c, Romans 3:23). All who come to Jesus in faith are healed (Matthew 15:30d). The whole fulness of deity dwells bodily in Jesus [Colossians 2: (8), 9]. We can know God the Father only through Jesus (Matthew 11:27c; John 14:9b).

Jesus cares about both our physical and spiritual needs. The Lord is able to provide abundantly, supernaturally, beyond the limitations of this present world. The image of the four thousand eating with the Lord on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee is an allegory of life now and eternally in Jesus Christ, although we must realize that life in this world is not just a “picnic” for believers. There are going to be persecutions, symbolized by the conflict between Isaac and Ishmael (Galatians 4:29). The best we can hope for now and eternally is to have fellowship with the Lord, and work in this life for the coming of his kingdom.

We don’t have to wait until we die to know for certain whether there is life after death. We don’t have to wait until we die to have personal fellowship with the Lord. In fact, if we wait until we die to have fellowship with the Lord, it will be too late!  We must come to Jesus and be born-again (filled with his Holy Spirit) now, in this lifetime. The Holy Spirit is the seal, the “down-payment” and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b,11,15-16). It is possible to know with certainty that one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/29/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18  –   Life and wisdom;
Galatians 5:1-15  –   Christian freedom;
Matthew 16:1-12  –   True security;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Man doesn’t know when evil may befall him. He is like a fish caught in a net or a bird caught in a snare; it falls suddenly on him.

The teacher (“Preacher;” author of Ecclesiastes) gave an example of how the wisdom of the poor is not properly valued. He asks us to visualize a small city with few men besieged by a great king with a mighty army. A poor man of the city thought of a way which saved the city from the siege, yet he was forgotten. Brain is better than brawn, but the world tends to value social status more than wisdom. Wise words spoken calmly are better than shouting of a leader among fools. “Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

Galatians Paraphrase:

Christ has set us free from slavery to the Law of Moses; let us be careful not to become re-enslaved. Believers who seek to be justified (made right with God) by keeping the Law of Moses remove themselves from the salvation which is only by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Christians who would enter into the covenant of Law [circumcision is the mark (seal) of that covenant] cut themselves off from Christ. Those who seek justification by works (keeping) of the Law have fallen away from grace (free gift; unmerited favor). In Christ Jesus, faith working through love is what matters, not whether one is circumcised or not.

The Galatians had been growing well spiritually, but false teachers had interfered and hindered their progress. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). False teachers will be punished on the Day of Judgment. Paul says that if he were preaching circumcision (justification by keeping the Law), the world would not be inclined to persecute him as it was; the Gospel of the Cross of Christ is offensive to the world.

Paul sees circumcision, the mark of the Covenant of Law, as spiritual mutilation, and wishes those who were attempting to mutilate his beloved believers would instead “mutilate” themselves. God has called us to freedom through Christ, but we are not to use that freedom to indulge our sinful human nature. Instead we are to use that freedom to serve one another in love. The whole Law can be summed up in one word: Love; we are to love others as we love ourselves. If we attack and destroy others, we can expect to receive the same.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The Pharisees and Saducees (religious leaders) came to Jesus and asked for a sign (that Jesus was from God) to test him. Jesus replied that they knew how to predict the weather from the appearance of the sky, but apparently could not interpret the signs of the times (the miracles Jesus was doing openly; see Matthew 12:9-14). Jesus said that it is an evil and unfaithful generation which seeks “proof” (in addition to the signs that are all around them), but no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah. (Jonah was the prophet who was swallowed by a whale, and after three days in the belly of the whale, was restored).

Jesus and the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, and on the other side the disciples were worried because they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus told the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees. The disciples thought Jesus was talking about bread. Jesus was aware of this, and asked them why they were worried about their lack of bread. Didn’t they remember how Jesus had fed the five thousand and the four thousand, and how they had more bread than they needed? The disciples had not recognized that Jesus was not talking about bread but about the teachings of the Pharisees and Saducees.

Commentary:

The world claims to value wisdom, but the wisdom of the world is false wisdom. True wisdom is the divine wisdom by which God created the world (Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Sin is what perverts the world. The Law was given to show that the worldly system of works is deceptive.

No one is made righteous by keeping the Law, because no one is able to keep the Law (Galatians 2:16; 2:10). All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). Jesus is the fulfillment of the parable of the wisdom of the poor man (Jesus was not wealthy, successful or powerful by this world’s standards) which saves the world from destruction by God, but whose wisdom is not valued or heeded by the world.

The Gospel of Jesus seems like foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The world thinks that reward according to works is fair and wise, but that is not how it works out in life. Because of sin, the world is in slavery to sin and death. Leaven is a symbol for sin, because in a sense it results from a process of putrefaction, and because it permeates whatever it comes in contact with (Ecclesiastes 9:18b; Galatians 5:9; Matthew 16:6). God’s plan is based on love, and is given as a free gift received by faith in Jesus Christ. Christ has set us free from bondage to sin and death. The world opposes the Gospel of Christ because the Gospel contradicts the world’s ways.

The religious leaders wanted Jesus to do some “work” to prove to them that he was the Messiah. Jesus’ works were all around them (Matthew 15:29-31), but the Pharisees and Sadducees did not receive them with faith. Jesus died on the cross, was in the tomb, and rose again on the third day (as Jonah had been in the belly of the whale three days), and many still would not believe.

The Pharisees and Saducees relied on their keeping of the Law and considered themselves righteous, thus missing the free gift which is only through faith in Jesus Christ. The sin of the Pharisees and Saducees was unbelief in Jesus (John 3:18). They valued the world’s false wisdom, and rejected Jesus, who is the wisdom of God. The disciples’ worry over material necessities like bread interfered with their ability to hear Jesus’ message, because they were focused on their own provisions for their security, rather than depending on Jesus.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Are we going to accept God’s free gift and plan of salvation, or are we going to try to earn salvation by following the worldly system? Are we going to follow worldly wisdom or are we going to follow Jesus Christ, the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)? Are our attempts to provide for our own security interfering with our ability to hear and respond to Jesus’ message?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 4 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/30/04;
Podcast: Thursday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8  –  Life’s uncertainties;
Galatians 5:16-24  –  Walk by the Spirit;
Matthew 16:13-20  –  Peter’s Confession;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Don’t be afraid to take risks (“Cast your ‘bread…’” i.e., your life, livelihood; eventually you will have a return; Ecclesiastes 11:1). Diversify your investments to spread and minimize your risks (Ecclesiastes 11:2). What happens, happens; man cannot do anything about it (Ecclesiastes 11:3). A person must go ahead with one’s life and act, without waiting for ideal conditions.

We do not have to understand the mysteries of God and his works. There are lots of things in daily life we don’t need to fully understand to accept, like the wind, or when life begins in the womb. Do what needs to be done during the day; you cannot tell in advance what will prosper and what will fail. “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun” (Ecclesiastes 11:7). Rejoice in all the days of your life, but remember that there will be many days of darkness.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Believers are to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not to gratify their human urges. Our natural human desires are contrary to the desires of God’s Spirit, and the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit is in opposition to our human nature, to keep us from following our natural inclinations.

Those who are led by the Spirit are not under the covenant of Law. Examples of works of the flesh are: immorality,  impurity (of thought or action) licentiousness (lawlessness, lewdness), idolatry, sorcery, enmity (hatred), strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, “party spirit” (schismatic factionalism; heresies; partisanship), envy, drunkenness, carousing, and similar works. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). No law is necessary to restrain such deeds.

Those who belong to Christ have sacrificed their human passions and desires as Christ gave up his human life as a sacrifice for our sins. If we have life, now and eternally, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, let us live according to the will and direction of the Holy Spirit. Believers are to abstain from self-conceit, and from provoking or envying one another.

Matthew Paraphrase:

In Caesarea Philippi (on the northern border of Galilee) Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man (i.e., Jesus) is” (Matthew 16:13b) The disciples said that some were saying that Jesus was John the Baptizer, some said Elijah, and others thought he was Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16:15). Simon (Peter) replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Jesus answered, “Blessed are you, Simon (Peter’s personal, ‘given’ name) Bar-Jona (which means ‘son of John;’ his surname)! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are (henceforth to be called) Peter [in Greek, ‘Petros;’ in Aramaic, ‘Kepha’ (thus 'Cephas'; compare 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:9). This involves a play on words in the original Aramaic which Jesus spoke, which was preserved in the Greek in which the New Testament was originally written], and on this rock (Greek: ‘petra;’ Aramaic: ‘kepha’) I will build my church and the powers of death (the gates of Hades) will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17). Jesus declared, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind (forbid) on earth shall be bound (forbidden) in heaven, and whatever you loose (permit) on earth shall be loosed (permitted) in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Jesus strictly instructed his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

We don’t have to understand the mysteries of God in order to believe that God exists and that all things are in his control. There are lots of things in everyday experience that we accept without fully understanding, and which we cannot personally control. We experience the wind, even if we can’t see it or know how it works.

We cannot see God, but we can come to know God through Jesus Christ, and we can experience the Holy Spirit, even though we cannot see him, or understand the mystery of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We cannot see Jesus now in this world, but we can come to know him through the Bible and we can have a personal relationship with him and with God the Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The crucial question each of us must decide for ourselves is who we believe that Jesus is (Matthew 16:15).

Jesus didn’t declare that he was the Son of God [he referred to himself as the "Son of man" (Matthew 16:13). Jesus was both son of man (mankind) by Mary, and Son of God by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:34-35). This name allows each individual to reach their own conclusion, but it alludes to the messianic figure of the Son of man in Daniel 7:13 (and Revelation 1:13, 14:14)], and he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone he was the Christ (Matthew 16:20) because each one of us must decide that for ourselves.

It is futile to attempt to reach the decision by starting with a consideration of whether God exists. Only through Jesus can we know God the Father (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22). The place to start to make that decision about Jesus is to get to know Jesus by reading the Bible. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, will trust and obey Jesus, and will receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Jesus has promised to give to his disciples (John 14:15-17). Only through Jesus can we receive the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). The Holy Spirit is the “down payment” and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b,11,15-16)

The only real control anyone has over their destiny is the decision to trust or reject Jesus. If we are trusting in Jesus and living according to the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to worry about how our destiny will turn out. In life, believers have successes and failures, rejoicing and sorrow, but we have the comfort and assurance of the Holy Spirit. We can know with certainty that we are in harmony with God’s will and purpose, and that we will live eternally with him in Heaven. If we reject Jesus, or if we choose not to decide, we may think we can control our own destiny, but that is a delusion.

