Week of 15 Pentecost – Even – 09/21 – 27/2014

September 20, 2014

Week of 15 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 15 Pentecost – Even

15 Pentecost – Sunday – Even

First posted 09/11/04;
Podcast: Sunday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 4:1-6, 12-21 –   Eliphaz’ first discourse;
Revelation 4:1-11 –   Vision of God on his throne;
Mark 6:1-6a  –  Jesus’ rejected at home;

Job Paraphrase:

Job was a blameless man who had suffered the loss of his health, wealth and posterity. Three friends came to comfort Job when they heard of his suffering. After listening to Job’s lament, the first to speak was Eliphaz the Temanite (a native of Teman, i.e. Edom; or perhaps of Tema in Arabia). Eliphaz noted that Job had counseled others, but now his situation was reversed.

Eliphaz suggested to Job that it was Job’s fear of God which was his reason for confidence and his blamelessness was his reason for hope. Eliphaz offers a supernaturally-inspired question: Can mortal man be judged righteous before God? Can one be considered pure before his creator? If even the heavenly servants and angels of God fall short of God’s perfection, how can mankind hope to be found righteous, considering his mortality. Human life is so brief; one’s life and one’s passing are barely noticed. Status and character are of no avail in extending one’s life, and human wisdom is only an illusion.

Revelation Paraphrase:

The Revelation to John is a series of visions given by Jesus through an angel (a manifestation of Jesus’ presence; or a messenger from God) to the author (John the Apostle) in exile on the Isle of Patmos. Here John sees the Glory of God on the throne of heaven described in terms of precious jewels. The rainbow around the throne perhaps symbolizes the covenant promise we have in Jesus Christ. Around the throne are twenty-four elders (possibly representing the twelve Old Testament Patriarchs and the twelve New Testament Apostles), clothed in white robes and wearing golden crowns.

Thunder and lightning issue from the throne, suggesting the awesome power and majesty of the scene. Around the throne are four living creatures (compare Ezekiel 1:5-10; Isaiah 6:2-3). Their descriptions here may be suggestive of the principle divisions of created animal life. The scene is of the worship of the Creator by all creation. All human authority is surrendered to God.

Mark Paraphrase:

When Jesus was in Nazareth he taught in his home-town synagogue on the Sabbath, but he was not well-received. To them, Jesus was a local boy. They knew his parents and his brothers and sisters. They didn’t accept that Jesus could be extraordinary, and because of their unbelief, Jesus was unable to do many great miracles among them. Jesus commented that a prophet is honored elsewhere, but not among his own people or in his own home. Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.

Commentary:

Job was suffering from a sudden change in perspective. He had gotten used to thinking of himself as a righteous and successful person. He had though that his successfulness validated his righteousness. He had gotten used to the idea of being a teacher of others. Suddenly he was no longer successful; suddenly he found himself seeking answers rather than providing them.

Job’s confidence in his righteousness before God had been based on his belief that he was worthy, because of his good works, of God’s affirmation of Job’s righteousness. Job considered himself blameless. Job probably felt that he was entitled to God’s blessings because he was righteous. Eliphas offered him a different perspective. From God’s perspective, we all fall short. Worldly status, reputation and wisdom won’t entitle us to eternal life.

We tend to view ourselves as the center of the universe. Everything tends to look smaller the farther things are from us. John’s vision of the throne of God offers us a different perspective. John’s vision is a reminder that God is the Creator and center of the Universe. God is the Lord and ruler of the Universe, whether we realize and acknowledge that fact or not.

The people in Jesus’ hometown weren’t able to receive the blessings Jesus offered, because in their perspective they possessed the status, reputation and wisdom in their world; in their opinion, Jesus was a newcomer, trying to establish himself in an area outside of his credentials.

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). All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally, but to have eternal life in Heaven with him (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8).

There is a Day of Judgment coming when all who have ever lived will be accountable to the Lord. 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 trust and obey him will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Salvation is the gift of God received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, not earned by doing good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10). Job’s affliction gave him the opportunity to re-examine his beliefs and get a new perspective [like Saul’s (Paul’s) encounter on the Damascus road had done for Saul].

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)?

15 Pentecost –  Monday – Even

First posted 09/12/04;
Podcast: Monday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 4:1; 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27 – Eliphaz’ first discourse continued;
Acts 9:19b-31  –  Saul at Damascus;
John 6:52-59  –  Jesus’ body and blood;

Job Paraphrase:

Job was a blameless man who had suffered the loss of his health, wealth and posterity. Three friends came to comfort Job when they heard of his suffering. After listening to Job’s lament, the first to speak was Eliphaz the Temanite (a native of Teman, i.e. Edom; or perhaps of Tema in Arabia). Eliphaz asked Job who anyone can call upon for help (apart from God alone).

Usually when bad things happen they are the deserved consequences of our actions. Trouble and affliction don’t come out of nowhere. But trouble is a natural condition of life; a reasonable certainty. Eliphaz recommends that Job seek God and commit his cause to God, who does great things beyond number or understanding.

God lifts up to safety the humble and those who mourn. Those who are reproved by the Lord should rejoice, and not despise the chastening of the Almighty. He disciplines, but he also heals. The Lord doesn’t abandon us in our troubles; he delivers us from them. We may experience troubles but the Lord will not allow us to be destroyed by them. The Lord is able to provide fulfillment of our lives. Realizing this is in our best interest.

Acts Paraphrase:

After Saul (Paul) had regained his sight and been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18), he stayed with disciples in Damascus and immediately began proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God. The Jews in Damascus were amazed, because they knew that Saul had persecuted Christians in Jerusalem and had come to Damascus for the purpose of arresting Christians and bringing them to Jerusalem for trial. But Saul grew in spiritual strength “and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 9:22).

After many days, the Jews plotted to kill Saul, but the plot became known. The Jews were watching the gate of the city, to apprehend him, but the disciples lowered Saul down outside the wall in a basket at night.

Later, Paul went to Jerusalem [Paul said that his first visit to Jerusalem was three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:15-20)] and the disciples there were afraid of him, but Barnabas brought Paul before the apostles and told them how Paul had seen and spoken with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, and how he had preached Jesus boldly in Damascus.

As a result the believers in Jerusalem accepted him as a fellow believer. Paul preached boldly also in Jerusalem, and disputed with the Hellenists (Jews who adopted Greek customs or Greek converts to Judaism) who also plotted to kill Paul. But the Christians learned of the plot and brought Paul to Caesarea (a seaport) and sent him (by boat) to Tarsus (Paul’s home city). Despite the persecution of Christians, the Church had peace and was growing, as believers walked in obedience and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had returned to Capernaum after feeding the five thousand. The multitude had followed Jesus there seeking more free bread. Jesus told them that his flesh was the living bread of heaven which has come down to give life to the world. The Jewish religious authorities questioned how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat. So Jesus told them that unless one eats the flesh of the Son of man (Jesus) and drinks his blood one does not have eternal life.

Jesus declared that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood abide in Jesus and Jesus abides in them. As God gives Jesus eternal life, so those who eat Jesus’ flesh and blood will live because of Jesus. Thus Jesus is the true bread which comes down from heaven, unlike the manna, which the patriarchs ate and did not receive eternal life from it. Those who eat this bread (Jesus’ flesh and blood) will live forever. This took place in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Commentary:

Eliphaz told Job that when bad things happen they are often the deserved consequences of our actions, but that trouble is to be expected as a natural condition of life. If troubles represent the reproval of the Lord, we should accept his reproof, because he disciplines us for our benefit. One should commit one’s welfare to the Lord because only the Lord has our best interests at heart, and only he is faithful and able to preserve and deliver us.

Paul is a great example of how the Lord disciplines us for our good, and how although he disciplines, he also heals and delivers us from trouble. Paul had been successful in his culture, but he was headed in the wrong direction. If he had not been disciplined by the Lord on the road to Damascus he would have wasted his life persecuting Christianity and would have missed eternal life in Heaven with the Lord.

Instead, Paul became one of the great Christian evangelists and received eternal life. He went from a leader of his society to a persecuted minority of that society, but he became a leader in the Church, had fellowship with Christians throughout the world, and a personal relationship with the King of the Universe. He had trouble and persecution but the Lord was faithful and able to deliver him from them.

Jesus is the only one who can offer security and life, in this world and for eternity. He doesn’t promise that we won’t have troubles, but he does promise that in him we will be saved and delivered from all our  troubles. Material things seem to promise security and life, but they are false promises.

What Jesus promises will be fulfilled. The Jewish religious leaders doubted what Jesus had said about giving his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. What Jesus said sounded impossible to them. They were relying on worldly wisdom. Jesus’ words were fulfilled when he instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion (the Lord’s Supper; Matthew 26:26-29) on the night of his betrayal.

Do you believe 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)?

15 Pentecost – Tuesday – Even

First posted 09/13/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 6:1-4, 8-15, 21  –  Job replies;
Acts 9:32-43  –  Peter restores Aeneas and Dorcas;
John 6:60-71  –  Words of eternal life;

Job Paraphrase:

Job had suffered more than ordinary misfortune. Job wished that God would end Job’s life. Job’s one consolation was that he had not yet renounced his faith in God, but he was afraid that he might come to that point. He recognized that he did not have sufficient resources within him to sustain himself. He could see no hope beyond his present situation which would make continued suffering worthwhile.

One who withholds kindness from a friend has abandoned his faith in God. That kind of friend is as dangerous as a flash-flood. Job suggested that his three friends, who had come to console him, had become that sort of friend; they saw Job’s calamity and were afraid for themselves.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter traveled throughout the region visiting Christian congregations. At Lydda (Lod, Ludd; about 9 miles southeast of Joppa) he found a man named Aeneas who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter told him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed” (Acts 9:34) and immediately the man arose. Word of this healing caused many from Lydda and the surrounding area to turn to the Lord.

At the same time there was a disciple in Joppa named Tabitha (Aramaic for Gazelle; Dorcas is the Greek equivalent). She was known for her good works and charity. She died, and she was washed and placed in an upper room. Knowing that Peter was in Lydda, the congregation sent messengers to him asking him to come. Among the mourners were widows for whom Dorcas had made coats and clothing.

Peter put everyone out of the room and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the body and called Tabitha’s name and told her to rise. She opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up. He held out his hand and she took it and stood up. Then Peter brought her out to her friends. This healing became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord as a result. Peter stayed for many days in Joppa, with Simon the tanner.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had told the crowds that came to hear him that those who eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood will live forever (John 6:41-59). His disciples told him that this teaching was disturbing. Jesus knew his disciples’ inner thoughts, and he asked, if they took offense at this saying, how would they react at Jesus’ ascension? Jesus said that it is the Spirit which gives life; flesh is not eternal. Jesus had spoken of spirit and life. But Jesus knew that some did not believe. Jesus knew from the beginning those who did not believe, and who would betray him. Jesus said that was why he had said that no one can come to him unless God the Father granted it.

After this many of his followers turned away from him. Jesus asked the Twelve if they would also stop following Jesus, and Simon replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). Jesus replied that he had chosen the Twelve, and that one of them was a devil, referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray Jesus.

Commentary:

Job had lost almost everything. He still had faith in God, but he was afraid he might come to the point where he would lose even that. He recognized that he did not have the resources within himself to sustain him. He had no hope beyond his present life. Job feared that he might be forced by suffering to abandon his faith, but he realized that there is another kind of abandonment of faith, when believers do not respond to the suffering of others with compassion.

Peter is an example of how disciples of Jesus should respond to people who are suffering. Peter encountered a man who had been bedridden for a long time. Peter had been given the gift of healing by the Holy Spirit. Peter was led by the Holy Spirit to heal the man and restore him to useful life.  Peter acted in faith guided by the Holy Spirit, and faith increased, in himself and in those around him.

People in Joppa knew of Peter’s gift of healing and knew he was nearby, so they sent for him in faith, and he responded to their request. He restored Dorcas to them, and faith increased.

Peter stayed with Simon, a tanner of animal skins. Simon’s occupation made him a social outcast among Jews, because according to Jewish Law, he was ritually unclean.

Jesus speaks spiritual truths, which the world finds offensive. One will either trust and obey what Jesus says, or one will take offense and turn away from him and ultimately betray him. Jesus warned his disciples that their faith would face more difficult challenges in Jesus’ crucifixion and his ascension into heaven that this “offensive” teaching. Our worldly thinking needs to be disturbed by Jesus’ teaching, because our unchallenged worldly thinking will lead us to our eternal death.

Faith is the gift God gives us as we trust and obey. Peter’s reply demonstrates the gift of faith in Jesus: if we will trust and obey Jesus, we will come to know for ourselves with certainty that he is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). We won’t have to wait until we die in order to know whether we were right or not. Not all of Jesus’ “followers” will trust and obey Jesus; those who do not trust and obey will eventually betray.

Job didn’t have the benefit of the revelation of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. He didn’t have the promise of eternal life. He didn’t have the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain, comfort and encourage him. Job recognized that the faithful response to the suffering of others is compassionate; those who have not learned to trust in the Lord respond to misfortune in others by withdrawing from the sufferer. Suffering in others makes them fearful for themselves.

Those who have experienced the comfort and encouragement of the Lord can share that comfort and encouragement with others (2 Corinthians 1:4). If we will trust and obey the Lord we do not need to fear that we will lose our faith. Are we willing to hear Jesus’ words even when they make us uncomfortable?

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)?

15 Pentecost – Wednesday – Even

First posted 09/14/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 6:1; 7:1-21  –  Life is hard and transient;
Acts 10:1-16  –  Peter’s vision at Joppa;
John 7:1-13  –  The Feast of Tabernacles;

Job Paraphrase:

Mankind’s lot in life is hard labor; he’s no more than a slave. Job’s days were full of emptiness and his nights were full of misery and tossing. Job suffered a miserable skin disease. Job realized that life is brief, and feared that he would never again experience good. He had no hope beyond his physical death. Job could not find relief in sleep; when he managed to sleep he was troubled by bad dreams. Job felt that God had singled him out for torment. Job didn’t know what he had done to deserve God’s punishment, but he longed to be forgiven.

Acts Paraphrase:

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion attached to the Italian Cohort, a military garrison at Caesarea. Cornelius and his household were worshipers of God (but had not adopted the Jewish religion; he was not circumcised, and did not keep the Jewish dietary laws). Cornelius contributed liberally to the poor and he prayed constantly. About 3:00 PM, Cornelius had a vision of an angel of the Lord who addressed Cornelius by name. Cornelius was frightened, but the angel told him that the Lord had seen his charitable deeds and heard his prayers.

The angel told Cornelius to send messengers to Joppa to bring Simon Peter to Cornelius. The angel told Cornelius that Peter was staying at the house of Simon the Tanner, by the seaside. When the angel departed, Cornelius called two of his servants and a soldier under his command and sent them to Joppa to do as the angel had directed.

The next day, as Cornelius’ men approached Joppa, Peter went up to the housetop at noon to pray. During his prayers, he became hungry and asked for a meal. While the food was being prepared he fell into a trance and had a vision.

