Week of Holy Week – Odd – 03/29 – O4/04/2015

March 29, 2015

Week of Holy Week – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

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


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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.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Holy Week – Odd
Palm Sunday – Odd
First posted 03/19/05;
Podcast: Palm Sunday – Odd

Zechariah 9:9-12    –    Prince of Peace;
Zechariah12:9-11; 13:1, 7-9   –   God’s Shepherd;
1 Timothy 6:12-16    –   Fight the Good Fight;
Matthew 21:12-17  –   Cleansing the Temple;

Zechariah 9 Paraphrase:

Rejoice, children of Zion (the city of God; the Church), “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9b; compare John 12:14-15). The chariot (of war), the war horse and the battle bow will be eliminated from God’s people and he will command peace to the nations. He will reign from sea to sea, and from the River (the cradle of civilization; Euphrates) to the ends of the earth. By the blood (of Jesus; Mark 14:24) of God’s (new) covenant with us God will set free the captives (of sin and death) from the “waterless pit” (Hell). “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare to you that I will restore to you double” (Zechariah 9:12).

Zechariah 12 Paraphrase:

On the coming Day of the Lord, the Lord will destroy all who come against Jerusalem (the city of God; the Church). The house of David (from whom the Messiah came) and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will mourn, as for an only child, for the Messiah that they have martyred. Jerusalem will mourn for the Messiah as greatly as the pagans mourn the (annual) death of the fertility god on the plains of Megiddo (the battlefield of Israel; scene of the Battle of Armageddon).

Zechariah 13 Paraphrase:

On the Day of the Lord a fountain will be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. On that Day the Shepherd will be stricken, and the sheep scattered. Two thirds of the inhabitants of the land will be destroyed, but one third will remain. This remnant will be refined by fire like gold and silver. They will call upon God and he will answer; God will call them his people and they will acknowledge that the Lord is their God.

Timothy Paraphrase:

“Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession” (of faith in Jesus Christ; 1 Timothy 6:12). Paul exhorts Christians to keep the commandment (Jesus’ teachings) unblemished and unreproached until the Lord’s return, remembering that Jesus made the good confession before Pontius Pilate, and that God sees everything.

Christ’s return will be revealed at the right time by God, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no [mortal] has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After entering Jerusalem on a young donkey over a carpet of palm branches, to shouts of Hosanna (meaning, “O, save!”), Jesus entered the temple and drove out all the merchants who bought and sold, and he overturned the moneychangers’ tables. Jesus told them that the Lord’s house was a house of prayer but they had made it a den of robbers.

Jesus healed the blind and lame who came to him, but when the religious authorities saw the miracles he did and the children praising him, saying ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15) they were indignant, and rebuked Jesus for allowing them to say such things. But Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 suggesting that perfect praise comes from the young and innocent.

Commentary:

Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled, and continues to be fulfilled; Jesus, the King of Peace and King of kings, entered Jerusalem, humbly riding on a young donkey. Jesus will cause warfare to cease and will command peace to the nations. He will reign over all the earth.

He has already begun to reign in the hearts of his followers. By the Blood of Jesus, his disciples who trust and obey him have been set free from sin, death and eternity in Hell. His disciples are prisoners of hope in Jesus; he is our stronghold. The Lord will abundantly reward us.

The Lord is going to return in triumph and victory, to destroy the enemies of The Lord and his people. In one sense, each one of us is guilty of crucifying Jesus because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10) and made his sacrificial death necessary for our forgiveness and salvation.

Jesus Christ is the cleansing fountain (see John 7:38-39; Revelation 21:6). We will either mourn now for our sins in repentance and be forgiven and saved or we will mourn on the Day of Judgment, when it will be too late to be saved from eternal condemnation.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was slain for his sheep (John 10:11). Jesus is the Son of David (Matthew 1:1-16; 21:9, 15; Luke 2:4-7). God’s people are those who acknowledge by deed as well as word that Jesus is their Lord.

The good fight of faith is to make the good confession, that Jesus is our Lord, and to keep his commandment (teachings) unblemished and unreproached until the Lord’s return. We are to be Jesus’ disciples, trusting and obeying him until his return. We are to live with Jesus as our King, reigning in our hearts and in our lives.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem he was greeted enthusiastically at first, but when he came into the temple, he criticized worldly practices which had corrupted worship. He started making changes, and offended the church leaders and those who had been profiting from their religious affiliations. He attracted and ministered to the poor and marginalized of society. He encouraged “emotionalism” and displays of praise and worship that the leaders and “mature” members found “unseemly.” By the end of the week many were ready to kill him.

Jesus has promised to return to judge the world on the Day of the Lord. 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 condemnation to death and destruction in Hell with all the wicked (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus will return in the same way that his disciples saw him ascend into Heaven after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 24:30-31). When Jesus returns, will you be shouting Hosanna, or will you be trying to hide?

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 Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/20/05;
Podcast: Monday Holy Week – Odd

Jeremiah 11:18-20; 12:1-16 (17)  –    Jeremiah’s lament;
Philippians 3:1-14   –    A warning;
John 12:9-19   –   Palm Sunday;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord revealed to his servant (Jeremiah; but also the Christ) a plot to destroy him. The servant was like a gentle lamb led to slaughter. The enemy hoped to destroy the fruit tree with its fruit, and destroy the memory of his name. But the Lord who judges righteously will avenge his servant, because the servant has entrusted his cause to the Lord.

Why do the wicked flourish? They prosper and bring forth fruit. God is on their lips, but not in their hearts. The servant entrusts himself to the Lord, who judges fairly and who knows our innermost thoughts. There will be a Day of Judgment when the Lord will destroy the wicked. Until then Nature is in mourning for the wickedness of those who dwell in wickedness.

People think that they can escape God’s notice and judgment. But the Lord warns that if they have striven with mankind and become tired, how can they hope to succeed against the Lord? The Lord mourns the necessity of removing his protection from his “beloved,” but his beloved has raised up her voice against the Lord, and become like a wild beast, pursuing her own appetite. So the Lord is assembling wild beasts against her to devour her.

Many unfaithful shepherds have destroyed the Lord’s vineyard and have made the Lord’s garden into a wilderness. Although the desolation of the land by the wicked can plainly be seen, no one is alarmed and makes serious effort to change.

The Lord’s punishment will destroy all the wicked from one end of the land to the other. “No flesh has peace” (Jeremiah 12:12c). They have reaped evil from what was good; they have worn themselves out pursuing what is worthless. “They will be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the Lord” (Jeremiah 12:13c).

The Lord is going to send his people into exile (as corrective discipline) and he will also chastise the neighbors and enemies of his people. The Lord will bring his chastened people back to their heritage in the Promised Land, and he will also restore Israel’s neighbors and enemies (the Gentiles), provided that they learn the ways of God’s people and trust and obey the Lord. But those who won’t learn to trust and obey the Lord will be destroyed in his Day of Judgment.

Philippians Paraphrase:

Paul urged the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. He warned them to be on guard for false teachers demanding circumcision of (and keeping the Jewish law by) Gentile Christians. Real circumcision is spiritual circumcision which is reliance on the grace (free gift) of God in Jesus Christ rather than reliance on the flesh (our ability to keep the law).

Paul points out that if anyone could rely on his ability to fulfill the requirements of the law in his flesh, Paul could. Paul had been circumcised as a newborn according to Jewish law, he was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a member of the Pharisees (the most legalistic sect of Judaism), so zealous for Judaism that he had persecuted Christians, and who was blameless of any transgression of the Law. But he gladly gave up whatever advantage he may have had under the law, for the sake of Christ.

The reward of a personal relationship with Christ made everything else worthless by comparison. Paul gladly surrendered everything else for the reward of being in fellowship with Christ, and being accounted righteous, not on any merit of his own through keeping the law, but by faith in Christ, the righteousness which only comes from God through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Paul valued above all else his personal experience of fellowship with the Lord, and the power of Christ’s resurrection. Paul was willing to share Christ’s suffering and even his death in order to attain eternal life. Paul did not consider that he had attained spiritual perfection and eternal life, but he was willing and able to strive toward that goal by keeping his heart focused on that goal, without looking back or longing for “the good old days.”

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Bethany, just a couple miles outside of Jerusalem, to keep the Passover, knowing that he would be crucified. He stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (whom Jesus had raised from the dead). When the people of Jerusalem learned he was in Bethany a great crowd came, not only to see Jesus but Lazarus as well. The religious leaders planned to execute Lazarus also (as they were plotting to execute Jesus), since many of the people were believing in Jesus because of Lazarus’ resurrection.

The next day a great crowd gathered again to see Jesus enter Jerusalem. They cut palm branches and went out to meet Jesus, shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name (authority) of the Lord, even the king of Israel (the Messiah)” (John 12:13b). Jesus was riding on a young donkey, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

The disciples didn’t understand the significance at that time, but after Jesus’ resurrection they remembered and realized the connection between the prophecy and the fulfillment. The people who had witnessed Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus had told others, who came to see Jesus’ arrival because of their testimony. The Pharisees were frustrated because it seemed that the whole world was turning to Jesus.

Commentary:

The original context of this prophecy was a plot to assassinate Jeremiah, but because God’s Word is eternal it also applies to the Christ (Messiah), and it applies to the disciples of Christ in every age, as they follow Christ’s example. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus is Lord’s servant, the gentle lamb led to slaughter who entrusted his cause to the Lord.

Judah, the remnant of Israel, the people of God, were the original intended recipients of this message. It was they who were exiled to Babylon for seventy years as the Lord’s corrective discipline, because they had rebelled against the Lord and followed the appetites of their own flesh; their own selfish desires. It was they who had been misled by unfaithful shepherds.

After the exile, the Lord led them back to their earthly promised land as God’s chastened people, fulfilling this prophecy. But the prophecy also applies to the Church, which is in exile in the “Babylon” of this world, subject to the Lord’s corrective discipline, whom he will ultimately lead into the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom.

The Lord promised that he would also restore the neighbors and enemies of Israel (God’s People), provided that they learn God’s ways and trust and obey the Lord, which he began to fulfill with the ministries of Peter and Paul to the Gentiles. There is a Day of Judgment coming when those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus, God’s only provision for forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; See God’s Plan of Salvation, Sidebar, top right, home), will be condemned to eternal death and destruction (Matthew 25:31-46).

Paul is the prototype of the modern “born-again” Christian disciple, who came to personal fellowship with Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, after Jesus’ earthly life, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven (Acts Chapter 9). He was a Jewish Christian who preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, because his fellow Jews refused to receive it. He exemplified the Lord’s servant who entrusted his cause to the Lord, and was willing to surrender all other things to follow and serve Jesus.

Paul warned his flock to rely on the grace (unmerited favor) of God through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, rather than relying on the flesh and their (imagined) human ability to keep the law; and he warned them to be on guard against false, unfaithful shepherds whose teachings are contrary to the scriptural (as recorded in the Bible), apostolic (as taught by the Apostles) Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul recognized and taught Christian discipleship and spiritual growth.

The occasion was the Feast of Passover, when each Jewish family sacrificed a perfect, unblemished Lamb, to be eaten at the Passover meal. The Lamb’s blood was used to mark the door of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt to spare them from the Lord who passed through Egypt and killed all the firstborn, on the eve of Israel’s Exodus (Exodus 12:12-13). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Jesus’ flesh is the Bread of Life (John 6:51), and his blood saves his people from eternal death.

His disciples didn’t understand the connections between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament events until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and their anointing with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5; Acts Chapter 2). Jesus is the resurrection and the life (eternal; John 11:25-26). Those who have experienced personal fellowship with Jesus and the power of his resurrection, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, like Paul (and like the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus), are to tell others, so that the whole world will turn to Jesus.

Are we concerned by the spiritual desolation of our land? Have we wasted our strength pursuing what is worthless? Are we learning the ways of the Lord? Is God in your heart?

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 Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/21/05;
Podcast: Tuesday Holy Week – Odd

Jeremiah 15:10-21    –    Jeremiah’s second lament;
Philippians 3:15-21   –    Confession and exhortation;
John 12:20-26   –    Jesus concludes his public ministry;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah mourned his birth. Although he had neither borrowed nor lent (or done anything else likely to stir up and justify their behavior), he had incurred strife and contention with every one of his countrymen. It is unjust, because he had interceded to the Lord for their good, and had prayed for his enemies. The threat from the north is overwhelming. The Lord will give the riches of Judah as spoil, without cost, to the enemy as the penalty for all Judah’s sins.  The Lord will give Judah into slavery in a foreign land, because the Lord’s anger kindles a fire which will burn forever.

Jeremiah prayed, acknowledging that the Lord knows everything, and asking him to remember and avenge Jeremiah upon his persecutors, and not allow Jeremiah’s persecutors to prevail. Jeremiah had come to know God’s Word, had incorporated God’s Word into himself, and delighted in God’s Word in his innermost being; Jeremiah was known by the name of the Lord. Jeremiah had not joined those who seek their own gratification, nor had he rejoiced in worldly celebration. Instead he was alone in mourning because his obligation to God’s Word made him indignant (against ungodliness).

Jeremiah’s pain was unceasing and his wound seemed incurable. Would the Lord fail him, like a deceitful brook that ceases to flow? The Lord promises that he will restore and uphold those who turn to the Lord. If the Lord’s servant speaks what is precious rather than what is worthless, God will speak through him. The Lord will make his servant invincible; his enemies will fight against him but will not prevail, because the Lord will be with him to deliver him from the wicked and ruthless.

Philippians Paraphrase:

Paul urges Christians to press on to spiritual maturity, allowing the Lord to guide and help us, revealing areas where we need to grow. Let us hold fast to what we have attained. Paul urges us to follow the example of Paul and all those who follow Jesus’ teachings.

Many live as enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They live with minds focused on worldly things, pursuing the gratifications of their flesh shamelessly; their end is (eternal) destruction. But Christians are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, and we await our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will change our earthly bodies into glorified bodies like his by his sovereign power over all things.

John Paraphrase:

Some Greeks (Gentile converts to Judaism) had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They came to Philip asking to see Jesus. Philip went and told Andrew and they went together and told Jesus. Jesus told them that God’s appointed time for Jesus to be glorified had come.

Jesus described what that glorification entailed with an analogy to a seed. A seed must be buried in the ground in order to produce a harvest, but when it is buried it sprouts and produces much fruit. So those who are unwilling to give up their lives in this world lose the opportunity to harvest what is truly life, abundantly and eternally. But those who are willing to surrender this earthly life will gain eternal life. Jesus said that those who want to be his servants, his disciples, must follow Jesus’ example. Where Jesus is there his servant will be also, and anyone who is Jesus’ servant will be honored by God the Father.

Commentary:

Jeremiah is an example of a servant of the Lord. Those who proclaim God’s Word are not going to be popular with the people of this world. Jeremiah was so unhappy with his life that he mourned his birth. But Jeremiah had come to know God’s Word, had applied it in his daily life, delighting in it in his innermost self. He had come to be known by the name of the Lord and his words and deeds were glorifying the Lord.

Jeremiah prayed for his enemies, and he entrusted his cause to the Lord, leaving vengeance to the Lord. The Lord is absolutely able and faithful to uphold those who turn to him. Jeremiah had chosen what is precious instead of what is worthless. He chose what is truly life rather than what leads to destruction.

The prophecy against Judah was fulfilled. Judah was taken into Exile in Babylon (the enemy in the North) for seventy years, in fulfillment of this prophecy. But it is also a metaphor and a warning of eternal Judgment. Because Judah had refused to obey God’s Word and rejected the warnings of his prophets, God gave them into slavery and death. (Seventy years is a virtual life sentence for those who were adults.) God’s anger kindles a fire which will burn forever (Jeremiah 15:14 RSV). The worldly treasures that the people of Judah had spent their lives pursuing were taken from them by their enemy.

Judah is the example of those who are called God’s people, but who pursue the things of this world and the gratifications of their flesh, instead of pursuing what is precious and eternal. Paul told the Christians at Philippi in Macedonia that we are to be guided by the Holy Spirit to grow to spiritual maturity.

We are to live in this world as temporary visitors who are citizens of God’s eternal kingdom. We are not to serve the desires of our fleshly bodies. We are to follow the example of Jesus and of Paul and all those who follow the example of Jesus. We’re to follow the example of Jeremiah, God’s servant.

Jesus’ glorification was accomplished by his obedience to God’s will and his surrender of his earthly life in order to accomplish God’s purpose. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the Lord’s Servant. He had done nothing deserving hatred, but had incurred strife and contention among his own people. He knew and delighted in God’s Word; he was God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

Jesus is the name of the Lord (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus did not pursue his own desires; he was obedient to God’s will even unto death on the Cross. His commitment to God’s Word made him indignant against ungodliness (Matthew 21:12-17). He didn’t seek his own vengeance but entrusted his cause to God the Father, and God restored and upheld him; his enemies did not prevail. God delivered him from the wicked and the ruthless.

Jesus warns us that those who want to be Jesus’ servants must follow his example. We must choose to give up what we want, in order to accomplish God’s purpose. Where Jesus is (by example) there we must be; if we are where we should be as servants of Jesus, Jesus will be with us.

If we choose to proclaim God’s Word instead of the teachings of this world, God will speak through us.  God will make his servants invincible. We cannot expect to avoid strife and contention, but we can be certain that we will prevail. Ultimately the enemies of the Cross and the Gospel of Christ will be punished and we will be vindicated and glorified.

Are we serving the Lord or are we serving ourselves? Are we bringing glory and honor to the Lord’s name? Do we know and apply God’s Word in our daily lives? Are we holding on to our faith and allowing the Lord to lead us in spiritual growth to maturity?

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 Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/2205;
Podcast: Wednesday Holy Week – Odd

Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17, (18);
Philippians 4:1-13;
John 12:20-26;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The person who trusts in humans, and relies on the strength of his flesh, and turns away from relying on the Lord, will be accursed. Like a shrub in the desert, he will experience only hardship. He will dwell in drought in the wilderness in an uninhabited salt wasteland.

Blessed is the person who trusts and hopes in the Lord. He will be like a tree planted near water. His roots grow near, and he doesn’t worry when heat comes. His leaves stay green and he continues to bear fruit in years of drought.

The human heart is totally deceitful and corrupt beyond all things. Only God can understand mankind. The Lord searches the mind and tests the heart of each person, to repay each for his path in life and the fruit of his deeds.

Only you, Lord, can heal me; only you can save me, and I will give you praise! Scoffers ask, “Where is the [fulfillment of the] Word of the Lord? Let it come!” But I have not desired the hastening of the Day of Judgment and disaster. The Lord is my refuge, not a terror, in evil times. (Let those who persecute me be put to shame and dismayed, intead of me. Let the evil day come upon them and destroy them completely.

Philippians Paraphrase:

Paul urged his beloved brethren in Christ, who Paul regarded as his joy and reward, to stand firmly in the Lord. He asked two women, Euodia and Syntyche, in the Philippian Congregation who had been arguing with each other, to find agreement in the Lord. Paul also asked one, whom he considered a partner in ministry, to help these women, whom Paul also regarded as fellow workers in the Gospel together with Clement (and others whom are known to the Lord) for their partnership in the Gospel.

Paul exhorted believers to always rejoice, and to be forebearing of all people. The Lord is at hand (through his indwelling Holy Spirit; and also his imminent return). Therefore we should not worry about anything, but let the Lord know all our needs, in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Thus the peace we have with God, beyond what we can understand, will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Believers should focus their minds on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy. We will have the peace of God as we practice the examples we have heard, been taught, and learned from Paul.

Paul thanked the congregation for the gift which had been sent from them to Paul by Epaphroditus (see Philippians 2:25-30). The gift had been an opportunity to express their concern for Paul (who was in prison in Rome, awaiting trial). Paul would not complain of his circumstances, because he had learned to be content in any situation. Paul knew how to be content in abundance and in want. Paul was assured that he could do whatever was required of him, through Christ who gives him strength (through the indwelling Holy Spirit).

John Background:

With his disciples, Jesus had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast, knowing that he would be crucified. His triumphal entry into the city is what the Church celebrates at Palm Sunday. Many people had also gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast.

John Paraphrase:

Among those who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration were some Greeks (Gentiles), who approached Philip (one of Jesus’ Twelve disciples, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee), and asked to see Jesus. Philip went to Andrew (another disciple of the Twelve, who was also from Bethsaida), and together they went to tell Jesus.

Jesus told them that his “hour” to be “glorified” had come. Jesus said that a wheat seed must be buried (as in physical death) in order to produce any “fruit.” Jesus said that those who love their lives in this world will lose them; but those who hate their lives in this world will find true, eternal life. Those who want to serve Jesus must follow his example. His servant will be where Jesus is, doing what Jesus is doing, and God the Father will glorify the servant for serving Jesus.

Commentary:

It is hard to learn to rely solely on the Lord. Sometimes we must do what seems contrary to common worldly, human, wisdom.

This lifetime is our only opportunity to learn to trust and obey the Lord. As we begin to trust and obey the Lord we will encounter tests, and as we act in faith and obedience to the Lord, we will learn that the Word of God is absolutely reliable, and our faith will grow to spiritual maturity at the Day of the Lord’s Return. This is the process of Christian Discipleship.

We must overcome our worldly experience and human instinct to seek immediate, human help, in order to learn to seek and rely on the Lord’s guidance. For example, a new disciple is tempted to call his Pastor on the phone for immediate answer to a personal problem, instead of the “uncertainty” of praying to the Lord for guidance and waiting for an answer.

In order to be able to receive guidance from the Lord, one must be committed to being his disciple, learning to seek his will, and to trusting and obeying it. The Lord doen’t reveal his will to “window-shoppers;” those who want to know God’s will before they decide whether to do it.

One must get into the condition to receive the Lord’s guidance. Have you read God’s Book? The Holy Bible is God’s manual for life in this world. Are you seeking the Lord’s guidance day-by-day, one day at a time (Matthew 6:11, 34)? Often we wait until a crisis comes, and then seek the Lord’s guidance, without having prepared. But crises are sure to come along in life.

Often the Lord doesn’t get our attention until the crisis happens. When we make a committment to seek guidance from the Lord he will begin to reveal his will and guidance to us, even though we haven’t read the Bible or established daily personal devotions. But we must start acting on the committment. We must not be praying that if the Lord helps us this time, we’ll never bother him again!

Philip was a disciple, learning to be guided by the Lord, but he had not yet received the “baptism” (anointing; infilling; gift) of the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t sure what was the right thing to do. He had some of Jesus’ teaching, and may have remembered that Jesus had said that he had come only for the Jews (Matthew 15:24). Philip wasn’t sure what to do, so he sought out another disciple, Andrew, who was a friend, who knew the Lord, for assurance, and together they went to the Lord.

This is an example of Christian Discipleship. A young disciple turned to another disciple, to consider Jesus’ teaching, and then together they went to the Lord. Andrew was one of the first of the Twelve to recogninze Jesus as the Messiah (Christ), and he had led others to Christ, including his brother, Simon Peter. The friend could be one’s pastor, or just a believer in Jesus who has more experience in discipleship. Going to the friend is not just to seek his worldly opinion and advice, but to consider and be guided by God’s Word, and then to go together to the Lord in prayer.

One must be careful, when learning to seek and be guided by the Lord. We all know of instances where terrible things were done proportedly at the Lord’s guidance. The Lord will never lead us to harm ourselves or others, and will never guide us to do anything contrary the God’s Word (in the Bible, and in the example and teaching of Jesus Christ, the “living Word,” fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). We should seek confirmation from mature Christian disciples, and we should learn to “pray back” what we think the Lord is guiding us to do, for confirmation.

The Church is intended to be a partnership in the ministry of the Gospel. New believers are to be “discipled” by mature, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciples until they are “born-again,” and then they are to repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul’s discipling of Timothy is one example; Paul was discipling the Philippian Congregation, which was the first church founded by Paul on European soil (Acts 16:11-15).

The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype and example of a modern, post-resurrection, born-again disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ as we all can and should be. He was confronted by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, where he was intending to persecute Christians (Acts 9:1-5). Paul acknowledged Jesus as Lord and became obedient to Jesus (Acts 9:6-10). He was discipled by a born-again Christian disciple, Ananias, until Paul was born-again, by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:10-18).  Then Paul began his ministry of evangelism and disciple-making (Acts 9:20-22).

After Paul’s “re-birth” most of the rest of the New Testament is by or about Paul. Paul’s ministry was accomplished only by the power, guidance and enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit within Paul. Paul didn’t depend upon Church sanction of his ministry (Galatians 1:11-17).

Paul was fulfilling the “Great Commission” which Jesus had given his disciples after Jesus’ Resurrection, to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to trust and obey all that Jesus taught  (Matthew 28:18-20), only after they had received the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Jesus taught that one must be born-again by the infilling of the Holy Spirit in order to be a “teacher” of God’s People (John 3:3-5-8).

Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself when one has been born-again (Acts 19:2).

Sadly, many parts of the nominal Church today are failing to make born-again disciples and are settling for making “members,” fair-weather “Christians” who participate in Church if it offers entertaining and interesting programs, and members don’t have something more important or interesting to do. If Churches don’t make born-again disciples of Jesus Christ, there won’t be born-again disciples from whom to choose born-again preachers, evangelists, missionaries and disciple-makers, and in too many instances that is what has 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)?

Maundy Thursday – Odd
First posted 03/23/05;
Podcast: Maundy Thursday – Odd

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, commemorating the Lord’s Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist.

Jeremiah 20:7-11 (12-13) 14-18  –    Personal lament;
1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32   –   On Communion;
John 17:1-11 (12-26)  –   Jesus’ high priestly prayer;

Jeremiah felt tricked by God, overwhelmed and driven by God’s power into a position of ridicule; Jeremiah had become a laughingstock to everyone in the land. He was unable to resist preaching (God’s) wrath and destruction, causing him reproach and derision from his hearers.

Jeremiah’s adversaries were plotting against him to denounce him and take revenge against him. But the Lord was with him as his bodyguard, so Jeremiah’s enemies would not prevail, and would be put to shame. Jeremiah entrusted his cause to the Lord, the righteous judge, who knows the hearts and minds of humans and who will avenge evil and uphold the rights of the weak and poor. Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth because his life had become nothing but toil, sorrow and shame.

Paul warns Christians not to participate in the worship of idols. In worship the participant becomes one with the object of worship. Instead of being joined with demons, which are behind idols; (1 Corinthians 10:20-21), we are to become one with Christ through participation in the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion; The Eucharist). The Cup (the fruit of the vine) is participation in the blood* of Christ, and the Bread is participation in the body of Christ. Christians are united with one another in Christ through their participation in the blood and body of Christ in faith.

Whoever partakes of the elements of Communion in an unworthy manner is “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).  So Christians are exhorted to examine themselves, and thus be prepared to participate in Communion worthily. Anyone who participates in the Lord’s Supper without faith (obedient trust) and without discerning the spiritual significance of Communion brings judgment (punishment) upon himself.

Paul says this is the reason many are weak, ill and dying. If we really examine ourselves objectively, we will have no reason to receive judgment (punishment). The Lord’s judgment on believers is corrective discipline so that we may avoid condemnation which is coming upon the world.

The setting of Jesus’ high priestly prayer was the Last Supper (John 13:1). Jesus acknowledged that the hour determined by God for Jesus to accomplish his purpose had come. Jesus asked God the Father to glorify his Son (to help Jesus accomplish God’s purpose to the glory of God) so that the Son would glorify God.  God’s purpose was that those who trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal life through personal knowledge and fellowship with God the Father and the Son, by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus had glorified God through his ministry on earth, and Jesus asked God to restore him to the glory in God’s presence which Jesus had from before creation. Jesus had revealed God’s name (his person, power and authority) to Jesus’ disciples, who God had given him.

The disciples knew that Jesus was from God, sent by God, and they had received God’s Word through Jesus.  Jesus prayed for unity among his disciples as Jesus and God are one in unity. Jesus prayed that God would keep Jesus’ disciples in unity in God’s name (person, power and authority; the name of Jesus).

While Jesus was in his earthly ministry, Jesus had kept them in his name (in true faith). Only Judas had been lost; he had chosen to be the son of perdition (eternal damnation), thus fulfilling God’s Word and purpose. Now Jesus knew he was leaving the world to return to God’s presence, and he prayed that his disciples would have Jesus’ joy fulfilled in themselves.

Jesus had given them God’s Word, and his disciples are hated by the worldly because the disciples do not conform to the world’s standards. They must remain in the world to continue Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus prays for their protection by God from evil. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be sanctified (purified and consecrated to God’s service) by God’s Word which is eternal truth.

Jesus prayed also for all who would come to believe in Jesus by the testimony of his disciples, that the Church would be united by the indwelling Father and Son through the Holy Spirit, so that the world will come to know the love of God in Jesus Christ through his disciples.

Jesus asked that his disciples would be with Jesus in heaven to behold his glory. The world has not known God, but Jesus has revealed God’s name, power and authority, so that God’s love would be within them through Jesus.

Jeremiah was a faithful servant of the Lord. He faithfully proclaimed God’s Word and was hated by the world for it. But he entrusted his cause to the Lord and the Lord was with him to protect and preserve him.

The Lord knows the thoughts and desires of mankind, and he is the righteous judge who will avenge evil and uphold the rights of the weak and poor. Jeremiah’s suffering for God’s Word prefigures the perfect fulfillment of the faithful servant in Jesus Christ.

Paul taught the early Church that Communion is the spiritual participation in the blood and body of Christ. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, believers are united with Christ in one body through participation in the elements of Communion, by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Lord knows the innermost thoughts of our minds and the desires of our hearts. We cannot automatically be filled with the Holy Spirit just because we receive the elements of Communion. We should examine ourselves so that we will not participate in Communion in an unworthy manner and bring judgment upon ourselves

In his prayer at the close of the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for the mission of his Church and for his disciples (his followers; the members of his Church; Christians), that they would receive eternal life through personal knowledge of and fellowship with God the Father and the Son, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus promised his disciples that those who trust and obey Jesus will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit; the Spirit of truth; the Counselor (John 14:15-17); the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b).

Jesus promised that he and God the Father would dwell within his disciples (John 14: 23-26). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The gift of the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and consecrates us to God’s service and protects and empowers us to carry on Christ’s ministry. It is the Holy Spirit who unites Jesus’ disciples into Christ’s Body, the Church. It is through the Holy Spirit that disciples personally experience the love of God in Christ and the joy of the Lord’s presence within us.

Christ’s mission to the world cannot be carried out without the personal gift of the Holy Spirit. Believers should be discipled within the Church until they have received the indwelling Holy Spirit, before they are sent out into the world to carry on Christ’s mission (Luke 24:46-49: Acts 1:4-5, 8).

The world hates God’s Word. The world hated Jeremiah, hated Jesus, and hates Jesus’ disciples. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit within us that keeps us in true faith, who guides and comforts, protects and enables us to carry on Christ’s ministry.

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)?


*According to Jewish Law, Jews were forbidden to drink blood or eat meat with its blood (Genesis 9:4), because it was believed that the blood of an animal contained its spirit. Jesus declared that the wine of Communion was his blood. God wants us to be filled with his Holy Spirit; not with the spirits of animals. The wine of Communion contains a promise to be received by faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ.


 

Good Friday – Odd
First posted 03/24/05;
Podcast: Good Friday – Odd

Genesis 22:1-14  –    Testing of Abraham;
1 Peter 1:10-20   –    Exhortation to Godliness;
John 13:36-38   –    Peter’s denial foretold;
John 19:38-42  –   Jesus’ entombment;

Genesis Paraphrase:

To test Abraham, God told him to take his only son, Isaac, the heir to the promises of God, and sacrifice him on a mountain to which God would direct him. So Abraham did as God had told him. He arose early, cut wood for the burnt offering, and took Isaac and two servants to follow God’s direction. On the third day Abraham saw the mountain in the distance, and he left the servants and the donkey there, while he and Isaac traveled the remaining distance.

Abraham carried the fire and the knife, and Isaac carried the firewood. Isaac noted that they had the fire, the wood and the knife, but didn’t have the lamb for the sacrifice. His father told Isaac “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).

When they came to the place God had led them, Abraham built an altar, laid the firewood on it and bound Isaac and laid him on the altar. When Abraham took the knife to kill his son, the angel of the Lord stopped him, telling Abraham not to harm the child. Abraham had demonstrated his fear of God (respect of God’s power and authority), since Abraham had been obedient even to sacrifice his only son.

Abraham looked and saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket, so he killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named the place “The Lord will provide” because on the mountain of the Lord it shall be provided.

1 Peter Paraphrase:

The prophets who foretold the grace of our salvation sought to know by the Spirit of Christ within them the identity and time of the coming of Christ when they predicted Christ’s suffering and subsequent glory. They learned that the prediction was not for their own age but for ours, and the fulfillment of their prophecy, which even angels have longed to see, has been announced to us by those who preached the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. So collect your senses, be sober, and hope completely in the grace which is coming to us at the revealing of Jesus Christ.

We are to be obedient children, not following our former ways when we were ignorant of the Gospel; instead we are to be holy (pure and consecrated to God) in all conduct, since God is holy (perfectly good and righteous; divine; 1 Peter 1:16; compare Leviticus 11:44-45).  If we claim God as our Father, we should conduct ourselves with fear (respect of God’s power and authority) at all times, remembering that we are in exile during this life, and that God judges all people impartially, according to their deeds.

We have been ransomed from futile worldly ways we inherited from our earthly fathers, not by perishable material wealth, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, “who was like a lamb without spot or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19). Christ was destined for our salvation before creation, but has been revealed at the end of time for our sake.

John 13 Paraphrase:

Jesus had told his disciples that he would be leaving them. Peter asked where he was going, and Jesus replied, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward” (John 13:36). Peter asked why he could not follow Jesus yet, declaring that he was willing to die for Jesus. Jesus questioned Peter’s declaration, and told him that Peter would deny Jesus three times that very night.

John 19 Paraphrase:

After Jesus’ death on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple who had not confessed Jesus publicly because he feared the religious authorities, asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body for burial. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, brought the spices used in the Jewish burial custom, and they wrapped Jesus’ body in linen cloths with the spices. Jesus had been crucified near a garden where there was a new tomb which had never been used. Because it was the day of preparation (for the Jewish Sabbath), they laid Jesus’ body in the garden tomb, since it was nearby.

Commentary:

God tested Abraham’s faith by asking Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son, the heir through whom God’s promise would be fulfilled. (The promise was that Abraham would be the father of a great nation, and through him all the people of the world would be blessed; Genesis 12:1-3. Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise of an heir of Abraham and Sarah, who had been childless: Genesis 15:1-6; 18:9-14).

Abraham not only respected God’s power and authority but trusted in God’s providence and faithfulness. Because Abraham trusted and obeyed God’s Word, God provided “himself” the Lamb to die in place of Isaac, the son of the promise.

God provided the ram in the thicket to die instead of Isaac, and God provided “himself,” in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, so that the sons (and daughters) of the promise, who trust and obey the Lord as Abraham did might live eternally.

God’s plan of salvation (which see, sidebar, top right, home) in Jesus Christ, existed before the creation of the world. God created this universe with his purpose of salvation built in. The Old Testament Prophets prophesied by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ within them. We have received the Gospel of Jesus Christ from those who have proclaimed it by the Holy Spirit, and we must be filled with the Holy Spirit to carry on the mission of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.

I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to provide the opportunity to seek and find the Lord and come to personal fellowship with him (Acts 17:26-27). This life is a selection process for eternal life, and we get to make the selection for ourselves.

We have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) 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). We are ransomed from bondage to sin and death by the blood of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus is the Lamb of God, perfect, without spot or blemish, who was slain for us. We come to personal fellowship with and knowledge of the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit, which he only gives to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

If we claim God as our Father through Jesus Christ (no one comes to God except through Jesus Christ; John 14:6) we are to be his obedient children. We are to no longer live according to worldly ways, but instead live in obedience to God’s Word and be filled with, guided and empowered by his Holy Spirit.

Peter claimed to be willing to die for Jesus, but when he encountered a little opposition from the world, he denied Jesus three times. Joseph of Arimathea considered himself a disciple, but did not want it known publicly, because he cared about what his friends and neighbors would think.

Nicodemus had first come to Jesus by night, so that wouldn’t be criticized in his society. Jesus was willing to die on the Cross for us. Are we willing to live for him? Are we willing to confess him and follow him openly in the world or is it something we want to keep secret? Can the world tell, from what we do as well as what we say, that we are disciples 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)?


Good Friday is the day commemorating Jesus’ death on the Cross.


Saturday Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/25/05;
Podcast: Saturday Holy Week – Odd

Job 19:21-27a   –   My Redeemer lives!
Hebrews 4:1-16   –   God’s promised rest;
Romans 8:1-11   –   Life in the Spirit;

Job Paraphrase:

Job longed for a friend to comfort him in his affliction. He didn’t understand why trouble continued to pursue him, apparently not satisfied with anything less than Job’s death. Job longed for his cause to be recorded in some eternal manner. Job believed his Redeemer (vindicator) lives, and at last will stand upon the earth. Job believed that beyond physical death he will see God.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

God has promised that those who trust and obey him will enter his rest (Hebrews 3:18-19 RSV), but this promise must be appropriated through faith (obedient trust). The Israelites in the wilderness failed to receive it because they didn’t respond to God’s Word with faith.

We should learn from their example and be careful, so that we might not come into judgment for failing to reach God’s promised rest. God rested on the seventh day from the work of creation. Although God finished his work of creation on the seventh day, creation does not automatically enter God’s rest. Because disobedience prevented the Israelites from entering God’s rest, we must be careful now, today, not to harden our hearts against God’s Word.

The Israelites did not automatically enter God’s rest when Joshua led them into the Promised Land, because David, centuries later, spoke of a Sabbath rest remaining to be received by faith. So a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people to appropriate by faith. So let us strive to enter that rest so that we don’t fail to receive it because of disobedience of God’s Word.

“God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). No creature is hidden or can hide his actions or his innermost thoughts and desires from God.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are in Christ Jesus are free, now, from condemnation and eternal punishment. Those who are living in obedient trust in Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit have been freed from the Law of sin and death. God’s plan of salvation (see sidebar, top right, home) through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s (only begotten) Son, accomplished what the Law could not do, because of our human weakness.

Jesus came in human flesh to condemn sin in the flesh and to destroy the power of sin, so that those who walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit, rather than in obedience to our selfish human nature, can fulfill the just requirements of the Law. Those who live in their physical nature pursue material things and physical desires, but those who live according to the Spirit pursue spiritual and eternal things.

Pursuing physical and material gratification leads to eternal spiritual death, but pursuing the things of the Spirit leads to eternal life and peace (with God). Those who live according to their physical human nature are hostile to God; they do not and cannot submit to or please God. “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) really dwells in you.

Commentary:

Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) does not belong to him (Christ; God)” (Romans 8:9). If Christ is truly in us, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, then although our physical bodies are dead because of sin, our Spirits are alive because of (Christ’s) righteousness. If God’s Spirit dwells in us God’s Spirit will give us eternal life just as he raised Jesus from the dead.

Job felt alone and unjustly afflicted. He was afraid that he would continue to suffer through the rest of his physical life. Job’s hope was that there would be some eternal record of his unjust suffering and that a Redeemer would judge the earth and vindicate Job at last. Job acknowledged that the body of flesh passes away, but also hoped that beyond physical death he would be in God’s presence and have personal fellowship with God.

For Christians, Jesus is our Redeemer and vindicator. He has promised to return to judge the earth, to vindicate his disciples who trust and obey him, and to condemn the wicked to eternal punishment. (Matthew 25:31-46). Our Redeemer lives! Jesus is our friend and Comforter (John 14:16 KJV) through his Holy Spirit within us. On the Last Day, he will stand upon the earth. Those who have trusted and obeyed him will spend eternity in the presence of our Lord in Paradise.

God has promised that those who trust and obey him will enter his rest. God’s rest has existed from the completion of Creation. We have a foretaste of that rest now, if we choose to honor the Lord’s Day. Christian disciples await eternal rest from the labor and tribulation of this life in eternal life in the Lord’s presence in Heaven. That promise of eternal rest must be appropriated by obedient trust in Jesus Christ, now. God knows our inner thoughts and desires and cannot be fooled.

