Week of 20 Pentecost – Even – 10/26 – 11/01/2014

October 25, 2014

Week of 20 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 20 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/16/04;
Podcast: Sunday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 1:1-2:1  –  Israel the unfaithful wife;
James 3:1-13  –  True wisdom;
Matthew 13:44-52 –   Parables of the kingdom;

Hosea Paraphrase:

Hosea (meaning “Salvation”) was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during its decline and fall in 745 to 721 B.C. The Lord told Hosea to take a prostitute as a wife and have children through her unfaithfulness as an illustration of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord, so Hosea took Gomer and she conceived and bore a son. The Lord told Hosea to name the son Jezreel (after the town where Jehu slaughtered Ahab and his household), predicting the location of the battle that would end the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Hosea 1:5).

Gomer conceived again and bore a daughter, and the Lord told Hosea to name her “Not pitied,” because God would no longer pity Israel and forgive her sins. God promised that he would have pity on (the Southern Kingdom) Judah; he promised to deliver them, not by weapons, or warriors, or by war, but by the Lord their God. Gomer bore a third child, a son, and the Lord told Hosea to name him “Not my people” because Israel was not God’s people (because they had forsaken God), and God was not their God (because God chooses not to be responsible for people who do not obey him).

But the Lord promised that the punishment of Israel (the nation) would not be final. The people of Israel would be numerous beyond counting. God promised that although they had been called “Not my people” (because they had forsaken God), they would later be knows as “Sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10; compare Romans 9:25-26). The people of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah would be reunited under one head. Jezreel means “God sows” or “God scatters.” So the name suggests future restoration, as well as God’s punishment. In the day of the Lord’s restoration, “Not my people” will become “My people” and “Not pitied” will be “She has obtained pity.”

James Paraphrase:

Those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. We all make many mistakes; no one is perfect. We should try to control not only our actions but also our words (and even our thoughts; Matthew 5:27-28). Consider that a horse can be led around by its tongue; so we should bridle our tongues, so that we can control them, rather than have them control us.

Our tongues are also like a rudder on a ship; if we don’t control our tongues, our tongues may cause us disaster. A tongue is small but it can cause big problems, like a spark can set a great forest ablaze. The tongue may be the most difficult thing in creation for mankind to control. The same tongue is capable of blessing and cursing; what in nature seems more perverse? If anyone is wise and understanding, his life should reflect this by righteousness and meekness.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The kingdom of heaven is like buried treasure. When one discovers its riches, one joyfully gives up everything else in order to possess it. The kingdom of heaven is like a perfect pearl of incalculable value. When one who seeks the finest of pearls finds it, one would happily exchange all that one has to obtain it.

The kingdom of heaven is like a net; it is a selection process. It gathers everything in its path, but then the collection is sorted into two groups. The good are kept for eternity; the bad are destroyed. Jesus declared that at the end of time, angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous. The evil will be destroyed in eternal fire (in Hell), where people “will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matthew 13:50).

Jesus asked his disciples if they understood what Jesus had said. They replied that they had. Then Jesus told them that “scribes” who had been trained for the kingdom of heaven select from their treasure what is new and what is old.

Commentary:

God scatters and God sows. God punishes; God also restores. Ahab was considered perhaps the most evil king of Israel. He married a Phoenician pagan, Jezebel, who promoted the worship of Baal in Israel. Jehu was anointed King of Israel and commissioned to destroy Ahab and his household. The Northern Kingdom continued to slide into apostasy, which finally culminated in their conquest by the Assyrians in 721 B.C..

The ten northern tribes were scattered over the earth and the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist. [The Southern Kingdom of Judah was later carried off into captivity in Babylon in 587 B.C., but were subsequently restored in 517 B.C., with the dedication of the temple (Ezra 6:15; fulfilling Jeremiah 25:12]. Thus the prophecy of Hosea 1:6-7 was fulfilled. Hosea prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (Hosea 1:1) who was a descendant of Jehu.

God promised to deliver Judah by “the Lord their God (i.e., the Messiah). Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Savior. He is also the Righteous Judge (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). Those who turn away from God’s salvation will be punished and destroyed, but he will restore those who come to him. Christians are the New People of God; the New Israel of Jews and Gentiles united under one head, Jesus Christ. We look forward to final restoration in God’s kingdom in heaven.

True wisdom is divine wisdom, the wisdom of God by which the world was created, not what the world falsely considers wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Those who teach in the Church will be accountable to stricter standards. They should be mature disciples of Jesus Christ; they should show by their lives and their conduct that they have learned the wisdom which is from God.

The kingdom of God is a priceless treasure; if one recognizes its worth one will be willing to sacrifice everything else to obtain it. The kingdom of God is also a selection process. There is a standard against which selection will be made. There will be judgment (condemnation; eternal destruction) for those who do not meet the standard, and there will be restoration and reward for those who do. Jesus asked his disciples if they understood what he was saying, and then referred to those who had been trained for the kingdom of heaven as “scribes.” (Scribes were those who were trained in and teachers of the Mosaic Law.)

Disciples were to be trained to spiritual maturity, and to teach others to be trained likewise to spiritual maturity, not exclusively in Mosaic Law, but in all of God’s Word (and also in the Holy Spirit). They were not to be legalists; not New Testament Jews, insisting on keeping the Old Covenant of Law. But they weren’t to completely disregard the Old Testament either. Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it; (Matthew 5:17). In Jesus we are freed from slavery to the Law, provided that we walk according to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

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 a Day of Judgment coming, when all who ever lived will be accountable to God. God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus Christ is the standard by which all will be judged. 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 Jesus will receive eternal punishment and destruction in Hell with Satan and all evil.

It is not sufficient to claim Jesus as Lord if we do not obey his teachings (Matthew 7:21-24). We must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b). Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), and Jesus gives his Holy Spirit only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17; Isaiah 42:5e).

Is Jesus truly 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 20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/17/04;
Podcast: Monday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 2:2-15  –  Israel, the unfaithful wife;
Acts 20:17-38  –  Paul’s departure for Jerusalem;
Luke 5:1-11  –  The unexpected catch;

Hosea Paraphrase:

The Lord said that the children of Israel should plead with their mother, Israel, to turn from spiritual adultery (idolatry). She has been unfaithful to God, her husband. God will publicly shame her and punish her. Her children are illegitimate, because they have been conceived by harlotry. Israel has an illicit affair with Baal who she thinks provides her material needs (Hosea 2:5b), not realizing and acknowledging that it is God who provides for her (Genesis 1:29-30; James 1:17).

The Lord is going to withhold his blessings from Israel because she has forsaken the Lord. Her sins will be exposed. She will lose the proceeds she acquired by unfaithfulness. The Lord promises to woo Israel back to himself. He will bring her back to the wilderness, where she walked faithfully with the Lord. (The valley of Achor is where the sins of Achan, whose disobedience of God’s command caused Israel to be unable to stand against the Canaanites, were punished.)

Acts Paraphrase:

On the return from his third missionary journey, Paul was anxious to get to Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost, so rather than making a side-trip from Miletus to Ephesus he called the elders of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. Paul reviewed his ministry among them. He had not let trials or persecution by the Jews keep him from publicly declaring the Gospel truth.

Now Paul was going to Jerusalem at the command of the Holy Spirit, not knowing what was to befall him except that the Holy Spirit had revealed that imprisonment and affliction awaited him. But Paul didn’t consider his own life of any value; Paul’s only priority was the ministry of the Gospel.

Paul realized that he would probably never see his Ephesian brethren again, and he told them that he had satisfied his obligation to declare the whole counsel of God; they would bear their own responsibility for what they did with that counsel. Paul urged them to be careful for themselves and for the flock which the elders oversaw, to see that the congregation for whom the Lord had shed his blood was nurtured and sustained.

Paul warned that after Paul’s departure false teachers would arise who would attempt to pervert and draw away the disciples from the true faith, which Paul had labored at considerable personal cost for three years to instill. Now Paul commended them to the grace of God who is able to strengthen them and fulfill the promised inheritance to those who are sanctified (cleansed and consecrated by the Holy Spirit).

Paul did not pursue his ministry for material gain. In fact, he worked to support himself so that the church was not burdened. He had taught by example to help the weak and to give rather than seeking to receive. Then Paul knelt down and prayed with them and they all wept and embraced and kissed, sorrowing that they would never see Paul again. Then they saw him aboard his ship.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a crowd was around him, pressing upon him to hear God’s Word. Jesus saw two boats beached nearby, and the fishermen were washing their nets. Jesus got into one of the boats which happened to be Simon Peter’s and asked Simon to put out a little from shore. Jesus sat in the boat and taught the crowd on the shore.

When he had finished teaching, he asked Simon to take the boat out into deeper water and let down his nets. Simon replied, addressing Jesus as “Master,” and saying that the crew had fished all night and had caught nothing. But at Jesus’ word Simon was willing to let down the nets. When the crew had done this they caught a huge shoal (“school”) of fish, which threatened to break their nets, so they called to their partners in the other boat to come out and help them. They filled both boats to the point that they were in danger of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened he fell down at Jesus’ feet and acknowledged Jesus as Lord and that Peter was a sinner unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence. All the fishermen, who included James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners, were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken. Jesus told Simon not to be afraid, and told him that from then on Simon would be catching men (rather than fish). When they beached the boats they left everything and followed Jesus.

Commentary:

Israel was committing spiritual adultery with Baal, the false “god” of this world. God had judged her and was going to punish her in order to lead her to repentance. The Lord declared that he would withhold his blessing from her because she had forsaken him. Her sins would be exposed. Her children were illegitimate because they were conceived by her unfaithfulness. Israel would lose the proceeds she acquired by her unfaithfulness.

The Lord promised to woo Israel back to himself. He would bring her back to the wilderness, where she would once again walk faithfully with the Lord. The valley of Achor was the entrance to the Promised Land, where Israel sinned by disobedience to the Lord’s command. Going back through that door into the wilderness where they could be obedient to the Lord made it a door of hope.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel was driven and scattered throughout the wilderness of this world by the conquest by Assyria in 721 B.C.. The hope was that with the coming of Jesus they would learn to trust and obey the Lord in the wilderness of this life, and would be led by Jesus into the Promised Land of Heaven. The children of Israel were commanded to plead with Israel to turn from her spiritual adultery.

Paul had not let persecution and trials keep him from preaching the Gospel (Acts 20:19-20). Paul was an example of obedience to the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22). Paul didn’t allow worldly things to become his idols (Acts 20:24, 34-35). He had fulfilled his obligation to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; not just the parts that make hearers feel good). His hearers would bear their own responsibility for what they did with that counsel.

Paul warned the church leaders to exercise care for the church, for which Jesus had literally shed his own blood, and which Paul had labored for three years to strengthen and sustain. He warned that false prophets would attempt to pervert and draw away the disciples from the true faith.

Simon Peter trusted and obeyed Jesus. Simon was an experienced fisherman and had caught nothing after fishing all night, but he obeyed Jesus’ command to try again. Because Simon had come to know Jesus personally, had acknowledged and repented of his sinfulness, and trusted and obeyed Jesus, he was qualified to become a “fisher of men.” The Lord rewards obedience beyond what we can expect or imagine.

The followers of Jesus are the New Children of Israel; the Church is the New Israel. (In another sense America is also the New Israel.) The Children of Israel are called to plead with their mother to return from her spiritual adultery, before she suffers God’s judgment.

Have our church and national leaders allowed or encouraged the worship of material things to supplant the worship of God? Have they allowed worldly teachings to pervert and draw away disciples? Have we allowed those who were not obedient and Spirit-led to become teachers and leaders? Are we attempting to be disciples without obeying the Lord’s commands? Are we pleading with our “mother” to turn from her spiritual adultery? Are we “fishers of men?”

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 20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/18/04;
Podcast:  Tuesday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 2:16-23  –   Promise of restoration;
Acts 21:1-14  –  Paul’s return to Jerusalem;
Luke 5:12-26 –  Forgiveness of sins;

Hosea Paraphrase:

In the day of restoration, his people will regard the Lord as their “husband” instead of their “Baal” (master; lord), because God “will remove the names of the Baals (false gods; idols) from their mouths and they shall be mentioned by name no more” (Hosea 2:17).

The Lord will make a new covenant on that day with all creatures. War and fighting will be abolished, and all will dwell in safety. He will betroth us to himself in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness. We shall know the Lord (have intimate personal fellowship).

In that day God will answer (hear and respond). He will cause the creation to be fruitful. That fruitfulness will be the fulfillment of God’s promise of Jezreel, which means “God sows.” God will have pity on “Not pitied” and will declare that “Not my people” have become “my (God’s) people” and they shall declare that God is their God.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul was returning from his third missionary journey and was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing by the Holy Spirit  that imprisonment and affliction awaited him (Acts 20:23). He left Miletus (in modern Turkey) and sailed along the coast to Patara, where they boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. They crossed to Syria, landing at Tyre. He and his companions stayed with Christians at Tyre for seven days.

The brethren at Tyre knew by the Holy Spirit what awaited Paul, and did not want Paul to go on to Jerusalem. But at the end of the week, they accompanied Paul and his companions to the docks and saw them off.
Paul’s group sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais and then to Caesarea, where they stayed with Philip, the evangelist, one of the seven (original deacons; Acts 6:1-6). Philip had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

During their stay with Philip, a prophet named Agabus (see Acts 11:28) came from Judea and used a symbolic act to dramatize his prophecy. He took Paul’s belt and wrapped it around his own hands and feet, and said that, according to the Holy Spirit, the Jews at Jerusalem would likewise bind the hands and feet of the owner of the belt.

His Christian brethren begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, but Paul, although he cared for them very much, was ready to be imprisoned and even to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus. Since Paul could not be persuaded otherwise, his Christian friends accepted his decision and the will of the Lord.
Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus encountered a man who had a bad case of leprosy, and the man bowed before Jesus and declared that if Jesus was willing Jesus could heal him. Jesus replied that he was willing, and commanded that the man be healed.

Immediately the leprosy left him. Jesus told the man to tell no one, but to go to the priest and complete the sacrificial requirements to be restored to the congregation. But the report of the healing spread far and wide, and great crowds gathered to hear and be healed of their ailments. Jesus “withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

Another day when Jesus was teaching and healing, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law (scribes; authorities of scripture) among the crowd. Men were bringing a paralyzed man on a stretcher but were unable to get close to Jesus because of the crowd, so they went up on the roof and removed some of the tiles and lowered the man through the roof. When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven.

The Pharisees and scribes discussed Jesus’ saying among themselves, saying that Jesus had blasphemed, since no one can forgive sins but God alone. Jesus perceived their inner thoughts, and asked them why they were questioning Jesus’ statement. Jesus suggested that it would have been simpler for him to tell the paralytic to rise and walk than to tell him that his sins had been forgiven, but that he had declared forgiveness so all might know that Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins. Then Jesus told the paralytic to rise, pick up his cot and go home. The man immediately did as Jesus had commanded, glorifying God. All the people were amazed and glorified God, realizing that they had witnessed something quite remarkable.

Commentary:

God has promised a Day of Judgment and punishment of unfaithfulness and disobedience, but he also promised forgiveness and renewal of his people. He promised to make a door of hope (Hosea 2:15). In the day of restoration, his people will be joined to him and serve him in love, as a bride with her “husband,” rather than in fear as a slave with his master. The Lord promised to make a new covenant with all creatures. Idolatry will cease. War and fighting will be no more; all creation will live in peace and safety. Creation will be restored to the abundance of paradise.

Paul was living in the day of renewal; in the new covenant promised in Hosea 2:18. That day of renewal began with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Idolatry, war and fighting have not yet ceased in this world, but Jesus is the door to the new creation in the kingdom of God, where those things have ceased and we have peace and safety in the paradise of Heaven.

As God declared that the way to Heaven is through the wilderness of this world, walking in obedience to the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit, so Paul was doing. He was obedient to the Holy Spirit, and he was willing to suffer and die for the name of Jesus (Acts 21:13), knowing that God’s promises are trustworthy. Paul and his Christian friends were willing to trust in God’s will, even in the face of persecution and death (Acts 21:14).

It is God’s will for us to be saved and restored. God sent Jesus for that very purpose (John 3:16-17). The Leper believed that Jesus had the power to heal him. He trusted himself to Jesus’ will, and Jesus assured him that it is Jesus’ will to heal and restore us. Jesus told him to rise, pick up his cot and go home, and the paralytic was healed instantly as he began to obey Jesus. Jesus came so that we might be forgiven and reconciled with God (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Jesus is the Door of hope (Hosea 2:15; John 10:9). Jesus has the authority to judge the Earth and the authority to forgive sins (Matthew 28:18; 25:31-46). It is God’s will for us to be saved, but he won’t force us to receive his salvation. God doesn’t want us to perish, but we will if we refuse to accept his forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. He gives us the choice.

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
20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/19/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 3:1-5  –  Faithless wife restored;
Acts 21:15-26  –  Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem;
Luke 5:27-39  –  New wine;

Hosea Paraphrase:

The Lord told Hosea to love, again, a woman who had committed adultery, as an illustration of God’s love for the people of Israel, even though they have been spiritually adulterous by turning to other gods and participating in pagan festivals (raisin cakes were associated with pagan festivals). So Hosea bought back his adulterous wife for fifteen shekels of silver and about 10 bushels of barley.

Hosea told her that she must be faithful to him and dwell with him for many days, and Hosea would also be faithful to her. Hosea said that the children of Israel would live many days without king or prince, sacrifice or pillar, ephod or teraphim (religious paraphernalia). “Afterward, the children will seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5).

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul returned to Jerusalem, knowing by the Holy Spirit that imprisonment and suffering awaited him (Acts 20:22-23). After staying several days with Philip, the evangelist and deacon (Acts 6:1-7), Paul and his fellow workers went up to Jerusalem where they stayed with a disciple named Mnason, of Cyprus, a long-time disciple.

The next day Paul met with James (the head of the apostolic council at Jerusalem, and the cousin, or kinsman, of the Lord; Galatians 1:18-19), and all the elders of the council were present. Paul told them all the things God had done through Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles, and the council praised God. Then they told Paul that there were thousands of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were committed to keeping the Jewish Law and traditions, and who had heard that Paul taught the Gentiles to forsake the Law of Moses.

The council therefore suggested that Paul undertake to sponsor four Jewish Christians who had taken temporary Nazirite vows. Paul would undergo ritual purification along with them and pay their expenses, so that they could complete their purification. The council thought that would convince the legalistic segment of the Christian community that Paul was not guilty of preaching against the Law of Moses, and that Paul personally lived in accordance with it. The council had previously ruled that it was not necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised or keep the Jewish Laws (Paul had initiated and participated in the ruling; Acts 15:1-21). So Paul agreed and the next day he purified himself and went into the temple to make arrangements for the fulfillment of the vows.

Luke Paraphrase:

During his ministry in Galilee, Jesus passed by a tax collector’s office, and called the tax collector, named Levi (Matthew, son of Alphaeus, possibly brother of James, the Lord’s kinsman), to follow Jesus. Levi “left everything, and rose and followed him” (Luke 5:28). Levi made a great feast in his house for Jesus, and there was a large group of tax collectors and others also invited.

The Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus’ disciples for eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus replied that it is those who are sick who need a physician. Jesus declared that he had come to call sinners to repentance; not the righteous. The scribes and Pharisees also criticized Jesus’ disciples for not fasting, unlike the disciples of John the Baptizer and the disciples of the Pharisees.

Jesus answered by comparing his situation with a wedding feast. Jesus was like the bridegroom; while he was present the wedding guests did not fast, but after the feast, when the groom had left, they would fast again. Jesus also told several parables: One cannot patch an old garment with un-shrunk cloth; otherwise the patch would tear the old garment the first time it is washed again, and the new fabric would be unsightly because it would not match the old.

Likewise no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if they did the skin would burst and the wine would be spilled. New wineskins must be used for new wine. No one prefers new wine after they taste the old because the old tastes better.

Commentary:

The Lord had Hosea buy back his adulterous wife, discipline her, and reaffirm his love, as an illustration of God’s plan to redeem the people of Israel. Hosea prophesied that Israel would live for many days without civil or religious institutions. Afterward they would return to God and their Messiah (Hosea 3:5).

The prophecy of Hosea began to be fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus. The veil in the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). The veil of the temple separated the Holy of Holies, God’s presence, from the sanctuary. This symbolized that the people henceforth had direct access to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:8; 10:19).

In 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans and the Jews were scattered throughout the world. The Jewish nation and Jewish religion effectively ceased to exist. It wasn’t until after World War II that the Jews began to return to Israel; the temple has never been rebuilt. (Without the temple, there is no sacrificial system, on which the Old Covenant of Law is dependent).

Jesus is the “Passover Lamb” that was slain as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, once for all (Hebrews 9:26). Jesus is the descendant of David (Luke 2:4) who is the eternal heir to David’s throne (Matthew 21:9; 2 Samuel 7:11c-16). Jesus paid the price for our salvation, on the cross, with his blood.

Paul taught that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (as Jesus taught: Matthew 5:17). He earnestly believed and taught that salvation was by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ and not by keeping the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). He was instrumental in the apostolic decree (Acts 15:1-21) which was cited in Acts 21:25.

I don’t believe that Paul compromised his convictions, but that he was willing to make personal sacrifices out of love for the Jews  (compare Acts 16:3; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21; 10:32). Paul was living out the costly, sacrificial, redeeming love of God in Jesus Christ. Paul was participating in the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy; God was extending the costly redeeming love of Jesus Christ through Paul to the children of Israel.

Jesus’ call of Levi (Matthew) is an illustration of God’s redeeming love. Jesus came to redeem sinners; he came to heal the spiritually sick. We’re all sinners (Romans 3:23), but Jesus can’t heal those who refuse to acknowledge that they are sinners in need of healing. Jesus can’t heal those who consider themselves righteous because they think they have kept the Law; because they think they have not done anything bad.

The scribes and Pharisees considered themselves righteous because they would not eat with sinners. They rejected Jesus because Jesus did eat with sinners. The Old Covenant of Law was broken beyond patching. Jesus was “new material,” which required a “new garment:” a New Covenant of grace through faith. Jesus is “new wine” which requires “new wineskins,” a change of heart to accept the New Covenant. The Pharisees were unwilling to give up the old traditions in order to participate in the New Covenant.

Jesus also foretold his crucifixion (Luke 5:35), the ultimate illustration of God’s redeeming love, where Jesus paid the ultimate price as a ransom to buy us back from our spiritual adultery. Jesus is the door which has been opened to forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with God; Jesus is the door to the Promised Land of eternal life in Heaven .

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 20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/20/04;
Podcast: Thursday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 4:1-10  –  The Lord’s controversy with Israel;
Acts 21:27-36  –  Paul assaulted in the temple;
Luke 6:1-11  –  Lord of the Sabbath;

Hosea Paraphrase:

The Lord has a controversy with Israel because there is no faithfulness, kindness or knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, killing, stealing and adultery abound. For that reason the land mourns and all its inhabitants languish. Also, the animals of the land and the fish of the sea decline. The Lord will contend with his priests and his prophets; they will stumble.