Who do you say that Jesus is? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday 4 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/01/04;
Podcast: Friday 4 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14  –  Fear God and keep his commandments;
Galatians 5:25-6:10  –  Live according to the Holy Spirit;
Matthew 16:21-28  –  On Discipleship;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Enjoy youth while you can, but remember that you will be accountable to God for all that you do. Remember your creator (and seek forgiveness and reconciliation) while you are young, before bad things happen, and before old age, when your physical and mental abilities are impaired, and before death comes.

The author described his intention to present knowledge and truth by studying and arranging proverbs with care. They are the collected sayings of “one Shepherd” (or teacher; Ecclesiastes 12:11). Their usefulness is in their application. Be careful about seeking alternate advice. Finally, all wisdom distills to this: “Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man(kind). For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Galatians Paraphrase:

If we have life, now and eternally, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, let us live according to the will and direction of the Holy Spirit. Believers are to abstain from self-conceit, and from provoking or envying one another. If a person yields to temptation, those who are spiritual should restore him with gentleness, remembering that we are all vulnerable to temptation. We are to love and care for the wellbeing of one another. Let us not be conceited; instead let us examine ourselves honestly to test and correct ourselves, rather than comparing ourselves with others. We will each be accountable for our own deeds.

Ministers and teachers are to be provided with support by the Church. Don’t think that God can be fooled. We will reap what we sow: If we live to gratify our flesh, we will die eternally in our flesh in Hell. But those who live in accordance with the will and guidance of the Holy Spirit will receive eternal life in Heaven. Don’t get tired of doing what is right, or expect an immediate reward; we will eventually receive our reward, if we don’t give up. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Once Jesus was satisfied that his disciples understood that he was the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-20), he began to teach them that it was necessary for him to be crucified and that on the third day he would be raised from the dead. Peter objected, vowing not to let that happen to Jesus, but Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him that he was taking Satan’s side in opposition to God’s will, and hindering Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that each of his followers must be willing to follow Jesus’ example of giving up his own will and becoming obedient to God’s will to the point of physical death.

Those who love their lives in this world and are unwilling to give them up to follow Jesus will eventually die eternally, having lost the opportunity for eternal life. But those who are willing to give up their lives in this world in order to follow Jesus will live eternally with him in Heaven.

Would one be willing to trade eternal life in Heaven even for everything in this world? Would one be willing to give everything he possesses to obtain eternal life in Heaven?

Jesus is going to return to judge and repay everyone who has ever lived according to what they have done in life. Jesus declared that some will still be living when Jesus returns on the Day of Judgment.

Commentary:

Now is the time to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with the Lord. There is a Day of Judgment coming, and everyone will be personally accountable to God for everything each has done individually. All wisdom distills to this: Fear God and obey him; this is our duty as his creation. God’s will for us is to trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 17:5 RSV). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

God’s Word is intended to prod us to self-examination and correction (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Be careful about seeking alternative advice! The world offers lots of books other than the Bible. The world has lots of alternate opinions about ways to come to God. The world offers lots of alternative teachers. But there is only one true, Good Shepherd: Jesus Christ!

We must be obedient to Jesus Christ in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). God does not give his Holy Spirit to those who do not obey him (Isaiah 42:5d). The Holy Spirit is given to disciples of Jesus Christ so that we can live according to the will and direction of the Holy Spirit. Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Jesus (Romans 8:9b). We are to examine ourselves: Are we living in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ? Have we received the Holy Spirit since we first believed (Acts 19:2)?

Have you come to know that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Savior? Are you Jesus’ disciple? Are you surrendering your will and obeying Jesus daily? Are you joining with Jesus in following, in obedience, God’s will and plan to redeem the world, or are you working for the opposition? Are you willing to trade the things of this world for eternal life in Heaven with the Lord?


Saturday 4 Pentecost – Even

First posted 07/02/04;
Podcast: Saturday 4 Pentecost – Even

Numbers 3:1-13  –  Levites set apart to serve;
Galatians 6:11-18  –  The marks of Jesus;
Matthew 17:1-13  –  Transfiguration;

Numbers Paraphrase:

Aaron (the first High Priest of Israel) had four sons: Nadab, the first born, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu were slain by the Lord when they offered unholy fire, and they had no children to inherit their office. Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during Aaron’s lifetime.

The Lord instructed Moses to set apart the whole tribe of Levi for service in the priesthood. They were to assist the High Priests, but the High Priestly duties (at the altar) were reserved for Aaron and his descendents. The Levites were set aside for religious service, replacing the former practice of inducting every firstborn into religious service.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul wrote a postscript to the Galatians in his own handwriting. Paul said that those (the “circumcision party;” Galatians 2:12 RSV; Judaizers)  in the church who were insisting that Christians must keep the Jewish Laws, of which circumcision was the mark (seal), wanted to make a good showing in the flesh (they wanted to look “spiritual” in the eyes of men).

Those who advocate circumcision (legalism) do not themselves keep the law (no one can; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16, 21). The legalists are rejoicing in the flesh (of those they persuade to submit to legalism) whereas Paul’s satisfaction and rejoicing is in the Cross. The mark of circumcision is of no benefit in freeing us from bondage to sin and death (Galatians 5:2-4); it is Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross that frees us and makes it possible to be re-born into a new creation. Paul offers a personal example: he is not threatened by challenges from legalists because he bears on his body the mark of Jesus.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves, and Jesus was transfigured in their presence; his face became radiant like the sun and his garments glowed. The three disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Peter spoke to Jesus suggesting that Peter build three booths, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, if Jesus approved.

Before Peter finished speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them and they heard a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). The disciples fell on their faces in awe when they heard this voice, but Jesus came and touched them and told them to get up and not be afraid. When they opened their eyes, Moses and Elijah were no longer visible.

As they came down from the mountain, Jesus told them to “tell no one the vision until after the Son of man is raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). The disciples asked Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must come (before the Messiah). Jesus said that according to scripture Elijah does come to turn Israel back to God before the Messiah appears, and that Elijah had come but the religious authorities had not recognized him, and had done as they pleased. Jesus said that the Son of man (Jesus) would also suffer (similarly) at their hands. The disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptizer.

Commentary:

Nadab and Abihu inherited the office of priest from their father, and Nadab, as the firstborn had a double inheritance in the religion of Israel, since under the old tradition every firstborn was to be set apart for lifelong religious service to God. But God is not interested in preserving religious tradition. God is concerned with the attitudes of our heart and our obedience to his Word. Nadab and Abihu were using their position for selfish and unholy purposes, so God removed them and gave their inheritance to others.

The Judaizers in the Galatian congregation were trying to preserve the old Jewish religious traditions. They were using their religion to make themselves look righteous. They weren’t interested in being disciples of Jesus Christ. They weren’t seeking God’s will.

God wants a change of heart-attitude. God wants us to be reborn by the indwelling Holy Spirit. God wants us to use our religious inheritance to serve him in obedience and holiness; not to further our own selfish ambitions, nor to make ourselves look righteous in the eyes of the world.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) bore in his body the mark of Jesus: a changed life as a result of his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Jesus (Acts  Chapter 9). Paul did a 180 degree change from a leading persecutor of Christians to the original, archetypal, modern, post-resurrection, born-again (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian (Acts 11:26c). Paul bore in his body the marks of beatings, stoning, persecutions, imprisonments, shipwreck and deprivations for the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the mark which guarantees that he belongs to Christ, and that he has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Peter, James and John were chosen to accompany Jesus to witness the transfiguration. Jesus became radiant, like Moses had appeared to the people after he had been in God’s presence (Exodus 34:29-35), but more intensely. (Perhaps, in Jesus’ transfiguration, Jesus’ whole body glowed so intensely that the light shone through his clothes, causing his garments to appear to glow.) The bright cloud overshadowed them (the visible manifestation of God; see Exodus 24:16; 13:21) like the cloud that descended on Mt. Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus.

Peter was going to build three booths, “tabernacles,” to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but the voice of God from the cloud told them that Jesus was God’s beloved Son; they were to listen to him. Peter was enthusiastic to build “tabernacles” to the old religious tradition, represented by Moses and Elijah, but Jesus is the new and better way.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the old religious tradition. From that point on, relationship with God is through faith in, and obedience to Jesus, not through following the old religious traditions. (The Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ lifetime were interested in preserving religious tradition. The Jewish religion effectively came to an end at the Cross (Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45; See entries for Holy Week – even year).

So, how are we doing? Are we glorifying and serving Jesus as our Lord and Savior, or are we glorifying and serving ourselves? Are we rejoicing in the Cross of Christ, or are we rejoicing in our flesh? Are we building the body of Christ, or are we building monuments to old religious traditions? Are we being transformed (Romans 12:2)? Do we bear the marks of Jesus in our body?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 3 Pentecost – Even – 06/29 – 07/05/14

June 28, 2014

Week of 3 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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Podcast Download: Week of 3 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 3 Pentecost – Even
First Posted
Podcast: Sunday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11  –  All is vanity;
Acts 8:26-40  –  Philip converts the Ethiopian;
Luke 11:1-13  –  Teachings on prayer;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

The author is nominally (Ecclesiastes 1:1b) and traditionally regarded as Solomon, the son of David. The author’s thesis is that everything in the world is fleeting and unsubstantial. Everything is in constant motion, but nothing ever really changes. Man labors but his work is never finished.

Generations come and go. Rivers run to the sea, but the sea never becomes full and the rivers never run dry. The eye does not become sated with seeing or the ear filled with hearing. The same things happen over and over. Nothing is truly new; everything has happened before. The things of old are forgotten; so also the things that will happen in the future will also be forgotten.

Acts Paraphrase:

The Lord directed Philip to travel a desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. As Philip went, he encountered an Ethiopian eunuch who was an administrator of the treasury of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian man had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning. He was seated in his chariot and was reading the prophet Isaiah (aloud, as was the ancient practice) Philip heard him and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man said that he needed someone to guide him, and invited Philip to join him in the chariot.

The passage he was reading was Isaiah 53:7-8: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth” (compare Matthew 27:12-14). The Ethiopian asked Philip to whom the passage referred. Philip thus had an opportunity to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They passed by some water, and the eunuch asked Philip to baptize him. They both went into the water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian. “And when they came out of the water, the Spirit caught up Philip; the Eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found in Azotus” (Acts 8:39). Philip continued northward along the coast, preaching the Gospel in every town until he reached Caesarea.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had been praying, and when he finished, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, since John the Baptizer had also taught John’s disciples to pray. Jesus gave them what is known as the Lord’s Prayer (see also Matthew 6:9-13). It is notable for its simplicity, with no fancy phrases or excess verbiage. It acknowledges God as our Father, reverences him as holy, submits to his will, asks for our daily physical need on a day-by-day basis, for forgiveness of sin, and for protection from evil.