We can and must begin to live, now, in the presence and fellowship of our Lord through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, to be able to live with him in eternity. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). The Lord gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).  It is possible for us to know for ourselves with certainty whether we have been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

We are free, now, from bondage to the Law of sin and (eternal) death, from condemnation and eternal punishment, provided that we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit. We can choose whether to live according to the Holy Spirit or according to our human nature and desires. Those who live to please and gratify themselves condemn themselves to eternal destruction.

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

Week of 5 Lent – Odd – 03/22 – 28/2015

March 21, 2015

Week of 5 Lent – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available at:

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

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Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

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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.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

For Next Week:

Holy Week – Odd – 03/29 – 04/04/2015

 http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/oddyear/holyweek_odd.html

Podcast Download: Week of 5 Lent – Odd
Sunday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/12/05;
Podcast: Sunday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 23:16-32   –   Against false prophets;
1 Corinthians 9:19-27   –   Christian freedom;
Mark 8:31-9:1   –   Discipleship;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

We are warned not to listen to false prophets who give false hope, prophesying from their own imagination instead of God’s Word. They give false reassurance to those who do not honor God’s Word and those who stubbornly pursue their own selfish, worldly desires. The false prophets have not been in the presence of God, and have not received God’s Word.

Know that the wrath of God will fall upon the wicked unrelentingly until it has accomplished God’s purpose. Afterward it will be clearly understood. The prophets prophesied falsely by their own authority and self-will. If they had been God’s prophets, speaking his Word by his authority they would have spoken God’s Word and would have rebuked the people’s sinfulness, turning them away from doing evil.

Is God limited to one place (so that he cannot know what is going on somewhere else)? Can one hide from God so that God cannot see what he is doing? The Lord fills heaven and earth. He has heard the lying prophets who prophesy the lies of their own hearts. They cause the name of the Lord to be forgotten.

The false prophets prophesy lies, but the prophets of God proclaim God’s Word faithfully. The difference should be obvious to anyone who cares to be discerning. God’s Word is like fire (consuming what is wicked), and like a hammer smashing rock. The Lord is against false prophets who lie, invoking the name of the Lord; he opposes those who prophesy lying dreams and lead God’s people astray, who prophesy without God’s command or authority.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul had complete freedom in Christ, but chose to be servant of all, so that some might be saved (from God’s condemnation and eternal death). In Christ, Paul was no longer obligated to keep the Jewish laws, but he chose to conform to the customs and laws of Judaism, so that he could win Jews to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To the Gentiles he became like the Gentiles, not bound by the customs and laws of Judaism, but yet not doing what is contrary to God’s Word, being under the law of Christ (living according to the Holy Spirit; see Romans 8:2-4).

To those who are weak in conscience, Paul surrendered part of his freedom by self-discipline so that his freedom might not offend and impede acceptance of the Gospel among them (1 Corinthians 8:8-13). Paul was willing to be the servant of others for the sake of the Gospel, so that some might be saved, and so that Paul might share in the blessings of the Gospel.

Paul compares Christian life to an athletic competition. As worldly athletes practice discipline and self-control in hope of gaining a worldly and perishable prize, Christians should also diligently pursue the eternal reward of the Gospel. The Christian’s life should not be aimless; one should not just “shadow-box” (looking like a boxer, without actually boxing; without fighting the fight). Instead Paul disciplined his body so that he wouldn’t be disqualified by failing to do what he advocated to others.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples that the Son of man (Jesus) would suffer, and would be rejected by the religious authorities, he would be killed, and rise again after three days. Peter began to rebuke Jesus, but Jesus told Peter that Peter’s reaction was contrary to God’s will and was facilitating Satan’s battle. Jesus called the crowd which was following him and told them that anyone who wanted to follow Jesus must deny himself and take up his cross (personal suffering and sacrifice) and follow Jesus’ example and teaching.

Those who want to hold on to this worldly life will eventually lose physical and eternal life. But those who are willing to give up their earthly life for Jesus and the Gospel will save their eternal lives. What good is it to own all the things of this world if it cost us our eternal lives? What would a person be willing to pay for eternal life in paradise?

Those who are ashamed of Jesus and his words now in this wicked, morally and spiritually adulterous world will be shamed in Jesus’ presence when Jesus returns in glory and power. Jesus declared that some in his hearing would not personally experience death before seeing God’s kingdom come with power.

Commentary:

Aren’t there false prophets in our churches and in our society who claim to speak God’s Word, but give false hope and reassurance of God’s approval to those who do not obey God’s Word and who are pursuing selfish, worldly desires? Aren’t there false prophets who claim to preach God’s Word who have not been in God’s presence?

If there are authentic prophets preaching the authentic Word of God, wouldn’t they be rebuking the peoples’ sinfulness, calling them to examine their behavior in the light of God’s Word and to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord? Do we know the Bible well enough to recognize God’s Word when we hear it?

Paul recognized that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ he had to sacrifice his personal comfort and indulgence and exercise discipline and self-control. Paul had personally experienced the Lord’s presence through Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b). He was willing to sacrifice his own personal desires and even his earthly life so that others might also receive the blessings of the Gospel.

Worldly athletes have a trainer, and they practice their skill. They have a goal, and they pursue it. Runners have to run; fighters have to fight, or there is no reason for all the practice and discipline. So Christians must be guided by the Holy Spirit, must spend time in discipleship, and then, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, must get out on the field and put the practice and discipline to work. They must not only proclaim the Gospel to others but live it in their own lives.

Jesus warned that people would have to make personal sacrifices to be his disciples, and they would have to follow Jesus’ example and teaching if they wanted to follow him and receive eternal life. We must be willing to surrender our earthly lives in order to experience real spiritual life now and eternally. When we come to the end of our physical lives, none of the material things of this life which seem so important now will mean much anymore.

If we pursue what we think is our self-interest, we will come to realize that we have missed what is truly important, but if we surrender our will to the Lord and do his will we will find that we have accomplished what is truly fulfilling. Those who are ashamed of Jesus now will find out what real shame is on the Day of Judgment. Those who trust and obey Jesus now will experience God’s kingdom and true life before they have experienced physical death.

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

Monday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/13/05;
Podcast: Monday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 24:1-10   –    Rotten Figs;
Romans 9:19-33    –   God’s Sovereign Choice;
John 9:1-17   –   A Man Born Blind Receives Sight;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) had invaded Judah in 606 B.C. in the reign of Jehoiakim, carrying off the sacred utensils of the temple, and some of the princes, to Babylon. Then in 597 B.C..* Nebuchadnezzar carried off all the able-bodied Jews, leaving the old, poor and weak. The Lord showed Jeremiah a vision of good figs and also rotten figs. The Lord told Jeremiah that the people who had gone into exile were like the good figs, but those who had remained in the land or had fled to Egypt would be like the rotten figs.

The Lord promised to bring the exiles back from Babylon and to build them up, because they would return to the Lord with their whole heart. But the Lord declared that Zedekiah, who Nebuchadnezzar had appointed to take the throne of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Zedekiah’s princes, and those who remained in the land or fled to Egypt would become a horror and a reproach, and the Lord would drive them out of the Promised Land and utterly destroy them.

Romans Paraphrase:

Why does God find fault with us, since we cannot resist his will? How can a creature rebuke his creator; how can a clay pot question its potter’s work? The potter can make from the clay whatever he chooses, making one pot for beauty, and another for menial use. Perhaps God patiently endures the wicked “pots” who will ultimately be destroyed so that his power and condemnation of the wicked can be displayed, and the richness of his glory and grace can be made known in the vessels of mercy, even us, both Jew and Gentile, whom he has called.

The prophecy of Hosea (2: 23; 1:10), saying that those who were not God’s people will become God’s people and sons (and daughters) of the living God, has been fulfilled in the Gentiles through faith in Jesus. Isaiah also warned that although the descendants of Israel will be as much beyond any reckoning as the sands of the sea, that only a small remnant will be saved because God will execute judgment with rigor and efficiency (Isaiah 10:22; 1:9). Isaiah declared that if God had not saved the remnant of Israel’s children, Israel would have been completely destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah.

The result is that Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness (didn’t try to keep God’s Law) have obtained righteousness by faith (in Jesus; obedient trust), but Israel who attempted to achieve righteousness by keeping God’s Law, did not succeed, because they did not pursue righteousness by faith, but by their works (keeping) of the law. They have fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, stumbling over the “stumbling stone” and “rock of offense” (Isaiah 28:16; 8:14-15; 1 Peter 2:8).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus encountered a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked whose sin had caused his blindness, but Jesus told them that it didn’t matter who or what had caused the blindness, but that it was an opportunity for God to reveal his power to heal (spiritual) blindness and give light in (spiritual) darkness. Jesus said that he must accomplish the work of God during the short time he was in the world providing spiritual light. Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did as Jesus had told him and returned seeing.

People who had known him before wondered how he had been healed, and some didn’t believe that it was the same man, but only someone who looked similar. The former blind man testified that it was he. They asked how he had been healed and he told them that Jesus had anointed his eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and when he had done so he received his sight. They asked where Jesus was, but the man didn’t know.

Some Pharisees suggested that, because he had healed on the Sabbath, Jesus could not be from God, but others said that if he were a sinner he would not have been able to do such a miracle. The people were divided in their opinion of Jesus, so they asked the healed man what he would say about Jesus, and the man testified that Jesus was a prophet.

Commentary:

Zedekiah had been appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to replace Jehoiachin, the king of Judah, and Judah was subservient to Babylon. Then Zedekiah made a pact with Egypt to break free of domination by Babylon.

By making a treaty with each enemy, Zedekiah and his administration hoped to avoid God’s punishment and discipline of Judah (the remnant of Israel) in exile in Babylon, but ultimately, God brought his chastened people back from exile to the Promised Land, and to reconciliation with, and obedient trust in the Lord. But the ones who had resisted the Lord’s discipline and correction, and those who had fled to Egypt or remained and had prospered at the expense of the exiles*, were utterly destroyed.

Just as God’s discipline and punishment of his people by exile in Babylon was intended to restore them to right relationship with God and to the Promised Land, God’s salvation through Jesus Christ requires some sacrifice and discipline of us. Zedekiah and the Jews who tried to find salvation by alliance with the world (symbolized by Egypt) and the enemy (Satan, symbolized by Babylon) are like those who try to obtain reconciliation with God and salvation on their own terms, rather than accepting God’s Plan of Salvation (see sidebar, top right, home) through Jesus Christ.

The Jews stumbled over the “stumbling stone” at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, because they were trying to work out their own terms of salvation through keeping the law rather than accepting God’s plan of salvation, the discipline of life guided by the Holy Spirit through trust and obedience in Jesus. Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the only way to reconciliation and restoration of fellowship with God (John 14:6). We need to be aware of God’s power and wrath as well as his love and mercy, because we cannot begin to appreciate his gift of salvation until we understand what he is saving us from. Those who refuse to accept the Lord’s discipline now will suffer his wrath eternally.

It did not matter to Jesus how the man had become blind. It was an opportunity to show that Jesus can heal spiritual blindness, and that Jesus can provide light in the darkness of this sinful world. We are all born spiritually blind and in darkness because we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The important question is, having encountered Jesus, are we going to stay in spiritual blindness and darkness, or are we going to trust in Jesus’ words and do as he commands? The man received his sight and was freed from his darkness as he trusted and obeyed Jesus.

Having been healed, he had opportunities to testify to his neighbors about what Jesus had done for him. Not everyone believed the man’s testimony. The Pharisees rejected God’s salvation because they were trying to work out their own plan of salvation by keeping the law. But some saw the power of God working through Jesus, and some began to believe in Jesus because of the man’s testimony.

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, Jeremiah, 24.1-10n, p.944, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Tuesday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/14/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 25:8-17   –   Seventy Years of Exile;
Romans 10:1-13   –    Righteousness by Faith;
John 9:18-41    –   Spiritual Blindness;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord declared to Jeremiah that because Judah had not obeyed God’s Word, he was going to send Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, against Judah as God’s instrument of punishment. The Lord would cause the land to be utterly devastated. The Lord would cause mirth and gladness to disappear, and the ordinary routines of daily life would be disrupted. The land would become a ruin and a wasteland.

The Lord declared that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years, and then the Lord would punish Babylon; Babylon will suffer the same punishment which she executed on other nations. Babylon would be repaid according to her deeds. The Lord gave Jeremiah the cup of God’s wrath to be given to the nations to whom Jeremiah was sent.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul’s desire was for the Jews to be saved. They were eager for relations with God, but that enthusiasm was not enlightened. They tried to establish their own righteousness by keeping the law, not knowing about the righteousness which comes from God through faith in Christ.

Christ is the end of the law, so that everyone who has faith (obedient trust) in Jesus may be judged righteous. Moses said that anyone who desires to be righteous according to the law, must practice (keep) the law (Leviticus 18:5). But righteousness based on faith doesn’t require us to do the impossible; Christ is not far off in Heaven or in the kingdom of the dead.

The word of faith is as near to us as our lips and heart. “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Everyone who truly believes from his heart, and confesses by his words and actions will be saved, regardless of his race or nationality, because the Lord is Lord of all and gives his blessings to all who call upon him in obedient trust (Joel 2:32).

John Paraphrase:

The Jewish religious authorities didn’t believe that the man claiming to have been healed of blindness by Jesus had actually been blind, so they interrogated the man’s parents. The parents verified that the man was their son and that he had been born blind, but they deferred the question of how he had been healed to their son, who was legally an adult, because they were afraid of the religious authorities.

The Jewish authorities had already ruled that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) was to be excommunicated from the synagogue. So the religious authorities again summoned the man and warned him to tell them the truth, saying they knew that Jesus was a sinner (because he healed on the Sabbath). The man said he did not know whether Jesus was a sinner, but the man testified that he had been blind but was now able to see.

The authorities again asked the man how Jesus had healed his blindness, and the man asked why they kept questioning him. They had heard the first time, but hadn’t believed. He asked if they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples. They replied sarcastically that the healed man was Jesus’ disciple, but they were disciples of Moses; they knew God had spoken to Moses but they didn’t know the source of Jesus’ power and authority.

The man was surprised that they doubted that Jesus was of God, because only God could heal a blind man, and God does not listen to the prayers of sinners. The authorities were enraged and told the man that he had been born in total sin and yet presumed to teach them. They expelled him from the synagogue.

Jesus heard that the man had been excommunicated and he went to the man and asked if he believed in the Son of man (Jesus). The man asked who Jesus was referring to, so that he could put his faith in him. Jesus said the man had seen him and was speaking with him. The man addressed Jesus as Lord, declared his faith, and worshiped Jesus.

Jesus said that his coming into the world would result in judgment. He had come to give sight to the spiritually blind, and to reveal the blindness of those who think they have spiritual vision. Some Pharisees (strict legalistic religious leaders) nearby asked Jesus if he considered them blind, and Jesus replied that if they had acknowledged their blindness they would have been forgiven, but since they denied their blindness they revealed their guilt.

Commentary:

Judah had disobeyed God’s Word and had refused to heed Jeremiah’s call to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord. The Lord declared that he was about to punish Judah by exile in Babylon for seventy years. This prophecy was written after Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over Egypt at Carchemish in 605 B.C.,* just before Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and carried them off to Babylon from 587 to 517 B. C. (seventy years). Then Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and the Judeans were allowed to return to their Promised Land. God’s Word was fulfilled, but it is also eternal. God will judge and punish the nations as he judged and punished Judah and Babylon, according to their deeds.

The Jews had an enthusiasm and desire for a right relationship with God, but they were spiritually blind. They were trying to establish their own righteousness on their own terms by keeping the law according to their own interpretation, instead of accepting God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation through faith in Jesus. Those who attempt to be righteous by keeping the law must keep all of the law, which is impossible (Galatians 2:16; 5:2-4).

God’s forgiveness and salvation are a gift to all who are willing to trust and obey Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only way to know and come into fellowship with God (John 14: 6). Faith is not like “wishing on a star,” though; not receiving whatever we believe if we believe “hard enough.” The name of Jesus is not a “good luck charm” that we can grab hold of in an emergency. If one truly believes in Jesus, he will do what Jesus says.

The religious authorities were spiritually blind. They had already decided that Jesus was not the Messiah (John 9:22) and they refused to believe physical evidence and personal testimony which contradicted their judgment. They thought they were righteous because they kept the Sabbath law, but they violated the law by condemning Jesus without a hearing.

The healed man did not pass judgment on Jesus, but testified to what he had experienced. The man had been born physically blind, but he trusted and obeyed Jesus (John 9:11) and Jesus healed both his physical and spiritual sight. Jesus asked the man whether he believed in the Son of man, and the man demonstrated that he was ready to believe the one Jesus revealed him to be. If we trust and obey Jesus, he will reveal himself to us (John 14:21).

The Jewish authorities illustrate the deficiency of righteousness by keeping the law, in contrast to the righteousness by faith in Christ illustrated by the blind man. The Pharisees demonstrated their spiritual blindness by failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. We’re all born in sin and spiritual blindness. If we acknowledge our sin and blindness, Jesus will forgive and heal 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)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Jeremiah 25.1-14n, p. 945, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Wednesday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/15/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 25:30-38  –   The Lord’s judgment;
Romans 10:14-21  –   Israel’s responsibility;
John 10:1-18   –   The Good Shepherd;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord proclaims his judgment against all the inhabitants of earth. His voice will resound to the ends of the earth, bringing judgment on all flesh, and the wicked will be slain. The bodies of the wicked will extend from one end of the earth to the other; they will not be mourned or buried, but will lie like dung on the surface of the earth. The rulers of the people will be slaughtered; there will be no refuge or escape from God’s wrath. The Lord will destroy the “pastures” and “sheep folds” of the wicked. The land will become a wild land where the lion stalks his prey.

Romans Paraphrase:

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). But people can’t call upon someone whom they haven’t believed, and they can’t believe someone of whom they’ve never heard. People can’t hear the Gospel of Christ unless someone is sent to preach the Gospel. The efforts and personal sacrifices of those who are missionaries of the Gospel are beautiful, but not everyone has heeded the Gospel.

Faith comes from hearing the Gospel, and the hearing of the Gospel comes from preaching Jesus Christ. But people cannot claim that they haven’t heard the Gospel because the Gospel has been proclaimed to the farthest corners of the earth. Nor can people claim that they did not understand the Gospel, because it has been understood by the most insignificant nations and least educated people. Those who didn’t seek the Lord have found him and he has revealed himself to them, while Israel, who claimed to know God and to be his people, has rejected and disobeyed the Lord.

John Paraphrase:

One who attempts to enter God’s “sheepfold” by some way other than the door is a thief. The shepherd enters by the door, and is known by the gatekeeper and by his sheep. He leads them out and they follow him. Sheep will not follow a stranger; instead they flee from him.

His hearers didn’t understand what Jesus meant by this illustration, so Jesus said that he is the door to God’s “sheepfold.” All other attempts to enter the “fold” are dishonest. God’s “sheep” do not heed the “false shepherds.” Jesus is the door to God’s sheepfold. Those who enter by Jesus will be protected and spiritually nurtured. False shepherds come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep and gives his life for them so that they will have abundant life.

The false shepherds are like hired people, who don’t care about the sheep; they’re just doing a job for what they can get out of it, personally. The hireling sees a wolf coming and he abandons the sheep and flees, because he cares only for himself. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and he knows each one of his sheep, and his sheep know him in the same way that God the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father.

Jesus has other “sheep” (beside the Jews; i.e. Gentiles). His sheep heed his voice, and they will be one flock with one shepherd. God loves Jesus because Jesus is willing to obey God’s will and to lay down his life for God’s “sheep.” Jesus gives his life voluntarily for his sheep, and he has the power to take up his life again by God’s authority.

Commentary:

There is a Day of Judgment coming when the “false shepherds” and their “sheep” will be destroyed. Like a roaring lion, the wrath of God will be carried out upon them. Judah had been led by unfaithful shepherds, and the people had not heeded God’s Word or the warnings of God’s prophets. This prophecy was fulfilled by the conquest and the exile of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from 587 to 517 B.C. It was also fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and the Jews were scattered throughout the world.

But God’s Word is eternal, and it also describes the second coming of Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment. It describes the punishment of false shepherds, and the slaughter of the sheep who followed them and belonged to the false shepherds.

The Church is the “New Israel”, and the “New People of God.” The Church and those who claim to be Christians should take warning from the experience of Israel that it is not those who claim to know the Lord and to have a special relationship with him, but those who trust and obey him, who are God’s people (Matthew 7:21-24).

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), but the name of Jesus isn’t some magical incantation. It isn’t a “good luck charm.” Only those who have believed in Jesus, who have trusted and obeyed him, can call on his name for their salvation.

Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will not be able to claim ignorance, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ has reached every corner of the world. They won’t be able to claim that they couldn’t understand the Gospel, because it doesn’t take intelligence or education to understand. What it takes is willingness to trust and obey.

Jesus is the door to God’s eternal “sheepfold” and “pastures.” There is no other way to forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who are trying to get into heaven some other way, by doing certain “good deeds” or by following some other “shepherd” will be eternally destroyed.

Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep know him, personally, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Jesus and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Jesus leads his “sheep” by his Holy Spirit. We recognize his “voice” by his 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 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/16/05;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 26:1-16 (17-24)   –   The temple sermon;
Romans 11:1-12   –   Israel’s rejection;
John 10:19-42   –   Opposition to Jesus;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In the reign of Jehoiakim (about 609 B.C.), the Lord directed Jeremiah to stand in the court of the temple and preach God’s Word to all who came to worship, urging their repentance and return to obedience to the Lord. Jeremiah was to warn them that if they did not listen to the Lord and obey his law and the word of his prophets, the Lord would destroy the temple and Jerusalem, as had happened to Shiloh. [The temple at Shiloh (near Bethel in the territory of Ephraim), considered heretical by Jerusalem, had been destroyed around 1050 B. C.* (Psalm 78:56-72; 1 Samuel Chapters 4-6)].

When Jeremiah had finished proclaiming this message, the priests and prophets and the people arrested Jeremiah, intending to execute him for preaching against the temple and the city. The princes of Judah came from the palace to the New Gate of the temple to conduct Jeremiah’s trial.

Jeremiah testified that the Lord had sent him to preach against the temple and city. Jeremiah called for the people to repent, change their behavior and become obedient to God’s Word. Jeremiah warned them that if they executed him they would be guilty of murder. The princes and the people told the priests and prophets that Jeremiah did not deserve execution, because he had truly spoken God’s Word.

Some of the elders recalled that Micah had preached a similar message in the days of King Hezekiah, and Hezekiah responded to the message with repentance, and the Lord had withheld his punishment. Another prophet, Uriah preached a similar message, and King Jehoiakim tried to execute Uriah, but Uriah fled to Egypt, so Jehoiakim sent men to find and arrest Uriah and bring him back, and Jehoiakim killed Uriah and buried him without honor. Jeremiah avoided a similar fate by the influence of Ahikam, the son of the royal secretary.

Romans Paraphrase:

God has not rejected the Jews. Paul himself was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul recalled that Elijah thought he was the last remaining Jew faithful to the Lord, but God told him that there were seven thousand faithful Jews remaining, who had not worshiped idols. Paul said that likewise in his time there was a remnant chosen by grace (unmerited favor), not by works (keeping the law).

Paul says that the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews is providential, making it possible for the Gentiles to receive salvation. But the Jews’ rejection need not be permanent. If the Gentiles were blessed by the Jews’ rejection, they will be blessed even more by the reconciliation and inclusion of the Jews.

John Paraphrase:

There was a controversy among the Jews about Jesus; some thought he was crazy and had a demon, but others said that Jesus’ teachings and his miracles were not the ravings and deeds of a madman. During the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem, Jesus was walking in the portico of Solomon in the Temple and the Jews (the religious leaders) came to Jesus and asked him to make a public declaration, if he was the Messiah (Christ). Jesus said that he had already told them, but that they had not believed.

Jesus said that the works he did confirmed who he was. The reason the Jewish authorities did not believe was because they did not belong to Jesus’ “flock.” Jesus said that those who belong to him hear his voice and follow him, and Jesus knows them. Jesus gives the members of his flock eternal life; they will never perish and no one can separate them from Jesus, because it is God’s will that they remain with Jesus. Jesus declared that he and the Father are one.

The Jewish authorities picked up stones to kill Jesus, but Jesus asked them for which of his good deeds they were executing him. They replied that they were going to execute him for blasphemy, because Jesus had claimed to be one with God. Jesus quoted Psalm 86, saying that if those who received God’s Word were called sons of God in scripture, and were not guilty of blasphemy, how could they accuse Jesus, whom God had anointed and sent into the world (as the “Messiah,” which means “anointed”). Further, Jesus’ miracles demonstrate that Jesus is doing the works of God, and that Jesus is in God and God in him.

Again the authorities tried to arrest Jesus but he escaped them. Jesus went to Perea (the region east of the Jordan River from the Arnon River to Pella), and many people came to him there and believed in him, acknowledging that what John the Baptizer had said about Jesus was true.

Commentary:

God’s Word either heals people or offends and condemns them. Jeremiah was led by the Lord to proclaim a message of warning, calling them to repent and return to trust and obedience to the Lord and his Word. Jeremiah’s message offended and angered the religious and civic leaders and the people. They didn’t want to hear that message, but when they gave Jeremiah a fair hearing, they recalled other times when a similar message had resulted in repentance,  forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with the Lord. They realized that Jeremiah was truly speaking God’s Word and spared Jeremiah’s life.

God has not rejected the Jews. Paul felt that he, like Elijah, was the last faithful Jew, but that there would be a remnant who would be saved, not by keeping the Jewish law, but by God’s grace (unmerited favor; through faith in Jesus Christ). In Paul’s own case, he had tried to proclaim the Gospel to his fellow Jews, but had been forced, by their rejection of his message, to take it to the Gentiles. The Gentiles had benefited, but their acceptance did not disqualify the Jews from sharing in that grace and blessing through Jesus Christ.

Jesus caused controversy among the Jews. To some his message was offensive but others recognized that it was God’s Word. Some thought Jesus’ message was the ravings of a madman; some thought his deeds were evil and demonic. Jesus made some angry enough to want to kill Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are those who hear his voice and follow him in trust and obedience. It is those who trust and obey Jesus who will be saved from God’s wrath and punishment, by grace, through faith in Jesus.

In one sense we are all “Jews,” created to be God’s people. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin (disobedience to God) is eternal death (Romans 6: 23). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation from his wrath and judgment (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home).  Jesus is calling us to repent and turn to the Lord in trust and obedience. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

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, Jeremiah 7.1-15 n, p 919, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Friday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/17/05;
Podcast: Friday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 29:1 (2-3) 4-14   –   Letter to the exiles;
Romans 11:13-24   –    The olive tree;
John 11:1-27  –    Raising Lazarus;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

After the first general deportation of exiles to Babylon (in 598 B.C.), Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles. The Lord told them to establish themselves in Babylon, building houses and planting gardens. They were to marry and have children, and their children were to marry and have children. They were to multiply, and they were to live as citizens, working and praying for the good of the state. But the Lord warned them not to believe the prophets and diviners among them, because they were not serving the Lord, but were prophesying lies.

The Lord promised that after seventy years in Babylon the Lord would bring them back to the Promised Land. The Lord assured them that he had plans for their welfare to give them a future and hope. Then they will call upon and pray to the Lord and he will hear them. When they seek God with all their heart, the Lord will allow himself to be found by them. The Lord will restore their fortunes and gather them from wherever they have been scattered and bring them back to the Promised Land from which the Lord had sent them into exile.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul, a Jew, had become an apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) to the Gentiles but he hoped through his ministry that his fellow Jews might become jealous and want to share in the Gospel with the Gentiles and so be saved. The Jews’ initial rejection of the Gospel led to reconciliation with God for the Gentiles, so the Jews’ acceptance will give life to those who were (spiritually) dead. The patriarchs of Israel were holy and their descendants are consecrated through them.

Israel is symbolized by an olive tree; the patriarchs are the root, and the People of God are the branches. The Lord has removed some of the branches, and the Gentiles, like wild olive shoots, have been grafted in. Gentiles are not to boast over the natural branches, but to remember that it is the root which supports them and gives them life. Some natural branches were removed because of unbelief, but if they repent they can be grafted back in more easily than the wild shoots. The Gentiles remain only as they hold firmly to faith (obedient trust), because the Lord can remove them as easily as he removed natural branches. Remember that God is kind to us as long as we remain in his kindness, but if we depart from him we will be cut off.

John Paraphrase:

Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, of Bethany in Judea, were friends of the Lord. Lazarus became ill and when Jesus heard about this, he stayed where he was for two days, before announcing that he was going to Judea. The disciples questioned why Jesus would go to Judea, since the religious authorities there were plotting to kill Jesus.

Jesus said that, like a person walking in daylight does not stumble, so Jesus would work during the time he was given in the world according to God’s will. There was a time coming when Jesus would no longer be able to work.

Jesus told them that Lazarus had “fallen asleep” but that Jesus was going to him to wake him. The disciples said that if Lazarus was sleeping he would recover on his own, so Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was dead. Jesus said that, for his disciples’ sake, he was glad that he had not been there to keep Lazarus from dying, so that his disciples’ faith would be strengthened. Thomas declared his willingness to go with Jesus even if it meant his death.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Since Jerusalem was only a couple miles from Bethany, many of the religious authorities from Jerusalem had come to console Mary and Martha.

When Martha heard that Jesus was approaching, she went out to meet him, while Mary stayed in the house. Martha declared her faith that, if Jesus had been present, her brother would not have died, and that even now God would grant whatever Jesus asked. Jesus told her that her brother would rise to life again. Martha declared her faith in the ultimate resurrection of the dead.

“Jesus said to her, ‘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” (John 11:25-26). Jesus asked Martha if she believed this, and Martha said “Yes, Lord” and declared her faith that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) the Son of God, whose coming had been promised by scripture and was now being fulfilled.

Commentary:

The Lord has plans for us for our good, to give us hope and a future. In a sense we are all exiled in Babylon for about seventy years. We’re to live our normal lives and work for the good of society. During the exile we’re to learn to call upon the Lord; we’re to seek the Lord, so that we can find him and have a personal relationship with him, when we seek him with all our heart (see Acts 17:26-27). We’re to learn to trust in his promises, and he will show us he is able and faithful to keep those promises. He promises that if we will seek him and rely on him he will bring us into the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom.

God’s plan for our good was to gather a kingdom of his people, and it began with the patriarchs of Israel, through whom we all received the scriptures and the fulfillment of the promises of a Savior and eternal life, provided that we trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus says that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, and if we knock it will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7).

The Lord promises that if we trust and obey him, he will reveal himself to us (John 14:21). Jesus is the shoot from the stump of Judaism (Isaiah 11:1-2) which has become the trunk to which we are grafted into God’s kingdom. In order to thrive we must remain connected to Jesus by trust and obedience through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord warns his people not to listen to false, worldly prophets or practitioners of the occult.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us hope and a future; he restores our fortunes, gathers us from our exile in “Babylon,” and leads us back to the Promised Land of eternal life in heaven. In this world we’re in exile and under a spiritual death sentence (Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and only through Jesus are we forgiven and saved (See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus’ miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus demonstrates that Jesus is the “Lord and Giver of Life” (in the words of the third article of the Nicene Creed). Jesus frees us from the bondage of sin and fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus’ resurrection gives us the assurance of resurrection and an eternal future, and that real, spiritual, eternal life begins right now, 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)?

Saturday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/18/05;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 31:27-34  –   The New Covenant;
Romans 11:25-36    –   Israel’s salvation;
John 11:28-44  –    Lazarus raised;
John 12:37-50   –  Spiritual blindness;

Jeremiah Summary:

The Lord will repopulate the Promised Land which he caused to be depopulated by the exile. He will cause Israel to be fruitful. Israel will no longer feel they are suffering for the sins of their fathers. The Lord will hold each person accountable for their own deeds. The Lord will make a New Covenant with his people different from the Old Covenant of Law, which God’s people failed to keep, although joined to the Lord like husband and wife.

Under the New Covenant, the Lord will put his law within them; it will be written upon their hearts. The Lord will be their God and they will be his people. People will no longer teach one another to know the Lord, for they will all know the Lord individually, regardless of their social status, because the Lord will forgive their sins and remember their sins no more.

Romans Summary:

Lest the Gentiles become conceited, Paul wanted us to understand that Israel’s rejection of the Gospel is only temporary, allowing the Gentiles to receive salvation. Paul quoted Isaiah 59:20-21, prophesying that the Savior would come from Zion (Jerusalem; Israel; the city of God) and will banish ungodliness from Jacob (Israel; father of the heads of the twelve tribes; the People of Israel). In Paul’s time Israel was the enemy of God, concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they are still God’s chosen and called people because of God’s steadfast faithfulness to their forefathers.

The promises and call of God are irrevocable. God has been merciful to the Gentiles who were once disobedient to God, and God will show the same mercy to Israel, who is now disobedient. God’s wisdom, knowledge and gifts are beyond human calculation and his ways and his judgments are beyond human understanding.

Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13, Job 35:7 and 41:11 affirming that God’s knowledge and judgment are far above human ability and his loving kindness to us is far beyond our ability to repay. All things originate with him, belong to him and are given to us through him. He is worthy of glory for ever.

John 11 Summary:

Jesus, knowing that Lazarus had died, had gone to Bethany to the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha (John 11:1-27; see entry for yesterday Friday, 5 Lent, odd year). Martha had gone out to meet Jesus, and then she returned to the house and told Mary that the “Teacher” was asking for her.

Mary went out to Jesus, and the religious authorities from Jerusalem who were there comforting Mary and Martha followed her, thinking she was going to Lazarus’ tomb. Mary came and fell down at Jesus’ feet, weeping, and said that if Jesus had been there (when Lazarus was sick) Lazarus would not have died. Jesus was deeply moved by Mary’s grief, and by that of the mourners, and Jesus wept.

Jesus asked where Lazarus had been entombed, and they led him to the place. The tomb was a cave sealed with a large stone, Jesus told the mourners to remove the stone. Mary told Jesus that Lazarus had been dead four days, and that there would be an odor. But Jesus told her that if she trusted him she would see God’s glory.

They removed the stone, and Jesus prayed aloud to God the Father, so that the witnesses would give God the glory rather than thinking that Lazarus’ resurrection was a work of magic or the occult. Then Jesus called Lazarus by name and commanded him to come out, and Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound with the burial cloths (compare John 5:28-29). Jesus commanded the witnesses to unbind and free him.

John 12 Summary:

Although Jesus had done many miracles revealing who he was (“signs”), the Jews (religious authorities) did not believe in him. Their rejection of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy given through Isaiah 6:9-10. Because they refused to believe the “signs,” the evidence of who Jesus is, they became spiritually blind to the truth. Isaiah foresaw the Christ and spoke of him.

Many of the Jews, even the religious leaders, believed in Jesus, but did not confess it, because they were afraid they would lose their standing in their religion and their society. What people thought of them was more important to them than God’s approval. God is fulfilling his promise to repopulate the eternal Promised Land through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus declared that those who believe in Jesus believe God, and those who see Jesus see God. Jesus came into the world as spiritual light, to dispel spiritual blindness and darkness. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Jesus does not condemn those who do not obey Jesus’ teachings; those who reject Jesus and his teachings will be condemned on the Day of Judgment by the word Jesus has spoken, because Jesus has declared God’s Word, by God’s authority and command. (Obedience to) God’s Word leads to eternal life.

The Lord promised a New Covenant with his people, through which his Word would dwell within each individual. Each of his people would have a personal fellowship with the Lord; they would know him individually and personally. They would be freed from the Covenant of Law, which they couldn’t keep, and God would forgive and forget their sins.

That New Covenant is fulfilled through Jesus Christ. It is through obedient trust in Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God. Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have individual, personal fellowship with the Lord. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that God’s Word is opened to our understanding, and written upon our hearts. It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are enabled and empowered to know and do God’s will. In the New Covenant, each individual will be personally accountable to God for what each has done in life.

In the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9), each individual receives the same mercy and the same grace. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Gentiles are not denied salvation because of their ancestor’s disobedience and neither are the Jews. But neither does either group have God’s special favor by accident of birth; neither group is God’s special people because they happen to be born into their religion. The Gentiles received the scriptures and the promises of God through the Jews, but the Jews receive the fulfillment through acceptance of and faith in Jesus Christ.

Those who believe (trust and obey) Jesus will see God’s glory. Jesus is the Lord and Giver of Life (third article, Nicene Creed; see entry for yesterday, Friday, 5 Lent, odd year, above). Jesus will reveal himself to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:21).

Jesus did many miracles revealing who he is. Those who see these “signs” and believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Savior, believe God. Those who see who Jesus is, and see what Jesus does are seeing God. Jesus is God revealed in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28; Matthew 1:23).  Jesus is the light of the world that dispels spiritual blindness. Jesus is the Word of God made visible (John 1:1-5, 14). Those who refuse to trust and obey Jesus are condemning themselves to eternal death.

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)?

For Next Week:

Holy Week – Odd – 03/29 – 04/04/2015

 http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/oddyear/holyweek_odd.html

Week of 4 Lent – Odd – 03/15 – 21/2015

March 14, 2015

Week of 4 Lent – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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


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Podcast Download: Week of 4 Lent – Odd
Sunday 4 Lent – Odd
First Posted 03/05/05;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 14:1-9 (10-16) 17-22   –   Spiritual drought;
Galatians 4:21-5:1    –  Allegory of Hagar and Sarah;
Mark 8:11-21  –   Miraculous signs.

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Judah was suffering catastrophic drought. The southern kingdom of Judah, and Jerusalem, the civil and religious capital, mourned, prostrating themselves on the ground, praying for rain. The cisterns were dry. Nobles and farmers (rich and poor) were both humbled and dismayed by the lack of rain. Wild animals and farm animals were starving because there was no grass.

In a Day of Repentance the people confess their sins and their backsliding, praying that the Lord will be with them and save them, reminding the Lord that they are his people, called by his name. But the Lord said that the people had only returned and called on God because of their need; when things are going well they had wandered far from God. So God did not accept their lament and their prayers; he was punishing them for their sin.

The Lord declared that he would not accept prayers for his people. Fasting and sacrifices are not acceptable; God will consume these people by sword, famine and pestilence. False prophets among the people were assuring them that they would not see sword or famine, and they would have peace. But the Lord declared that he had not sent these false prophets, and they were not speaking God’s Word.

The Lord declares that the false prophets will be destroyed along with the people who put their trust in them. Mourn night and day for people who were once like God’s virginal daughter, now grievously wounded by calamity. “Both prophet and priest ply their trade, and have no knowledge (Jeremiah14:18c RSV). The people acknowledge their sin and plead for God’s mercy for his name’s sake, recognizing that only God can restore them and provide what they need.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Those who desire to be righteous by keeping the law (Jewish law; Jewish scripture) should hear what scripture says. The scriptures say that Abraham had two sons; one by his slave, Hagar, and one by a free woman (Sarah, his wife). Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was born according to the flesh, but Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born in fulfillment of God’s promise.

This is an allegory: Hagar is Mount Sinai (where Moses received the Covenant of Law from God) and she represents earthly Jerusalem. She is in slavery with her children (to law, sin, and death). But the heavenly Jerusalem is free and she is Christ’s Church, the “mother” of Christians.

Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1, showing that the desolate one, Sarah (who had been barren and beyond childbearing age) gave birth to the son through whom God’s promise will be fulfilled. Christians are children of promise like Isaac. As Ishmael persecuted Isaac so those born of the flesh now persecute Christians. But Paul quotes Genesis 21:9-12, to show that it is the children of the promise that inherit God’s promise; the children of the flesh and slavery will be cast out.

Mark Paraphrase:

The Pharisees (leaders of the predominant, strict, legalistic faction of Judaism) argued with Jesus and sought a miraculous sign from Jesus as a test of his authenticity. Jesus was greatly saddened, and asked why this generation sought “signs.” Jesus said that none would be given.

Jesus and his disciples departed by boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had only one loaf with them, and had forgotten to bring more. Jesus was telling them to watch out for the “leaven” (a symbol for “sin”) of the Pharisees and Herod.