In the vision he saw what looked like a bed sheet containing all kinds of animals lowered down from heaven by its four corners. A voice from heaven instructed him to select something to eat from the assortment. Peter at first objected, saying that he had never eaten anything regarded as “unclean” (Jewish dietary laws forbid eating any animals other than cloven-hoofed ruminants). But the voice replied that Peter should not regard as unclean what God has cleansed. This vision was repeated three times.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was teaching openly in Galilee, but avoided Judea, because the Jewish authorities in Judea were seeking to kill him. The feast of Tabernacles was at hand, and Jesus’ brothers told Jesus he should go to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, so that he could declare himself to the pilgrims from all over the world who would be there. Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Jesus.

Jesus told them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.” Jesus told his brothers that the world could not hate them, but the world hated Jesus because Jesus testified that the works of the world are evil. Jesus told his brothers to go to Jerusalem themselves; Jesus chose to remain in Galilee because his time of self-disclosure had not yet fully come.

After his brothers had left for Jerusalem, Jesus also went to the feast, but privately. The Judeans were looking for Jesus at the feast. There was considerable controversy among them regarding Jesus. Some thought Jesus was a good man, while others thought he was leading the people astray. But the people were afraid to speak openly about Jesus for fear of the religious authorities.

Commentary:

In the midst of his suffering Job blamed God. Job felt that he was being unjustly punished. Death seemed to be his only hope of relief. He longed to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. Job’s situation is an illustration of the eternal fate of all mankind, apart from Jesus Christ. God didn’t cause Job’s suffering; it’s the natural consequence of life.

Sooner or later, all will come to a point of suffering, despair and utter hopelessness, except those who are in Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to save us from that fate. In Jesus, God shows that he loves us; that he’s not causing our suffering but actively working to heal it and give us assurance of eternal life without suffering. In Jesus, we have the forgiveness Job longed to have; we have the hope of long life free from suffering beyond our physical death which Job didn’t have.

The record of the conversion of Cornelius shows God actively at work in the lives of Cornelius and Peter to bring Cornelius to salvation through Jesus Christ. God’s salvation is offered not just to a select few but to all who are open to receive it. Cornelius was open and obedient to God’s leading, and so was Peter. Peter was not rigid in his doctrine, but open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Peter followed the Lord’s example, administering the gospel not to afflict and oppress but to relieve and save.

Religion in Jesus’ day had gone from being the ministry of God’s forgiveness, to become a means of oppressing the people. The religious leaders were not open to the leading of the Lord. They weren’t seeking the Lord’s will and direction; they were pursuing their own doctrines and agendas.

Jesus’ brothers thought Jesus should adopt the worldly ways of doing things to promote his ministry. They saw the feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem as an opportunity for Jesus to publicize his teachings, achieve recognition and win worldly approval. Jesus declined to adopt worldly methods to “promote” his ministry. Instead, Jesus focused on seeking and following God’s will and timing, and earning God’s approval.

Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation from sin and death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). That plan is not devised by man. It is designed by God to free us, not to oppress us. We can do it God’s way or our way. Our way leads to eternal suffering and death; God’s way leads to eternal life.

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)?

15 Pentecost – Thursday – Even

First posted 09/15/04;
Podcast: Thursday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 8:1-10, 20-22  –  Bildad affirms divine justice;
Acts 10:17-33  –  Peter goes to Cornelius;
John 7:14-36  –  Controversy over Jesus;

Job Paraphrase:

Bildad, the “son of contention,” a Shuhite (probably a descendant of Shuah, who was the sixth son of Abraham by Keturah), responds to Job’s complaint, basically telling Job to stop complaining. He suggests that Job’s children must have sinned and had therefore deserved their demise. He suggests that if Job is righteous, as Job insists that he is, then Job should seek God and God will bless him.

Bildad advises Job to turn to the scriptures, for they are the accumulated experiences of the patriarchs. Bildad offers several proverbs which affirm that God will not reject the blameless, nor vindicate evildoers; that when things seem hopeless God is still able to restore hope and joy; those who hate the righteous will be put to shame and the wicked will perish.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter had had a vision of animals which were not lawful to be eaten, according to Jewish Law, and had been instructed by the Lord that it was alright to eat them; that they should no longer be regarded as unclean because the Lord had cleansed them (Acts 10:13-15). Cornelius, a Roman Centurion had also had a vision instructing him to send to Joppa for Peter.

While Peter was contemplating his vision, the men sent by Cornelius arrived at the gate of the house where Peter was staying. The Holy Spirit told Peter that the men seeking him had been sent by the Lord’s will, and that Peter should accompany them without hesitation, so Peter went down to the men and invited them to be his guests.

The next day he and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied the men to Cornelius in Caesarea. Cornelius had called together his kinsmen and close friends in anticipation of Peter’s arrival. When Peter arrived, Cornelius fell down at his feet and worshiped him, but Peter lifted him up and told Cornelius that Peter was only an ordinary man like Cornelius.

Peter told them that Jewish Law forbids Jews to associate with Gentiles, but that God had shown him that he should regard no person as common or unclean, and had therefore come without objection. Cornelius told of his vision of the angel prompting him to send for Peter. He said they were ready to hear what Peter had to say.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus chose to go to Jerusalem anonymously for the feast of Tabernacles, instead of publicly as his brothers had suggested. Around the middle of the feast Jesus went into the temple and taught. The people wondered how Jesus had attained such knowledge without formal education.

Jesus told them his teaching was not his own; it was from God his Father. Any person who is committed to doing God’s will will be able to recognize that Jesus’ teaching is from God. One who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but Jesus was not seeking his own glory. Because Jesus’ purpose was to glorify God, his testimony is true.

Jesus told them that they were under condemnation by the Law of Moses. They had been given the law but they did not keep its precepts. Jesus knew they were seeking to kill him, but they denied it and suggested that he was crazy. Jesus said that the Jews practiced ritual observance of the law but not the spirit of the law. The Jews practiced circumcision on the Sabbath but wanted to kill Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Their keeping of the law and their judgment were superficial, based on outward appearances.

It was common knowledge in Jerusalem that there were people seeking to kill Jesus (John 7:25). The people were amazed that Jesus was speaking openly and that the authorities could do nothing. The people wondered if the authorities actually realized that Jesus was indeed the Christ. But they discounted Jesus as the Christ because they thought they knew where Jesus came from, which seemed contrary to scripture.

The people didn’t know God, although they thought they did. Jesus said that they only thought they knew where Jesus had come from. Jesus declared that he been sent by God, had come from God and knew God. So the Jews sought to arrest Jesus, but were unable to because it was not in God’s timing. But many people believed in Jesus because of the many miracles he had done.

The Pharisees heard the crowd talking about Jesus so they sent officers to arrest Jesus. Jesus told them he would be with them a little longer, and then he would go to him who had sent Jesus; they would seek Jesus and not be able to find him, and where Jesus is they cannot come. The Jews discussed among themselves what Jesus meant. They though Jesus meant to go to the Jews living among the Gentiles.

Commentary:

Faith is not a matter of outward appearance but of inner conviction which results in trust and obedience. Bildad was making judgments about Job and Job’s children based on outward appearances. Bildad assumed that since the children had been destroyed, that they must have sinned, and that if Job was as righteous and blameless as he claimed that God would restore him.

Peter had been raised in the legalistic Judaism of his time. The Lord needed to teach Peter not to judge people by outward appearances so that he could bring the Gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles.

Cornelius was seeking to know and do God’s will with his whole heart. The facts that he was an Italian and not a Jew, that he was not a member of the Jewish religion, and that he was not circumcised didn’t matter. He was open to the leading of God’s Word and God’s Spirit and he sought the truth. He acted on God’s Word in trust and obedience. The result was that he and his household had the opportunity to hear the Gospel; they believed, and they received the Holy Spirit.

The Jews of Jesus’ day wanted the appearance of righteousness without the commitment of obedience to God’s will. They judged Jesus on the basis of outward appearances: they were amazed by Jesus’ knowledge since he didn’t have a “diploma;” they thought they knew where Jesus was from because they knew his earthly home and parentage; they thought they knew God, but did not recognize God’s Son; they thought they knew God’s Word but did not recognize that Jesus was the living Word of God (John 1:1, 14).

They did not recognize Jesus’ teaching as God’s Word because they were not committed to obedience to God’s will (John 7:17). Many people believed in Jesus because of the miracles which he did. They were so focused on outward appearances that they couldn’t see the spiritual significance of what Jesus said and did; only the outward superficial implications (John 7:35).

How are we doing? Jesus said, “Why call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say (Matthew 7:21-23)? Good deeds won’t save us. Church membership won’t save us. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit will save us.

The Holy Spirit is the “seal” of God’s approval, the “down-payment” and the “guarantee” of eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). The Lord gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17; Isaiah 42:5e).

Do we choose our spiritual leaders by evidence of the Holy Spirit within them, or by evidence of their formal education? 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)?

15 Pentecost – Friday – Even

First posted 09/16/04;
Podcast: Friday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 9:1-15, 32-35 –  Job acknowledges God’s Power;
Acts 10:34-48  –  Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit;
John 7:37-52  –  Living water;

Job Paraphrase:

Job asks how any person can be deemed righteous in God’s judgment; how can any mortal prevail against God’s wisdom and power? Who can argue with God and win? Who can oppose God’s will and succeed? Creation bears witness to God’s wisdom and power.

God’s works are beyond mankind’s ability to understand or even count. We can’t even see and find God (except as he chooses to reveal himself to us), but he knows where we are and he can snatch us away at any moment, and who can prevent it?

There is no way that mankind can vindicate himself before God; our only chance is to appeal for mercy. We are not God’s equals, that we could be tried impartially, man versus God, as equals. There is no one to mediate between God and man, who could restrain God’s power so that we might face him without fear.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter had been called by the Holy Spirit to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile living in Caesarea, to share with him the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:1-33). Peter said that he perceived that God does not show partiality to any person. Anyone who reverences God and does what is right is acceptable to God, regardless of race or nationality.

Then Peter told Cornelius and his household the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ; how Jesus proclaimed this Gospel throughout Judea and Galilee, following his baptism by John the Baptizer; how God had anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power to heal and restore.

Peter told how Jesus had been crucified, but that God had raised him from the dead on the third day; how Jesus had appeared, after his resurrection, to his disciples, who testify to the truth of Jesus and his resurrection.

Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the good news of Jesus Christ “and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; compare 1 Peter 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:1). “All the prophets (i.e., scripture) bear witness that everyone who believes in him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

While Peter was still speaking “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). Jewish Christians from Joppa who had accompanied Peter to Cornelius were amazed to realize that the Holy Spirit had been given to (uncircumcised) Gentiles. Peter asked rhetorically what possible reason could prevent these Gentiles, who had obviously received the Holy Spirit (just as the circumcised had; Acts 2:4-11) from being baptized. The Gentile converts were baptized and Peter remained there for a number of days.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles, a seven-day festival of the final harvest of the year, which began on a Sabbath (in September-October). It was concluded by a special Sabbath on the eighth day (Numbers 29:35-38). “On the last day of the feast [probably the eighth day] Jesus stood up and said, ‘If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

On hearing this, some said that Jesus was the prophet who scripture prophesied would come to announce the coming Messiah. Others thought that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (Christ). But some argued that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because Jesus had (apparently) come from Galilee, and the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem. So there was controversy among the people over him. Some wanted to arrest Jesus, but no one did.

The chief priests and Pharisees asked the officers of the Temple why they had not arrested Jesus, and the officers replied, “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46)! The Pharisees ridiculed the officers for being carried away with Jesus’ words, pointing out that none of the religious authorities believed Jesus; only the uneducated and sinful crowds believed what Jesus said.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus at night (John 3:1-16) and was one of “them” (he was a Pharisee; he was also a disciple; John 19:39), reminded them that the Law does not condone judgment without a fair trial. The Pharisees responded by asking if Nicodemus was from Galilee also; they told him that there was no scripture to support any prophet arising from Galilee.

Commentary:

Job recognized the chasm which separates man from God. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). There is no way that mankind can vindicate himself before God. Our only hope is to appeal to God’s mercy to forgive our sins.

God loves us and doesn’t want any of us to die eternally (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17; see also God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). God sent Jesus to be the mediator between ourselves and God, so that we could be reconciled and restored to a right relationship with God. Jesus is the bridge over the chasm which separates us from God. God made Jesus the impartial judge who restrains God’s power and allows us to face God without fear (provided that we trust and obey Jesus).

The good news of Jesus Christ is that all who believe (trust and obey; believe and act on that belief) in Jesus receive forgiveness of sins. [Salvation is not earned by “doing good deeds” (Ephesians 2:8-9) but how can one truly believe that Jesus is Lord and not do what Jesus commands (Matthew 7:21-24)?] God is committed to being totally impartial. He has appointed Jesus to be the impartial judge.

Jesus will judge the living and the dead; the physically living and dead, and the spiritually living and dead. Everyone will be judged by the same standard, and that standard is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the “seal” of God’s approval, the “down-payment” and the “guarantee” of eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). The Lord gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17; Isaiah 42:5e).

The feast of Tabernacles was the celebration of the final harvest. It was a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for what God has done for his people in bringing them through the wilderness to the point of receiving the fruits of the final harvest in the Promised Land.

One of the features of the festival was the carrying of water from the pool of Siloam to be poured on the altar each dawn during the feast as a reminder of the water brought forth from the rock in the wilderness (Numbers 20:2-13) and as a symbol of hope of the coming Messiah. This is the context in which Jesus declared that he was the source of Living Water that would flow out of the hearts of believers and become a river of living water, corresponding to an image of the water poured upon the altar in the Temple becoming a river flowing down the steps and through the gates into the world (compare Exodus 47:1-6a; Revelation 22:1-2).

The Holy Spirit is the water of eternal life, which only Jesus can provide, which quenches our spiritual thirst. What Jesus said stirred up great controversy. Each individual must decide for himself who he believes Jesus to be. Do we believe that Jesus is the Christ, our savior and Lord, the Son of God and righteous judge? Or do we think he’s merely a prophet, or a “good” man? Do we think he’s just a “Galilean;” a swindler; a pretender?

Have we condemned him without giving him a fair hearing? The religious authorities who thought they knew so much about Jesus and the Scriptures decided Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because he wasn’t from Bethlehem, not realizing that by God’s will Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem  (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7). The experts didn’t know as much as they thought they did.

Jesus has promised that he will return to judge everyone who has ever lived (John 5: 28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). 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 Satan and all evil.

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)?

15 Pentecost – Saturday – Even

First posted 09/17/04;
Podcast: Saturday 15 Pentecost – Even
Job 9:1; 10:1-9, 16-22 –  Job’s complaint;
Acts 11:1-18  –  Peter’s defense;
John 8:12-20  –  The Light of the World;

Job Paraphrase:

Job was a blameless man who had suffered the loss of his health, wealth and posterity. He had come to loathe life. Job decided to voice his complaint and his bitterness. He asked God not to condemn him, and to tell him why God was allowing Job to suffer. He appealed to God as his creator. He acknowledged that God’s faculties are greater than mankind’s, and thus hoped that God would do right to Job.