Jesus used a parable to teach his disciples about prayer. He asked the disciples to imagine that they had unexpected company who arrived in the middle of the night. They would ask a neighbor to loan them bread, but the neighbor would be in bed and unwilling to be bothered to get up and loan them bread. Even so, the neighbor would eventually comply if the borrower persisted, just to end the disturbance.

Jesus told his disciples “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:10), assuring them that their diligence would be rewarded. Although sinful, human parents generally want to give their children what is good. Won’t our heavenly Father, who alone is truly good, give us good gifts that we truly need if we ask, especially the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Commentary:

The word translated “Preacher” implies a “teacher” or “lecturer” rather than a specifically religious speaker; the message seems more philosophical, rather than spiritual. The author seems to be attempting to answer, or to at least ask, the question of the meaning and purpose of life.

The Bible, and specifically the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the answer. I believe that the answer can be summed up in Acts 17:26-27: “And he (God) made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us.” I am utterly convinced from God’s Word and personal experience that the central purpose for our life on this earth is to come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, by his indwelling Holy Spirit, so that we can live eternally with him in Heaven.

The Ethiopian sought God by reading the Scriptures. A born-again disciple, Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to encounter the Ethiopian as he read the Scriptures on a deserted, lonely road. Philip was available to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Ethiopian asked for guidance. Water was available, and the Ethiopian requested baptism.

In obedience to the Holy Spirit, Philip took a trip down a lonely road. Philip couldn’t have seen any purpose for the trip at the outset, but he went in trust and obedience, and it led to great opportunities for ministry.

Jesus promised that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, if we knock it will be opened to us. God wants us to come to a personal relationship with him. God wants to give us his indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). God wants us to be led by his Holy Spirit so that we can resist temptation (Luke 11:4c), be delivered from evil (Matthew 7:13b), and so that we can present the Gospel and lead others to Jesus and eternal life.

The meaning and purpose of life is not to see who can accumulate the most stuff before we die, or to “grab all the gusto.” God is not far from us, even if we seem to be in the most isolated and lonely place imaginable; all we have to do is ask, seek, and knock, in faith in Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer is really “The Disciples’ Prayer;” it was given to Jesus’ disciples. Prayer doesn’t depend on our eloquence or our worthiness, but upon our faith (obedient trust) in God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation and the only way to have fellowship with and access to God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

The Lord of Life is very near to each one of us. All we need to do is to invite Jesus into our hearts and our lives. Have you invited Jesus to be your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/20/04;
Podcast: Monday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 2:1-15  –  All is vanity;
Galatians 1:1-17  –  Not man’s Gospel; but God’s;
Matthew 13:44-52 –   Parables of the Kingdom;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

The authorship of Ecclesiastes (the “teacher”) is attributed to King Solomon, the son of David (Ecclesiastes 1:1b). The author says that he has tried to find meaning and purpose in life by pursuing pleasure, but found himself empty and unfulfilled. Although his pursuit of meaning was guided by wisdom, he experimented with foolishness to see if he might find fulfillment there.

He created great works: houses, vineyards, gardens and parks and pools. He tried owning and breeding slaves. He had large flocks and herds. He accumulated silver and gold. He was a patron of music. He gathered a harem. He had great wisdom and he had every pleasure imaginable by man; he received momentary pleasure from all that he did, but he found that all was empty and meaningless; there was no enduring value.

Wisdom is preferable to folly. The wise person sees what is happening, while the fool proceeds in ignorance; yet ultimately they both suffer the same fate. Both the wise and the foolish die and are soon forgotten.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul’s apostleship was not conferred by men or through men, but by God through Jesus Christ. The essence of the Gospel is that Jesus died as a sacrifice to pay for our sins and deliver us, by the plan and will of God our Father, from being condemned along with the present evil age.

There is only one Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was attested to by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible. Almost immediately after the birth of the Church false teachings were arising, perverting the Gospel of Christ. Paul warns believers not to deviate from the sound doctrine of the true Gospel as taught by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible, and Paul pronounced a solemn curse on false teachers who pervert the true Gospel.

Paul had been commissioned by God to proclaim the Gospel (Galatians 1:1; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:4) and Paul’s duty was to please God, rather than men. The Gospel is not something devised by men, and it wasn’t taught or entrusted to Paul by men. Paul received the Gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit at the time of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-22).

Paul testified that he had been zealous for Judaism and had persecuted Christianity. But God called Paul to preach the Gospel even though Paul was not worthy by his own merit; and God revealed God’s Son, the risen Jesus Christ, to Paul so that Paul might preach the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul testified that he followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and went as a Christian missionary to Arabia without human training and without consulting with Church leaders in Jerusalem or any human advisors.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a field which contained buried treasure. A person, on discovering the treasure, sold all that he had, to obtain the field, but in the process, of course, he gained the treasure. The kingdom of heaven is also like a pearl of tremendous value. A merchant gladly gave all that he had to obtain what was truly valuable beyond calculation.

The kingdom of heaven is also a selection process like fishing with a huge net. On the Day of Judgment everyone will be accountable to God for what each has done in life. The good will be kept; the bad destroyed. Jesus declared that his Gospel does not negate the Old Covenant experience and insight of Judaism, but that these are to be interpreted in the light of the Gospel of the New Covenant of Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Commentary:

No worldly pursuit ultimately satisfies. I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to seek a relationship with God: “And he (God) made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Human, worldly wisdom may assert that death is nothingness, but God’s Word declares that we were created as eternal beings to have fellowship with our creator. Because of sin we were condemned to eternal death and separation from God (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 3:23, 6:23; John 5:28-29).

God’s Word declares that there will be a Day of Judgment when all who have ever lived will be accountable to God; those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus Christ will receive eternal life in heaven with him, but those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in the Hell of fire with all evil (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation and the only way to restored fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

The true apostolic, scriptural Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s only plan for our salvation. Every other religion and every deviation from that Gospel is a creation from the imagination of mankind (and inspired by demons). Paul’s testimony independently confirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the true and only plan of God.

Paul didn’t know Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Paul encountered the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts Chapter 9) only after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven (Acts Chapter 1). Paul accurately proclaimed the Gospel through the revelation by the Holy Spirit, without having been taught it by Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry, or by Jesus’ disciples. Paul had been educated in Judaism, and he was quick to interpret the treasures of the old covenant in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:52).

What momentary gratification could possibly be worth an eternity of burning to death, weeping and gnashing teeth (Matthew 13:50)? At the end of our lives the good experiences will all be behind us, and every material thing we’ve accumulated will go to someone else.

Would we be willing to give up what we cannot take with us to avoid an eternity of Hell; to avoid a living death and eternal misery, separated from all goodness and love? Would we be willing to give up what we cannot take with us to spend eternity in paradise in the kingdom of Heaven, in fellowship with our Lord? Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is confirmation that there is life beyond the grave.

Have you encountered the risen Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/19/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 2:16-26 –  Death steals the fruit of wisdom and labor;
Galatians 1:18-2:10 –  Paul and the Church at Jerusalem;
Matthew 13:53-58  –  A prophet in his own country;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Solomon realized that because of death, a person must leave all that he accomplishes and accumulates to someone who comes after him. Since enjoyment in the moment is the only benefit people can have, others unfairly enjoy what we have labored and sacrificed to get. The only possible enjoyment a person can have is to have pleasure in eating and drinking and in his labor.

But Solomon saw that whether a person can have enjoyment in these basic things is up to God. God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy to those who please God, but those who do not please God are given the work of gathering and accumulating, only to leave their accumulation to someone who does please God.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul testified that he received the true, accurate, apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ independently by revelation by the Holy Spirit, without having known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry (i.e., before his Resurrection and ascension) and without having been taught it by Jesus’ disciples. (See Galatians 1:1; 11-17). Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to go as a Christian missionary to the Gentiles, without consulting with Jesus’ disciples, the Church authorities, or any other humans.

After three years of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul did go to Jerusalem to visit Cephas (Aramaic equivalent of “Peter;” the name given Peter by the Lord; see Matthew 16:18) for fifteen days, but saw none of the other disciples except James, the Lord’s brother). Then Paul went to Syria and Cilicia (a Gentile region; between Galilee and Asia Minor).  No other Judean Christians had seen Paul, although they had heard of him because of his remarkable conversion from persecutor of Christians to leading Christian missionary to the Gentiles.

Paul returned to Jerusalem fourteen years later with Barnabas and Titus. Paul testified that he went by the direction of the Holy Spirit, and he met with the Church leaders in Jerusalem and laid out his presentation of the Gospel for their confirmation.

There was some controversy stirred up by “Judaizers,” a faction which believed that Christians must adopt the practices of Jewish Law, but the Church Council at Jerusalem validated Paul’s teaching by not requiring Titus, a Greek, to be circumcised (the binding act of committment to the Old Covenant of Law). Paul vigorously contended against factions within the Church which were attempting to modify the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ by adding human-conceived requirements such as the conformance to Jewish Law.

Paul did not receive any new understanding of the Gospel from Christian Leaders in Jerusalem, even though they were of great reputation among the Church. Instead, these highly regarded leaders acknowledged that Paul’s apostleship was as authentic and valid as Peter’s, and that the same Holy Spirit was working through each. (Paul also notes that God is not moved by human fame or reputation, but judges all people impartially). Peter, James and John, (Jesus’ inner circle; the three that accompanied Jesus to the mount of Transfiguration; Matthew 17:1), the three principal leaders of the Church, formally commissioned Paul to continue his ministry to the Gentiles, requesting only that Paul might remember the needs of the poor.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus returned to his home region, and he taught in his local synagogue. The people were astonished at his teaching, his wisdom and his works, because they thought they knew Jesus’ background and his parentage, and were offended by his teaching. Jesus told them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house” (Matthew 13:57b). Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Commentary:

Solomon was the wisest, the richest, and one of the most powerful people who had ever lived up to that time, but he recognized that without God, life is futile and empty. We can pursue enjoyment, but apart from the Lord we cannot achieve it more than momentarily. The Lord determines who lives and for how long.