The disciples thought Jesus was talking about bread, and discussed among themselves their lack of bread. Jesus was aware of what they were discussing, and asked them why they were worrying about bread. Hadn’t they yet understood, after seeing Jesus feed the four thousand and the five thousand? Did the disciples also lack ears that heard and eyes that saw; were their hearts too hard to believe what they experienced? Jesus asked them to remember the baskets full of leftover bread and fish from the feedings of the multitudes. Then he asked them again if they still didn’t understand.

Commentary:

Judah had turned away from obedience to the Lord and refused to hear the Word of God and God’s prophets. Instead they listened to false prophets who assured them that they had God’s presence, favor and peace. They had not learned from God’s punishment of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and had not heeded the warnings of Jeremiah that similar punishment was going to come upon them.

But when God lifted his providence from them and they began to feel his judgment, then they began to repent. Their repentance was only an attempt to avoid the judgment that was coming. God told them that he would not accept religious ritual; He wants genuine spiritual reform. Judah wanted to make a confession, burn a sacrifice or two, and say a few prayers so that they could avoid the consequence of their habitual, continued disobedience.

Two false teachings began to appear within the Church during the lifetime of the Apostles. One is now called “Cheap Grace;*” which is salvation by grace, without requiring discipleship and obedience to Jesus Christ. The other is called “works-righteousness” or “justification by works.” It was represented in the New Testament Church by the “Judaisers” or the “circumcision party,” (see Acts 11:2 for example) who wanted Gentile Christians to be required to keep the Jewish Laws, including circumcision (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

Paul is addressing the “Judaisers” in this text. The scriptural, apostolic Gospel is midway between these two extreme false teachings. Salvation is by grace (free gift; unmerited favor) to be received by faith (obedient trust), not by works (keeping of the law; Ephesians 2:8-9; compare Galatians 2:16). Those who attempt to be saved by doing “good deeds” or by keeping Jewish laws are forfeiting God’s promise of salvation through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:3-4).

The Pharisees represent the legalism of Judaism versus the promise and grace through Jesus Christ. The Pharisees trusted in their righteousness by their outward keeping of the law, but refused to believe in Jesus without some sign to prove himself. For those who need proof in order to believe in Jesus there is none, because proof makes faith unnecessary. But for those who truly believe, who trust and obey, there is “proof” all around us, as it was for the Pharisees. Jesus was in the temple daily healing the sick under the noses of the Pharisees.

Paul told Timothy,  a young minister of the Gospel whom Paul had trained, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having ‘itching ears,’ will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings (the people’s), and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). That’s what had happened in Judah in the time of Jeremiah, and many similar cases can be seen today, where religion has become a trade (a business; Jeremiah 14:18c RSV), and preachers are telling the people what the people want to hear; that they have God’s presence, favor and peace, while the people are in flagrant disobedience to God’s Word.

I believe that America and the Church, at least in America, are in the midst of a great spiritual drought, and the only way to avoid the catastrophic consequences of that drought is not by one national Day of Repentance, not by a few outward displays of repentance through religious rituals, but by a genuine confession and repentance, truly returning to trust and obedience to Jesus Christ by each one of us. Do we trust and obey Jesus and seek his guidance daily, or do we only turn to the Lord when things aren’t going our way?

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


Monday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/06/05;
Podcast: Monday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 16:(1-9) 10-21  –  Israel’s punishment and restoration;
Romans 7:1-12   –   Law and sin;
John 6:1-15   –   Feeding the five thousand.

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah not to marry or have children, because God’s judgment was upon the children born (in Judah), and they would be killed by plague, war and famine. The Lord commanded Jeremiah not to participate in mourning, or comfort the mourners of Judah, because the Lord had removed his peace, steadfast love and mercy from them. The Lord had sworn to remove mirth, gladness and celebration from them (Jeremiah 16:9; compare Jeremiah 7:34).

When the people asked why this had befallen them, Jeremiah was instructed to tell them that their fathers had forsaken the Lord and had not obeyed God’s law and had served and worshiped idols, and that their children had done more so and worse than their fathers. Each pursued his own evil desires, refusing to listen to the Lord. Therefore God was going to cast them out of the Promised Land into exile in a foreign land (Babylon) where they would be forced to serve other gods.

The Lord declared that the time was coming when Israel would no longer consider deliverance from Egypt but rather from Babylon as God’s great act of deliverance. Their return to the Promised Land from exile in Babylon would be the “New Exodus.”

Israel could not conceal her sins from God, who will send fishermen and hunters to track them down and catch them. God will punish them fully for their sins, because they have polluted God’s land with idols and abominations.

The Lord is the strength and fortress of those who take refuge in him. All the nations will come to the Lord, realizing that the religions inherited from their fathers are lies and worthless, and acknowledging that it is impossible for man to make his own gods, since such “gods” are powerless. The Lord will reveal his power and might, so that all will know that he alone is Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

Just as the death of a spouse releases a person from the legal obligations of marriage, so followers of Christ have been discharged from obligation to God’s law through their participation in Christ’s death, as members of his body. We have been freed from the power of sin and death so that we can belong to and serve Jesus and be productive in working to accomplish God’s purpose. While we were living according to our carnal nature the law increased our temptation to sin, and yielding to that temptation leads to spiritual death.

Now Christians are dead as far as obligation to God’s law is concerned and freed from its condemnation so that we are free to live in (accordance with) the Spirit. The law isn’t sin, nor does it cause sin, but it makes us aware of our sin and increases our temptation to sin.

Before, our awareness of our obligation to God’s law sin was dead is far as we were concerned, but when we learned of God’s law, sin revived and we were condemned to die eternally (we died spiritually). The law which promised life (to those who obeyed the law in every detail; Leviticus 18:5) brought spiritual death. God’s law is holy, just and good; it is sin which deceives and tempts us to disobey.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat. The crowd coming to Jesus seeking healing saw them leave and followed them. Jesus had gone up into the hillside and sat down with his disciples. Jesus saw the crowd coming to him and asked Philip, as a test, where they could buy bread to feed the crowd, because Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied that it would take two days’ wages to buy enough for each person to have a small portion. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said there was a boy with them who had five loaves of bread and two fish, but that would hardly begin to supply what was needed.

Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down on the grassy hillside, and he took the boy’s bread and fish and having prayed in thanksgiving, he broke them into pieces and had the disciples distribute them to the crowd of about five thousand people. All ate as much as they wanted and were satisfied, and there were twelve baskets full of food left over.

When the people saw and realized what had occurred they declared that Jesus was the prophet who was expected to appear (before the coming of the Messiah). Realizing they were about to force Jesus to be their king, he withdrew into the hills.

Commentary:

God fulfills his promises. Judah was taken into exile in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar for seventy years from 587 B.C. to 517 B.C. Seventy years is virtually a life sentence. Those who went into exile died in Babylon; those who returned were a different generation.

God is the only true God, the Creator of the Universe. All other so-called gods are the creation of man’s imagination: idols. Idolatry represents mankind’s attempt to manipulate God; to get God to do our will. God is our creator and it is his purpose to select people who will trust and obey him. I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to seek and find God, and to come to a personal fellowship with him through his Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 17:26-27).

God has revealed his power and might in Jesus Christ and people from all nations have turned from idols and come to the Lord God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our Salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home), and has been his plan from the beginning of creation (John 1:1-5, 14). No one can know, come to God, be forgiven, reconciled and have peace, fellowship and eternal life with God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). God has planned from the beginning of creation to give us freedom to choose, during this life, whether to trust and obey him or not. This life is a selection and training process for eternity. God’s discipline of the disobedient is intended to bring us to repentance, obedience and salvation.

God’s will is our best interest. His law was intended to teach us what is good and right. Real, good, life, as God intended it, is only possible if we obey God’s law. The law shows us what is good and what is sin, but we are incapable of keeping it. The law promises life to those who keep all the law, but it condemns to eternal death those who fail to keep every bit of it.

We have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish, but for all to have eternal life (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). God forgives our sins as a free gift to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are freed from the condemnation of the law, provided that we trust and obey Jesus and are guided by his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9).

The multitudes followed Jesus because they saw the miraculous physical healings that he did (John 6:2). Jesus fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish, and there were twelve baskets of left-overs! When the people saw and realized what had occurred, they wanted to force Jesus to be their king, because they wanted free “Medicare” and “free lunches.” They were not thinking about how to serve him, but how he could serve them! They weren’t interested in the spiritual healing and the spiritual feeding that Jesus offered them.

Jesus fed the five thousand, but they soon were physically hungry again. Spiritual healing and spiritual feeding are eternal; they’re more necessary to us than physical food and health. How many of us are more concerned with physical health and physical gratification than spiritual health and nurture? Many people think that spiritual things are “imaginary” but they are more real and lasting than the physical things we think are solid and true. Only Jesus Christ can satisfy our spiritual needs.

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

Tuesday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/07/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 17:19-27    –    The Sabbath law;
Romans 7:13-25   –    Inner conflict of sin;
John 6:16-27  –   Walking on water;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah to stand in the Benjamin Gate of Jerusalem, which the kings of Judah use to enter and exit the city, and also in the other gates of Jerusalem and warn the people, for the sake of their lives, not to violate the Sabbath rest by carrying burdens on the Sabbath, or do any kind of work. The Lord had given this commandment to the patriarchs, but Israel had been stubborn and disobedient and had not listened and obeyed the commandment. The Lord promised that if Judah would obey the commandment and keep the Sabbath holy, the kings of the line of David would rule, their sacrifices would be acceptable to the Lord, and Jerusalem would be inhabited forever. But if Judah violated the Sabbath law Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Romans Paraphrase:

The law of God is good; it is sin that causes death, not the law. So sin is revealed to be sin. The law is spiritual (divine; holy) but we are carnal, slaves to desires of the flesh. We can desire what is right within our souls and yet do what is against it in our bodies. Thus it is sin, dwelling within our flesh, which causes us to do what is contrary to the law and to our souls.

We can will to do what is right and yet be unable to do it. We can desire to do what is good and yet do what is evil. Whenever we want to do right we must be careful, because evil is surely close at hand. Our souls delight in the law of God, but in our flesh sin enforces another set of laws which is in opposition to the law of God, enslaving us to the law of sin. Thank God that in Jesus Christ we can be freed from the law of sin and death so that we can serve God.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had fed the five thousand and then gone into the hills to pray. When evening came, the disciples got into the boat to return across the sea to Capernaum without him. A storm arose and the wind and waves were against them. After rowing three or four miles they saw Jesus coming toward them, walking on the water. The disciples were frightened, but Jesus identified himself and told them not to be afraid. Jesus got into the boat and immediately the storm ceased and they were at their destination.

The next day the crowd who had been fed came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. They had seen the disciples leave without Jesus, so they asked Jesus how he had gotten here. Jesus replied that the crowd had come looking for Jesus not because the miracle of the feeding had revealed to them that Jesus was the Messiah, but because they were seeking another free meal. Jesus told them not to pursue material things, like food, which perish and cannot satisfy eternally, but to instead pursue the spiritual food which nurtures and sustains the soul to eternal life. That spiritual food can be provided only by Jesus, whom God authenticated by the miraculous sign which Jesus had done.

Commentary:

Failure to keep the Sabbath law was symptomatic of Judah’s failure to obey God’s Word. God gave them the Sabbath rest for their own benefit (Mark 2:27), but they were so anxious to pursue their own agenda that they went ahead and did what they wanted to, knowing that it was contrary to God’s Word. Jeremiah warned Judah to keep the Sabbath rest for the sake of their lives.

The Lord promised that if God’s people obeyed God’s Word, they would be led by the heir to the throne of David, and Jerusalem would be an eternal city (Jeremiah 17:25). But disobedience of God’s Word would lead to destruction.  How could God’s people expect God to accept their sacrifices and offerings, their rituals of worship, if they were unwilling to obey God’s Word?

God’s Word is being fulfilled. Jesus is the heir to the throne of David, and his church is the new eternal city of Jerusalem on Earth. God’s people are those who trust and obey Jesus. But because they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, earthly Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A. D. by the Romans and the Jews were scattered throughout the world, and only began returning to the Promised Land following World War II.

Keeping the Sabbath won’t entitle us to salvation and eternal life, and breaking it won’t condemn us to eternal damnation, but it is a symptom of our obedience and relationship to God. God says that we are to rest from our labors on the Sabbath, but we think about the stuff we think we need to do and we think we have only Sunday in which to do it.

The fact that we shop on Sunday reveals that we desire material things too much. The fact that we work and sell on Sunday reveals that we desire wealth and success too much. If we didn’t buy things on Sunday, businesses would not be open on Sunday, and most people would not have to work on Sunday. There was a time in America when businesses were closed on Sunday. Do we even commit regularly to an hour or two on Sunday morning to worship in God’s house, or do we attend only if something else doesn’t come up?

Paul recognized that there is a law within our flesh which is opposed to God’s law, and that only through obedient trust in Jesus can we be freed from the tyranny of our own flesh. Only Jesus can set us free from the dominion of sin so that we can truly serve God. In Jesus we’re no longer slaves of sin, provided that we choose to be led by his Word and his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9).

The people who had been fed realized that they had seen a miracle, but the miracle was given so that they might know that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. The people weren’t interested in spiritual food, and they weren’t interested in a spiritual king. They wanted a political king who would deliver them from Roman occupation; they wanted an economic king who would provide them with abundant free food. They sought to follow Jesus only for the material benefits he could provide. But Jesus wants followers who are willing to be his disciples; who are willing to trust and obey him; who will set sail through the storms and darkness of this world, trusting that Jesus will be with them, will give them assurance in the darkness, will calm the wind and waves, and deliver them safe on the other shore.

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

Wednesday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/08/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 18:1-11  –  Allegory of the potter;
Romans 8:1-11   –   Life in the Spirit;
John 6:27-40   –   Jesus the bread of life;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah to visit his local potter, and there Jeremiah would hear the Lord’s Word. So Jeremiah went and saw the potter at his wheel shaping a pot of clay, but the pot was spoiled in the working process, so the potter reshaped it into another form, according to the potter’s desire. Then the Lord told Jeremiah that the Lord is like the potter and Israel (God’s kingdom; God’s people) is like the clay. Was not the Lord allowed to reshape the clay to suit his will and purpose?

At any time during the molding process, the Lord can break down and destroy a nation or kingdom (which is not in accordance with the Lord’s will), and if that nation or kingdom turns from evil the Lord can change his mind and not destroy it. Conversely, if a nation or kingdom which the Lord has molded and shaped doesn’t do what the Lord intended when he created it but does evil and doesn’t heed God’s Word, the Lord can change his mind and withhold the good he intended to do for them. The Lord declared to Judah that the Lord is shaping calamity (condemnation; the opposite of good) against them, so they should repent of their evil ways and change their behavior.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are in Christ are no longer under condemnation. The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ frees us from the law of sin and death. The law, weakened by our flesh, was not able to make us righteous, but God sent his Son in human flesh to put sin to death, so that we might be able to fulfill the just requirement of the law by walking according to the Holy Spirit instead of walking in the flesh. Those who walk according to the flesh are focused on worldly, carnal things, but those who walk according to the Spirit focus on spiritual things.

Pursuing things of the flesh leads to spiritual death, but pursuing things of the Sprit leads to eternal life and peace with God. The carnal mind is hostile to God; it cannot and will not submit to God’s law and thus cannot please God. “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

Although our bodies are dead because of sin our souls are alive because of righteousness, if Christ is really within us through his indwelling Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit is the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, and he will give eternal life to us also through his Spirit within us.

John Paraphrase:

After Jesus had fed a crowd of five thousand people, they followed Jesus to Capernaum (see John 6:1-15). Jesus told them not to pursue and work for physical food, which perishes and doesn’t satisfy, but instead pursue and work for spiritual food which truly satisfies and endures to eternity. Jesus Christ is the only source of that spiritual food, and God had authenticated Jesus Christ as the source of that spiritual food, in one instance, through the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

“Then they said to him, ‘What (works) must we do to be doing the work of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:28-29). Then they asked Jesus for a miraculous work, or sign, so that they might believe in Jesus. They said that in the wilderness Israel had eaten manna, the “bread from heaven.” Jesus replied that it was not Moses who gave them bread from heaven; God gives the true bread from heaven. The true bread from heaven comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. The people asked Jesus to give them that bread always.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). But Jesus told them that they had seen Jesus and yet did not believe. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out” (John 6:37).

Jesus came into the world by God’s will in order to do God’s will, which is to save all those who God has given him, and raise them up to eternal life on the Day of Judgment. God’s will is that all who see that Jesus is God’s Son and believe in him will have eternal life, and Jesus will raise them to eternal life on the Day of Judgment.

Commentary:

The Lord is the creator of the Universe, and he has created us for a purpose. It is God’s purpose to create an eternal kingdom of his people. This life is an “audition” for eternal life. We have the opportunity to seek and come into personal relationship with God (Acts 17:26-27) through Jesus Christ (John 14:6), by his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). We’re to learn how to live in accordance with God’s Spirit now, so that we can live with him eternally.

The Lord is the potter, and we are the clay. If we resist his attempts to shape us into what he wants and is useful to him, he can destroy us and make something else. He can withhold the good he was intending to do for us. Because Judah was resisting God’s will and pursuing her own desires, the Lord warned her to repent and change her ways, or be destroyed. Judah didn’t heed God’s warning through his prophet Jeremiah, and so God did reshape Judah like clay through her 70 year exile in Babylon.

Those who resist God’s will and pursue their own worldly desires are like stubborn clay which refuses to be molded by the Potter’s hand. They are under condemnation. God’s law is our best interest, but in our human weakness we cannot do what the law requires. Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and accounted by God as righteous, freed from the condemnation under the law, provided that we trust and obey Jesus.

Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, who guides us and enables us to live according to God’s will (John 14:15-17). The Lord will mold and shape us by his indwelling Holy Spirit, if we will trust and obey him and be his disciples. We have personal fellowship with the Lord and the assurance of eternal life through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The feeding of the five thousand was a “sign” which reveals that Jesus is from God and that he is the source of spiritual bread and life. The people who had been fed realized that something miraculous had occurred (John 6:14), but they followed Jesus seeking physical food and healing; for what Jesus could do for their earthly lives. They were focused on their flesh.

Jesus told them to labor instead for spiritual food, and they asked what work that involved. Jesus replied that it is not our work that earns our salvation; faith is God’s work in us when we trust and obey Jesus. When we believe Jesus’ words and act on them, God causes our “mustard seed” (Luke 13:19; 17:6) of faith to sprout and grow to spiritual maturity. As we have personal fellowship with the Lord we come to know that he is able and faithful to do what he says (see John 6:68-70).

The crowd then asked Jesus to do some miraculous sign so that they would believe in him. They had already seen the sign of the miraculous feeding, but hadn’t believed (John 6:36). For those who need to see “proof” in order to “believe” there is none, but for those who believe there is abundant proof. They wanted Jesus to give them at least another free meal, and preferably a regular, unlimited supply of daily bread, like the manna in the wilderness.

Jesus is the bread of life, the bread from heaven which gives eternal life to those who come to Jesus and believe in him. Jesus’ gave his own body on the Cross as the bread of life (John 6:51). God gives to Jesus all who trust and obey Jesus; no one who comes to Jesus will be rejected. All who see Jesus’ works and recognize that Jesus is of God receive eternal life now through his indwelling Holy Spirit, and will be raised from death on the Day of Judgment.

Do we need to see proof before we’ll believe? Do we follow Jesus seeking what he can do for us physically? Do we want God to do our will, or are we willing to do his will?

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

Thursday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/09/05;
Podcast: Thursday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 22:13-23    –   The fate of Jehoiakim;
Romans 8:12-27   –   The Spirit and sonship;
John 6:41-51   –   Bread from heaven;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

He who practices unrighteousness and injustice so that he can live in luxury is condemned. Living in luxury, in a mansion, doesn’t make one a king (or a great person). The forefathers lived according to justice and righteousness and all was well with them. They dealt justly with the poor and needy. Isn’t this what it means to know the Lord?

Woe to those who look for and desire dishonest gain, the shedding of innocent blood; those who practice oppression and violence. The Lord declared of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah, that no one would mourn Jehoiakim’s death; no one would regard him as a brother, or honor him as a noble person. His death will be treated like that of an animal; he will be dragged out of Jerusalem and cast aside (left to rot without burial). Israel (the remnant; Judah; God’s people) will mourn from Lebanon (a mountain at the northern border), Bashan (east of the Jordan River) and Abarim (a mountain in the south, east of the Dead Sea), because her lovers (idols; the objects of her spiritual adultery) are destroyed.

In prosperity, Israel would not listen to the Lord’s warning; she had been disobedient and had not obeyed the Lord’s voice from her youth. Her leaders will be scattered to the wind; her idols will be carried away. Because of her wickedness, Israel will be ashamed and confounded. The king, who took refuge in his palace made of cedar from Lebanon (Jeremiah 22:14), will groan like a woman in travail at the judgment coming upon him.

Romans Paraphrase:

Believers are obligated to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than according to our own carnal nature, because if we continue to live according to our flesh, we will die eternally in our flesh. But if we, by the Spirit, put the deeds of the flesh to death, we will live eternally. The children of God are those who are led by his Spirit.

God’s Spirit does not enslave us or cause us fear; we have received the spirit of adoption, by which we become God’s children. When we, moved by the Spirit, call God our Father, the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. If we are God’s children then we are God’s heirs, and share in Christ’s inheritance, provided that we share in his suffering so that we can share in his glory.

The suffering we may have to endure in this lifetime for the Gospel is nothing, compared to the glory of eternal life. All creation longs for the revealing of God’s children so that creation can be released from futility and bondage to decay and share in the glorious liberty which God’s children will receive. All creation has been groaning like a woman in childbirth, and we also, who have received the first fruits (down payment; security deposit) groan in our spirits as we long for adoption and the redemption of our bodies, because this is the promise we received when we were saved through faith in Jesus.

We don’t see the complete fulfillment of that promise yet, but we wait for it patiently. We don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit sustains us in our human weakness. God knows our heartfelt needs and desires, and the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will.

John Paraphrase:

The Jews (the religious authorities) criticized Jesus’ statement that he was the bread which came down from heaven. They thought Jesus could not have come down from heaven because they knew Jesus’ mother and (earthly) father. Jesus told them not to question his statement. Jesus said that no one could come to faith in him unless drawn to Jesus by God, and that those who come to Jesus will be resurrected on the last day (the Day of Judgment). Jesus quoted Isaiah 54:13, saying that everyone who has heard and learned from God will come to Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who has known God personally, because Jesus came from God. Jesus said that those who believe him have eternal life. Jesus is the bread of life. Israel’s forefathers ate manna in the wilderness, but they died. The spiritual bread Jesus supplies is the true bread from heaven, and those who receive that bread will never die spiritually. Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven, and those who partake of that bread will live forever, and the bread Jesus gives for the life of the world is his flesh.

Commentary:

Judah’s behavior demonstrated that they did not know the Lord. When their ancestors had lived according to justice and righteousness, all had been well for them. But Judah had become greedy for luxury, comfort and wealth, and in pursuing those “idols” had violated God’s Word. In their pursuit of material things, they had pursued dishonest gain (deceptive business practices, usurious interest rates, inflated prices), had shed innocent blood, and oppressed the poor and needy. In her prosperity, Israel refused to hear and obey God’s Word. Material wealth and worldly power does not make individuals or nations just or righteous. The result was that God lifted his protection from Judah and allowed them to be carried off into exile in Babylon for seventy years.

Calling ourselves God’s people doesn’t make it so. God’s people are those who are led by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, which he gives only to those who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). In Christ we have the freedom to seek and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christians are obligated to live according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit instead of living according to their worldly desires.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). The Holy Spirit is the “first fruit,” the “down payment,” the “security deposit” on eternal life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we have personal fellowship with the Lord now, as a foretaste of the complete fellowship we will have with him in eternity.

When we worship, it is the Holy Spirit prompting ecstatic praise which testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children. The Holy Spirit sustains, encourages, guides, and enables us and intercedes for us during our earthly “exile.” Following Jesus will require accepting suffering for the sake of the Gospel at times, rather than seeking our own personal satisfaction and comfort.

Jesus said that everyone who has heard God’s Word and has learned from it will come to Jesus. They will recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word. Jesus is the only way to personal knowledge of and fellowship with God (John 14:6; 10:22), and that way is through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23).

How are we doing? What does our behavior say about us, individually, as a church, and as a society? In our prosperity, have we become deaf to God’s Word? Are we seeking and obeying God’s Spirit and God’s will, or are we pursuing material comfort, pleasure, wealth and power? Do we live in wealth and luxury at the expense of the poor and needy? Do we imagine that our wealth and luxurious standard of living is a sign of God’s approval?

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

Friday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/10/05;
Podcast: Friday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 23:1-8    –     The righteous branch;
Romans 8:28-39    –    Our confidence in God;
John 6:52-59   –    Jesus’ flesh and blood;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

“’Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1).  The Lord condemns the rulers of God’s people, who have not taken proper care of them and have scattered and driven them away. God will punish them for their unfaithfulness. The Lord promises to bring the remnant of his people out of all the countries where they have been driven and bring them back to their fold, where they will thrive.

The Lord will set faithful shepherds over them who will properly care for them. They will no longer fear or be dismayed, and none shall be missing. The Lord will raise up a righteous Branch from David, who will reign as king. He will rule wisely in justice and righteousness. “In his day, Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely. And…he will be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). The day is coming when God’s people will no longer regard the Exodus from Egypt, but the return from Exile in Babylon, as the great saving act of God.

Romans Paraphrase:

God is constantly working for good with those who love him and are called to fulfill his purpose. God knew beforehand who would respond to that call, and he planned beforehand to conform them to the example and likeness of his Son, so that Jesus would be the first-born of many children. Those he knew and predestined he called, and those who responded to his call he justified and glorified.

If God is for us and working for good, we need not fear anyone or anything. Who will accuse us? Since it is God who judges us as righteous, who is there who would be able to condemn us? Jesus died, was raised from the dead, and is at God’s right hand interceding for us. Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love or the love of God, which is revealed in Jesus; not even death or the forces of evil.

John Paraphrase:

The Jewish religious authorities kept disputing Jesus’ claims. Jesus had said that he was the true bread from heaven, and the authorities doubted his heavenly origin, because they knew his earthly parents (John 6:41-42). Then Jesus said that the bread which he offered the world was his flesh, so the religious leaders questioned how Jesus could give his flesh to be eaten. But Jesus said that those who eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood have eternal life, and will be resurrected to eternal life on the Day of Judgment.

Jesus declared that his flesh and blood was the true spiritual sustenance, and that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood abide in Christ and he in them. God, who has eternal life, has given eternal life to his Son. So also Jesus gives eternal life to those who partake of his flesh and blood. Thus Jesus is the only true bread from heaven. Israel’s forefathers ate manna in the wilderness, but it did not confer eternal life. Jesus is the bread from heaven which gives eternal life. Jesus taught these things in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Commentary:

The civil and religious leaders of Judah in Jeremiah’s day were condemned for their unfaithfulness as shepherds of God’s people. They violated God’s Word, and they didn’t heed God’s prophet. They listened to false prophets who proclaimed that they had God’s presence and approval while living contrary to God’s Word (Jeremiah 14:13-16; 23 16-17). The same conditions apply to us today. God promised to raise up a Good Shepherd, a righteous Branch who would be the eternal king of God’s kingdom, the heir to the throne of David. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise.

Jesus truly is our righteousness. We cannot be righteous in God’s judgment by our own efforts. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). But by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus we are forgiven all our sins and are accounted righteous (Romans 3:22), so our Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness (compare Jeremiah 23:6b).

Christians are the New People of God, the New Israel. The Israel of Jeremiah’s day was exiled in Babylon for seventy years, and the Lord did bring them (their children) back to the Promised Land. Exile in Babylon is also a metaphor for eternal condemnation and return illustrates the salvation we have in Jesus; seventy years is virtually a life sentence for those who were adults.

God is good and he is constantly working for good with those who respond to his call to fulfill God’s purpose. His purpose is to create an eternal kingdom of his people who are like Jesus, who follow Jesus’ example and teaching. Jesus reveals God’s love and goodness, and if we trust in Jesus we can be assured that God is working for our best interest. We can trust God to protect us from all evil and to bring into his eternal kingdom; into creation restored to paradise, freed from decay and death and all evil.

It wasn’t coincidence that God fed Israel with manna in the wilderness. God has had a purpose from the very beginning of creation, and the ultimate manifestation of that purpose is in Jesus Christ. Just as manna didn’t confer eternal life to Israel in the wilderness, “good works” or keeping the Law of Moses doesn’t save us; only a personal relationship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit gives us eternal life. Those who believe Jesus’ words receive what Jesus promises, but to those who reject Jesus, his words seem to make no (worldly) sense.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus instituted what is called “the Lord’s Supper” (Eucharist; Communion), using the elements of bread and wine and declaring that these were his flesh and blood. (These words were spoken by Jesus, who existed and participated in Creation (John 1:15-14), whose command is obeyed by the forces of nature (Mark 4:41) and who raises the dead (John 11:43-44).

God had specifically forbidden his people to drink blood or eat flesh with its blood (Genesis 9:4), and it was believed in that time that blood contained the spirit of the animal. The Lord wants us to be filled with his Spirit, not the spirits of animals.

The Lord does not give his Holy Spirit to everyone who partakes of the elements of the Eucharist; only those who trust and obey Jesus Christ receive what he promised. The Holy Spirit is not necessarily conferred in participation in the Eucharist, but we are spiritually sustained by that participation, if done in obedient trust in Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is the New Passover feast, instituted during Jesus’ celebration of the Passover feast before his crucifixion. (The Christian symbolism of Passover would reward your further study.)

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 4 Lent – Odd
first posted 03/11/05
Podcast: Saturday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 23:9-15   –   Oracles against the prophets;
Romans 9:1-18   –    Israel’s unbelief;
John 6:60-71   –  Words of eternal life;

Jeremiah Summary:

Jeremiah mourned for his land, because the priests and prophets were corrupt. The land was under a curse because of the adultery of its people. Its prophets and priests were ungodly and even committing wickedness in the Lord’s temple. Their way will become a slippery path, and they will stumble into disaster in the year of God’s punishment.

Samaria’s prophets prophesied by Baal (the Canaanite idol), but Jerusalem had become worse than Samaria, committing adultery and speaking lies. Jerusalem’s leaders strengthened evildoers instead of calling them to repentance. They had become like Sodom and Gomorrah in their wickedness. The Lord declared that he would punish the prophets, feeding them wormwood (a bitter, toxic herb) and would give them poisoned water to drink. The prophets of Jerusalem had spread ungodliness throughout the land.

Romans Summary:

Paul mourned for his Jewish people. If it were possible, Paul might even have been willing to sacrifice his own salvation for their sake. They were God’s chosen people, to whom belonged God’s sonship, glory, covenant, law, worship, and promises, the patriarchs, and the Christ (Messiah). But their rejection of the Messiah did not mean that God’s promise had failed.

Not all the physical descendants of Israel and Abraham are their spiritual children. God promised that it was the descendants through Isaac who would be reckoned as the spiritual descendants. Therefore it is the children not of flesh but of promise who are God’s children.

Isaac was the son God had promised to Sarah (although Sarah was past childbearing age). God also promised that Jacob, the younger son of Isaac’s wife Rebecca, would be exalted above the older son, Essau, although they had not yet been born, and so God’s will was not based on their merit or behavior.

This is not injustice on God’s part, because God has the sovereign right to choose, and God’s call does not depend upon mankind’s will or exertion but upon God’s mercy. Paul suggests that God raised up Pharaoh to power in Egypt for the purpose of showing God’s power (in delivering the Israelites from Pharaoh), so that God would become known to the world.

John Summary:

Jesus had declared that he was going to give his flesh to the world as the bread of (eternal) life. His statement was unpleasant for his disciples to hear and accept. Jesus knew their inner thoughts and asked how they would feel about seeing Jesus ascending into heaven.

Jesus told them, “It is the spirit which gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words I have spoken are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Jesus was aware that some did not believe, and he knew from the beginning who would betray him. Jesus said that no one can come to him unless allowed by God.

Many of the wider group of disciples no longer followed Jesus after this teaching, and Jesus asked the Twelve original disciples whether they would also quit following him. Peter 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 pointed out that he had chosen the Twelve, and yet one of them was an ally of Satan, referring to Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus.

Commentary:

Jeremiah mourned for Judah, the remnant of Israel, because they had been chosen by God and had received God’s Word and God’s promises, and yet chose to pursue their own wickedness. Judah had failed to learn the lessons of Samaria and of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Lord condemned the priests and prophets because they had turned from God to idols and wickedness; they had preached lies instead of God’s truth. They had allowed the people to turn from the Lord, and they had spread their ungodliness throughout the land. As a result the Lord declared that the land would lose its productivity and their water would be polluted.

The Lord declared that the paths of the priests and prophets would become slippery causing them to stumble. The Lord’s prophecy was fulfilled. The Lord withdrew his favor and protection and Judah was carried off into exile in Babylon for seventy years by Nebuchadnezzar, who God used as an instrument of his punishment of Israel. Ultimately the Jewish religious leaders slipped and stumbled over the “stumbling stone and rock of offense” Jesus Christ (see entry for yesterday, Friday, 4 Lent, odd year).

Israel was God’s chosen people. They had the scriptures, the history, the worship, the promises, and the Savior, but they missed the fulfillment and salvation, because they didn’t respond to God’s call in trust and obedience. God’s promises are faithful and true. Salvation is by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) and mercy. It’s not based on our merit or behavior, our will or effort. It was God’s sovereign will to choose to give eternal life to all who trust and obey Jesus. God’s will is going to be accomplished whether we obey it or not. God used Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and Judas to accomplish his purpose to the glory of his name.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from condemnation and eternal death (Acts 4:12; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is the only way to come to knowledge of, and fellowship with God (John 14:6). God’s children are those who trust and obey Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior. They are the spiritual children of Abraham because they believe God’s promise. Jesus is the spiritual bread of life. The physical world and flesh are not eternal. It is the spiritual world which is eternal.

Jesus declared that it is the spirit which gives life. It is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit within Jesus’ disciples which is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34), and Jesus only gives the anointing of the Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

Those who trust and obey Jesus will come to know that he truly is the Holy One of God. Faith in Jesus becomes sure knowledge.  Jesus will manifest himself to them (John 14:21), and they will have a personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:23-24).

How are we doing as individuals, as a Church, and as a Nation? Have we become worse than Samaria; worse than Sodom and Gomorrah? Are we guilty of spiritual adultery, pursuing the idols of wealth, possessions, power, status, comfort and pleasure? Are our civic and spiritual leaders denouncing wickedness and calling for repentance and reform, or condoning it and allowing and encouraging it to spread, even within God’s house? Is there moral corruption among our civic and spiritual leaders? Are our prophets proclaiming God’s Word, or are they preaching lies, proclaiming God’s approval and blessing on our churches, our people and nation, while we are in flagrant disobedience of God’s Word?

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

Week of 3 Lent – Odd- 03/08 – 14/2015

March 7, 2015

Week of 3 Lent – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


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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 3 Lent – Odd
Sunday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/26/05;
Podcast: Sunday 3 Lent – Odd

This is the Church Season of Lent, forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter (not counting Sundays) of self-examination, fasting and repentance.

Jeremiah 6:9-15     –     God’s judgment upon the impenitent;
1 Corinthians 6:12-20   –   Warning against immorality;
Mark 5:1-20   –  The Gerasene demoniac;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord declared that he was going to glean the remnant of Israel (i.e. Judah) as one gleans grapes (searching for a God-fearing person among them; punishing thoroughly each unrepentant individual). Who is listening, that they might be warned? “Behold, their ears are closed, they cannot listen; …the Word of the Lord is an object of scorn (to them), they take no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10).

The Lord is tired of restraining his anger; his wrath will be poured out upon young and old. Others will possess their houses, fields and wives. The Lord will stretch out his hand against the inhabitants of the land. Everyone is greedy for unjust gain. Everyone deals falsely, including priests and prophets. “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). They feel no shame when they commit abomination. Therefore they will fall and be overthrown.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

The Church of Corinth was surrounded by a licentious culture. Paul warned them not to abuse God’s grace (salvation as a free gift, apart from keeping the law) to excuse the indulgence of the flesh. Not all things that are lawful are helpful. We must be careful not to misuse our freedom by becoming enslaved to anything. Gluttony is not excused by the fact that God created food and stomach for each other. The human body was not created for immorality, but to serve the Lord and to be his temple.

Christians are members of Christ’s body. We must not allow our members to be joined to a prostitute (or any other immoral union outside of marriage of a man and woman), since in sexual union the two become one flesh, and we are joined in one body with Christ. Those who are united in the Lord become one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Immorality is a sin against one’s own body. Our bodies are meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit within us. We are not our own; we have been ransomed by Jesus’ life’s blood, shed on the Cross for us. So let us glorify God in our bodies.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore to the region of the Gerasenes. When they got out of the boat they encountered a demoniac who lived among tombs in the vicinity. He was a wild, violent person whom no one had been able to restrain with chains or ropes. When he saw Jesus he ran to him and worshiped him, calling Jesus by name and acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God.

Jesus commanded the demon to come out of the man, but the demon begged not to be tormented. Jesus asked the demon his name, and the demon said his name was Legion, because he was one of many possessing the man. The demon begged Jesus to allow them to enter a herd of pigs near by, and Jesus gave them permission. When the demons entered the pigs, the pigs stampeded down a steep bank into the sea and were drowned.

The herdsmen who had been tending the pigs fled and told the townsfolk what had happened, and people came to see for themselves. They found the demoniac, clothed and sane, sitting with Jesus, and they were afraid. They had been told what happened to the pigs, and they begged Jesus to leave their country.

As Jesus entered the boat to leave, the former demoniac begged to go with him, but Jesus told him to return to his own people and tell them what the Lord had done for him. He did as Jesus had told him, and began to proclaim what Jesus had done for him, and all who heard him were amazed.

Commentary:

The Lord punished Judah for her disobedience and unrepentance. No one feared God (respected God’s power and authority). God’s Word had become an object of scorn. Everyone was greedy for unjust gain; they committed abominations with no sense of shame. Everyone dealt falsely, including priests and prophets. Israel was gravely wounded by sin, and instead of “surgery” to save her spiritual life, the religious leaders put a “band aid” on it; they “kissed” Judah’s “owie” and told her it was “all better.”

Her spiritual leaders assured Judah that they had peace with God, while ignoring God’s warning through Jeremiah that God was about to punish Judah. God’s prophecy of punishment was fulfilled. God took away his protection, and they were carried of into exile in Babylon for seventy years (by Nebuchadnezzar, from 587-517 B.C.).

The Church at Corinth was in the midst of a licentious culture. Paul warned Christians that God’s grace is not to be abused as an excuse for disobedience and immorality. God’s grace didn’t come “cheap;” it cost Jesus a painful death on the Cross.

Jesus came to the Garasenes to offer them eternal forgiveness and salvation. He encountered a demoniac who had been suffering and had been terrorizing the surrounding area for years. Jesus freed him from his enslavement; Jesus healed his physical and spiritual malady.

This took place in a “licentious” culture: Jews considered pigs to be ritually unclean. This community made its living raising and peddling pigs. The community was not grateful that Jesus had rid them of a considerable hazard and nuisance. They couldn’t see any benefit for themselves for Jesus’ physical and spiritual healing. They were afraid Jesus would ruin their “pig” business.

The Church and America are in a very similar position today. We are living in a very “licentious” culture. God-fearing people are hard to find. For many, God’s Word is an object of scorn. Who is listening to God’s Word of warning? Many are greedy for unjust gain. Many are doing, even within the Church and within the clergy, without any sense of shame, things which are abominable to God. Many deal falsely, including religious and civic leaders.

Many Churches and religious leaders are “blessing” and validating the civil government and its social policies. Many Churches and religious leaders are preaching peace with God by “Cheap Grace*” (Grace without discipleship and obedience; see False Teachings, sidebar top right, home), instead of proclaiming a warning of God’s judgment and condemnation of sin, and calling for repentance and revival.