Job regretted that he had ever been born. He wished that he had been “still-born” so that he could have gone directly from the womb to the grave. Yet he knew that life is short, and longed for a little “brightness” (Hebrew: “brighten up;” Job 10:20 RSV, footnote “a”) before he died. He visualized death as a land of gloom and darkness.

Acts Paraphrase:

News of the conversion of Gentiles (Cornelius and his household; Acts 10:1-48) reached the Church in Jerusalem. When Peter went to Jerusalem, a group of Jewish Christians who insisted on keeping the Laws and traditions of Judaism (“Judaizers,” the “circumcision party”) criticized Peter for associating with and eating with Gentiles. Peter explained step-by-step in detail how he had seen the vision from the Lord teaching him not to regard anything (or anyone) as ritually “unclean,” how the men had arrived from Cornelius precisely at the moment the vision had ended, and how the Holy Spirit had told Peter to accompany these men to Cornelius’ house in Caesarea.

Peter told the Church in Jerusalem that when he had arrived at Cornelius’ house, Cornelius described a vision Cornelius had seen of an angel telling him to send for Peter at Joppa, with specific directions to Peter’s location. The angel had told Cornelius that Peter had a message by which Cornelius and his household would be saved.

When Peter told Cornelius and his household the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, just as the Church in Jerusalem had been filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The Gentiles received the Holy Spirit by the Lord’s will and timing; Peter had merely co-operated with the Lord’s will and timing. When they heard this, Peter’s critics were silenced, and the Church acknowledged that salvation had been granted to Gentiles as well as to Jews.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-52), a seven-day festival of the final harvest of the year, which began on a Sabbath (in September-October). It was concluded by a special Sabbath on the eighth day (Numbers 29:35-38).

One of the special features of the festival was the lighting of large golden lamps in the Temple court as a memorial to the pillar of fire by night during their wilderness wandering (Exodus 13:21-22), and by all-night dancing by torchlight to the music of flutes. In that context, Jesus declared that he is the light of the world. Jesus promised that those who follow him will not walk in darkness, but will have the “light of life.”

The Pharisees rejected Jesus’ words because Jesus was testifying about himself, and they felt that was unreliable. Jesus replied that even if he was testifying about himself his testimony was true. Jesus declared that he knew his origin and destiny, but mankind did not know Jesus’ origin or destiny. Jesus said that mankind judges according to the flesh (worldly, human nature). Jesus is not “judgmental;” Jesus’ judgment is impartial and “just,” because Jesus does not judge according to his own judgment but in accordance with God the Father’s judgment.

Jesus told them that “the Father who sent me bears witness to me” (John 8:18; satisfying the Jewish requirement for collaborative testimony). The Pharisees responded by asking Jesus, “Where is your Father” (John 8:19a)? Jesus replied, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me you would know my Father also” (John 8:19b). This exchange occurred in the Temple treasury; but Jesus was not arrested, because it was not yet in God’s timing.

Commentary:

Job’s hope for justice and vindication was in God’s superhuman wisdom and righteousness. Thus Job was able to trust that God would do right to Job. Job was having trouble waiting for God to act on Job’s behalf. Job visualized death as darkness and longed for a little brightness before the inevitability of death. [Death is not nothingness, and there is no such thing as reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27; John 5:28-29). We will all spend eternity either in Heaven with Jesus or in Hell with Satan and all evil (Matthew 25:31-46)]. Job’s suffering is a picture of eternity without Jesus; physical death will not end suffering for those who die without Jesus.

The indwelling Holy Spirit gave Peter the “vision” and the guidance to present the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. The angel (manifestation of the Lord’s presence) who appeared to Cornelius corresponds to the manifestation of Jesus’ presence (as “light”) to Paul (Saul) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-5), the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:9b). Cornelius trusted and obeyed the Lord’s instructions, and he subsequently received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit as he responded to the Gospel with faith. Cornelius and his household received spiritual sight, spiritual light, and spiritual guidance through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The “Gentile Pentecost” was in God’s timing, as the “Jewish” Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) had been. [The disciples had been commanded by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the promise of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24: 49; Acts 1:4-5).] Peter had been accused by the “Judaizers” of having “stumbled;” of having made a “misstep” in allowing uncircumcised Gentiles to join the Church.

Jesus declared that he is the “light of the world;” that those who follow (trust and obey) him will not stumble because they will not walk in darkness (John 11:9-10; they will have spiritual enlightenment, and they will be obedient to Jesus, and not participating in works of darkness. Jesus’ statement is both a promise and a command.). Those who follow Jesus will have the “light of life” (the joy and brightness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in this lifetime, and the comfort and joy of eternal life in Heaven, where there is no more death, pain or sorrow; Revelation 21:4).

The Pharisees were “judgmental” concerning Jesus. They decided Jesus’ testimony was unworthy of belief because Jesus was testifying about himself. They refused to accept that Jesus’ father was God, and they challenged the legitimacy of Jesus’ earthly parentage. The Pharisees proved that they did not know God (or the scriptures) as well as they thought, because they did not recognize Jesus as God’s Son and Messiah.

Their attitude contrasts the difference between human judgment and divine judgment. Jesus’ judgment is the judgment of God, totally impartial and in complete agreement and obedience to God’s will. The Pharisees had already judged Jesus as deserving to die (without having been tried under Jewish Law) but no one arrested Jesus, because it was not yet God’s timing for that to be allowed to happen.

Notice that Jesus spoke these words in the Treasury of the Temple (John 8:20). Jesus is “the riches of the glory of this mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”  [The Greek word translated “glory” means abundance, wealth, treasure, honor; it also means the splendor of God’s presence, and the bliss of heaven. (Colossians 1:27).

Jesus is the fulfillment of Job’s (and mankind’s) longing for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, for comfort of sorrow and brightness of hope for life beyond physical death.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be light within us to comfort and guide us, to keep us from stumbling in the darkness of this present world; to be the “pillar of fire” which guides us through the “wilderness” and “night” of this world. The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be the light of life; to be the “seal,” “down payment” and “guarantee” of eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16) in the brightness of Heaven (Revelation 21:23-25), where there is no more suffering and death (see above).

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). Are we co-operating with God’s plan and God’s timing? Are we waiting on God’s timing, or are we making God wait for us?

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 14 Pentecost – Even – 09/14 – 20/14

September 13, 2014

Week of 14 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 14 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 14 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/04/04;
Podcast: Sunday 14 Pentecost – Even

Judges 16:15-31  –  Death of Samson;
2 Corinthians 13:1-11  –  Concluding appeal;
Mark 5:25-34  –  Hemorrhagic woman healed;

Judges Paraphrase:

Delilah had tried three times unsuccessfully to wheedle the secret of Samson’s strength out of him, and she had tested him each time and found that he had lied. She kept pestering Samson day after day until finally he was so irritated by her pestering that he told her the truth; that he was a Nazirite to God, his hair had never been cut, and that if he was shaved, his strength would leave him. When Delilah knew he had revealed his secret, she sent word to the Philistines, and they came to her and brought her the money she had been promised.

She made Samson sleep on her knees, and while he slept, she had a man shave off Samson’s hair. Then she woke Samson, crying that the Philistines were upon him, as she had done to test him before. Samson awoke and thought he would break free as at the other times, but he did not know that the Lord had left him. The Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes, and shackled him with bronze shackles and forced him to turn the millstone at the prison mill. But Samson’s hair started to grow out again.

The Philistines held a great sacrifice to Dagon, their god, to celebrate the capture of Samson. They brought Samson out to mock and humiliate him and made him stand between two pillars in the temple of Dagon. The temple was full of all the officials and of the Philistines and leading citizens; in all there were about three thousand people.

Samson asked the boy who had been assigned to lead him by the hand to let Samson feel the pillars with his hands. Then Samson called to the Lord to strengthen him one more time, so that he might be avenged against the Philistines. Then Samson grasped the two middle pillars of the temple and leaned his weight into them and the temple collapsed upon the people and killed them. Samson had killed more people at his death than he had killed during his life. His family came and took his body and buried it between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah, his father. Samson had judged Israel for twenty years.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul was planning to visit Corinth for a third time. There had been dissention in the Corinthian congregation, and Paul would assert his apostolic authority, which is Christ’s authority administered through Paul, to deal with wrongdoers. Evidently some of the congregation had challenged Paul’s authority. Paul recognized that all power belongs to God. Paul exhorts believers to examine themselves to see whether they are holding to their faith; to test themselves. Jesus Christ is within each believer, unless they fail the test of faith.

Paul hopes believers will realize that Paul has not failed the test of faith; that Christ is in Paul and speaking through Paul. But what other people think about Paul isn’t important to Paul. Paul’s concern is that believers will do what is right, not to vindicate Paul, but that they might have the reward of true faith and the indwelling and empowerment of Christ within them.

Paul’s only motive is truth. Paul is not trying to build up his own prestige; his motive is to build up the believers’ faith. Paul’s hope is that the congregation will discipline itself, so that Paul will not need to exert his authority, which the Lord has given him for strengthening the church rather than weakening it. Paul asks the congregation to obey Paul’s commands, to mend their ways, to agree with one another, and to live in peace with one another.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus was on his way to heal a sick girl (Jairus’ daughter), and a crowd was following him. Among the crowd was a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. She had sought treatment from many physicians and had spent all her savings, but her condition only worsened. She had been attracted to Jesus by reports of his healing power, and she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment, believing that if she just touched his garment she would be made well. As she touched his garment “the hemorrhage ceased and she felt in her body that she was healed” (Mark 5:29).

Jesus also perceived within himself “that power had gone forth from him” (Mark 5:30). Jesus turned and asked who had touched him. His disciples thought it was a ridiculous question, because they were all being jostled by the throng of people around them. The woman knew that she had been healed, and she came fearfully and fell down before Jesus and told him “the whole truth” (Mark 5:33). Jesus told her that her faith had made her well; to go in peace, and to be healed of her malady.

Commentary:

Samson had allowed his covenant with the Lord to be compromised by worldly temptations; societal pressure, and his own moral weakness. He gave in to temptation and broke the covenant. He didn’t even realize that the Spirit of the Lord had left him; he just wasn’t effective anymore. But when he repented and returned to obedience to the covenant his strength returned. Does our behavior glorify the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or cause it to be mocked by the people of the world?

There was sin and dissention within the Corinthian congregation (see 1 Corinthians 1:11; 5:1-2). Paul exhorted the congregation and each individual member to examine themselves to see whether they were holding to their faith. Jesus Christ is within each believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ within him does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9b). The Lord gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17; Isaiah 42:5e).

The dissention in the Corinthian church was caused by people who wanted to have their own way rather than conforming to the Lord’s way. Individual believers and congregations lose strength and effectiveness when they depart from obedience to God’s Word. It is possible for the Spirit of the Lord to depart from individual members and congregations, without them even being aware of his absence.

When Paul called the congregation to agree and live in peace with one another, he was not telling them to tolerate sin in their midst; he was telling them to conform to God’s Word or get out. Paul was anointed with the Holy Spirit and that should have been obvious to the Corinthian Christians. They must choose whether to follow Paul who truly had apostolic authority, or to follow those who contradicted Paul. The congregation could not be Spirit-filled, strong and effective as long as it tolerated sin in its midst.

The hemorrhagic woman knew that she was sick. [According to Jewish Law, her flow of blood made her ritually unclean (Leviticus 15:25-30), and prevented her from participating in congregational worship, and also from fellowship with other Jews; it was a spiritual malady as well as physical]. She believed that Jesus could heal her if she reached out and touched his garment. She acted on her faith; she reached out to Jesus and touched his garment. She knew within her body that the healing had taken place; she felt it. Jesus also sensed within himself that healing power had gone forth from him.

The woman came to Jesus and confessed that she had been healed. Jesus calmed her fears, commended her faith, and blessed her healing. We don’t need to be afraid to confess our need for healing to the Lord; we need to fear not confessing.

Many nominal “Christians” and many congregations today are “sick” and in need of spiritual healing. We need to examine ourselves to see whether we are holding to the true apostolic (as taught by the apostles), scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) faith. We can know whether we are filled with the Holy Spirit the same way the woman felt Jesus’ healing power within her, and the same way Jesus knew that healing power had gone forth from him.

If we are honest in examining ourselves and in acknowledging our need for healing, the Lord will heal us and restore us to strength and effectiveness. The Lord has promised to return with authority to judge the earth (Matthew 25:31-46).  The Lord recommends that we examine ourselves; that we become obedient to his Word, amend our ways, and live in harmony and peace with one another, so that when he comes he will not have to be severe in the use of his authority.

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 14 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/05/04;
Podcast: Monday 14 Pentecost – Even

Judges 17:1-13  –  Micah and the Levite;
Acts 7:44-8:1a  –  The stoning of Stephen;
John 5:19-29  –   Jesus’ relation to God;

Judges Paraphrase:

A man named Micah, an Ephraimite, had stolen eleven hundred pieces of silver from his mother, and later he confessed and returned the money to her. In order to absolve him of his sin, she gave two hundred pieces of silver to a silversmith for him to make into a graven and molten image. Micah kept it in his house, where he created a shrine. He made an ephod and teraphim (cult objects used for divination) and he installed one of his sons as a priest.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). A Levite (temple servant) of the clan of Judah who had been living in Bethlehem left and traveled to the vicinity of Micah’s house intending to stay wherever he found lodging. Micah asked him where he was from, and then invited the Levite to stay with him, to be a father and priest to him, and he agreed to pay him ten pieces of silver a year, in addition to clothing, feeding and shelter. The Levite became like Micah’s father, and Micah installed him as his priest. Micah thought that the Lord would surely prosper him since he had his own personal Levite priest.

Acts Paraphrase:

Stephen, one of the first seven deacons, was arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin for preaching the Gospel. This gave Stephen an opportunity to testify to the Gospel before the leaders of Israel. He began by recounting the history of Israel. Stephen went on to describe how God directed Moses to build a tabernacle (a portable tent as a place of worship). It was David who first proposed building a house for God’s dwelling, and it was his son Solomon who eventually built the Temple. But God does not need a house in which to dwell.

Then Stephen began to upbraid the Jews as arrogant, unfaithful and disobedient to God’s Holy Spirit. They were just like their forefathers, persecuting and killing the prophets who announced the coming of the Messiah, and ultimately killing the Messiah himself. They had received God’s law as delivered by angels, and yet hadn’t kept it.