Paul’s remarkable testimony is independent authentication of the Apostolic, Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is confirmation that the same Holy Spirit who was at work in Peter and the other apostles was working through Paul. It is an example of the faithful efforts of the apostles to preserve the purity of the true Gospel from those who wanted to change and distort the Gospel.

Note that the “baptism”(“anointing”) with the indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16), under the New Covenant of Grace through faith  (obedient trust) in Jesus, as circumcision was the mark of the Old Covenant of the Law of Moses.

Paul is the prototype of every “modern” Christian: all Christians who have come to faith in Jesus Christ since Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension.  Paul’s testimony is the illustration of how revelation by the Holy Spirit is to be authenticated by the entire Biblical record, from the perspective of the apostolic testimony recorded in the New Testament. In other words, the testimony of the Apostles, including Paul, recorded in the New Testament scriptures is what keeps us from going astray from the true Gospel and becoming “Judaizers” and “New Testament Jews.”

Jesus was sent from God to the Jews as the Messiah, the promised Savior; He was Emmanuel, God incarnate, born into a Jewish family (Matthew 1:23), but many Jews did not recognize and acknowledge him as the Messiah. Jesus’ hometown synagogue rejected him, because they thought they knew his parentage and his background, and they could not believe that he was the Messiah (Matthew 13:54-58; compare John 1:9-13). They thought they knew that Jesus’ father was a carpenter (Joseph; Matthew 13:55), not realizing that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit, as a virgin, without having been with Joseph sexually (Matthew 1:18-25).

Paul loved Judaism (Galatians 1:14) and once he had come to know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and understood it to be the fulfillment of the promises of Judaism he wanted to share it with his beloved Jewish people. But he found them unreceptive, and so he took the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:28). Paul even hoped to provoke the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11) so that they might turn to the Gospel and thus receive the blessings which were intended for them.

Are we so familiar with what we think we know about Jesus that we cannot believe in him as the Lord? Are we allowing worldly authority and fame, or lack thereof, to unduly influence our beliefs? Do we imagine that we can find fulfillment in life apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

The Church is the heir to Israel and Judaism; she is the “New Israel;” the new “People of God.” Is the Church now in the position that Israel was in then? Is what we think we know about Jesus, or those we consider to be authorities, preventing us from knowing Jesus personally?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Wednesday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/22/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 – A time for everything;
Galatians 2:11-21 –  Difference between Law and Gospel;
Matthew 14:1-12  –  Death of John the Baptiser;

Ecclesiastes:Paraphrase:

The times of a person’s life are determined by God and are beyond our control. The best we can do is to recognize God’s will and cooperate with it.

Everything which preoccupies us has been created by God. Everything is good in its appropriate time. God has put the hope of the infinite (or “eternity”) into our minds, and yet he has limited our ability to comprehend the infinite. [Or, God has placed a “veil” (“obscurity”) in our minds so that we cannot see God’s plan from beginning to end (“eternity” or “infinity”); see Strong’s #5956; #5769 for the Hebrew word translated “eternity” in Ecclesiastes 3:11 RSV; compare with 2 Corinthians 3:14-16].

The best one can hope for is happiness and enjoyment of life; to take pleasure in eating and working. What God does, endures forever; man cannot change it by adding to it or taking from it. God has designed creation thus, so that mankind should have the appropriate awe and respect for God. The present repeats the past; the future repeats the present; and the past will repeat itself.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul criticized Peter (Cephas is Aramaic, the language of Jesus, for “Peter,” and the name given him by the Lord; Matthew 16:18) because Peter allowed his understanding of the Gospel to be compromised by peer-pressure while he was visiting at Antioch. Paul reminded him that they were both Jewish by birth, and they both knew from the Gospel that man is not justified (made right with God) by keeping the Law, but only through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. They themselves had believed in Jesus, so that they might be judged righteous by God through faith in Jesus. How then could Peter require Gentiles to comply with Jewish Law in order to be made right with God?

The Law doesn’t make anyone righteous; to the contrary, it condemns, because no one is sinless according to the Law (Romans 3:23; Galatians 2:16d; 1 John 1:8-10). If we sin while living by faith in Christ, it is not Christ who has caused us to sin; if we revert to our former way of life we bear the blame ourselves and show that we are sinful by nature.

We have died to the Law so that we might live to God. We are not lawless, because while we are no longer controlled by the Law, we are controlled by Christ’s Holy Spirit within us; by trusting and obeying him. Our justification (judicial declaration of righteousness) is by God’s grace; a free gift, undeserved favor, through faith in Jesus. If we were justified by works (keeping) of the Law (which is impossible) then we would deserve justification, and Jesus’ death would have been of no purpose.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was tetrarch (ruler of a minor region) of Galilee, and had married Herodias, the wife of his (half) brother, Philip. (Herod Antipas had another half brother by a third wife of Herod the Great, also named Philip, who was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and who built Caesarea Philippi; see Luke 3:1). John the Baptizer had rebuked Herod Antipas for unlawfully marrying his brother’s wife, so Herod had imprisoned John. Herod wanted to execute John, but was afraid to, because the people believed that John was a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced for the celebration. Herod was pleased with her dancing and promised to give her whatever she requested. Prompted by her mother, she asked for John the Baptizer’s head on a platter. Herod regretted making the promise, but could not avoid fulfilling it because of his guests, so he had John beheaded in prison and his head brought to her. The disciples came and buried the body and went and told Jesus. As Jesus’ fame spread, Herod heard, and expressed the idea that Jesus was John who had been raised from the dead (or reincarnated).

Commentary:

The best that one can hope for is for happiness and enjoyment of life. Happiness and enjoyment are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13; 2:24-26). Since the times of our lives are determined by God and beyond our control (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 14), we are well-advised to make every effort to discover and cooperate with God’s will.

Peter knew what the Gospel said, but he allowed peer-pressure to induce him to act against his understanding of the Gospel. He went along with the crowd instead of sticking with what he knew was right. Peter had received forgiveness as a free gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ, but he was attempting to require others to earn theirs by conforming to Jewish Law.

According to this account of the death of John the Baptizer, Herod wanted John the Baptzer executed, but he recognized that it was not politically wise, because the people he governed regarded John as a prophet. Herod subsequently made a rash promise to his wife’s daughter, Salome, in front of his political supporters, and found himself in a bind. He would be politically embarrassed to break his promise to his daughter, or he would have to do what he knew was politically unwise. As a result he let the opinion of others influence him to act contrary to his own conscience.

While John was alive in prison, Herod at least had the opportunity to hear and respond to John’s message and to become prepared to receive Jesus as his savior. Because of John’s execution, Herod was unprepared and thus unable to receive God’s gift of salvation and eternal life through faith Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it amazing that we so readily give up what we know is right to conform to the will of other people, and yet are so reluctant to seek and do God’s will? If we try to please ourselves we will succeed only momentarily. If we try to please others we will not please anyone. Only by pleasing God will we find eternal satisfaction. The only way to please God is through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 3 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 06/23/04;
Podcast: Thursday 3 Pentecost – Even 

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3 –   Prevalence of evil;
Galatians 3:1-14  –   Justification by faith, not works;
Matthew 14:13-21  –   Feeding the five thousand;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Wickedness permeates every facet of life; even in the courts of justice and the temples of righteousness, there is wickedness. God has appointed a time when he will judge the righteous and the wicked, because he has appointed a time for everything.

Humans seem to be no better than animals; they all have the same life, they both die, they both return to dust. “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth” (Ecclesiastes 3:21)? “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should enjoy his work, for that is his lot; who can bring him to see what will be after him” Ecclesiastes 3:22)?

The author considered all the oppression which is practiced in the world. The oppressors had all power; the oppressed suffered, with none to comfort them. The author concluded that the dead are better off than those who are still alive, and those who have never been born are more fortunate than either, because they have not experienced the evil deeds of this life.

Galatians Paraphrase:

False teachings of the “Judaizers” (who insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity must keep Jewish Law) had infiltrated the Galatian Church. Here Paul appealed to the Galatians’ experience and to scripture to show that justification (blamelessness before God) is by faith in Jesus Christ, rather than by keeping the Law. Paul had just said that “if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Galatians 2:21b).

The Galatians knew about Jesus’ crucifixion. They had received the Holy Spirit, so Paul asked them whether they had received the Holy Spirit by faith or by keeping the law, knowing that their own personal experience would tell them that justification was by faith, and not by keeping the Law. Since they had begun new life in the Holy Spirit by faith, would they be so foolish as to attempt to live that life in the weakness of their flesh by relying on their ability to keep the Law?

From scripture, Paul pointed out that Abraham “believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). So the true, spiritual sons of Abraham and heirs to God’s promise through Abraham are those who believe God.

Those who rely on keeping the Law are under a curse: “Cursed be every one who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the law and do them” (Galatians 3:10b; see Deuteronomy 27:26). But God’s Word says that the righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), whereas the fulfillment of the Law depends on works, not faith. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law by taking our curse upon himself on the Cross, so that “in Jesus Christ the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptizer, he took his disciples by boat (on the Sea of Galilee) to a secluded spot. But the crowds found out and followed him there on foot. When Jesus went ashore he found a large crowd was awaiting him. So Jesus compassionately healed the sick among them.

At evening, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to buy food for themselves, but Jesus told the disciples to give the crowd something to eat. The disciples only had five loaves and two fish, but Jesus told them to bring the food to him. Jesus had the crowd sit down, and then Jesus blessed, broke, and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. All ate and were satisfied, and twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up. The crowd was about five thousand people.

Commentary:

Looking at life without faith in God would be discouraging. Humans would be no better than animals. Life would have no meaning except present gratification. We’d be better off dead, and even better off never having been born. But life is not just meaningless and empty. We were given this life according to God’s eternal plan (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

God has revealed his plan through his Word, the Bible, and through Jesus Christ. By faith in God and his Word it is possible to know with certainty (Ecclesiastes 3:21) that our spirits survive our physical death. This life is not purposeless and futile; it is an opportunity to come to a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This life is a training and selection process for eternal life.

By faith in Jesus Christ we are restored to right relationship with God and receive the Holy Spirit. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us which makes it possible for us to live a life which rises above that of the animals and is pleasing to God. The promise God gave to Abraham was the promise that a great nation of his offspring would dwell in an eternal land in God’s presence. That promise was demonstrated on earth through Israel as a parable, a metaphor, for life in this world and eternal life in Heaven.