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


Monday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/27/05;
Podcast: Monday 3 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 7:1-15  –   The temple sermon;
Romans 4:1-12   –   True descendents of Abraham;
John 7:14-36  –   The Feast of Tabernacles;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah received a word from the Lord instructing Jeremiah to stand at the gate of the temple and tell the people entering the gates, ostensibly to worship the Lord, to repent and amend their ways and deeds. Jeremiah was to warn them not to be deceived into thinking that the temple was the Lord’s temple just because they called it that. The Lord promised that if Judah would truly amend their ways and become obedient to God’s Word not to oppress the alien, fatherless, or widowed, shed innocent blood or pursue idols, the Lord would allow them to dwell in the land, as he had promised their ancestors.

Judah was warned not to be deluded to think that they could do what was contrary to God’s Word and abominable to God, and then come into God’s temple, believing they have been delivered from the consequences of sin and God’s wrath. “Has this house, which is called by (God’s) name, become a den of robbers in your eyes” (Jeremiah 7:11a)? The Lord testifies that it has (Jeremiah 7:11b; compare Matthew 21:13). The Lord warns that the destruction of the former temple at Shiloh (which was destroyed around 1050 B.C. in the days of Samuel) is an example of what the Lord will do to punish the wickedness of his people.

Because Judah has lied, stolen, murdered, committed adultery and pursued idolatry, and has not heeded the warnings of God’s prophets, God will do to Judah and the temple at Jerusalem what he did at Shiloh and will cast Judah from his sight as he cast off the descendants of Ephraim (Samaria; see entry for Wednesday, 3 Lent, odd year, following below).

Romans Paraphrase:

Abraham is the forefather of the Jews according to human genealogy. If Abraham had been justified by works (keeping of the law; doing good deeds) he would have had something to boast about to humans, but not to God. According to Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Paul argues that if a person earned righteousness by doing good deeds or by keeping the law, his righteousness would be payment earned, rather than a gift. But to one who trusts in God for his salvation without reliance on works, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

God’s free gift of forgiveness and salvation is available to those who trust in Jesus instead of relying on their own righteousness. Those whose sins are forgiven are blessed, and this blessing is upon all who have faith, not just the Jews. Righteousness was attributed to Abraham by faith, before he was circumcised; circumcision was the outward symbol and guarantee of the righteousness he had by faith, before he was circumcised. God’s purpose was to make him the spiritual father of those who are judged righteous by faith in Jesus apart from circumcision and the covenant of law, as well as the father of those who are not merely circumcised but follow the example of faith which Abraham set before he was circumcised.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. About the middle of the eight-day festival, Jesus went to the temple and taught. The religious leaders were amazed by Jesus’ teaching since he had never had formal rabbinic study. Jesus answered that his teaching was from God who had sent him. Anyone who is committed to obeying God’s will will be able to recognize that Jesus’ teaching is from God.

People speaking on their own authority are seeking their own glory, but one who speaks by the authority of another seeks the glory of the one who sent him, so what he says is credible and accurate. Jesus pointed out that the religious leaders were violating the Law of Moses by seeking to kill Jesus because he had healed on the Sabbath. The people denied that anyone was seeking to kill Jesus and suggested that Jesus had a demon. Jesus pointed out that it was legal to circumcise on the Sabbath, yet they criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus warned them not to judge by outward appearance, but to judge by real inner attitudes. The people knew and marveled that the leaders were seeking to kill Jesus, but Jesus spoke openly and no one arrested him. They wondered if that was because the authorities really knew Jesus was the Christ. Yet they discounted that possibility because they thought they knew Jesus’ origin, which seemed to rule him out as the Messiah. Jesus told them they only thought they knew Jesus’ origin; they knew his earthly parentage but not his heavenly origin, and they only thought they knew God.

Jesus knew God personally because he had come from God and had been sent by God. The authorities sought to arrest Jesus but could not, because it was not yet God’s will and timing. But many people believed in Jesus because of the signs (miracles revealing Jesus to be the Christ) he did.

The religious leaders knew that many people were believing in Jesus so they sent officers to arrest him. Jesus declared that he would be with them a little longer before returning to God who had sent him, and that they would seek Jesus but not find him; where Jesus is they will not be able to come. The leaders didn’t understand what Jesus meant, and wondered if he was going to preach to the Gentiles (“pagans”).

Commentary:

The Lord told Jeremiah to stand at the gate of the temple and tell the people apparently intending to worship the Lord, to repent and amend their ways and deeds. Just calling it the Lord’s house didn’t make it so. If it was attended by thieves and robbers then it had become a den of robbers.

The Lord would only let his people continue to dwell in the Promised Land if they would amend their ways and deeds and become obedient to God’s Word. They were warned that they could not truly worship the Lord while doing things contrary to God’s Word and abominable to God. The Lord warned them that if they didn’t repent and return to obedience to the Lord they would suffer the same punishment which had come upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

The Northern Kingdom had not heeded God’s Word and prophets, and had not repented and amended its ways, and the result was that the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and ceased to exist. Samaria consisted largely of the territory of Ephraim, and the city was the capital of the Northern Kingdom. It fell in 720 B.C. to the army of Shalmaneser. The temple at Shiloh (near Bethel in the territory of Ephraim), considered heretical by Jerusalem, had been destroyed around 1050 B. C. (Psalm 78:56-72; 1 Kings 12:25-33).

God fulfilled his prophecy that Judah would suffer a similar punishment. Judah was conquered and the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and Judah was carried off into exile in Babylon for seventy years from 587-517 B.C. The Jews didn’t learn from these examples, and were consequently unprepared for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The result was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The Jews were scattered throughout the world, and only began to return to Israel following World War II. The temple has never been rebuilt.

Abraham is the forefather of the Jews by human genealogy, but the spiritual forefather of Christians, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin, through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Abraham’s circumcision is evidence of his faith, his trust and commitment to obey God’s Word, which he had before he was circumcised. Being born into the Christian faith or becoming a member of a Christian congregation through religious ritual doesn’t make one a true Christian or guarantee God’s favor and blessing, any more than circumcision made Jews truly God’s people if they did not trust and obey the Lord.

One cannot truly believe in Jesus and not trust and obey him. Anyone who is committed to trusting and obeying God will be able to recognize that Jesus’ teaching is from God. No one can truly know God apart from a personal relationship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we have believed in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16), corresponding to circumcision for the Jews. Those who do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Jesus pointed out that the Jews were violating God’s laws by seeking to kill Jesus because he had healed on the Sabbath (and had called God his Father, making himself equal with God; John 5:15-18). They were in flagrant violation of the First Commandment to love God and the Fifth Commandment not to kill, but when Jesus reproached them they denied their sin and blasphemed, suggesting that the Holy Spirit was evil (John 7:20; compare Mark 3:28-30) cutting themselves off from the source of salvation and eternal life. But note that it was common knowledge among the people that the authorities were seeking to kill Jesus, as Jesus had said (John 7:25-26).

Someone needs to stand at the doors of the Churches in this land and tell the people who are supposedly coming to worship the Lord to repent and amend our ways and our deeds! Let us not suppose that we can continue to do what is contrary to God’s Word and abominable in his judgment, and then imagine that we will be delivered from the consequences of God’s wrath and condemnation.

Will we accept the Lord’s correction and discipline, or will we continue to deny our sins and blaspheme him by our conduct? The Jews kept forgetting and repeating the same mistakes, instead of learning from their experience and the Scriptures. Are we willing to learn from their history, or will we also make the same mistake? Do we imagine that the same punishment cannot be applied to 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)?

Tuesday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/28/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 3 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 7:21-34  –    Faithfulness; not sacrifice;
Romans 4:13-25   –   True descendants of Abraham;
John 7:37-52  –   Living Water;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord declared, through Jeremiah, that Israel might as well eat their sacrifices and burnt offerings because the Lord desired trust and obedience rather than sacrifices (see Micah 6:8). The Lord had promised that if they obeyed God’s Word and God’s leading they would be his people and he would be their God, and that if they walked in obedience all would be well for them. But Israel had not obeyed God’s Word but had walked according to their own council and stubbornness. Israel had refused to heed the prophets God had sent; they refused to listen and obey.

The Lord told Jeremiah to proclaim God’s Word to them even though they would not listen, and to declare that they were a nation that did not obey God’s Word, they refused to accept God’s discipline, and that truth had perished from among them. Jeremiah was to tell them to prepare for mourning, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken that generation. Judah had done evil and defiled God’s temple by bringing abominations into it. They had pursued false gods and occult practices, contrary to God’s Word.

Because they had sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols at Topheth, in the Valley of Hinnom, God declared that Topheth and Hinnom would become a cemetery because there would be no room elsewhere. The dead would be eaten by birds, because there would be no one to scare them away. God declared that he would remove mirth, gladness and wedding celebrations from his people and their country would become a wasteland.

Romans Paraphrase:

God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the world did not come through the Covenant of Law, but instead through the righteousness of faith. If those who obeyed the law where the heirs of the promise, faith would be pointless and the promise would be meaningless. The law brings punishment, but there is no punishment for things against which there is no law. The promise depends on faith so that it may be a free gift, guaranteed to all of Abraham’s (spiritual) descendants; to those who share the faith of Abraham as well as those who keep the law.

God’s Word declared that Abraham would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). The promise was made to Abraham directly by God, and Abraham believed God, who can raise the dead to life and create new things that have never previously existed, by his Word. Abraham believed what seemed to be impossible, considering that he was a hundred years old (when the promised son Isaac was born; Genesis 21:5), and that his wife Sarah had been barren throughout their marriage (and she was past child-bearing age; Hebrews 11:11).

Abraham’s faith did not waver, but grew stronger as he gave glory to God, completely convinced that God was able and would be faithful to do what he promised. That is why Abraham’s faith was reckoned as righteousness (Romans 4:22; see 4:3; Genesis 15:6). God’s reckoning of Abraham’s faith as righteousness was recorded in the scriptures for our benefit. Those who truly believe God raised to life, Jesus, who died for our sins, will be reckoned righteous.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (an eight-day harvest festival also commemorating Israel’s wilderness wandering). On the last day of the feast, the most important day, Jesus publicly proclaimed, “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).

When the people heard this, some were convinced that Jesus was the prophet (who was expected to appear before the Messiah) and some thought Jesus was the Messiah (Christ), but others did not, because they expected the Messiah to be a descendant of David and come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown). The people were divided over Jesus’ identity, and some wanted to arrest Jesus, but no one did. Temple officers returned to the Jewish high council without having arrested Jesus and when asked why not, they said that no one had ever spoken like Jesus did.

The religious leaders rebuked them, asking if the officers had been led astray also. They pointed out that none of the religious experts believed in Jesus. The leaders said that the people who believed in Jesus were ignorant and unforgiven sinners. Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus by night, and was a believer as well as a member of the Jewish council, pointed out that they were violating the law by judging Jesus without a fair trial. The leaders sarcastically rebuked Nicodemus, asking if he were from Galilee also (implying that he was an ignorant provincial). They told Nicodemus to search scripture and see for himself that no prophets were predicted to arise from Galilee.

Commentary:

The Lord does not desire us to worship him with religious ritual, but with trust and obedience. God’s people are not those who claim to be, but those who demonstrate that they are God’s people by trust and obedience of God’s Word. God is Sovereign God, whether we acknowledge him or not, but he is under no obligation to be all that office (God) implies (to bless, protect and provide, for example) to people who refuse to trust and obey him. If we don’t choose to be his people he will choose not to be our God.

Judah had not been obedient to God’s Word, they had refused to heed God’s prophets, and had refused to accept God’s discipline. Consequently they had lost all sense of the truth. The Lord told Jeremiah to declare that Judah was a nation that did not obey God’s Word and to prepare for mourning because God was about to punish that generation. God’s Word was fulfilled. Judah was carried off by Nebuchadnezzar’ armies into exile in Babylon for seventy years, from 587 to 517 B.C.

They hadn’t learned from the example of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 720 B.C., and they didn’t learn and remember from their own seventy-year exile. Consequently they were not prepared for the coming of the Messiah, and so repeated their error. Jerusalem and the temple were again destroyed, this time by the Romans in 70 A.D.. The Jews were scattered throughout the world and didn’t begin to return to their Promised Land until after World War II. The temple has never been rebuilt. (See journal entry for yesterday, Monday, 3 Lent, odd year.)

Is our nation obedient to God’s Word? Are our people willing to accept God’s discipline? Are we willing to hear and obey God’s prophetic voice? Do we expect God to bless us, protect us, provide for us, hear us and answer our prayers while we disregard his Word and his prophets? Do we bring abominations into God’s house and yet imagine that we’re in God’s presence and favor? Do we imagine that we can manipulate God’s approval by participating in religious ritual? Have we lost the ability to discern the truth?

God has had a plan of salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home) from the very beginning of creation, which was ultimately revealed at the coming of the Messiah (Christ), Jesus. God called Abraham to be the spiritual father of God’s people. God gave the Law through Moses, to teach his people what is right and what is wrong, and to restrain them from evil until the fulfillment of his promise of a Savior, the Messiah.

Abraham trusted and obeyed God and he became the spiritual father of all who trust and obey Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. No human has ever been able to keep God’s law; sacrifices were constantly required under the Covenant of Law for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice once for all for our forgiveness and salvation, and it is Jesus, by his Spirit within us, that makes it possible to be obedient to God and bridges the gap between our ability and God’s requirements. It is those who trust and obey Jesus who will be righteous in God’s judgment, as a free gift to be received by faith (obedient trust).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, water from the pool of Siloam was brought every day for seven days and poured on the altar in the temple, as a reminder of the water from the rock in Israel’s wilderness wandering (Numbers 20:2-13), and as a symbol of the hope of the coming Messiah (Isaiah 12:3). Jesus is the fulfillment of that symbolism. Christ is the rock from whom spiritual water flows to us in the desert of this earthly life (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the promised Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34). Those who believe in (trust and obey) Jesus will have the indwelling Holy Spirit within us, which gives us spiritual, eternal life, and which flows out of us to offer spiritual life to those around us who are spiritually dead without Jesus. The Holy Spirit wasn’t given to believers until after Jesus had been raised from the dead. The promise began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2), and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit continues to be given only to disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17).

Since Jesus made his declaration (John 7:37) people have been divided by controversy over who Jesus is. Those who trust his word and obey his teaching will receive the fulfillment of the promised Holy Spirit. Some will reject Jesus without giving him a fair hearing. Some who are civic and religious leaders, who are considered well-educated by worldly standards will dismiss Christian disciples as ignorant, uneducated and provincial. Some will tell us that we cannot be saved unless we keep Jewish laws. Some will tell us we can believe in Jesus without doing what Jesus commands. Each one of us must decide for ourselves who Jesus is, and our decision will have eternal consequences. Have you given Jesus a fair hearing?

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

Wednesday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/01/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 3 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 8:4-7, 18-9:6   –   Israel’s indifference;
Romans 5:1-11   –    Peace with God through Jesus;
John 8:12-20  –   Jesus is the light of life;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord said that when a person falls he picks himself up again; when he take a wrong path he turns back and goes in the right direction, but Israel has fallen into perpetual backsliding; they persist in deceit and refuse to repent. The Lord has listened for their apology but they make none; no one repents of his wickedness. Everyone charges ahead pursuing his own desires like a horse charges ahead into battle. The birds and the animals follow the natural laws established by their creator, but God’s people forget God’s law.

Jeremiah (and the Lord) mourns for his people. Judah cries out in suffering, asking where is her Lord; why has the Lord not delivered them? But she doesn’t acknowledge that she has provoked God’s anger because of her idolatry and disobedience. Is there no medicine or physician in the land that can heal God’s people?

The prophet mourns for his people; he sheds fountains of tears. He longs for a place of refuge and solace away from his people’s corruption. Israel is full of adulterers, liars and treacherous people. Falsehood and deception have become usual practice. Neighbors and brothers cannot trust each other. They overthrow, slander and deceive one another. They commit evil without remorse. They oppress one another. They refuse to know and acknowledge the Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

We have peace (reconciliation) with God when we are justified (accounted righteous) by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. It is only through Jesus that we receive this grace (free gift; unmerited favor) and the hope of sharing in the glory of God (the glorious destiny of eternal fellowship with God in his kingdom in Heaven). We can rejoice despite suffering, knowing that suffering produces hope through endurance and character, and hope will not disappoint us, because we experience God’s love through the indwelling Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

While we were enslaved by sin and death, unable to help ourselves, Christ died for sinners. Not many people are willing to give up their lives even for a righteous person, much less a sinner. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Since we have been accounted righteous by Jesus’ blood we will be saved by him from God’s wrath. While we were enemies of God, Jesus’ death reconciled us to God, so Jesus’ immortal life will save us from eternal death. Further, Christians rejoice now in God because we have already received reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the last day of the feast, after having proclaimed that he was the source of “living water” through the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), Jesus spoke again, saying “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The Pharisees (the dominant, legalistic, faction of Judaism) rebuked him, saying that Jesus was testifying for himself contrary to Jewish law which required testimony to be substantiated by at least two witnesses. Jesus replied that he was uniquely qualified to testify to himself because he had personal knowledge of God, Heaven, and Jesus’ mission and ultimate destiny.

Jesus pointed out that it was the Pharisees who were unqualified to judge Jesus’ testimony, because they judged by worldly standards and by superficial appearance. Further, Jesus pointed out that God the Father bears witness to Jesus (through God’s Word, the scriptures), satisfying the requirement for two witnesses.

The Pharisees then asked Jesus where his Father was, and Jesus replied that they did not know Jesus or his Father. If they had known Jesus, they would have known his Father (John 8:19; compare Matthew 11:27). Jesus had said this in the treasury of the temple (which was guarded by temple guards; 2 Kings 12:9; according to the Oxford Annotated Bible*, Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane by both Roman Soldiers and Jewish temple police), but Jesus was not arrested at this time because it wasn’t yet God’s timing.

Commentary:

Christians are the “new people of God,” and America is in one sense the “new Israel.” How are we doing? Have we forgotten God’s Word; have we even read and known God’s Word for ourselves? Are we committed to trusting and obeying our Lord, or are we pursuing our own desires, worshiping the idols of health, wealth, power, and pleasure? Are we willing to examine ourselves, confess our sins and shortcomings and return in repentance to the Lord?

Jesus is the spiritual “balm in Gilead” (a resinous sap used for medicinal purposes, plentiful in Gilead, the northern region of Israel east of the Jordan); the healer and Great Physician, the only one who can heal the spiritual sickness of our people and our land. We can know and have fellowship with God only through Jesus Christ, who alone gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust an obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:6, 15-17).

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 and destruction in Hell (Romans 6:22). Jesus died on the Cross as a sacrifice to God once for all for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal condemnation (See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home). Salvation is a free gift, paid for by Jesus on the Cross. All we have to do is receive it by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (John 1:12; Revelation 3:20).

Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, through whom we have personal fellowship with our Lord and personally experience God’s love. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have real, spiritual life, now and eternally (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, the temple courtyard was illuminated at night by large golden lamps (commemorating the leading of the Lord through the wilderness at night by the pillar of fire; Exodus 13:21. Also, water was carried from the pool of Siloam and poured upon the altar in the temple, commemorating the water from the rock in the wilderness  (see entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 3 Lent, odd year) and it was in this context that Jesus made his declaration.

Jesus is the source of the “living water” and the “light of the world” through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that our minds are opened to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45; by the risen Jesus), it is the Holy Spirit who illuminates and guides our path through the darkness of this present world, as the pillar of fire guided the Israelites through the night in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21; Acts 2:3). It is the presence of the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit that gives us a foretaste of eternal fellowship with our Lord in Heaven, enables us to rejoice in God now in the midst of suffering, and assures us that our hope will not be disappointed.

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, John 18:3n, p. 1310, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Thursday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/02/05
Podcast: Thursday 3 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 10:11-24   –   Prepare for exile;
Romans 5:12-21   –   Adam and Christ contrasted;
John 8:21-32  –   Know the truth;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Idols, who have not created the heavens and earth, will perish from creation. The Lord God alone is creator of heaven and earth by his power, wisdom and understanding. God’s Word commands and rules the forces of nature. All humans are ignorant and stupid, compared to the Lord.

Idolaters will be put to shame by their idols, because their idols are false; there is no life or spirit within them. Idols are worthless; a delusion. The time of punishment is coming when they will perish. The Lord is totally different than the idols; he has created all things, and he is the inheritance of Israel. He is the Lord of hosts.

Those who are under siege, prepare for exile. The Lord will throw them from their land and bring distress upon them, so that they can feel it. Judah will be in great mourning because of her wound. Her affliction is great but must be endured. Her dwelling is destroyed; her children have perished. Her leaders are stupid; they have not sought the Lord’s will and guidance, and therefore have not prospered, and the people have been scattered.

A great commotion is coming out of the north (Babylon), making Judah a wasteland. Jeremiah acknowledges that mankind is not capable by his own direction of doing what is right, and Jeremiah prays for the Lord’s judicious correction [so that he may be healed by God’s grace (unmerited favor) rather than destroyed by God’s wrath].

Romans Paraphrase:

Sin came into the world through Adam, and death came through sin, spreading to all people, because all have sinned. Sin came long before God’s law was given to Moses, but sin is not counted where there is no law, yet death reigned during that period from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not in defiance of God’s explicit command.

Adam is a model of earthly people as Christ is the model of Godly people. The free gift [of forgiveness and salvation through faith (obedient trust) in Christ] is the opposite of the trespass; many died by following Adam’s disobedience, but many have been saved and restored to eternal life as a free gift through the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ.

Further, God’s condemnation applied following one sin, but God’s grace (the unmerited favor of forgiveness and salvation) absolves many sins. Death reigned through the sin of one man, Adam; but the abundant free gift of righteousness and life reigns through Jesus Christ. Adam’s disobedience and trespass led to condemnation of all mankind, but Jesus’ obedience and righteousness leads to forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life for all (who are willing to accept it).

God’s Law increased sin (sin was thereafter defiance of God’s explicit commands), but God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) abounded even more. Sin’s power leads to eternal death, but the power of God’s grace leads to righteousness and eternal life through Jesus Christ.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus told the Pharisees (the dominant, legalistic faction of Jewish religious leaders) that Jesus was going to go away and that they would seek Jesus and would die in their sin, because Jesus was going where they could not come. The Jews (religious authorities) wondered if Jesus was going to commit suicide (and go to Hell, because they couldn’t imagine any other place Jesus could go that they could not follow).

Jesus then said that they were of this world but Jesus was from above (from God and Heaven). Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he” (or “I AM;” John 8:24; Exodus 3:13-14). So they asked Jesus who he claimed to be, and Jesus said he had been telling them who he was from the beginning.

Jesus told them he had much to say about them and much to judge, but he (God the Father) who had sent Jesus is true, and Jesus was telling the world what he had received (from God), but the Jews didn’t understand that he was referring to God. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me” (John 8:28).

Jesus also said that God was with him and had not forsaken him because Jesus always did what was pleasing to God. Many who heard Jesus believed in him. Jesus told those who believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Commentary:

The Lord God is the only true God and Creator of the universe. Trusting and obeying any other thing or person, even especially ourselves, above God is idolatry. Only God can give true, eternal spiritual life (by his indwelling Holy Spirit through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ).

Following leaders who have not sought the Lord’s will and guidance will lead to disaster. No person can do what is right and pleasing to God except through faith in Jesus Christ, by his indwelling Holy Spirit. Each individual one of us must choose whether to serve the Lord or not.

We must choose whether to accept the Lord’s discipline now, so that we can learn to be what God intended, or we will receive his eternal wrath, and condemnation to eternal exile in Hell, on the Day of Judgment. Jeremiah warns us to prepare now for God’s judgment. We would be wise to follow Jeremiah’s example and pray for the Lord’s judicious correction now so that we may be spiritually healed, rather than be eternally destroyed by God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. It would be better to heed God’s Word now than to be condemned by it later.

We must choose whether to follow Jesus Christ in obedient trust or not. We will either follow Jesus to eternal life, or we will follow Adam to eternal death. I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of this life is to seek and come to a personal fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit. God is right now recruiting volunteers for eternal life with him in heaven.

Jesus was God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation from the very beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus’ command calms the forces of nature (Mark 4:39-41, and raises the dead to life (John 11:43-44). He wants each one of us to decide for ourselves who he is, so he described himself as the Son of man, which is true and which allows us to decide whether he is the Son of God and the Messiah or not.

Jesus’ statement, “I am he” (John 8:24), allows his hearers to choose whether to believe him to be the Messiah and one with God or not.  He could command us to believe and follow him but he wants us to choose to believe and follow him. On the Day of Judgment he will command, and there will be no choice but to obey (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

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). God was with Jesus and had not forsaken him because Jesus was obedient to God’s will even to death on the Cross as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.

Those who truly believe in Jesus and thus trust and obey his teachings are Jesus’ disciples who will come to know the truth of God’s Word, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and a personal relationship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit. They will be set free from slavery to sin and eternal death. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

Do you know the Truth? Do you know Jesus personally? Who do you believe Jesus is?

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

Friday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/03/05;
Podcast: Friday 3 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-17  –   Broken covenant;
Romans 6:1-11  –     Dying and rising with Christ;
John 8:33-47   –   Descendants of Abraham;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, telling him to tell Judah that those who do not heed the Covenant of Law, given to Moses when the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, will be cursed. Judah is commanded to listen to and obey the Lord’s voice and they will be God’s people and he will be their God and will fulfill the promise he swore to their fathers, to give them the Promised Land. The Lord told Jeremiah to tell Judah to hear the commands of the covenant and obey them. When the Lord delivered them from Egypt he warned Israel to obey his commandments, but they didn’t listen or obey, pursuing instead the evil desires of their own hearts.

The Lord told Jeremiah not to pray for Judah because the Lord will refuse to listen to Judah when they cry to the Lord in their distress. Like an unfaithful wife, what rights does she have in her husband’s house? Can vows and sacrificial flesh (religious ritual) avert her doom? The Lord once considered Israel to be like a fine olive tree producing good fruit, but now the Lord will burn it with fire and its branches will be consumed. Israel and Judah were “planted” by the Lord, but now he will destroy them for the evil which they have done and their spiritual adultery.

Romans Paraphrase:

Salvation is by grace (a free gift; unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, not by works (keeping) of the law (Romans Chapter 5; Ephesians 2:8-9), but that doesn’t mean that we are free to sin. Those who are baptized into Jesus Christ have shared in Jesus’ death so that we may also share in his resurrection. In our baptism we die to sin, so that we may rise and walk in newness of life (by the Holy Spirit).

Our old sinful nature was crucified and destroyed so that we might no longer be enslaved by sin. Sin has no power over the dead. Christ died to sin, in human flesh, once for all, and arose to spiritual, eternal life. He can never die again. He died to sin, and now lives to God. “So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had told the people that if they trusted and obeyed Jesus’ teaching, they would know the truth and the truth would set them free. They answered Jesus by saying they were descendants of Abraham and had never been in bondage to anyone. Jesus told them that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. Comparing the spiritual realm to a worldly estate, Jesus is the Son (and heir) of the “household.” A slave doesn’t continue in the household forever. The Son has the power to set the slave free.

The Jews are (physical) descendants of Abraham, but they sought to kill Jesus because they rejected Jesus’ words. Jesus was speaking what he knew from personal experience with God his Father, but the Jews (those who rejected Jesus) were doing what they had learned from their “father” (Satan).

They claimed that Abraham was their father, but in seeking to kill Jesus, they were demonstrating that they were not spiritual children of Abraham, because they didn’t have his faith (obedient trust) in God. Jesus told them that their behavior demonstrated who their spiritual father was. They insisted that they were not born of fornication, but that God was their father. Jesus told them that if God were their father they would love Jesus because Jesus shared God’s nature and had come from God, by God’s authority and command.

Jesus told them that it was because their father was Satan that they could not bear to hear Jesus’ words. Satan has always been a murderer and liar, and he is the father of lies. Jesus speaks the truth, but they do not believe him, and their desire to kill Jesus and their rejection of truth proves that they share Satan’s nature and are his children. The sin is not in Jesus but in themselves. The children of God are those who hear God’s Word. The fact that they refuse Jesus’ words proves that they are not God’s children.

Commentary:

God’s people are commanded to listen to and obey God’s Word. Only those who know and obey God’s Word are his true children. God is God and sovereign Lord of the universe, whether we acknowledge and obey him or not. But if we choose not to listen to him he is under no obligation to listen to us. God is not obligated to be our God and all that office implies unless we are willing to be his faithful people. Those who continue to disobey God’s Word or put any other thing or person ahead of their relationship to God without repentance are committing spiritual adultery, and therefore have no rights in God’s house. Making vows or participating in religious ritual is no substitute for genuine repentance and obedience.

There are two false teaching that began it the lifetime of the Apostles, and are addressed in the New Testament, which continue in “churches” today. One is “works-righteousness,” or “legalism,” teaching that we must keep the Jewish laws. The other is called “cheap grace,”* teaching salvation by grace without the requirement of discipleship and obedience (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home). Both these (and other) errors could be avoided if we read and knew the entire Bible, and understood the Old Testament from the New Testament perspective. (The average reader can easily read the entire Bible in one year. See Bible Study Tools, sidebar, top right, home.)

This text is one example of Apostolic teaching refuting the false teaching of “cheap grace.” Salvation is a free gift from God to be received by our faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Real saving faith in Jesus is obedient trust in Jesus’ words (Matthew 7:21-24). Many people erroneously think that faith is like “wishing on a star;” or that whatever we believe will be true if we believe “hard enough.” Christians are freed from obedience to Jewish law, provided that they trust and obey Jesus and are guided and empowered by his indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e, John 14:15-17).

Jesus is the way, truth, and life (John 14:6). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Only Jesus can set us free from slavery to sin and death. What we do demonstrates who our spiritual father is. Jesus is the absolute “gospel” truth. Truth is not “relative;” Trust and obedience to Jesus’ word and example is the standard against which all will be judged. Jesus’ word is God’s Word; God’s children are those who trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus’ teachings will either heal us or offend and condemn us, depending on our response. Jesus’ dealing with the Jews in this text is an example of the Lord’s “judicious correction” (see entry for yesterday, Thursday, 3 Lent, odd year), which we should pray for and welcome, so that we become what the Lord created and called us to be. Those who refuse his correction will receive his wrath and condemnation. Are we willing to hear the truth? Are we willing to submit to Jesus’ discipline and correction?

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


Saturday 3 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/04/05;
Podcast: Saturday 3 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 13:1-11   –   Rotten girdle;
Romans 6:12-23   –   Serving righteousness or sin;
John 8:47-59  –    Who does Jesus claim to be?

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah to go and buy a linen waistcloth (girdle; an undergarment), which he was to wear without washing. Jeremiah did so, and then the Lord told him to go to the Euphrates River and hide the girdle in a cleft in a rock that the Lord would show to him. Again Jeremiah did as the Lord told him.

Many days later, the Lord told Jeremiah to go and retrieve the girdle, and when Jeremiah did so it was partially rotted and spoiled. Then the Lord told Jeremiah that the Lord was going to do to the pride of Judah and Jerusalem what he had done to the girdle. The Lord was going to punish Judah because they were evil people who pursued their own evil desires, had sought and served other gods, and had refused to hear God’s Word. They will become like the rotten girdle, good for nothing. The Lord had given them as close a personal relationship with him as a person’s underwear so that they would glorify God in their person, name and praise; but they would not listen!

Romans Paraphrase

Believers are not to allow sin to reign in our bodies; we’re not to obey sinful passions. Instead of yielding our members to sin, we’re to yield ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness, as people who have been raised from death to life. Sin will have no power over us because we are no longer under the Covenant of Law but rather the Covenant of Grace (if we trust and obey Jesus).

Although salvation is by God’s grace (free gift; unmerited favor) rather than by keeping the law, it is not ok to sin! We are servants of whichever master we yield to and obey, either to sin (disobedience to God) which leads to eternal death, or obedience (to God) which leads to righteousness (and life).

Thank God that believers who were once slaves of sin have become sincerely obedient to (Jesus’) teaching. We have been freed from slavery to sin so that we can serve righteousness. Once we yielded to sin, which leads to greater and greater iniquity, but now we are to yield ourselves to righteousness, so that we may grow to (spiritual maturity and) the fullness of sanctification (the process of becoming completely devoted and consecrated to God).

We had no obligation to righteousness while we were slaves to sin, but the “wages” we would receive for the shameful things we did is eternal death. But now we have been set free from sin so that we can serve God, and the “wages” for serving him is sanctification (spiritual maturity) which leads to eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus told the Jews who did not believe in him that those who are God’s people are those who hear God’s Word (and who recognize, trust and obey it). The reason that people do not hear, recognize, trust and obey God’s Word is because they are not of God.

The Jews responded by suggesting that Jesus was a Samaritan (racially and religiously adulterated; polluted) and that Jesus had a demon (worse than calling him “crazy”). Jesus told them he did not have a demon, but that he honored his Father (God), and they dishonored Jesus. But Jesus wasn’t seeking to be glorified by them; it is God’s will that Jesus be glorified and God will be the judge.

Jesus declared that those who keep (know, trust and obey) Jesus’ word will never see (eternal) death. The unbelievers declared that this statement proved that Jesus had a demon, because Abraham had died and the prophets had died (not entirely true: Elijah: 2 Kings 2:1-12, Enoch: Genesis 5:22-24. Also, Elijah and Moses appeared to three of Jesus’ disicples at the transfiguration: Luke 9:28-36).

They asked Jesus if he claimed to be greater than Abraham. Who did Jesus claim to be? Jesus said that if he were seeking his own glory it would be mean nothing; it is God who glorifies Jesus. The Jews claim God to be their God but they have not known God. Jesus testified that he knew God, and obeyed God’s Word, unlike the Jews who were lying by claiming to know God when they did not.

The Jews claimed to be the children of Abraham, but Abraham had rejoiced to see (prophetically and spiritually) the coming of the Messiah, but these unbelievers were physical eye-witnesses and refused to believe and rejoice. The unbelievers rejected Jesus’ statement because they “knew” Jesus was less than fifty years old and could not have physically “seen” Abraham.

Jesus replied, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (I AM is the name by which God made himself known to Moses: Exodus 3:14; Jesus’ statement is “a claim of pre-existence and oneness with God;*” see John 1:1-5, 14). At this, the unbelievers picked up stones to stone Jesus to death, “but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (John 8:59).

Commentary:

Prophets of the Lord at least occasionally dramatized their prophecy with “visual aids,” at God’s inspiration (see Acts 21:10-12; Hosea 1:2-3). Judah was refusing to hear God’s Word and his prophets, so he gave them a visual illustration.

God had given them the opportunity for a close personal relationship with him, but they were pursuing their own selfish desires and idols instead of obeying and serving God. God showed them that they had become like Jeremiah’s rotten girdle, good for nothing, but they still wouldn’t listen and change their ways.

The result was that they were carried off to exile in Babylon for seventy years by Nebuchadnezzar from 587-517 B. C. Seventy years is virtually a life sentence. The people who were carried off probably died in exile. The ones who returned were not the same people; it was the new generation, born in exile.

A Christian is by definition a disciple of Jesus Christ who trusts and obeys Jesus, and who has been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) to a personal relationship with Jesus and to eternal life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Are you a Christian?

Christians have been set free from slavery to sin so that we are free to serve righteousness; free to serve the Lord. We are set free from sin by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. Freedom implies choice; we’re free to choose whether to serve the Lord or to serve sin. We must not use that freedom to serve sin or we will lose the promise of eternal life we been given. If we persist in sin we will die eternally in sin (Romans 8:13).

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and begin to trust and obey him, he disciples us by his indwelling Holy Spirit. We’re to spend time daily in his presence as his disciples did in Jesus’ earthly ministry, through the scriptures and his Spirit, so that we can grow to spiritual maturity.

There is a “Pay Day” coming when we will receive the wages of whichever master we have served. If we have served the Lord we will receive eternal life in Heaven with him. If we have served Satan and our own sinful nature, we will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil. (Matthew 25:31-46). What we truly believe will be evident by what we do (Matthew 7:21-24).

God’s people are not those who merely claim to be, but those who hear, recognize, trust and obey God’s Word through Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). No one can come to fellowship and know God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Those who know and believe God’s Word will recognize that Jesus is God’s Son, the Messiah (Christ; Savior) and that he speaks God’s Word. Jesus is God in human flesh (John 20:28; Colossians 2:8-9; Matthew 1:23). Jesus is God’s Word made visible in human form, God’s ultimate “visual aid” and revelation of himself (John 1:1-5, 14).

God’s Word will either heal us or offend and condemn us (see also entry for yesterday, Friday, 3 Lent, odd year). The unbelievers were eyewitness to the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah, the great hope of the Jews, but they didn’t “see” it; they refused to believe and rejoice.

The unbelievers refused to objectively (without bias or pre-conceived opinions) consider Jesus’ words. They demonstrated the human pridefulness that God had condemned through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13:9) They thought they were educated, intelligent experts in Judaism and the scriptures, but what they thought they knew was wrong. They had exchanged the truth for a lie. They refused to listen to God’s Word.

God’s Word made them angry enough to attempt to murder Jesus, but it wasn’t in God’s will and timing. Jesus disappeared. Are you willing to hear and obey God’s Word? Are you glorifying God in your person, name and praise (and worship)?

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, John 8:58n, p. 1298, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Week of 2 Lent – Odd – 03/01 – 07/2015

February 28, 2015

2 Lent – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).  This ‘blog is mirrored at:

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

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

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

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Free to distribute; for personal use, Bible Study Groups, and Adult Christian Education. Disk Image and/or .zip file to burn the complete Bible Study to CD are available 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.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download:   Week of 2 Lent – Odd
Sunday 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/19/05;
Podcast: Sunday 2 Lent – Odd

This is the Church Season of Lent: forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter (not counting Sundays) of self-examination, fasting and repentance.

Jeremiah 1:1-10   –   Jeremiah’s call;
1 Corinthians 3:11-23    –   Responsibility of teachers;
Mark 3:31-4:9   –   Teaching in parables;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah was a descendant of the priest Abiathar who had been banished by Solomon to Anathoth, a city of refuge in the territory of Benjamin. “The Word of the Lord” (the prophetic inspiration; the still, small inner voice of God) came to Jeremiah during the period from 627 B.C., in the reign of Josiah, until 587 B.C., during the reign of Zedekiah, of the southern Kingdom of Judah. God told Jeremiah that he had formed Jeremiah in the womb and had known him profoundly and completely. God had consecrated him before Jeremiah had been born and had appointed him as a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah responded by saying he didn’t feel adequate for the job because of his youth. But God told Jeremiah not to let his youth and inexperience keep him from going everywhere the Lord would send him and speaking everything the Lord would command. God told him not to be afraid, because the Lord would be with him to deliver him.

The Lord touched Jeremiah’s lips and told Jeremiah that God had put his Word in Jeremiah’s mouth. The Lord told Jeremiah that as of that day the Lord had given Jeremiah authority over nations and kingdoms, “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10).

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

The only possible foundation of the Church (the spiritual building; the kingdom of God) is Jesus Christ. Workers in the Church are to build on that foundation with good craftsmanship and with good materials, comparable to builders of an earthly building.

Good materials and workmanship are like precious materials which will endure. Poor materials and workmanship will perish on the Day of Judgment, when everyone’s workmanship will be tested as with fire. Each person will receive a reward or penalty based on his workmanship. The Church collectively, and we individually, are the temple of God if God’s Spirit dwells within us. God’s temple is holy and God will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple.

We are not to be misled or unduly impressed with worldly wisdom. Anyone who wants to be truly wise in this age must put aside worldly wisdom and become what the world regards as foolish. God regards worldly wisdom as folly. “God catches the wise in their craftiness” (Job 5:13a).

It is God who gives true wisdom; the thoughts of the (worldly) wise are futile. (1 Corinthians 3:20; compare Psalm 94:10b-11). Let us not boast of our human teachers, claiming status and knowledge from being taught by them. We don’t “belong” to our human teachers; they “belong” to us, as do all things, provided that we “belong” to Christ as Christ “belongs” to God.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus was teaching in someone’s house and his mother and brothers came to the door asking for him. Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd, and when he was told that his family was outside asking for him, Jesus looked at the people around him and said that his real, spiritual family were those who had come to listen to Jesus’ teaching.