When the members of the Council heard this they were enraged, but Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, saw a vision of heaven and the glory of God, with Jesus at the right hand of God. He described what he had seen, but they stopped their ears so they would not hear, rushed upon him, dragged him out of the city and stoned Stephen to death. The witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul). Before Stephen died he prayed to the Lord not to hold this sin against the perpetrators. Saul approved of Stephen’s execution.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had been criticized by the Jewish religious leaders for making himself equal with God (John 5:18). Jesus told them that he was acting in accordance with God the Father’s will. God the Father loves his Son, Jesus, and reveals his will to Jesus. Jesus will do greater works than the healing of the lame man which had stirred this criticism (John 5:1-18). God raises the dead and gives them life; so does the Son give life to whom he will.

The Father has given all authority to judge to Jesus, so that all may honor the Son as they honor God. No one who does not honor Jesus honors God who has sent Jesus. Those who hear Jesus’ word and believe God who sent Jesus have eternal life; they will not come under judgment; they have passed from death to life.

The time is coming when all the dead will hear Jesus’ voice and will be raised from the dead. As God has the power to give life, so also Jesus has the power to give life. God has given the authority to execute judgment to Jesus because Jesus is the “Son of man.” “Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Commentary:

This text describes a period of time in Israel’s history when “there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). God alone was the rightful king of Israel, but the people wanted to be their own “kings” and “judges”

A man named Micah had stolen a large sum of eleven-hundred pieces of silver from his mother. Later he returned it to her. She had cursed the thief, and now she blessed him to reverse her curse. She also gave two hundred pieces of silver (about 18% of the total) to be made into idols so that Micah could set up a household shrine. This was totally contrary to God’s Word, which forbids worship of images or any god other the Lord God of Israel.

Micah made an ephod (probably a covering for an idol; compare Judges 8:27) and teraphim (idolatrous representations of ancestors; compare 2 Kings 23:24) and he installed one of his sons as his priest. A Levite had left his home in Bethlehem and had come to the vicinity of Micah’s house, intending to find a place to live wherever he could. Originally, the Levites had ordained themselves by their passionate loyalty to the Lord when the Israelites had made the molten calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-24) and the Levites had stepped forward to exact punishment for this sin without regard to social or family relationships (Exodus 32:25-29).

This Levite was not passionately loyal to the Lord, or he would not have agreed to serve as priest of such idolatry. For this Levite, priesthood was merely a means of making a living. Micah invited the Levite to stay with him and become his personal priest and father-figure, and agreed to support him. Micah expected God to bless and prosper him because he had hired his own Levite priest.

The Jews had built their religion to suit their own agendas, instead of following God’s plan. The ultimate proof of this was their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah, God’s anointed eternal king and heir to the throne of David. God was to be king of Israel but they had insisted on establishing a Monarchy. God had given them plans for a tabernacle (portable shrine) as a place of worship, but they had insisted on building a temple. They had received the Law from the Angel of the Lord, but hadn’t kept the Law.

Their forefathers had stoned the prophets, and these Jews proved that they shared the same nature by stoning Stephen for preaching God’s Word. The fact that Saul (who became the Apostle Paul) assented to Stephen’s execution says a lot about the power of transformation accomplished by the Spirit of the risen Jesus within Paul. As Stephen was about to be stoned, Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:55-56)

Jesus is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9, John 20:28). Jesus shares the same nature with God the Father. Jesus told his disciples that those who have seen Jesus have seen the Father (John 14:9b, c). God the Father has given Jesus authority to judge the world because Jesus is the “Son of man” [fully human, yet sinless; and also the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel, and of Revelation, of the vision of the glorified Christ, the king and righteous judge of the universe (Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:13; 14:14].

Jesus is going to return as the eternal king of the universe, and as the righteous judge of the earth. Jesus has the power and authority to give eternal life to those who have trusted and obeyed him, and to condemn to eternal death and destruction those who have refused to trust and obey him. We are all eternal; we must choose where we will spend eternity.

Micah didn’t accept God’s Word as the absolute standard of morality. He did whatever he thought was right. He thought he could mold religion to suit his own agenda. He wasn’t interested in doing it God’s way. He thought he could make God serve him by building God’s house, and installing his own personal priest, without regard to whether the priest was filled with God’s Spirit.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were doing the same thing. They thought they were in charge. They had built the Temple; they thought that by keeping the Law, God was obligated to bless them. They weren’t interested in doing God’s will; they wanted God to do their own will.
Our situation today seems very similar. We don’t seem to acknowledge God as the head of our government. We seem to think we can ignore God’s Word and do whatever seems right to us. We think we can mold our churches and our spirituality to suit our own agendas. We seem to think there’s more than one way to have fellowship with God. Are we willing to put up with spiritual leaders who are not Spirit-filled; for whom ministry is merely a career choice? Are we selecting preachers who faithfully and accurately proclaim God’s Word, or preachers who preach what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4)?

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 14 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/06/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 14 Pentecost – Even

Judges 18:1-15  –  Migration of the tribe of Dan;
Acts 8:1-13  –  Spread of the Gospel to Samaria;
John 5:30-47  –  Jesus’ relation to God;

Judges Paraphrase:

In the days of the Migration of the tribe of Dan there was no king in Israel [“and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6)]. The Danites had not been able to secure territory for themselves. [They had been dwelling in the southwest (Joshua 19:40-46; Judges 1:34; 13:1)]. So they sent five scouts from Zorah and Eshtaol (west of Jerusalem) to scout out land favorable for settlement by the Danites.

They happened to come to Micah’s house and lodged there. While staying there they recognized the Levite who was serving there, as someone they knew, and they asked him how he had come to be there. The Levite told them that Micah had hired him to be his priest. So the scouts asked the Levite to inquire of God whether the scouts’ journey would be successful, and the Levite told them to go in peace; that their journey was in the care of the Lord.

The Scouts went on to Laish (about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee). The scouts found that the people of the region dwelt in peace and prosperity, and had no enemies, so they returned to Eshtaol and reported that the Danites should drive out the people of Laish and occupy their land. An army of six hundred Danites assembled at Kiriath-jearim (just slightly northeast of Zorah) and from there they marched to the house of Micah.

Acts Paraphrase:

On the day of Stephen’s stoning, great persecution arose in Jerusalem against Christians, and believers, with the exception of the apostles, were forced to scatter throughout the region. Stephen was buried and mourned by believers, but Saul led the persecution, seeking, arresting and imprisoning believers. Those who were scattered continued to proclaim the Gospel so that it spread as the believers were scattered. Philip (“the evangelist, one of the seven deacons, appointed with Stephen) went to a city of Samaria, preaching Christ, and many believed when they heard what he said and witnessed healings done through him.

There was a man named Simon who had practiced magic in that city. He had a reputation as a great magician throughout Samaria. But when the people who had formerly followed Simon heard Philip proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, they believed what Philip preached and were baptized. Simon himself believed and was baptized, and he was amazed at the miracles which were being done through Philip.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus does not act on his own authority; Jesus’ judgment is fair and impartial because he is completely obedient to God’s will. If testimony to the authenticity of Jesus were from Jesus only, it would not be credible, but God himself has borne witness to Jesus. Jesus does not need the witness of mankind to authenticate him; God has testified to Jesus’ authenticity through John the Baptizer (John 5:33-35), through Jesus’ works (John 5:36), and through scriptures (John 5:37-40).

Commentary:

Knowing scripture does not save us; only a personal relationship with Jesus can save us. We cannot know and believe either God or scripture if we do not believe in Jesus. Jesus’ authority is not dependent upon mankind’s opinion of him. Human judgment is flawed because it is based on human pride. Humans seek and receive glory from one another, but don’t recognize or acknowledge the glory of God.

The Jews who rejected Jesus won’t have to be condemned by Jesus; they have been condemned by Moses, in whom they relied, because they did not believe Moses’ testimony to Jesus in the scriptures. If they haven’t believed Moses’ words, how can they believe Jesus’ words?

It was a time of spiritual weakness in Israel. God was the real king of Israel, but the people didn’t recognize and appreciate this fact. It was a time of moral relativism; everyone did what was right in his own eyes, rather than seeking to do what was right in God’s eyes. The tribe of Danites “was seeking for itself an inheritance” (Judges 18:1 RSV). Actually they had received the region around Zorah and Eshtaol as their inheritance Joshua 19:40), but they weren’t content with that because they were under pressure from the Philistines who were occupying the region (Judges 1:34).

The reason the Danites were having trouble with the Philistines was because they were not obedient to the Lord (Judges 13:1). They decided to scout out an easier land (Judges 18:7) in the north to claim as their inheritance. On the way they stayed at the home of Micah, and they recognized Micah’s priest as someone they knew.

Micah’s priest had a reputation among them as a Levite. They asked the Levite how he had come to be with Micah, and the Levite told them that Micah had hired him to be Micah’s priest. The scouts therefore asked the Levite to obtain an oracle from God for them so they might know whether their journey would be successful, and the Levite blessed them and assured them that the Lord would prosper their endeavor.

This is a “priest for hire” who works for those who pay him, who dispenses God’s “blessing” for money to those who can afford to pay for it; a priest who serves a sanctuary which practices blatant idolatry and doctrines which are clearly contrary to God’s Word (see Judges 17:4-6). The scouts weren’t seeking God’s will; they were seeking to have God bless their will. They weren’t interested in securing the inheritance God wanted them to have. They were interested in obtaining their own inheritance; something easier than God’s plan required.

Having received the “blessing,” the Danite scouts went north to Laish and found a people who were peaceful and rich, who had no enemies, in an area where the living was easy. So the scouts returned to their people, formed an army and set out to claim their own inheritance in Laish.

Simon, the magician, had created a great reputation for himself in Samaria, until Philip came and preached Jesus Christ. Simon’s magic couldn’t compare with the true Gospel of Jesus. Even Simon could see the difference in the power at work through Philip compared to his own power.

The Lord knew that his followers would be persecuted for the Gospel and his name’s sake. He had told them to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit, and that then they would spread out from Jerusalem to “all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The Lord used persecution to accomplish his plan. His disciples didn’t let persecution keep them from carrying out their mission to preach the Gospel and to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). They weren’t abandoning their mission in order to pursue their own comfort. They were seeking their spiritual direction from the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit, not through a “rent-a-priest.” (Note that they had been fully discipled first, and had waited until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit).

God’s Word and God’s Spirit authenticate Jesus. Jesus is Lord, whether we acknowledge him or not. Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12). There is no other way to reconciliation, fellowship and eternal life with God except through Jesus (John 14:6). Human opinion and human perceptions of reputation are flawed because they’re based on human pride. The Bible is the only solid foundation on which to build; no one who rejects Jesus can truly claim to know the scriptures or God the Father. Jesus is God’s anointed King of the Universe, whether we acknowledge him or not. Jesus is God’s only plan for our eternal inheritance; we can either accept him, or choose to pursue our own plan of salvation.

Today is also a time of spiritual weakness and moral relativism, in America and throughout the world. We can either seek and obey God’s will, or we can seek those who are willing to pronounce God’s blessing on our agendas. We can be guided by God’s Word and his Holy Spirit, or we can choose to follow false christs and false prophets. We can carry out the commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and teach them to obey all that Jesus commands, or we can seek our own comfort and worldly success.

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 14 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/07/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 14 Pentecost – Even

Judges 18:16-31  –  Danites conquer Laish;
Acts 8:14-25  –  Simon the Magician;
John 6:1-15  –  Feeding the five thousand;

Judges Paraphrase:

The Danites had set out from the hill country of Ephraim (west of Jerusalem) to attack Laish (north of the Sea of Galilee). On the way they passed the house of Micah, and the five scouts told the Danites about the idols which Micah had there, so they stopped at the house of the Levite at Micah’s home.

While the Levite was talking with the Danites at the gate, the scouts entered Micah’s house and stole his idols. The Levite protested, but the Danites were armed for war, and they told the Levite to keep quiet. The Danites asked the Levite if it was better to be the priest of one man or of a tribe and family in Israel. It pleased the Levite, and he took the idols and accompanied the Danites.

As they departed the Danites put their women, children and livestock in front (to protect them from pursuers). Micah had recruited his neighbors to pursue the Danites and they caught up with them some distance away, and shouted at them. The Danites turned around and asked Micah’s people what ailed them to come after them.

Micah accused them of taking his gods and his priest, leaving him with nothing. The Danites replied that Micah should be quiet, or they would kill him and his household. Then the Danites turned and went their way. Micah saw that they were too strong for him, so he returned to his home.

The Danites came to Laish. The people of Laish were quiet and unsuspecting and the Danites slaughtered them and burned their city. The people of Laish had no one to deliver them because they had no dealings with surrounding people and were far from their homeland.
The Danites renamed the city Dan after their forefather. They set up the idols for themselves and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses and his sons were priests to the tribe until the Northern Kingdom went into captivity.

Acts Paraphrase:

In the persecution of Christians which arose after the stoning of Stephen, believers were scattered from Jerusalem throughout the surrounding region. Philip, one of the deacons appointed with Stephen, went to Samaria, where he preached the Gospel and numerous Samaritans were converted. When the apostles at Jerusalem heard, they sent Peter and John, who came and prayed with the converts and laid their hands on them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; the converts had been baptized (water baptism) but had not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit.

When Simon, the magician, saw that the Spirit was given through the laying-on of hands, he offered the apostles money to obtain for himself that power to confer the Spirit upon others. But Peter harshly rebuked Simon for thinking he could obtain the gift of God with money. Peter declared that Simon had no participation in this gift because his heart was not right with God.

Peter told Simon to repent so that Simon might be forgiven for his wicked intent, since Simon’s actions revealed that he was in bondage to sin. Simon asked Peter to pray for Simon so that none of the bad things that Peter had said would befall Simon. Then Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel to many villages on their way.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus took his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to a remote spot, but a great multitude followed him because of the healing miracles Jesus had done. Jesus had gone up into the hills and sat down with his disciples. When he looked up he saw the crowd coming, and he asked Philip, to test Philip’s faith, how they could obtain enough bread to feed all these people.

Philip replied that it would take a lot of money to buy enough bread to give each of them even a small portion. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter said that there was a boy with them who had five loaves and two fish, but that couldn’t be expected to begin to feed so many.

Jesus told the disciples to have the crowd of about five thousand people to sit down. The place was grassy so they sat on the grass. Jesus took the loaves and when he had prayed in thanksgiving, he distributed the bread and fish to the crowd, as much as they wanted. When they had eaten their fill, Jesus told the disciples to gather up the “left-overs,” which filled twelve baskets.

When the people realized what had happened they declared that Jesus was the anticipated prophet who had been foretold in scripture. Realizing that the people were about to force Jesus to become their king, he withdrew from them into the hills.

Commentary:

Micah had set up an idolatrous and heretical religion with the proceeds of his wickedness. (Micah had stolen money from his mother. She had made the idols to expiate his sin. Micah had installed a morally and spiritually corrupt priest; see Judges 17:1-13). The Danite scouts had obtained a “blessing” from Micah’s corrupt priest upon their plan to claim their own inheritance, contrary to God’s Word, but they weren’t satisfied. They wanted to be in complete control; they stole Micah’s idols and “recruited” his corrupt priest.

They slaughtered the peaceful people of Laish and established a house of worship which became one of the two great shrines of the Northern Kingdom. It lasted until the Northern Kingdom was carried off into captivity (by the Assyrians).