The people are destroyed for lack of (divine) knowledge. Because you (God’s people) have rejected (divine) knowledge, God has rejected you from being his priests. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, God will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against God. God will change their glory into shame.

“They (religious leaders) feed on the sin of my (God’s) people; they are greedy for their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot (fornicate), but not multiply; because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish harlotry” (Hosea 4:8-10).

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul had gone to Jerusalem knowing by the Holy Spirit that arrest and persecution awaited him there. At Jerusalem he had accepted the suggestion of the apostolic council that he sponsor four Jewish Christians who had undertaken Nazirite vows, to show the Jews that he was not teaching against Moses and the Law.

Paul did as suggested, but before the end of the seven day purification ritual Paul was seen in the temple by Jews from Asia (who had persecuted him in Asia; Acts 13:45, 50; 14:5, 19), and they started a commotion, charging Paul with preaching against Moses, the law and the temple, and of desecration of the temple by bringing Gentiles into it (although they had no evidence that he had done so). A mob formed and they dragged Paul out of the temple and were trying to kill Paul.

Word of the disturbance came to the commander of the Roman garrison stationed near the temple, and he sent troops. When the mob saw the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested Paul and ordered him bound with chains. The commander began investigating the cause of the disturbance, but the mob shouted conflicting information and he could not determine the facts, so he had Paul imprisoned in the barracks overnight. At the steps to the barracks, the soldiers had to carry Paul up, because of the violence of the crowd.

Luke Paraphrase:

One Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were going through a grainfield and the disciples snacked on some of the heads of grain, rubbing them with their hands. The Pharisees accused them of breaking the Sabbath laws by “harvesting” and “threshing” grain. Jesus pointed out that David had fed his soldiers with “bread of the Presence” from the house of God, which is unlawful for any but priests to eat (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Jesus told them that the Son of man (Jesus) is Lord of the Sabbath.

On another Sabbath, Jesus went to a synagogue and taught, and there he encountered a man with a withered arm. The scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus, looking for some wrongdoing with which they could charge him.

Jesus knew their thoughts, so he told the man to come and stand beside him. Then Jesus asked the crowd whether it was lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm; to save life or to destroy. Then, looking around at the crowd, Jesus told the man to stretch out his arm. The man did so and it was restored. But the Pharisees were enraged and discussed among themselves what they might do to Jesus.

Commentary:

God accused Israel of lack of faith, kindness and knowledge of God. In consequence, the Lord warned that he would oppose his priests and prophets and cause them to stumble. Israel had been called to be a kingdom of priests to God (Exodus 19:6).

The religious leaders were no more righteous than their congregation. The Lord promised that they would be punished for their sin: The priests and prophets would stumble, the people would be destroyed for lack of divine knowledge; those who reject God will be rejected by God; the children of those who have forgotten God’s law will be forgotten by God. Their glory will be turned to shame. They will eat and not be satisfied; they will pursue pleasure but not find it.

The Jews’ treatment of Paul at the temple is evidence confirming God’s accusation through Hosea. The Jews proved that they were not faithful, kind, or possessing knowledge of God. They were proof of lying and killing abounding in the land. Their religious leaders fed on the sin of the people and lusted for iniquity. Paul had made personal sacrifice to avoid offending the Jews (see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 20 Pentecost, even year, above).

Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, but the religious leaders accused Jesus of defiling the Sabbath. The Pharisees considered themselves knowledgeable about God and the scriptures, but they didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, Emmanuel (God with us; Matthew 1:23), and Jesus had to remind them about the incident of David and the bread of the Presence. The religious leaders condemned Jesus for doing good on the Sabbath while they plotted evil and murder on the Sabbath (Luke 6:9, 11).

God’s judgment on Israel was accurate. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). True wisdom is divine wisdom, the wisdom of God by which the world was created, not what the world falsely considers wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Hosea’s prophecy was fulfilled! Because they rejected divine knowledge in Jesus, God rejected them from being his people and his kingdom of priests.

The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.. The people were scattered throughout the world. The Jewish nation and religion effectively ceased to exist. It wasn’t until after World War II that the Jews began to return to Israel; and the temple has never been rebuilt. (Without the temple, there is no sacrificial system.) The Christian Church is the New Israel and the New kingdom of priests.

God’s Word is eternal! What applied to Israel in the time of Jesus’ physical ministry, applies to the world today. It should also be a warning to the Christian Church, the “New people of God”, and to America, which in a sense is the “New (national) Israel,” the “New Promised Land.”

Have the people of the Church fulfilled their call to be priests and prophets of God? Have the people of the Church and of America forgotten God’s Word? Have they failed to obtain personal knowledge of Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit? Have we grown more sinful as we’ve prospered? Does swearing, lying, killing stealing and adultery (and immorality) abound?
Have religious leaders been as sinful as or even more sinful than their congregations? Are animals of the land and fish of the sea in decline? Do we have plenty, but no satisfaction? Will we repent and receive the forgiveness God offers through Jesus Christ before it’s too late?

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
20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/21/04;
Podcast: Friday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 4:11-19  –  Israel’s apostasy;
Acts 21:37-22:16  –  Paul’s defense before the people;
Luke 6:12-26  –  Choosing the Twelve Apostles;

Hosea Paraphrase:

The Lord has a controversy with Israel because all have forgotten the Lord and turned to other gods. Drunkenness takes away understanding; so does following idols. Spiritual adultery leads people astray. Both the women who are prostitutes and the men who use them are equally to blame. “A people without understanding shall come to ruin” (Hosea 4:14d).

Hosea’s ministry was to the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in the period of the Divided Monarchy), where idolatry was rampant. Judah (the Southern Kingdom) is warned not to follow Israel’s course. Hosea condemned Gilgal and Bethel (which he called Beth-aven: i.e. “house of idolatry;” see 1 Kings 12:28-29) because both had become centers of idolatry. Israel’s stubbornness makes it impossible for the Lord to (spiritually) feed and sustain her. The territory of Ephraim surrounded Bethel and Gilgal. Hosea condemned Ephraim for idolatry, which is both spiritual drunkenness and spiritual adultery.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul had been attacked by the Jews in the temple in Jerusalem, and had been arrested by Roman soldiers (Acts 21:27-36). He was going to be imprisoned overnight, and as he was being brought into the barracks, he asked his guard for permission to address the crowd. The Roman soldier was surprised that Paul could speak Greek, and accused him of being an Egyptian rebel, but Paul told him he was a Jew from Tarsus. Tarsus was the chief city of Cilisia, with a reputation as a center of learning which compared to that of Athens and Alexandria.

The soldier gave permission, and Paul began to speak to the crowd in Hebrew. He told them he was a Jew born in Tarsus but educated in Judaism in Jerusalem under the Rabbi Gamaliel. Paul told the crowd that he had persecuted “the Way” (Christianity) to death. He had arrested and imprisoned Christian men and women, and had been on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians there.

Paul said that as he had approached Damascus around noon, a bright light from heaven shown upon him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice calling him by name (Saul; which he subsequently changed to Paul). Paul had asked who was addressing him and the voice identified himself as “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 22:8).

Paul’s companions on the journey had seen the light but had not heard the voice. The Lord told Paul to go into Damascus and there he would be told what to do. Paul was blinded by the light and had to be led by the hand into Damascus.

Ananias, a devout and respected Jewish Christian, came to Paul, and Paul’s vision was restored, and he received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17b-18). Ananias told Paul that God had chosen Paul to know God’s will, to see the “Just One” and to hear his voice; Paul would be a witness to all people of what he had seen and heard. Then Ananias had baptized Paul, washing away his sins, and calling on Jesus’ name.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus went into the hills to pray and he spent all night in prayer. In the morning, he called his disciples to him, and he chose twelve of them, and called them apostles (ones who are sent; special messengers from God). Simon (whom Jesus named Peter; see Matthew 16:18), Andrew (Peter’s brother) James and John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James (Possibly Thaddeus; Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18), and Judas Iscariot, who became the betrayer.

Commentary:

Hosea was a special messenger sent by God to warn the people of the consequences of turning away from God to the worship of idols. Hosea told Israel that idolatry is like drunkenness; the more one indulges the less one is capable of understanding. When a nation loses understanding it comes to ruin.

True understanding is divine wisdom; the wisdom by which the world was created; not what the world falsely calls wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Spiritual harlotry is similar to physical harlotry. Those who offer the services of spiritual harlotry and those who use the services of spiritual harlotry are both equally guilty.

God revealed his Word to Hosea and Hosea faithfully proclaimed it (Hosea 1:1; 4:1a). His prophecies were fulfilled: The Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians; the people were scattered throughout the world and the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist (721 B.C.). The Southern Kingdom of Judah later was carried off into Babylonian exile (587 B.C.), but subsequently was restored (517 B.C.).

Ananias had told Paul that God had chosen Paul to know God’s will, to see and hear the risen Jesus, and to be a witness to all people of what he had seen and heard. Since his baptism by Ananias and his infilling with the Holy Spirit, Paul had been doing exactly that. Paul’s defense before the people at Jerusalem is an illustration of that. Paul was fulfilling his call by God to be a messenger of the Gospel.

Ananias had also been a messenger of the Gospel. Ananias was a Christian disciple (Acts 9:10). God’s Word came to Ananias to go to Saul to heal his blindness and to lead him to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17), and Ananias had done what the Lord called him to do.

Jesus spent all night alone in the hills in prayer before selecting the Twelve original Apostles from the larger group of his followers. The Twelve were to be with Jesus day and night for approximately the next three years. Jesus was preparing them to be special messengers sent by God to proclaim the Gospel and carry on Jesus’ ministry.

We are all called by God to know God’s will, to have fellowship with Jesus, and then to be witnesses to all people of what we have seen and heard, if we will trust and obey Jesus. All Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. “Christian” is the name first given to disciples of Jesus at Antioch (Acts 11:26).

All Christian disciples, not just ordained ministers, are also called to be messengers (witnesses) of the Gospel, but the requirements are that we must first come to a personal fellowship with Jesus and be discipled by him through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Since Jesus’ ascension we can only have a personal relationship with him through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

During his earthly ministry the original Twelve were able to be with him physically while they were being trained. But Jesus told them not to begin their ministry of the Gospel until after they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5).

Paul is the prototype of the ” modern,” “Post-Resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul apparently did not know Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Paul encountered the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-20).

Paul acknowledged Jesus as his Lord, repented of his sins, was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Then he was led by the Holy Spirit into ministry. Paul’s conversion was very rapid, but Paul was already well educated in the scriptures and Judaism. The Twelve spent about three years in constant physical fellowship with Jesus, before they were ready. Expect discipleship to take some time.

One cannot be a witness for Jesus without a personal relationship with Jesus. One cannot make disciples of Jesus unless one is a disciple of Jesus. One cannot be led and sent until one is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

One receives the promise (“authority;” John 1:12) of the Holy Spirit in (water) baptism , but one must seek the fulfillment of that promise by fulfilling his baptismal covenant. The infilling of the Holy Spirit is a discernable event (Acts 19:2). Faith is not like “wishing on a star;” it is not getting what you wish for if you believe “hard enough.”

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
20 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/22/04;
Podcast: Saturday 20 Pentecost – Even

Hosea 5:1-7  –  Spiritual harlotry;
Acts 22:17-29  –  Paul’s defense before the people;
Luke 6:27-38  –  Higher righteousness;

Hosea Paraphrase:

Israel’s religious and political leaders had become a snare and a trap to Israel. Mt. Tabor was a worship center for the Northern Kingdom which had been corrupted by idolatry. Mizpah was a city northwest of Jerusalem where the people were accustomed to meet in times of national emergency, (and where Samuel began the great reformation of his time by convening a great assembly. Israel had repented and renewed her covenant with God. It had been a time of great religious awakening and renewal). Shittim was the last campsite in Moab before Israel crossed into the Promised Land, and was the scene of harlotry and idolatry of the Israelites with the Moabites (Numbers 25:1-3).

The Lord knows the thoughts and deeds of his people; they cannot be hidden from him. The people have turned to spiritual harlotry (idolatry); they have been defiled. Their deeds hinder them from returning to the Lord. They have been filled with a spirit of harlotry, and do not know the Lord. Their guilt and their pride will be their downfall.

They will seek the Lord without being willing to give anything up (Hosea 5:6a), but they will not find him, because the Lord has withdrawn from them (compare Jeremiah 29:13). They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; they have produced alien (faithless) children (or perhaps, they have produced the offspring of spiritual harlotry). Now the new moon (the pagan festival) will devour them and their possessions.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul had been attacked by Jews in the temple in Jerusalem, and was arrested. He asked to speak to the crowd before he was imprisoned, and was given permission. Paul had told them of his Damascus road conversion (Acts chapter 9). Continuing, Paul said that in Jerusalem after his conversion, the Holy Spirit had told him to leave Jerusalem and proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles, because the Judeans would not accept Paul’s testimony, even though Paul’s former persecution of Christians was well known (and therefore his changed life should have been a convincing witness). When the crowd heard this they were enraged and began to riot, calling for Paul’s execution.

The commander of the Roman garrison ordered Paul brought into the barracks and examined by scourging in order to gather evidence. When Paul was tied up for flogging, Paul questioned the guard about the legality of scourging Paul, since Paul was a Roman citizen (and thus protected, since he had not been tried and condemned).
When the centurion heard that Paul was a Roman citizen he warned the commander, who questioned Paul in order to verify this information. The commander had purchased his citizenship for a large sum, but Paul had been born into Roman citizenship. Paul’s interrogators withdrew immediately, and the commander was afraid of the personal consequences, since he had ordered Paul bound.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus began to teach his followers how to live in relationship with others. We must go beyond worldly concepts of goodness and righteousness. We must love those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us. We’re not to fight with those who want to fight; we’re not to resist those who want to rob us. We are to give to those who beg, and forgive un-repaid loans.

It is not enough for us to love those who love us, and to do good to those who do good to us. Even sinners do that much. Even sinners are willing to lend to sinners from whom they expect to be repaid. We must aim for a higher standard: we must love our enemies, and do good deeds and lend to those who cannot repay us, because that is what God does for us.

God is kind to the ungrateful and selfish. We are to show mercy as God has shown mercy. Then we will truly be his children. We are not to judge others, or we will suffer the same judgment; we should not condemn if we hope to avoid condemnation. We will be forgiven as we have forgiven others. Generosity will be rewarded abundantly. We will receive according to what we have done.

Commentary:

The religious and political leaders of Israel had failed to hold the people accountable and lead them to repentance and renewal. The people had turned away from the Lord to idolatry. The Lord knows everything; their deeds could not be hidden. They had been defiled by their sin; their deeds kept them from returning to the Lord. They were filled with the spirit of idolatry instead of being filled with the knowledge of the Lord. Guilt and pride prevented their forgiveness. They were unwilling to give up the proceeds of their idolatry (Hosea 5:6a). There will be a Day of Judgment when they will receive the consequences of their deeds.

Up until his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul had been opposing God’s will by persecuting Christians, although he had believed at the time that he was serving God. When he was confronted with his error (sin), he repented and his life was completely changed. Paul had been highly educated in Judaism, but he was willing to surrender his status in Judaism; he didn’t let pride in his human accomplishments keep him from returning to the Lord and receiving forgiveness and restoration.

The Judeans who assaulted Paul were just as guilty of resisting God’s plan as Paul had been, but they were unwilling to acknowledge their sin and they were unwilling to give up their status in Judaism, and their traditions, to return to the Lord for forgiveness and restoration. Paul addressed his persecutors in love and truth; his persecutors responded with hatred and lies.

The Judeans judged and condemned Paul; they were not willing to forgive. They knew the scriptures, and they were violating the Ten Commandments, but they were unrepentant and unconcerned about God’s judgment. In contrast, the secular Roman soldiers knew their civil law and when they found out that Paul had rights under that law they repented of their actions and were afraid of the consequences of judgment on them.

Paul was living out the higher righteousness that Jesus taught. Paul was repeatedly persecuted by Jews, but he kept trying to share the Gospel with them. Paul recognized that he had been forgiven of the same persecution which he was now experiencing, and he extended to his persecutors the same forgiveness which Paul had received, but they rejected it. Paul gave the Gospel freely to others, without expecting them to compensate him for it (1 Corinthians 9:11-15a). Paul risked calling the Judeans to repentance, but they repaid him with hatred and violence.

Hosea’s prophecy was fulfilled, but God’s Word is eternal; it applies to us today as much as it did to Israel twenty-seven hundred years ago. His Word is a warning to the Church (the “New people of God”) and also to America, which is also, in a sense, the “New Israel,” the New Promised Land.” Aren’t both the Church and America in a position today similar to that of Israel at the time of Hosea?

Haven’t the leaders of both Church and State allowed and facilitated the people to turn from the Lord to idolatry and sin? Are our leaders unwilling to risk calling their people to repentance and renewal? Does our guilt and pride prevent us from returning to the Lord? Are we unwilling to give up our material prosperity to seek the Lord? Those who are unwilling to give up the proceeds of idolatry will receive the consequences of their deeds. Are we so full of the spirit of idolatry that we have no room for the personal knowledge of the Lord through his 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)?

Week of 19 Pentecost – Even – 10/19 – 25/2014

October 18, 2014

Week of 19 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: Sunday 19 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/09/04;
Podcast: Sunday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 3:1-4:3  –  Haman’s plot against the Jews;
James 1:19-27  –  True worship;
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18  –  Practical piety;

Esther Paraphrase:

Esther (Hadassah), a Jewess in the Babylonian exile, was selected to be the Queen of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), King of Persia. She was an orphan, adopted and raised by her cousin Mordecai, who was a minor officer of the King (perhaps a gatekeeper).

The King promoted Haman the Agagite (Amalekite descendant of Agag) to the office of Prime Minister. The minor officers were required to bow to Haman, but Mordecai refused to bow to Haman (because Haman was a descendant of Agag, the enemy of Saul, who was a Benjamite, as was Mordecai).

His fellow officers told Mordecai day after day that he should bow and show respect for Haman, but when Mordecai continued to refuse, they told Haman. Haman was furious, but he decided to destroy not just Mordecai, but all the Jews throughout the kingdom, since it was known that Mordecai was a Jew. Haman having determined by the casting of Pur (lot; i.e., by chance) the best time to go to the King, went to him in the twelfth month.

Haman told the King that the Jews had different laws from the other people of the Kingdom, and did not keep the king’s laws, so it was not in the King’s interest to tolerate them. Haman offered a large amount of silver in exchange for a royal decree that the Jews be destroyed. The King refused the bribe, but gave Haman permission to draft the decree, and the King’s signet ring to validate it. So Haman drafted the decree in the King’s name and sealed it with the King’s signet, and had copies delivered to all the provinces of the kingdom.

All the Jews, young and old, male and female, were to be destroyed on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and their property confiscated. Couriers were sent in haste, and the proclamation was delivered. When Mordecai learned of the decree, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes (formal manifestation of grief, making him ritually unclean). He went to the King’s gate, but was not allowed to enter because he was in mourning. Throughout the kingdom there was great mourning and fasting among the Jews.

Acts Paraphrase:

Christians should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Mankind’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. We should weed out all unrighteousness from ourselves and receive the Gospel, now implanted and growing within us, which is able to save our souls. It’s not sufficient merely to hear the Gospel, without acting upon it. One who hears and doesn’t act deceives himself.

Unless one acts on what he hears he’s like a person who has seen his reflection in a mirror. The experience produces no lasting benefit and he quickly forgets what he has seen. But a hearer of the Gospel who acts upon it and perseveres will be blessed in his doing. Religion is more than outward appearance. True religion is acting in faith on what we believe.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught his followers that piety (devoutness of religion) is a matter of inner attitude, rather than outward display. Those who do good deeds to receive praise from other people will receive only that. God does not reward such behavior. God wants us to do what is right because it pleases him. God sees our inner attitude, so we don’t need to draw attention to our good deeds.

Behavior which draws attention to our good deeds reveals that we are seeking human approval. Likewise, ostentatious prayer is not really prayer. If our prayers are designed to impress people, that’s all they will accomplish. If we truly want to pray to God, he knows what we need before we ask. We don’t need to pray loudly in public and use fancy words. When we do those things we reveal that we are more interested in human approval that God’s approval. When we fast we should not try to draw attention to our fasting. Let our fasting be between ourselves and God alone. God knows whether our piety is sincere or not, and he rewards sincerity and truth.

Commentary:

Mordecai, a Benjaminite, of the tribe of King Saul, would not honor Haman, a descendant of Agag, the defeated enemy of Saul. Mordecai would not let the standards of the worldly culture in which he lived influence him to do something contrary to his belief, even at the risk of his job and his life. He refused to act insincerely or to conform to the standards set by society in order to “get along.”  Haman sought acclaim and worship from men. The Lord, not Ahasuerus, was Mordecai’s King; Saul, not Haman, was the Lord’s anointed.

It is not sufficient to believe in Jesus if we don’t do what he teaches. Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you” (Luke 6:46; compare Matthew 7:21-24). How can we call ourselves Christians if we don’t follow Jesus’ teachings? Christianity is more than just saying a prayer before we eat in public, or going to church on Sunday morning.

James describes the Gospel as a growing plant transplanted into the garden of our lives. We need to weed around it and feed and water it, allowing it to grow to maturity so that it can yield the harvest of salvation. We need to read the Bible thoroughly and daily if we expect the Gospel to grow to maturity and produce fruit in us. We need to apply the Gospel in our lives daily. True Christianity is acting on what we profess, not pretending to be something we aren’t.

True Christianity is trusting and obeying Jesus with all our hearts. We can’t follow Jesus and follow the ways of the world. We must be willing to sacrifice worldly success and popularity in order to please and serve the Lord. The Lord rewards sincerity and truth. Worldly rewards are uncertain and temporary; the Lord’s rewards are certain and eternal. Are we worshiping the Lord, or do we worship the defeated enemy of our King?

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 19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/10/04;
Podcast: Monday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 4:4-17  –  Esther promises to intercede;
Acts 18:1-11  –  Founding the church at Corinth;
Luke (1:1-4) 3:1-14   –  The ministry of John the Baptist;

Esther Paraphrase:

Haman, the Prime Minister of the Persian King Ahasuerus, plotted to destroy the Jews living in Persia following the Babylonian deportation, because Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin and adoptive father, had refused to bow down to him. The King had issued an order appointing a day when all the Jews in Persia were to be destroyed. When Mordecai learned of the plot, he clothed himself in sackcloth of ritual mourning (Esther 3:1-4:3).

When Esther learned that her foster father was in mourning she sent clothes so that he could remove his sackcloth, but he refused. Esther sent one of her eunuchs to Mordecai to learn what had happened. Mordecai relayed to Esther through her eunuch that Haman had offered money to the King for the destruction of the Jews, and he sent her a copy of the written order by the king ordering the destruction. Mordecai asked her to intercede with the king on behalf of the Jews. Esther replied that anyone who entered the King’s chambers without being summoned by the King would be executed, unless the King extended his golden scepter to them and pardoned them. Esther said that she had not been summoned to the King’s chambers for thirty days.