Believers in Jesus Christ are the “New Israel,” who have become the children of Abraham and heirs of the promise by faith (obedient trust). Faith in Jesus is not “blind” faith. It’s not a matter of living out life not knowing for certain whether the Gospel is true or not. For those who need “proof” in order to believe there is none; but for those who believe, there is abundant proof. One can know with certainty that one has received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2; Galatians 3:2). The Holy Spirit is the security deposit and guarantee of the promise of eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11).

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand shows that when we bring our problems to Jesus and trust and obey his instructions, he can do great, even unimaginable, things with our meager resources, through us. Jesus can supply what we lack, so that we can do what he commands, through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Notice that if the disciples hadn’t checked with Jesus and had gone ahead with their own solution, they would have sent the people away to fend for themselves. That wouldn’t have been good for the people; some might have fainted with hunger on the way, or been injured. Also, the disciples couldn’t have fed that crowd with five loaves and two fish in the strength of their own flesh, without the presence of the Lord.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 3 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 06/24/04;
Podcast:
Friday 3 Pentecost – Even

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7  –  Religious observance;
Galatians 3:15-22  –  The purpose of the Law;
Matthew 14:22-36  –  Jesus walks on water;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Be careful to pay attention and be obedient to the Lord when you go to worship in the house of the Lord. Don’t practice the “sacrifice of fools”, which is the attempt to draw near to God while doing evil. Try listening to God instead of telling him what to do; remember that he is the Creator and Lord of the Universe, and you are but one of his creatures. A dream may seem to contain much activity, but nothing actually is accomplished; so also a fool’s words don’t amount to anything.

When you promise God something, do not delay in doing it, for the Lord does not delight in unfaithfulness. It is better not to promise than to promise and to fail to keep the promise. Don’t let your mouth lead you into sin. When God’s messenger comes to collect the promise you have made, you cannot tell him that it was a mistake and that God should not be angry and destroy what you have done. Don’t get caught up in empty words and religious imaginings or delusions; true worship is reverence for God.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul showed that the principle of justification by faith is older than the Law of Moses, using the analogy of a human legal will or covenant. Just as a legal will cannot be altered once it is properly executed, God’s promise to Abraham based on faith (obedient trust) was executed before the giving of the Law, and therefore the principle of faith has not been annulled by the Law. The Law is like a guardian having custody of a minor child until the child reaches the age of inheritance.

The Law was given as an interim provision to control transgression until the coming of Christ, the offspring of Abraham through whom the promise could be inherited. The Law is not contrary to the promises of God, but the Law could not make people righteous. The Law only reveals God’s will so that we can recognize our transgressions. The Law reveals that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), so that what was promised as a result of faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After feeding the five thousand, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and leave for the other shore while he remained and dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus went up into the hills to pray. When evening came, Jesus was alone, and the boat was out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, buffeted by wind and waves, not making progress because the wind was against them.

Just prior to dawn, Jesus came to them, walking on the surface of the sea. The disciples thought he was a ghost and cried out in fear, but Jesus identified himself and calmed them. Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and came to him on the water, but when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink, crying out to Jesus to save him.

Jesus reached out and took Peter’s hand and kept him from sinking. Jesus asked why Peter had not had enough faith to keep from doubting. When Jesus and Peter got into the boat the wind ceased. The disciples worshiped Jesus and declared him to be the Son of God.

Commentary:

True worship is trusting and obeying God. It’s not about participation in a ritual. Even the most informal service can become ritualized. If we’re going to Church on Sundays but not seeking his will and obeying his Word during the week, our “worship” is like a dream. We may have the illusion that we’re worshiping but nothing is actually happening; we’re just going through the motions.

We are justified (made right with God) by faith in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ we have fellowship with God through his indwelling Holy Spirit which is also the guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11) of the promise of eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven in God’s presence. Faith is not like “wishing on a star;” it’s not a matter of getting what you believe if you believe hard enough. Faith is believing the specific promise of God in Jesus Christ enough to listen for the Lord’s guidance and then to follow his instructions.

When Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and head for the other side while he remained behind, they did what he told them. They got out into the middle of the sea and into a storm. The wind and waves were against them, and they weren’t making any progress. But Jesus knew where they were, and their situation. He didn’t leave them there; he came to them. He identified himself to them: He said, “It is I.” He didn’t say “I am the Son of God.”

Jesus doesn’t force us to believe; He allows us to come to our own conclusion about who he is. Those who acknowledge him as the Lord and who are his disciples will recognize his voice.

Peter was impressed with Jesus’ ability to walk on water and wanted to try it himself. He had the initial enthusiasm, but he allowed the opposing forces around him to shake his faith. But he was in Jesus’ will because he had asked and Jesus had allowed him to try, and Jesus was there to sustain him. Peter would have been in serious trouble if he had gone out there completely on his own.

When Jesus got into the boat with the disciples, the storm ceased. Jesus had sent the disciples off by themselves into the storm. But he knew where they were. He allowed them to be buffeted a bit; he allowed them to temporarily experience a lack of progress. But he didn’t leave them there! He came to them; he calmed their fears and he calmed the storm. His disciples came to the certain conviction that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he can take care of them no matter how bad the circumstances appear to be.

The disciples had been trusting and obeying Jesus when they set out in the boat. The outcome would have been much different if they had decided to set out on their own. They would have been overwhelmed by the storm with no one to save them, or they might even have had smooth sailing and thought they were making great progress, only to wind up on the wrong shore, without Jesus.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Saturday 3 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 06/25/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 3 Pentecost – Even 

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20  –   Fallen worldly ways;
Galatians 3:23-4:11  –   Law as custodian;
Matthew 15:1-20  –   Legalism rebuked;

Ecclesiastes Paraphrase:

Don’t be surprised at the oppression of the poor, or injustice and violence. But remember that those who are in authority have higher authority over them. Ultimately a higher authority will bring order. Those who love money or possessions will not be satisfied by them. When possessions increase, so do the things that consume them. The owner has no benefit from them but to enjoy looking at them. The laborer sleeps well, whether he eats well or little, but the possessions of the rich do not help them sleep well.

The author describes the plight of a person who at great personal sacrifice accumulates wealth, and then loses what he had in a bad investment, and has nothing to pass on to his son. A person cannot take his possessions with him when he dies. One leaves life as naked as the day he was born; what has one to show for all his labor? Spending the days of our lives in worry, vexation, and resentment, striving for material possessions is a waste of our lives.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul said that the Law of Moses was like the custodian of a minor child, charged with keeping the child under control until he was of age to receive his inheritance. So the Law was our custodian until Christ came and we were able to receive reconciliation with God through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, our inheritance as spiritual sons of Abraham through faith.

All who were baptized into Jesus Christ have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer divided by our old concept of identity by gender, race, or economic status; instead we are unified and equal as Christians. Those who are in Christ are Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to promise (though faith).

The heir, while a minor, is no better than a slave, because he is under guardians until he is old enough to inherit. Likewise all of us were under slavery to our basic human nature (and to the Law which restrained it). In God’s timing, God sent his Son to be born into the world and under the Law, so that he could ransom (as from slavery) us who were under the Law so that we could receive adoption as sons (and daughters).

The indwelling Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters (Romans 8:15-16; Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14). [It is possible for one to know with certainty by personal experience whether one has received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2)]

Paul rebuked those in the Church who were insisting on the observance of Jewish Law. Having been freed from bondage to the Law, they were attempting to return to it. Having received personal fellowship with God, why would they give that up to once again relate to God only through a mediator? Paul was concerned that they had missed the point of the Gospel message.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jewish Law had evolved from the Ten Commandments into an elaborate system of laws and ordinances that covered minute details including the washing of hands before meals. The religious leaders and teachers of the Law criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before eating, a violation of Jewish Law according to this tradition.

Jesus replied by asking why they broke God’s Law in order to keep their tradition. As examples Jesus cited the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:12), pointing out that the tradition of the elders (Matthew 15:2) allowed a person to avoid the commandment by declaring that what the parent would have gained from the person had been an offering to God. Jesus thus declared that they had fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that they honored God with their lips but not with their hearts; their worship was in vain, because they taught as doctrines the precepts of men (Isaiah 29:13).

Jesus then taught the crowd that it is not what a person eats, but what comes out of his mouth, which makes him unfit to worship. The disciples reported that the religious leaders were offended by Jesus’ statement, but Jesus replied that God would uproot that which God had not planted.

Jesus also told them to leave the religious authorities alone, describing them as blind guides, and saying that if anyone follows them, both guide and follower will fall into a pit. Peter asked for an explanation of the parable, so Jesus said that what a person eats doesn’t affect him spiritually, but what a person says reveals the condition of his spirit.

Commentary:

In Ecclesiastes, the teacher is commenting on the fundamental (fallen) nature of this world; it is not what God created or intended, but what mankind has made it. We should not be surprised to see oppression, injustice and violence. But ultimately those in authority will be held acountable to God.

Ultimately God will restore his creation and repay everyone according to their deeds. God will relieve the victims of oppression, injustice and violence, and will punish those who have victimized them. The worldly way is materialism, selfishness and greed. The materialistic worldly way is guaranteed to be ultimately a bad investment.

Before we receive forgiveness and reconciliation through faith in Jesus, we were slaves to the fallen nature of this world, as described in Ecclesiastes, and what Paul refers to as the elementary spirits of the universe (Galatians 4:3). God’s Law was designed to show us what God intended, and to reveal our sins, so that we would be restrained from following our sinful nature. But the Law could not make us righteous. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus we are made righteous in God’s judgment and receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, who enables us to live according to God’s will.

Those who insist on requiring obedience to the Jewish Law are modern-day “Pharisees.” Those who insist on keeping the Law are investing in a losing proposition. Paul declares that if justification (righteousness) were by the keeping of the law, then Christ died to no purpose (Galatians 2:21); also, those who would be made righteous by keeping the Law are severed from Christ, and have lost the free gift of salvation that is only through faith in Jesus (Galatians 5:4).

Those who teach justification by keeping the Law are misusing God-given authority, oppressing God’s people, and will be accountable to God. They are blind guides, and both they and those who follow them will come to spiritual disaster.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were teaching the traditions of “their” “religion,” instead of God’s Word. They were hypocrites who did not practice what they professed. They were using their authority to oppress God’s people, following the fallen nature of this world, rather than the Spirit of God. Their worship was empty ritual.

How is the Church doing today? Watch out for blind guides. Read the Bible. Trust and obey Jesus as your Lord (John 14:21). Be a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 8:31). Seek the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which the Lord has promised his disciples (John 14:15-17, 21, 23).

Week of 2 Pentecost – Even – 06/22 – 28/14

June 21, 2014

Week of 2 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct).