Because of the Assyrian policy of relocating conquered people to other lands, the Northern Kingdom effectively ceased to exist. [The Samaritans are considered to be the result of intermarriage with the few remaining Israelites of the Northern Kingdom by the people brought in by the Assyrians to replace the deported Israelites.]

The people who had carried off the “gods” of this world wound up being carried off by them into destruction. The history of the Northern Kingdom is a parable and warning to us not to take up the gods of this world, lest we be carried off by them into eternal death and destruction.

Simon the magician had converted to Christianity and had been baptized because he saw that it had a power greater than his own. He was attracted to power, and he wanted to be able to control and dispense it. But that power belongs to God. It’s freely available to those who trust and obey the Lord, but it cannot be bought or obtained by deception or force.

I am convinced from scripture and personal experience that water baptism is a covenant containing the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, but it does not automatically confer that gift. One receives the fulfillment of that promise as one fulfills one’s baptismal covenant to trust and obey the Lord.

Sometimes people of both clergy and laity (church members) think, from this text, for example (Acts 8:17), that the clergy have the power to confer the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. I believe that the clergy have the responsibility to see that the newly baptized Christians are discipled until they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit (which the Lord alone confers).

The Lord’s gifts are limitless and free to all who will trust and obey him. The boy gave what he had; the disciples and the people did as Jesus told them. They all were fed and satisfied, and there was a lot left over. The people thought free bread was a pretty good idea. They wanted to force Jesus to be their King so that they could continue to get free bread.

Human nature wants to control God’s power. We want to create our own gods, instead of obeying the true God. We want to build sanctuaries to contain God so that he will be available to us, instead of making ourselves available to him. We want to hire priests who will confer God’s blessings on our plans, instead of following God’s plans. We want God to provide whatever we think we need or want, instead of seeking to know and do what God wants.

Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34).

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 14 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/08/04;
Podcast: Thursday 14 Pentecost – Even 

Job 1:1-22  –  Calamity befalls Job;
Acts 8:26-40  –  Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch;
John 6:16-27  –  Jesus walks on water;
Job Paraphrase:

Job was a man of Uz (probably Edom, or perhaps in northern Transjordan), who was righteous and God-fearing. He was very successful; he had seven sons and three daughters, and he had large herds and many servants. He was the richest man of the region. On their birthdays, each son would hold a feast for his brothers and sisters in his house. After the days of the feast were ended Job would get up early in the morning and offer a sacrifice to God on their behalf, in case his children had sinned against God.

One day the heavenly court was convened before the Lord God, and Satan (here thought of as a prosecutor who accuses man of sin before the Lord). The Lord regarded Job as an exemplary righteous person, but Satan suggested that Job was righteous merely because it was to his personal advantage. Satan suggested that if the Lord removed his blessings from Job, that Job would turn from God and curse God. So the Lord gave Satan power to afflict but not destroy Job.

On a day when his children were celebrating their eldest brother’s birthday at his house, a messenger came to Job reporting that all his herd of draft animals and their herdsmen had been destroyed by a marauding band of Sabeans (Arabs), and that the messenger was the sole survivor. While he was still speaking, a second messenger reported that the fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the entire herd of sheep and their shepherds. Another messenger came to Job and reported that Job’s entire herd of camels and their keepers had been wiped out by Chaldeans. The third messenger hadn’t finished speaking when another messenger came to report that a great wind had destroyed the eldest son’s house and killed all of Job’s children, who had been feasting together.

Then Job tore his robe and shaved his head (ritual acts of mourning) and prostrated himself and worshiped the Lord. Job had lost virtually all his possessions in one day, but he acknowledged that he was born with nothing and would leave everything behind when he died. He acknowledged that the Lord gives us everything we possess and that the Lord controls how long we live and therefore possess these gifts. Job blessed the name of the Lord. In this entire calamity, Job did not sin or accuse God of doing wrong.

Acts Paraphrase:

Philip, one of the seven original deacons appointed with Stephen (Acts 6:1-6), had fled to Samaria because of the persecution of Christians which arose after the stoning of Stephen. Philip had preached the Gospel in Samaria, and there had been many conversions (Acts 8:4-13). But an angel of the Lord (Holy Spirit; manifestation of the Lord’s presence) told Philip to leave and walk south on the isolated road that went from Jerusalem to Gaza.

Philip got up and did as he had been told, and as he traveled, he encountered an Ethiopian (Nubian,) minister of the court of Candace, queen of Ethiopia (Nubia; now Sudan). The Ethiopian was a Jewish proselyte (convert to Judaism) who had come to worship in Jerusalem, and was returning to his home. The Ethiopian was seated in his chariot and was reading (aloud, as was the ancient custom) Isaiah, from the scriptures. The Spirit urged Philip to run up and join the chariot, so Philip ran to him and asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading.

The Ethiopian invited Philip to join him in his chariot and explain the text he was reading. The passage the Ethiopian was reading was from Isaiah 53:7-8, regarding the servant of the Lord: “As a sheep led to the slaughter, or a lamb before its shearer is dumb (mute) 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 who this text referred to, and Philip had a great opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

As they traveled, they passed some water, and the Ethiopian asked if there were any reason he could not be baptized. So they stopped and Philip baptized the Ethiopian, and when they came up out of the water, Philip was taken up by the Spirit and vanished from the Ethiopian’s sight. The Ethiopian continued on his way, rejoicing, but Philip was found at Azotus, where he continued on, preaching the gospel until he arrived at Caesarea.

John Paraphrase:

After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus had withdrawn into the hills by himself, because the people wanted to take him forcefully and make him their king. At nightfall, the disciples got into the boat and left for home without Jesus.

A strong wind arose. They had rowed about three or four miles when they saw Jesus coming to them walking on the sea. The disciples were terrified, but Jesus identified himself and told them not to be afraid. Then they were happy to take him onboard, and immediately they were at their destination.

The next morning the people who had remained there realized that Jesus’ disciples had left without him and that there had been only one boat; but since other boats often came nearby they went to Capernaum seeking Jesus. When they found him they asked him when he had come. Jesus replied that they sought Jesus because of the food he had provided, not because of the spiritual implication of Jesus’ miracle.

Jesus told them not to labor for physical food, which doesn’t satisfy for long, and which doesn’t give eternal life. Rather, they should labor for the spiritual food which only Jesus can supply, which truly satisfies our spiritual hunger, and which sustains us unto eternal life. [God has authenticated Jesus at Jesus’ baptism, by the Holy Spirit (John 6:27 RSV; compare John 1:32-34).]

Commentary:

Job had been the most successful and wealthy man of his region but in one day he lost all his worldly possessions. Job’s true wealth was the Lord. Unlike Micah (Judges 18:24; see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 14 Pentecost, even year, above), who had made material things his “gods,” and having had them stolen from him, felt he had nothing left, Job still had faith in God and hope because of God’s, goodness, faithfulness and providence.

Philip had just been elected to church office when persecution arose and drove him out of Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Christian Church, and into Samaria, which was regarded by Jews as spiritually “mongrelized”, because of the intermingling of Jews with pagans brought in by the Assyrian conquest and deportation. Philip began having great success as an evangelist in Samaria, but the Lord asked him to leave that ministry and go by himself down the lonely road toward Gaza. Philip got up and did as the Lord directed.

As a result Philip encountered the Ethiopian government official and had the opportunity to convert and baptize him into Jesus Christ. Through this seemingly insignificant event the Gospel was brought to the African continent, resulting ultimately in the Coptic Orthodox Church. It was a fulfillment of the prophecy and command of the Lord to his disciples in Acts 1:8 to be witnesses to the Gospel beginning in Jerusalem and moving outward from Jerusalem into Judea, then outward into Samaria, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.

Jesus had fed the five thousand, and they sought him because they believed he could supply their physical, material needs. They didn’t recognize their spiritual needs. They didn’t realize that only Jesus could satisfy their spiritual needs, which are eternal.

Jesus’ disciples felt alone in the boat, rowing against the wind and waves. They were frightened by the storm and the darkness and their sense of aloneness. But Jesus did not abandon them. What seemed a separation impossible to bridge in human terms did not keep Jesus from coming to his disciples in the midst of their storm, calming the storm and bringing them to their destination.

Those who make material things their “gods” will ultimately lose everything. At their physical death they will leave all that behind. Those who trust in the Lord have treasure for all eternity which cannot be taken from them. Worldly success and material wealth are not a “seal” of God’s approval.

Believers will face persecution, storms, loneliness and seeming insignificance. The Holy Spirit is the “seal” of God’s approval, the “down-payment” and the “guarantee” of eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b).

Believers are not called to be successful according to worldly standards; believers are called to be faithful and obedient to 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)?


Friday 14 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 09/09/04;
Podcast: Friday 14 Pentecost – Even 

Job 2:1-13  –  Job’s affliction;
Acts 9:1-9 –  Paul’s conversion;
John 6:27-40  –  Bread of Life;

Job Paraphrase:

Job had lost his children and all his possessions in one day, but he had not turned from faith in the Lord (Job 1:1-22). Again the heavenly court convened, and Satan, the accuser, came before the Lord. Again the Lord commended Job as an exemplary righteous person, and noted that Job had continued to trust in the Lord although bad things had befallen Job. Satan replied that a person’s first loyalty is to one’s own skin; threaten that and Job would curse the Lord.

The Lord gave Satan all power over Job, except that Satan must spare Job’s life. So Satan went forth and afflicted Job with a terrible skin disease; Job was covered with sores from head to toe. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself and sat on an ash heap.

His wife taunted him for holding on to his faith in God. She suggested that Job “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), but Job told her she was being foolish. Job asked her if it was right to accept only good from God, and refuse to accept any bad. Job did not say anything bad against the Lord.

Job’s three friends made an appointment and came to comfort Job and commiserate with him. When they saw Job they could hardly recognize him, and they tore their robes, sprinkled themselves with dust (acts of ritual mourning) and sat with him on the ground for seven days and nights, because they saw that Job was suffering greatly.

Acts Paraphrase:

Saul (Paul) was so zealous for Judaism that he wanted to imprison and kill Christians, and he got a letter of authority from the high priest to the synagogues in Damascus authorizing Saul to arrest and bring believers of what was then called “the Way,” to Jerusalem for trial.

On the road to Damascus, Saul was struck by a blinding light, and fell to the ground. A voice said “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me” (Acts 9:4)? Saul asked who was speaking to him and the voice identified himself as Jesus, whom Saul was persecuting. Jesus told Saul to rise and go into Damascus and await further instructions.

The men with Saul had also heard the voice, but saw no one. Saul got up, but his eyes were blinded, so Saul had to be led by the hand into Damascus. For three days he stayed there unable to see and he did not eat or drink.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had fed a crowd of five thousand people. These people wanted to make Jesus their king so that they could always have free bread, but Jesus warned them not to work for physical food which perishes and doesn’t satisfy, but to work for spiritual food which doesn’t perish, which satisfies and gives life eternally. So they asked Jesus what work they needed to do to be doing God’s work. Jesus told them that the work of God is for them to believe in the one God has sent.

So they asked Jesus what sign (work) Jesus would do in order for them to believe him. They suggested that Moses had given the Israelites bread from heaven to eat in the wilderness (manna; Exodus 16:4, 15). Jesus answered that it was not Moses who gives bread from heaven, but God.

The true “bread” of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). The people said, “Lord, give us this bread always” (John 6:34). Jesus replied that he is the bread of life. Those who come to Jesus will never hunger and those who believe in Jesus will never thirst. But Jesus pointed out that there were those who had seen Jesus and yet did not believe.

All who come to Jesus, God will give him; none who come to him will be rejected by Jesus. Jesus came to do God’s will rather than his own will. It is God’s will to save all who come to Jesus. Every one who sees Jesus and believes in him will have eternal life, and Jesus promises to raise each believer to eternal life.

Commentary:

It is human nature to want God to give us what we think we want and need, and to blame God when bad things happen. God commends Job as a righteous person, but faith cannot be determined without testing. It’s easy to trust God when we’re rich and in good health; it’s much harder to trust him when we are sick or when we don’t know where we will get our next meal.  Only when we come to the end of our own resources can we recognize our need for the Lord. Only then can the Lord show us what he can do, so that we can come to know that he is trustworthy and able to take care of us.

Saul was zealous for God, but his zeal was misguided. Saul was spiritually blind, but didn’t know it. The best thing that ever happened to Saul was to be struck (physically) blind on the road to Damascus. As a result, Saul came to a personal experience of the risen Jesus and to spiritual insight.

Saul had good intentions but he had been heading in the wrong direction.
Good intentions won’t save us; only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will save us. Saul could have become angry and bitter at God. He could have argued that he was serving God with all that he had and that God had wronged him by allowing something terrible to happen to Saul.

He could have cursed God; he could have abandoned his faith. Instead, he was willing to accept correction from the Lord. Saul found out from personal experience that the Lord was able to restore him physically and spiritually.

The people wanted free bread so they wouldn’t have to work for it. Spiritual sustenance is more important than physical food. We should be seeking spiritual nurture more than we try to satisfy physical hunger. God has already done the work of our salvation; all we have to do is receive it.

Faith is not our accomplishment; it’s what God accomplishes in us as we trust and obey him. The people didn’t even want to do that much work; they wanted Jesus to do some miracle so that they could believe without having to trust and obey him.

They wanted Jesus to work for them; not the other way around. They suggested that Jesus could prove himself by giving them free bread, like Moses had. God had given the manna in the wilderness, not Moses. Manna was not the true bread from heaven, it was only physical sustenance, and it didn’t keep (Exodus 16:20). Jesus is the bread of life, the true bread from heaven which came down from heaven and gives (eternal) life. Jesus didn’t rot in the grave; he rose to eternal life (Acts 2:27-32), and he promises to raise those who trust and obey him.

Are we pursuing the right things? Are we feeding and exercising our physical bodies while neglecting our eternal souls? Are we working for the Lord or do we expect him to work for us? Are we following Jesus or are we merely following a “religion?”

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 14 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 09/10/04;
Podcast: Saturday 14 Pentecost – Even

Job 3:1-26  –   Job laments his birth;
Acts 9:10-19a  –  Ananias sent to Saul;
John 6:41-51  –  Jesus is the “Living Bread;”

Job Paraphrase:

Job had lost his children and all his wealth in one day. Then he lost his health; he was afflicted with a terrible skin disease from head to toe. He sat on an ash heap and his three friends came to comfort and mourn with him. Job cursed the day of his birth as a day of darkness. Job wished that he had died at birth.

Job visualizes death as rest from his suffering. Why is life prolonged for those who are miserable; those who long for death which doesn’t come? Sighing and groaning have become his bread and water. “The thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.” (Job 3:25-26)

Acts Paraphrase:

Ananias was a disciple of Jesus who lived in Damascus. The Lord called him in a vision, and gave him specific directions to go to Straight Street to the house of a man named Judas and ask for Saul of Tarsus (who became the apostle Paul), who was staying there. The Lord said that Saul was praying and had seen a man named Ananias come to him and lay his hands on Saul, so that Saul might regain his sight.