Mordecai told her that although she was in the Palace, she was not any safer than the other Jews. If she kept silent during this crucial moment, God would raise up deliverance from some other source, but in trying to save herself she and her household would be destroyed. Mordecai suggested that perhaps God had caused her to be made Queen so that she could intervene in this situation. Esther asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Susa, the capital, and fast for three days and nights. Esther and her maids would also fast. Then Esther promised to risk her life by approaching the King without an invitation. Mordecai went and did as they had agreed.

Acts Paraphrase:

On Paul’s second missionary trip, he came to Corinth by himself from Athens, having been separated from Silas and Timothy, his fellow missionaries, by persecution arising from the proclamation of the Gospel. Paul met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus (in northern Asia Minor; i.e. modern Turkey), who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Roman Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul visited, and, since they were tentmakers, Paul stayed with them and worked with them.

Every Sabbath, Paul debated in the synagogue and persuaded Jews and Greeks. Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth, where Paul was busy preaching to the Jews. When the Jews rejected his message Paul told them that they would bear the guilt for their rejection of the Gospel, and that he would thereafter take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul moved to the home of Titius Justice (probably a Gentile who worshiped God), who lived next door to the synagogue.

Crispus, the ruler, of the synagogue believed in Jesus along with his household, and many of the Corinthians also believed and were baptized. The Lord encouraged Paul one night, in a vision, not to be afraid to speak out. The Lord assured Paul that he was with Paul, would protect Paul, and that many people in Corinth belonged to the Lord. So Paul stayed there a year and a half, teaching God’s Word.

Luke Background:

The Gospel of Luke is believed to have been written by a Gentile physician named Luke, who was a friend of Paul’s. The stated purpose was to record the accounts of those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Gospel. In A.D. 26 or 27,*

Luke Paraphrase:

God’s Word came to John (“the Baptizer”) in the wilderness and he began “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3: 3). Luke quotes Isaiah 40:3-5 to show that John the Baptizer is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming of a prophet (messenger) who would prepare the people for and announce the coming of the Messiah (Compare Malachi 3:1).

John called the crowds that came to him for baptism vipers (poisonous snakes; evil), and asked who had warned them to flee from the coming wrath (of God). He told them to bear fruit befitting (sincere) repentance and not to suppose that they did not need forgiveness because they were physical descendants of Abraham (and thus having God’s favor).

John proclaimed the beginning of judgment, when those who haven’t produced the fruit of righteousness will be destroyed. The crowds asked what they should do, and John replied that those who had more than they needed should share with those who don’t have enough. Tax collectors were told to be honest and fair in their dealings, and soldiers were told not to misuse their authority, and to be content with their pay.

Commentary:

Esther had to choose whether she was willing to risk losing her status as the Queen of Persia and her life, in order to do God’s will. God’s will would be done, whether she cooperated with God’s will or not, but if she loved her life in this world more than she loved the Lord, she would lose her life.

Paul was persecuted from place to place by his own people because of the Gospel, but that didn’t stop him from visiting synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel. He had been driven out of Thessalonica and Beroea, but when he came to Corinth he entered the synagogue and began proclaiming the Gospel. When they opposed and reviled him, he told them that they would bear the responsibility for their eternal destruction; Paul would not be to blame.

Having been rejected by his own people, he took the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Lord told Paul not to be afraid, but to speak boldly and not be silent. The Lord promised to be with him to protect him. Paul spent a year and a half there in Corinth teaching the Word of God.

John the Baptizer was the prophet (the “Elijah”) who was to come to prepare the people and announce the coming of Messiah (Matthew 11:7-10; Mark 9:11-13). He wasn’t pursuing worldly success or popularity. His lifestyle, living in the wilderness and eating locusts, is not an image of worldly success. His message, calling those who came to him for baptism “vipers,” was not calculated to make him popular.

John was telling his hearers to consider why they were coming to him. Were they truly turning to the Lord in repentance, intending to trust and obey the Lord, or were they only trying to avoid the just punishment of their sins? If they were truly repentant they should show that repentance by doing the deeds that accompany sincere repentance. John warned them not to suppose that they had God’s favor just because they happened to have been born into the congregation of God’s people. John declared that the coming of Jesus marked the beginning of judgment. Those who do not produce the fruit of righteousness will be destroyed.

How are we doing? The Lord doesn’t call us to be successful or comfortable or popular; he calls us to be faithful! Esther had to be willing to risk the loss of her worldly status, comfort and popularity, as Queen of Persia, in order to do God’s will. God’s will shall be done whether we cooperate with it or not, but only God is able to protect us and give us life eternally.

Paul was able to proclaim the Gospel in the face of persecution because he believed and came to know from personal experience that God was able to protect him and was able to raise him even from physical death to eternal life. John the Baptizer wasn’t trying to be successful, comfortable or popular. He was honestly and boldly doing what God had called him to do.

Are we following the Lord, or are we going along with the worldly system? Are we serving the Lord or are we trying to be successful, comfortable and popular? Are we willing to speak out in times like these, or will we keep silent and try to protect and save ourselves?

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, Luke 3:1 n, p. 1244, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Tuesday 19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/11/04;
Podcast:  Tuesday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 5:1-14  –  Esther before the King;
Acts 18:12-28 –  Paul at Corinth;
Luke 3:15-22  –  Ministry of John the Baptizer;

Esther Paraphrase:

Esther, a Jewess living in Persia as a result of the Babylonian Exile, had been chosen Queen. There had been a decree, instigated by Haman, the King’s Prime Minister, to kill all the Jews living in Persia and Esther had promised her foster father, Mordecai, the King’s gatekeeper, that she would appeal to the King at the risk of her life. She fasted for three days, and on the third day, she appeared before the King in the inner court of the palace.

When the King saw her, he held out his royal scepter to her and allowed her to approach. The King asked her to state her request, and she invited the King and Haman, the Prime Minister, to dinner. The King and Haman came to dinner and again the King asked Esther to make her request, but Esther invited them to return for dinner the next night, and promised that she would reveal her request then.

Haman left the Queen’s dinner happy, but was angered, passing through the King’s gate, that Mordecai did not humble himself before Haman. But Haman restrained himself and went home and assembled his friends and his wife and boasted about his success in the King’s administration, climaxed by his invitations to dine privately with the King and Queen.

The one thing that spoiled all this for Haman was Mordecai’s refusal to honor Haman. So Haman’s wife and friends suggested that Haman have a huge gallows built and tell the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, and then Haman could go merrily to dinner. The idea pleased Haman and he did as they had suggested.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months, and during this time the Jews organized an effort to get rid of him by charging him before Gallio, proconsul of Asia, with teaching men to worship God in violation of Roman law. Paul was about to make a defense, but Gallio told the Jews that he refused to hear the case because it did not involve any actual acts of wrongdoing, but was merely a disagreement about words and names and Jewish law. He told them to settle the matter themselves.

The Jews seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue and beat him in front of Gallio, but Gallio paid them no attention. Paul stayed in Corinth for many days after this incident, but later sailed for Syria with Priscilla and Aquilla, with whom he had stayed when he first came to Corinth (Acts 18:2-3).

Paul had taken a temporary Nazirite vow (which involved avoiding alcohol, haircutting, and contact with dead bodies) in Corinth, which had ended when he arrived in Cenchreae, so he cut his hair (which was to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem to complete the vow). At Ephesus, Paul preached at the synagogue, but declined an invitation to stay longer, promising to return if God permitted. Paul left Priscilla and Aquilla there and sailed for Caesarea, greeted the church there, and then went to Antioch. After spending some time in Antioch, Paul traveled through Galatia and Phrygia encouraging the disciples there.

Meanwhile at Ephesus, a Jewish disciple of John the Baptizer arrived, and was accurately teaching about Jesus from the scriptures although he knew only the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquilla heard him speak in the synagogue they took him and “discipled” him (Acts 18:26). When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia (Greece), the Ephesian church encouraged him and sent a letter of recommendation to the church at Achaia. At Achaia, Apollos built up the believers by debating convincingly in public against the Jews, showing from scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Luke Paraphrase:

The Jewish people were looking expectantly for the coming of the Messiah (Christ), and they were seriously considering that John might be the Christ. John proclaimed that he baptized with water (for repentance), but that the Christ, who is mightier and much more worthy of honor than John, was coming, and the Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The Christ will judge the earth like mankind winnows grain from chaff. The grain (the fruitful part of the harvest) will be gathered into the Lord’s “barn,” but the chaff (the unfruitful portion of the harvest) will be burned with “unquenchable” (eternal) fire. John preached the “good news” (of forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God).

But Herod, whom John had rebuked for unlawfully marrying Herod’s brother’s wife, Herodias, and for all the other evil things Herod had done, added another evil deed (instead of repenting and receiving forgiveness) by having John arrested and imprisoned.

John was baptizing people in the Jordan River, and Jesus also came to John for baptism (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34). After being baptized by John, Jesus was praying and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, physically manifested in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven declared that Jesus is God’s beloved Son, with whom God is well pleased (fulfilling Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1).

Commentary:

Esther was successful from the worldly point of view; she was Queen of the Persian Empire. She was comfortable, pampered, wealthy and powerful. But she was willing to risk all that, to do God’s will and protect God’s people by making an appeal on their behalf to the King. Haman’s only interest was his own career. He boasted to his family and friends of his wealth, power, and prestige. Haman was quite impressed that he had private personal fellowship with the King and Queen. Haman’s only problem was that Mordecai did not show the respect that Haman thought he deserved.

Haman was obsessed with his own importance. He convinced the King to allow him to decree that all the Jews be killed because one Jew, Mordecai, refused to humble himself before Haman (Esther 3:6). Haman thought he was rich enough to buy the King’s permission (Esther 3:9). His family and friends fed his ego by suggesting that he build, not an ordinary gallows, but a huge one (as a demonstration of his power and greatness).

The Jews thought they could manipulate their Roman governors to accomplish their worldly ambitions. Paul was challenging their authority and their position in society. When they couldn’t manipulate Gallio through the Roman legal system, they tried using the threat of civil disobedience, but Gallio wasn’t worried. The persecution of Paul by the Jews didn’t stop Paul from preaching the Gospel and didn’t keep the Gospel from being successful; persecution of Christians didn’t prevent people from believing the Gospel and becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.

Apollos was a disciple of John the Baptizer. He had received water baptism by John for repentance. He knew the scriptures and he knew of Jesus and knew that Jesus was the Christ, but he apparently had not yet been “baptized” (anointed; filled) with the Holy Spirit (had not yet been “born-again;” John 3:3-8; compare Acts 19:1-6). Priscilla and Aquilla took him aside and presumably “discipled” him, leading him to the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Priscilla and Aquilla were fulfilling the Great Commission which was given by Jesus to his disciples, to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Trinity), and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:19-20).

John the Baptizer was not the Christ; he was the prophet (the “Elijah”) whom scripture prophesied would come before, to announce the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 11:7-10; Mark 9:11-13). John testified that Jesus was the Christ; John testified that he had seen the Holy Spirit descend bodily on Jesus at Jesus’ baptism, and that Jesus was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (John 1:31-34). This was first fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3-4). Jesus had told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; Luke 24:49). John was not pursuing his own success and building up his own ministry; he was pointing people to Jesus.

The infilling with the presence of the Holy Spirit is a discernable (and ongoing, rather than one-time) event (Acts 19:2). It is essential to the work of ministry. It is not sufficient to know the Bible, to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and to be an eloquent and persuasive preacher. Only “born-again,” Spirit-filled disciples can “make disciples.” Unless one is “born-again,” one cannot see the kingdom of God, now or eternally (John 3:3). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and that we have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Are we seeking the infilling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit or are we pursuing worldly success? Are we more interested in friendship with worldly leaders than fellowship with the Lord? Are we missing the opportunity to have personal intimate fellowship with the Lord, the King of the Universe and his Bride (the true body of Christ) which is only possible through the indwelling Holy Spirit? Are we attempting to be successful in ministry in our own strength, using worldly methods, or are we truly obedient to and guided and empowered by the 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
19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/12/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 6:1-14  –  Mordecai honored by the king;
Acts 19:1-10  –   Baptism of the Holy Spirit;
Luke 4:1-13  –  Jesus’ temptation;

Esther Paraphrase:

Haman  had attended a private banquet with the king and queen, and had been invited to return for another banquet the next night. But on his way home Haman had been not accorded the honor he thought due him by Mordecai, so Haman had erected a huge gallows intending to have Mordecai hanged on it. That night the king couldn’t sleep so he had the book of chronicles of memorable deeds read to him.

The incident of Mordecai reporting the plot by two of the king’s eunuchs against the king was read (Esther 2:21-23), and the king asked what had been done to honor Mordecai for this act of loyalty. The king’s servants reported that nothing had been done. Haman happened to be outside the king’s chambers waiting to tell the king to hang Mordecai from Haman’s gallows.

The king invited Haman in and asked him “what should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor” (Esther 6:6a)? Haman thought the king was referring to Haman, so he told the king what would most please himself. He suggested that the king have the man dressed in the king’s own robes and set him on the king’s horse by one of the king’s most noble princes, and led through the square of the city, proclaiming that this is what shall be done “to the man whom the king delights to honor” (Esther 6:9). So the king ordered Haman to do for Mordecai as Haman had said.

After carrying out the command, Haman returned home disgraced and mourning. He gathered his wife and his friends and told them all that had happened. His wise men told him that he had begun to fall because of Mordecai, and that if Mordecai was Jewish, there was no way that Haman could prevail, or avoid complete failure. While they were still discussing this, the king’s eunuchs came to bring Haman in haste to the banquet Esther, the queen, had prepared.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul encountered some disciples at Ephesus, and asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit. They said that they had never heard of (the indwelling of) the Holy Spirit. Paul asked them about their baptism and they told him that they had been baptized by John the Baptizer. Paul told them that John had baptized for repentance, telling the people to believe in the Messiah, Jesus, who was coming after John. When they heard this they were baptized in the name of Jesus, and when Paul laid his hands on them they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues and prophesied.

At Ephesus, Paul preached the Gospel in the synagogue for three months. But some of the Jews were stubborn and disbelieving, and they spoke against the Gospel to the Jewish congregation, so Paul withdrew from the synagogue, taking the Christian converts with him, and began meeting daily in the hall of Tyrannus, for a period of two years, so that all the people of the Roman province of Asia (modern Turkey) heard the Gospel.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus, having been baptized by John and filled by the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22), came from the Jordan River into the wilderness where he was led by the Spirit for forty days. He fasted during this period, and at the end of forty days he was hungry. The devil tempted Jesus to use his power to change stones into bread, but Jesus refused the temptation, citing Deuteronomy 8:3b to show that obedience to God is more beneficial in sustaining and prolonging life than physical bread.

The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and offered to give all their authority and glory to Jesus if Jesus would worship the devil. Again Jesus refused, citing Deuteronomy 6:13, that mankind is commanded to worship and serve only God.

Again Satan tempted Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God by throwing himself off the roof of the Temple. Satan cited Psalm 91:11-12, suggesting that if Jesus were indeed the Son of God, angels would catch Jesus and save him from injury. Jesus answered with Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Satan had exhausted every temptation, so he departed from Jesus to await an “opportune time” (Luke 4:13 RSV).

Commentary:

Haman was only interested in promoting himself. His interest was not in serving his king but in seeking his own success. In fact, he wanted to be king; he wanted to wear the king’s clothes, ride the king’s horse, and be honored and glorified like the king. He thought he was succeeding, but his fall was sudden and disastrous. The reason his wise men told Haman that his fall could not be prevented was because they knew that if Mordecai was a Jew that God’s will must be for Mordecai and against Haman.

Mordecai’s heroism in serving the king’s interests by warning him of the plot against him serves as contrast to Haman’s self-centeredness. Haman rushed off to what he expected to be a banquet, but turned out to be his day of judgment. We have been invited to a banquet with the King, Jesus (Luke 14:16-24; Matthew 26:26-29; Revelation 3:20).

In one sense, the water baptism of the Church is like the baptism of John. That baptism signifies our repentance and prepares us to look for the coming of Jesus personally to us through the Holy Spirit as we begin to follow Jesus’ teachings in trust and obedience.  [I regard Baptism as a covenant, between God and the candidate, containing the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13). It is up to the candidate to seek the fulfillment of that promise by fulfilling his covenant obligation. My personal experience testifies to this truth.]

Without the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit we can’t truly serve the Lord. We may teach scriptures and preach eloquently, like Apollos (Acts 18:24-28), we may be building “church buildings” and making “church members,” but we cannot make “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ unless we are Spirit-filled, Spirit-led disciples of Jesus Christ.

It should be obvious that someone like the two disciples of John at Ephesus, who had never heard that they could be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, could only spread to others the baptism with which they were baptized. Paul had experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17), so he was able to lead them to experience the fullness of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). They waited in obedience; they received the fulfillment of the promise on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2).

Believers are to wait in the “Jerusalem” of the discipling Church until they have received the indwelling Holy Spirit. The discipling Church is a church of ‘born-again” disciples who disciple new believers. This is the fulfillment of the Great Commission:  Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

Please notice that the Jews who were stubborn and disbelieved Paul’s preaching of the Gospel (Acts 19:9) rejected the opportunity to accept Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. They continued to practice their “religion,” but they only accomplished worldly goals. They continued to build synagogues and make converts but weren’t pointing their members to the Messiah.

Satan knows and quotes scripture (Luke 4:9-11)! Believers need to know scripture at least as well as Satan does. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the Holy Spirit through the wilderness. We need to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit if we are to make it through the wilderness of this life.

Jesus experienced all the temptations in the wilderness that we will ever face. He faced the same temptations that caused Adam to fall (lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and lust of human pride; Luke 4:3, 5-6, 9; compare Genesis 3:6) and Jesus defeated them by quoting scripture combined with the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Adam was tempted to be “like God” (Genesis 3:5 RSV); Jesus was not tempted to be “like God;” he is God (Luke 4:12; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). (Satan quoted scripture too, but he doesn’t have the 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)?

Thursday 19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/13/04;
Podcast: Thursday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 7:1-10  – Haman hanged;
Acts 19:11-20  –  Paul’s ministry at Ephesus;
Luke 4:14-30  –  Jesus’ teaching at Nazareth;

Esther Paraphrase:

Haman, the Prime Minister, returned to dine with the King of Persia and Queen Esther a second night, having planned to have Mordecai, Esther’s foster father, executed on the gallows Haman had prepared. At dinner the king again inquired about Esther’s request, promising to grant whatever she asked. Then Esther asked the king to spare her life and the lives of her people, explaining that the decree had been made that the Jews in Persia be destroyed.

The king asked Esther who would do such a thing and Esther replied “A foe and an enemy” (Esther 7:6), and named Haman. Haman was terrified in front of the king and queen. The king got up from the banquet and went out into the garden in anger. Haman stayed and pleaded with Esther for his life. He was kneeling at Esther’s couch when the king returned, and the king thought he was assaulting the Queen.

At the king’s accusation, his servants grabbed Haman and covered his face (a customary practice with one who was doomed). One of the eunuchs suggested that the gallows which Haman had prepared for Mordecai, who had saved the king (by exposing a plot against the king; Esther 2:21-23), was “available,” so the king commanded them to hang Haman on Haman’s gallows.

Acts Paraphrase:

God did great miracles through Paul. Handkerchiefs and articles of clothing which had been in contact with Paul were taken to the sick and they were healed. Some Jewish exorcists tried invoking Jesus’ name in their exorcisms. Seven sons of the Jewish high priest, Sceva, did this, saying “I adjure you by the Jesus that Paul preaches” (Acts 19:13). But the demon answered them, “Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you” (Acts 19:15)?

Then the demon-possessed man leaped on them and overpowered them all, forcing them to flee naked and injured from the house. Everyone in Ephesus heard about this, and they were awed, and the name of Jesus was glorified. Many new converts confessed that they had practiced magic arts, and brought their books on the occult to be burned. The value of the books thus burned was calculated at fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Luke Paraphrase:

After Jesus’ baptism by John and his testing in the wilderness, Jesus returned to Galilee empowered by the Spirit, and news about him began to spread throughout the region. Jesus taught in the synagogues throughout the area and was praised by all.

He came to his hometown, Nazareth, and on the Sabbath he went to the synagogue and stood up to read. He was given the scroll of Isaiah, and he read from Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, …to proclaim release to the captives, …recovering of sight to the blind, …to set at liberty the oppressed, …to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Then he sat down and began to speak, saying that they had just witnessed the fulfilling of that scripture. The people were impressed with him and the graciousness of his words, and said, “Is this not Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22)? Jesus told them that they would expect him to do the miracles in Nazareth that he had done in Capernaum, but Jesus warned them that a prophet is not respected in his own neighborhood.

Jesus pointed out that there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, but Elijah was sent only to Zarephath, and there were many lepers in the time of Elisha, but only Naaman was cleansed. When the people heard this they were enraged, and they dragged Jesus out of the synagogue and out of the city. They were going to throw Jesus off the cliff on which the city sat, but Jesus walked through their midst and went his way.

Commentary:

Haman was self-centered. He pursued only his own self-interest. Haman didn’t care about the king’s interests and he didn’t care what God wanted (Esther 6:13). He thought he could manipulate the king to do whatever Haman wanted. Haman thought that the banquet with the king and queen would serve Haman’s purpose and exalt Haman. His spiritual “blindness” brought him to sudden disaster. Esther and Mordecai reverenced God and cooperated with God’s plan, even risking their lives. They were also loyal to the king, and the king cooperated with God’s will.

God was able to do great things through Paul because Paul was obedient to God’s will. Paul wasn’t pursuing his own agenda; he wasn’t trying to build his own “empire.” Paul was led by and obedient to the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the Jewish exorcists were trying to establish themselves in the exorcism business. They thought they could appropriate the name and power of Jesus Christ to accomplish their own agendas. They found out that the power of God cannot be manipulated for personal benefit.

The appeal of the occult is that people hope that it will give them power over their circumstances. People hope they can manipulate demonic forces, but they wind up being enslaved by them. The real power belongs to the Lord. The Lord has power over demonic forces.

Ephesus was a world center of occult practices. When the Ephesians were converted to Christianity, they no longer needed or wanted their occult arts, and they were no longer enslaved by sin and evil, because they had come to know the Lord who alone has the real power to heal and free them.

The Nazarenes liked Jesus’ message as long as it was gracious and pleasant to hear. They thought he was doing fine, for a local boy, although they were somewhat condescending. They just wanted Jesus to tell them what they wanted to hear. When he started pointing out things about themselves that needed to change they got angry. They’d show him who was in charge. They missed the point of Jesus’ comments about the prophets.

God’s blessings through his prophets are available to all who welcome and heed the prophets. Jesus’ message is only good news to those who recognize that they are spiritually needy. Only Jesus can heal the spiritually “blind,” and free those who are enslaved and oppressed by sin and evil. The Nazarenes could have had the blessings that others in Capernaum and the surrounding areas received if they had welcomed Jesus as the Son of God instead of as the son of Joseph, and if they had taken to heart what he told them, instead of trying to manipulate him to say only what they wanted to hear.