It is based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions p.179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of 2 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/12/04;
Podcast: Sunday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 9:1-12 –  Wisdom’s invitation;
Acts 8:14-25 –  Simon the Magician;
Luke 10 25-28, 38-42 –   Essentials for eternal life;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

Divine Wisdom (the wisdom of God, by which the world was created, as distinct from false, worldly wisdom; Proverbs 9:10, 1 Corinthians 1:18-24) is portrayed as the hostess of a feast in a great palace. She invites all who lack wisdom to come and partake of her bounties. Scoffers are arrogant, self-assured people who feel they already know everything they need to know and have no need of religion. Scoffers thus will not appreciate correction; those who try to correct one who is evil may be injured for their efforts.

While a scoffer will hate you for correcting him, one who is truly wise will appreciate and thank you for correction. A wise person is thus able to learn still more. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10), because only God is able to extend your life. Those who are wise receive the benefit themselves; scoffers will bear the penalty of their own scoffing.

Acts Paraphrase:

A report that some Samaritans had received the Gospel reached the apostles in Jerusalem, and the apostles sent Peter and John to the Samaritans to pray and lay their hands on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. The Samaritans had been baptized in the name of Jesus but the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them.

When Simon the magician (not Simon Peter; see Acts 8:9-11) saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered the apostles money for the power to confer the Holy Spirit upon whomever he laid his hands. But Peter rebuked him harshly, saying, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”

Peter also said that Simon had no participation in either receiving or anointing others with the Holy Spirit because his heart was not right before God. Peter told Simon to repent of his wickedness and pray that, if possible, the wicked intent of Simon’s heart might be forgiven. Simon’s actions revealed that he was enslaved by his own sinfulness. Simon asked Peter to pray to the Lord on Simon’s behalf, so that Simon might avoid the punishment Peter had prophesied.

Luke Paraphrase:

A Lawyer asked Jesus what one must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by asking the Lawyer what the Law (the Law of Moses; Scripture) said. The Lawyer replied that one shall love the Lord God with heart, soul, mind, and strength; and one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus told the Lawyer that his answer was correct, and that if the Lawyer did as he had said he would live eternally.

Afterwards, Jesus went to the home of Mary and Martha. Martha was busily trying to provide an elaborate meal for her guest, but Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to his teachings. So Martha went to the Lord and asked him to tell Mary to help her serve the meal. Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, but that only one thing is necessary. Mary had chosen the good and necessary thing, which shall not be taken from her.

Commentary:

The Lord offers divine wisdom freely to all who are willing to come to him and seek it. The Word of God, the Bible, is divine wisdom. Jesus is the personification of divine wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24 (18-23). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Counselor, divine wisdom personified, residing within each believer, opening our minds to understand the scriptures, giving us what to say in the hour of testimony.

Three things are necessary in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. First is baptism in the name of the Trinity (One God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Matthew 28:18-20). In Acts 8:16 they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostles prayed to the Father and invoked the Holy Spirit; Acts 8:15). Second, according to this passage, is the laying on of hands and apostolic succession. Third is the spiritual  condition of the Candidate’s inner attitude (“heart”).

God does not give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who are not walking in obedience to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit  (Isaiah 42:5e), and my own personal experience testifies to this reality. The gifts of God are freely available to anyone who will seek and receive them. We are saved by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith (trusting and obeying), not because of works (good deeds). The gifts of God cannot be bought, earned, or taken by force or deception (Ephesians 2:8-9). The scriptural record of Simon the magician is a warning to any who think that they can buy the gifts of God, with money, or good deeds, or church membership, or who desire to profit from “peddling” God’s Word and his gifts.

The Lawyer wasn’t interested in doing God’s will; he was using God’s Law, God’s Word, to justify his own actions and to avoid doing what God desires. The Lawyer thought he was righteous based on his knowledge and deeds of keeping the Law, so Jesus’ asked the Lawyer to answer according to what the Law said. The Lawyer answered correctly, and Jesus told him that the Lawyer knew the right answer, and he would have eternal life if he did as he had said. The problem is that no one can fulfill the Law apart from Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16; 5:4).

Martha was preoccupied with worldly concerns. She wanted to demonstrate her homemaking skills to Jesus, to show him what a good hostess she was. Jesus wasn’t seeking to be entertained. He was seeking to be listened to and followed. Martha wanted Jesus to bless and prosper what Martha wanted. Mary was open to receive what the Lord wanted her to have.

The Lord is the gracious host who freely offers a feast of wisdom and eternal life with him. How do we respond to his invitation? Do we think we are wise already and have no need of what he offers?

Do we think we are good enough already to be considered righteous in his eyes? Do we think we can buy, earn, or take by force or deception what he offers without doing what he requires?

Do we think we can impress him with our worldly abilities and induce him to bless and prosper our desires, without seeking and obeying his will? Martha was going through the motions of being a good hostess, but was in fact ignoring her guest and his wishes. She is like people who go to Church and are involved in the ritual, without obedience to Jesus’ teachings in their daily lives.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/13/04;
Podcast: Monday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 10:1-12  –  Rewards of righteousness;
1 Timothy 1:1-17  –  Sound doctrine;
Matthew 12:22-32  –  The source of Jesus’ power;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

These maxims contrast a series of virtues with corresponding vices and teach the consequences of actions. Children who learn and show wisdom delight their parents but those who don’t are a disappointment. Any short-term gain from wickedness is made worthless by the ultimate consequences, “but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2b). The Lord provides for the righteous, but will not permit the wicked to find satisfaction.

People will be rewarded according to what they do. The righteous will be blessed and the wicked will be punished (but not necessarily in this world). Those who are wise are those who obey God’s Word; those who disobey God’s Word are fools who will come to ruin. “He who walks in integrity, walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). He who tolerates unrighteousness (“winks his eye” at; Proverbs 10:10) causes trouble, but those who reprove unrighteousness make peace. Righteous people say things that promote life, but the wicked use their voices to destroy. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

This letter, written by Paul to Timothy, urges him to defend sound doctrine in the face of false teachings arising in the Church. Timothy, the pastor of the congregation, was urged by his mentor not to allow individuals to teach different doctrines [than the apostolic (as taught by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) doctrines which Timothy had received from Paul], nor to allow “theological” speculation to supplant discipleship.*

The goal of the ministry of the Gospel is love (not a romantic emotion, but genuine, self-sacrificing concern for the wellbeing of others, like God’s own love for us) which results from a pure heart and clear conscience (by the forgiveness which is only possible through Jesus Christ) and by sincere faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. People who deviate from this go astray into useless discussion. They desire to be teachers of God’s Word without having understood it or having experienced the truth of it.

God’s Law is good if it is used correctly. But the Law was written not for the righteous, but for the lawless, the disobedient, the ungodly, and sinners; the unholy and profane. Murder, immorality, homosexuality,** lying and perjury are specifically categorized as sinful, ungodly, and under condemnation, along with any other (unspecified) behaviors which are contrary to God’s Word.

Paul rejoiced that God had forgiven him because Paul had acted in ignorance and unbelief. God appointed Paul to the ministry of the Gospel, even though Paul had previously persecuted the faith. Jesus’ mission was not to condemn, but to save, sinners (John 3:16-17). Paul acknowledged himself to have been among the worst of sinners. Yet he praised God that in Paul, himself, God’s great mercy and perfect patience might be clearly demonstrated as an example to those who would believe in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life.

Matthew Paraphrase

A blind and mute demoniac was brought to Jesus who healed him so that he regained speech and sight. The people were amazed and began to seriously consider that Jesus might be the “Son of David” (the Messiah, the heir to David’s throne). But the Pharisees said that Jesus was casting out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus knew their thoughts, and replied that a kingdom which is divided against itself is destroyed. The same is true of a city or a family. Therefore, if Satan is divided against himself how could his kingdom stand?

There were also Jewish exorcists at the time, of which the Pharisees approved, so Jesus asked the Pharisees whether these others also cast out demons by Beelzebul. On the other hand, Jesus suggested, if Jesus was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God was appearing.

Jesus compared his exorcism to the plundering of the house of a strong man; the strong man must first be restrained. Jesus said that those who do not work with Jesus are working against him.

Jesus declared that every sin and blasphemy is forgivable except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Speaking against Jesus Christ is forgivable but speaking evil of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven now or ever.

Commentary:

God’s Word is true, divine wisdom, by which the world was created, in contrast to false, worldly wisdom (Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Obedience to God’s Word is wisdom and life. Those who disregard God’s Word are fools who will come to ruin. [God’s Word will never direct you to harm yourself or others. If you believe God is directing you to do anything that would endanger yourself or others you are wrong.]

The problems addressed in the letter to Timothy were caused by false teachers who deviated from God’s Word, the Bible, and from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible. False teaching and false doctrine has been a problem for the Church since its beginning. Too often Church leaders have disregarded the warnings to Timothy not to allow the teaching of different doctrines (1 Timothy 1:3) or to occupy themselves with “theological” speculations (1 Timothy 1:4 RSV).

There is a lot of “theological” speculation going on in Seminaries and Church Universities today. The issue of homosexuality is just one example of “different doctrines” being taught in Churches today. Another problem is of those desiring to be teachers of the “Word” without understanding the things about which they make assertions (1 Timothy 1:7). Church administrators are ordaining ministers who have been “educated” in “theological speculation” in Seminaries but haven’t been discipled, and have not been filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit. People are attracted to the ministry as a career and are becoming mere “peddlers of God’s Word” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

How are we doing, Church? Are we gathering with Jesus, or are we scattering? Jesus’ last command to his disciples was to make disciples, and to teach them to obey all that Jesus had commanded (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV). Are we working for unity in the Body of Christ by adherence to sound Biblical doctrine, or are we dividing the Church with different, non-Biblical doctrines? Are we hindering people from believing in Jesus because we’re arguing over doctrine or authority? Are we glorifying the Lord or bringing him reproach?

What can an individual do? No understanding of doctrine can substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus! Commit yourself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to obey his word. Begin by reading the entire Bible. Anyone can read the entire Bible in a year or less. There are several 1-year plans; see Links to Bible Study Tools, sidebar top right, home.

Spend time daily in Bible reading and prayer. Seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and be guided by the Spirit. Stay away from Churches that advocate anything other than, or in addition to, the Bible as the basis of their doctrine: the Bible and “Tradition,” or the Bible and some other book, for example. Look for a Church that preaches the whole Bible and that teaches discipleship.