Ananias replied that he had heard much about Saul as a persecutor of Christians, and that Saul had come to Damascus to arrest Christians. But the Lord told Ananias to go to Saul, because the Lord had chosen Saul to be an evangelist to the Gentiles, and that Saul would suffer much for the name of Jesus.

So Ananias went as he had been told, and he entered the house and laid his hands on Saul and told him that the Lord Jesus who had appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus had sent Ananias to Saul, so that he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and then he ate and was strengthened.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had returned to Capernaum after feeding the five thousand. The crowd had come to Capernaum seeking Jesus so that they could have more free bread. Jesus had told them not to seek physical bread but spiritual bread. Jesus told them that he was the bread of heaven which comes down and gives life. The Jewish religious authorities questioned among themselves how Jesus could claim to have come down from heaven. They thought they knew who Jesus’ parents were.

Jesus knew their thoughts, and told them that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them to Jesus, and those who are drawn to him, Jesus will raise to eternal life. Jesus quoted Isaiah 54:13: “And they shall all be taught by God.” So everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Jesus. We can hear and learn from the Father to come to Jesus, but we cannot know or come to the Father except through Jesus.

Those who trust and obey Jesus have eternal life. Jesus is the bread of life. The patriarchs ate manna in the wilderness but they died nevertheless; Jesus is the bread from heaven that those who eat may never die. Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven; those who eat this bread will live forever; and the bread Jesus gives for the life of the world is his flesh.

Commentary:

Job had lost almost everything. Life had become agony for him, and he thought death was his only hope of relief. Job’s concept of death at this point in his spiritual development was of eternal sleep and lack of consciousness, but that is contrary to what God has since revealed in his Word.

According to God’s Word, we are all eternal (John 5:28-29). We have a choice of where we will spend eternity. Those who trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who refuse to trust and obey Jesus will spend eternity in Hell with Satan and all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Physical death apart from faith in Jesus is not the end of torment but the beginning of eternal torment. Job was miserable, but as long as he was still living and hadn’t rejected God his situation wasn’t hopeless.

Saul (who became the apostle Paul) had suffered a great personal crisis. His career had been interrupted; everything he had believed in had been challenged and he had discovered that he was spiritually and physically blind. He was miserable, but he was repentant and had not rejected God. He was still praying, and the Lord was able to heal him spiritually and physically.

His life was going to be different; instead of worldly glory moving toward eternal punishment and death, he would have worldly persecution moving toward eternal reward and life. But with the worldly persecution he had the presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort, encourage and strengthen him. He had the joy of the presence of the Lord and the unfailing promise of eternal life.

Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is the only one who can give unfailing hope. The world offers false hope: hope that we can earn enough, save enough, live long enough to be happy and secure. In a moment worldly hope is gone. The hope Jesus offers is unfailing hope. Jesus speaks the Word of God, and God’s Word never fails. The scriptures repeatedly show that God’s Word is absolutely dependable.

The religious leaders questioned Jesus’ saying that he came down from heaven. They thought they knew better because they thought they knew that Joseph was Jesus’ father. They didn’t know that Jesus was conceived of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, and that Joseph had no sexual relations with Mary prior to Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:18-25).

Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation and reconciliation with God (Acts 4:12). Anyone who claims to believe and know God will come to Jesus. No one can know and come to God apart from Jesus. Jesus is the only way to God, truth and life (John 14:6).

Faith is not “wishing on a star.” We cannot make our wishes come true by believing them. Faith is trusting, and acting in obedience to that trust. Jesus is the only one who is trustworthy. God’s Word says that it has been appointed for mankind to die once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), not “nothingness;” not reincarnation!

Jesus said he would rise from the dead (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; John 2:19-22), and scripture records over five hundred eyewitnesses to his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Jesus demonstrated that he can raise us from death, by raising Lazarus (John 11:1-44), Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-42), and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-16).

Do you believe 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 12 Pentecost – Even – 08/31 – 09/06/2014

August 30, 2014

Week of 12 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 12 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/21/04;
Podcast: Sunday 12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 6:1-24  –  Gideon visited by an angel;
2 Corinthians 9:6-15   – The duty of giving;
Mark 3:20-30  –  Jesus’ power;

Judges Parapahrase:

Israel’s history during the time of the judges was marked by a series of cycles of apostasy, affliction, repentance and restoration. After Deborah and Barak had defeated Sisera, there was peace in Israel for forty years. But again the people turned from the Lord and did what was evil in his sight, and the Lord allowed them to be afflicted by the Midianites for seven years.

Because of Midianite raids, the Israelites were forced to make dens, caves and strongholds in the mountains. Whenever the Israelites planted, the Midianites would come and camp and destroy the produce and the livestock. They were as numerous and as devastating as a plague of locusts.

Israel was brought very low, and the people cried out to the Lord. In answer, the Lord sent a prophet who reminded them of all the Lord had done to deliver them from bondage in Egypt, and how he had driven the inhabitants of Canaan out before them and had given them the Promised Land. The Lord had warned them not to reverence the gods of the land, but the Israelites had disregarded the Lord’s command.

The angel of the Lord came to Gideon, who was threshing wheat in a winepress to conceal it from the Midianites. The angel told Gideon that the Lord was with Gideon, and hailed Gideon as a mighty man of valor. Gideon asked why this affliction had befallen the Israelites if God was with them.

The Lord told Gideon to go and deliver Israel from the Midianites. But Gideon told the Lord that his clan was the weakest in Manasseh, and that Gideon was the least in his family. But the Lord promised that he would be with Gideon. Gideon asked for a sign that it was the Lord who spoke to him; Gideon asked the Lord to wait while Gideon prepared food for him. Gideon went and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread, and brought it to the angel.

The angel told him to put the bread and meat on a rock and pour broth over them. Then the angel touched the offering and fire sprang up and consumed the offering, and the angel vanished from Gideon’s sight. Gideon was afraid because he had seen the angel of the Lord face to face. But the Lord told him to be at peace, and not to fear; that Gideon would not die. Gideon built an altar there, and called it “The Lord is peace,” which was still standing at Ophrah in the writer’s time.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul was collecting an offering for the relief of the Christians at Jerusalem. Paul told believers that those who give sparingly will be blessed sparingly, and those who give generously will be blessed generously. Each one is to give according to his own determination, without being pressured by others, because it pleases God when we give cheerfully.

God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance, so that we will always have sufficient resources for every good deed. God provides us with everything we need, and he will also provide what we need to grow in good works, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. Such giving not only relieves the needs of others but also glorifies God, through our obedience to the Gospel of Christ, and by our generosity to others, and is reciprocated by their love for us and gratitude for God’s grace.

Mark Paraphrase:

After appointing his twelve disciples of his inner circle, Jesus returned to his home. When the people heard that he was at home they came to him in great numbers so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. His friends thought Jesus was crazy. The scribes (teachers of the Law; the Scripture) from Jerusalem said that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, and used demonic powers to cast out demons.

Jesus called them together and said in parables that it is impossible to cast out Satan by Satan. Neither a divided kingdom nor a divided house can stand. So also, Satan cannot stand if he is divided against himself. No one can rob a strong man’s house unless he first incapacitates the strong man. All sins and blasphemies of mankind are forgivable except the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29). This was Jesus’ response to those who said that Jesus had an unclean spirit.

Commentary:

When God’s people obeyed God’s Word and did what was right, God blessed them. When they turned from the Lord and disobeyed his Word, the Lord withheld his blessings and allowed them to experience affliction, so that they would recognize their need for the Lord and return to him. The Lord called Gideon to be the savior of his people, and promised to be with Gideon and give Gideon victory as Gideon trusted and obeyed the Lord’s command.

Gideon asked for a sign that it was the Lord who was calling him, and the Lord gave him the sign that Gideon had requested. The sign to Gideon was similar to the miracle of the contest between the prophets of Baal and the prophet of the Lord at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40), but in Gideon’s offering there was no wood provided for the burnt offering. The offering was soaked with broth, but was consumed by fire, yet without any kindling. The sign is open to interpretation by the beholder; one can accept it as a sign of God’s power, or one can devise some alternative explanation.

As we sow in this life, so shall we reap for eternity. We will be rewarded according to what we have done. Those who have cared for the wellbeing of others will be blessed; those who have though only of themselves will have nothing. Are we living lives that bless others and glorify God, or lives that glorify ourselves and afflict others?

Jesus’ powers were evident. It was their interpretation which caused people problems. Jesus’ works are good and righteous; how they are interpreted reveals the spiritual condition of the beholder. Those who think Jesus’ powers are demonic and come from evil condemn themselves. If they think Jesus’ actions come from evil, then where do their own actions come from (compare Matthew 12:27)? Imputing evil as the source of God’s actions is the ultimate denial of God’s existence. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit cuts off the blasphemer from the only one who can change his heart and bring him to forgiveness and salvation.

Jesus is the Savior whom God has raised up to deliver us from bondage to sin and death: Jesus is our “Gideon” who saves us from the “Midianites” who enslave and destroy. The Holy Spirit is the angel of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b) which the Lord gives to his disciples; to those who obey his Word (John 14:15-17, Isaiah 42:5e). We can, like Gideon, ask for confirmation that it is the Lord we are talking to. John tells believers not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). The Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible or deny 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)?

Monday 12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/22/04;
Podcast: Monday 12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 6:25-40  –  God calls Gideon;
Acts 2:37-47  –  People’s response to Pentecost;
John 1:1-18  –  Prologue of John;

Judges Paraphrase:

Israel’s history during the period of the judges was one of repeated cycles of disobedience, disaster, repentance and restoration. The Israelites had been beset by invading Midianites for seven years because of Israel’s apostasy (Judges 6:1b). Then the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord (Judges 6:6) and the Lord called Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites (Judges 6:11-12). The Lord told Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal which Gideon’s father had [used]. Gideon was to take his father’s bull and offer it as a burnt offering to the Lord on a new altar which Gideon was to build, using the wooden Asherah (pole representing an idol) to burn the offering upon the altar.

Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded, but he did it at night, because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople. The next morning, when the villagers found the altar to Baal broken down, the Asherah cut down, and the bull sacrificed on the new altar to the Lord, they investigated and discovered that Gideon had done this.

They went to Gideon’s father, Joash, demanding that he hand over Gideon to be executed, but Joash refused to hand his son over to the people. Joash declared that those who would fight for Baal or defend his cause would be dead by morning. Joash told them that if Baal was a god, let him contend for himself. Gideon was called Jerrubbaal meaning “let Baal contend against him” because Gideon had pulled down Baal‘s altar.

The Midianites and Amalekites invaded Israel and encamped in the valley of Jezreel. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he called up an Army from the Abiezrites (a branch of the descendants of Manasseh) and from the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali. Gideon prayed for a sign from God that God would deliver Israel by Gideon.

Gideon laid a lamb’s fleece on the threshing floor overnight. Gideon asked that, if God would deliver Israel by Gideon, the fleece would be damp with dew while the ground stayed dry; and so it was. The next day the fleece was not only damp but wet enough that Gideon was able to wring a bowl full of water from it. Gideon asked for a second sign, as a confirmation, that the fleece stay dry and the ground be wet, and again it was as he had said.

Acts Paraphrase:

On the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples had received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised (Acts 1:4-5, John 14:15-16), a great crowd had gathered because of the commotion, and Peter had preached a powerful sermon explaining what was happening.

Peter’s sermon convicted many of the hearers of their need for forgiveness and they asked the disciples what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, and that they would receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, because the promise is for all who come to him in trust and obedience. Peter urged them to save themselves “from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40).

Three thousand people, all who believed Peter’s words, were baptized that day. The new converts devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread [the Lord’s Supper was celebrated as part of a common (communal) meal], and prayers. The Jerusalem Christians became a commune, a household of faith. They fellowshipped, worshiped and ate together, and took care of one another like family. Their behavior glorified God and earned the respect of their neighbors, and new converts were added daily.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus is the Word of God in human form (John 1:14). He existed from the beginning of creation. He is God (John 1:1c; John 20:28 Colossians 2:8-9), he is the creator (John 1:3); He is the giver of physical and spiritual life (John 1:4). He is the light of the world (John 1:4-5). Evil is darkness. Righteousness cannot be overcome by evil.

John the Baptizer was sent by God to herald Jesus as the coming of the Messiah. John was not the Messiah, but he testified that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the true light that was coming into the world. He came into the world which he had created, but the world did not acknowledge him. His own home and his own people did not welcome him. But to all who did welcome him and believe in him he gave power to become children of God, not according to flesh and blood or the will of mankind, but by the will of God.

Jesus dwelt among us full (an inexhaustible supply for all who are willing to receive it) of grace (redeeming love) and truth (faithfulness to his promises). Jesus’ glory has been revealed for all to see; those who see Jesus’ glory have beheld the glory of God (Matthew 11:27b; John 14:9b).

Commentary:

The Lord is the God who is; all other “gods” are the creation of mankind and are powerless. Baal needed men to fight his battles for him; the Lord fights the battles for his people. The Lord hears when his people call; he forgives those who repent, and he welcomes all who turn to him in faith (trust and obedience).

Peter’s sermon caused many to recognize their sinfulness and their need for forgiveness. All who believe the gospel, repent of their sins and turn to Jesus, are forgiven and restored to fellowship with the Lord. Notice that the new believers were discipled by the apostles (Acts 2:42).

God loves us; he created us, he gives us physical and spiritual life. God sent us a savior, Jesus Christ, to deliver us from bondage to sin and death. God gives us the power to become children of God (John 1:12), but we must appropriate that power for ourselves; we must act on the promise. When we turn to him in trust and obedience he saves us and restores us to fellowship with him. Jesus is the light of hope and righteousness shining in the darkness. Have you seen the glory of God in Jesus Christ? Have you come to a personal relationship with 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)?

Tuesday 12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/23/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 7:1-18  – Gideon’s preparations for battle;
Acts 3:1-11  –  Lame man healed;
John 1:19-28  –  Testimony of John the Baptizer;

Judges Paraphrase:

Gideon (Jerubbaal) and his army camped by the spring of Harod at the cliffs of Mt. Gilboa. The Midianites were camped in the valley of Jezreel to the north by the hill of Moreh. Gideon’s army numbered thirty-two thousand. The Lord told Gideon that his army was too large; that Israel would take credit for the victory themselves, rather than acknowledging that the Lord had given them the victory.

The Lord told Gideon to dismiss all the troops who were fearful, and twenty-two thousand went home, leaving ten thousand soldiers. The Lord said that there were still too many soldiers, so he told Gideon that the Lord would test the men and tell Gideon which to keep and which to send home. Gideon was to have the men drink from the spring. Those who put their faces to the water to drink were to be sent home, but those who cupped the water with their hand and brought it to their mouths were to be kept. Three hundred men drank from their cupped hand; they were kept, and all the rest were sent home.