Are we earnestly trying to know and serve the Lord’s will, or do we expect the Lord to serve us? Are we willing to hear and apply the Lord’s Word in our lives, even if it is critical of 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)?


Friday
19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/14/04;
Podcast: Friday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 8:1-8, 15-17,    Revocation of the edict;
Acts 19:21-41,    Riot at Ephesus;
Luke 4:31-37    Healing at Capernaum;

Esther Paraphrase:

At the second dinner given by Queen Esther, Haman was condemned and executed on the gallows he had created for Mordecai (see entry for yesterday, 19 Pentecost, Thursday, even year, above). The king gave the house of Haman to Esther. The king took the signet ring he had given to Haman and gave it to Mordecai. Esther made Mordecai overseer of the house of Haman, and Esther pleaded with the king to rescind the edict which Haman had made for the destruction of all the Jews in Persia.

The King replied that Haman had been executed and that Mordecai, as Haman’s successor, overseeing his house and possessing the king’s signet ring and the king’s authority, could write a new order rescinding the first. Mordecai appeared in official state uniform and the city of Susa celebrated. Throughout the Empire the Jews celebrated with a feast and a holiday, and many of the people of the country declared their support of the Jews because they feared them.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul had decided by the guidance of the Spirit to go through Macedonia (Eastern Europe) and Achaia (Greece) and then go to Jerusalem, after which Paul planned to see Rome. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his helpers, on to Macedonia while he stayed in the Province of Asia (Modern Turkey).

In Ephesus controversy arose over the Christian movement. A silversmith named Demetrius stirred up the other silversmiths because their main business came from making silver shrines of Artemis, the chief goddess of the Ephesians, and Paul had been persuading the people throughout Asia to turn away from the worship of idols. Demetrius suggested that not only would they lose their business, but that Ephesus would lose its prominence as the holy city of the worship of Artemis.

The silversmiths were enraged and shouted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28).  The commotion stirred up the city, and the people rushed into the outdoor theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonian Christians who were accompanying Paul. Paul wanted to go to the assembly, but the other disciples would not let him. Leaders of the Roman provincial government who were friends of Paul also warned him not to go to the assembly.

There was great confusion and disorder in the assembly because many did not know why they had assembled. Some in the crowd urged Alexander, a Jew, to be their spokesman, but when the crowd recognized that he was a Jew, they began to shout over and over, with one voice, for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The town clerk finally quieted the crowd. He said that the fact that the City of Ephesus was the temple keeper of Artemis was not in dispute. He pointed out that Gaius and Aristarchus had done nothing sacrilegious and had not blasphemed Artemis. He suggested that if Demetrius and the silversmiths had any legal complaints against anyone they should pursue them in the courts. Any other matters should be settled through the regular meeting of the Roman provincial assembly (which met in Ephesus, the provincial capital). Thus he dismissed the assembly, warning that otherwise they could be charged with rioting.

Luke Paraphrase:

After being rejected by the people of Nazareth, Jesus went to Capernaum (which became his base of operation thereafter; Matthew 4:13; Mark 2:1). Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and the people were astonished at his message, for he taught with authority.

In the synagogue, there was a man who had a demon. The demon recognized Jesus, knew his name and origin, and acknowledged that Jesus was the Holy One of God (the Messiah; Christ). Jesus told the demon to be silent and come out of the man. The demon convulsed the man and came out of him, without harming the man. The people were impressed at the authority and power of Jesus, who was able to command evil spirits and they obeyed him. Reports about Jesus spread throughout the region.

Commentary:

Haman had been the Prime Minister, the second in authority in the Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus. His opposition to God’s will and God’s people cost him his authority, his career and his life. Esther, who God had made Queen so that she could save her people (Esther 4:14b), used her position to accomplish God’s will and save God’s people, even at the risk of her position and her life.

Mordecai had used his influence with Esther to urge her to act on behalf of God’s people, and he had risked his job and his life by resisting Haman (Esther 3:2). As a result those who cooperated with God’s will were saved and prospered, while those who opposed God’s will were destroyed. Mordecai received the authority, status and success which Haman lost. The people now respected the Jews because Mordecai was Prime Minister. Esther is an illustration of the Savior whom God raises up, who risks his life to save God’s people.

The silversmiths’ self-interest was threatened by Paul’s preaching. They wanted to control religion for their own economic and social benefit. They succeeded in stirring up a commotion and inciting the citizens of Ephesus to the verge of riot. The city was divided over religion; the crowd rejected Alexander as a spokesman because he was a Jew. The crowd had arrested and held Gaius and Aristarchus accountable because they were Christians and associates of Paul. They were acting outside of any authority but their own. Finally the town official re-asserted civil authority.

The people of Capernaum recognized that Jesus taught with authority and that his message was authoritative (trustworthy). The demon knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the one authorized by God to be King of the Universe; the demon knew that Jesus had the power to destroy Satan and all demons (Luke 4:34). When the people saw Jesus cast the demon out of the man they realized that Jesus did have authority even over supernatural demonic forces.

Jesus is Lord, whether we acknowledge him or not. Jesus is the king God has raised up to save his people from sin and evil, and restore them to life and fellowship with God (compare Esther 4:14b). 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 God’s authorized agent; God’s “Prime Minister.” He speaks in God’s name and has the power of God to act in God’s authority (Matthew 28:18). We can either acknowledge his authority, or we will be working for chaos and evil. Jesus has the power to judge and destroy evil (John 5: 28-29; 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)?


Saturday
19 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/15/04;
Podcast: Saturday 19 Pentecost – Even

Esther 9:1-32  –  The Jews destroy their enemies;
Acts 20:1-16  –  Paul’s third missionary trip ends;
Luke 4:38-44  –  Jesus heals and teaches at Capernaum;

Esther Paraphrase:

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, Adar (February-March), the same day originally chosen by Haman by casting lots (Pur) and set by edict for the destruction of the Jews in Persia (Esther 3:7, 13), the Jews rose up and killed their enemies. All the local officials helped the Jews because they were afraid of Mordecai, the new Jewish Prime Minister of Persia. In Susa, the Jews killed five hundred of their enemies, in addition to the ten sons of Haman. The account emphasizes that the Jews did not plunder their enemies.

The fourteenth day was the day of feasting among the country Jews, but the fifteenth day was the day of feasting for the Jews of Susa (accounted for by the hanging of Haman’s sons on Haman’s gallows on the fourteenth day). Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews of Persia ordering them to keep the fourteenth and fifteenth day of Adar as a day of feasting commemorating relief from their enemies and the occasion when their sorrow and mourning was turned to gladness and joy. The celebration included feasting and exchanging gifts of food with each other and the poor. Esther also sent a letter to all the Jews of Persia commanding them to keep the days of the festival of Purim along with the other Jewish feasts and fasts.

Acts Paraphrase:

After the near-riot at Ephesus, Paul said farewell to the church at Ephesus and went through Macedonia, encouraging the churches, on his way to Greece. Paul spent three months in Greece, and was about to return to Syria when another plot against him by the Jews developed. Paul and some of his fellow workers returned to Philippi in Macedonia (in Eastern Europe), while others traveling with him went on to Troas (in Modern Turkey.

After Passover, Paul and his group sailed from Macedonia to Troas and rejoined the others. They stayed in Troas for a week, and on Sunday they gathered to celebrate the “Lord’s Supper.” Paul was intending to leave the next day, and he stayed up late talking with the brethren. A young man, Eutychus, was sitting in the window of the room in which they were gathered on the third story. He dozed off around midnight, as Paul talked, and fell out of the window and apparently died. But Paul went down and bent over, embraced him, and declared that he was alive.

They went back upstairs and after eating they continued talking until dawn. The young man was alive and the disciples were (greatly) comforted (Acts 20:12). Paul’s companions sailed from Troas, while Paul traveled overland and rejoined them at Assos. They all continued on by ship to Miletus, where Paul arranged to meet with the elders of the church at Ephesus, rather than make a separate trip, since he was anxious to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost.

Luke Paraphrase:

Having been rejected in Nazareth, Jesus moved his headquarters to Capernaum. After casting out a demon in the synagogue there, he went to Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they asked Jesus to heal her. Jesus stood over her and commanded the fever and it left her. She immediately got up and served them.

At sunset a crowd gathered, bringing all the sick to Jesus for healing, and he laid his hands on each one and healed them. Jesus also cast out many demons, and the demons recognized and declared Jesus to be the Son of God, but Jesus forbade the demons to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.

At dawn he went off to be alone, but the people searched and found him. They wanted to keep Jesus from leaving them, but Jesus told them his mission was to preach the “good news” of God’s kingdom to other cities also. So Jesus traveled throughout Judea (or Galilee) preaching in synagogues.

Commentary:

Esther is an illustration of a savior raised up by God, who was willing to sacrifice her life to save God’s people (see Esther 4:14). Mordecai also is an illustration of the Christ, God’s “Prime Minister” who has the authority to reverse the death sentence we are all under through the plot to destroy us by our enemy, Satan. Jesus is the one who gives us victory over our enemies, sin and death, and turns our sorrow and mourning into joy and gladness.

Eutychus is an illustration of the healing and the hope of resurrection and eternal life that we have in Jesus.  He’s an illustration of how the Lord turns sorrow and mourning into joy and gladness (Acts 20:12). Only Jesus can heal us and give us hope of life beyond physical death. Only Jesus can save us from eternal death.

Jesus heals the sick, and frees us and saves us from Satan and the forces of evil. The demons know that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) and that he is the Son of God. When Jesus commanded, they obeyed because they had to, but they refused to serve him willingly. When Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law she got up immediately and served him. Jesus healed everyone in Capernaum who came to him. They sought to keep Jesus near them, but they weren’t willing to share Jesus with others, and they weren’t thinking about joining in Jesus’ ministry.

How are we doing? Do we seek the healing and blessings that Jesus provides, without trying to share Jesus with others? Do we want Jesus to be close to us without being willing to join Jesus’ ministry to others? Do we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, even call him Lord, but refuse to serve him and obey his commands (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46)?

Jesus is Lord, whether we serve and obey him or not! Right now we have a choice of whether to serve and obey Jesus or not; the Day of Judgment is coming when Jesus will command those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus to depart from him into eternal death and punishment in Hell and they will have no choice but to obey (John 5:28-29, 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)?

Week of 18 Pentecost – Even – 10/12 – 18/2014

October 11, 2014

Week of 18 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: Sunday 18 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/02/04;
Podcast: Sunday 18 Pentecost – Even

Job 38:1, 18-41  –  The Lord answers Job;
Revelation 18:1-8 –  The fall of Babylon;
Matthew 5:21-26  –  Higher righteousness;

Job Paraphrase:

Job had thought that he was equal or superior to God because he believed that he was righteous and did not deserve his suffering. Job had challenged God to judge him; now God challenges Job’s qualifications to challenge God (Job 31:1-40; 38:1-17). God asked Job to prove that Job completely understands the vastness of the earth and the sources of light and darkness.

God reminds Job how brief mankind’s life is in comparison with eternal God. (How can Job hope to learn in his brief life everything that God knows?) God is the creator and master of the forces of nature: snow, hail, lightning, rain, frost and ice. God is the master of the stars and the astrological seasons (Mazzaroth: the Zodiac). Does Job think he understands and controls those forces? Can Job call forth rain and lightning by Job’s word? Who has made it possible for man to acquire wisdom and understanding? Mankind’s wisdom and understanding are minute in comparison to God’s. Would Job want to be responsible for providing for all the creatures of the earth?

Revelation Paraphrase:

The Apostle, John, who, while exiled on the Island of Patmos, received the revelation from Jesus Christ, saw a vision of an Angel announcing the fall of Babylon. The Angel declared that Babylon has become a dwelling place of demons and evil spirits. “All nations have drunk (and fallen by) the wine of her impure passions” (Revelation 18:3a); the earth’s leaders “have committed fornication with her and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness” (Revelation 18:3b-c, RSV).

John heard another voice from heaven, calling God’s people to come out of Babylon, lest they participate in her sins and share in her punishment, because God remembers her iniquities. Babylon will be repaid double according to what she has done. “As she glorified herself and played the wanton, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning” (Revelation 18:7, RSV). Babylon considers herself a Queen rather than a widow; she thinks she will never see sorrow and mourning. “So shall her plagues come in a single day; pestilence, mourning, and famine, and she shall be burned with fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her” (Revelation 18:8).

Matthew Paraphrase:

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27) represents a summary of Jesus’ basic teachings. Jesus declared that he had come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Jesus taught that righteousness is more than keeping the letter of the law. True righteousness is not merely refraining from murder, but from anger and insult, (which might lead to murder, and which kill love and brotherhood). We will be accountable to God not only for actual murder but for anger and insult also. So if there is enmity between yourself and others, be reconciled with them before you try to approach the Lord. Jesus advises us to be reconciled with our accusers on the way to court, so that we might not be accused before the Judge, and condemned to prison, where there is no release until the penalty has been fully paid.

Commentary:

Job had judged himself righteous in his own eyes. Job denied that he possessed the sinful nature of all mankind. He thought that he was righteous because of his good deeds. He thought he didn’t deserve punishment by God. Job thought that since he was righteous, God must be doing wrong by allowing Job to suffer. Job concluded that he was as righteous as, or more righteous than God.

Job challenged God to judge Job, since Job was convinced of his own righteousness. Job thought he could dictate to God the terms of God’s judgment of Job. Job wanted God to conform to Job’s notion of righteousness. Job’s attitude demonstrated the “original” sin that led to the fall of mankind from fellowship with God: the temptation to be “like God” (Genesis 3:5); the desire to be God.

Babylon is the kingdom of this world, where individuals want to be their own god. Mankind wants to make his own rules, and dictate to God the terms of God’s judgment of him. But God is sovereign! He alone is God, and he will judge the Earth according to his Word. The Angel of the Lord declares God’s judgment upon Babylon, and warns God’s children not to participate in the sins of Babylon, or they will receive the same condemnation.

Jesus warns that salvation is not earned by keeping the letter of the law (or by doing good deeds). Jesus is the fulfillment of the law; apart from him we cannot ever fulfill the law. We are estranged from God because of our sin-nature, which we inherited from Adam. If we want to be reconciled to God, we must be willing to be reconciled to our fellow human beings (compare Matthew 18:23-35; Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home).

As it is worldly wisdom to be reconciled with one’s accuser in hopes of avoiding trial and condemnation, so it is spiritual wisdom to be restored to friendship with God through Jesus Christ before the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judgment those who have refused to be reconciled to God through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus will be thrown into the eternal death and punishment of Hell. There will be no release, because Jesus offered, on the Cross, the only payment there is, for the penalty for sin.

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 18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/03/04;
Podcast: Monday 18 Pentecost – Even

Job 40:1-24  – Will you find fault with God?
Acts 15:36-16:5  –  Paul’s second missionary trip;
John 11:55-12:8  –  The anointing at Bethany;

Job Paraphrase:

The Lord asked whether a faultfinder would contend with God (and expect to prevail)? Job responded that he realized his insignificance, and yielded to God. Then the Lord began to challenge Job. The Lord asked if Job was willing to condemn God in order to justify himself. God challenged Job to prove that he was God’s equal, if Job expected God to vindicate Job. Job was not only no match for God; Job was not even the equal of other creatures God has made, but God is in control of all of his creation, regardless of how it may seem.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul wanted Barnabas to return with him to the congregations they had established on their first missionary trip. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, who had accompanied them on the first trip (Acts ch.13-14) but who had left them at Perga and had returned home (Acts 13:13b), but Paul felt that John Mark had abandoned the work in Perga on the first trip and didn’t want to take him again. Sharp contention arose between Paul and Barnabas over this issue, and they separated from each other.

Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul chose Silas (Silvanus) who was a leader of the Jerusalem Council and who had accompanied Paul and Barnabas with the decision of the council following the controversy over whether to require Gentile Christians to keep the Jewish Laws (Acts 15:1-35). Paul and Silas went through Syria, Derbe and Lystra.

At Lystra there was a disciple named Timothy, whose mother was Jewish but whose father was Greek. He was highly regarded by the Christians at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany them so he had Timothy circumcised, since the local Jews all knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek (Gentile). As they visited the churches in the region they made known to them the decision of the Jerusalem Council.

John Paraphrase:

The season of Passover, (the commemoration of God’s deliverance from bondage and death in Egypt, celebrated in March-April) was at hand. Many Jews went to Jerusalem to (ritually) purify themselves before the feast. There was a lot of speculation and anticipation regarding whether Jesus would also come to Jerusalem for the festival. The religious leaders had given orders that if anyone knew Jesus’ whereabouts they should inform the authorities so that they could arrest Jesus. Six days before the Feast, Jesus came to Bethany to the home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his sisters, Mary and Martha.

They prepared supper for Jesus. Martha served, and Lazarus was at the table with Jesus. Mary took a pound of expensive ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet with the ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, filling the air in the house with the fragrance of the ointment. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, who later betrayed Jesus, criticized this extravagance, suggesting that the ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Judas didn’t really care for the poor, but he used to steal from the moneybox. Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone; there would always be opportunities to help the poor but there would not always be an opportunity to do something nice for Jesus.

Commentary:

Job was arguing with God. Job was criticizing God in order to justify himself. Job was not God’s equal, and Job was not even as powerful as other creatures God has created and controls. But God didn’t destroy Job in anger over his insubordination; God reasoned with Job.

Barnabas had been Paul’s only friend and advocate among the Apostles in Jerusalem just after Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion (Acts 9: 26-27). Barnabas had recruited Paul to help oversee the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26), they traveled to Jerusalem to deliver an offering from the Church at Antioch, and were partners on the first missionary journey to Asia Minor (present-day Turkey; Acts 13:14). But a sharp disagreement arose between them over the selection of an assistant for their second missionary journey.

Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, his cousin, who had gone along on the first trip but had quit mid-trip. Barnabas supported and encouraged Mark as he had previously supported and encouraged Paul. The disagreement caused them to separate from one another, but they did not allow the dispute to interfere with their ministry of the Gospel. Paul chose Silas to accompany him, and Barnabas chose John Mark. They divided the territory between them; Barnabas and Mark went to Cypress, and Paul and Silas went to Asia Minor. Paul and John Mark eventually were reconciled (Colossians. 4:10; Philemon 1:24).

At Lystra, Paul wanted to take a disciple named Timothy along as a co-worker and trainee. Timothy was considered a Jew because his mother was Jewish, but since his father was Greek, Timothy had not been circumcised. Although Paul believed strongly that Gentiles should not be required to be circumcised, and had in fact been involved in the Apostolic ruling on that issue (Acts 15:1-35), Paul had Timothy circumcised “because of the Jews that were in those places” (in Asia Minor where they were going; Acts 16:3).

Paul compromised, so that Timothy would not suffer persecution, and so that the Gospel would not be hindered. Paul did not betray his belief or values; he knew that true circumcision is a matter of the heart and not the flesh and that physical circumcision in itself means nothing. Paul later said, “In Jesus Christ, neither circumcision nor un-circumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Although the doctrinal significance of “works-righteousness” that circumcision implies is not insignificant, in Timothy’s case Paul and Timothy weren’t trying to achieve righteousness through keeping the law. They were just trying not to provoke an argument and hinder the Gospel. Paul just didn’t let his strongly held opinion interfere with the Gospel.

The Passover was the celebration of God’s deliverance of the people from slavery and death in Egypt. Jews went to Jerusalem to seek ritual purification (the forgiveness of their sins through the Temple sacrificial system) so that they could celebrate the Passover. The Jews needed God’s forgiveness of their sins, but they were plotting to kill Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son, whom God had sent to provide forgiveness eternally, to replace the Temple sacrificial system.

Jesus is the Passover “lamb” which was sacrificed once for all for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus is the “Moses” who leads the New “People of God” from slavery to sin and death in the “Egypt” of this world, through the wilderness of this present life, into the Promised Land of Heaven. They were preparing to celebrate the Passover but they couldn’t see the connections.

Within the group of Jesus’ disciples there was argument over Mary’s gift and service to Jesus. Mary had done it for Jesus in love. Judas criticized it as an extravagance. Judas justified his criticism and even made it sound pious, by suggesting that the money could have benefited the poor. But it wasn’t love for Jesus, his brethren in the Lord, or the poor that he cared about. His only concern was himself. He criticized faithful followers of the Lord, showed no love for the Lord himself, coveted what had been given to the Lord and stole from the poor. Jesus patiently reasoned with Judas and gave him opportunity to repent. Are we loving followers of the Lord and encouragers of our brethren, or are we faultfinders?

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 18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/04/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 18 Pentecost – Even

Job 40:1; 41:1-11  –  The Lord speaks;
Acts 16:6-15   – The Macedonian call;
John 12:9-19  –  Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem;

Job Paraphrase:

Because Job believed that he was righteous, he concluded that God must be wrong for allowing Job to suffer, since Job felt that he did not deserve his suffering. Job had questioned God’s authority; now God questioned Job’s challenge to God’s authority.

Leviathan is the mythological sea monster which symbolizes chaos and the forces of evil. Could Job subdue the forces of evil? Man is no match for the forces of evil and chaos, but God is their master. No one and nothing can withstand God and prevail. Everything that exists belongs to God; God doesn’t owe anything to anyone.

Acts Paraphrase:

On his second missionary journey, Paul and Silas had gone to Lystra where Paul invited Timothy, a disciple whom Paul had apparently “discipled” on his first missionary journey, to accompany them. The Holy Spirit had forbidden them to preach the Gospel in Asia (modern Turkey) so they passed through the Roman Province of Galatia and the region of Phrygia to the region of Mysia in the Province of Asia (all in modern Turkey).

They attempted to go north into the Province of Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit would not allow them to go, so they went to Troas on the coast of the Aegean Sea. During the night, Paul had a dream of a Macedonian man beseeching Paul to come to Macedonia and help them. Paul and his group immediately concluded that the Holy Spirit was leading them to preach the Gospel in Macedonia. They sailed from Troas to Neapolis (on the coast of present-day Greece) and then to Philippi, which was a leading city and Roman Colony in Macedonia.

Paul’s group stayed there for a number of days. On a Sabbath, Paul and his fellow missionaries went outside the city to a nearby river where Jewish women and converts to Judaism in the area met for prayer. The missionaries proclaimed the Gospel to the women. One, named Lydia, from Thyatira, a seller of purple goods (clothing for nobility) who was a worshiper of God, believed Paul’s message and was baptized, along with her family. She invited the missionaries to stay at her house.

John Paraphrase:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus and his disciples came to Bethany, which is only a couple miles from Jerusalem, and where Jesus’ close friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. News that Jesus was in Bethany attracted a large crowd to Bethany. The people came not only to see Jesus, but to see Lazarus, who Jesus had raised from the dead. The Jewish leaders planned to kill Lazarus in addition to Jesus, since Lazarus’ resurrection was causing many people to believe in Jesus.