Another time he was teaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was in a boat a little distance offshore, and he taught a large crowd in parables. One was the parable of the sower who broadcast grain seed over different types of soil. Some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Some fell on rocky ground, where it quickly sprang up, but was unable to take root, so it withered away. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked out the seedlings. But some fell on good soil and grew to maturity, producing a harvest many times greater than the original seed. Jesus said that those who have ears to hear what he was saying should use them to understand and apply Jesus’ teaching.

Commentary:

God had created Jeremiah to be God’s prophet to the nations. Jeremiah heard God’s Word, God’s call directly to him, and he responded. Jeremiah had some doubt about his ability to do what God was calling him to do, but God reassured him that God would give Jeremiah what he wanted Jeremiah to say, and would be with Jeremiah to enable him and help him to accomplish what God was calling him to do. God’s Word is active and powerful, and like a two-edged sword, it will build up those who trust and obey, and will destroy those who refuse to heed it (Hebrews 4:12).

Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Christians are those who trust and obey Jesus’ teachings, and have received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord gives his Holy Spirit only to those who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b).

It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we hear God’s voice and his call, through whom our minds are opened to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45), and who touches us and puts God’s Word in our mouths, empowering us to proclaim his Word and accomplish the work for the kingdom which he calls us to do. This all begins when we respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and begin to trust and obey Jesus’ teaching. We must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Christians are not disciples of some great human theologian or preacher. Christians are people who come to Jesus in obedient trust, and learn and do what Jesus teaches; those are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the seed; Jesus is the sower and we are the soil. Christians are to be the good soil who receive the Gospel and allow it to grow to maturity.

We have the promise of the Holy Spirit, which is like a seed. We must allow God’s Word to grow within us and be nurtured to maturity through trust and obedience. When we receive the fulfillment of that promise of the Holy Spirit, we are equipped and empowered to answer God’s call and build his kingdom. The Lord will be with us and in us; He will put his Word in our mouths. He will bring about the increase of the harvest of our work. We are all called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ disciples are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).

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

Monday 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/20/05;
Podcast:  Monday 2 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 1:11-19   –   Jeremiah’s vision;
Romans 1:1-15  –    Salutation and thanksgiving;
John 4:27-42  –   Testimony of the Samaritan woman;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

“The Word of the Lord” (the voice of God in one’s spiritual ear) asked Jeremiah what he saw in a vision Jeremiah was given. Jeremiah reported that he saw a rod of almond wood. The Lord said Jeremiah had seen well; the Lord was watching over his Word to perform it. (A play on words is involved. The Hebrew words for “watching” and “almond” are very similar. Note that Aaron’s rod of almond had sprouted blossoms and produced almonds overnight, confirming Aaron’s priesthood, to quell the rebellion of the sons of Korah; Numbers 17:8).

The Word of the Lord again asked Jeremiah to describe what he was seeing in a vision from God, and Jeremiah answered that he saw a boiling pot facing south. The Lord told Jeremiah that evil would come from the north and the kingdoms of the north would attack Judah and Jerusalem. The Lord declared that the attack would be God’s punishment of Judah’s disobedience and idolatry.

The Lord commanded Jeremiah to take courage and proclaim God’s Word fully and faithfully. Jeremiah was not to be dismayed to proclaim God’s Word, or God would cause Jeremiah to be dismayed for his failure to proclaim God’s Word fully and faithfully. The Lord promised to make Jeremiah invincible against the kingdom of Judah, its leaders and its people. The Lord declared that Judah would oppose Jeremiah but would not prevail, because God promised to be with Jeremiah to deliver him.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ, called by Jesus to be an apostle (a messenger) set apart to proclaim to the nations the Gospel (Acts 9:5, 15) which God promised beforehand by his prophets and recorded in the Bible. That Gospel is about the coming of God’s Son, who was a descendant of David by his earthly genealogy (through his earthly father) and God’s Son by the Holy Spirit, which was confirmed by his resurrection from the dead.

Jesus Christ is our Lord, through whom we receive the unmerited gift (of forgiveness and salvation) and apostleship (the commission to proclaim the Gospel) “to bring about the obedience of faith (discipleship) for the sake of his (Jesus’) name among all the nations” (compare Matthew 28:18-20). That includes all who hear and respond to the call to belong to Jesus Christ (through his indwelling Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9); all God’s beloved who hear and respond to God’s call to be saints (those who are set apart and dedicated to God’s service).

Grace (God’s unmerited favor) and peace (with God) are only possible through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul gave thanks to God through Jesus Christ for the testimony to the world of the Christian faith by the first century Roman Church.

God, who Paul served with his innermost being, will affirm that Paul remembered the Roman Church continually in prayer, asking that by God’s will Paul might now come to them, so that he might be able to impart some spiritual gift to strengthen their faith, and that Paul’s own faith might be encouraged by them.

Paul had long desired to visit them to “reap some harvest among them,” but had been prevented. Paul’s obligation to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles included both the educated Greeks (and Romans) and the uneducated barbarians, so Paul was looking forward to preaching to the Church at Rome.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had been talking to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well at Sychar in Samaria. His disciples had gone into the city to buy food. When the disciples returned they were amazed to find Jesus talking to the woman, but they didn’t comment about it.

The woman took her jar of water into the city and she told the townsfolk to come and see a person who had known all the details of her life and she asked if he could be the Christ. Meanwhile the disciples were urging Jesus to eat, but Jesus told them that doing God’s will and mission was more necessary to Jesus than food. Jesus told them that people can tell when a field of grain is ready to harvest by observing its color; the spiritual harvest is comparable if one knows what to look for.

The (spiritual) reaper receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life where sower and reaper will rejoice together. Jesus is the sower, and we are to reap, and we will share with the sower in the harvest, although we did not participate in the labor of sowing (Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross).

Many Samaritans of Sychar believed in Jesus because of the testimony by the Samaritan woman that Jesus knew all she ever did. They invited Jesus to stay with them and Jesus stayed for two days. The result was that many more believed because of Jesus’ words. They had come to believe in Jesus and know that he was the Savior of the world (not just of the Jews) from their own personal experience with him, not just because of the woman’s testimony.

Commentary:

Jeremiah had been created to be a spokesman of God’s Word. Jeremiah heard God’s call to proclaim God’s Word fully and faithfully, and he trusted and obeyed. God tested Jeremiah’s spiritual vision for accuracy and faithfulness, and to give Jeremiah experience and confidence in God’s revelation of his Word. Then God gave Jeremiah a Word warning Judah of the impending consequences of their disobedience and idolatry.

Judah did not heed God’s prophets, and the prophecy was fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (north of Israel) invaded Judah first in 606 B. C. and ultimately deported most of Judah to Babylon by 587 B.C. (Jeremiah’s ministry began in 627 B.C and ended around 580 B. C.)

Paul (known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion) was an Apostle, sent by God to proclaim God’s Word to the nations (the Gentiles). Paul is the prototype and model of the modern “born- again” Christian disciple. (Paul was the first disciple and apostle who had not known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry before Jesus’ resurrection.)

Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen Jesus who revealed Paul’s spiritual blindness; Paul repented of his sins and was baptized and filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18). From then on Paul began to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:20).

God had chosen Paul beforehand to be his spokesman to the nations (Acts 9:15). Paul had heard Jesus’ call to be his spokesman for the Gospel and responded in trust and obedience. Paul had an obligation as a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles regardless of whether they were educated or ignorant.

Jesus had a call and mission from his heavenly Father to proclaim his Gospel of salvation. Carrying out God’s will and purpose was more important than physical sustenance; more important even than physical life.

Jesus gave priority to proclaiming his gospel to a Samaritan woman (regarded by Jews as a racial and religious “mongrel,” and an inferior in gender), ahead of his own physical hunger, thirst and exhaustion (John 4:6-8). Jesus taught his disciples to become aware of the spiritual need around them and to enter into the spiritual harvest that Jesus made possible (through his sacrificial death on the Cross).

Because she had come to a personal experience of Jesus Christ, the Samaritan woman trusted and obeyed Jesus’ command to go and call others to come to Jesus (John 4:16, 28). She brought not just her husband but other people of the town. They came to Jesus by the woman’s testimony, but as they came to know Jesus personally through his word, they invited Jesus to stay with them, they believed for themselves and came to know through Jesus’ presence with them that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

This is an illustration of how proclaiming the Gospel produces a harvest of faith. Christian disciples are to be reapers; we’re to use our personal experience of Jesus Christ through his word and his indwelling Holy Spirit to invite others to come to Jesus and decide for themselves whether Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God. Our testimony leads others to come to a personal experience of Jesus Christ and to a settled personal conviction that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

One has to have a personal experience of Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit in order to testify to that personal relationship; one has to be a “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple in order to make “born-again” disciples. Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), but he warned them to stay in Jerusalem (the Church is the New Jerusalem on earth) until they had received the fulfillment of the promised Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; Acts Chapter 2).

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

Tuesday 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/21/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 2 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 2:1-13, 29-32   –   Apostasy of Israel;
Romans 1:16-25   –   God’s judgment on sin;
John 4:43-54  –   Jesus and the Gentiles;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah received a Word from the Lord to tell Jerusalem to remember their devotion to the Lord in the early days of their covenant relationship with God, as his newly wedded “bride.” Israel was the “first fruits” offering (out of all the peoples of the earth) holy and dedicated to the Lord. God protected Israel from those who would come against them.

Had God done any wrong to Israel to cause Israel to leave the Lord to pursue worthlessness and become worthless? Israel had forgotten all that the Lord had done for them by bringing them out of bondage in Egypt, through the wilderness and into the land of plenty.

Israel had defiled the land and had given the heritage of the Lord a bad reputation. The priests had not called the people to remember the Lord, the Judges and teachers of the Law did not know the Lord, Israel’s rulers sinned against God, and the prophets prophesied for false gods and pursued what is worthless.

Because of these things, the Lord will contend with Israel from the present generation through their grandchildren’s generation. Consider the other nations of the earth, west toward Cyprus, and east toward Kedar, as far as you can see. Has any nation ever forsaken its gods, even though their gods are not gods? But the people of God have exchanged God’s glory for what is worthless.

All the heavenly beings are shocked and appalled. Israel has committed two evils: they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water, and they have dug leaky (spiritual) cisterns which can hold no water. Israel has no reason to complain against the Lord, for it is they who have rebelled.

The Lord disciplined Israel, but they refused to accept correction. Israel had slain God’s prophets. Has God failed to provide for them, that they think they are free to turn away from God? An earthly bride cannot forget her husband, but Israel has forgotten the Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel (of Jesus Christ): it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Gentile; Romans 1:16). Through the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed to and in those who believe it, so that faith will be increased and strengthened. Those who believe God through the gospel will be accounted righteous and will receive eternal life. God’s wrath is upon all ungodliness and wickedness by those who suppress the truth.

God has revealed his eternal power and deity to all people through what he has created, so they have no excuse. But people have chosen not to honor and give thanks to God, so “they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.” (Romans 1:21). They exchanged God’s divine wisdom for man’s foolishness (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25), and exchanged God’s glory for man-made images of creatures. So God let them pursue and receive the consequences of their sin, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator” (Romans 1:25).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus returned to Galilee from Jerusalem after the Feast of Passover (John 2:23). Jesus had said that a prophet is not honored among his own people. The Galileans welcomed Jesus, because they had seen what Jesus had done in Jerusalem at the Feast, which they had also attended. Jesus went back to Cana, where he had changed the water into wine.

There was a Roman military officer at Capernaum (about 18 miles away) whose son was ill, and when he learned that Jesus was at Cana, he went to Jesus to urge him to come and heal his son. Jesus said “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). The officer just repeated his plea for Jesus to come and heal the boy before the boy died. Jesus told the officer that the boy would live.

The officer believed Jesus’ words and went his way. The next day, as the officer returned to his home, his servants met him and told him that the boy had been healed. The officer asked the time when the boy began to get well, and the servants told him it had been around 1:00 pm the previous day. The officer knew that was the time Jesus had told him the boy would live, and the officer and his entire household believed. This was the second miracle Jesus had done in Galilee.

Commentary:

Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry in 627 B.C. in the period leading up to the invasion of Judah by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, beginning in 606 B.C. and the final deportation of the southern kingdom of Judah to Babylon by 587 B.C.  Jeremiah warned Judah that God’s judgment was coming upon them because they had forsaken the Lord, who is the source of “living water” (John 4:10; 7:37-39) and had dug leaky spiritual cisterns for their own source of spiritual water.

They had forgotten all that God had done for them, and they refused to heed God’s Word and accept his correction. Judah had turned away from what was spiritually precious to pursue what was eternally worthless.

Israel’s priests, prophets, rulers, judges and teachers had not fulfilled their obligation to uphold the covenant with God and to call the people to repent and return to the Lord.  Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled; Judah was exiled in Babylon for seventy years (about three generations; compare Jeremiah 2:9).

God has revealed himself through his creation, so there is abundant evidence to believe in God, if one chooses, but sinful mankind prefers to reject the testimony of Creation, because he wants to be his own god. For those who seek the truth, God reveals himself through his Word, the Bible, and ultimately through Jesus Christ, by his indwelling Holy Spirit. God allows those who choose not to honor and give thanks to God to receive the eternal consequences.

Jesus was not well thought of in his own community and his own people (John 1:10-11). In Nazareth when he preached in his hometown synagogue, his home community was offended by his message and tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30).

The Galileans welcomed Jesus when he returned from the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem, because they had seen signs and wonders done by him in Jerusalem. A Gentile officer of the Roman occupying forces believed Jesus’ word, without seeing or demanding proof, and as the result his son was healed.

Isn’t the situation in Judah in the time of Jeremiah strikingly similar to the situation in America and in the Church today? Haven’t many forgotten what God has done for us and turned from our covenant with God in Jesus Christ? Aren’t there many unfaithful priests, prophets and leaders who are telling us we have peace with God, while we have exchanged the Glory of God for what is eternally worthless? Haven’t we exchanged God’s wisdom for what the world mistakenly calls wisdom?

Haven’t many of us been digging our own leaky cisterns instead of trusting and obeying Jesus Christ, the only source of “living water?” Haven’t we defiled our land and given the name “Christian” a bad reputation?

We are spiritually sick, and in danger of God’s wrath. Trust and obedience of Jesus Christ is the only way we can be spiritually healed. Jesus is the only one who can deliver us from God’s wrath and restore us to eternal life and fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

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

Wednesday 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/22/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 2 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 3:6-18    –   Return of Israel;
Romans 1: (26-27) 28-2:11  –   God’s judgment on sin;
John 5:1-18   –   Healing on the Sabbath;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

During the reign of King Josiah (of the Southern Kingdom of Judah; 640-610 B.C.), the Lord spoke to Jeremiah concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Lord said that Israel had committed spiritual adultery. (Hills and evergreen trees were considered sacred spots.) The Lord hoped Israel would repent and return to the Lord, but she did not. The Lord sent Israel away with a “decree of divorce” (God allowed the Northern Kingdom to be carried into exile by Assyria), but Judah didn’t learn from Israel’s punishment.

Judah also committed spiritual adultery and polluted the land and only pretended to repent and return to the Lord. Judah’s sin is worse than Israel’s. Jeremiah was to urge Israel to repent, confess her sin and return to the Lord and the Lord would be merciful and would bring them to Zion (the Holy City of God). “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15). Israel and Judah would return from exile reunited in one kingdom, and the Ark of the Covenant would be replaced by Jerusalem as the throne of God. All the nations will gather in Jerusalem before the Lord, and people will “no longer stubbornly follow their own evil heart” (Jeremiah 3:18).

Romans Paraphrase:

People exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25) so God gave them over to their dishonorable passions of homosexuality and lesbianism to their ultimate destructive penalty. Those who do not acknowledge God, God gives over to all types of evil and wickedness.

Although they know that God’s Word condemns those who do such things to eternal death, they not only do such things but approve of all others who do them. When we pass judgment upon others we condemn ourselves, because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). God’s judgment rightly falls on sinners.

If we continue doing what we know is wrong we abuse God’s kindness, forbearance and patience; “God’s kindness is meant to lead (us) to repentance” (Romans 2:4). But those whose hearts remain hard and unrepentant are storing up God’s wrath for the Day of Judgment.

God will judge every person according to what each has done in life. Those who have sought to do right by God’s standards will receive eternal life, but those who are rebellious, and who reject God’s truth and follow their own wickedness, will receive God’s wrath. There will be eternal punishment for everyone who has done evil, whether they consider themselves members of God’s people (Matthew 7:21:24) or are pagans; and God’s peace for all who have done what is right in God’s eyes. God’s people will be judged first, because those who have received privileges will bear greater responsibility. God will show no partiality.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was in Jerusalem for a Jewish feast day, and on a Sabbath, Jesus was passing a pool where many invalids lay. They hoped to be healed by stepping into the pool when the water was “troubled.” Jesus saw a man laying there who Jesus knew had been ill for thirty-eight years.

Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed. The man replied that he hadn’t been healed because he had no one to help him get into the pool at the right time. Jesus told the man to get up, pick up his bed and walk. The man did so immediately and was healed.

The Jewish religious leaders rebuked the man for breaking the Sabbath law by carrying his bed, but the man told them that the one who had healed him had told him to carry his bed. The leaders asked the name of the one who had healed the man, but the healed man didn’t know, and Jesus had left.

Later Jesus found the healed man in the temple and told the man that he was healed and should not sin anymore, so that nothing worse would happen to him. The man went to the religious authorities and told them it was Jesus who had healed him.

The Jewish leaders hated Jesus because he broke the Sabbath law by healing on the Sabbath, but Jesus answered, “My Father is working still, and I am working” (John 5:17). Jesus’ answer made the Jews hate him even more, because he equated himself with God.

Commentary:

Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was besieged and conquered by King Shalmaneser of Assyria in 721 B.C. The people of the northern kingdom were deported to other lands and people from other lands were brought in to settle the new Assyrian province of Samaria, intermingled with the the remnant of Jews, and becoming the Samaritans. The northern kingdom ceased to exist. Judah didn’t learn from the example of Israel, and in 587 B. C. was exiled by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon.

After seventy years, Cyrus of Persia, who had conquered Babylon, allowed the Judeans to return to the Promised Land. It is possible that some Jews from the Assyrian exile returned with them, but they were reunited in one kingdom as Jeremiah’s prophecy foretold.

Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled, but God’s Word is eternally true, so it remains to be fulfilled again as conditions for it’s fulfillment are met, and the prophecy of God’s universal reign from Jerusalem remains to be fulfilled at Jesus’ return. Have we learned from the lessons of Israel and Judah? This text should speak to us today about God’s judgment on spiritual adultery, disobedience of God’s Word, and lack of, or insincerity of, repentance and confession.

God has an absolute standard of right and wrong; it’s not all just relative. God’s standard is his Word, the Bible, and ultimately Jesus Christ, who is the Word incarnate (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is the example of the perfect sinless human being.

God is gracious and merciful towards us but that kindness and forbearance is meant to lead us to repentance and obedience. If we waste the opportunity of this lifetime doing what is contrary to God’s standards we will ultimately receive eternal destruction and spiritual death. If we approve others who are violating God’s standards we are condemning ourselves.

God is merciful and forbearing, but he has appointed a Day of Judgment when everyone who has ever lived will be judged by the standard of Jesus Christ. Those who are in Christ, who have trusted and obeyed him, will receive eternal life; but those who have rejected Jesus or refused, or failed, to obey him will receive eternal destruction and death. Jesus Christ 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 are all sinners and thus spiritual “invalids.” We are just wasting our time and our lives if we are trying to heal ourselves, or are trusting in healing from any other source than Jesus Christ. Conforming to the beliefs of the culture around us will ultimately result in our spiritual, eternal death.

Do we recognize that we are “sick?” Do we want to be healed? If we want to be healed and live eternally we must begin to trust and obey Jesus. Jesus healed the invalid of his physical disease, but he warned him to stop sinning, or something worse than physical illness and physical death would befall him.

The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus because they were really using their religion for their own personal benefit. They claimed to love and obey God but they really wanted to be their own god. They were in charge and were making and enforcing their rules. Jesus threatened the personal “empires” they had built for themselves from their religion. If they had known and loved God they would have recognized and loved God’s son.

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 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/23/05;
Podcast: Thursday 2 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28   –   The day of God’s wrath;
Romans 2:12-24   –   Rule of judgment;
John 5:19-29  –  Jesus’ relation to God;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In the day of God’s wrath “courage shall fail both king and princes; the priests will be appalled and the prophets astounded” (Jeremiah 4:9).The people have been deceived, thinking all would be well for them, but the sword has reached their individual lives.

The prophet is in great anguish at the disaster which befalls his people, laying waste to the entire land. The people have not known the Lord. They have been like stupid children, skilled in doing evil but not knowing how to do what is good.

The prophet foresees the results of God’s judgment of the earth. The whole earth is laid waste. There are no longer any humans or animals. Fertile fields have become deserts and cities are in ruins. The whole land will be desolate, but not completely destroyed. The earth will mourn; the heavens will be darkened. God’s judgment cannot be altered or avoided.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are without the law (outside of the Old Covenant of Law; i.e. Gentiles) who sin, will perish, even though they didn’t have the obligation of the law. Those who are under the law will be judged by the law. “It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God but the doers of the law who will be justified (judged righteous)” (Romans 2:13).

When Gentiles, who are not under covenant to keep the law, do what the law requires, their conscience is their law. They show that God’s law is righteous, so they may think that because they have done what is right they are excused from trusting and obeying Jesus, but the fact that they know what is right and yet didn’t trust and obey Jesus condemns them, because Jesus Christ is the standard by which God will judge everyone.

Those who call themselves Jews (or Christians), who rely upon the law (or upon Jesus Christ), and boast of their relationship with God (or Jesus), and claim to know his will and think they can teach others, should be careful to practice what they preach. Those who do not keep the Law of Moses (or do not live according to Jesus’ teachings) dishonor God (or Jesus) and give God (or Jesus) a bad reputation among unbelievers.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus’ will and mission was not his own, but was the demonstration and fulfillment of God’s will and mission. Jesus’ works are God’s doing. Jesus will do greater works than what has been recorded in scripture, and those greater works are the giving of eternal life and of judgment of the earth.

God has given the authority of judgment to Jesus, so that all may honor Jesus as they honor God. “He who does not honor the Son (Jesus) does not honor the Father (God) who sent him” (John 5:23). “He who hears (Jesus’) word and believes him (God) who sent Jesus, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from (spiritual; eternal) death to life” (John 5:24).

Eternal life begins now, when the spiritually dead hear and understand, through faith (obedient trust), Jesus’ words. God has the power to give eternal life, and he has given Jesus that power. God has given Jesus the authority to judge humans, because Jesus lived as a human among us. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his (Jesus’) voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of (eternal) life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of (eternal) judgment (condemnation)” ( John 5:28-29).

Commentary:

Jeremiah mourned for his people and his land. Their civic and religious leaders had failed to heed God’s warnings through Jeremiah and from the example of God’s judgment of the Northern Kingdom (see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 2 Lent, odd year). The people had a false sense of security; they thought they were God’s chosen people and that God would protect them, although they had not obeyed God’s Word. They didn’t heed Jeremiah’s call for his people to repent and return to trust and obedience to God. Are our civic and spiritual leaders giving us a false sense of security; assuring us that all is well, that we are God’s chosen and favored people, while telling us we don’t need to obey God’s Word, or failing to warn us of the consequences of disobedience?

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). The Gentiles, who were not bound by covenant to keep God’s law, are not excused from the judgment and penalty for sin. Jews, who are bound by covenant to keep God’s law, will be judged according to the law. One must keep all the law all the time, or one will be judged guilty of all (James 2:10). No one has ever been able to keep all the law, except Jesus, who was perfect and sinless.

The only way the Covenant of Law worked before Jesus, is by the priestly sacrificial system for the forgiveness of sins. Since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. there is no longer any provision for offering sacrifices. This was according to God’s will and purpose, because Jesus’ death on the cross was the sacrifice once for all time and all people (who trust and obey Jesus) which replaced the Jewish sacrificial system (Hebrews 7:23-28), and this was demonstrated at Jesus’ Crucifixion by the tearing of the curtain of the temple which separated the people from the inner chamber of God’s presence in the Holy of Holies (Matthew 27:51).

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Unbelievers who do what is right according to God’s standards are condemned because they have not trusted and obeyed Jesus (or God, because God has revealed his plan of salvation through Jesus and through his Word; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right). Salvation is not by works (“good deeds,” or keeping the law), but by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

One cannot truly believe in Jesus and yet not do what he teaches. Not everyone who calls him Lord will be saved (Matthew 7:21-24); only those who trust and obey him and have personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit have eternal life. Only Jesus gives his Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to those who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of man. “In him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:8-9) in human flesh. Jesus came to reveal God to us, and to demonstrate obedient trust in God. Jesus came to die on the Cross as a sacrifice once for all for the forgiveness of our sins.

God has the power of eternal life or death, and he has given this power to Jesus. As God raised Jesus to eternal life, Jesus will raise believers to eternal life with him. Jesus is our ideal High Priest and righteous Judge, who understands our human weaknesses, who offered himself for our forgiveness and who intercedes for us in God’s presence.

Eternal life begins now. Those who hear Jesus’ words now, who comprehend and respond in trust and obedience now, have life now and eternally through the indwelling Holy Spirit of Jesus. For those who reject Jesus or refuse to obey him now, the Day of Judgment is coming when Jesus will command, and they will not have a choice of whether to obey him or not. They will come forth from physical death to eternal condemnation.

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

Friday 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/24/05;
Podcast: Friday 2 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 5:1-9   –    Corruption to be judged;
Romans 2:25-3:18  –   All are guilty;
John 5:30-47   –  Jesus’ judgment;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah searched Jerusalem in vain, seeking one just and truthful person, so that the Lord would be willing to pardon Jerusalem. They swear by the Lord’s name to deceive. They have refused to accept the Lord’s correction. The Lord has convicted them but they felt no anguish. They have stubbornly refused to repent.

Jeremiah thought that perhaps this was just the attitude of the common uneducated people who don’t know God’s ways and God’s law. He would seek among the great people, but although they knew God’s ways and his law they didn’t obey it.

Therefore the Lord will unleash beasts of prey upon his people, because of their many sins and their great apostasies (abandoning their faith). Israel’s children have forsaken the Lord, and have committed spiritual adultery with idols. They are like animals, gratifying their carnal lusts with their neighbors’ wives. Can that behavior go unpunished by the righteous Lord; will the Lord not punish a nation such as this?

Romans Paraphrase:

Circumcision is an advantage only if one obeys all the law (of Moses; God’s Word; James 2:10). True circumcision is inner commitment to obey God’s law, not merely an outward physical appearance. The behavior of those who are outwardly uncircumcised but who keep the law will condemn the circumcised who break the law.
People of God are those who are obedient to the Lord in their innermost selves. Real circumcision is a matter of heart attitude; spiritual rather than physical. True people of God seek praise from God rather than from mankind.

Is there any advantage in being a Jew (or a church member), or in circumcision? Yes, because the Jews have received the oracles of God in the scriptures. The faithlessness of God’s people doesn’t nullify the faithfulness of God, but it doesn’t glorify it either.
We must not excuse our faithlessness by thinking that because of it, God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) and faithfulness will be revealed and magnified. Does being a Jew (or a church member) make one more righteous or “spiritual”? No, because all people are under the power of sin.

All people by nature pursue self-interest rather than God’s will. They are all guilty of using their mouths to lie to and hurt others. They are quick to get angry and seek retribution. If they follow their own natures they wind up in misery and ruin, because they do not know the ways of God which lead to peace. They do not fear (have respect for the power and authority of) God.

John Paraphrase

Jesus’ judgment is according to God’s will and standards. Jesus is validated not by his own witness, but by the testimony of God through the ministry of John the Baptizer, by the works which Jesus did by God’s power and authority, and by God’s Word in the Bible.

Those who have heard God’s voice in the Bible will recognize and acknowledge Jesus, who God has sent in the fulfillment of his promise. If one loves God one would welcome Jesus as coming in God’s name and authority. Those who think they have salvation and eternal life through the promises of scripture apart from faith (obedient trust) in Jesus are wrong.

Jesus condemned the Jews who rejected him because they knew the scriptures and the promise of God but didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus condemns those who seek and bestow worldly human honor and approval among each other, but don’t seek God’s approval, or honor God.

The Jews who rejected Jesus will be condemned in God’s presence by Moses (and the Scriptures) because they put their hope of salvation in their keeping the law instead of believing in God’s promise in scripture to send a Savior, which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. If they had believed the scripture, they would have believed Jesus’ words.

Commentary:

Christians are the “New Jews” (Israel; the people of God), and the Church and, in a sense, America, are the “New Jerusalem.” Do we know God’s ways? Are we obeying God’s Word? Are we willing to accept the Lord’s correction? Are we willing to repent? Are we using religion to deceive; are we using religion to give us worldly approval? Have we committed spiritual adultery, worshiping the “gods” of success, money, power, material possessions, or physical pleasure? Have our children forsaken the Lord? Will our nation continue to go unpunished?

Like circumcision, Christianity is a matter of inner obedience, rather than outward appearance. Professing faith in Jesus does not make us Christians. Christians are disciples who trust and obey Jesus’ words (Matthew 7:21-24). We may have been born into a “Christian” home and into membership in a Christian church. We have the advantage of the New Testament scriptures as well as the Old.

Do we read and study the Bible; do we know what it says? Do we presume upon the grace of God to forgive our disobedience? Do we imagine that our disobedience glorifies the Lord? Are we more concerned with serving and pleasing our Lord than in gaining success and approval in our worldly lives? Do we know the ways of God which lead to real eternal peace, or are we pursuing worldly ways that lead to eternal destruction? Do we realize and respect the power and authority of God, or do we imagine that we can manipulate his favor through “religion?”

God has given Jesus the power and authority to judge the World. 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. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus and have been “born-again” by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit will receive eternal life with the Lord in Heaven; those who have rejected Jesus or have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

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). Are we putting our faith and trust in Jesus, or are we trying to find some other way of salvation, by “good deeds,” or by religious ritual? Have we learned from the examples in scripture of God’s relationship with the Jews, or are we repeating their errors?

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 2 Lent – Odd
First posted 02/25/05;
Podcast: Saturday 2 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 5:20-31,      Apostasy and punishment;
Romans 3:19-31,      All have sinned;
John 7:1-13     The Feast of Tabernacles;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah to proclaim to the people of the Kingdom of Judah that they are foolish and senseless people who don’t use their eyes and ears to see and hear what is what is right and most important. Everything else in creation conforms to the will of its Creator. The seas know their bounds, but God’s own people rebel and go their own way. They don’t remember the providence of God who provides the spring and autumn rains for good crops, and who restrains the rain during the harvest period so the crops won’t be ruined.

Judah’s wickedness and sin has kept her from receiving the blessings God intended. God’s people have allowed the wicked to prey upon the people. They have grown wealthy and powerful by preying upon the poor and needy. Their wickedness knows no bounds. Their justice is perverted. They do not defend the cause of the orphans nor defend the rights of the needy.

“Shall I not punish them for these things, says the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” (Jeremiah 5:29). “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes” (Jeremiah 5:30-31)?

Romans Paraphrase:

God’s law was given to reveal mankind’s sin, so that no one can argue with God, and the whole world will be accountable to God. “For no human being will be justified (accounted righteous) in his sight by works of the law (keeping the law; doing “good deeds”), since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). God’s righteousness has now been revealed apart from the law although the law and prophets (the scriptures; the Old Testament) bear witness to it. True righteousness is through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (trust and obey) Jesus.

God’s judgment is impartial; “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (which includes God’s righteousness), they are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption (ransom; “buying back;” paying the penalty on our behalf) which is in Christ Jesus, who God sent to expiate (remove the guilt of our sins) by his blood sacrifice on the Cross to be received by faith.

This salvation demonstrates God’s righteousness by his divine forbearance of our former sins, and his present justification of those who have faith in Jesus. Therefore we have no reason for boasting, because we are not saved by our “good deeds” “for we hold that a (person) is justified by faith, apart from works (keeping) of law” (Romans 3:28). God is God of both Jew and Gentile, and he has provided the same standard of righteousness and judgment for both.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was no longer ministering openly in Judea, because the religious authorities were seeking to kill him. The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths; the harvest festival, commemorating the wilderness wanderings; September-October) was approaching and Jesus’ brothers suggested that Jesus go with them to Jerusalem for the celebration. They advised Jesus to show himself and do his works in Jerusalem, so that his disciples would see what Jesus was doing, and Jesus would become known publicly.

Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Jesus. Jesus told them to go to the feast themselves, because God’s timing of Jesus’ public self-manifestation had not yet come. After his brothers had left, Jesus went to Jerusalem also, but privately.

The Jewish religious leaders were looking for Jesus, expecting him to make an appearance, and there was controversy among the people over who Jesus was. Some thought Jesus was a good man, but others thought he was leading the people astray. But the people didn’t discuss Jesus openly for fear of the religious leaders.

Commentary:

The Lord condemned Judah for allowing the rich and powerful to prey upon the poor and needy. Their justice was perverted, upholding the rights of the wealthy and denying rights to the poor. Their religious leaders had become perverted, telling the people that they had God’s favor and protection instead of calling them to repentance and obedient trust in God, while God was preparing to punish them for their wickedness.

Can we see ourselves in this “mirror?” Isn’t America becoming a very divided two-class society? Haven’t our political leaders used religion to validate their own agendas? Haven’t our churches given God’s blessing upon the status quo? Haven’t our religious leaders failed to call us to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord? Haven’t our political leaders shifted the responsibility for poverty from the greedy who caused it, to the Churches? Hasn’t it become Government for the rich, and the Church for everyone else? And aren’t many in the Churches indifferent to social inequity?

God is impartial and he has established in Jesus Christ a standard of righteousness and judgment by which the world will be judged. Those who truly believe in Jesus Christ will obey his teachings, they will be filled with and guided by his Holy Spirit, and they will receive eternal life in the kingdom of God in Heaven. Those who reject God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell. We will each individually be accountable to the Lord for what we have done for the least members of our world (Matthew 25:31-46).

Jeremiah’s prophecy of God’s judgment was fulfilled; Judah had been exiled to Babylon for 70 years from 587 to 517 B.C.  Israel hadn’t learned from scripture and experience the lesson of God’s condemnation and punishment for the conditions in Judah in the time of Jeremiah. In the time of Jesus, the same conditions existed again. The Jewish religious and political leaders were wealthy and powerful at the expense of the people.

The religious leaders were assuring the people that they had God’s favor through the Old Covenant of law, while rejecting the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus. Their trial and crucifixion of Jesus was the ultimate example of their perverted “justice.” As the result, God again punished Israel with exile, beginning in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans. The Jews were scattered throughout the world, and they didn’t begin to return to their Promised Land until after World War II.

Have we ears that hear and eyes that see? Have we learned the lessons from Scripture and the experience of God’s dealing with his people? Are we missing the blessings that God intended us to have because of our rebelliousness and 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)?

Week of 1 Lent – Odd – 02/22-28/2015

February 24, 2015

Week of 1 Lent – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available at:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/ (Please bookmark this link).  This ‘blog is mirrored at:

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

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

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

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/oddyear/Wklx_odd.html
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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.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 1 Lent – Odd

Sunday 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/12/05;
Podcast: Sunday 1 Lent – Odd

This is the Church Season of Lent, forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter (not counting Sundays) of self-examination, fasting and repentance.

Jeremiah 9:23-24   –  True Glory;
1 Corinthians 1:18-31   –   The Wisdom of God;
Mark 2:18-22   –   New Wine;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

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

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Those who are spiritually lost and perishing regard the Gospel of the Cross as folly, but it is God’s power manifested to the world and working in us who are being saved. God has declared in his Word that man’s wisdom will be destroyed, and man’s cleverness will be thwarted. The wise and clever pass away, and what is regarded as wisdom is later shown to be wrong. God’s wisdom makes worldly wisdom foolish. It pleased God in his wisdom to design creation so that man cannot come to know and have a personal relationship with God through worldly wisdom, so that what is regarded as folly by those who have worldly wisdom would save those who believe (trust and obey) God.

Jews (the “religious”) seek miraculous proof, and Greeks (the “educated”) seek (worldly) wisdom, but Christians proclaim Christ crucified, which is an obstacle to Jews, and folly to the “wise and educated.” “But to those who are called (who know and respond to God’s call upon them), both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).  God’s “foolishness” is wiser than man’s highest wisdom, and God’s “weakness” is greater than man’s greatest might.

Not many followers of Jesus were wise, or powerful or of noble birth by worldly standards. God uses what is foolish, weak, and humble in the world to put to shame the wise, powerful and proud. God even uses what is regarded as nothing, to bring to nothing the things we regard as important. No human has anything to boast about in God’s presence. Jesus Christ is the source of our physical and spiritual life, Jesus is “our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification (cleansing; spiritual maturity; completion of spiritual rebirth; the result of entire consecration to God) and our redemption (ransom from sin and death); therefore let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Mark Paraphrase:

John’s disciples and the Pharisees (strict legalistic Jews) were fasting, and people asked Jesus why his disciples weren’t fasting also. Jesus compared the situation to that of a wedding feast, and himself as the bridegroom and his followers (the Church), the bride. While Jesus is present with them they cannot fast, but the time would come when Jesus will be taken from them and then they would fast.

Jesus said one cannot patch an old garment with new, unshrunk cloth, because the first time it was washed the patch would shrink and tear the garment. So also, one does not put new wine into old wineskins, because the old skins aren’t elastic enough to handle the pressure of the fermenting wine; they will burst and both the wine and the skins will be lost. New wine requires fresh skins.

Commentary:

It doesn’t matter how much we know if we haven’t come to know the Lord personally through his indwelling Holy Spirit. All our human accomplishments become meaningless and pass away, if we haven’t used the opportunity of this lifetime to come into personal fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. No one can come to God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The Creator of the universe has designed it with the plan of creating an eternal kingdom of his people. This lifetime is our only opportunity to seek and find the Lord, and come into fellowship with him (Acts 17:26-27). God designed us to be eternal, and he designed creation so that we could have fellowship with him. Man lost that fellowship through disobedience (Genesis Chapter 3), but God’s creation was planned with that possibility in mind.

God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ existed at creation (John 1:1-5, 14; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12). This lifetime is our opportunity to prepare for eternity. Are we using our lifetimes wisely, or are we pursuing things which will not exist in eternity?

People wanted to know why Jesus did not require his disciples to keep the Jewish religious rituals and traditions. Judaism represented the Old Covenant of Law which was intended to be the guardian of God’s people until the coming of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). Jesus didn’t come to patch up the old covenant, but to mediate a New Covenant of Grace (the free gift of salvation) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 9:15). Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a redeemer (see Genesis 49:10-11, and compare Matthew 21:5). Jesus came to provide the “New Wine” of cleansing and spiritual rebirth through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 2:13).

Wine is a great symbol because it contains “spirit” (alcohol); it lifts our mood which is why it is used at celebrations. New wine is active and powerful due to fermentation. It is the spiritual “blood” of Jesus of the Sacrament of Communion which Jesus instituted at his Last Supper (Mark 14:24).

Blood was believed by ancient people to contain the spirit of the animal, and Jews were forbidden to drink blood or eat flesh with its blood (Genesis 9:4). [However, one does not receive the fulness of the indwelling Holy Spirit just by showing up for Communion on Sunday morning.] New wine requires fresh skins. Likewise we must repent and turn to Jesus in obedient trust to be reborn so that we can contain his Holy Spirit. Then we individually become the spiritual Temple of the Lord, and collectively the reborn Christians are the Church, the bride of 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 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/13/05;
Podcast: Monday 1 Lent – Odd

Deuteronomy 8:1-20   –    The Sin of Pride and Self-sufficiency;
Hebrews 2:11-18  –   Jesus’ Suffering;
John 2:1-12  –    The Wedding at Cana;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Through Moses, the Lord warned his people to be careful to keep the commandments God had given them so that they would live and prosper and possess the Promised Land. They were warned to remember the lessons learned in their forty years of being led by the Lord in the wilderness, where they were tested to see if they would follow and obey the Lord.