The Lord assured Gideon that the Lord would defeat the Midianites with three hundred men. That night the Lord told Gideon to go down to scout the Midianite camp with his servant named Purah. The Lord told Gideon that Gideon would hear what the Midianites were saying about Gideon’s army, and that would encourage him. Gideon went down as instructed. The Midianite army was vast beyond counting, like a plague of locusts in number.

Gideon overheard a Midianite telling, to a companion, a dream he’d had. In his dream, the Midianite had seen a barley cake tumble into the Midianite camp and strike a tent, completely overturning it. His companion told him that the barley cake represented Gideon’s army, and that God had given Gideon victory over the Midianites.

When Gideon heard this, he worshiped God; then he returned to his camp and assembled his troops. He told them that God had given the Midianites into their hands. Gideon gave each of the soldiers a trumpet and an empty clay jar with a lit torch inside. Gideon told the men to follow his example; when they came to the outskirts of the Midianite camp, together they would all blow their trumpets and shout “For the Lord and for Gideon” (Judges 7:18).

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of prayer (3:00 p.m.). They encountered a lame man who was being carried to his regular daily position beside the Beautiful Gate, where he begged alms from those coming to the temple. Seeing Peter and John he asked them for alms.

Peter told the lame man, “Look at us.” The lame man fixed his attention on Peter and John, and Peter told him that he didn’t have money, but would give what he had. Peter commanded the lame man, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to walk. Peter took the lame man by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and the man was healed instantly. The man walked with Peter and John into the temple, leaping and praising God. The people in the temple recognized him, since they had seen him daily collecting alms, and they were amazed to see that he had been healed.

John Paraphrase:

The Jewish religious authorities (Pharisees, the leading ruling party; John 1:24) sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to John the Baptizer at “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (Bethabara), where he was baptizing (John 1:28), asking him to identify himself. John confessed that he was not the Christ (Messiah). They asked John if he were Elijah (who was expected to return to prepare the Messiah’s coming) or the prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; an anticipated forerunner of the Messiah). John said that he was not.

John described himself as a voice crying in the wilderness, as Isaiah had said, announcing the Messiah’s coming (Isaiah 40:3). They asked John why he was baptizing if he was not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet. “John answered them, ‘I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie’” (John 1:27).

Commentary:

A few people can accomplish great things if they trust and obey the Lord and glorify the name of the Lord. It required faith on the part of Gideon and his men to go against a vast army with only three hundred men, armed with trumpets and torches. In our human nature, we tend to take personal credit for our successes and blame God for our failures. Even worse, we tend to consider worldly success as divine approval. We tend to rely on God only when our own efforts have failed.

When Gideon committed to trusting and obeying the Lord, the Lord confirmed his promises to Gideon in order to strengthen Gideon to do what the Lord asked. Gideon gave worship and praise to the Lord, and he glorified the Lord in front of his men. The men were committed to following the Lord first and foremost, and then to following the leader who was committed to following the Lord.

Peter and John were disciples; they were trusting and obeying the Lord. They were on their way to their daily prayer and personal fellowship with the Lord. They weren’t successes in the worldly sense, but they had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit within them. They offered the lame man what he needed that they could provide, rather than what he said he wanted. Because of their faith and obedience, the Lord was able to work life-changing healing through them, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, and the Lord was glorified (Acts 3:6, 11-16).

John trusted and obeyed the Lord. He wasn’t a worldly success. John was apparently not conscious of his own role as the forerunner of the Messiah (Matthew 11:14; Mark 9:13), although he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. He didn’t seek status for himself; he just faithfully did what the Lord had called him to do, and he gave the glory to the Lord.

The Pharisees were legalists; they were obsessed with enforcing the smallest details of the Law, although they did not keep the Law themselves. So the Pharisees were concerned that John was baptizing without official status.

Are we willing to trust and obey the Lord and depend on him for our security, or do we try to provide our own security? Do we acknowledge and praise the Lord for our blessings, or do we take credit for them ourselves? Are we disciples of the Lord, spending time with the Lord in daily fellowship and prayer, and led and empowered by his Holy Spirit?  Are we seeking the Lord’s will and his plan, and humbly carrying it out? Are our lives glorifying the Lord, or are we seeking our own glory and status? Do we proclaim the Lord’s power and faithfulness to others?

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 12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/24/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 7:19-8:12  –  Victory over Midian;
Acts 3:12-26 –  Peter’s address;
John 1:29-42  –  John’s testimony;

Judges Paraphrase:

The Lord had selected three hundred men to attack the camp of the Midianites, led by Gideon. Gideon divided the group into three companies, which encircled the camp. They attacked the camp in the middle of the night, just after the changing of the guard. Gideon and his men broke the jars concealing the torches and blew their trumpets.

At the sound of the trumpets the camp was thrown into a panic and the Midianites slew one another with their own swords.  The remaining Midianites fled, probably to the southeast toward Zerethan and Abel-meholah, east of the Jordan (northeast of Shechem). The men of Ashur, Naphtali and Manasseh were called out to pursue the Midianites.

Ephraim was called out to secure the land as far as the Jordan River, and they captured and killed two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. The Ephraimites were angry at Gideon for not being called to participate in the attack against the Midianite camp at Jezreel, but Gideon mollified them by pointing out that their “gleaning” produced greater victory than the entire preceding vintage of Abiezer (a branch of the tribe of Manasseh). Gideon and his three hundred men pursued the fleeing Midianites across the Jordan River.

His men were faint with hunger, so Gideon asked the people at Succoth to give bread for his men, but they refused, saying that Gideon’s men had not yet captured the fleeing Midianites. Gideon promised to punish Succoth when he had captured the fleeing kings of Midian. He was likewise refused bread at Penuel, and he promised revenge upon them when he had accomplished his mission.

Not far beyond Penuel, Gideon caught up with Zebah and Zalmunna, the two fleeing Midianite kings and their remaining army of about fifteen thousand men. One hundred and twenty thousand Midianites had been slain. Gideon and his three hundred men attacked the remaining army, throwing them into a panic, and were able to capture the two kings.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter and John had healed a lame man at the temple (Acts 3:1-11). The people were amazed at the healing, and gathered together in Solomon’s portico, so Peter began to explain to them what had happened. Peter refused to take any personal credit for the healing, giving the glory to the Lord instead.

This gave him the opportunity to preach the Gospel, showing that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who the people of Israel had delivered to be crucified although Pilate had found him not guilty and had decided to release him. They had rejected the Holy and Righteous One in favor of a murderer (Barabbas; see Matthew 27:15-26) in his place. They had killed the “Author of life” but God raised him from the dead. Peter and John were witnesses to the fact of the resurrection and testified to it.

It was by faith in Jesus’ name that the lame man had been healed. The people had acted in ignorance, but God’s Word foretold by his prophets (and the scriptures) they thus fulfilled. Peter urged them to repent so that their sins might be forgiven and that they might be restored to peace and fellowship with the Lord through Jesus Christ, and receive the promises of God. Jesus is the successor to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). Everyone who does not obey that prophet (the Messiah; Jesus) shall be destroyed from the people (of God) (Acts 3:23).

Peter pointed out that all the prophets from Samuel onward have foretold the coming of the Christ which had now been fulfilled. The people of Israel were the descendants of the prophets and the heirs to the covenant of God with Abraham, which promised to bless the people through Abraham’s descendant, who is Jesus Christ. God had sent the Christ to the people of Israel first, so that they might be blessed as they repented and turned to him.

John Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer saw Jesus coming toward him and declared that Jesus was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” comparing Jesus to the Lamb which is sacrificed at Passover, as an offering for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptizer preceded Jesus in order to prepare for his coming, but Jesus, as the Son of God, ranks before John and existed before John (John 1:1-3, 14).

John’s commission from God was to point to Christ. John didn’t know in advance who the Christ was, but God gave him a sign. As John baptized with water, the one, on whom he saw the Spirit descend as a Dove and remain, was the Christ. John saw this sign upon Jesus and testified that Jesus was the Christ.

The next day John was standing with two of his disciples and he again saw Jesus passing, and declared to his  disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God. John’s disciples heard, and followed Jesus. Jesus saw them following and asked them what they were seeking. John’s disciples addressed Jesus as Teacher (Rabbi) and asked where he was staying, so Jesus invited them to “come and see” (John 1:39). They did, and stayed with Jesus that night, since it was 4:00 PM.

One of the disciples who followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He went and found his brother Simon, and told him that he had found the Messiah (Christ). Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, and Jesus looked at Simon and knew his name and that he was the son of John. Jesus gave him a new name, Peter (in Greek: “Petra; in Aramaic: “Cephas;” both words mean “rock”).

Commentary:

The Lord had fought the battle and won the victory for Israel over her enemy. There is no other way an army of three hundred could have prevailed against an army of one hundred and thirty-five thousand (Judges 8:10). The people were asked to join Gideon’s army to assist in rounding up the fugitives, securing the land and supporting Gideon’s army.

The tribe of Ephraim was disappointed that they had not been invited earlier, so that they could have participated in the actual battle, but Gideon assured them that the role they were asked to play in rounding up the remaining Midianites was just as important as the battle itself.

The response of the people of Ephraim was admirable; the response of the people of Succoth and Penuel was despicable. The people of Succoth and Penuel wanted to wait in comfort without contributing any support to Gideon’s army until all the work was done.

Peter and John were disciples of Jesus Christ, going about their daily routine of prayer and fellowship with the Lord, when they encountered the lame man. They gave him healing in the name of Jesus, and they had an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to many people as a result. They didn’t seek their own glory; they gave the Lord all the credit for what had been done in his name.

John was faithfully carrying out God’s call to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. John wasn’t seeking his own glory; he gave the glory to the Lord. John wasn’t making disciples for himself; he pointed them to Jesus.

As soon as Andrew had come to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, he immediately went to his brother, Simon, shared the good news with him, and led him to Jesus. Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to point to Jesus as the Christ, and to prepare the people of the world for the coming of Jesus Christ at the Day of Judgment.

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); Jesus is our victory over sin and death. God has already fought the battle and won the victory through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

Jesus is our Gideon. He has defeated the enemy. Now he’s calling us to join him to secure the land, round up the stragglers, and support Gideon’s army. What is our response? Are we zealous for the Lord’s army, eager to help and only disappointed that we weren’t able to join sooner and do more? Or do we expect to wait in ease and comfort until all the work has been done?

Are we willing to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, spending time daily in Bible study, prayer and fellowship with our Lord. Are we doing what we can to bring healing and salvation to those around us who are hurting, and so that we will be able to explain the Gospel to those who are receptive, as the opportunity arises? Are we seeking God’s will and direction in our lives, so that we can point others to Jesus and glorify our Lord? Those who join Jesus’ army will be blessed; those who refuse will be eternally destroyed.

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
12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/25/04;
Podcast: Thursday
12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 8:22-35  –  Gideon makes an ephod;
Acts 4:1-12  –  Peter and John arrested;
John 1:43-51  –  Call of Philip and Nathaniel;

Judges Paraphrase:

After his victory over the Midianites, the people wanted Gideon and his descendants to be their rulers, but Gideon refused hereditary kingship. Gideon told them that the Lord was their king. But Gideon asked them to give him their golden earrings, which they had taken from the Midianites (Ishmaelites) as spoils of war. The weight of the gold was about eight hundred and fifty ounces, just for the earrings; not counting the other gold jewelry worn by the Midianites and the collars around their camels’ necks. Gideon made an idol out of the gold so that it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

As a result of the victory over Midian, the Israelites had peace for forty years. Gideon (Jerubbaal) set up his own household, with many wives, and he had seventy sons of his own offspring. He also had a son named Abimelech by a concubine in Shechem. Gideon lived to an old age, and was buried in his father’s tomb at Opherah of Abiezer (in the valley of Jezreel, near Mount Tabor).

Soon after Gideon died the Israelites turned away from the Lord to idolatry, and made Baal-berith their God (Baal is the Canaanite idol; here his title is Lord of the Covenant). The people forgot the great saving acts and faithfulness of the Lord, and they didn’t honor the family of Gideon (Jerubbaal) for the good that he had done for Israel.

Acts Paraphrase:

On their way to pray in the temple, Peter had healed a lame man. A crowd had gathered, giving Peter an opportunity to present the Gospel. As Peter was preaching, the priests, the captain of the temple, and Sadducees heard him and were annoyed because Peter was teaching and proclaiming the resurrection of the dead in Jesus. (Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection.) They arrested Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day. Then they brought them before the Sanhedrin (Jewish court, headed by the high priest).

The court asked Peter and John by whose name they had healed the lame man, and Peter replied that the lame man had been healed by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they (the Sanhedrin) had had crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead. Jesus was thus the “stone” rejected by the builders (the Jewish religious leaders) but which has become the “cornerstone” (quoting Psalm 118:22, and Jesus, in Mark 12:10) “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

John Paraphrase:

John was baptizing in the Jordan River at “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (Bethabara; John 1:28). The day after Andrew brought his brother, Simon, to Jesus and they began to be Jesus’ disciples, Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip and said, “Follow me” (John 1: 43). Philip, Andrew and Simon were all from Bethsaida (on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee). Philip went and found his friend Nathanael, and told him that they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph. Nathanial was skeptical that anything good could come from Nazareth, but Philip told him to “come and see” (John 1:46b).

Jesus saw Nathanael coming, and said that Nathanael was a guileless Israelite. Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew Nathanael, and Jesus told him that he had “seen” Nathanael under a fig tree, before Philip called him. Nathanael declared that Jesus was the Son of God, and King of Israel! Jesus told Nathanael that he would see more amazing things than that; Nathanael would see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Commentary:

Gideon realized that the Lord was the King of Israel, and he resisted the temptation to establish his own hereditary kingdom, but he succumbed to other worldly temptations which came with his success. Gideon started out trusting and obeying the Lord and giving the glory to the Lord, but the acclaim that came with success became a snare for himself and his descendants.

His popularity led him to establish his own household apart from his father, with many wives and concubines, and many children. He was a success in worldly terms, but the money he received from the spoils of war and his popularity with the people became idolatry to him.

The people turned from the Lord to worship idols, and Gideon’s worldly success and achievements were soon forgotten. Gideon had great opportunities! If only he had used his popularity to build up God’s kingdom instead of pursuing his own worldly goals!

Peter and John were faithful disciples. They were attending to their daily fellowship with the Lord in prayer, and they had an opportunity to bring healing to someone in need. They did what they could, and the man was healed and glorified the Lord. Others saw the lame man healed, and Peter used the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to them.

The religious authorities had Peter and John arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, where Peter again had an opportunity to present the Gospel. Peter and John had come to a personal relationship with Jesus, and had been discipled by Jesus. They had been filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit; they were prepared and empowered for opportunities to witness, and they acted on those opportunities.

Andrew and Philip are examples of what followers of Jesus are called to do. Someone had pointed them to Jesus; they had acted on that direction and had come to a personal knowledge of Jesus. They had experienced Jesus, and had come to believe that he was the Christ (Messiah). They told their friends what they had found and invited them to come and see for themselves. But Andrew and Philip didn’t stop growing as disciples at that point.