The next day the crowd learned that Jesus was on his way from Bethany to Jerusalem, so they took palm branches and went to meet him, crying “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13b)!

Jesus had obtained a young donkey and rode on it, manifesting himself as the Messiah and fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. At the time, his disciples did not understand the significance, but after Jesus’ resurrection, they realized the connection between what had been written about him in scripture and what had happened.

The people who had witnessed Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus had testified to this miracle, which is what had attracted the crowd to watch Jesus enter Jerusalem. The Pharisees’ reaction was that it seemed that the whole world was turning to faith in Jesus, and they were powerless to prevent it.

Commentary:

God created an orderly universe out of chaos and darkness [Genesis 1:1-2, (3-31)]. God created light and separated darkness from it (Genesis 1:3-4). Light symbolizes goodness; darkness symbolizes evil. Everything that exists was created by God and belongs to him. God is, whether we believe in him and obey him or not, and he doesn’t owe anything to anyone. God is sovereign.

Paul and his missionary associates were obedient to the Lord. The Lord told them not to preach the Gospel in Asia and so they didn’t. The Lord told them not to go to Bithynia so they didn’t. They had come to preach the Gospel, and they were looking for ways to do that in accordance with God’s will. The Lord showed them where he wanted them to go and preach.

When we choose to cooperate with God’s plan and seek his guidance, God will lead us, provide opportunities, and enable us to accomplish his plan. We must avoid the mistake of going ahead with our own plans for proclaiming the Gospel without seeking the Lord’s guidance and empowerment.

God has had a plan for his creation from the beginning (John 1:1-5, 14). 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). The entire Bible bears witness to that plan. Jesus is God’s anointed King (Messiah; Christ). Jesus comes in the authority and power of Almighty God. God has manifested himself to us in Jesus Christ in a way that allows each individual the freedom to believe or not.

God is sovereign, but he does not force us to trust and obey him. That is why God’s plan depends on faith. For those who need proof in order to believe, there is none; but for those who believe, there is abundant proof. It is only after we have believed that we are able to see the connections between Jesus and scripture.

The Pharisees discovered that they were powerless to thwart God’s plan. God’s plan is not dependant upon our approval; God’s plan will be accomplished, whether we accept it or not. We must choose whether to cooperate with God’s plan or not.

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 18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/05/04;
Podcast: Wednesday 18 Pentecost – Even

Job 42:1-17 –   Job’s restoration;
Acts 16:16-24  –  The disciples’ mission;
John 12:20-26  –  The cost of discipleship;

Job Paraphrase:

Job had come to accept that God is sovereign and has a plan which cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2). Job quoted God’s indictment of Job from 38:2: one who obscured truth by speaking without knowledge (Job 42:3), and confessed his guilt. Job quoted God’s questioning from  Job 40:7, and then answers that up to that time Job had known of God by what others said about God but now Job knows God personally, having experienced spiritual communion with God (Job 42:5). Having experienced God, Job realizes his status in relationship to God and is completely humbled and repentant.

Then the Lord told Job’s friends that they had not spoken right of God to Job, and God commanded them to go to Job and offer a sacrifice and that Job would pray for them so that God would forgive them. They did as the Lord commanded.

Then the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, after Job prayed for his friends. Job was twice as well-off as before. Everyone in his family came and comforted him and fellowshipped with him, and they each gave him a silver coin and a gold ring. He had twice as many herd-animals, and he had exactly as many sons and daughters as before. Job’s daughters were the most beautiful of the land, and Job gave them a share in his inheritance along with their brothers. Job lived one hundred and forty years after his restoration, and saw his grandchildren before he died.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul, Silas and Timothy had gone to Philippi on Paul’s second missionary journey. There was a place of prayer along the river outside of the city, and in going there the missionaries had encountered a slave girl who earned money for her masters as a fortuneteller. She followed Paul shouting that the missionaries were “servants of the Most High God, who proclaim…the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).

She did this day after day, until Paul became annoyed. He commanded the spirit of divination to come out of her and it did so at once. Her owners realizing that she was no longer profitable for them, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the magistrates. Paul and Silas were charged with disturbing the city and for trying to make converts of Roman Citizens which was against Roman law. The magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped and beaten with rods, with many blows. Then they were thrown into prison with their feet bound in stocks.

John Paraphrase:

It was the Passover season, and Jesus had come to Jerusalem. There were also some Greeks (Gentiles) among those who had come to Jerusalem for the feast. These came to Philip, and asked to see Jesus. Philip, a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, went to his fellow disciple, Andrew, who was also from Bethsaida, and Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus told them that the hour had come for the Son of man (Jesus) to be glorified.

Then Jesus told them that a seed must “die” and be buried in order to bring forth fruit; otherwise it remains unproductive. So also one who loves his life loses it, and one who hates his life in this world will have eternal life. Jesus told them that if anyone chooses to serve Jesus he must follow Jesus and do as Jesus does. God will honor anyone who serves Jesus.

Commentary:

God is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. God has a purpose for creation which cannot be thwarted. It is not sufficient to know about God; one must have a personal knowledge of God through his Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34; Matthew 3:11), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

Having come to a personal experience of God, Job became a priest and mediator on behalf of his friends to lead them to repentance, forgiveness and a personal relationship with God. When Job had interceded for his friends, God restored Job.

Job had more than he could have imagined or hoped, he lacked no good thing, and enjoyed a long, full life. The image of Job’s restoration is the illustration of the promise we have in Jesus: we will receive abundant blessings beyond what we can imagine and we will be reunited with our family, even those who have physically died, in eternal life (provided that they have believed in Jesus).

Paul, Silas and Timothy had come to a personal knowledge of God through faith in Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. They were on a missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel. The Gospel is not man’s ideas about God; the Gospel is God’s revelation of himself to man through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily in Jesus (Colossians 2:8-9). No one comes to God the Father except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). No one knows the Father except Jesus and those to whom Jesus chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:27). Anyone who knows Jesus knows the Father (John 14:7). The disciples had joined Jesus’ mission to be the intercessor, mediator and priest between mankind and God.

The world offers alternatives to personal knowledge of and communion with God that result in conflict with the Gospel. God wants us to be led by his Word; God wants us to seek and follow God’s will and God’s plan. God’s people are specifically warned not to seek the council of fortunetellers and mediums for that reason (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). The Gospel is going to encounter opposition in the world because the world profits from alternatives to the Gospel.

Jesus said that if anyone wants to see Jesus, they must be willing to sacrifice their own desires and will, and become obedient to Jesus in order to be fruitful for God’s kingdom. We must be willing to die to our worldly ambition.

Jesus came not to be a worldly king; he came to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin. He gave up his life, and he produced the fruit of salvation for all who trust and obey him. Jesus declared that those who love their life in this world will lose it, but those who are willing to give up that life, who recognize that it is not worth comparing to eternal life with Jesus, will receive true eternal life with him in Heaven.

Once we have come to a personal knowledge of God in Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are to join Jesus’ ministry of intercession and mediation so that others will also come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is what God commanded Job to do, it’s what we saw Paul, Silas and Timothy doing, and it is what Jesus commanded his disciples to do. If we try to hang on to this worldly life we will lose eternal life; if we follow Jesus we will be blessed beyond what we can imagine.

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 18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/06/04;
Podcast: Thursday 18 Pentecost – Even

Job 28:1-28 –  The fear of the Lord is wisdom;
Acts 16:25-40 –  Release from the Philippian prison;
John 12:27-36a   –  Walk in the Light;

Job Paraphrase:

Man can mine iron and copper, precious stones, gold and silver. He can tunnel under the earth and find these things, which other animals are incapable of doing. He is able to overturn mountains and cut through rock, dam up streams and light up subterranean darkness. But where can wisdom be found?

Man does not know the way to wisdom, and it is not to be found on this earth. It cannot be bought with silver or gold. It is more precious than any material thing. Where does wisdom come from and where is understanding? Wisdom is hidden from all creation. God knows the way to wisdom, because he knows everything. At creation God established it and declared it. “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul had cast out a demonic spirit of divination from a slave girl at Philippi, and the girl’s owners had arrested Paul and Silas and had them beaten with rods and imprisoned (Acts 16:16-24; see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 18 Pentecost, even year). Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns when an earthquake occurred, causing all the doors of the prison to be opened. The jailer awoke, and seeing the doors open and supposing that the prisoners had escaped, was about to kill himself with his sword. But Paul called out to him to not harm himself, because the prisoners were all there.

The jailer called for lights and rushed in, trembling with fear. He fell down before Paul and Silas and brought them out of the cell. He asked them what he must do to be saved, and they told him to believe in the Lord Jesus, and he and his household would be saved.

Paul and Silas told the Gospel to the jailer and his household. The jailer attended to the wounds of Paul and Silas, and he and his household were baptized. He brought them into his house and fed them “and he rejoiced with his entire household that he had believed in God” (Acts 16:34).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Jerusalem knowing that he would be crucified. He told his disciples that the hour had come for Jesus to be glorified (by obeying God’s will that Jesus should be crucified; John 12:23, John 13:31-32). Jesus told his disciples that his soul was troubled (by the prospect of crucifixion) but he realized that he could not ask God to spare him from that because that was God’s purpose in sending him. Instead Jesus prayed that God’s name would be glorified through Jesus. A voice from heaven said “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28). The crowd nearby heard the voice, but some said it was just thunder.

Jesus said that the voice had come not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the benefit of the eyewitnesses. Jesus declared that his crucifixion would mark the judgment of earth, and removal from power of the rulers of this world. Jesus said that when he had been lifted up (on the cross) he would draw all people to himself.

The crowd said that, according to scripture, the Christ was to remain for ever; they didn’t understand what Jesus meant by the Son of man, and that the Son of man must be lifted up. Jesus replied that the light would be with them a little longer, and urged them to walk in the light while they have light, so that the darkness might not overtake them. Those who walk in darkness do not know where they go. Jesus urged them to believe in the light while they have the opportunity, so that they might become children of light.

Commentary:

What the world calls wisdom is false wisdom; true wisdom comes from God alone. The wisdom of God is the wisdom by which the world was created (see Proverbs 3:19-20; see Proverbs 9:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Jesus is the true wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The real treasure we can seek and find in this world, which endures to eternity, is a personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus came to free us from bondage to sin and death. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10 ). 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; Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected and have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal death in Hell with all evil.

God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Although we may experience persecution for the Gospel, Jesus will deliver us from it. Jesus turns our darkness into light and our fear into rejoicing.

Jesus was obedient to God’s will, even to being willing to die to accomplish it. If we follow Jesus in obedience, God’s Spirit will be with us and will reassure us. Jesus is the light of wisdom, understanding and righteousness. Darkness represents sin and evil. If we walk according to Jesus’ light we won’t stumble and we will avoid eternal death and destruction. Now is the time to seek the light of Jesus, while it may be found, so that we may be children of light and live eternally in the city of light in Heaven.

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
18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/07/04;
Podcast:Friday 18 Pentecost – Even

Esther 1:1-4, 10-19  –  The fall of Vashti;
Acts 17:1-15 –  Paul and Silas at Thessalonica;
John 12:36b-43 –  Conclusion of Jesus’ public ministry;

Esther Paraphrase:

During the reign (485 to 464 B.C.*) of Ahasuerus (Xerxes*) king of  the Persian Empire, in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes, generals, and provincial governors. The festival lasted one hundred and eighty days, during which the King displayed his royal glory and splendor. Then the King gave a banquet, lasting seven days, for all the people of Susa (his winter capital) in the garden of his palace.

On the seventh day the King summoned Queen Vashti, in order to impress the people with her beauty. But Vashti refused to come, and that made the King angry. The King asked his wise men and legal counselors for advice in dealing with Queen Vashti’s disobedience, and they said that the Queen had wronged not only the King but the people. They advised the King that the Queen’s disobedience would lead all the women of the empire to assert their independence. So they advised the King to depose her as Queen and choose another.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul and Silas had been released from the Philippian jail, and had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, arriving in Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue. Paul spent  three weeks there debating the Gospel with them, showing from the scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. Some of the Jews were persuaded, along with a number of Gentile worshipers and leading women. But the Jews were jealous, stirred up a mob and went to the home of a man named Jason (where Paul and Silas had apparently been staying) to arrest Paul and Silas, but since Paul and Silas were not there, they dragged Jason and some other Christians before the magistrates.

The Jews charged the Christians with civil unrest and political rebellion, and Jason with harboring them. The magistrates required a security deposit (bail) and released them. The Christians at Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas to Beroea by night.

Paul and Silas went into the synagogue at Beroea. The Jews in Beroea were more receptive to the Gospel and they listened to Paul and Silas eagerly and examined the scriptures daily to verify what the Apostles said. Many of them believed, including Greek women as well as men. When the Jews of Thessalonica heard that Paul and Silas were in Beroea, they went there and stirred up persecution against them, so the believers sent Paul off to Athens, but Silas and Timothy stayed behind, with instructions to join Paul as soon as possible.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Jerusalem knowing that he would soon be crucified. He had told his disciples that the time for him to be glorified had come. He had told the crowds to believe in him while they had the opportunity. (John 12:20-36a; see entry for yesterday, Thursday, 18 Pentecost, even year). Having said this, he withdrew and no longer appeared in public.

Although Jesus had done many miracles demonstrating who he was, many did not believe. (This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10.) Many did believe, even among the authorities, but did not confess their belief because they did not want to be expelled from the synagogue. They cared more for the approval of men than the approval of God.

Commentary:

Worldly rulers flaunt their wealth and power. They treat their friends vastly better than they treat the public. Their favor is arbitrary and subject to change at any moment. They make commands at a whim which must be obeyed unquestioningly, and the penalty is whatever those in power say. They use their power to impress and intimidate others.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not require unquestioning obedience. It can be verified by careful examination of the scriptures. The Gospel does not create class divisions; all are equal in God’s eyes. The Gospel can be and historically has been perverted by using worldly methods to advance the Gospel, but that is not the true Gospel demonstrated and taught by Jesus to his disciples. It was not the Apostles who were guilty of civil unrest at Thessalonica; it was their accusers, the unbelievers. The Apostles continued to carry on their ministry of the Gospel, regardless of the opposition against them They were not seeking worldly approval.

Jesus is not the world’s idea of a king. Jesus came to serve and give his life for his people. Worldly kings expect their people to serve and give their lives for the king. Jesus’ glory was to do God’s will; the world considers wealth, success and beauty as its glory. Jesus doesn’t demand our unreasoned obedience. The Lord is faithful; he will never fail or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 1:5).

Many people believed in Jesus but were afraid to confess their belief, because they cared more for worldly approval than for God’s approval. The truth of the Gospel is plain to see; refusal to believe the evidence of the Gospel in scripture leads to spiritual blindness. Are we trying to please the world, or are we trying to please God?

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, Esther 1:1-9n, p. 603, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Saturday 18 Pentecost – Even
First posted 10/08/04;
Podcast: Saturday 18 Pentecost – Even

Esther 2:5-8, 15-23  –  Esther made Queen;
Acts 17:16-34  –  Paul’s speech at Athens;
John 12:44-50 –  Jesus’ concluding teachings;

Esther Paraphrase:

Mordecai was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, living in Susa (in present-day Iran). His great-grandfather, Kish, had been deported to Babylon with the people of Judah during the reign of Jeconiah, king of Judah, by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He had adopted and raised his cousin Esther (Hadassah) who had been orphaned.

The Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) commanded all the beautiful young virgins to be gathered so that the King could select a new Queen to replace Vashti, whom he had deposed. Esther was among the young virgins, and was taken into the King’s harem, in the custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem. Esther cooperated with the eunuch and he helped her advance to the best place in the harem.

Esther concealed the fact that she was a Jew, because Mordecai had told her not to reveal that; Esther was obedient to her foster father, Mordecai. Mordecai, employed as a palace gatekeeper, was able to check on her daily. When Esther’s turn came to go in to the King she followed Hegai’s instructions, she won the King’s favor, and the King made her his Queen. The king gave a great banquet in Esther’s honor, and he granted tax relief and gave gifts liberally to celebrate the occasion.

In his position as a gatekeeper, Mordecai learned of a plot on the king’s life by two eunuchs who guarded the door to the King’s bed-chamber. He told Esther and she relayed the information to the King, in Mordecai’s name. The matter was investigated and found to be true. The conspirators were executed, and the incident was recorded in the King’s record book.

Acts Paraphrase:

Because of persecution for the Gospel which arose in Beroea, Paul had been taken to Athens to wait for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. While waiting for them, Paul was upset by the idolatry rampant in the city. Paul debated the Gospel in the synagogues and in the marketplace daily. He met some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who brought Paul to Mars’ (Ares;’ a Roman/Greek idol) Hill where there was a judicial council (Areopagus).

Athens’ culture at that time was one of intellectual curiosity. Paul told the men of Athens that he had noticed that they were very “religious.” Paul had seen their shrines, and noted that there was a shrine to an unknown god. What they had worshiped as unknown, Paul made known to them.

Since God is the creator of everything, he doesn’t need man to make shrines for him to dwell in, nor is God dependent on mankind for anything. God has created from one (man; i.e. Adam) every nation, having established their boundaries and life spans, “that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet God is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

Paul used his formal education to quote from the Greek philosopher/poets Epimenides and Aratus* to show that they acknowledged one God as Creator, who is not far off.  Paul argued that God is not the creation of the hands and imagination of mankind. Paul said that God overlooked former times of lack of knowledge by mankind, but now has fixed a day when mankind will be held accountable.

God has (revealed himself through and) appointed Jesus Christ to be the Judge, and has attested to him by raising him from the dead. Some of the Athenians were skeptical of the resurrection of the dead, but others were anxious to hear more; several believed and joined Paul, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.

John Paraphrase:

In Jesus’ final statement before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus said that those who believe in Jesus believe in God who sent Jesus. Those who know Jesus know God. Jesus is the light (righteousness, understanding, spiritual sight, hope and joy) of the world; those who believe in him will not remain in the darkness of sin, ignorance, spiritual blindness, hopelessness and despair.

Jesus came not to condemn us but to save us. Those who don’t keep Jesus’ commands reject the salvation that Jesus came to bring. Those who reject Jesus’ words reject God’s Word and God’s only plan of salvation, because all that Jesus has said and done has been in complete obedience to God’s will and command.

Commentary:

God is not detached and remote from his creation. Instead of complaining about her lot in life, Esther trusted God and cooperated with her circumstances in the culture in which she found herself, so God was able to use her to bring deliverance through her to his people (see Esther 4:14).  She did what she could to the best of her ability and left the results up to God.

Persecution for the Gospel had driven Paul to Athens. Paul was alone, surrounded by a worldly, idolatrous culture, but he did the best he could with his circumstances. Instead of hiding, he interacted with the culture, using his education and experience (guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit) to present the Gospel winsomely, in the context of the culture, but without compromise.

In a culture devoted to philosophy and the search for the meaning of life, Paul showed that God’s purpose for creation, and the meaning of life, is to seek and find personal fellowship with God, through Jesus Christ. In a culture devoted to “religion” and the search for God, Paul showed that Jesus is the revelation of God. Paul did what he could to the best of his ability and left the results to God. Some scoffed at the idea of the resurrection of the dead, but others were anxious to hear more, and some were convinced.

God has not abandoned his creation. He is actively participating in it to restore us to fellowship with God which Adam had in the beginning and lost through disobedience (Genesis Chapter 3). The meaning and purpose of life is to seek and find God. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so that we might be restored to fellowship with God through Jesus.

Jesus is God’s fullest physical revelation of himself to us. Jesus is Emmanuel; God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sins and for restoration to fellowship and eternal life with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Jesus is our example of obedience to God’s will. Jesus came to save us; if we reject that salvation, we condemn ourselves. It is God’s will and intention that we be restored to life and fellowship with him, but he won’t force us against our will. Are we cooperating with God’s plan, or are we pursuing our own plans? Are we obedient to our adoptive Father, God, and loyal to our King, 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)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Acts 17:28nn, p. 1342, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Week of 17 Pentecost – Even – 10/05 – 11/2014

October 4, 2014

Week of 17 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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

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

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

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Podcast Download: Sunday 17 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 17 Pentecost – Even
First posted 09/25/04;
Podcast: Sunday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 25:1-6; 27:1-6  –  Man’s unrighteousness;
Revelation 14:1-7, 13  –  Coming Judgment;
Matthew 5:13-20  –  Witness of the Disciples;

Job Paraphrase:

Bildad the Shuhite (a descendant of Shuah; one of Abraham’s sons by Keturah; Genesis 25:2), one of three friends who consoled Job during his suffering, said that God is all-powerful and the ruler of heaven. His armies are beyond reckoning. There is no one who does not receive light (enlightenment) from him. How then can any human be judged righteous before God. Even the moon and stars are not bright in comparison with God. How much less man, who is not much better than a maggot, or the son of man who is comparable to a worm?

But Job continued to maintain his innocence and integrity.

Revelation Paraphrase:

John, the Apostle, had a number of visions from God through the Spirit of Christ (Revelation 1:1). In this vision John saw the Lamb (Jesus) with his one hundred and forty-four thousand (the number symbolizing the entire number of the redeemed). John heard loud singing; the redeemed sang a new song (Revelation 5:8-10) before the throne of God (Revelation 4:1-11), the four living creatures (perhaps representing all creation) and the twenty-four elders (perhaps the Twelve Old Testament Patriarchs and the Twelve New Testament Apostles).

The redeemed are chaste (in contrast to followers of pagan cults which practiced cultic prostitution). They “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Revelation 14:4); they are dedicated to God and the Lamb as an offering from the harvest of mankind. In them no falsehood is found, for they are spotless (without sin or blemish; faultless). Those who are in the Lord (who have been “born again” by his indwelling Holy Spirit; John 3:3-8) at their physical death, will be blessed (with eternal life in Heaven) “for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13e).

Matthew Paraphrase

Matthew 5:1-7:28 is called The Sermon on the Mount. It represents a summary of the basic teachings of Jesus Christ, and it is addressed to his disciples (Matthew 5:1-2). Jesus’ disciples are to be the salt of the earth. In order to do that they must maintain the character of disciples (their “saltiness”); otherwise they will be useless.

In the same way, disciples are called to be light.  A true disciple’s nature cannot be hidden, nor can a person be a disciple without producing “light.” Disciples are to produce the light they are intended to produce so that God may be glorified. Jesus has not come to abolish God’s Law but to fulfill it. Those who teach and demonstrate laxity in obeying any of the commandments will be disgraced in Heaven, but those who obey and teach others to obey God’s commandments will be commended in Heaven. Jesus declared that unless his disciples’ righteousness exceeded that of the scribes (teachers of the Law; i.e. scripture) and Pharisees (a Jewish faction which advocated the strict observance of the Law) they would never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Commentary:

Job and his three friends agree that man is unrighteous in comparison with God (Bildad:  Job 25:1-6; Eliphaz: Job 4:17-21, 15:14-16; Zophar: Job 11:5-12; Job: Job 9:2-12, 12:9-25; 14:4). Job is committed to doing what is right, and he longs for justice and vindication. Job needs a Redeemer (Job 19:25-29) to bridge the gap between what he is able to do and what God requires.