The Lord humbled them in the wilderness and allowed them to experience hunger, and he fed them with manna, which they had never known, so that they “would know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). During the forty years of wandering their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet didn’t swell.

The Lord disciplines his people like a good father disciplines his children, so his people are to keep his commands and follow his ways, in healthy fear of God’s power and respect of his authority. The Lord is bringing them into a good land which is fertile and abundant in water and natural resources, where they will have plenty to eat and will lack nothing. God’s people are warned not to forget the Lord by neglecting to keep his commandments, or by forgetting all that the Lord has done to bring them out of bondage in Egypt, through the hardships and dangers of the wilderness and into their Promised Land.

When God’s people have become settled and prosperous they are to remember that it is the Lord who has given them the land, and has blessed and prospered them, so that they won’t yield to the temptation to think that they have become successful by their own abilities. If the people forget the Lord and pursue and worship other gods, God warns that they will surely perish, as God has promised to cause the nations who possessed the land before Israel to perish.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus, our sanctifier (the one who cleanses our sins), and we, who have been cleansed [through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ], have the same origin: God, our spiritual father. So Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brethren, as in Psalm 22:22, and his children, as in Isaiah 8:17-18. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same nature (came and lived in flesh and blood among us, subject to physical death), that through (physical) death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is the devil (Satan), and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus did this for us, the spiritual descendants of Abraham (through faith in Jesus). He had to be fully human, like us, so that he could be our merciful and faithful high priest in God’s service, so that he could reconcile us to God by paying the penalty for our sins. Since Jesus has experienced every temptation we face, he is able to sympathize with us and faithful to help us resist temptation and to forgive our sins.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was invited to a wedding at Cana (near Capernaum in Galilee) with his disciples. His mother was also invited. The bridegroom ran out of wine, and Jesus’ mother told this to Jesus.  Jesus addressed his mother respectfully, and asked why she was telling him this, since Jesus’ hour (God’s perfect timing for Jesus’ self-disclosure) had not yet come.

His mother told the bridegroom’s servants to do whatever Jesus might tell them. There were 6 jars, each holding about 25 gallons, at hand for the Jewish purification ritual, and Jesus told the servants to fill the jars to the brim with water, and then take some to the steward of the feast. They did as Jesus had told them.

When the steward tasted the sample of the water that had become wine, and not knowing where the wine had come from, although the servants did, the steward called the bridegroom and told him that everyone knows that one should serve the good wine first, and then the lesser wine after the guests’ senses have become dulled, but this bridegroom had apparently saved the best wine for last. This was the first manifestation of Jesus’ glory, done in Galilee, and his disciples’ faith in Jesus was strengthened. After the wedding Jesus went with his disciples and his mother and brothers to Capernaum, and they stayed there a few days.

Commentary:

It is so easy and tempting for us, individually and collectively, to forget what God has done for us, and to imagine that our individual success and the prosperity of our land is the result of our own effort. America’s situation is similar to that of Israel’s when they entered the Promised Land. Our first settlers were aware of their dependence upon God’s providence, but now having become “great” we’ve forgotten how we got here.

We imagine that we can provide our own daily bread; we’re “self-sufficient,” not realizing that it is not just by physical “bread” that we have life, but by God’s Word.  We must live by (in obedience to) God’s Word if we want real life now and eternally. Those who live by God’s Word will be led by his Holy Spirit through the wilderness of life in this world, through the river of physical death, and enter into the eternal Promised Land in Heaven. Those who pursue and worship other gods, such as wealth, power, ambition, pleasure, or any thing or person that interferes with our worship and obedience of the Lord, will perish eternally.

Jesus Christ is God’s Word made visible in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). The whole fullness of God dwelt bodily in Jesus (Colossians 2:8-9) but Jesus was fully human, so that he could show us how to live in our flesh, and through his resurrection and his assurance of eternal life, to deliver us from the power of Satan and the fear of physical death. Jesus is the merciful and faithful High Priest of those who trust and obey him, making intercession to God for us through his blood sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sin. Jesus is the one who baptizes us with his Holy Spirit, our Counselor and Helper, who strengthens our faith and gives us the power to resist sin and temptation.

Jesus didn’t change the water into wine at Cana because his mother asked him to, nor to impress others and build his own reputation. He did so by God’s will and timing. His mother told Jesus about the lack of wine because she believed that Jesus could remedy the situation. Even when Jesus told her that it was not God’s will and timing, she believed that he would, and she told the servants to be ready to do whatever he asked. Do we believe that Jesus can do what we ask in God’s will and timing? Are we ready to do whatever Jesus asks us to do? (See Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home)

Jesus is the bridegroom and his followers are his Church, his Bride. Jesus is the only one who can change the water of our worldly situation into the New Wine of spiritual rebirth and the celebration of our “marriage” to the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the New Wine that cheers us, strengthens our faith, empowers us, and gives us real, eternal life (see also entry for yesterday, Sunday, 1 Lent, odd year). Jesus saves the best wine for last, but we can begin to taste it now.

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 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/14/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 1 Lent – Odd

Deuteronomy 9:(1-3) 4-12   –   Temptation to Self-righteousness;
Hebrews 3:1-11  –   Christ Superior to Moses;
John 2:13-22  –   Cleansing the Temple;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

As Israel prepared to pass over the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, Moses told them that they would take the land from nations and peoples greater than themselves. It was by the power of God that Israel would destroy and drive them out.

Israel was warned not to think that it was because of their righteousness that God was giving them victory and possession of the land. Instead, it was because of the wickedness of the people who occupied the land, and because of God’s faithfulness to keep his promise to the patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel was not being given the land because they deserved it, because Israel had demonstrated their stubbornness and rebelliousness against the Lord since they left Egypt during forty years in the wilderness.

Moses reminded them that while he was on Mt. Horeb, when God manifested himself to Israel and gave Moses the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God on stone tablets, Moses stayed on the mountain for forty days and nights, and ate and drank nothing. The tablets contained the Laws of the Covenant which God had spoken to Israel on the day God came down upon Mt. Horeb, manifesting himself to Israel (Exodus 19:16-20:20). While Moses was on Mt. Horeb receiving the tablets of the Covenant, the people, after seeing God come down on Mt Horeb and hearing him speak to them, had become impatient when Moses didn’t return, and had made themselves a molten image (an idol).

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Followers of Jesus are a holy (consecrated to God) brotherhood, sharing a heavenly call (not just an earthly one). We are to remember Jesus, the apostle (the original messenger of the Gospel, from God in heaven), and high priest of our Christian faith. Jesus was faithful to God’s call as Moses was. But Christ is as much greater than Moses, as the builder of a house has more honor than the house he builds (and God is the ultimate builder of all things). Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house, but Jesus is the Son and heir of the builder and Master of God’s house.

We are members of his household, if we hold firmly to our faith (obedient trust) and hope in Jesus. The Holy Spirit says, through the scripture, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (“Meribah”) on the day of testing (“Massah”) in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:7-8; compare Psalm 95:8; Exodus 17:7).

Israel saw God’s faithfulness and providence during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and yet were still rebellious and demanded proof of God. God was provoked with that generation, because they didn’t learn God’s ways from their many opportunities, and thus were forbidden to enter the rest God had promised in the Promised Land.

John Paraphrase:

At the time for the celebration of the Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple, and found moneychangers (Roman coins had to be exchanged for Jewish coins to pay the temple tax) and merchants selling animals for temple sacrifice. Jesus made a whip of cords, and drove the merchants and their livestock out of the temple; he dumped the coins and overturned the vendors’ tables, and ordered the sellers of birds to take them away. Jesus said, “…you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16).

His disciples recalled that the scriptures (Psalm 69:9) had foretold that the Messiah would be zealous for the purity of God’s house. The Jews asked Jesus to prove his authority for doing this by some miraculous demonstration. Jesus told them “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).

The Jews pointed out that it had taken forty-six years to build the temple, and they could not believe that Jesus could rebuild it in three days, but Jesus was referring his body as the temple of God, not the building. After Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, his disciples remembered this saying, and they believed the scriptures and Jesus’ words.

Commentary:

The people of Israel had seen the plagues God brought upon Egypt, and the parting of the Sea when God delivered them from Egypt. They had seen God descend on Mt. Horeb, and heard him speak, and yet within forty days, while Moses was on the mountain receiving the stone tablets of the Commandments, Israel had turned from faith in God to the worship of idols.

Israel didn’t trust and obey God’s command to enter the Promised Land the first time, so God made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until all that generation which had rebelled had died in the wilderness, except for Joshua and Caleb, who had trusted the Lord and had been ready to obey (Numbers 13:25-14:25). God’s people are warned not to imagine that our personal success and the prosperity of our land is because we’re righteous and worthy of God’s blessings.

We are all like “Israelites” in the wilderness of this earthly life. We are to learn to trust and obey God and be led by him. Jesus is our “Moses” who leads us by his indwelling Holy Spirit, but in one sense, he is away on the mountain of God, and we are awaiting his return.

God’s people are to remember that we are to be consecrated to God’s service, and that we have a heavenly calling, not just an earthly one. We are to be obedient to God’s Word; not rebellious. There are many signs of the truth and faithfulness of God’s Word which we can see during this lifetime if we look in trust and obedience.

If we don’t learn to trust and obey the Lord in this lifetime we will die in this wilderness and not be allowed to enter God’s rest in the Promised Land of his kingdom in Heaven. Believers in Jesus haven’t received forgiveness, salvation and eternal life because we’re righteous and worthy, but because of God’s love, mercy and faithfulness through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who refuse to accept God’s forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ will perish eternally because of their own wickedness and rebelliousness. Are we continuing to trust and obey Jesus while he’s “on the mountain,” or are we turning to idols of our own making?

It was the time of the Passover celebration, when Israel was to remember their deliverance by God from slavery and death in Egypt. The Jews were supposed to be looking for the coming of the Messiah (who would be the new “Moses” to lead them into the heavenly Promised Land of the kingdom of God).

While they had been awaiting the coming Messiah, they had turned to “other gods;” materialism, wealth, and power, for example. They didn’t remember what God had done for them in giving them the Promised Land. They didn’t appreciate their release from slavery and death in Egypt. They didn’t remember the lessons their people should have learned in the wilderness.

They were still rebellious and still demanding that God prove himself to them. They demanded miraculous demonstration, when there were miraculous demonstrations all around for them to see. Jesus told them he was going to rise from the dead, but his word was not understood because of their unwillingness to hear and believe.

Jesus did rise on the third day; they had their sign, but they still didn’t believe. They had come to believe that they were God’s chosen people and had inherited the Promised Land because of their own righteousness, as Moses had warned; they were unwilling to acknowledge their sinfulness.

Have we as individuals and America as a nation forgotten who brought us into this land; have we forgotten our own wilderness experience? Have we forgotten what Jesus did for us on the Cross? Are we learning God’s ways during our earthly wilderness experience?

Do we realize that our bodies are to be temples of the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit? Have we allowed the Church to become a “business” or a social organization? Are we seeking signs from God to prove himself to us, when they’re all around us? Are we holding firmly to our faith and waiting expectantly for Jesus’ return, or are we turning to idols of our own making?

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 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/15/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 1 Lent – Odd

Deuteronomy 9:13-21  –  Israel’s stubbornness;
Hebrews 3:12-19   –  Warning against rebelliousness;
John 2:23-3:15  –   Nicodemus;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

While Moses was on the mountain receiving the covenant of law from God, the people had turned to idolatry. The Lord knew and told Moses (Deuteronomy 9:12). The Lord was angry at the people and was ready to destroy them and start over with Moses and his descendants.

Moses came down, carrying the stone tablets of the law, and he saw that the people had turned from the Lord and had made an idol. So Moses threw down the stone tablets and broke them. Moses prostrated himself before the Lord and fasted for forty days seeking God’s forgiveness for Israel, and the Lord forgave them and did not destroy them. Moses also prayed for God’s forgiveness of Aaron (at the time, Moses’ spokesman who was in command during Moses’ absence and who facilitated the idolatry of the people).

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Christians are warned to take care that they not allow evil and unbelief to lead them away from the Lord. We are to exhort one another daily so that our consciences will not be hardened by the deceptive nature of sin. Remaining in Christ requires perseverance, so that we don’t lose the confidence in Christ we had when we first believed in him.

The scriptures warn us to learn from the experience of Israel and not let our hearts become hardened and rebellious as Israel did. Those who were rebellious had all been led out of Egypt, and they continued in rebelliousness throughout the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They perished in the wilderness because of their sin. God swore that those who were disobedient would never enter God’s rest (settlement in the Promised Land). Those who were disobedient were unable to enter because of unbelief.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus was in Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Many people believed in Jesus because of the “signs” (miracles revealing who Jesus is) which Jesus did. But Jesus understood our human nature, and he did not trust himself to them.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee (the strictest, most legalistic group of Jews), and he was a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court). Nicodemus went to visit Jesus after dark, and he addressed Jesus as “Teacher” (Rabbi) and acknowledged that Jesus must have come from God and been doing God’s will or Jesus could not do the miracles he had done. Jesus answered that one cannot see the kingdom of God unless one is “born anew” (or “born from above;” thus “born again”).

Nicodemus asked Jesus how one could be born again; could a person have a second physical birth? Jesus replied that one needs to be born by the water of Baptism and by (the “baptism;”  indwelling; anointing of; see Acts Chapter 2) the Holy Spirit or else one cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Commentary:

Our physical bodies are born physically; our spirits are born by the Holy Spirit within us. Do not be amazed about spiritual rebirth. “The wind (the same word means both wind and spirit) blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:9).

Nicodemus asked Jesus how this could be, and Jesus asked how Nicodemus could be a teacher of Israel and not understand this. Jesus was testifying to what he knew and had seen, but Nicodemus was not believing Jesus’ testimony. If Nicodemus could not understand the parable of the wind, a familiar earthly experience, how could he understand spiritual things Nicodemus had never experienced?

No one on earth has ever experienced heaven, except Jesus, who came from heaven.  Jesus declared that he would be lifted up (on the Cross), and would be like the bronze serpent which Moses raised up on a pole, during the wilderness wandering (Numbers 21:9). As snake-bitten Israelites who looked at the bronze serpent were saved from physical death, so Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross so that those who believe in Jesus will be saved from eternal spiritual death and instead receive eternal life.

God knows the sin of his people. The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Moses trusted and obeyed God and he found the situation just as God had said. Moses broke the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, because the people had “broken” the covenant with God. Moses interceded for the people for forty days of fasting and prayer. Because of Moses’ intercession God was willing to forgive their sin.

Jesus is the “New Moses” who leads us through the wilderness of this world and intercedes for us to God for our forgiveness. Until his return from the “mountain of God” in Heaven, those who are the Lord’s interim spokesmen and leaders of the people of God must be careful not to facilitate disobedience and idolatry among God’s people.

Disobedience of God’s Word is rebellion and unbelief. Sin is deceptive; the serpent in the Garden of Eden told Eve she wouldn’t die as God had said she would if she disobeyed God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:3-4). Eve didn’t die physically when she disobeyed, but she lost eternal life and became subject to physical death.

Christians need to examine ourselves to see if we are allowing sin (disobedience) and unbelief to grow within us. The generation of Israelites who God freed and led from bondage in Egypt perished in the wilderness because of disobedience and disbelief despite many “signs” which God had done for them: the plagues in Egypt, crossing through the Sea, manna, and water from the rock, for example.

Many people believed in Jesus because of the miracles they saw him do. Do we seek “signs” in order to believe? Do we only believe in Jesus as long as he does what we ask of him? Nicodemus came to Jesus because Nicodemus saw “signs” which indicated that Jesus had come from God and was doing miracles by God’s power and approval, but Nicodemus came by night because he was not ready to commit publicly to believing, and he wasn’t sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told him that one must be reborn spiritually through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit for one to see the kingdom of God which is all around us right now, and also to enter the eternal kingdom of God in heaven.

Nicodemus saw “signs” but wanted more information before making a commitment; he wanted to understand everything first. Jesus tried to explain spiritual rebirth in terms Nicodemus could understand, but Nicodemus was still not willing to commit.

We don’t need to understand what causes the wind to blow in order to believe in wind; we can see and hear its effects. We cannot fully understand everything spiritual now. We have to decide whether to trust and obey Jesus based on the Biblical record of his earthly ministry. Jesus foretold his crucifixion (and resurrection) and his prophecy was fulfilled. He promised that those who believe in him will have eternal life.

Seeking “signs” won’t save us. All the information we need in order to come to salvation and eternal life is in the Bible. We need to read it and act on it in faith. Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation; Jesus is our only intercessor who can save us from God’s wrath and condemnation.

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 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/16/05;
Podcast: Thursday 1 Lent – Odd

Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5   –   Moses the Intercessor;
Hebrews 4:1-10   –   God’s Promise of Rest;
John 3:16-21  –    God’s Saving Purpose;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The people of Israel have rebelled and disobeyed God from the day they left Egypt. Israel had refused God’s command at Kadesh-barnea to enter the Promised Land (Numbers Chapters 13-14). Moses prostrated himself before the Lord for forty days and nights interceding with God not to destroy the Israelites. Moses recalled the mighty acts of God in bringing them out of Egypt. Moses asked God to remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to forget the stubbornness, wickedness and sin of Israel for the sake of God’s name, so that the Egyptians wouldn’t be able to say that God didn’t fulfill his promise, or that God hated Israel and planned to kill them in the wilderness.

The Israelites are God’s people and his heritage, who he delivered by his great power. The Lord commanded Moses to prepare two new stone tablets (like the previous ones which had been broken; Deuteronomy 9:12-17) and to make a wooden ark (chest) to contain the tablets. The Lord would again write on the tablets the Ten Commandments which had been spoken by God to the people on the day of assembly when God came down upon the mountain (Exodus 19:16-20:26). So Moses prepared the tablets and ark, and he ascended the mountain with the tablets. God wrote the commandments again on the new tablets. Then Moses brought the tablets down and put them in the Ark.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

God has promised that his people will enter his rest [from their wilderness wandering, in the Promised Land; also the Sabbath rest, when God rested from the work of creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2) and the eternal rest in heaven after the toils of this life] . The Israelites who didn’t obey God’s Word were not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:7-11, quoting Psalm 95:7-11). God’s promise will be fulfilled, but must be appropriated by Christians by faith (obedient trust). We have heard the same good news that the Israelites heard, but they received no benefit from it because they didn’t believe and obey.

John Paraphrase:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12; the light of righteousness) who came into the world. Mankind loved darkness (unrighteousness) instead of light, because their deeds were evil. Those who do evil hide in the darkness hoping that their sins will not be exposed (but our sins cannot be hidden from God). Those who do what is right come to the light so that it can be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in accord with God’s will and nature.

Commentary:

The Israelites who had been led out of Egypt had the opportunity to enter the Promised Land directly but they lost that opportunity through disobedience. After seeing God’s mighty acts of deliverance from slavery in Egypt, they still didn’t trust and obey God’s Word to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. So God allowed that generation to wander in the wilderness for forty years until all those who had rebelled and disobeyed God were dead. Moses interceded for them to God, and God spared them from immediate destruction, and God renewed his covenant with the people who had broken it.

God’s promises will be fulfilled, but it is up to us to claim them for ourselves by faith (obedient trust). We should learn from the example of Israel’s history that it is not those who call themselves God’s people who receive his promises, but those who trust and obey God’s Word. It’s not those who call Jesus their Lord who are saved, but those who are obedient to God’s Word through Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46; Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh: John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is the New Covenant whose blood intercedes for us to God to forget our sins for Jesus’ name’s sake, provided that we trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is the name of the Lord!

God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us from condemnation and give us eternal life. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death (Romans 6:23). We are all under condemnation except those who believe in (trust and obey) Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save us from God’s righteous condemnation. God promised that those who trust and obey Jesus will not be condemned to eternal death but will instead receive eternal life in the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom in heaven. 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). Jesus is our intercessor to God for the forgiveness of our sins, and he’s our leader who will lead us into the Promised Land if we trust and obey him.

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

Friday 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/17/05;
Podcast: Friday 1 Lent – Odd

Deuteronomy 10:12-22  –    What the Lord requires;
Hebrews 4:11-16   –   Jesus our high priest;
John 3:22-36    –    John’s further testimony;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

God’s people are to fear (respect the power and authority of) God, to conform to his ways, to love and serve him with all our hearts and souls, and to keep all his commands. God’s requirements are for our own benefit. Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to God, but in love God has chosen us above all people.  We are to stop being disobedient and rebellious, and to open our innermost self to trust and obey him, fulfilling our responsibility of our covenant with God.

The Lord is God of gods and Lord of lords, whose glory and might are unrivaled, and who is impartial, just, and cannot be bribed. God upholds the rights of the poor and helpless; widows, orphans and sojourners. God loves and cares for the sojourner and so must we, remembering that we were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

We are to fear, serve, trust and obey the Lord faithfully without wavering. He is the one we praise, our God, who has done great things for us, which we have seen and experienced. The Lord has kept his promise to make the descendants of Abraham a vast multitude beyond counting.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Believers are to make every effort to enter God’s rest which God has promised (the rest in the Promised Land from the wilderness wandering; the Sabbath rest: Genesis 2:2; the final rest from the toils of earthly life in the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom in heaven), so that we don’t fail by disobedience and unbelief as the Israelites did (Hebrews 3:15-19).

“God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). No one can hide anything from God, and everyone will be accountable to God for what they have done in life (John 5:28-29).

Jesus Christ is our great high priest who has ascended into heaven (to intercede for us in God’s presence; in the heavenly temple), so let us hold firmly to our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is able to help us in our weaknesses, because he has been tempted in every way as we are, but without sinning, so he can sympathize with us and he can give us his power to resist temptation. So let us come to the Lord in trust and confidence through Jesus Christ and receive mercy (forgiveness) and find grace (unmerited favor) to help us as we have need.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples were in Judea (southern Israel) baptizing. John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim (between Samaria and Galilee, north of Judea). John had baptized Jesus and had testified that Jesus was the Son of God (the Messiah) who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34). John’s disciples got into a discussion with a Jew over Jewish purifying rituals, and the disciples went to John and told him that Jesus was baptizing and that all the people were going to Jesus.

John told them “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). John had told his disciples that he wasn’t the Christ, but the messenger sent ahead to announce him. Jesus is the bridegroom to whom the bride (Israel; God’s people) belongs. John was like the “Best Man;” the groomsman. He hears the bridegroom and rejoices in his coming. When the bride and bridegroom are united the groomsman’s role has been accomplished, and the bridegroom begins his role. Jesus is from heaven and he is above all. Those who are of earth have only earthly experience and knowledge; Jesus testifies to what he has seen and heard in heaven, but many don’t believe him.

Those who have believed in Jesus testify that God is true and that Jesus, whom God sent, speaks God’s Word. God didn’t just give a little bit of his Spirit, but its fullness, to Jesus (John 1:33; Colossians 2: 8-9), and Jesus baptizes his disciples who trust and obey him with the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

God loves his Son, Jesus, and has given him authority over all things (Matthew 28:18). Those who believe (trust and obey) God’s Son, Jesus Christ, have eternal life. Those who do not obey God’s Son will never know what is truly life, because they are under the condemnation of God’s wrath.

Commentary:

God requires obedience and respect from his people. Do we understand the concepts of God and Lord, or do we imagine God as some guy in a bottle that we can summon to do our bidding? Physical circumcision was the requirement and sign of the Old Covenant of Law between God and Israel, but the covenant also required obedience to the Law.

Circumcision of the heart (our obedient submission to God in our innermost being) is the requirement and sign of the New Covenant of Grace through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. God’s people are not those who are only outwardly, nominally God’s people. God’s people are to care for and uphold the rights of the poor and helpless and sojourners because God does. We are to remember that we were once sojourners in the bondage of sin and death of the “Egypt” of this earthly life. Christian disciples are the spiritual descendants of Abraham.

God has promised rest, now and eternally. We are to appropriate that promise for ourselves through trust and obedience of Jesus Christ. The Israelites who perished in the wilderness were not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief and disobedience. God’s Word is not like our word; God’s Word is unfailingly true and it has creative power. God’s Word will either give us life or condemn us.

God knows our innermost thoughts and intentions, and each one of us will be personally accountable to God for what we have done in our earthly life. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and our salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus Christ is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14), demonstrated through his life. We must hold onto our faith in Jesus and come to him to receive his help.

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with Holy Spirit. John baptized with water for people’s repentance to prepare them to receive Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. John was just doing what God had given him to do; forgiveness and salvation are not from John (or any mortal), but from God through his Son Jesus Christ. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus can testify to the truth of God’s Word, Jesus Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They have experienced the fulfillment of promises we see in the Bible.

Those who trust and obey Jesus have eternal life and personal fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit, which is the seal and guarantee of that salvation and eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Those who do not trust and obey Jesus (regardless of whether they call themselves Christians or profess faith in Jesus or not) are under eternal condemnation. Faith in Jesus is not a matter of outward appearance but of inner submission. Obedience to God’s Word must be understood from the perspective of Jesus’ teachings.

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 1 Lent – Odd

First posted 02/18/05;
Podcast: Saturday 1 Lent – Odd

Deuteronomy 11:18-28  –  Blessing and Curse;
Hebrews 5:1-10   –   Jesus Our High Priest;
John 4:1-26  –   The Samaritan Woman;

Deuteronomy Summary:

God’s people are to lay up God’s Word in their hearts and in their souls, so that God’s Word will be available at all times in our daily lives. We are to use God’s Word to guide us constantly, so that we will be obedient to God’s will in all things, and we are to teach obedience of God’s Word to our children. The blessing of obedience to God’s Word is long life, “as long as the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21 RSV), in the land God has promised us.

The Lord promised Israel that if they were obedient in all things to God’s Word, that God would drive out the great and powerful heathen nations which occupied the Promised Land so that Israel could occupy it. God promised to give Israel everything from the wilderness (in the south) to the Lebanon (in the northwest) and the Euphrates River (in the northeast) to the Mediterranean Sea. The Lord promised that no person could withstand Israel and that God would cause the occupants of the land to be afraid of Israel. The Lord gave his people a blessing if they chose to obey him and a curse if they chose not to obey and turned to idols.

Hebrews Summary:

A high priest is appointed by God, as Aaron was (Hebrews 5:4), as a mediator between the people and God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to sympathize and gently correct those who are straying because he also suffers temptation and human weakness. Thus he needs to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the people. So Christ also was appointed, not by his own choice, but by God, who declared (in Psalm 2:7) that he was the (only) begotten Son of God, and (in Psalm 110:4) that he is priest forever according to the priesthood of Melchizedek.

Jesus learned spiritual discipline through obedience from his suffering unto his death on the Cross. Jesus trusted that God was able to save him from physical death and his prayer was heard because of his godly (reverent) fear (appropriate respect for God’s power and authority). By persevering in obedience Jesus came to spiritual maturity and completion of his qualifications for priesthood and Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

John Summary:

On the way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus and his disciples passed through Samaria and stopped around noon to rest at Jacob’s Well near Sychar. (Jesus’ disciples had gone into the city to buy lunch; John 4:27). A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus asked her for a drink. She asked Jesus why he was asking her, since Jews ostracized Samaritans as racial and religious “mongrels” (and Rabbis did not speak to women in public; John 4:27). Jesus replied that if she knew the “gift of God” and who was asking her for water, she would have asked Jesus for “living water” (John 4:10).

The woman noted that Jesus wasn’t equipped to draw water from Jacob’s Well, and asked where one gets living water. She asked if he were greater than the patriarch, Jacob, who had given them the well and had used it himself. Jesus told her that those who drink from Jacob’s Well will soon be thirsty again, but those who drink the living water Jesus gives will never thirst again; the living water Jesus gives becomes a spring of water within the recipient which wells up into eternal life. The woman addressed Jesus as “Sir” and asked him to give her that living water, so that she wouldn’t have to keep coming to Jacob’s Well for water.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman to go and fetch her husband, and the woman replied that she had no husband. Jesus said he knew that she had been married five times, and was now living with a man who was not married to her. The woman now acknowledged that Jesus was a prophet, and she asked him to settle a controversy between Jews and Samaritans over where one should worship God.

The Jews worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem, but Samaritans had not been allowed to worship there, and had instead worshiped on Mt Gerizim in the Samaritan temple. Jesus told her to believe him that the time was coming when she wouldn’t worship God in Jerusalem or on Mt. Gerizim. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman declared that she believed the Messiah was coming, “and that “he will show us all things” (John 4:25). Jesus told her that he was the Messiah.

Commentary:

God’s people are to store up God’s Word in their hearts and souls, so that it will be constantly available to guide us, and we must be obedient to God’s Word. We’re to teach God’s Word and obedience to God’s Word to our children. We need to read the whole Bible, and we need to read the Bible daily. God promises eternal life in the Promised Land of his kingdom in heaven to those who trust and obey his Word, but warns that those who do not trust and obey God will be cursed. Jesus Christ is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation and eternal life, and he is the example of a life lived in trust and obedience to God’s Word.

Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). He is God’s only anointed Savior and eternal Priest, who offered once for all the sacrifice of his death on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus’ life demonstrates how to live as a son or daughter of God. We are to grow in spiritual discipline to spiritual maturity by persevering in trust and obedience to Jesus. We are to be Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus is the only source of “living water.” The living water he is referring to is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34; Matthew 3:11). Jesus told the woman that if she realized who Jesus was she would ask him and he would give her that “living water.”

During her conversation, she had a growing awareness of who Jesus was. First she thought of him as a Jew (John 4:9). Then she called him “Sir” (John 4:11). Then she declared him a prophet (John 4:19). Then she confessed her belief in the Messiah (John 4:25), and Jesus revealed himself to her (John 4:26).

God’s Word is eternally true. When we trust in it and act upon it we receive what God promises. These texts are an illustration of Christian discipleship and spiritual growth. As we begin to lay up God’s Word in our hearts and to apply it in our daily lives, we grow in understanding of who Jesus really is. If we commit to believe in him, he will reveal himself to us. If we trust Jesus and obey him, he will give us the “living water” of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). True worship of God isn’t just matter of Church attendance, but also of our trust and obedience of Jesus and the anointing of his 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 Transfiguration – Lent – Odd 02/15-21/2015

February 14, 2015

Week of Transfiguration – Lent – Odd  

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


 

A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available 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.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of  Transfiguration – Lent

Sunday Transfiguration – Odd

First posted 02/05/05;

Podcast: Sunday Transfiguration Odd

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  –    Divine judgment;
2 Corinthians 3:1-9   –   The New Covenant;
John 12:27-36a   –   Judgment of the world;

Daniel Summary:

Daniel foresaw the Day of Judgment. God, the ancient one, was on his throne surrounded by his court. “The court sat in judgment and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10c). “…with the clouds of heaven came one like a son of man” (Daniel 7:13a;  compare Acts 1:9, 11). He was presented to God, who gave him dominion and glory and kingdom over all people, and nations, and they are to serve him. His dominion and his kingdom are eternal and imperishable.

2 Corinthians Summary:

Paul had apparently been accused of building up his own image and reputation. Paul doesn’t need anyone to attest for him to the Corinthians, nor does he need a character reference from the Corinthians to anyone else. The work of the Holy Spirit within the Corinthians is Paul’s letter of commendation. That commendation is a letter from Christ; Paul is merely the “postman” delivering the message. The message is written on human hearts by God’s Spirit, rather than engraved in stone or written with ink on paper. Paul’s confidence before God is not in his own ability or merit, but through Jesus Christ.

Paul’s qualification to be a minister of the new covenant is by God’s work, not Paul’s ability. The old covenant (of law) written on stone tablets (the Ten Commandments given at Mt Sinai to Moses) kills, but the new covenant is written by the Holy Spirit (on our hearts), and the Spirit gives (eternal) life.

If the old covenant demanding death came with such splendor in Moses’ face that he had to wear a veil because of its brightness, although fading (Exodus 34:29-35), won’t the new covenant of life in the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? If there was splendor in the giving of the Law of condemnation, the giving of the new covenant of righteousness must be far greater in splendor.

John Summary:

Jesus’ soul was troubled (at the prospect of his crucifixion) and his human response would have been to ask God to save him from going through that, but he recognized that this was his purpose and God’s will, so he prayed that God would glorify his name through Jesus. A voice from heaven declared that God had glorified it and would glorify it again. The crowd around heard it, and some thought it was thunder, but others thought an angel had spoken to Jesus. Jesus told them that the voice has spoken for their benefit, not for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus said that now is the judgment of the world, and the ruler of the world (Satan) would be overthrown. Jesus declared, revealing how he would die, that when he was lifted up (on the cross of crucifixion) he would draw all people to him. But the crowd said they had heard that the Christ would remain forever, and they did not understand who the Son of man was or why Jesus said he must be lifted up.

Jesus replied that the light was with them a little longer, and while they had light they should walk in the light, so that they wouldn’t be overtaken by darkness. Anyone walking in darkness does not know where he is going. “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be come sons of light” (John 12:36a).

Commentary:

God has declared that there is going to be a Day of Judgment when all who have ever lived will be judged by the Son of man, Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46), who has been given dominion, glory and kingdom. Jesus is the King of Kings, the King of the Universe, and his dominion and kingdom are eternal.

Paul’s ministry was not by the authority of men, but by the call and empowerment of God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit (Paul was formerly known as Saul: Acts Chapter 9, Galatians 1:1). His message was not man’s message, but God’s (Galatians 1:11-12). It didn’t matter to Paul whether other people thought he was righteous or not. Paul’s confidence in his standing before God was based not on his own works or merit, but by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant of Law condemns us to eternal death (Romans 6:23) because no one is able to keep all of God’s Law. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10).

God created a New Covenant of righteousness in Jesus Christ. Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and those who live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit are freed from the Old Covenant of condemnation. The Lord only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).  It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

On the Day of Judgment, 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 be condemned to eternal death in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus declared that the judgment of the world and the defeat of Satan would take place at the cross of his crucifixion, and so it has. Those who accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord are freed from the condemnation of God’s Law, provided that they live in obedience to his Holy Spirit. Those who reject Jesus and refuse to obey him are under eternal condemnation.

Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man. That reference allows each of us to decide for ourselves who we believe Jesus to be. Jesus declared that he was the light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus called us to believe in the light and walk in his light. Those who do not walk in Jesus’ light are walking in darkness (of sin and spiritual ignorance) and don’t realize where they are going. Do you know the Son of man? Are you walking in his light?

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 Transfiguration Odd

First posted 02/06/05;
Podcast: Monday Transfiguration Odd

Deuteronomy 6:1-15   –    The great commandment;
Hebrews 1:1-14   –    Superiority of Christ to angels;
John 1:1-18   –   God’s Word become flesh;

Deuteronomy Summary:

The Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses to teach to the people of God, so that they would keep them and live by them in the Promised Land. We and our children and grandchildren are to fear, love and respect God by obeying God’s commandments, so that our lives can be prolonged, now and eternally. So listen and be careful to do them, so that we prosper and multiply in the paradise God has promised to our ancestors.

Listen, people of God, the Lord our God is the one and only God, and we are to love God with all our hearts, souls (our eternal spirits) and our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. God’s commandments shall be so much a part of our daily life that we are mindful of them and guided by them in every aspect of our daily life.  We are to  teach them to our children so that they will practice them in every aspect of their daily lives also. God is going to bring his people into an eternal paradise which they haven’t earned or done anything to create or deserve.

We must be careful not to forget who has delivered us from slavery to sin and death and who blesses us and provides for us. We are to fear, honor and respect our God, and trust and obey him alone. We are not to desire, love, pursue or serve any other thing or person but our Lord. We are not to follow the idols of the society which surrounds us. The Lord will not share his glory with any other thing or person. Those who do not honor and serve God will be utterly destroyed.

Hebrews Summary:

God spoke in the past to his people through the prophets, but now he has spoken to us by his Son, his ultimate prophet. Jesus took part in creation (John 1:3) and sustains it by his Word which has creative power. He is God’s heir, inheriting all things. He is the very likeness and nature of God (Colossians 2:8-9). He is our High Priest, having accomplished the purification of our sins, and he is enthroned at the right hand of God in heaven as King of the Universe. He is far greater than the angels, who are like household servants in comparison to the firstborn son and heir of the master of the household. His kingdom is eternal. Creation will age and change, but the Lord is eternal and unchanging. The angels are his servants in the ministry of our salvation.

John Summary

The Word of God is his creative force. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:14). He existed from the beginning of Creation, and participated in Creation. He was with God and he is God. In him is real, eternal life, which is the light (of righteousness and hope) of mankind, which shines in the darkness (of sin and hopelessness) of this present world, and that darkness has not prevailed over it. John (the baptizer) was sent by God to testify to the light (Jesus) so that people would believe in Jesus. John was not the light (the Christ) but he came to point people to the Christ.

Jesus is the true light which makes all other sources of light dim by comparison. He came into the world which he created, and he came to his own people (the Jews) but the people he had created, and the Jews, to whom he was promised and expected, didn’t recognize and believe in him. But to all who welcomed him and believed in him, he gave the power to become God’s (adopted) children, through their spiritual rebirth, not by their physical heritage, their own desire, or their own merit, but by God’s will (through his indwelling Holy Spirit).

God’s Word became flesh and lived among us, the fullness of God’s grace (unmerited favor) and truth (faithful promises). We have seen that he possesses the glory of the only begotten Son of God. John testified that although John came before Jesus chronologically, that Jesus ranks far above him in glory. Jesus is an inexhaustible source of God’s unmerited favor. The Law (of judgment and condemnation) was given through Moses but through Jesus comes grace and truth (forgiveness and salvation). No one is able to see God, but Jesus, who is God’s exact likeness and nature in human form makes God visible to us.

Commentary:

God alone is the one true God, the creator of the universe. He has had a purpose from the beginning of creation to create an eternal kingdom of his people. He had a personal relationship with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which was broken by their disobedience of God’s Word (Genesis Chapter 3). Adam and Eve were eternal (as are we); they lost eternal life and came under the condemnation of eternal death through their disobedience (Genesis 3:3; John 5:28-29).

Since that time God has been trying to save us from the eternal death which is the penalty for disobedience of God’s Word (Romans 6:23). He called Abraham, who trusted and obeyed God and became the patriarch of God’s people. God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, to be taught and obeyed. Through Israel God gave us his Word through the Old Testament Scriptures, and he has given us the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Word of God in human flesh. Jesus is the embodiment of the obedient servant of God, and the example of how we are to live. Jesus is the invisible God made visible in human form. Jesus is God’s message of self-sacrificing love for us. Jesus is our High Priest who offered up the sacrifice of himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is the anointed King of God’s eternal kingdom.

God’s Word has a creative power that human words do not possess. God created heaven and earth by his Word. He could make us obey him by his command. Instead he has given us the power to choose whether to obey him or not, but that choice has eternal consequences for us personally. God wants people who serve him gladly out of love for him. Jesus is God’s revelation of himself in this world.

Jesus came to give us forgiveness of our sins, to restore the fellowship with God which was broken because of sin (our disobedience of God’s Word), and to restore us to eternal life which was lost through sin. No one can come to God and know God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). There is forgiveness of sins in no other way or person than Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Jesus speaks the Word of God. To those who believe in Jesus, he gives the power to become God’s adopted children (but note that this is a promise which must be acted upon by the receiver; we must trust Jesus’ words and act on them in obedience).

Jesus promises that those who are his disciples, who trust and obey Jesus, will have personal fellowship with Jesus and God the Father through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus in flesh couldn’t be everywhere at once, and couldn’t be in as close fellowship with his disciples as he can in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate revelation of God to us personally. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can hear the Lord speak directly to us and it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can obey and serve 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 Transfiguration Odd

First posted 02/07/05;
Podcast: Tuesday Transfiguration Odd

Deuteronomy 6:16-25   –  The great commandment;
Hebrews 2:1-10   –    Christ superior to angels;
John 1:19-28  –   Testimony of John the Baptizer;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

We are warned not to ask God to prove himself to us like the Israelites did at Massah (when Moses drew water from the rock; Exodus 17:2-7). We are to be diligent in obeying God’s commandments. We are to do what is right and pleasing to the Lord (and avoid what is not right and pleasing), so that things will go well for us and that we may enter and possess the Promised Land.