They continued to be discipled by Jesus, they experienced the risen Lord Jesus after the resurrection, they were filled with his Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:27, 32, 45).

The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype of the “modern” “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle, like we can be. He experienced the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, his spiritual eyes were opened so that he was able to understand the scriptures in the light of Jesus Christ, he received the indwelling Holy Spirit, and he immediately began proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God (Acts Chapter 9).

Paul’s conversion happened in a matter of days, but he was already highly educated in the scriptures and the religion. Our discipling process will probably take longer. The Twelve were with Jesus physically day and night for more than three years. After that they still had to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 2:1-13).

Jesus knew Nathanael’s character and what he had been doing when Philip had called him. Jesus said that Nathanael was a guileless Israelite, not possessing the sinful qualities of his ancestor Jacob (Jacob had cheated his brother, Essau, out of his inheritance), before Jacob had wrestled with the Lord and his name was changed to Israel.

Jesus depicted his ministry as the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream of the ladder. Jesus is the ladder of Jacob’s dream, by which the blessings of God’s promises descend upon God’s people, and by which God’s people have access to heaven.

Will we answer the Lord’s call to follow him? Are we willing to spend time with the Lord daily in fellowship, personal Bible study and prayer, so that we can be led by the Lord into opportunities for witness and can be effective witnesses? Witnessing is not just a matter of inviting friends to church. We need to have a personal relationship with Jesus first, and then we have to invite others to experience that personal relationship for themselves.

The Lord has already won the victory at the Cross; are we being faithful followers, capturing “stragglers” (Judges 7:23-24), building the kingdom of God and glorifying the Lord for what he has done, or are we seeking our own glory and building our own “empires”? Do we expect, having entered into Christ’s victory, to live out the rest of our days in comfort and luxury, while neglecting the opportunities all around us? Are we allowing worldly success, material wealth, and physical pleasures to keep us from following Jesus’ command?

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
12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/26/04;
Podcast: Friday
12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 9:1-16, 19-21  –  Abimelech rises to power;
Acts 4:13-31  –  Peter and John before the council;
John 2:1-12  –  The Wedding at Cana;

Judges Paraphrase:

After Gideon’s (Jerubbaal’s) death, Abimelech, his half-Canaanite son by a concubine, went to his mother’s clan at Shechem. He told them to talk to all the people of Shechem to convince them that it would be better for them if Abimelech was their ruler than if the seventy sons of Gideon were their rulers. His mother’s clan did as he had said, and the people of Shechem were convinced to follow Abimelech, because he was from their own community and people.

They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith (Baal, “the Lord of the Covenant;” the Canaanite false god), which Abimelech used to hire mercenaries to form an army. With these men, Abimelech went to his father’s house in Ophrah and killed all of his seventy brothers except Jotham, the youngest, who hid himself. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo (probably a fortress in the region) came together and made Abimelech king, at the oak of the pillar at Shechem (probably a place of idolatrous worship; pillars were set up to represent idols; compare Joshua 24:26; Exodus 23: 24 RSV; Leviticus 26:1).

When Jotham heard, he told the people of Shechem a parable of trees. The trees wanted to anoint a king, so they chose the olive tree, but the olive tree chose not to depart from its purpose of producing oil for the anointing of kings in order to rule over trees. So the trees proposed the fig tree, but the fig tree chose not to give up producing sweet fruit in order to reign over the trees. The trees then suggested the vine, but the vine didn’t want to give up producing wine which gave cheer to men in order to reign over trees. Then the trees went to the bramble, and the bramble said that if the trees were anointing it king in good faith (righteously), they were welcome to take refuge in its shade; otherwise fire would come out of the brambles and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Jotham told the people of Shechem that if they had acted in good faith with Gideon (Jerubbaal) and his house, they should rejoice in Abimelech and he in them; otherwise, may Abimelech devour the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo, and let Shechem and Beth-millo destroy Abimelech.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter and John had been arrested by the Jewish religious authorities for preaching Jesus in the temple following Peter’s healing of a lame man (Acts 3:12-26). Peter had preached the Gospel to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-12). The members of the Sanhedrin were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John, who they realized were common uneducated men. But since the healing was undeniable, they really didn’t have anything to say in opposition.

Peter and John were sent out so the council could discuss the situation among themselves. They decided to order Peter and John not to preach or teach in Jesus’ name any more. But when Peter and John had been brought in and given this order, Peter replied that the Council must decide for themselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey men rather than God. But Peter declared that he and other followers of Jesus must testify to what they have seen and heard. The Council threatened them but couldn’t punish them further for fear of causing a riot among the people, who praised God for the healing of the lame man.

When released, Peter and John went to their friends (the church) and told them what had happened, and the church prayed, acknowledging that the scriptures had foretold opposition to the Gospels by the people of Israel, the Gentiles, and the rulers of the earth, which had been fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus.

The church acknowledged that God’s will was predestined (and could not be thwarted). The church asked God to be aware of the threats made against the Christians, and to give them boldness in proclaiming the Gospel, while God continues to work miracles through the name of Jesus. “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness”  (Acts 4:31).

John Paraphrase:

Three days after Philip had brought Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:43-51), Jesus attended a wedding in Cana in Galilee with his disciples. Jesus’ mother was also there, and when the host ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother told Jesus. Jesus asked her why she was telling him this, since his hour (of Jesus’ self-disclosure) would be determined by God’s will, rather than Mary’s.

Mary told the host’s servants to do whatever Jesus would tell them. There were six jars, each of about twenty-five gallon capacity, standing nearby for the Jewish purification ritual. Jesus told the servants to fill them with water to the brim, and they did so. Then Jesus told them to draw some and take it to the steward of the feast, and the steward tasted the water which had now become wine.

Not knowing where the wine had come from (although the servants knew), the steward went to the host and  remarked that most hosts serve the best wine first, and then when people have become intoxicated, the poor wine, but that this host had kept the good wine until now. After the wedding, Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and stayed there for a few days.

Commentary:

The people of Shechem were not seeking to do what was right in the eyes of God, but what they perceived as their own best interest. They thought that it would be to their advantage to have a “local boy” be their king; they didn’t consider Abimelech’s character. They thought that they would have favor and influence with Abimelech as king.

They allowed themselves to be manipulated by Abimelech and his clan. They gave him a “campaign contribution” from funds generated from the practice of sin and idolatry (Judges 9:4). With these funds Abimelech hired ruthless and unscrupulous men to help him seize political control.

God had raised up Gideon as a savior of the people at a time of Midianite oppression. Gideon had declined an offer by the people to establish himself in a hereditary monarchy; instead he acknowledged that the Lord was the king of Israel (Judges 8:22-23). The people of Shechem denied the kingship of the Lord, and the legitimate heirs of Gideon, and instead chose the illegitimate son to be their king.

The religious leaders had manipulated the people (Matthew 27:20) to choose a “local boy,” Barabbas, who happened to be a notorious robber, instead of Jesus, the legitimate heir to the throne of David (Matthew 27:15-26). The Jewish leaders chose to do what was right in their own eyes, rather than seeking and doing God’s will. Note that the temple leaders at Jerusalem gave Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus, the rightful King of Israel, and the people chose Jesus instead of Barabbas (Matthew 26:15-16; 27:3-10) to be crucified.

They arrested Jesus’ disciples for preaching the name of Jesus Christ, although a healing done in that name was undeniable and God was being glorified by the people as a result. The leaders ordered the disciples not to preach and teach in Jesus’ name. The Jewish Council had the authority to judge what was right, but misused that authority. The disciples chose to trust and obey the Lord, rather than men.

The disciples acknowledged that God’s will is fulfilled whether or not people approve and co-operate with that will. God’s will is truly in our best interest, although we may not perceive and acknowledge that. The world opposes God’s will in favor of what they perceive as their own best interests. Those who trust and obey the Lord are empowered and enabled by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to stand and prevail in the face of opposition.

Jesus was totally committed to doing God’s will, to the point of dying on the Cross. Jesus loved his mother, but he didn’t change the water into wine to please his mother. Jesus sought to know and obey God’s will.

Mary believed that Jesus was able to provide wine for the wedding and that he would do so. Mary believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Mary knew Jesus’ character. Her actions were based on her faith.

Are we seeking God’s will in order to co-operate with it, or are we seeking our own interests? Have we chosen Jesus Christ, God’s rightful heir to the throne and the kingdom, or we choosing to serve the “local boy,” Satan? Do we determine what is right on the basis of God’s Word, or by what we think and feel? Are we choosing leaders based on their character and what is right in God’s eyes, or according to what we think they can do to benefit us?

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
12 Pentecost – Even
First posted 08/27/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 12 Pentecost – Even

Judges 9:22-25, 50-57  –  Abimelech’s demise;
Acts 4:32-5:11  –  Ananias and Sapphira;
John 2:13-25  –  Cleansing the Temple;

Judges Paraphrase:

Abimelech, the half-Canaanite son of Gideon by a concubine, had slain sixty-nine of the seventy sons of Gideon and had been made king by the people of Shechem (Judges 9:1-16; see entry for yesterday, 12 Pentecost – Friday, even year). Abimelech reigned over Israel for three years. There was enmity between the people of Shechem and Abimelech, and they dealt treacherously with one another, resulting in the violence done to the seventy sons of Gideon coming back upon Abimelech and the people of Shechem who helped him attain power.

The people of Shechem set ambushes in the mountaintops and robbed those who passed by, and Abimelech heard about this. Abimelech went to Thebez (Tubas; Tabas; about 11 miles north-east of Shechem) and attacked it. There was a strong tower within the city and the people of the city took refuge in it. Abimelech attacked the tower and prepared to burn the door of the tower, but a woman of Thebez threw a millstone down from above, and crushed Abimelech’s skull.

Abimelech was conscious, so he called his armor-bearer and asked the armor-bearer to kill him with his sword, so that Abimelech would not be dishonored by being killed by a woman. The servant did as requested, Abimelech died, and Abimelech’s army departed to their homes. So God caused the evil that Abimelech had done against his father in killing his sixty-nine brothers to come back upon his head, and God also punished the people in the region of Shechem for bringing Abimelech into power, fulfilling the curse which Jotham, the surviving son of Gideon had invoked.

Act Paraphrase:

In the church in Jerusalem, the believers adopted a communal system and everyone contributed their property to the common good. As a result there was no poverty among them. Joseph Barnabas, a Levite and native of Cyprus sold a field and gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute. But a man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, conspired to sell their property but withhold a portion of the proceeds secretly.

When Ananias brought their contribution to the apostles, Peter challenged him for lying to the Holy Spirit, since Ananias was pretending to donate the entire proceeds while withholding part. Ananias was free to distribute his property as he wished, but he had lied to the Holy Spirit in an attempt to seem to be complying with the standards of behavior of the others, and to seem more generous than he was. At Peter’s words Ananias dropped dead at Peter’s feet. Young men of the congregation carried Ananias out and buried him.

Three hours later, Sapphira came, not knowing what had happened. Peter questioned her about the donation, asking the price received for the land sold. Sapphira repeated the lie Ananias had told, and Peter denounced her and told her that she would suffer the same fate as her husband. She too dropped dead on the spot. And the fellows who had buried her husband carried her out and buried her beside him. “And great fear came upon the whole Church, and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration and he went to the Temple and found the vendors who sold animals for sacrifice and the money-changers (Roman coinage had to be exchanged for Jewish, to be used for offerings), at their business. Jesus made a whip from cords, and he drove the merchants and their livestock out of the Temple, and overturned their tables, and scattering money. He told the merchants not to make “my Father’s house” a business. His disciples realized that this fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 69:9 which said that zeal for God’s house would consume the Messiah.

The religious leaders asked Jesus what sign he could produce as authority for what he was doing. Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The religious authorities thought Jesus’ statement ridiculous, because they took Jesus to mean the literal Temple building, but Jesus was referring to his body. When Jesus had been raised from the dead his disciples remembered him saying this and their faith in scripture and Jesus’ word were reinforced. Many in Jerusalem at the Passover believed in Jesus when they saw the signs (miracles) that he did, but Jesus did not have confidence in them, because he knows what is in the heart of each person.

Commentary:

The Israelites had been commanded not to intermarry with the people of the Canaan, but Gideon had a son by a Canaanite concubine. The oak at Shechem where the Israelites had reaffirmed their covenant with the Lord (Joshua 24:25-27) had become a shrine to the Canaanite false god Baal-berith (“Baal, Lord of the Covenant;” Judges 8:33-34). The people had rejected the Lord as the king of Israel, and had chosen the illegitimate son of Gideon to be their ruler, instead of the rightful heir. Abimelech was able to reign for a short time, but he and the Shechemites who put him in power fought and both were punished for their wickedness; their evil came back upon themselves.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted to appear to be upstanding members of their church without actually practicing the values held by the congregation. They couldn’t deceive the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b). They were struck dead on the spot, as a warning. But trying to deceive the Holy Spirit is still deadly, though not as obvious and instantaneous. ["The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do his commandments"(Psalm 111:10 NKJV)]

Jesus found that the worship of God had been corrupted. Religion had become a business. People had established their dominion over the religion in their areas of interest. Tradesmen held the concessions in their business specialties. The religious leaders held the concessions in spiritual, theological and legal specialties. The religious leaders challenged Jesus’ authority; he was trespassing on their “territory.” They had come to think of the religion as their domain; rather than God’s.

Instead of acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, and the rightful heir to the throne of David, they crucified him. As a result the Jewish religion effectively ended at the Cross of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51). The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and has never been rebuilt. Israel ceased to exist as a nation, and the people were scattered all over the earth; only since World War II has the nation of Israel been re-established.

Many of the people in Jerusalem for the Passover believed in the name of Jesus when they saw the signs that Jesus was doing, but Jesus knows what people really believe in their innermost thoughts. Believing in Jesus only through proof of his power isn’t faith. The fact that they believed that Jesus could do things for them didn’t change their hearts. Only Jesus can change people’s hearts, as they trust and obey Jesus, through his indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s not enough to call Jesus Lord and not do what he says Matthew 7:21-24).

Turning from trusting and obeying the Lord to reliance on worldly leaders proved to be a disaster for the Shechemites and later for the Jews. This should be a warning to America and to the Church as well. The Church is the New Israel, the new people of God, but in another sense America is also the New Israel, founded on Christian principles, viewed by many as a “Promised Land,” which is falling away from following the Lord.

Do we think that we can look like Christians on the outside and fool the Spirit of the Lord? Do our Churches look like the Temple of Christ on the outside, while tolerating all sorts of corruption on the inside? I think both America and the Church are in about the same condition today as Israel was at the time of Jesus’ first coming. Will we return to the Lord, or will we keep pursuing our own worldly interests? Jesus has promised to return to judge the earth (Matthew 25:31-46); are you 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)?

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:

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 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:

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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 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)?


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