John’s vision is of the redeemed who have been made righteous by the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb, slain so that our sins could be forgiven. Jesus is the Redeemer. Jesus’ death on the Cross is the sacrifice by which our sins are cleansed and we are made faultless before God through trust in, and obedience to Jesus.

There is a Day of Judgment coming when all who have ever lived will be accountable to the Lord for what they have done in this life (John 5:28-29). Those who have been “born again” through the indwelling Holy Spirit through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ will be blessed with eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. Those who have not been “born again”, who have not been filled with the Holy Spirit, because they have not trusted and obeyed Jesus, will receive eternal death in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46).

“Salt” represents the fruit of discipleship. The world is “unsalty,” and needs salt. One cannot be a Christian and not be a disciple; one cannot be a disciple and not produce the fruit of discipleship. If one is truly a disciple it will be impossible to hide, and no disciple would try to avoid producing the fruit of discipleship.

Light is the symbol of righteousness and truth. Disciples are called to pass on to others the light they have received from Jesus.

Jesus hasn’t come to free us from the Law so that we can sin; he came to free us from sin so that we could fulfill the Law. The problem of the scribes and Pharisees is that although they outwardly kept the smallest details of the Law, in their hearts they missed the major principles by a wide margin (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42).

Jesus came and died for us so that we might receive his Holy Spirit. Those who live in obedience to the Holy Spirit fulfill the requirements of the Law (Romans 8:1-9). We are not made righteous by works (keeping) of the Law; we fulfill the Law because we have been made righteous by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christians aren’t saved because they’re righteous; they’re righteous because they’re truly saved. The difference is that the truly saved have a personal relationship with the risen Jesus through his 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)?

Monday 17 Pentecost – Even
First posted 09/26/04;
Podcast: Monday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 32:1-10, 19-33:1, 19-28  –  Elihu Speaks;
Acts 13:44-52 – Paul at Antioch of Pisidia;
John 10:19-30 –  The Good Shepherd;

Job Paraphrase:

Job’s three friends “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1). Elihu, son of Barachel the Buzite (descendant of the second son of Nahor, Abrahams’s older brother; Genesis 22:20-21) was angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God, and at Job’s friends for judging Job guilty without being able to offer answers. The three friends were older than Elihu, so he had deferred to them, presuming that they had acquired wisdom with age and experience. But Elihu had realized that it is the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty, in a person, that gives understanding, rather than age and experience, so Elihu spoke.

There was an urge within Elihu to speak, like pressure building in an un-vented wineskin. Elihu did not intend to flatter or show favoritism because these are things the Lord detests. Suffering prepares a person to be receptive to God. When a person faces his mortality he is receptive if there is an angel (an angelic messenger or a manifestation of God’s presence) or mediator who can declare what is right.

Elihu envisioned a mediator who can deliver or ransom the sufferer from death, and restore his youthful vigor. Through the mediator the sufferer prays to God and God accepts him and he comes into God’s presence with joy. Then the redeemed sufferer recounts his salvation to other men, saying, “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not requited to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the Pit (grave) and my life shall see the light” (Job 33:27:28).

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch of Pisidia after the conversion of the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus at Paphos on Cyprus. Paul preached the Gospel at Antioch of Pisidia (in Asia Minor north of Pamphylia; distinguish from Antioch in Syria), and the people had begged to hear more (Acts 13:13-42).

The next Sabbath nearly the entire city gathered to hear God’s Word, but the Jews were jealous and contradicted what Paul said, and reviled him. Paul and Barnabas told them that it had been necessary to proclaim the Gospel to them. Since the Jews rejected the Gospel, thus judging themselves unworthy of eternal life, Paul and Barnabas would present the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6 to show that the Gospel was intended not just for Jews but for all people on earth.

The Gentiles rejoiced at this and many believed. The Gospel spread throughout the area but the Jews stirred up the city leaders who began to persecute Paul and Barnabas and drove them from the area. But they shook off the dust from their feet against the persecutors (Acts 13:51a; compare Luke 10:10-12) and went to Iconium. Those who had become disciples “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).

John Paraphrase:

After healing the man born blind, Jesus had declared that he is the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. There was controversy among the Jews over these words. Some said that Jesus had a demon; that he was crazy. Others said that Jesus’ words were not the words of a madman, and that if he were crazy he couldn’t heal the blind.

It was the feast of Dedication (commemorating the rededication of the Temple after its restoration following desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C). Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Portico (a public meeting place on the east side of the Temple mount platform). The Jews gathered around and asked Jesus to tell them plainly if he was the Christ.

Jesus said that he had told them but they had not believed. Jesus had also demonstrated that he was the Christ by the miracles he had done, but they had not believed because they did not belong to Jesus’ “sheep.” Jesus’ sheep are those who hear Jesus’ words and obey Jesus. Jesus gives his sheep eternal life; they will never die, and they cannot be taken from Jesus. It is the Father’s will that they should belong to Jesus, and no one can alter God’s will. Jesus and the Father are one.

Commentary:

Job considered himself righteous (Job 32:1). His attitude suggested that Job thought he was more righteous than God (that Job was right, so God must be wrong.) Elihu was angry with Job’s self-righteousness and with the judgmentalism of the three friends who found Job guilty without being able to support their conclusions.

Elihu pointed out that it is the Spirit of God within a person, not chronological age or worldly experience, which produces spiritual wisdom and spiritual maturity. Elihu suggested that suffering prepares a person to be receptive to God. While things are going well we feel self-sufficient and have no realization of our need for a savior. It is only when we come to the end of our own resources that we can recognize our need.

Elihu’s vision of a mediator is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who declares to a person what is right (Job 33:23;  compare Acts 9:5,10-18). Jesus is the mediator who can deliver or ransom from death. Jesus gave his life on the cross as a ransom for sinners. Jesus is the mediator through whom the believer prays to God; through whom the believer is restored to fellowship with God; through whom the believer comes into God’s presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit, now and eternally. The redeemed sufferer recounts his salvation to others and confesses his sin.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is an illustration of a redeemed sufferer. He had been struck blind on the road to Damascus as he pursued the persecution of Christians (Acts 9:1-22).  He illustrates how suffering prepares one to be receptive to God’s Word, and how the Spirit of Christ was there to declare the truth (Acts 9:5, 11-12), directly and through a Spirit-led disciple, Ananias (Acts 9:10-18). Paul confessed his sins and recounted his salvation to others. (Acts 9:20; Acts 13:26-41)

The Jews had enough information from scripture, from Jesus’ words and from Jesus’ miracles to know who Jesus was. Yet here was controversy among them. Some believed and some didn’t. Those who are in Jesus, who are truly redeemed, are those who hear what Jesus says, trust in him and act in faith in obedience to his teaching; they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and eternal life which Jesus has promised (Acts 13:52).

It is not enough to be a “good” person (Who says we’re “good?”). All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). If we say we have not sinned we call God a liar and his Word is not in us (1 John 1:10) and we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only way to be restored to fellowship with God, and the only way to eternal life in Heaven (John 14:6). People who think they can justify themselves by good works apart from faith in Jesus are actually condemning themselves as unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46).  We have all the information we need to know who Jesus is. Each individual must make his own decision.

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 17 Pentecost – Even
First posted 09/27/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 29:1-20  –  Job recalls past happiness;
Acts 14:1-18 –  Mistaken for gods;
John 10:31-42 – Son of God;

Job Paraphrase:

Job longed for the days of the past when God blessed him and he was happy. Job was in his “days of fruit gathering” (autumn; Job 29:4a), when God’s friendship was upon Job’s house (Job 29:1-4). He was prosperous and respected by his peers for his righteousness. Job helped the poor, the fatherless, the suffering, the widowed, the blind and lame. Job defended the cause of strangers. Job rescued victims of the unrighteous (Job 29:7-17). During those days Job thought that he would die happy at the end of a long life (Job 29:18). Job thought that he would always continue to live in prosperity and glory and that he would never lose his material, physical and intellectual blessings (Job 29:19-20).

Acts Paraphrase:

Having been rejected by the Jews at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:13-52), Paul and Barnabas went on to Iconium (in the Province of Galatia; central Asia Minor; present-day Turkey), where they preached the Gospel, and a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But unbelieving Jews stirred up opposition among the Gentiles.

Paul and Barnabas stayed for a long time in Iconium preaching Jesus, who allowed them to do many great miracles. But the people of the city were divided by controversy over them; some sided with the Jews and some sided with the Apostles. There was an attempt by both Jews and Gentiles to abuse and stone the Apostles, and when the Apostles learned of it they fled to Lystra and Derbe, in the region of Lycaonia, where they continued to preach the Gospel.

At Lystra there was a man with crippled feet who had never been able to walk. Paul noticed that he had faith to be healed, and commanded the man to stand on his feet. The man jumped up and walked. At this the people declared, in the Lycaonian language, that Paul and Barnabas were gods in the likeness of men. They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul was called Hermes. The priest of Zeus brought oxen and intended to offer sacrifice to them with the people.

When Barnabas and Paul heard, they tore their clothes (an act of ritual mourning) and told the people that they were mere mortals like the Lycaonians, and that they should turn from the useless worship of idols, to worship instead the living God, the Creator of the Universe. Paul declared that in the past God had allowed the people of the world to go their own way, but that they had received God’s blessings of rain and harvest which bore witness to his goodness. Saying this, Paul and Barnabas were barely able to keep the people from sacrificing to them.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had declared that he and the Father are one, so the Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus. Jesus asked them to declare for which of his good works they were preparing to punish him. They said that they were going to execute him, not for good works, but for blasphemy, because Jesus, being human, had made himself God.

Jesus used Psalm 82:6 to support his statement. The scriptures call those who receive God’s Word “gods” because they have become God’s children. Since that is scripture (and scripture cannot be contradicted) how could they condemn Jesus for blaspheming because he said “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36)? Jesus told them that his works bear witness that he is doing God’s works and that he and the Father are one. They continued to try to arrest Jesus, but he eluded them.

Commentary:

When Job was doing well, he assumed that God was “with” him; that he deserved to be blessed because he was a “good” person. He assumed that his success would continue for the rest of his life because he deserved it; he couldn’t see any reason for that to change. God had blessed Job in the past, although Job hadn’t any personal knowledge of God.

One other thing Job didn’t know is that we are all eternal; there is eternity beyond physical death (John 5:28-28). One could physically die happy in his bed after a full life of worldly success and honor, but if one hasn’t come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, one will spend eternity in destruction in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

The Lycaonians saw the miracles that Paul and Barnabas did, and thought God had come down to them in human form; they recognized that Paul and Barnabas did things only God could do, but they had not yet come to a personal knowledge of God. Paul and Barnabas were there to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is God’s fullest revealing of himself to us physically. Paul points out that, in the past, God overlooked human lack of personal knowledge of him. God’s blessings were freely given to us, regardless of our faith or knowledge of God, and those blessings testify to God and to God’s goodness and mercy.

The Jews claimed to know God but they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah (the one whom God consecrated and sent into the world; John 10:36 RSV), although they had the scriptures which promised the coming of the Messiah. They didn’t recognize and acknowledge that the miracles Jesus did could have come only from God. They didn’t believe that Jesus was Emanuel (or Immanuel) which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23; compare Isaiah 7:14). They thought God was “with” them because they kept the Law. They didn’t have personal knowledge of God through Jesus, because they refused to believe that he was the Son of God; God in human form.

Job thought he knew God because he believed in God, did what he thought was right, and had been blessed with worldly success and honor. The same was true of the Jews, and it was also true of the Lycaonians. None really knew God, because God had not yet revealed himself to them.

The Jews considered the Gentiles (including the Lycaonians) spiritually-ignorant pagans, while the Jews considered themselves educated authorities on God. Job, the Lycaonians, and the Jews all knew about God, but they didn’t know God. The Lycaonians heard the words of Jesus and saw the works of Jesus through the lips and hands of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:3), and recognized that it was of God; they just needed to know God. The Jews’ problem was that they knew so much about God that they were not open to any further self-disclosure of God to them.

There is a Day of Judgment coming. All who have ever lived will be accountable to God through Jesus Christ. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected and have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Good works won’t save us; religion won’t save us; church membership won’t save us. Only a personal relationship with God through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit will save 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)?


Wednesday 17 Pentecost – Even

First posted 09/28/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 29:1; 30:1-2, 16-31  –  Job mourns his present wretchedness;
Acts 14:19-28   –    Paul finishes his first missionary trip;
John 11:1-16  –  Lazarus’ death;

Job Paraphrase:

Job mourned that he had become an object of ridicule for young and old. Job felt imprisoned by his situation, and ignored by his God. Job knew that death awaited him. It is natural for a person in a desperate situation to call for help. Job had been compassionate to the less fortunate, and expected to be rewarded with goodness, but instead had received the opposite.

Acts Paraphrase:

Paul and Barnabas had been sent by the Lord on a mission trip to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. On their way they had encountered persecution, forcing them to flee from one town to the next (Acts 13:1-14:18). They had been driven from Iconium to Lystra, where they had healed a lame man and had been regarded as gods. But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and persuaded the people of Lystra to stone Paul, leaving him for dead outside the city. But when the disciples gathered around him he rose and re-entered the city.

The next day he and Barnabas went on to Derbe, where they preached the Gospel and made many disciples. Then they returned through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia, to strengthen and encourage the new disciples and to warn them to persevere in their faith, telling them that many tribulations were to be expected on their way to the kingdom of God. They appointed elders in every church, whom they dedicated to the Lord with prayer and fasting.

Then they passed through Pisidia and Pamphylia, and preached the Gospel at Perga. From there they went to Attalia, where they sailed for Antioch where they had been commissioned for the mission which they had fulfilled. On their arrival “they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Paul and Barnabas remained there quite a while with the church at Antioch (in Syria).

John Paraphrase:

Lazarus, of Bethany (in Judea), the brother of Mary and Martha, was ill. Mary was the woman who had anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment (John 12:1-3). The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. When Jesus heard it he told his disciples that the illness would not result in Lazarus’ death but that God would be glorified and would glorify Jesus through it. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, but he stayed where he was for two more days.

Then he told his disciples that they were leaving for Judea. The disciples knew that the Judeans were seeking to execute Jesus by stoning, and questioned Jesus’ decision to return there. Jesus replied that there are only a certain number of hours of daylight, during which a person can walk without stumbling; he can’t safely walk in darkness because he has no light within himself. Jesus then said that Lazarus had fallen asleep and that Jesus was going to awaken him.

The disciples did not understand that Jesus spoke of Lazarus’ death, and replied that if Lazarus was sleeping he could awaken on his own, (without need of Jesus’ presence). Then Jesus told the disciples plainly that Lazarus was dead, and that Jesus was glad that he hadn’t been there, so that the disciples’ faith might be strengthened (by what would follow). Jesus said, “Let us go to him”, and Thomas, the Twin, added, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:15-16).

Commentary:

Job mourned his situation. He had been compassionate to the less fortunate and had expected to be rewarded with goodness, but instead had received trouble and suffering. He had nothing to look forward to but death, and nothing beyond that.

Paul and Barnabas had been commissioned and led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2-3) on this mission trip to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. At each stop along the way the preaching of the Gospel resulted in new believers and new churches, but it also was met with persecution, so that Paul and Barnabas were forced to flee to the next place (Acts 13:50, 14:5-6). Paul was actually stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead at Lystra. Ignoring the obvious risk, they returned to the places where they had been persecuted in order to encourage and strengthen the new believers, and to warn them that the way to the kingdom of God would be accompanied by many tribulations.

Jesus and his disciples knew that the Judeans were looking for an opportunity to execute Jesus by stoning. His disciples would have preferred to stay where they were and avoid trouble, but Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, and he wanted God to be glorified and his disciples’ faith to be strengthened. His disciples’ faith obviously needed strengthening because they weren’t willing to risk tribulation for the sake of the Gospel. Thomas’ reply to Lazarus’ death and the risk of going to him was quite cynical. He couldn’t see any benefit in that prospect; all he could see was death.

Many people today think that God should bless them with luxury and comfort because of their “good works.” There is a tendency to blame God for any trouble or difficulty that arises. Job had no hope of life beyond physical death. Jesus came not just to promise that there is life beyond physical death, but to demonstrate that truth.

Many church people want to keep their faith within the church where it is comfortable and safe. Thomas found out that following Jesus into uncomfortable and unsafe places leads to resurrection and eternal life. Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was able to return to uncomfortable and unsafe places because he knew the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9:1-22). Now is the time to be sharing the light of the Gospel with others; the time is coming when it will be too late.

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 17 Pentecost – Even

First posted 09/29/04;
Podcast: Thursday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 29:1; 31:1-23  –  Job defends his integrity;
Acts 15:1-11  –  Controversy over Gentile believers;
John 11:17-29  –  Jesus is the resurrection and the life;

Job Paraphrase:

Job asserted self-discipline over his flesh, so that he might have favor with God. He believed that God sees all his deeds and punishes unrighteousness. Job asked to be judged fairly. Job agreed that if he had practiced deceit and falsehood, if he had turned aside from righteousness, if he had coveted or was guilty of any sin, then he deserved to be penalized, and it would be right for God to withhold his blessings. If he had committed adultery or ambushed his neighbor or prostituted his own wife, those would be terrible crimes, to be punished by the courts; they would be worthy of his destruction and would merit the loss of everything.

Job acknowledged that if he had dealt unfairly with his servants when they had a complaint against Job, how could Job expect justice from God, who has created them all? If Job had withheld any necessity from the poor, from widows or orphans, then he would deserve physical affliction. Job asserts that he is not guilty of any of this because he was afraid of God’s just punishment of these offenses.

Acts Paraphrase:

When Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch (in Syria) at the end of Paul’s first missionary trip, Jewish Christians came from Jerusalem and were teaching the believers at Antioch that it was necessary for Gentile Christians to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas had quite a disagreement and debate with them over this issue, and the Church at Antioch delegated Paul and Barnabas and several others to go to Jerusalem to Church Headquarters and get a ruling from the Council.

As they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they visited congregations along the way and reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and the brethren rejoiced at this news. At Jerusalem they were welcomed, and they declared all that God had done with them (regarding the mission trip and the conversion of Gentiles). But some believers among them who had been Pharisees (a group within Judaism which advocated strict adherence the Law) argued that it was necessary to circumcise Gentile converts and require them to keep the Law of Moses.

The Apostles and elders gathered together to consider the issue, and after much debate, Peter spoke, saying that, earlier, God had chosen and led Peter to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Cornelius and his household; Acts 10:1-48), and that God, who knows the inner thoughts and attitudes of all people, had made no distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers.

God bore witness that they were equal, by giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as it had been given to Jewish believers. The Gentiles’ hearts were cleansed by faith (through the indwelling Holy Spirit). What right do humans have to insist upon conditions which God does not require? Why should we test God’s forbearance by requiring the Gentiles to fulfill requirements that the Jews had never successfully fulfilled. Jewish Christians are just as dependant upon the grace (free gift; unmerited favor) of God in Jesus Christ as the Gentile converts.

John Paraphrase:

Lazarus, of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha, had gotten sick. They were close friends of Jesus, and the sisters had sent for Jesus. Jesus had delayed coming, and Lazarus had died. (John 11:1-16; see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 17 Pentecost, even year). When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been the tomb four days. Bethany was close to Jerusalem and many Jews from Jerusalem had come to console Mary and Martha. “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she got up to meet him, while Mary sat in the house” (John 11:20).

Martha told Jesus (calling him “Lord”) that if he had been there her brother would not have died, but that even now she knew that whatever Jesus asked of God, God would give him. Jesus told her that her brother would rise again. Martha said that she knew that Lazarus would rise in the resurrection at the end of time. Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:26)? Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world (John 11:27-28).

Commentary:

Job acknowledged that God was sovereign and that God sees and punishes sin. Job’s concept of justice was that the punishment should be appropriate to the crime. Job acknowledged that he could not expect justice from God unless he himself had been just in his dealings with others. The problem was that Job thought he was as righteous as (or even more righteous than) God. Job thought he was entitled to God’s favor because of his good deeds, and blamed God for allowing him to suffer. Job was trying to dictate to God the terms of God’s judgment of Job.

Israel’s long experience living under the Law of Moses demonstrated that it is impossible for humans to fulfill the just requirements of the Law. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). God sent Jesus into the world so that our sins could be forgiven and cleansed by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. God declared that the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

One might feel that the penalty does not fit the crime, but the real sin is in defying God. God offers forgiveness and salvation, which we do not deserve and cannot earn, as a free gift through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). That doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we please because God has forgiven us. We’re free from the law which condemns us to eternal death as long as we live in obedience to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2-4).

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal destruction (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and accept him as your Lord, he promises that you will never die eternally, but instead will live eternally with him.

God’s Word says we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23). If we claim that we have not sinned, we call God a liar and we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8-10). Jesus keeps his promises! Jesus said that he is the resurrection and the life, and he raised Lazarus, who had been in the tomb for four days, from death to life.

Jesus promised that there will be a resurrection and a Day of Judgment (John 5:28-29). Those who trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who reject and refuse to obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Is God right, or do you think that you’re right and God is wrong? Good deeds won’t save us. Keeping the Jewish Laws or man-made rules won’t save us. Only a personal relationship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit will save 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)?

Friday 17 Pentecost – Even

First posted 09/30/04;
Podcast: Friday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 29:1; 31:24-40 –  Job’s final defense;
Acts 15:12-21  –  The Council at Jerusalem;
John 11:30-44  –  Lazarus raised from the dead;

Job Paraphrase:

Job continued his final defense, asserting that, if he had placed money or worldly success or power ahead of his obedience to God, if he had practiced nature-worship or any other form of idolatry, then Job agreed that he would be guilty of sin and worthy of punishment. Job denied that he had hated his enemies, been less than generous to those of his household, or neglected the traveler. Job denied that he had any guilt to hide from anyone. Job challenged God to indict him; he claimed he had nothing to fear and would consider any indictment as a symbol of honor.

Job was confident that he could account to God for every aspect of his life. Job would approach judgment nobly and unbowed (not humbly). Job said, “If I have concealed my transgressions like Adam (or like men; Job 31:33, note q, RSV; compare Genesis 3:8)…If my land has cried out against me (Job 31:38; compare Genesis 4:10-11)…let thorns grow instead of wheat” (Job 31:40; compare Genesis 3:17-18).  Job felt that he did not share in the guilt of Adam which resulted in God’s curse upon the ground (Job 31:33; 38-40; Genesis 3:17-18).

Acts Paraphrase:

Controversy over whether to require Gentile converts to be circumcised and to keep the Jewish Laws had resulted in Paul and Barnabas being delegated to go to Jerusalem to get a ruling on the issue from Church headquarters. Peter pointed out that God had given his Holy Spirit to the first Gentile converts, Cornelius and his household, who had been converted by the preaching of Peter (Symeon, i.e. Simon) at the direction of the Holy Spirit, without requiring them to be circumcised or to keep the Jewish Laws (Acts 15:1-11).