We are to teach our children God’s acts of redemption; how he delivered his people from bondage of sin and death in Egypt, through the sea and through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. We are to obey his commands, and to have a healthy fear (awe and reverence for the power and authority) of the Lord always, for our good, and we are to teach that to our children, so that God will preserve us and judge us as righteous.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

The author of Hebrews warns that we must pay closer attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or else we will drift away from it. If the Old Covenant of God’s Law was valid and every sin or disobedience received a just retribution, we cannot hope to escape God’s condemnation if we ignore his plan of salvation. God’s plan of salvation “was declared at first by the Lord, and has been attested to us by those who heard him” (Hebrews 2:4) and by signs and miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The world to come (the new creation; the kingdom of God in Heaven; Paradise), is not to be ruled by and for angels, but by Jesus, and for his followers. Jesus, although much higher than the angels, became lower than them for a short time (during his earthly ministry to bring us to salvation) but now has been glorified, has been given authority and dominion over all creation.

We do not see the complete subjugation of all things in creation to him yet. But we do see Jesus, having become humble and obedient, enduring suffering and death so that he might experience death for each one of us, now crowned with glory and honor. It was God’s gracious will to allow Jesus to come to spiritual maturity through suffering, so that he could be our leader to guide us to spiritual maturity and our eternal inheritance.

John Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer was asked, by religious leaders from Jerusalem, who it was that John claimed to be. John confessed that he was not the Christ (Messiah). The authorities asked if John were Elijah (who was expected to return to prepare for Christ’s coming), or the prophet (another Messianic forerunner) and John answered that he was not. So they asked what John said about himself, and John quoted Isaiah 40:3, saying that he was a voice crying out in the wilderness, calling Israel to repent and prepare for the Lord’s coming.

The religious authorities asked why, then, John was baptizing. John said that he baptized with water, but the Messiah, who was to be revealed after John, was present among them, unrecognized. The Messiah was so much greater than John, that John felt unworthy to be his most menial servant. This took place at “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (unknown but presumably close to and east of the river; not to be confused with Bethany on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem).

Commentary:

Christians are to trust and obey God’s Word in the Bible. We need to read the Bible thoroughly and regularly.  We are to apply God’s Word in our daily lives and we are to teach the Bible to our children. We are to learn and pass on what God has revealed about himself in his dealings with Israel. How are we doing? Do we expect the Lord to reveal himself to people who do not trust and obey him?

The author of Hebrews says that if we don’t pay close attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will drift away from it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s only plan of salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home); it originated with God. It was attested to in the New Testament by those who heard the Gospel from Jesus during his earthly ministry.

It needs to continue to be attested to by “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ who have heard it from the risen Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit, like Paul (Acts Chapter 9). Discipleship is a spiritual growth process by which we are to grow to spiritual maturity following Jesus’ example of obedient trust in God. Only a disciple can make disciples; we have to be willing to be disciples, and be willing to grow to spiritual maturity first.

The mission of the Church is to make disciples, but often the Church just makes members, fair-weather Christians who expect God to bless their lives, and then ask where God is at the first sign of trouble.

John the Baptizer trusted and obeyed God. He knew the scriptures and he applied and lived them. He didn’t consider himself as someone great, like Elijah or some other prophet, although that is what he was (Matthew 11:14; Mark 9:13), because as he acted on God’s Word he fulfilled the prophecy.

John the Baptist is a role-model for Christians. There is a society around us which is oblivious to the presence of Jesus among us; who do not recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord, God’s only plan of salvation. We need to be voices calling out in the wilderness, calling people to repent and turn to the Lord in trust and obedience; to prepare people for the Lord’s return.

In order to do that we must be disciples filled and led by the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish God’s call by our own worldly strength and ability, but only through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the Church, which is the “New Jerusalem;” Luke 24:47-49) until they had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).  John baptized with water for repentance; only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; Acts Chapter 2). Jesus gives his Holy Spirit only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). I add my testimony to the truth of the Gospel 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)?

Ash Wednesday Lent Odd

First posted 02/08/05;
Podcast: Ash Wednesday Lent Odd

Jonah 3:1-4:11   –   Jonah and Nineveh;
Hebrews 12:1-14   –   Christian discipline;
Luke 18:9-14    –    The Pharisee and the tax collector;

Jonah Paraphrase:

The Lord gave Jonah a second chance to obey God’s command to go and preach to Nineveh, so Jonah rose and went to Nineveh. Nineveh was such a large city that it took three days to travel through it. Jonah went one day’s journey into the city and began to proclaim that Nineveh would be overthrown after forty days.

The people of Nineveh believed God’s Word and they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth (ritual garb of mourning and repentance). Even the King of Nineveh arose from his throne, took off his robe and put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. The King proclaimed a period of fasting and repentance, calling everyone to turn from their evil ways and from violence, in the hope that God might repent of his judgment against them and spare them from perishing. When God saw that the people of Nineveh turned from evil, he had mercy on them and did not carry out his judgment against them.

But Jonah was angry with God for sparing Nineveh. Jonah complained to God that he had not wanted to go to Nineveh the first time because he knew the Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” (Jonah 4:2c). Jonah asked the Lord to allow Jonah to die, because he was so unhappy he didn’t want to live anymore. The Lord asked Jonah if Jonah was doing right to be angry over this. Jonah went outside the city and made a temporary shelter for himself, to wait and see what would happen to the city.

The Lord appointed a plant to grow over Jonah to provide some shade, and Jonah was glad to have the plant for shade. Then God appointed a worm to attack the plant, causing it to wither. God also caused the sun to beat down on Jonah and a hot dry wind to blow, and Jonah was again so angry that he no longer wanted to live. God asked him again if Jonah was doing right to be so angry, but Jonah insisted that he was. Then God told Jonah that Jonah was angered by the death of a plant that Jonah had done nothing to grow and that had existed for only a single day, and yet Jonah was angry at God for having pity for Nineveh, with more than a hundred and twenty thousand people (and their livestock), because of their lack of knowledge of God’s ways.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Our Christian lives are like an athletic competition and the great multitude of saints who have gone before us are like spectators. So we are urged to be like athletes, putting aside anything which will hinder our performance and to run the race with perseverance, following the example of Jesus Christ, who is the pioneer (who blazed the trail for us to follow) and perfecter (who makes it possible for us to “win the race”) of our faith.

Jesus endured the cross and its shame for the joy which was promised to the winner, and he has now been enthroned at the right hand of God. Think about the tremendous hostility Jesus endured from sinners, so that we may be encouraged to persevere and not lose hope. Most of us have never had to shed our own blood in our resistance against sin. Remember also that the Lord disciplines us, like a good father disciplines his children for their own good, out of his love for us. We must endure that discipline so that we can receive the benefit.

Those who do not receive discipline would be like illegitimate children, lacking a proper father. Most of us have been subject to the discipline of earthly fathers and loved and respected them. Shouldn’t we be willing to accept the discipline of our spiritual Father to prepare us for eternal life? Our earthly fathers may have disciplined us according to their desires; God disciplines us for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness.

At the moment, all discipline is unpleasant, but ultimately it brings “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11) to those who allow themselves to be trained by it. So let’s not whine and complain; let us strengthen our resolve, and correct our ways so that we will be healed by the discipline, rather than injured further. “Strive for peace with all (people) and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12: 14).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee (legalistic Jew) and a tax collector (a sinner; Jewish collaborator with the Roman government), as a warning to correct those who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others. The Pharisee and the tax collector both went into the temple to pray.

The Pharisee stood (rather than bowing in reverence and humility) and “prayed… with himself” (Luke 18:11), saying that he thanked God that he was better than other people, because he was not an extortioner, adulterer, unjust or even like the tax collector. He was proud that he fasted twice a week and tithed (gave ten percent to God) of all he received.

But the tax collector bowed and beat his breast (an act of ritual mourning and repentance), and prayed, acknowledging that he was a sinner and requesting God’s mercy. Jesus declared that the tax collector returned home forgiven and accepted by God, but the Pharisee was not forgiven or accepted by God. Jesus declared, “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Commentary:

God is our father because he is our Creator, whether we acknowledge him or not. The Lord loves each one of us and doesn’t want any to perish. The Lord loved Nineveh and sent Jonah, his prophet, to call Nineveh to repentance and salvation. But Jonah was a reluctant and spiritually immature prophet. Jonah didn’t want to do what God had called him to do, and he seemed more interested in declaring God’s Word of condemnation than in ministering God’s Word of forgiveness and salvation. He judged the people of Ninevah to be sinners, and wanted to see them punished rather than saved.

Jonah was a spiritually immature disciple. Because he refused to obey God’s call, God disciplined Jonah for Jonah’s own eternal benefit. First he caused Jonah to be swallowed up in the belly of the whale, until Jonah prayed to the Lord for deliverance (Jonah 2:1-10). Then God gave Jonah a second chance to fulfill God’s call to preach repentance in Nineveh. God wanted Nineveh to have a second chance also. Jonah did as God commanded, but he still was unhappy that Nineveh repented and was saved from God’s wrath (Jonah 4:1).

Jonah was angry with God and kept vigil over the city of Nineveh to see what would happen. The city had repented and Jonah should have no doubt of the outcome because he knew that God is gracious, slow to anger, with steadfast love and mercy (Jonah 4:2d). So God disciplined Jonah first by giving Jonah a plant to shade him from the heat of the sun and then taking it away.

Jonah was more angry about the loss of a plant he had done nothing to bring into existence, than he was about the potential destruction of a hundred and twenty thousand people. God had brought the people of Nineveh into existence, and he cared about them and even their livestock, which Jonah hadn’t even considered.

God recognized that Nineveh’s sin was because of lack of knowledge of God’s ways, but Jonah hadn’t felt any obligation or desire to share God’s ways with the Ninevites so that the Ninevites would have an opportunity to know God’s ways, to examine their behavior, repent and turn to the Lord in obedience, receiving salvation and avoiding eternal destruction. Following God’s ways allows us to have the good life that God intended for us, now and eternally.

God doesn’t desire the destruction of sinners and neither should we, but Christians are called to proclaim God’s Word honestly and faithfully. Christian evangelists are not calling down God’s wrath and destruction on sinners, but are offering them an opportunity to know God’s ways and to examine themselves, repent and turn to the Lord in trust and obedience.

When Jonah was obedient to God’s call, one single individual, going only part way into the city, was able to lead the entire city, from the King to the poorest peasant, to repentance. It was God’s doing, because Jonah didn’t want to save Nineveh. But we must first know and apply God’s Word in our own lives.

The author of Hebrews was teaching Christians to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Christians are to be like athletes. To be “winners,” we have to put aside things which will impair our conditioning, and train to develop the needed skills. Then we must run the course of the race; we have to stay in the lane and run the distance with perseverance.

Jesus is our example and our coach who enables us to finish the race in victory. He disciplines us for our good, so that we don’t slack off or give up. Physical exercise “hurts” but it eventually strengthens us if we keep at it, and the same is true of spiritual “exercise.”

We couldn’t get far in our worldly careers if we only devoted one hour a week to them, and yet some who claim to be Christians don’t have that much discipline. Jesus promises that we will win the Christian “race” if we train by trusting and obeying Jesus and if we show up daily for practice and “competition.”

The Pharisee was like Jonah. He considered himself a righteous (right in God’s judgment) member of God’s people, without true obedience to God’s Word. He had the outward appearance of righteousness, but he didn’t love God or his fellow mankind. He condemned the tax collector as a sinner, without any concern or attempt to offer God’s forgiveness, salvation, and encouragement to the tax collector.

The tax collector was like the Ninevites; he heard God’s Word, recognized and acknowledged his sin to the Lord and asked for forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God, and he was forgiven and accepted.

The “Church” contains Jonahs, Pharisees, and tax collectors as well as disciples and apostles (messengers of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ. Apostles are Christian disciples who have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the Holy Spirit, and who have responded to Jesus’ Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:45-49), and helping them continue the disciple-making process with 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)?

Thursday Lent Odd

First posted 02/09/05;
Podcast: Thursday Lent Odd

Deuteronomy 7:6-11   –   Covenanted people;
Titus 1:1-16   –   Administration of the Church;
John 1:29-34  –   Testimony of John the Baptizer;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

God’s people are consecrated to his service. God has chosen them for his own possession out of all the peoples of the earth. God didn’t choose them because they were the most numerous; in fact they were the fewest of all peoples. The reason God has delivered his people from bondage and the power of Pharaoh in Egypt is because he loves his people and is faithful in keeping his promise to their forefathers.

Know and remember that God is faithful in keeping his Word, and he loves those who love him and obey his commandments, and he will love their descendants to a thousand generations. But he will avenge himself on those who hate him and disobey him by destroying them (eternally). He will not fail to punish them individually. God’s people must be careful to obey God’s Word and his commands.

Titus Paraphrase:

Titus was a Gentile Christian missionary who worked with Paul, and was given responsibility for overseeing the Church at Crete (Titus 1:5). The letter was written to further the faith of the Church, God’s elect, and to further their knowledge of the truth (the Gospel) in accordance with godliness (piety; conformation to God’s will and character), “in hope of eternal life which God, who never lies,  promised ages ago” (in the Old Testament scriptures, by his prophets; Titus 1:2). Titus was Paul’s spiritual child, having been converted by Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, and having been trained by him in missionary service. Paul had left him in Crete to reform and organize the Church there.

Church leaders are to be above reproach, faithful in marriage, exemplary parents. Leaders (elders and bishops are mentioned) are God’s stewards (the servant in charge of administration of the master’s household). They must be godly; blameless, not arrogant, quick-tempered, a drunkard, violent, or greedy, but instead, must be hospitable, love what is good, exercise self-control. They “must hold fast to the sure word as taught (the apostolic, scriptural Gospel), so that (they) may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine, and also to confute (refute conclusively) those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

Titus was warned to guard against false teachers, those who are not obedient to their superiors, and who make empty claims, and lie. The circumcision party (a group of Jewish Christians who were teaching that gentiles must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses; see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home) is an example of false teachers who were upsetting entire families in the church, and teaching for their own benefit what they had no divine authority to teach. One such false teacher claimed that all Cretans were liars, evil, subhuman, lazy, and hedonistic (quoting Epimenides, an ancient Cretan poet).

Titus was advised to rebuke false teaching and false teachers forcefully so that they (and the entire congregation) may have sound faith instead of being led astray by Jewish myths and liars who have rejected the truth. The pure are pure in all things, but the corrupt are not pure in anything, because their minds and consciences are corrupt. “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed” (Titus 1:16).

John Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer declared that Jesus is “the Lamb of God (the sacrificial lamb of Passover) who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John testified that Jesus is the one who John declared was coming after him, but who ranks before him. John hadn’t known who the Messiah was until God revealed it to John (as he baptized Jesus).

John had seen the Holy Spirit descend and remain on Jesus “as a dove from heaven” (John 1:32). God had told John beforehand that this would be how God would reveal the Messiah to him. John baptized with water by God’s command, but Jesus is the (only) one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. John testified to what he had seen, and he declared that Jesus is the Son of God.

Commentary:

God’s Word is timeless and eternal. This text applied to the People of Israel in Moses’ time, and it applies to the Church today. Through Jesus Christ we are delivered from bondage to sin and death and the power of Satan (the Pharaoh of the “Egypt” of this world). Jesus leads us through “Sea” (of Baptism) into new life (through his indwelling Holy Spirit) and through the “Wilderness” of this life, through the “River” (of physical death) and into the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom in Heaven. We need to know and remember what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, and to know that God is faithful. God’s promises never fail. God declares that there are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who trust and obey him and those who don’t.

All of us 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 everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to God what we have done in this life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have rejected Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil. (Matthew 25:31-46).

God’s people are those who trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is God’s first-born and only begotten Son and heir (John 1:14). Jesus is God’s Word in the flesh (John 1:14). Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior. 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).

Members of the Church are to grow in faith and knowledge of the truth (of the scriptures, and of the reality of Jesus Christ within his disciples through his indwelling Holy Spirit). They are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ who is the example and likeness of God (Colossians 2:8-9). This is discipleship; Christians are to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The leaders of the Church must be disciples if the Church is to make disciples.

The Church must guard against false teachers and false teachings; they must hold onto the Apostolic, Biblical Gospel. There are two types of members in the Church today: Born-again disciples of Jesus Christ, and those who “profess to know God but… deny him by their deeds” (Titus 1:16). Which type are you?

There are many false teachers and false doctrines within the nominal “Church” today. Each of us must read the Bible for ourselves. We must read the entire Bible, but we must read the Old Testament from the understanding and perspective of the New Testament. That way we can better understand the New Testament, and not be led astray by the “circumcision party.”

John the Baptizer trusted and obeyed God’s command to call the people to repent and return to trust and obedience of the Lord. As he carried out God’s command, God revealed his Messiah to John, so that John could point others to Jesus. John couldn’t have done that truly without the guidance of God’s Spirit. Because John was trusting and obedient to God’s Word, God guided him by God’s Spirit, and enabled John to point others to Jesus. John was faithful to his calling from God, and he testified to what he personally experienced.

One cannot be a witness to the truth of something one has not experienced. One has to be a disciple to make disciples; one has to be “born-again” by the indwelling Holy Spirit to testify to the truth of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. John is an example of discipleship.

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 Lent Odd

First Posted 02/10/05;
Podcast: Friday Lent Odd

Deuteronomy 7:12-16   –   The blessing of obedience;
Titus 2:1-15   –    Sound doctrine and good deeds;
John 1:35-42  –   Jesus’ first disciples;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

By obeying God’s Word God’s people will receive the blessings of God’s covenant with his people. God will love, bless and multiply them and cause them to thrive and prosper. It is God who controls fertility and it is God who controls health and diseases. Israel’s experience in Egypt is an example of how God afflicted the enemies of God’s people with plagues, but spared God’s people. God promises to do likewise in the Promised Land. The Lord commanded Israel to destroy all the people of the land of Canaan without pity, and he warned them not to worship any of the Canaanite idols, because the idols would become a snare  for the Israelites (they would be taken captive by the enemy of their souls).

Titus Paraphrase:

Titus, a leader (pastor) of the congregation at Crete, was advised to teach only sound doctrine, and to exhort his congregation to godly behavior. The older men were to demonstrate moderation in all things and to be serious, sensible, sound in faith, love, and steadfastness. Older women were also to be reverent, to refrain from gossip and alcoholism, and to be examples and teachers of younger women and children. The young women were to love their husbands and children, and to be sensible, domestic, chaste, kind, humble and respectful. Young men were to be self-controlled.

Titus, as a church leader, was to be an example of good deeds, and to teach with integrity, gravity, and pure speech. Slaves were to show respect for their masters and to be obedient, diligent, honest and faithful in their duties. Each one in their own situation was to conduct their lives in accordance with God’s Word and reflecting God’s nature, so that the enemies of the Gospel would have no reason for criticism, and so that the God’s Word and Gospel would not be discredited but honored and glorified.

John Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer was standing with two of his disciples as Jesus passed by and John told his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb (the sacrificial offering of the Passover; thus, Messiah) of God. The two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus saw them following and turned and asked them what they were seeking. They addressed him as Teacher, and asked where Jesus was staying, and Jesus invited them to come and see. They did as Jesus had invited, and stayed with him since it was about 4 pm.

One of the disciples was Andrew, and he went and found his brother, Simon, and told him that he had found the Messiah (Christ), and brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus saw him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John” (John 1:42)? Then Jesus gave him the name “Cephas” (which is Aramaic and Greek for “Rock.” “Peter” is from “Petros” which is also Greek for “Rock”).

Commentary:

If God’s people want to enjoy the benefits of God’s covenant, God’s promises, they must obey God’s Word. God’s people are not those who call themselves God’s people; God’s people are those who obey him. Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer that God promised. Jesus is the Word of God in human flesh (John 1:14). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home); the only way we can be restored to fellowship with God (John 14:6). God’s people need to obey God’s Word, the Bible, but they must understand the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament.

Within the lifetime of the Apostles, false teachers and heresies were arising within the Church. There were two types of false teachings arising then and continuing today. One was “justification by works” or “works righteousness;” the “judaizers;” the “circumcision party” that wanted Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses, including circumcision.

The other form (1 Corinthians Chapters 5 and 6 for example) was what has come to be called “Cheap Grace” (the free gift of salvation without requiring obedience to God’s Word; without discipleship*). Titus was urged to hold fast to the sound Apostolic (as taught by the Apostles and recorded in the New Testament) doctrine. If Christians do not live according to God’s Word, they bring dishonor and disrepute to the Gospel.

Christians are those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, and who follow Jesus; who do what he does and obey what he teaches. Not everyone who calls him Lord will be saved (Matthew 7:21-24); only those who are his disciples, who follow him and obey his teaching, who are filled with and guided by his Holy Spirit belong to him and have eternal life. Jesus is the “rock” of salvation on whom we build through trust and obedience to him (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit only to those who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Jesus and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). It is possible to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

The “picture” of John’s disciples being pointed to Jesus by their “pastor” and then following Jesus is an illustration, an icon, of the essence of Christian discipleship. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are lodging where Jesus is, because Jesus is lodging within us, and he is our Teacher.

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


Saturday Lent Odd

First posted 02/11/05;
Podcast: Saturday Lent Odd

Deuteronomy 7:17-26  –    Life in the land of Canaan;
Titus 3:1-15   –   The Christian life;
John 1:43-51  –   The call of Phillip and Nathanael;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

As they prepared to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, and take possession of it, the Lord told Israel to remember how the Lord had led them out of Egypt, with great power and miracles done to induce Pharaoh to let them go. Israel was not to fear the occupants of the land, but to remember how God had saved Israel from Egypt, and to trust in God’s promise to drive out the occupants of the land as they advanced.

It was God’s plan to drive out the occupants of Canaan gradually, as Israel advanced, so that wild animals wouldn’t multiply unrestrained before Israel was capable of dealing with them. The Lord promised to cause the residents of the land confusion so that they would not be able to prevail over Israel and would thus be destroyed.

Israel was warned to destroy the idols of the Canaanites and other occupants of the land and not to covet and take for themselves the gold and silver of the idols, so that they would not be ensnared and led away from the Lord. Israel was warned not to bring into their homes anything which is abominable and detested by God, or they would be likewise accursed.

Titus Paraphrase:

Christians are to be submissive to civil and Christian authorities, to be obedient, to work honestly, to refrain from speaking evil and quarreling, and to be gentle and courteous towards all people. We all were at one time foolish, disobedient, straying, enslaved to worldly passions and desires, and living in malice, envy and hatred for one another. But God saved us in Jesus Christ, not because we were righteous or deserving, but because of his own goodness, loving kindness and mercy. He cleanses us from sin and gives us new birth by the extravagant gift of his Holy Spirit, so that we might be accounted righteous as a free gift and receive the promised inheritance of eternal life.

Paul told Titus to insist that those who have believed in Jesus are to apply themselves to living according to Jesus’ teachings and example. We are to avoid arguing over the Bible or being drawn into controversies. Those who are argumentative should be admonished several times, and if they persist they should be ignored and ostracized, because such people reveal that they are perverted and sinful. Paul was going to spend the winter at Nicopolis (probably in northwestern Greece), and was planning to sent Artemas, or Tychicus, Gentile Christians who accompanied Paul, to bring Titus to Paul at Nicopolis.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had been in Judea, where he was baptized by John (John 1:30-34; Matthew 3:13-17). John pointed two of his disciples to Jesus (John 1:35). One of the two disciples was Andrew, who first went and brought his brother Simon (whom the Lord named Peter) to follow Jesus also. Jesus decided to return to Galilee, and he invited Philip, who was from Bethsaida (in Galilee), the same hometown as Andrew and Peter, to follow him. Philip first went to his friend Nathanael (who was probably also called Bartholomew: see, for example, Matthew 10:3).

He told Nathanael that he had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael questioned how the Messiah could come from such an unremarkable place as Nazareth, but Philip just invited him to come and see. As he saw Nathanael coming, Jesus remarked that Nathanael was an Israelite who was guileless (unlike Jacob before God changed his name to Israel; Genesis 27:35; 32:28).

Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, and Jesus replied that he had seen Nathanael where he was before Philip had called him. Nathanael was amazed and declared that Jesus was the Son of God, but Jesus told Nathanael that he would see even greater things than that. Nathanael would see the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream of the ladder, because Jesus was the means by which God’s blessings descend from heaven to mankind, and by whom mankind can ascend to heaven.

Commentary:

God’s call to Israel was to enter and claim the Promised Land for God and his people. They weren’t to be afraid of the occupants of the land, but were to trust in God to drive the occupants out and to give his people the victory. God’s people were to remember what God had done in the past to save them and to trust him to do what he had promised. God’s people were not to take up the idols of the occupants, so they wouldn’t fall under the same condemnation.

Christians are the New Israel. We need to enter and take possession of our land, trusting and obeying our Lord; trusting him to drive out the godless and idolaters before us, gradually as we grow spiritually. In order to do that we must be obedient to God’s Word. We must be filled with, led, and empowered by his Holy Spirit. We’re not to get into arguments with our brethren over doctrines, and we’re not to get into get into arguments with scoffers over God’s Word. We must simply know and proclaim God’s Word and leave the results to the Lord.

Those who have found Jesus, the Christ, are to invite others to come to Jesus to see and experience Jesus for themselves. In order to do that, we must have made a commitment to trust and obey Jesus, and have come to a personal experience of 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)?

Week of 5 Epiphany – Odd and Following – 02/08 – 14/2015

February 7, 2015

Week of 5 Epiphany – Odd and Following

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


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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 5 Epiphany – Odd
Sunday 5 Epiphany – Odd
First Posted 02/11/15
Podcast: Sunday 5 Epiphany – Odd

Isaiah 57:1-13   –    Against idolatry;
Hebrews 12:1-6   –    Christian discipline;
John 7:37-46   –    Who do you say Jesus is?

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The righteous die, but worldly people, including apostates among the congregation of Israel, don’t learn from their example. They do not understand that the physical death of those who are devout is not a calamity but a deliverance from calamity. The righteous enter into eternal peace and rest; it is the upright who lie down in peace and rest.

Those who are not the people of God through obedient trust in God’s Word are illegitimate children, the offspring of spiritual adultery and prostitution. Who do they mock by their unbelief? They are the children of sin and lies. They continue to practice idolatry (loving anything as much as or more than their love for God). Impotent, inanimate idols will be the reward and inheritance of those who worship and trust in idols. Do they imagine that God will be appeased by their idolatry? In abandoning the Lord for idols they have made their “bed” and will have to lie in it; they have made a contract and will have to keep it. They have loved wickedness and pursued it.

Who do idolaters fear more than the Lord?   Has God’s forbearance caused them not to fear his power and authority? God knows their thoughts and deeds, and all their “good deeds” will not help them. When calamity strikes, let their idols deliver them. Their idols are so impotent they can’t withstand a puff of breeze. But those who trust and obey God will find safe refuge in him and will inherit the land and God’s holy mountain.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Our Christian lives are like an athletic competition and the great multitude of saints who have gone before us are like spectators. So we are urged to be like athletes, putting aside anything which will hinder our performance and to run the race with perseverance, following the example of Jesus Christ, who is the “pioneer” (who blazed the trail for us to follow) and perfecter, our “trainer,” who coaches us in faith to victory and spiritual maturity.

Jesus endured the cross and its shame for the joy of eternal life and fellowship with God the Father and all his disciples, which was promised to the winner, and he has now been enthroned at the right hand of God. Think about the tremendous hostility Jesus endured from sinners, so that we may be encouraged to persevere and not lose hope. Most of us have never had to shed our own blood in our resistance against sin. Remember also that the Lord disciplines us like a good father disciplines his children for their own good out of his love for us.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (an eight-day harvest festival also commemorating Israel’s wilderness wandering). On the last day of the feast, the most important day, Jesus publicly proclaimed, “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).

When the people heard this, some were convinced that Jesus was the prophet (who was expected to appear before the comming of Messiah) and some thought Jesus was the Messiah (Christ), but others did not, because they expected the Messiah to be a descendant of David and come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown). The people were divided over Jesus’ identity, and some wanted to arrest Jesus, but no one did. Temple officers returned to the Jewish high council without having arrested Jesus and when they were asked why not, they said that no one had ever spoken like Jesus did.

Commentary:

This life is like an athletic competition between the forces of evil and the forces of good. The wicked seemingly prosper while the good often seem to die young. It isn’t the person with the most clothes (or material possessions) when he dies who wins, as a bumper sticker suggests. Physical death comes to both the rich and the poor, but worldly people don’t realize that physical death is not the end of life. There is eternal existence beyond physical death (John 5:28-29). The question is: Where will we spend eternity?

There is a Day of Judgment coming when everyone who has ever lived on earth will be accountable to the Lord for what we have done in this lifetime. Jesus is the standard by which all will be judged (Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed the Lord will spend eternity in paradise, in the eternal kingdom of God, in fellowship with the Lord. They will have eternal peace with God and their brethren, and eternal rest from the struggles of this temporal life. They will inherit the eternal Promised Land and the Mountain of God.

Those who have rejected the Lord and have refused to trust and obey him will spend eternity in the torment of eternal death in Hell. Those who have worshiped the idols of wealth, power, success, pleasure, home, family, and career, or any of the other “gods” of this world will find that their gods are impotent to deliver them from eternal condemnation. Their worthless gods will be their inheritance and eternal destruction will be their eternal reward.

All of us have sinned (disobeyed God’s Word; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for forgiveness of our sin, salvation from eternal death, and restoration of fellowship with God (eternal peace and rest; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus Christ frees us from bondage to sin and the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Christians are called to be “athletes” in the competition between good and evil in this lifetime. Training for the “competition” requires self-discipline and sacrifice. We must put aside those things which would hinder us, and place ourselves in the guidance and training of our coach, Jesus Christ, who is our example, and trainer who will give us the ability and power to be victorious.

Jesus persevered in obedient trust in God through the suffering of this present life and received the prize of the eternal throne of his Father in heaven. He has won the victory, and as we follow his example, we will share his reward.

Christian “athletes” are disciples of Jesus Christ.  Jesus promised that anyone who is spiritually thirsty, who recognizes the need for the “water” of spiritual, eternal life, should come to Jesus, who alone is able to supply that “water” of eternal life. Jesus is the rock in the wilderness of this world (1 Corinthians 10:4; Exodus 17:6), through whom God supplies the “living water” of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit within us is the spring of spiritual life which sustains us into eternity. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

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)?

Podcast Download: Week of 8 Epiphany – Odd
Monday 8 Epiphany – Odd
First Posted
Podcast: Monday 8 Epiphany – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:9-14    –    Remember to reverence the Lord;

2 Corinthians 10:1-18    –    Paul’s defense of his ministry;

Matthew 6:7-15    –     The Lord’s Prayer;

Deuteronomy Summary:

Take heed and guard your soul with diligence, so that you do not forget what the Lord has done for his people; pass them on to your children and their children. Remember how at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai) the Lord told Moses to gather the people to hear God’s Word, so that they would learn to fear (honor and respect) the Lord all the days of their earthly lives, and would teach their children to do so also.

In the day of God’s manifestation at Horeb in fire, darkness, cloud and gloom, Israel heard God’s Word but saw no form, hearing only his voice. (God is spirit; Israel is warned not to worship idols which have forms created by the imagination of humans.) God established a covenant with his people, a covenant based on the obligation to obey the Ten Commandments (the Covenant of Law, written on two tablets of stone). At that time God commanded Moses to teach Israel, the people of God, to obey God’s statutes and ordinances, so that they could possess the land which God had promised them.

2 Corinthians Summary:

Paul had apparently been accused of having boldness in his letters which he did not possess in person. Paul was replying that he was humbly imploring the Corinthians by letter so that he would not have to demonstrate his boldness in person to the Corinthians, as he was confident that he would demonstrate to those who had accused him of living according to worldly ways.

Paul taught that although we are living in the world, we are not fighting a worldly war but a spiritual war, and our weapons are spiritual weapons with divine power to destroy spiritual opposition. The Christian “soldier” destroys every obstacle of human pride and every argument and resistance to the knowledge of God; we “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b).

The Church will punish the disobedient when the Church is spiritually mature and obedient to Christ. Let those who can recognize spiritual truth see; anyone who thinks he is in Christ should remember that the Apostles are in Christ and have been given authority so that the Church would be strengthened and built up, rather than wasting away and coming to destruction. The Apostles will be not be put to shame (on the Day of Judgment).

Paul doesn’t want to intimidate the Corinthians by letters, which he cannot accomplish with his personal presence, as his critics have accused. Paul’s conduct in person is no different than what he proclaims by letter. Paul does not want to be categorized by those who commend themselves; the fact that they compare themselves against human rather than divine standards reveals that they have no true (spiritual) understanding.

Paul was committed to accept God’s judgment of his ministry. Paul was confident that he was not exaggerating his ministry as the first to reach the Corinthians with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he did not take unfair credit for the ministry of others (as Paul’s critics apparently did). Paul’s hope was that the spiritual growth of the Corinthian congregation might enlarge Paul’s opportunity for evangelism among other Corinthians and Gentiles beyond them, without interfering with the work of other, and without conflict over who deserved the credit. It is not what humans think of themselves that counts, but what is approved by God.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught his disciples how they ought to pray. God knows our hearts and our needs. We can’t fool or impress God with our words. Sincerity is vastly more important than eloquence.

When we pray we should acknowledge and reverence God’s glory and pray for his glory to be acknowledged throughout this world. Believers are to be committed to work and pray for the coming of God’s kingdom (even unto ourselves), and to pray that God’s will would be done on earth (even by ourselves) as it is in heaven, completely and gladly. We acknowledge that all that we need for daily life comes from him, and ask him, with gratefulness, to provide for our needs today.

We acknowledge that we are sinful and in need of forgiveness that he alone can provide, and we recognize our obligation to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We ask God to help us avoid temptation and, through Jesus, to be victorious over temptation. We ask God to save us from every evil and bring us to his eternal kingdom. Jesus warns us that unless we are willing to forgive others who sin against us, God will not forgive us our sins.

Commentary:

God’s people are to remember what God has done for us, and to pass on that remembrance to our children. When we first hear the Gospel and believe, we believe what God has done for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the Cross. From that point we are to grow to spiritual maturity.

As we read the Bible, we see what God has done for us through his dealings with Israel to bring us the Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, we learn to discern right from wrong according to God’s judgment, and we learn that God rewards obedient trust in his Word, and punishes disobedience and evil (sin).

As Christian disciples grow in obedience to Jesus’ teachings they are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). As disciples grow in personal fellowship and guidance by the Holy Spirit within us, we will learn personally the power and faithfulness of the Lord, and will experience what the Lord has done for us individually and personally, which we can remember and teach to our children.

As Moses taught the Israelites that they must keep God’s Laws in order to possess the Promised Land, Christians must learn to trust and obey Jesus’ word, his teachings, in order to enter the eternal Promised Land.

Paul had learned not to seek worldly approval, but God’s approval. Paul is the example of a modern, “post-resurrection” “born-again” Christian disciple, like all of us can be. Paul faithfully preserved and passed on the Gospel, and made “born-again” disciples (like Timothy), teaching them to obey all that Jesus teaches. Paul had opposition inside and outside the church. He didn’t alter his message to win worldly approval.

The Church is called by the Lord to grow to spiritual maturity, to be led by spiritually mature, “born-again” disciples who have personally experienced the risen Jesus within them by the Holy Spirit, have experienced personally the power and faithfulness of the Lord, and who share that testimony with others and lead them to “rebirth” by the Holy Spirit. When the Church is spiritually mature, it will discipline the disobedient, and reject false teachers and false doctrines.

Unfortunately, many Churches and congregations today are failing to make disciples, fail to lead them to spiritual rebirth by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and thus have no pool of “born-again” disciples from which to choose leaders and preachers. Many Churches and congregations build “buildings” and make “members” instead of making disciples and building the kingdom of God.

We cannot teach discipleship and spiritual growth to our children, unless we are willing to become “born-again” disciples ourselves. Unregenerate (un-reborn) “Christians,” have no personal experience and knowledge of Jesus to testify to or pass on.

Paul’s hope for the Corinthian Church was that they would grow spiritually to maturity and that their example and testimony in their area would enlarge the opportunity for evangelism, so that others would come to experience the truth of the Gospel in their lives also.

Christian discipleship started with Jesus; he taught us how, by word and example. The Church is to continue his ministry of offering forgiveness of sin, salvation from eternal condemnation and eternal death, and restoration to eternal life and fellowship with God through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray. He taught his disciples that sincerity in prayer is what God desires and rewards. Praying to impress other hearers, for worldly approval, is worthless. Effective prayer must acknowledge God’s sovereign power and providence. The petitioner must ask for what is according to God’s will. When we ask God for something we must be willing to do what he asks us to do: to trust and obey him.

God is God, whether we acknowledge him or not, but God has no obligation to be our God, with all that a righteous, loving and powerful God implies, unless we are willing to be his people, and serve his will. We must recognize our need for God’s forgiveness, his free gift of forgiveness to us in Jesus Christ, and be willing to forgive others as we have been forgiven (see also Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

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 8 Epiphany – Odd
First Posted
Podcast: Tuesday 8 Epiphany – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:15-24    –    Against image worship;
2 Corinthians 11:1-21a   –    Paul’s response to critics;
Matthew 6:16-23   –   Jesus’ teaching on piety;

Deuteronomy Summary:

When God revealed himself to Israel at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai), the people heard his voice but saw no form (God is Spirit; John 4:24). Israel is not to make any form or figure to worship as god; not human, animal, or celestial. God has allowed the people of earth to worship images but has brought Israel out of Egypt to be his own people.

The Lord was angry with Moses (because when he brought water out of the rock in the wilderness Moses took personal credit, instead of glorifying God; Numbers 20:10-12) and forbade Moses to enter the Promised Land, so Moses was to die in the wilderness before Israel (under the leadership of Joshua) could cross the Jordan and enter Canaan. Moses warned the people not to forget the covenant of the Lord or worship any one or thing other than the Lord, because the Lord has the power to punish and destroy, and will not tolerate idolatry among his people.

2 Corinthians Summary:

Paul regards the Church as the bride of Christ, and himself as the friend of the groom who has arranged the betrothal, so he is naturally concerned for the bride’s purity and faithfulness. Paul is concerned that the Church not be led astray, like Eve was deceived by the serpent (Genesis 3:1-6), from sincere and faithful devotion to Christ.

The Church must be careful not to be led astray by those preaching “another Jesus,” or a “different spirit,” or “another gospel” (compare Galatians 1:6-9) than the scriptural (recorded in the Bible) Apostolic (as taught by the Apostles, including Paul) Gospel of Jesus Christ (which the Apostles, including Paul, learned by personal discipleship to Jesus and were commissioned by Christ to proclaim). Paul had been criticized by others as unskilled in speaking, but Paul had demonstrated that his knowledge was not deficient.

Paul’s ministry was belittled by some because Paul had made his ministry free of cost to the Corinthians (Paul had supported himself as a tent-maker; Acts18:1-4; Thessalonians 3:7-12; Only the Philippian congregation had voluntarily contributed to his financial support: Philippians 4:14-17). Paul felt like a robber (an exaggeration to make a point) in taking money from the Philippian Christians in order to minister to the Corinthians.

Paul had been accompanied to Corinth by some Macedonian Christians (from Philippi, which was the capital of the province of Macedonia), who provided for Paul’s support in Corinth, so that the Corinthians would not be burdened, and Paul was pleased to let it be known throughout Achaia (a territory of Greece, of which Corinth was a city) that he had preached the gospel free of cost because Paul knew the truth of the Gospel of Christ and loved and cared for the spiritual welfare of the Corinthians.

Paul was determined to continue to preach the gospel without charge, so that it could be clearly seen that he was not doing it for money, in contrast to false apostles, who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. Satan attempts to deceive people by appearing to be an angel of light, so it isn’t surprising that the servants of Satan would disguise their real motives by adopting the outward appearance of righteousness. They will receive God’s judgment according to their deeds.