*The word used in the text is from a Greek word meaning to “build up”; “confirm” (Strong’s #3618). The RSV translates it as (divine) “training” (or “stewardship,” i.e., the discipline of servanthood).

** From two Greek words meaning “men bedding (or conceiving) with men” (Strong’s #730 & 2845; see Strong’s #733); i.e., “sodomites,” after the city of Sodom, destroyed by God for its homosexual practice (Genesis 19:4-5 (24-25); men who have unnatural sexual relations with men (and, by extension, women who have unnatural sexual relations with women). The KJV translates as: “men defiling themselves with men.”


Tuesday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/14/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 15:16-33  –  Wisdom to live by;
1 Timothy 1:18-2:15 –  Ordinances regarding worship;
Matthew 12:33-42 –  The sign of Jonah;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

The fear of the Lord is better than material wealth. A meager meal with love is better than the richest banquet where there is hatred. A hot temper stirs up anger, but one who is slow to anger promotes peace. The way of the lazy is full of obstructions, but the way of the righteous does not cause stumbling. One who acts wisely honors his parent; one who acts foolishly dishonors them. Folly seems pleasant to those without sense, but a wise person chooses righteousness. Plans go wrong without wise counsel. “To make an apt answer is a joy to a (person) and a word in season, how good it is” (Proverbs 15:23).

The person who follows (divine) wisdom finds life and avoids eternal death (Proverbs 15:24). The Lord destroys the house of the proud but prospers the house of the poor and humble. “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord but the words of the pure (righteous) are pleasing to him” (Proverbs 15:26). Unjust gain brings trouble, but those who refuse bribes will live. The righteous think before they speak; the wicked blurt out what they think without reflection. “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” Proverbs 15:29). One who heeds admonition is wise and gains understanding. “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom” (Proverbs 15:33a).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Timothy was urged to “fight the good fight,” holding on to the true faith and good conscience. Several individual members of Timothy’s congregation were cited as having wandered into false doctrines and having come to spiritual disaster. They had apparently been removed from membership in the hope that they might learn their error and repent.

Timothy was instructed to pray for all people, because God desires that all people should be saved and come to know the truth. Paul prayed that all people would be able to pray together in unity and peace. Women were to be modest in their attire, adorning themselves with good deeds rather than by ostentatious material display (and this applies to men as well).

Matthew Paraphrase:

A tree is known by the fruit it bears. A good tree bears good fruit; a bad tree bears bad fruit. What we say is the fruit of what is in our hearts. The mouths of those who treasure evil in their hearts will speak evil; those who treasure good in their hearts will speak good. On the Day of Judgment, our words will justify or condemn us (because every careless word we utter reveals our spiritual condition).

Some of the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign or demonstration as proof of his authority. Jesus answered that they were of an evil and (spiritually) adulterous generation. The only sign they would see was the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was in the belly of the whale, so would the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Jesus declared that the example of Nineveh would condemn this generation, because Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, and that something greater than Jonah was happening in their presence in Jesus Christ, (and yet was not resulting in their repentance). Another illustration was that of the Queen of the South (of Sheba), who came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus is the wisdom of God personified (1 Corinthians 1:24), but they were not receiving his wisdom.

Commentary:

Jesus is the wisdom to live by! The person who follows (divine) wisdom finds life and avoids eternal death (Proverbs 15:24). The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ; Romans 8:9b) is the Counselor whose counsel is necessary and reliable; who provides us with an apt answer and a word in season (Proverbs 15:23; Matthew 10:19-20), who teaches us all things and brings to our remembrance all that Jesus taught (John 14:26).

We are urged to hold on to the true, apostolic (as taught by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ and good conscience (to live in accordance with what we know is true, according to God’s Word). God desires that all people should be saved and come to know the truth. We should pray (and work) for the salvation of all people.

Our hearts will ultimately justify or condemn us on the Day of Judgment. What we believe in our hearts produces fruit in our lives. It is possible to say one thing with our lips and believe something else in our hearts only in the short term; but God knows our hearts; and ultimately, what we believe influences what we do.

The scribes’ and Pharisees’ problem was not a lack of “signs” of Jesus’ authority. They didn’t accept the signs that were all around them. The people of Nineveh didn’t repent because Jonah had been in the belly of the whale, but because they acknowledged the truth of his preaching and repented of their misdeeds.

Jonah prefigures the Christ, being obedient to God, raised as from the dead after three days, leading people to repentance and saving them from God’s judgment. Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is an apt comparison to Jonah’s restoration from the belly of the whale.

Jesus’ Resurrection is a tremendous “sign” for those who believe in Jesus’ words, but for those who do not believe his words, the sign is not accepted. For people who need a “sign” in order to believe there is none; but for those who believe, there is abundant proof.

Those who are in Jesus Christ, who have been raised to new life in Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit, are called to hold onto the Gospel, to live according to it, and to pray and work for the salvation of all people. If we truly believe and have come to know the Risen Lord Jesus Christ through his indwelling Spirit, we will respond to his call to preach the Gospel to all nations, making disciples, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 2 Pentecost – Even
First posted 06/15/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 17:1-20 –   Maxims concerning conduct;
1 Timothy 3:1-16 –  Qualifications of Church leadership;
Matthew 12:43-50   –  Return of the unclean spirit;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

A crust of bread, in peace, is better than a feast, in strife. A slave who deals wisely will be given promotion over a son who acts shamefully, and will share in the inheritance. The Lord refines hearts like the smith refines precious metal. Evildoers listen to evil talk. He who disrespects the poor insults his maker. “He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5b). Grandchildren are the reward of the aged, and fathers are the delight of sons.

Fine speech does not enhance a fool, nor are lies becoming to a prince. A bribe seems like a good-luck charm to the giver; he has good fortune no matter what he does. Love forgives; those who recall offenses alienate friends.  A wise man learns more from a rebuke than a fool learns from a hundred blows.  Rebellion provokes repression. A fool is more dangerous to others than a bear robbed of her cubs. One who returns evil for good can expect evil. Once quarreling begins, it is hard to end. Justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous are equally abominable to the Lord. Why should a fool pay for an education if he has no intellect?

“A friend loves at all times; a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  A rash pledge can have disastrous consequences. One who indulges in transgression is going to have trouble. Those who act arrogantly can expect to be hated (Proverbs 17:19). Crooks don’t prosper, and liars get into trouble. A stupid or foolish child is no joy to his parents. A cheerful attitude is good medicine, but a grouch is depressing. It is wickedness to accept a bribe to pervert justice. A wise man has wise goals, but a fool chases impossible dreams. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The office of Bishop (overseer) is worthy of respect, and those who hold the office should be beyond reproach. They must manage their households and personal lives well to be considered able to manage the household of God, and to command the respect of outsiders. They should have some spiritual maturity. Deacons likewise must be of good character. They must be firm in faith and knowledge of the Gospel, and be applying it in their daily lives (having a “clear conscience;” 1 Timothy 3:9).

Church leaders must be beyond reproach because they gain respect from their office, and by their conduct, influence, for better or worse, the faith of others in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is the pillar which upholds and the bulwark which defends the Gospel truth in the world, and our conduct as the Church should be in harmony with that mission. Jesus Christ is the central content of the Gospel.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told a parable about the return of an unclean spirit which had gone out of a man. The unclean spirit was in the wilderness with no place to go, so he decided to return to the man from whom he had gone out. He came and found his “home” vcant and clean, so he invited seven other spirits, more evil than he, to dwell there with him.

While Jesus was still speaking, he was told that his mother and brothers were outside asking to speak with him. Jesus declared that those who are truly his family, his “mother and brothers,” are those who do the will of God the Father.

Commentary:

Most people would agree that these proverbs concerning conduct are “just common sense.” But why then doesn’t every one do what appears to be common sense? Because we have a choice and we don’t always choose to do what we know is right. We do what we want to do, instead of what we know is right.

The Church is the “pillar and bulwark” of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are too many examples recently of church leaders whose conduct has brought reproach upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just Church Leaders, but every member of the church is a witness, for good or bad, to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command to the Church is to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

The Church should be discipling new believers so that they grow in spiritual maturity. Too often there is not enough emphasis in growing in knowledge of the Gospel and the scriptures. Many church members have never read the entire Bible, and do not read the Bible regularly (or even hear it read regularly on Sunday mornings in Church).

Too often the preaching emphasis is on “cheap grace:*” grace without the requirement of discipleship; without obedience. There is not enough emphasis on obedience to Jesus’ teachings in our everyday lives. The conduct of every church member is a witness, for better or worse, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. Lack of obedience to Jesus not only endangers others’ faith in Jesus; it endangers our own as well.

The parable of the return of the unclean spirit should be a warning to us and to the Church. When new members are received, they are freed from “unclean spirits” and their souls are cleansed from unrighteousness. But unless they are discipled, unless they grow spiritually in the knowledge of the Gospel and in the application of Jesus’ teaching in their daily lives, unless they seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit, their newly cleansed lives remain empty and attractive to repossession by sin.

It isn’t those who call themselves the family of Jesus Christ who are his family; it is those who do God’s will who are members of Jesus’ family. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you” (Luke 6:46; see also 6:47-49)?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*A term used by Deitrich Bonhoeffer to describe a doctrine of salvation by grace (unmerited favor) without emphasizing a corresponding obligation of discipleship and obedience. See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6



Thursday 2 Pentecost – Even

First posted 06/16/04;
Podcast: Thursday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 21:30-22-6  –  Concerning life and conduct;
1 Timothy 4:1-16   –   False teachers;
Matthew 13:24-30   –   Weeds among wheat;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel, can avail against the Lord. The horse is made ready for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:30-31). A good reputation is better than wealth. The rich and poor both have the same Lord and creator. A wise man takes shelter from danger while a fool goes ahead, and suffers the consequences. The reward for serving the Lord is riches, honor and life. The way of the perverse will be difficult and unpleasant; one who cares for himself will avoid that path. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The Holy Spirit revealed through New Testament prophets that false teachers would arise, teaching the doctrines of demons and deceitful spirits. For example, Paul cites false teachings already circulating forbidding marriage and the eating of certain foods. On the contrary, everything created by God is good and not to be rejected as long as it is received with thanksgiving and is consecrated by God’s Word and prayer.

Believers are advised to “have nothing to do with godless and silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7), but rather to train themselves in godliness. While physical training may have some benefit for this life, spiritual training in godliness has great benefit for this life and for eternal life.

Eternal life is the goal and hope for which we strive, because our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all who believe (who trust and obey Jesus Christ). Timothy was instructed to command and teach these things: obedience to the true, apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible), Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:3-5; 18-19).