The Council listened to Paul and Barnabas describe the miracles God had done through them among the Gentiles. Then James (the kinsman of Jesus) pointed out that Peter’s observations about the conversion experience of Cornelius were supported by scripture, and cited Amos 9:11-12, Jeremiah 12: 15 (14-16), and Isaiah 45:21 to show that God intended salvation for all people.

God promised to return to rebuild this salvation from the ruins of Israel, and from the fallen dwelling of David (Acts 15:16; compare Amos 9:11). Thus James recommended that the Gentile converts not be required to conform to the Jewish Laws, and that they should merely be warned to abstain from any form of idolatry, unchastity, and from meat not ritually butchered (not bled and therefore containing its blood; i.e. strangled; this had been forbidden to Noah’s sons and thus to all mankind; Genesis 9:4. This is what was taught in the synagogues every Sabbath; Acts 15:21).

John Paraphrase:

Lazarus had been dead four days before Jesus arrived in Bethany. When Martha had heard that Jesus had arrived she went out to meet him while Mary had stayed in the home with the mourners. After Martha had talked to the Lord (John 11:17-27), she went and told Mary that Jesus had arrived and was calling Mary. Mary went to Jesus, who had not yet entered the village. When the mourners saw Mary leave abruptly, they followed, thinking that she was going to the tomb to mourn.

When Mary came to Jesus she fell at his feet saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and also the mourners who had followed her, he was deeply moved and wept also. The mourners realized how much Jesus loved Lazarus, but some said “could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying” (John 11:37)? Jesus asked where Lazarus had been laid, and Mary took him to see the tomb.

It was a cave, sealed with a stone. Jesus asked for the stone to be removed, and Martha told Jesus that there would be a stench, because the body had been in the tomb four days. Jesus told her that if she would believe she would see the glory of God. The stone was removed and Jesus prayed, thanking God the Father for hearing (and granting) what Jesus asked. Jesus wanted the witnesses to know that this miracle was by God’s power, and not sorcery. Then Jesus called Lazarus by name, and commanded him to come out. The dead man came out, covered with burial wrappings, including his face. Jesus told the people to unbind Lazarus “and let him go” (John 11:44).

Commentary:

Job denied that he possessed the sinful nature of all mankind. We’re all descendants of Adam and have inherited Adam’s sinful nature. Adam’s sin was disobedience of God’s command (Genesis 3:17). Adam desired the forbidden fruit for food (the lusts of the flesh), it was a delight to the eye (lusts of the eyes; i.e. covetousness) and it could make one wise (human pride; Genesis 3:6). Satan tempted him with the possibility of being “like God” (God’s equal; Genesis 3:5).

Job was so sure of his own righteousness that he challenged God to indict and judge him. By that very attitude he indicted himself as a descendant of Adam who had inherited Adam’s sinful nature. Job had indicted himself as guilty of trying to be God’s equal or even superior to God.

From the beginning of Creation mankind has been resisting obedience to God, his creator. It isn’t that God has been hiding from mankind, but that mankind has been trying to hide from God (Genesis 3:8). God promises that if we seek him in faith, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13; Hebrews 11:6). Mankind denies God’s existence because man wants to be his own “god;” he doesn’t want to acknowledge that he is under God’s authority.

At the time of the Flood the descendants of Noah had personal knowledge of God. God made a covenant with Noah and his sons based on God’s promise and his commands, by which all mankind is bound. Idolatry is anything which interferes with obedience to God. Blood is sacred to God; it represents life-force. Murder has been condemned from the beginning when Cain became the first murderer by killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8-12).

There was an ancient belief that one who drank the blood of an animal received the spirit of that animal (and obtained that animal’s nature). God specifically forbade the Israelites from drinking blood or eating meat containing blood for this reason. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist; Sacrament of Holy Communion) on the night before his Crucifixion he declared that the wine was his blood, shed on the cross as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, so that believers could drink it in faith and receive forgiveness and the infilling of his Holy Spirit. God doesn’t want us to be filled with animal spirits; he wants us to be filled with his Holy Spirit!

All of us share the sin-nature of Adam; we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). There is a Day of Judgment coming when we will all be accountable to the Lord. Jesus will stand at the door of the tomb and call us forth as he called Lazarus (John 11:43; compare John 5:28-29). Those who are judged righteous will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who are judged unrighteous will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil.

None of us will be judged righteous on our own merit or deeds. God loves and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see “God’s plan of salvation,” sidebar, top right, home). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will be saved and live eternally in paradise restored in Heaven; those who have rejected and disobeyed Jesus will receive eternal death, punishment and shame in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46).  When Jesus calls you forth from the grave, will he release you from the bonds of sin and death and free you to live eternally with him, or will he send you bound, to be imprisoned eternally in death and misery in Hell?

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 17 Pentecost – Even

First posted 10/01/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 17 Pentecost – Even

Job 38:1-17  –   God speaks;
Acts 15:22-35  –  Apostolic decree;
John 11:45-54 –  The Sanhedrin plots to kill Jesus;

Job Paraphrase:

Job had been seeking personal communication with God. Job had asked why misfortune had happened to him. Now God answered Job. The Lord said that Job had obscured the truth by speaking without knowledge.  Job had been trying to interrogate God; now God will interrogate Job. Job had challenged God’s sovereignty. Now God challenges Job’s qualifications. God is the creator of earth, the heavens, sea, time, space, and light; and the restrainer and punisher of darkness (evil). How did Job compare with God; did Job think he was qualified to be God?

Acts Paraphrase:

A controversy had arisen in the Church over whether Gentile converts should be required to be circumcised and keep the Jewish laws. The issue had been decided by the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-21), and Silas (Silvanus),  and Judas Barsabas, Christian leaders in Jerusalem, accompanied Paul and Barnabas as they returned to Antioch (in Syria) with a letter to the churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilisia stating the decision of the Council. The letter exhorted the Gentile Christians to abstain from idolatry (participation in sacrifices offered to idols; compare 1 Corinthians 10:27-29), from eating or drinking blood (meat not butchered according to Jewish ritual; not bled; i.e., strangled), and from unchastity.

When they arrived in Antioch they delivered the letter and when it had been read the congregation rejoiced at the exhortation. Judas and Silas were prophets, and they exhorted and strengthened the congregation. After spending some time at Antioch they returned to Jerusalem, but Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching, along with many others.

John Paraphrase:

Because of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44), many Jews (Judeans) believed in Jesus; but some reported Jesus’ miracle to the Pharisees. The Jewish religious council of chief priests and Pharisees gathered to rule on this matter. They were afraid that if they allowed Jesus to continue preaching and working miracles, that everyone would believe in Jesus, and the Romans would come and destroy the holy place (the Temple) and the nation. But Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, told them they knew nothing; that they did not understand that it was in their best interest that one person should die for the people, so that the whole nation would not perish.

Caiaphas said this, not of his own authority, but he prophesied, because of his office as high priest, that Jesus should die not only for the Jews but for all who would become children of God (through faith in Jesus). From that day, the Jewish authorities plotted to execute Jesus. So Jesus no longer went about openly, but stayed with his disciples in a town near the wilderness called Ephraim in the Judean hills about fourteen miles north of Jerusalem.

Commentary:

Job had obscured the truth by speaking without knowledge. He lacked a personal relationship with, and knowledge of, God. Job had come to think that he was equal or even superior to God, because Job considered himself righteous and not deserving of suffering. Job had questioned God. Now God revealed himself to Job in the whirlwind (a symbol for the manifestation of God’s presence; compare Nahum 1:3, Zechariah 9:14, Psalm 50:3 RSV, Ezek 1:4; 2 Kings 2:11; Jeremiah 4:13); now God spoke to Job; God interrogated Job.

The Church was divided over the issue of circumcision and the keeping of Jewish law. The controversy was resolved by the church leaders in Jerusalem. Apostles who had been filled with and led by the Holy Spirit, used their experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:7-11), in agreement with the scriptures (Acts 15:13-21), to reach their decision. The result was in the best interest of the Gentile Christians and the Church. It was liberating rather than repressive.

The Jewish religious leaders knew a lot about God and the scriptures, but they didn’t know God personally because they didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Son. They knew the scriptures and they had the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the prophecy by Caiaphas, but they did not allow their decision to be guided by these. They knew the scriptures but they did not understand them because they did not listen to the Holy Spirit. Instead, they made their decision based on their personal interests rather that on God’s will.

They had the opportunity to cooperate with God’s plan, but chose to follow their own plan. God’s plan anticipated that. God’s plan will be fulfilled whether we choose to cooperate with it or not. The only question each individual must answer for himself is which side of God’s plan we will be on.

The Jewish religious leaders thought it was in their best interest from their worldly viewpoint to kill Jesus. They were afraid of losing their jobs as religious leaders of the people (John 11:48a); of losing their Temple and their national status as People of God (John 11:48b). Their plan was to kill Jesus to prevent this, but it actually brought it about.

Judaism effectively ended at the Crucifixion of Jesus. Jerusalem and the Temple (and the system of sacrifice required by Jewish law) were destroyed by the Roman Legions in 70 A.D. The Jews were scattered throughout the world and it is only since World War II that Israel has been re-established as a nation. What they thought was in their best interest turned out to be in their worst interest. They were not freed but instead repressed.

How are we doing? Are we seeking a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit? Are we seeking to know and do God’s will by studying the scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or are we pursuing human careers and agendas. Are we proclaiming the truth based on personal knowledge and experience of the Lord, or are we obscuring the truth because we speak without that personal knowledge?

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 16 Pentecost – Even – 09/28 – 10/04/2014

September 27, 2014

Week of 16 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 16 Pentecost – Even
Sunday 16 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/18/04;
Podcast: Sunday 16 Pentecost – Even

Job 11:1-9, 13-20  –  Zophar accuses Job;
Revelation 5:1-14  –  Worthy is the Lamb;
Matthew 5:1-12  – The Beatitudes;

Job Paraphrase:

Zophar, the Naamathite (probably from Naamah in Arabia) one of Job’s three friends, rebuked Job for complaining and accused him of wrongdoing. Zophar suggested that Job had claimed to be pure in doctrine and clean in God’s eyes, but that God would have a different judgment. Zophar told Job that God had exacted less punishment than Job’s guilt deserves. Zophar points out mankind’s limitations compared to God’s infinite faculties. Can man find out the deep things of God? Can one find the boundaries of the Almighty? They are beyond man’s comprehension.

Rvelation Paraphrase:

John,  the Apostle, described a vision, which he received from Jesus Christ through an angel (Revelation 1:1), of God on his throne in Heaven. In his right hand God held a scroll sealed with seven seals. In a loud voice, a strong angel asked who was worthy to break the seals of the scroll and open it. No one in heaven or earth was found to be worthy to open the seals and look into the scroll. John was very sad that no one was found to be worthy. Then one of the twenty-four elders (probably representing the twelve Old Testament Patriarchs and the Twelve Apostles of the New Testament), comforted John and declared that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9-10), the Root of David (Isaiah 11:1,10; i.e., the Messiah; Jesus Christ) had conquered, so he is able to open the scrolls and its seven seals.

Between the throne of God and the four living creatures (perhaps representing mankind and all creatures) and among the elders, John saw a Lamb (Jesus Christ) who appeared to have been slain. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes (representing unlimited power and insight; “seven” represents completeness; infinity) and the seven spirits of God (representing the infinite power and presence of God’s Spirit). The Lamb took the scroll from the right hand of God.

Then the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and a golden bowl of incense, representing the prayers of the saints. They sang a new song, saying that the Lamb is worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because he was slain and by his blood people of every tribe, language, race and nation were ransomed for God, to become a kingdom and priests to God and to reign upon the earth.

Then John saw that this group at the throne of God was surrounded by an innumerably large group of angels saying in a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to received power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12; note the sevenfold praise). Every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth (those who have died) and in the sea, praised God and the Lamb as equally worthy of eternal praise, honor, glory and power. The four living creatures said Amen (meaning “let it be so”)! And the elders bowed down and worshiped God and the Lamb.

Matthew Background:

The Beatitudes are the beginning of what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27), which is a synopsis of Jesus’ teaching. It is Jesus’ announcement of the coming Kingdom of God which he came to accomplish. It is addressed to Jesus’ disciples. The Beatitudes proclaim God’s favor to those who are committed to living within God’s reign.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Blessed are those who recognize their spiritual “neediness;” God’s eternal kingdom is open to them. The Lord will comfort and strengthen those who mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2). The meek will inherit the earth (Psalm 37:11). Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied (Isaiah 55:1-2; John 4:14; 6:48-51). The merciful will obtain mercy (Matthew 6:12).

Those who are “pure in heart” (sincere; not divided in their loyalties) will see God. Those who earnestly work to make peace will be called sons of God. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Those who are hated and persecuted for Jesus’ sake are blessed. Those who proclaim Jesus can expect persecution; the world has always persecuted those who proclaim God’s Word. Those persecuted for Jesus’ sake can rejoice that they will receive great reward in Heaven.

Commentary:

No one can claim to be blameless in God’s judgment, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). What we deserve is eternal death, but God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). We need to recognize and acknowledge our human limitations and God’s infinite powers. God has plans which only he knows.

God has a plan for eternity. It is sealed (unalterable) and known only by God. Only Jesus Christ, the Messianic King, can carry out that plan. Jesus is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed (on the cross), whose blood marks the people of God so that the Destroyer will pass over them and they will not be eternally destroyed (Exodus 12:13). No one can enter that eternal kingdom except through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is worshiped as equal with God in majesty and infinite power (Revelation 5:6, 13) and in identity with the Spirit (Revelation 5:6; i.e., the Trinity). The call to be a kingdom and priests, originally given to Israel (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6) has been transferred to the Church (1 Peter 2:9; the Church is the New Israel; the kingdom of God; God’s people).

God’s kingdom is coming whether we want it or not. Jesus is Lord, whether we acknowledge him or not. The plan for God’s eternal kingdom was accomplished at Jesus’ crucifixion. God won’t force anyone to live in his eternal kingdom, but he promises that those who choose to accept Jesus as their Lord will be blessed eternally.

The other side of the blessing is the warning. Woe to those who those who do not realize their spiritual poverty. Woe to those who do not mourn now. Woe to those who are not meek; who do not long for righteousness; who are not merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers; and who are unwilling to bear persecution for the name of Jesus (compare Luke 6:20-26).

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 the kingdom of Heaven; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with Satan and all evil. (John 5:28-28; 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)?

Monday 16 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/19/04;
Podcast: Monday 16 Pentecost – Even

Job 12:1-6, 13-25  –  Job affirms God’s Omnipotence;
Acts 11:19-30  –  Mission to the Greeks;
John 8:21-32  –  The Truth Will Make You Free;

Job Paraphrase:

Job rebukes his friends for presuming that they are wiser than Job because he is suffering and they aren’t. Job, a righteous and blameless person who claimed a personal relationship with God, had become an object of ridicule because of his troubles. Job points out that it is easy for the comfortable to look with contempt on the unfortunate. Job notes that often it is the godless and unrighteous who seem to have peace and comfort. God’s wisdom and power are superior to ours. Man cannot hope to prevail over God. God is not impressed with human status or accomplishment.

 Acts Paraphrase:

After the stoning of Stephen, believers were scattered from Judea into the surrounding area. Some traveled as far as Phoenicia (on the Mediterranean coast of Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel), Cyprus (the island off the coast of Syria), and Antioch (in Syria). The believers generally sought out Jewish exiles and shared the Gospel only with Jews, but some converts from Cyprus and Cyrene (in modern Libya in North Africa) shared the Gospel of Jesus with Gentiles also, and there were a great number of Gentile converts.

This news reached Jerusalem and the Church sent Barnabas [an apostle originally from Cyprus who had advocated for Paul (Saul of Tarsus) at Jerusalem after Paul’s conversion; Acts 9:26-27] to Antioch. Barnabas was a good man “full of the Holy Spirit” and he rejoiced at the new Gentile believers and “exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord” (Acts 11:23 RSV). Since there was a large company of new believers Barnabas went to Tarsus and brought Paul back to Antioch, where for a whole year they taught (“discipled”) the new believers. It was at Antioch at this time where Jesus’ disciples were first called “Christians.”

A prophet named Agabus came from Jerusalem to Antioch and foretold by the Holy Spirit that there would be a worldwide famine, and this took place (probably in A.D. 46*), as foretold, in the days of Claudius (the fourth Roman emperor, who succeeded Caligula in A.D. 41*, and died in A.D. 54*). The disciples took an offering for the Christians who lived in Judea, sending it to the elders (in Jerusalem) carried by Barnabas and Saul (Paul).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles. As he taught in the Temple, Jesus said to the Pharisees that he would go away and that they would seek him and die in their sins. The Jews wondered if Jesus intended to kill himself, since he had said that where he was going they could not come.

Jesus told them that they are from below, but Jesus is from above; they are of this world, but Jesus is not of this world. Jesus had told them that they would die in their sins because that is what would happen to them unless they believed “that I am he” (John 8:24). They said, “Who are you” (John 8:25). Jesus replied that he was who he had told them he was from the beginning.

Jesus told them he had much to say about them and much to judge, but the One (God the Father) who had sent him is true, and that Jesus declares to the world what he heard from him, but they did not understand that he spoke of the Father. Jesus told them that, when they had lifted up the Son of man, then they would know that Jesus is he and that Jesus did nothing on his own authority, but according to all that the Father taught him. Jesus declared that the Father was with him and had not forsaken him because Jesus was completely obedient to the Father.

Many believed what Jesus said. Jesus told the Jews who had believed in him that if they continued in (obedience to) Jesus’ word, that they would truly be Jesus’ disciples and that they would know the truth and the truth would make them free.

Commentary:

The world equates success with righteousness and God’s favor. Job’s friends deduced from Job’s suffering that he must have deserved it. Job points out the error of this reasoning. Those who claim a relationship with God are persecuted while the godless and unrighteous seem to have peace and comfort.

Jesus told his disciples that they would have persecution, because the world has always persecuted those who proclaim God’s Word (Matthew 5:10-12; see entry for yesterday, Sunday, 16 Pentecost, even year.) God’s plan was designed with persecution taken into account. The persecution which arose with the stoning of Stephen didn’t hinder the spread of the Gospel; it promoted and encouraged it. The disciples were scattered to the outlying areas, and the Gospel was proclaimed to Gentiles rather than only to Jews.

Barnabas is an example of a true Christian, who welcomed a new convert even though the convert wasn’t an “insider” and had a questionable reputation. That convert was Paul (Saul) who became one of the greatest evangelists of all time to the Gentiles, and the prototype and example of the “post-Resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian.

The Christians at Antioch cared for and contributed according to their means to provide relief for the unfortunate. Christians are not called to be comfortable or successful; they’re called to be faithful disciples (Acts 11:23 RSV). Note that Christians are by definition disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciples are not just a special category of “super-Christian.” One cannot truly be a Christian without being a disciple.

Jesus warned the Pharisees that they would die eternally in unforgiven sin unless they believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus knew that would be their fate, because Jesus was physically present among them, and they were hearing him and seeing the miracles he was doing and they still hadn’t believed. After Jesus ascended into heaven they would continue to look for the coming Messiah but they would never find him, because they had failed to recognize him when he was present.

The Pharisees were so focused on worldly success and status that they could not see the spiritual significance of what Jesus was saying and doing. Spiritual success is achieved by obedience to Jesus. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus and not do what he commands.

How are we doing? Are we willing to risk discomfort for Jesus, or are we seeking to be comfortable and successful by worldly standards. Are we willing to take the Gospel into the world, or do we prefer to stay within the Church where we are comfortable? Do we look with contempt on the “unsuccessful” and unfortunate?

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Do you know 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)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Acts 11:28n, p. 1333, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Tuesday 16 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/20/04;
Podcast: Tuesday 16 Pentecost – Even 

Job 12:1; 13:3-17. 21-27   –  Job’s despair;
Acts 12:1-17  –  Herod Agrippa’s persecution;
John 8:33-47 –  Jesus is the truth;

Job Paraphrase:

Job longed to present his case to God. Job rebuked his friends, saying that they “whitewash with lies” and were worthless physicians. Job accused his friends of speaking falsely for God and showing partiality toward God. Job asked his friends to consider how they would fare in Job’s place. Is God as easily deceived as mankind? God will surely rebuke Job’s friends if they show partiality. They would surely be humbled in the majesty of God’s presence. Their answers are superficial and empty. Job saw no other recourse, and was ready to commit himself to risk coming before God to present his case.

Job hoped that because he was God-fearing that he might survive his encounter with God. Job asked God to reassure and calm Job’s fear of God, so that Job could approach God to present his case, and then to allow Job to speak. Job asked God to show him his sins and help him know his transgressions. Job felt that God was avoiding Job and considered Job his enemy. Job felt that he was perhaps being punished disproportionately for the sins of his youth. Job felt shackled and imprisoned.

 Acts Paraphrase:

Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, was made king of Judea by Roman Emperor Claudius in A.D 41. Around this time Herod began persecuting Christians. He killed the Apostle James, John’s brother) with the sword. When Herod saw that this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested and imprisoned. This occurred during the feast of the Passover, and Herod intended to try Peter after the festival.

Peter was imprisoned under heavy guard. He was sleeping between two soldiers, he was bound with two chains, and there were sentries at the door guarding the prison. An angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. The angel awakened Peter and told him to get up quickly. Peter’s chains fell from his hands. The angel told him to dress and follow the angel.

Peter did as instructed, but did not realize that what was happening was real; he thought he was having a vision. They passed by both guards and came to the gate, which opened on it own accord. They left the prison and went down the street. At that point the angel disappeared.

Peter realized that this was not a vision and that he had been saved from Herod’s intentions by the angel of the Lord. Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many believers were gathered and praying. Peter knocked and Rhoda, the maid, came to answer, but when she recognized Peter’s voice, in her joy she ran to tell the others, leaving Peter standing at the gate.

The others thought Rhoda was crazy; or that it must be Peter’s spirit, but Peter knocked again, and they opened and saw that it was him.  Peter motioned for them to be silent and then described how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. Peter told them to pass the news to James [Son of Alphaeus; brother (or cousin) of Jesus] and the brethren.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had told the Jews who had believed in him that if they continued to trust and obey Jesus’ word they would be Jesus’ disciples and they would know the truth and the truth would make them free (John 8:31-32). They replied that they were descendents of Abraham and had never been in bondage to anyone. Jesus replied that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. Slaves have no inheritance in the Master’s estate, but the Son has the power to free the slaves (and make them sons and brothers).

Jesus knew that the Jews were physical descendants of Abraham, but they proved by their actions that they were not spiritual descendants of Abraham. They did not have the faith of Abraham, so they didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus spoke God’s Word, but the unbelieving Jews acted according to the nature of their spiritual father, Satan, and sought to kill Jesus. They insisted that they were Abraham’s children, but Jesus pointed out that their actions denied that claim. They insisted that they were not born of fornication, and insisted that God was their Father. Jesus replied that if God was their Father they would love Jesus, because Jesus came from God and was sent by God.

Jesus told them that they couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying because they couldn’t bear to hear the truth. Jesus declared that they shared the nature of their spiritual father, Satan, and that their desire was to do Satan’s will. Satan is a murderer and in him there is no truth. Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The unbelieving Jews had rejected Jesus for telling them the truth. Who can convict Jesus of sin? Anyone who believes in God recognizes and obeys God’s Word. The reason people do not recognize and obey God’s Word is because they do not believe God.

Commentary:

Job recognized that his hope for truth, freedom and justice lay only in God. His friends meant well, but they could only offer worldly, human, superficial and empty answers. Only God could heal Job. Job was ready to risk coming to God to present his case. Job hoped that the fact that he believed in and reverenced God would save him from God’s wrath. Job gave up his insistence that he was blameless, and asked God to show him his faults. Job felt shackled and imprisoned by sin and despair.

Peter was imprisoned awaiting probable execution. It was the middle of the night, when the angel of the Lord came to Peter; the light of the Lord shone in the darkness of that cell. Peter’s chains fell from him; the doors were unlocked; the guards were powerless. The Lord had delivered Peter from prison and bondage and restored him to life.

Jesus told believers that if they continue to trust and obey his words they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free. The Jews insisted that they were descendants of Abraham and had never been in bondage, which was not true. They were forgetting their history of slavery in Egypt, and they did not acknowledge their present bondage to sin and death. They couldn’t understand Jesus’ words because they couldn’t bear to know the truth, and it is that truth alone which could set them free from bondage to sin and death.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). 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 anyone to perish (John 3:16). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s plan of salvation, sidebar, top right, home). We are all “prisoners of sin” awaiting eternal execution, until we turn to Jesus in trust and obedience.

It is Jesus who makes it possible to approach God without fear. If we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, Jesus will release us from all our sins and give us freedom and eternal life in him. It is Jesus who restores us to fellowship with God.

Are we willing to acknowledge our sinful nature? Are we willing to hear the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable? Do we acknowledge that Jesus is the truth and that he alone can heal and restore us, or do we think we can find truth and help elsewhere? Do we think church membership makes us children of God?

Whose child are 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)?


Wednesday 16 Pentecost – Even 
First posted 09/21/04;
Podcast:
Wednesday 16 Pentecost – Even 

Job 12:1; 14:1-22  –   The frailty of mankind;
Acts 12:18-25 –   Herod’s death;
John 8:47-59   –  Whom do we glorify?

Job Paraphrase:

Job said that human life is short and full of trouble. Like flowers, we fade; like shadows, we disappear. What is mankind that the Lord would hold him accountable? “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean” (Job 14:4)? Since man’s days are few and God has fixed limits man cannot pass, God should overlook man’s shortcomings and allow mankind to enjoy their brief lives. Job points out that there is hope for a tree that it may re-sprout even if cut back to the stump, but there is no hope for man beyond the grave (as far as Job knows).

Job asked, “If a man die, shall he live again” (Job 14:14)? Job said that, if so, he would wait patiently through all the days of his troubles, until his release would come. Job felt as if God was counting each of Job’s steps, but Job longed for a relationship with God where God would no longer keep account of Job’s sins. God would call and Job would answer. Job’s transgression would be sealed up in a bag and his iniquity would be covered. But mountains crumble and water wears away stone; since the most durable things wear away, what hope can mankind have? Life is a constant struggle, and in death there is only pain and mourning.

Acts Paraphrase:

 Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great was made king of Judea in A.D. 41 by Roman Emperor Claudius. Herod wanted to be popular with the Judeans. He had the Apostle James (brother of John) killed by the sword, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he arrested Peter also (Acts 12:3; see entry for yesterday Tuesday, 16 Pentecost, even year). The angel of the Lord freed Peter from prison. When day came, Herod sent for Peter, and Peter wasn’t found in prison. This caused a great commotion; Herod interrogated the sentries and ordered them executed for allowing Peter’s escape. Herod went to Caesarea and dwelt there.

There was a feud between Herod and the people of Tyre and Sidon. They came to Herod in a large delegation and asked for a treaty, because they were dependent on Herod’s country for food. On an appointed day, Herod appeared before them on his throne and gave a speech. The people cheered Herod, saying that he spoke with the voice of a god and not of a man. Immediately Herod was stricken by an angel of the Lord, and he was eaten by worms and died.

The Word of God grew and multiplied. Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, [where they had delivered an offering for famine relief for the brethren of Judea (Acts 11:29)], bringing with them John Mark.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus told unbelievers that the reason they do not recognize that Jesus is proclaiming God’s Word is because they have not committed themselves to trust and obey God. The Jewish religious authorities accused Jesus of being a Samaritan (a spiritual “mongrel;” racially and religiously mixed) possessed by a demon. Jesus replied that he did not have a demon, but that he honored God and they dishonored Jesus. Jesus didn’t seek his own glory; he trusted that God would vindicate him. Jesus told them that those who keep Jesus’ words will never die.

The Jews thought that Jesus’saying proved that he had a demon, because even Abraham had died. They asked Jesus who he claimed to be. Jesus replied that he didn’t seek glory; his Father, God, glorifies Jesus. Jesus told the Jews that they claimed to know God but that they did not, and that their claim was a lie. Jesus knows God and obeys God’s Word.

Jesus told them that Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. The Jews replied that Jesus couldn’t be more than fifty years old, so how could he have claimed to have seen Abraham? Jesus said, “…before Abraham was, I AM” (I AM is the name by which God identified himself to Moses; Exodus 3:14). At this they took up stones to kill Jesus, but he hid himself and left the temple.

Commentary:

Without hope of eternal life, suffering in this life would be unbearable. If Job could look forward to life beyond the grave, he could endure his present suffering with patience and see death as his release from suffering. Job longed for a relationship with God in which he would not be constantly judged by God. He longed to have a relationship with God where his sins were forgiven and remembered no more.

Herod sought worldly popularity and success. He sought to please men instead of trying to please God. [He coerced his popularity among the people of Tyre and Sidon by controlling their food supply (Acts 12:20).] He first inherited power in A.D. 37, was appointed king of Judea in A.D. 41, and died in A.D. 44. He had achieved worldly popularity and success, but it was very brief. He died because he put his will ahead of God’s; he sought his own honor and glory instead of God’s.

The Jewish leaders were not seeking God’s glory; they were seeking their own glory and worldly status. They were so focused on worldly things that they couldn’t see the spiritual implications of what Jesus said. Jesus promised that those who obey Jesus’ words will not die eternally; he was not speaking about physical death.

Jesus kept telling them who he was, but they couldn’t accept what Jesus said. They claimed to know and believe God, but they didn’t recognize and believe Jesus, the Son of God, in whom the whole fullness of God dwelt bodily (Colossians 2:8-9). Jesus didn’t seek his own glory or worldly success; instead he trusted and obeyed God and left his glory and success in God’s hands, and God has glorified Jesus above every name in heaven and earth (Philippians 2:8-11).

Jesus is God’s gift to us, through whom we are forgiven all our sins and restored to fellowship with God. Our sins will be forgiven and forgotten (Hebrews 8:12). Through Jesus, God can make an unclean thing clean and give us eternal life. Through the Holy Spirit of Christ we can hear God call and can be obedient to that call.

We can choose whether we will spend our earthly lives honoring and glorifying the Lord or ourselves. If we choose to pursue our own success and glory we will receive eternal death and dishonor (John 5:28-29); but if we choose to honor and glorify the Lord, he will give us eternal honor, glory and life (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)?


Thursday 16 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 09/22/04;
Podcast: Thursday 16 Pentecost – Even 

Job 16:16-22; 17:1, 13-16 –  A mediator in heaven;
Acts 13:1-12 –  Elymas struck blind;
John 9:1-17  –  Healing a man born blind;

Job Paraphrase:

Job prayed that his cause would not be forgotten; that he would have a witness in heaven to vouch for him, who “would maintain the right of a man with God, like that of a man with his neighbor” (Job 16:21). Job’s spirit was broken; death was closing in. Job lamented that death is the end of hope.

Acts Paraphrase:

In the Church in Antioch there were a number of prophets and teachers. While they were worshiping, the Holy Spirit told them to appoint Saul (Paul) and Barnabas to work which the Spirit would show them. So the congregation laid hands on Saul and Barnabas and commissioned them to this work.

Led by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas sailed to the island of Cypress, and arrived at Salamis, the largest city (on the east end), where they began to proclaim the Gospel in the Jewish synagogues. They traveled through the island until they arrived at Paphos on the western shore. There the Roman Proconsul named Sergius Paulus summoned Saul and Barnabas, desiring to hear the Gospel.

With the proconsul they encountered a Jewish false prophet named Elymas (meaning “magician”) Bar-Jesus (“son of Jesus;” or “son of Joshua;” Jesus is the Greek word for the Hebrew name “Joshua”), who opposed Saul and Barnabas and was trying to turn the proconsul from the Gospel. Saul looked directly at Elymas and called him a son of the Devil and an enemy of righteousness. He told Elymas to “stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord” (Acts 13:10), and invoked the hand of the Lord to cause temporary blindness in Elymas. Immediately Elymas became blind and needed someone to lead him by the hand. The proconsul was amazed at the teaching of the Lord and he believed the Gospel when he saw what had occurred.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus encountered a man who had been born blind, and his disciples asked him whose sin had caused this. Jesus denied that the disability was caused by sin, and suggested that the cause was not important; what was important was the opportunity for God to heal. Jesus said that it was important not to miss opportunities now to do the work of God, because there would come a time when further work would no longer be possible.

Jesus declared that he is the light of the world. Jesus spat on the ground, made mud of the spittle and dirt, anointed the man’s eyes with the mud, and told the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam (which means “Sent”). The man did as instructed and returned seeing.

Those who had known the man as a blind beggar recognized him and were amazed; some believed that it was he, but others thought he only resembled the blind man they knew. The man testified that he was the man. They asked how he had been healed and the man told them how Jesus had healed him. The people asked him where Jesus was and the man did not know.

They brought the healed man to the Pharisees. The healing had taken place on the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked and the man told them how Jesus had healed him. Some of the Pharisees said that Jesus was not of God because he had broken the Sabbath, while others said that if Jesus were a sinner he could not do such a healing. So there was disagreement among them and they asked the healed man what he thought about Jesus. The man declared, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17).

Commentary:

Job foresaw a mediator who would be the advocate for mankind before God. Job’s suffering had brought him to recognize his need for the mediator, and made him receptive to God’s self-revelation. Job realized that death is the end of hope.

The First Century Church was marked by the occurrence of numerous prophets and teachers. Prophecy and teaching are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and are to be expected in any healthy disciple-making congregation. The congregation’s ministry was directed by the Holy Spirit. Spirit-filled members were sent out into the surrounding area, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Saul (Paul) had been struck blind by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus because he was opposing the Gospel of Jesus, and was later healed when he repented and believed in Jesus (Acts 9:1-20). Physical affliction had made Saul receptive to God’s self-revelation to Saul through Jesus Christ; it made Saul recognize and acknowledge his spiritual blindness. Elymas’ suffered the same spiritual blindness. Saul invoked physical blindness on Elymas, in the name of the Lord, for opposing the Gospel, in the hope that Elymas might come to spiritual healing.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). Affliction and trouble in this world are not evidence of God’s condemnation any more than worldly success and honor are evidence of God’s approval.  Affliction and trouble are opportunities to recognize our human limitations and our need for God. Affliction and trouble happen to everyone at some time in their lives.

Christians are called to be ministers of God’s healing to people when they are receptive. People often cannot recognize their spiritual need until they experience physical need. Jesus is the light of the world. As the blind man trusted and obeyed Jesus’ words, he received his sight; the darkness of his blindness was replaced by light. He was able to walk by the light Jesus had given him.

All have sinned, and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is our mediator (1Timothy 2:5). Jesus vouches for the forgiveness of our sins by his blood (death; sacrifice on the Cross), provided that we are in the New Covenant through trust and obedience in Jesus (Hebrews 9:15). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven; those who reject and do not obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in hell (Matthew 25:31-46; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Physical death is the end of hope, for those who are not in Christ, by faith (obedient trust) in him. We have only this lifetime in which to receive salvation in Jesus Christ. (We cannot be “prayed out” or “baptized out” of our eternal destiny after our physical death.) No one can be certain that they will live until tomorrow. Jesus is the only one who can heal spiritual blindness. Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11-12). The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual enlightenment, guidance, and empowerment (John 14:15-17). My personal experience testifies to these truths.

Physical death is not the end of hope for believers in Jesus Christ. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will have been “born-again” by the gift (anointing) of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee of salvation and eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who have received the indwelling Holy Spirit have a personal fellowship with the risen Jesus and can be certain that because Jesus is eternally alive, we will also be raised to eternal life (Romans 8:11).

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 16 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 09/23/04;
Podcast: Friday 16 Pentecost – Even 

Job 19:1-7, 14-27  –  My Redeemer lives;
Acts 13:13-25  –  Sermon at Antioch of Pisidia;
John 9:18-41  –  Blindness;

Job Paraphrase:

Job’s friends blamed Job for his suffering. Job admited that his words may have erred, but that they did not constitute sin against God or other people. Job’s situation had reduced him to less than human dignity, but he reminded his friends that if they exalted themselves in comparison to Job and made Job’s humiliation an argument against Job, that it was God who had allowed Job’s suffering, and that did not mean that they are more worthy of honor than Job.

Job felt completely alienated from God and mankind. His kinfolk and close friends had failed him. His servants refused to acknowledge him. He was repulsive to his wife and brothers. Job mourned that his friends attacked him instead of showing him compassion. Job longed to be vindicated by posterity, his story recorded in a book, or engraved on a monument.

Job expressed faith that his “Redeemer (or Vindicator) lives and at last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Job believed that after his flesh had been destroyed by physical death, he would see God for himself, with his own eyes. Job warned those who seemed intent on unjustly blaming Job that there will be a day of judgment when wrongdoing will be punished.

Acts Paraphrase:

On Paul’s first missionary trip, after the conversion of the Roman proconsul at Paphos on Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch of Pisidia (in Asia Minor north of Pamphylia; distinct from Antioch, which is in Syria). On the Sabbath they attended the Synagogue, and the leaders of the Synagogue invited them to preach.

Paul began to preach the Gospel by reviewing the history of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt, God’s leading during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, bringing them into the Promised Land and giving them victory over the people who had occupied the land. God had given them judges. Then they had asked for a king and God had given them Saul (the son of Kish; not Saul of Tarsus) and later David, of whom God declared, “…a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22). “From this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (Acts 13:23; Psalms 89:20-36). John the Baptizer had come before Jesus, preaching a baptism of repentance. John had said that he was not the promised Savior, but preceded the Savior’s coming.

John Paraphrase:

On a Sabbath, Jesus had healed a man who had been born blind. The religious leaders considered this a breach of Sabbath Laws and began to investigate (John 9:1-17). After interrogating the man, they didn’t believe that the man had been born blind so they questioned his parents.

The parents verified that the man was their son and that he had been born blind. The parents said they did not know who healed him or how, but they told the authorities to ask the son, who was of age and could speak for himself. The parents feared the religious authorities because the authorities had warned that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ (Messiah) would be expelled from the synagogue.

The authorities called the man and told him to give praise to God for his healing, and they declared that Jesus was a sinner. The man replied that he did not know if Jesus was a sinner, but he knew that he had been blind but now he saw. They asked him again how he had been healed, and the man asked them why they wanted to hear it again. He suggested that perhaps they might want to become Jesus’ disciples.

The authorities reviled the man, saying that he was Jesus’ disciple; they were disciples of Moses. They said that they were certain that God had spoken to Moses, but they did not know where Jesus comes from. The man was amazed that, in spite of evidence that Jesus had healed the man’s blindness, they were uncertain about Jesus’ authenticity.

The man said, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him” (John 9:31). Never before in human history had anyone been healed of blindness. If Jesus were not of God, he could do nothing. The religious authorities replied, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us” (John 9:34)? Then they expelled the man from membership in the synagogue.

Jesus heard that the man had been expelled, and came to him and asked if he believed in the Son of man. The man expressed willingness to believe and Jesus revealed himself to him as the Son of man. The man called him Lord, and declared his faith in Jesus as the Son of man, and he worshiped Jesus. Jesus declared that he had come into the world to heal the blind, and to cause those who see to become blind.

Some Pharisees overheard this and asked Jesus if he thought they were blind also. Jesus replied that if they were blind they would have no guilt; but since they declared that they could see they were accountable for their guilt.

Commentary:

Job longed to be restored to fellowship with God. He longed to be in God’s presence; to see God. Job’s experience of alienation from his family and friends is an accurate picture of how the world responds to the “down-and out.” The world tends to blame the victim. Job longed for a Redeemer, a Vindicator, who would vindicate Job and restore him to fellowship with God, and Job expressed faith that his Redeemer lives and that the Redeemer would be revealed.

God had been revealing himself to Israel through her history. God delivered Israel from bondage to sin and death in Egypt. God led them through the wilderness by his Spirit in the pillar of smoke and fire. God led them into the land he had promised to give them.

God demonstrated government by a righteous judge. When they wanted a king, God raised Saul and then David. God had promised to bring forth from David’s descendants an eternal king, the Messiah (Christ), who would be the righteous judge of all the earth, a Savior, Redeemer, and Vindicator.

Israel was looking for the coming Messiah. John the Baptizer had come to prepare Israel by leading them to repent and to look for the coming of the Messiah. Paul and the followers of Jesus were proclaiming the good news that God had fulfilled his promise; that Jesus is the Messiah; God’s anointed eternal king and promised Savior.

The scriptures contained God’s promise to send the Messiah. The religious leaders claimed to know and believe God and God’s Word, they claimed to be looking for the coming of the Messiah, yet they stood in his very presence and with their own eyes saw him reveal who he was and still refused to believe. That is spiritual blindness!

The man who was healed of his blindness was willing to believe. He listened to Jesus’ words, he trusted and obeyed Jesus (John 9:7), he was willing to believe and obey (John 9:36) and Jesus revealed himself to that man (John 9:37). The religious leaders were spiritually blind and yet emphatically denied it. The result was that they were not healed of their blindness; they did not see their Savior and Redeemer, and their sins were not forgiven.

Jesus is the Savior, the Redeemer, Vindicator, and Righteous Judge who will return to judge all who have ever lived on Earth. Those who have trusted and obeyed him will receive eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven with Jesus as our eternal King. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal death in Hell with all evil (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)?

Saturday 16 Pentecost – Even 

First posted 09/24/04;
Podcast:
Saturday 16 Pentecost – Even

Job 22:1-4, 21-23:7  –  Job yearns for God;
Acts 13:26-43  –  Fulfillment of scripture;
John 10:1-18  –  The Good Shepherd;

Job Paraphrase:

Eliphaz the Temanite (from Teman, in Edom), one of Job’s three friends who had come to console Job during his suffering, suggested that God does not need man; it is man who needs God. Man’s wisdom benefits himself, not God. Man’s righteousness also benefits himself, rather than God. God reproves us and judges us for our benefit. “Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his Word in your heart” (Job 22: 21-22 RSV).

If one returns to the Almighty and humbles oneself, stops doing unrighteousness, turns from idolatry, and makes the Almighty his treasure, then one will delight in the Lord and worship him. Then he will call on the Lord and the Lord will hear him. God will prosper him and give him understanding. God humbles the proud but saves the meek. God delivers the innocent; if you would be delivered, do what is right. Then Job responded with renewed longing for access to God’s presence which seemed to elude him. Job longed for God’s counsel and for acquittal.

Acts Paraphrase:

On his first missionary trip, led by the Holy Spirit, Paul was invited to preach at the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia. He had proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:13-25). He told them that the message of salvation through Jesus Christ had been given to the descendants of Abraham. Those living in Jerusalem and their leaders were thoroughly familiar with the scriptures, but because they didn’t truly understand them, they thus fulfilled them by condemning Jesus, whom they failed to recognize as the Messiah.

The Jews asked Pilate to execute Jesus even though they could not prove Jesus guilty of anything deserving death. When they had fulfilled all that had been foretold in the scriptures, they placed Jesus in the tomb, but God raised him from the dead. He subsequently appeared, over many days, to his followers, who are now his witnesses. The good news is that what God promised in scripture he has fulfilled by raising Jesus.

Paul cited the Psalms 2:7, Isaiah 55:3 and Psalms 16:10 to show that Jesus’ Resurrection is the fulfillment of scripture. Forgiveness of sins is only through Jesus Christ, “and by him everyone who believes is free from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). Paul warns that scoffers and doubters will perish.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus said that one who doesn’t enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in another way is a thief and a robber; the shepherd enters by the door. The gatekeeper opens to him; the sheep recognize his voice and obey him, and he calls them by name and leads them. The sheep will not follow strangers; they will run from them.

The people didn’t understand what Jesus meant, so Jesus told them that he is the “door” of the sheep. Those before and since who have claimed to be the Messiah are false messiahs; they’re pretenders. Only those who enter by Jesus will find eternal safety and “pasture.” The thief (false messiah) comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus has come to give abundant life (real life, now and eternally).

Jesus is the good shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep. A hireling cares nothing for the sheep; when the hireling sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep. Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep know him, as Jesus knows God the Father and God the Father knows Jesus.

Jesus said in this text that he would be laying down his life for his sheep. He also said that he had other sheep (Gentiles) and they would become one flock with one shepherd. Jesus declared that God loved him because Jesus was obeying God’s will that he die for his “flock,” and that he would rise again from the dead.

Commentary:

We need to have a right understanding of our relationship to God. We’re not doing God a favor by going to Church or reading the Bible. We’re not doing the Lord a favor by obeying his Word. He has given us his Word for our benefit, so that we can have the good life he intends for us.

If we want peace and success we should agree with God, be taught by him and treasure his Word. Jesus is the Redeemer and Vindicator that Job longed for (see entry for yesterday, Friday, 16 Pentecost, even year), the only one who restores us to God’s presence, provides us with God’s counsel through his indwelling Holy Spirit, and brings us acquittal from all our sins.

The Jews were descendants of Abraham. They had been born into the “People of God;” they were the physical heirs of God’s promises. They had knowledge of the scriptures which contained the promises and the prophecies. God’s Word is fulfilled whether we obey it or not. The Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah did not prevent the promises and prophecies from being fulfilled; they helped fulfill them. They only lost the promises for themselves. God’s Word is faithful and true. Those who trust and obey Jesus will be saved and receive eternal life; doubters and scoffers will perish eternally.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Those who trust and obey him will be led by him and they will have eternal safety and “pasture.” They will have a personal relationship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the Door to eternal life. Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation; for our acquittal (Acts 4:12). Money won’t save you; power or fame won’t save you; education won’t save you; good deeds won’t save you; church membership won’t save you, and religion won’t save you. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit will save 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)?

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

September 20, 2014

Week of 15 Pentecost – Even

This Bible Study was originally published at:

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

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

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

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Podcast Download: Week of 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:

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

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

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

Available at:

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

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

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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 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)?


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