Timothy was to set believers an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. He was to attend to public reading of scripture, preaching and teaching. He was urged not to neglect the gifts of the Holy Spirit which he had received. He was to practice and devote himself to his spiritual duties, so that all would be able to see his growth. He was to take heed of his own spiritual growth and to the teaching of others, because in doing so he and his hearers would be saved.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a field in which a man sowed good seed. But “while men were sleeping,” his enemy deliberately sowed weed seeds among the wheat. The weeds came up with the grain. The weeds could not be removed at that stage without damaging the wheat, so the weeds were allowed to grow until the harvest. Then the weeds would be gathered and bound into bundles to be burned, but the wheat would be gathered into the barn.

Commentary:

God’s Word will prevail. We can work for or against the Lord, but the outcome has already been determined. The victory was won when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and was raised from the dead.

False teachings began to arise in the early Christian Church while the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry and Resurrection were still alive. Believers were well advised to hold on to the true Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ which they had received from the Apostles and to keep a “clear conscience” (i.e., to practice what they professed). Jesus had commanded his disciples to “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 (i.e.; obey; NIV) all that I (Jesus) have commanded you” Matthew 28:18-20 RSV).

This letter documents obedience to that command. Believers are to be trained by the Church in godliness; discipleship; spiritual growth. Believers are counseled not to neglect to seek the fulfillment of the gift of the Holy Spirit which they were promised in the laying on of hands at their baptism. Believers are to practice and devote themselves to their spiritual duties so that others can see their spiritual growth.

God allows false teachers and false teaching to continue. That doesn’t mean that we must tolerate them within the Church. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:19b-20). Ultimately there will be a Day of Judgment. All who have ever lived will be accountable to God in Jesus Christ for what they have done in their lives (John 5:28-29). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

It won’t be enough to merely claim that Jesus is our Lord, without having obeyed what he teaches (Luke 6:46; Matthew 25:31-46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Friday 2 Pentecost – Even

First posted 06/17/04;
Podcast: Friday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-24:2  –  Warning against drunkenness;
1 Timothy 5:17-22 (23-25)   –   Church discipline;
Matthew 13:31-35  –   The parable of the mustard seed;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

This passage from Proverbs is a warning against drunkenness and gluttony.  Those who drink to excess will have emotional and social troubles and physical injury. A drink may look appealing, and may taste good, but later it has the effect of a poisonous snake. Drunkenness affects the vision and balance like snakebite. Too much alcohol will cause hallucinations and delusions. One may suffer serious injury without realizing it. Don’t envy evil men or desire their company. Their minds devise violence and their lips speak mischief.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Church leaders are to be respected as stewards of God’s household, doubly so, those who participate in preaching and teaching in addition to their administrative duties. The author quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 which says that an ox should not be muzzled when it is treading out grain (i.e., it should not be prevented from partaking freely from the grain it is helping to harvest) and Matthew 10:10 where Jesus told his disciples as he commissioned and sent them  out into ministry that the laborer deserves his wages.

Charges of misconduct against an elder are to be substantiated by more than one witness. Those who persist in sin are to be disciplined in the presence of the entire body as a warning to all. The conduct of church administration is to be carried out without partiality or favoritism. The Church is cautioned not to be “hasty in the laying on of hands” (in ordaining leaders, or receiving members), and not to become participants in the sins of others.

Drinking in moderation is allowable. Sometimes sins are obvious although sometimes they can be hidden for a while. Eventually they will be revealed. Similarly some good deeds are conspicuous, but even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. Eventually our conduct, whether good or bad, will be revealed.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed. From a tiny seed, a large shrub grows and becomes the size of a tree, so that birds make their nest in it. The kingdom of heaven is also like a lump of leaven (yeast). A small amount is “hidden” in a large amount of dough so that it seems to disappear, but eventually the entire amount is leavened. Jesus taught everything in parables, fulfilling the prophecy of Asaph the seer (2 Chronicles 29:30)* the author of Psalm 78:2 which is quoted.

Commentary:

The warning against drunkenness is well-advised. Drinking in moderation is not a sin (1 Timothy 5:23) but there is a danger that moderate drinking can lead to alcoholism. Let us not overlook the injunction to not fellowship with evil people. If we drink in order to have fellowship with a group of “friends” perhaps we need to reconsider our situation. We cannot help others by participating in their sins (1 Timothy 5:22).

Church leaders are worthy of respect and compensation for their labor, but they are also obligated to be respectable. The conduct of Church administration is to be without favoritism or partiality. Accusations must be substantiated. Those who persist in sin are to be disciplined in the presence of the entire body as a warning against misconduct. Concealing or accepting unrepented sinful conduct is participation in sin.

The Church is cautioned to be careful whom they ordain to leadership, and also whom they receive into membership. The standards of conduct apply not only to the clergy and church leaders but to all church members, because all are witnesses of the Gospel and representatives of God’s kingdom to the world.

Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed. In one sense the mustard seed represents our personal faith. Faith isn’t a matter of “quantity;” a question of how much faith. If we simply say yes to Jesus as our Lord and begin to act accordingly, he will cause that tiny mustard seed of faith to grow to maturity and fullness. As we trust and obey Jesus, he will show us that he is faithful and his promises are true. But we have to say “yes” and stick with it, day after day.

Faith isn’t an “altar call” we made years ago which settled the issue for all time, without any further growth and discipleship; it’s the beginning of a daily walk in obedience and fellowship with Jesus. Jesus also described the kingdom of heaven as leaven. Believers are to be leaven in the world. We are to go into the world and allow our influence to affect the world by the direction and power of the Holy Spirit.

Our deeds, whether good or bad, eventually will be known. We need to examine ourselves individually, and the Church needs to examine itself. Are we growing spiritually as disciples? Are we being a good influence in the world, or is the world being a bad influence on us individually and corporately as the Church.

Is the Church allowing fellowship with evil people within the Church?  Is the Church condoning and participating in sin? Has the Church been forced to be “hasty in the laying on of hands” on ministerial candidates who are not disciples and not Spirit-anointed because the Church has failed to make disciples at the congregational level? Has the Church been so eager for members that she has been “hasty in the laying on of hands” on those who are unwilling to be disciples?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Matthew 13:35n, p. 1188, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.



Saturday 2 Pentecost – Even

First posted 06/18/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 2 Pentecost – Even

Proverbs 25:15-28  –  Moral instruction;
1 Timothy 6:6-21  –  Godliness with contentment;
Matthew 13:36-43  –  Day of Judgment;

Proverbs Paraphrase:

Patience can persuade one in authority. Soft words can hurt. Too much of a good thing can make you sick. Visiting your neighbor too often will make him tired of you. False witness against a neighbor is as bad as physical violence. Trust in an unfaithful person will make you miserable. Singing songs to someone who is sad is inappropriate and unhelpful. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals upon his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22). A slanderous tongue will provoke anger. Living with a contentious spouse is unpleasant. Good news refreshes the soul. A righteous person who compromises his values under pressure from a wicked person is polluted and loses his usefulness. Too many compliments spoil the effect. A person without self-control is, like an unprotected city, vulnerable to all sorts of bad things.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

“There is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). The material things of this world pertain to this world only; we can’t store them up and take them with us into eternal life. So if we have food and clothing we should be content. Those who desire material possessions fall into temptation and into hurtful desires which ruin and destroy. “For the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Love of material possessions has caused some believers to wander away from faith. Believers are urged to avoid the temptations of material wealth and instead make their aim righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Believers are to “fight the good fight of the faith” (to make the effort and personal sacrifice necessary to pursue and win the promise of faith in Jesus which is eternal life.

Those who sincerely confess that Jesus is Lord receive the promise of eternal life, provided that they persevere in faith and obedience to Jesus. Believers are urged to keep Jesus’ commands unstained and free of reproach until his appearing (on the Day of Judgment). Those who have material wealth are advised not to be haughty, nor to place their confidence in their wealth, which is unreliable, but rather to trust and depend on God who is the source of every blessing.

All, especially the wealthy, are to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, because that is the solid foundation on which to secure the future in eternal life. Believers are urged to guard the Gospel truth which has been entrusted to us, and to “avoid godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20b-21).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus’ disciples asked him privately to explain the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). Jesus told them that the Son of man (Jesus) is the sower of good seed. The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the sower of weeds is the devil. The reapers are angels. The harvest is the close of the age (the Day of Judgment). The angels will gather all causes of sin and all evildoers and cast them into the fire of Hell. Hell will be eternal destruction and separation from God (Matthew 13:42; see 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). The righteous will be gathered into the kingdom of eternal life in Heaven with the Lord (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

Commentary:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News which truly refreshes the soul (Proverbs 25:26)! Jesus is the source of living water (John 4:10; 7:37). Those who believe in Jesus are to be springs of the living water of the Gospel in the world (John 4:14; 7:38-38). A righteous person who compromises his values under pressure from the wicked becomes a polluted spring (Proverbs 25:26). A person who does not practice self-control is like an unprotected city (Proverbs 25:28).

Godliness with contentment is true wealth. Lust for the things of this world can cause believers to wander from faith and lose the promises of God. Believers are urged to renounce the pursuit of worldly wealth; to focus instead on spiritual growth, in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.

Life in this world is a spiritual battle between good and evil. If we follow Jesus we must expect to struggle against temptation; against our own human desires. Following Jesus requires discipline and self-denial, obedience and perseverance.

It is very tempting to rely on material possessions for security. Material things seem so solid; so real, whereas spiritual things seem so ethereal. But the “reality” of material things is deceptive; the only true, eternal, security is in God, and the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Believers are entrusted with the Gospel, which is the fountain of the water of life. Believers are to be springs of living water to the world, and the source of that water is the indwelling Holy Spirit of Christ. We are specifically warned to guard the Gospel truth and our witness from pollution by compromise with worldly values. We are to preserve without deviation the apostolic (as proclaimed by the apostles) scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Gospel of Jesus Christ with which we have been entrusted. We are to testify to the truth of the Gospel by practicing what we proclaim. We are admonished not to indulge in foolish speculation with those who do not know God, in the exercise of what the world falsely considers knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20).

There is a Day of Judgment coming. Jesus will return to judge all who have ever lived (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus will determine who have proved to be the sons (and daughters) of his kingdom by bearing the fruit of the Word which Jesus has sown in the Gospel (Matthew 13:41-43). It is not enough to claim Jesus as Lord without obeying his word (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-23). “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


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