Paul was not really boastful and did not seek his own glory, but he wanted to make a point. He was willing to appear foolish to Corinthians who thought they were wise. Those “wise” Corinthians were being deceived by false apostles acting as though they possessed great wisdom in order to enslave and take advantage of the deceived. Paul was glad to acknowledge that he was too “weak” to indulge in that kind of “strength.”

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught his disciples that piety (religious devotion) is not to be practiced to be seen by men, but rather in unity with God’s will. If we fast, our fasting should not be an outward display for the approval of people, but an inward act of devotion to the Lord.

Jesus warns us not to desire or expend our efforts on accumulating material wealth, which offers no eternal security, but instead to pursue the spiritual goals, which do have eternal value. What we value will determine where our devotion lies.

The eye is like a window which lets light into our bodies. Spiritual blindness is similar to physical blindness. If there is something wrong with the eye that causes it not to see the light, then the whole body is full of darkness, which represents sin). If we misperceive darkness (perhaps false religion) as light our spiritual vision is profoundly defective. If we deliberately indulge in darkness once we have been enlightened, our sinfulness is profound and without cure.

Commentary:

Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve in the Garden of Eden, telling her she would not die by disobeying God’s commandment Genesis 3:4), and she yielded to temptation and brought (eternal) death into Creation (Genesis 3:19, 22-23).

Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land, because he took the glory which belongs only to God for himself (Numbers 20:10-12). As Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, Moses, in his farewell address, warned them not to forget their covenant with the Lord, or worship any one or thing other than the Lord, because God has the power to punish and destroy those who disobey his Word.

Paul considered Christ as the “bridegroom” of his “bride,” the Church, and Paul as Christ’s “best man.” Paul was thus concerned with the purity and faithfulness of the “bride,” the Church. Paul warned the Church not to be led astray by “false christs,” “false apostles,” “false gospels” or lying spirits. The Church, which had just been founded by Jesus’ death and resurrection, was already under attack, and those forces are still at work within and outside the Church today.

There are those, today, who want to teach “another gospel of Jesus Christ,” who claim to teach Jesus, but they really teach a “false christ.” Any spirit which denies that Jesus is God’s eternal Savior and King, the Son of God, is a lying spirit and ultimately Satan himself. Anyone who denies the deity of Jesus is a false apostle (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28).

This world is a spiritual battlefield. Satan has already been defeated at the Cross of Jesus Christ, but he has not yet been captured, and he wants to take as many eternal souls as possible with him to eternal punishment in Hell.

Satan will use whatever method will accomplish his purpose. He tempted Eve by suggesting the forbidden fruit would make her wise (Genesis 3:6), and that she would become “like God” (Genesis 3:5), and Eve yielded to temptation. That’s the problem humans have always had; we want to be God, instead of knowing, trusting, obeying and serving God. The Corinthians were being tempted to think they were wise in listening to false apostles and false doctrines, and that strategy is just as effective today.

God is true, and that truth is manifested in Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of God’s truth (John 1:1-5, 14; 14:6). Jesus taught his disciples that those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Worship is not outward appearance or religious ritual, but inner truth and sincerity. What other people think of us doesn’t matter; God’s approval is the only eternally important issue.

Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) was a modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple and apostle (messenger of the Gospel), like all of us can be (Acts 9:1-20). He hadn’t known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Paul was discipled by Ananias, a born-again disciple (he had a personal relationship with the Lord; Acts 9:10) who led Paul to be born-again (Acts 9:17).

Thereafter Paul was led by the indwelling Holy Spirit within him (Acts 9:19-20). He received the same Apostolic Gospel from the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b) that the other Apostles had received during Jesus’ earthly ministry in his physical lifetime. Paul was fulfilling the Great Commission which Jesus gave to his born-again disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8), to make born-again disciples, and to teach them to obey all Jesus’ words.

Jesus came to show us how to become children of God and to give us the power to do so (John 1:12-13 RSV), through his indwelling Holy Spirit within us. We have to claim that promise in order to receive it. Only Jesus gives the gift (“anointing,” “baptism”) of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Moses warned God’s people not to forget to obey their covenant with the Lord. As Christians, our covenant with God is to trust and obey Jesus and be guided by his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-11). Moses also warned God’s people not to allow any one or any thing to become as, or more important than their obedient trust in the Lord. Any such behavior is idolatrous. Jesus gives us the same warning.

Many people today, even within the “Church,” expend most or all their effort “worshiping” the modern idols, such as wealth, success, career, family, youth, beauty, health, and pleasure. To many, material substance seems “real,” and spiritual things seem “imaginary,” or based on “feelings,” “emotions,” or a manner of thinking. Many give no thought or effort to their spiritual wellbeing. Many people would rather pay for some worldly “self-help” book or guru, than receive the Gospel for free; many think that if it is free it can’t be worth much.

We are all eternal (John 5:28-29). This physical lifetime is a brief moment, in comparison to eternity, but many people go through their entire physical lifetime with no thought or effort to prepare for their eternal future. Everything in this physical world will pass away; only what we do spiritually in this lifetime is eternal. What we value will be evident in what we do, and will determine where we will spend eternity.

We cannot secure eternal life by Church “membership,” or by religious ritual, or “good deeds.” Obedient trust in Jesus is the only way to receive forgiveness for sin (disobedience of God’s Word), salvation from eternal condemnation and eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) and restoration to fellowship with God, through his indwelling Holy Spirit (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

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

Wednesday 8 Epiphany – Odd
First Posted
Podcast:
Wednesday 8 Epiphany – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:25-31   –     Faithful and merciful God;
2 Corinthians 11:21b-33    –    Paul’s suffering;
Matthew 6:24-34   –     Seek first the Kingdom of God;

Deuteronomy Summary:

Moses warned the people of Israel that after they entered the Promised Land and had dwelt there for several generations they would be tempted to turn to other “gods” and disobey God’s Word. If they pursued idolatry and disobedience, Moses warned them that they would not remain in the land but would be destroyed and driven from it, and scattered among the nations of the world. There they would be forced to serve idols created by the imagination of humans. But from there, when they sought God with all their heart and soul, they would find God. “When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God  and obey his voice, for the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not fail or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers which he swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:30-31).

2 Corinthians Summary:

Paul (formerly called Saul of Tarsus) was not boastful or advocating boasting, but making the point that if he were inclined to boast he would have more reason for boasting than his critics, who had been boasting of themselves in comparison to Paul. Paul was as much a Jew by birth and by training as his adversaries, and had worked harder and suffered more to proclaim the Gospel than they had.

Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, whipped, and stoned. In his missionary travels, he had been in danger on rivers and had been shipwrecked on the sea. He had been in danger in the wilderness and also in cities. He had been persecuted by Jews, Gentiles, and false Christians. He had endured sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure. Added to this was the stress and worry for the churches under his supervision. When any believer under Paul’s responsibility stumbled (spiritually) Paul suffered because of his concern for them.

Paul had empathy for those who are weak, because Paul knew and acknowledged his own weakness. If Paul boasted of anything he would boast of his weakness (so that the Lord’s power might be evident in him). The fact that Paul escaped all these perils illustrates the Lord’s power to deliver him, like the time he escaped from the power of the government at Damascus by being lowered in a basket from and window in the city wall (2 Corinthians 11:32-33; compare Acts 9:23-25).

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught that we should not be preoccupied with our need for food and clothing. God our Father cares for us more than any anything else in Creation, and is able to provide for us as illustrated by his Creation. God’s Creation contains everything necessary for life. Worrying is unproductive; we cannot solve our problems by worrying about them.

A better way to live is to trust in God who loves us and who will provide for our needs. If we will seek first God’s kingdom in our lives, he will provide for all our daily needs, but if we do not trust God to provide for our needs and feel that we must first provide for our needs ourselves, we will never get around to seeking God’s kingdom, and it will be impossible for us to find, because it requires trust in God and obedience to his Word.  Therefore Jesus counsels us not to worry about tomorrow; we should just live one day at a time (compare Matthew 6:11) in obedient trust in the Lord.

Commentary:

God’s dealing with Israel is not just history, but is deliberately intended by God to be a parable (a common life experience used to illustrate spiritual truth), and a metaphor for the meaning of life in this world. In one sense the Church is the “New Israel,” the “New people of God,” and in another sense America (and other “Christian” nations) is the “New (nation of) Israel,” and the “New Promised Land.”

Moses’ warning to Israel is also a particularly relevant warning to the nominal “Church” and to nominal “Christian” nations, particularly America, today. We’ve been so blessed with prosperity and success that we’ve forgotten God, who is the source of those blessings; we’ve come to believe that we’ve created those blessings ourselves.

Israel did turn, repeatedly, from obedience to God’s Word and to idolatry, refusing to hear the many warnings by God’s prophets, and eventually God lifted his providence and protection, from his people and his nation, and allowed them to be deported and scattered among the Gentile nations.

The northern kingdom of the divided monarchy, Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes, was conquered by the Assyrians in 720 B.C., and ceased to exist. Yet the southern kingdom, Judah, the remnant of Israel, refused to learn from the example of the northern kingdom and repeated warnings by God’s prophets. The result was that God lifted his providence and protection from Judah, and they were carried off into Babylonian exile in 587 B.C. for seventy years, as God had declared by his prophet (Jeremiah 25:12). The remnant of Israel in Babylonian exile fulfilled Moses’ prophecy that they would be restored to the Promised Land when they learned in tribulation to seek God with all their heart and soul, and return from idolatry and disobedience to obedient trust in God’s Word.

A remnant of Israel did return from Babylonian exile, and dedicated the rebuilt temple in 517 B.C., (as the seventy years is accounted) but it was a renewed people who returned; for the people who were adults at the time of the deportation, seventy years was a virtual life sentence.

The Babylonian Exile is a metaphor for life in this temporal world, in which we are to learn to trust and obey God above any other person or thing (“idolatry”), so that the Lord will lead us into the eternal Promised Land of his heavenly kingdom. The Exile is also a metaphor for eternal exile in the “Babylon” of Hell, for those who refuse to trust and obey God’s Word, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14), 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).

Paul is the prototype and example of a modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, as all of us can be. Paul had not known Jesus, during Jesus’ physical lifetime. Paul thought he was serving God while persecuting Christians. On the road to Damascus, intending to do that very thing, Jesus confronted Paul and struck him physically blind so that Paul could realize his spiritual blindness. Then the Lord sent a “born-again” (Acts 9:10) disciple, Ananias, living in Damascus, to come to Paul to disciple Paul and lead him to receive the gift (“anointing,” “baptism”) of the Holy Spirit.

From that point, Paul was a different person. He immediately began to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:20). He spent many days in Damascus preaching Jesus Christ, and began to be persecuted for the Gospel, leading to his escape through the window of the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). Throughout the rest of his ministry he was constantly in danger and suffering hardship, but he learned that the Lord could and faithfully would provide for Paul and protect him in every circumstance (Philippians 4:11-13), even from physical death.

Paul learned from personal experience in discipleship and fellowship with the risen Jesus, that the meaning of this temporal lifetime is our only chance to seek the Lord, and that if we truly seek the Lord, the Lord will allow us to find and come to know him personally. This was Paul’s testimony to the Greeks at Athens (Acts 17:26-27), and the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Jesus wants us to trust and obey him so that we, too, can have a personal fellowship with Jesus, and can learn that he is able and faithful to provide for and preserve us in any circumstance, even physical death (see Hebrews 2:14-15). Think how much time, energy, and resources people in this world spend trying to protect themselves from every difficulty. Those who seek worldly security before considering their spiritual security will never find either. We can’t learn that the Lord is faithful and abundantly able to protect and provide for us unless we’re willing to be confronted by God’s Word when we’re wrong (Acts 9:4) and willing to submit to the Lord’s correction (Acts 9:5), like Paul was, and begin to trust and obey the Lord’s commands (Acts 9:6, 17).

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

Thursday 8 Epiphany – Odd

First Posted
Podcast: Thursday 8 Epiphany – Odd

 Deuteronomy 4:32-40    –    The Lord is the only true God;

2 Corinthians 12:1-10    –    Strength in weakness;

Matthew 7:1-12    –    Practical application of Jesus’ message;

Deuteronomy Summary:

Consider the entire history of the world from the day of creation. Never before has any nation and people heard God’s voice or experienced God’s intervention except Israel. Never before has any nation been delivered from the power of another by miraculous powers and signs as the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt. The Lord revealed his powerful intervention so that we might know that the Lord alone is God. The Lord let his voice be heard so that he might discipline us.

The Lord loved the patriarchs of Israel and chose to bless their descendants in fulfilling his promise to their ancestors. He brought them out of Egypt with his own presence and power and gave them the Promised Land as an inheritance, driving out larger nations and more powerful people before Israel. Realize and remember that the Lord alone is God of heaven and earth; there is no other god. Know, remember and obey God’s Word and his commandments so that all will be well with you and with your descendants and that you may live long in the land God promised to give you forever.

2 Corinthians Summary:

Paul was not boastful nor was he advocating boasting, but was responding to critics who had been building themselves up by criticizing Paul. Paul described a vision of highest heaven which he had fourteen years prior (although he shared it “anonymously”). In that vision Paul heard (secret) things he either could not or was forbidden to share. Paul chose to boast of nothing of himself except his weaknesses, although he had plenty of reasons to boast if he chose. He was content to let people form their own opinion of him from what he said and did.

Paul mentioned a “thorn in the flesh” (a physical or emotional irritant) given him to keep him from becoming too proud of the revelations he had been given. Paul had prayed three times for its removal, but the Lord had told him that the Lord’s grace would help Paul endure it and that the Lord’s power is revealed through human weakness. So Paul would gladly admit his weaknesses so that he could experience and reveal Christ’s power in himself. For the sake of Christ, Paul was able to be “content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10). When Paul was weak he experienced and learned to rely on Christ’s strength.

Matthew Summary:

Here is the practical application of Jesus’ message. We’re not to be condemning of others, but let us be honest with ourselves. Let us not use the shortcomings of others to overlook or excuse our own shortcomings. Let’s change ourselves, over whom we do have control, instead of trying to change others. Don’t expect unbelievers to value spiritual truth; understand that they cannot appreciate spiritual truth any more than a pig can value fine jewelry. Forcing spiritual truth on unbelievers can prompt a vicious response.

If we earnestly seek the things of God we will find them. If we ask God in faith for what we truly need we will receive it. God loves us as a good father loves his children. God wants to give us good things; he doesn’t give evil when we ask for what is good. So we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. If we do that we will have satisfied all God’s commandments.

Commentary:

God is the one and only God. He is God, whether we acknowledge him or not. God has always intended from the beginning of Creation, to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who willingly trust and obey him.

God made this Creation so that we would have free choice whether to trust and obey God or not, knowing that we would have to learn to do so by “trial and error.” Disobedience of God’s Word is sin, and we have all sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). 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). Jesus Christ is not an afterthought; he has been “built in” to the structure of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14).

This lifetime is our only opportunity to seek and come to a personal knowledge and fellowship with our Creator (Acts 17:26-27), to learn to trust and obey God, and to receive eternal life through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift (“anointing;” “baptism”) of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

God has revealed himself to the world through his dealings with Israel. God revealed himself to Abraham (Abram), who was willing to trust and obey God’s Word, and God founded the nation of Israel through Abraham. He promised to make a great nation of Abraham’s descendants, and to give them the Promised Land.

Moses’ leading the people of God out of bondage to sin and death in Egypt, through the Sea, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land prefigures and illustrates the saving work of Christ, who frees us from sin and death, leads us through the waters of baptism, through the wilderness of this lifetime, through the river of physical death, and into the eternal Promised Land, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, prefigured in the pillar of fire leading Israel in the night (spiritual darkness; Exodus 13:21)  in the wilderness.

God wants to reveal himself to us individually and personally. God manifested himself to the world in human flesh in the physical lifetime of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:8-9). God has given us his Word, in the Bible, and in Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment, embodiment and example of God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s ultimate revelation of himself to us individually and personally is through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. If we seek God, he will allow us to find him.

To receive the promises in God’s Word, we must trust and obey God’s Word revealed in Jesus Christ. God gives us his Word, his example, and his Holy Spirit to discipline us like a good father disciplines his children, so that we will grow up to spiritual maturity and fulfill the life he wants us to have.

Paul was living by the guidance of the Holy Spirit within him, and he is the prototype and example of a modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle (messenger of the Gospel) as we all can be. Paul knew that it was only by the grace (unmerited favor) of God through Jesus Christ by his indwelling Holy Spirit that Paul could accomplish anything for God’s eternal kingdom. Paul didn’t try to use his ministry to build up his personal worldly status and reputation. Paul wanted to give all the glory to the Lord, in love and appreciation for what the Lord had done for Paul.

Paul experienced the peace and assurance only the Lord can give by his indwelling presence, and was willing to endure persecution and hardship for the Gospel as a result. Paul was fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to make born-again disciples of Jesus Christ, and teaching them, by word and example, to trust and obey Jesus’ commandments

But some of the Corinthian “Christians” were unwilling to submit to spiritual discipline, and were not growing in spiritual maturity, preferring to gain worldly approval and status for themselves by criticizing Christian disciples like Paul. These critics of Paul were overlooking their own shortcomings by disparaging Paul to make themselves look better. This condition still exists in the Church today.

Jesus taught his disciples to encourage and strengthen our brethren, but to be honest in self-evaluation. The Lord wants us to grow to spiritual maturity, and he will help us do so, if we are willing to be guided and disciplined by the Lord. The Lord wants to give us good things, and he will, if we ask for them, but we have to learn to distinguish what is good in God’s judgment.

God reveals through his Holy Spirit the good things he has planned for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9-10, but unspiritual people do not receive the gifts of Holy Spirit and are unable to understand spiritual things, because those things are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14) by those who possess the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We can share the Gospel with others, and we can live according to Jesus’ teachings, so that others may see the truth of the Gospel in us, but we cannot expect others to respond to the Gospel in faith. Their response is their free choice. If we treat others as we would like to be treated, we will have fulfilled God’s commandments.

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


Friday 8 Epiphany – Odd

First Posted
Podcast: Friday 8 Epiphany – Odd

Deuteronomy 5:1-22   –     The giving of the law;

2 Corinthians 12:11-21    –    Paul’s approaching visit;

Matthew 7:13-21    –   The Narrow Gate;

Deuteronomy Summary:

Moses proclaimed to Israel the Ten Commandments given to him by God at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). The covenant between God and his people was based on these commandments and the people were commanded to learn them and be careful to do them. Each generation was to renew the covenant. Moses was the mediator between God and the people; the people couldn’t approach God directly.

 The Lord who brought Israel out of Egypt is God; we are to have no other god. We must not make any image or “likeness” to worship and serve. The Lord will not share his glory with any other thing or person. He will bless those who love and obey him and punish those who hate and disobey him. We must not use God’s name any other way than reverently, to give him worship and praise. We are to keep the sabbath as a day of rest for ourselves and those who serve us, remembering what the Lord has done to free us from bondage to sin and death (John 3:16-17). We must honor our fathers and mothers so that we may receive God’s blessings and live long in the Promised Land. We must not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet what belongs to others. These are the commandments of God which he wrote on tablets of stone and delivered to Moses on Mt. Horeb.

2 Corinthians Summary:

In all his words and actions Paul was worthy of commendation by the Corinthian church, but instead had been forced to defend his conduct. He had been criticized by (false) apostles within the congregation who were seeking their own glory. The fact that Paul wasn’t seeking personal recognition or using his ministry for financial gain didn’t make his ministry and divine commission inferior to his critics. In the congregation, Paul had demonstrated his authentic apostleship and his “anointing” by the Holy Spirit. Paul had dealt no less fairly with the Corinthians than any other church. In fact he had been more generous with them because he had not required their financial support of his ministry.

Paul was prepared to visit the congregation again, and he was seeking their spiritual wellbeing rather than any material benefit for himself. Paul regarded them as his spiritual children and, like a good parent, wants to provide for them rather than expecting them to provide for him. Paul was happy to give himself and his resources for their spiritual nurture.

Would the congregation love Paul less as Paul’s love for them increased? Was Paul’s generosity a crafty scheme to take advantage of them? When Paul sent Titus and his fellow missionary to them they had behaved exactly like Paul and no one was claiming that Titus and his co-worker had taken advantage of the Corinthians (as they apparently had done to Paul).

The purpose of Paul’s letter was not to defend himself to the Corinthians, but to help them grow spiritually. God’s judgment of Paul’s ministry is the only judgment that matters. Paul worried that when he came to Corinth he might find problems in the congregation and the congregation might be unhappy with Paul. Paul wanted to avoid quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder within the congregation. Paul didn’t want to be embarrassed in the presence of the congregation and be grieved “by many of those who sinned before and have not repented of the impurity, immorality and licentiousness which they have practiced” (2 Corinthians 12:21).

Matthew Summary:

Jesus taught that the path to righteousness and eternal life requires self-discipline and discernment. Outward appearances can be deceiving. There will be a Day of Judgment when all people who have ever lived on earth will be held accountable for what they have done.

Discipline is required of believers. Jesus warned that the easy, undisciplined way leads to destruction. Jesus’ way requires effort and self-denial. Not everyone will be willing to make the effort, but the reward is true life now and eternally. Jesus warned his followers to beware of false prophets, who appear outwardly to be of God, but who are inwardly working against the best interests of God’s people. The test of a prophet is an examination of his works. Not everyone who claims Jesus as Lord will be saved. Those for whom Jesus is truly Lord will do what Jesus commanded and taught.

Commentary:

Moses prefigures and illustrates what the Christ will be like. Moses led the people through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant of Law. The Law was given to restrain evil until the coming of Christ who is the mediator of the New Covenant of Grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus the Christ.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection made it possible for his disciples to be filled with and guided by Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit which leads Christian disciples through the spiritual wilderness of this world and into the eternal Promised Land of God’s kingdom in Heaven. Only Jesus gives the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-5, 14) only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

God is God, whether we acknowledge, trust and obey him or not. God warns us not to worship and serve any other god, which is idolatry. Idolatry is the love of anyone or thing other than God. Examples of modern idols are power, wealth, success, career, family, home, and pleasure,

God has given us his commandments for our best interest. He gives us free will to choose whether to obey him or not, but God warns that those who obey his commands will be blessed now and eternally and those who disobey his commands will perish eternally. Under the Old Covenant of Law humans could never fulfill all God’s commands (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8-10), and God’s penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death. So blood sacrifices were constantly necessary for the forgiveness of sin.

Since Jesus’ death on the Cross, he has become, once for all time and all people who will receive it, the only sacrifice acceptable to God for our forgiveness and salvation. His death made it possible for us to be filled with, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible for us to resist sin, and to live according to God’s will, which God’s Law was unable to do. Those who live according to the indwelling Holy Spirit are not under the condemnation of the Law (Romans 8:1-9).

Paul is the prototype and example of a modern, “post-resurrection” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle (messenger of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, as all of us can be. Paul was filled with, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit of Christ within him (Romans 8:9). Paul was fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) the risen Jesus gave to his disciples to carry out after they had been “born-again” (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 2:1-13), to make “born-again” disciples and teach them to obey all that Jesus commands.

Paul was teaching by word and example. His conduct demonstrated his discipleship and apostleship. But already in the first-century Church there were false apostles, “wolves” among the “sheep.” There were also unrepentant members of the Corinthian Church living in disobedience of God’s Word. Paul was forced to discipline them. The same struggle goes on today in the “Church” between genuine, “born-again” disciples and apostles, and “false apostles,” and over Church discipline of sin among its members.

Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment, and example of God’s Word lived out in human flesh. Jesus was perfectly obedient to God’s will, even to dying on the Cross. Jesus taught his disciples to trust and obey God’s will and to be filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit. Christian discipleship requires self-discipline and discernment.

A genuine Christian is a disciple by definition (Acts 11:26c); discipleship is not an optional category of “super-Christian.” It is necessary for a disciple to give up his personal self-interest in order to do God’s will, but his reward will be eternal life instead of eternal death, which those who reject Jesus and disobey God’s Word, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, will receive. A disciple must also be discerning; one must know God’s Word in order to do it. A disciple needs to read the Bible completely, and to read it daily, seeking God’s guidance daily, one day at a time.

Jesus warned his disciples that there will be a Day of Judgment when all who have ever lived will be accountable to the Lord for what they have done in this lifetime. We have all been created with an immortal soul. What we have done in this lifetime will determine where we will spend eternity.

The Lord knows everything about us individually and personally, and he is not deceived by outward appearances. Life with the self-discipline of discipleship leads to eternal life, but those unwilling to be disciples will spend eternity in Hell with all evil.

Jesus warns us to watch out for false prophets and false apostles, who appear to be of God, but who are agents of Satan to lead God’s people astray. There are many false prophets and false prophets in the world and also within the “Church.” One example of false doctrine within the Church today is “Cheap Grace,”* which is the teaching that salvation is a free gift (true), to be received without the requirement of discipleship and obedience of God’s Word (false). Another is “works-righteousness,” “legalism,” the “circumcision party (faction)” the doctrine that one can (and must) “earn” salvation by doing certain “good deeds.” Both existed in the first-century Church and both are refuted in the New Testament.

Jesus warns that not everyone who claims to be a “Christian” will be saved (Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46). Those for whom Jesus is truly their Lord will do what Jesus commands and teaches (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

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


Saturday 8 Epiphany – Odd

First Posted
Podcast: Saturday 8 Epiphany – Odd

Deuteronomy 5:22-33  –    Moses the mediator;

2 Corinthians 13:1-14    –    Paul’s impending visit;

Matthew 7:22-29   –    Build on the Rock;

Deuteronomy Summary:

God manifested himself in thick cloud and fire when he came down from heaven to the top of Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to give the Ten Commandments to Moses, written on stone tablets (Exodus 19:9-20:19). The people of Israel witnessed the manifestation from a distance, and heard the voice of the Lord, and were afraid of God’s greatness and power. The people delegated leaders from each of the twelve tribes to ask Moses to be their mediator between God and themselves so that God would not speak directly to the people for fear that they would be destroyed by his great power. They promised to hear and do what the Lord said to Moses.

The Lord heard what the people said to Moses and he declared that it was reasonable and commendable for them to fear the Lord and obey his commandments so that they and their children would be blessed and prospered by the Lord forever. The Lord told Moses to release the people to return to their tents while the Lord gave the rest of his statutes and ordinances to Moses. Moses was to teach God’s law to the people so that they would live in obedience to all of God’s laws in the Promised Land. God’s blessings and long life in the Promised Land are conditional upon obedience to God’s Word.

2 Corinthians Summary:

Paul was planning a third visit to the Corinthian church. Paul’s previous visit had been “painful” because he had to discipline members for sinful and unacceptable behavior (such as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21), and had warned them that he would deal harshly with members if he found them continuing such behavior. But accusations would have to meet the standards of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 19:15), requiring two or three witnesses to substantiate the charges.

Apparently some of the congregation had challenged Paul’s “anointing” (with the Holy Spirit) and authority that Christ was speaking through Paul. Christ died in weakness but rose in power, and Paul shared similar human weakness, but Christ worked with divine power through Paul.

Paul urged the Corinthian Christians to examine and test themselves to be certain that they are holding to the true faith (the Apostolic Gospel which Paul had taught them and is recorded in the New Testament). They should know with certainty if they have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). If they have been “born-again” they should be able to recognize Paul’s “anointing.”

Paul prayed that the Corinthian Christians would not do wrong, not so that Paul’s authority and reputation would be enhanced, but for their own spiritual welfare. Paul would be willing to sacrifice his own status if it would help the Corinthians grow to spiritual maturity. But Paul couldn’t sacrifice truth to make the Corinthians look good or feel good. God is truth and Christians can’t work against truth. Paul would be glad to be weak so that the Corinthians could become strong through Christ’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9) within them. Paul prayed for their spiritual growth.

Paul hoped that, by writing in advance of his visit, he could avoid using his apostolic authority to severely discipline the congregation in person, hoping to use that authority to spiritually build up the congregation, as the Lord intended, rather than for tearing down. In closing Paul urged the congregation to do what Paul urged, to amend their ways and to live in peace with one another “and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11b). “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Matthew Summary:

Jesus teaches that there will be a Day of Judgment, when everyone will be accountable before the Lord for what they have done. The judgment will not be based on superficial appearances, because the Lord knows everything we have done, and he sees the innermost motives and attitudes. It won’t matter that one has professed Jesus as Lord, if he has not done what Jesus taught, and Jesus taught obedience to the will of God.

Those who hear Jesus’ teaching and apply them in their own lives are like a builder who builds upon a solid rock foundation. Those who do not take Jesus’ teaching to heart and apply it in their lives are like those who build on sand. The house may look great, but the first storm that comes along will destroy it, because it was not founded on a solid foundation.

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

Week of 4 Epiphany – Odd – 02/01 – 07/2015

January 31, 2015

Week of 4 Epiphany – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


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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 4 Epiphany – Odd 
Sunday 4 Epiphany – Odd 
First posted 01/29/05;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 51:9-16   –    God’s right arm;
Hebrews 11:8-16   –   Examples of faith;
John 7:14-31  –   Jesus’ authority;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Awake and gather your strength, O arm of the Lord (the power of God; deliverer and ruler; Messiah)! It was he who destroyed the ancient monsters. It was he who dried up the Sea so that the Israelites could pass over (the Exodus from Egypt). “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion (Jerusalem; the Eternal City) with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).

The Lord comforts his people. Why should we fear mortal man, who passes away like grass? Have we forgotten the Lord our Creator, who created heaven and earth? Why do we constantly fear our oppressor (our mortal enemies; Satan and Death); what can our oppressors’ fury accomplish? The prisoner shall be quickly released; he shall not die and go down to the realm of the dead, nor shall he starve. The Lord, who stirs up the forces of nature, is our God; he hides his people in the shadow of his hand. He who created heaven and earth declares of Zion (Jerusalem; the Eternal City; the Church) that we are his people.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

When God called Abraham to go from his homeland to a place God would show him, Abraham went in faith, although he didn’t know where he was going. God told him that he and his descendants would inherit the land, but Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, were landless nomads, living in the Promised Land in tents, as foreigners, during their lifetimes. By faith they looked forward to the permanent city built by God. By faith, Sarah conceived when she was well past child-bearing, trusting in the faithfulness of God. As the result, God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous beyond counting as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea was fulfilled.

“These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Those who think that way are seeking a better homeland. If they had longed for their former land they could have returned, but they had their hope set on a better, heavenly country. (Because they trusted and acted on God’s promise in faith), “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).

John Paraphrase:

In the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles (an eight day celebration) Jesus went into the temple and began to teach. The people wondered where Jesus got his knowledge, since he had no formal rabbinic education. Jesus told them that his teaching was not his own, but was from God. Jesus declared that if any person desires to do God’s will, he will recognize that Jesus’ teachings are from God. Those who speak on their own authority seek their own glory, but those who aim to glorify the one who sent them are trustworthy and not lying.

Israel had received the Law through Moses, but they were not obeying it. Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18), and the Jews sought to kill him for breaking the Sabbath Law, but when Jesus asked them to justify their desire to kill him, they denied it and suggested that Jesus was crazy. Jesus pointed out that a person can be circumcised on the Sabbath (to fulfill the requirements of the Law), but when Jesus healed a man’s body on the Sabbath they wanted to kill him for breaking Sabbath law. Jesus told them to judge fairly, not based on outward appearances.

Some of the people of Jerusalem were amazed that Jesus was speaking so openly when the authorities were seeking to kill him. They wondered if the authorities believed that Jesus was really the Christ. But they discounted the possibility, because they thought that no one would know where the Christ came from, while they thought they knew Jesus’ origins.

Knowing what they thought, Jesus told the people, as he taught, that they only thought they knew where he had come from. Jesus had come from God, and that, although they thought they knew God, they really only knew “about” God. Jesus claimed to know God intimately, because he had come from God and had been sent by God. The authorities sought to arrest him, but did not, because it was not yet God’s timing. But many people did believe Jesus was the Christ, because they realized that they couldn’t expect the Christ to do any more miracles than Jesus had already done.

Commentary:

Jesus is the power of God in human flesh; he’s the Arm of the Lord, God’s anointed deliverer and ruler of the universe. The prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in one sense when Judah was allowed to return to the Promised Land from their exile in Babylon. But God’s Word is eternal and will have its eternal fulfillment in the return of Christ’s Church from exile on earth to the Heavenly Zion. Jesus is the deliverer who delivers us from captivity of Satan and Death.

As Abraham was a sojourner walking in faith during his earthly exile, so believers are also all sojourners on this earth. We won’t receive the fullness of God’s promises this side of eternity, but we can see them from here. If we will walk in faith, God will show us his faithfulness. Abraham and Sarah didn’t see the fulfillment of the Promised Land in their earthly lives, but God revealed his faithfulness in giving them the son (Isaac) as he had promised, and in many other ways.

Jesus declared that anyone who desires to do God’s will shall know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that Jesus speaks according to God’s will and Word. Anyone who thinks he knows God will recognize that Jesus is God’s only (begotten) Son (John 1:14), in whom the whole of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). No one can truly know God except through Jesus (John 1:18; Mathew 11:27 John 14:6-7). Each one of us must decide for ourselves who we believe Jesus is. Our decision has eternal consequences.

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

Monday 4 Epiphany – Odd 
To be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/30/05;

Podcast: Monday 4 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 51:17-23  –   The Lord’s wrath;
Galatians 4:1-11   –   Bondage under law;
Mark 7:24-37   –   The Syrophoenician woman;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Rise up, Jerusalem, who is drunk from the cup of God’s wrath. None of her sons is able to guide her. Devastation and destruction have befallen her. Who will comfort or commiserate with her? Her sons are passed out in a drunken stupor on every street corner, from the wrath of God. Listen, you who are drunk from the Lord’s wrath. The Lord has removed the cup of his wrath from you; you shall no longer be afflicted. From now on, God will give it to your tormentors, who have trampled all over you, and used you for a sidewalk.

Galatians Paraphrase:

The heir of the estate, as long as he is a minor, has no more control over the estate than a slave; although he is ultimately its owner, he is under guardians and trustees until the date determined by the father. So also, when we were spiritually ignorant, we were slaves to the elemental superstitions of the world. But in the fullness of God’s perfect timing, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under God’s Law given to Moses, to redeem those under the Law, so we could be adopted sons and daughters of God.

Because we are God’s adopted children, he has given us the Spirit of his Son in our hearts, who bears witness that we are God’s children. So through God (in Jesus Christ) we are no longer slaves but children and heirs of God’s promises. In the past, when we did not know and acknowledge God, we were slaves of false gods (and behind those idols are demons; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21). Now we can come into a personal relationship with God through the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Why would we want to turn back to slavery again to the forces of evil? Why would we want to continue to be like Jews in the observance of Jewish traditions? Has Paul’s work in proclaiming Jesus been in vain?

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and he entered a house there, hoping not to have his visit publicized, but the news could not be suppressed. Immediately a Syrophoenician (Tyre and Sidon were cities of Phoenicia in the Roman Province of Syria) woman, a Gentile, came to Jesus begging him to heal her small demon-possessed daughter. Jesus told her to let the children (Jews) be fed first, for it isn’t right to give the children’s food to the dogs (Gentiles). The woman replied “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). Jesus replied that since she had given that reply, she could go her way; the demon had been cast out of her daughter. The woman went home and found the child healed of the demon.

Jesus returned from Tyre and Sidon to the Sea of Galilee through the region of the Decapolis (“the Ten Cities,” on the east and south of the Sea of Galilee). A deaf man who couldn’t speak clearly was brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus took him aside and put his fingers in the deaf man’s ears and touched his tongue, and Jesus looked up to heaven and said “Be opened” in Aramaic (the language which Jesus spoke). The deaf man’s hearing was restored and he spoke plainly.

Jesus “charged (exhorted; ordered) them (the healed man and those who had brought him) to tell no one, but the more (emphatically) he charged them the more zealously they proclaimed it” (Mark 7:36). Those who witnessed the healing were amazed and declared that Jesus did everything well; he could even make the deaf hear and the mute speak.

Commentary:

Judea had been in exile in Babylon, suffering under God’s punishment for her unfaithfulness and disobedience of God’s Word. God is going to deliver her sons from their oppressors and restore them to leadership. Their punishment was completed and now the Lord was going to punish the oppressors of God’s children (by the fall of Babylon to Cyrus of Persia in 539 B.C.).

God’s promise was fulfilled; his children were restored to their land. But his promise also applies to his Church today. Judgment will begin with the children of God (1 Peter 4:17). God disciplines his children for their good and salvation (Hebrews 12:7-11), but then he will destroy their tormentors.

Through Jesus Christ we are adopted sons and daughters of God and heir to the promises of God: his heavenly estate. We are no longer the slaves of Satan, the “god” of this world. God doesn’t give us his Spirit to enslave us but to free us from sin and death. The Spirit of his Son, Jesus, within us bears witness that we are God’s adopted children, and that we will inherit eternal life in his heavenly kingdom (Galatians 4:6; compare Romans 8:9b, 12-17a; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14;).

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen Jesus, through whom we are spiritually “born again” (John 3:3, 5-8) and have personal fellowship with the Lord. If we have been truly born again and freed from slavery to sin and death, why would we want to turn back to slavery? Why would we want to become like Jews in the observance of Jewish Laws and traditions?

God intended his salvation for all people, but he made it available first to the Jews. God had told Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:3b). Jesus didn’t mean to imply to the Syrophoenician woman that Gentiles were subhuman, but to indicate where they were in seniority regarding the Gospel of salvation.

The Syrophoenician could have chosen to be offended by Jesus’ categorization of her, but she responded in faith and obedience. She agreed with Jesus’ assessment, and she acknowledged him as her Lord. But she persisted in faith that his grace (unmerited favor) would extend to include herself and her daughter. When Jesus told her to go her way, that her daughter was healed, she trusted and obeyed Jesus, and came to know that his promises are faithful and true.

In contrast, those who disregarded Jesus’ command to not publicize the healing of the deaf mute thought they were doing the right thing and glorifying Jesus, but they were actually impeding Jesus’ ministry. Jesus didn’t come primarily to bring physical healing, and his physical healings were attracting large crowds who were only interested in physical healing, making it difficult to fulfill his greater mission. We must be careful not to assume that we know God’s will without confirmation from him. See also John 6:26-27). Jesus can do all things well. He can even make the spiritually deaf hear and give the spiritually mute, voice, as I personally attest.

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

Tuesday 4 Epiphany – Odd 
To be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/31/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 4 Epiphany – Odd

Isaiah 52:1-12   –   The Lord’s kingship;
Galatians 4:12-20   –   Paul’s concern;
Mark 8:1-10   –   Feeding the four thousand;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Awake, gather your strength, O Zion (God’s people; the Church); put on your beautiful clothes, for the heathen and unclean shall no longer come into you! Rise up from the dust, captive Jerusalem (the city of God; the Church)! Zion was oppressed without cost to her oppressors and will be redeemed without money. Egypt and Assyria (and Babylon) had enslaved God’s people without paying anything for them, and they continually despise God’s name (and character). But God’s people will know God’s name and his redeeming work on their behalf.

God’s people await the messengers confirming God’s victory; her watchmen rejoice as they see the victorious Lord returning to Zion. The Lord has comforted and redeemed his people and has revealed his holy arm, his salvation, to all the people of the earth. God’s people will leave Babylon and return to their homeland, ritually purified, and in victory, not in flight or fear, because the Lord will be their vanguard and defender.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul begged the Galatians to follow his spiritual example, as he has become one of them during his visit. Paul had been well-treated by them. Although he had a physical ailment, and required their care (perhaps eye trouble; see Galatians 4:15), they received and cared for him as for an angel of God or as Jesus Christ himself, rather than as a burden. They would gladly have given Paul even their own eyes if that would have helped him. Will they now regard him as their enemy for telling them the truth?

The Judaizers (those who insist that Gentile Christians must keep Jewish laws) were using flattery to induce the Galatians to accept their false doctrine, which would actually keep the Galatians from their inheritance of salvation (Galatians 6:4), and the Judaizers’ motivation was their own self-glorification. It is good to build up one another for a good purpose (the Judaizers’ was not).

Paul is the spiritual father of the Galatians, his spiritually young disciples, who have not yet reached spiritual maturity. Paul is worried about them and longs to be with them so that he might guide them in person, more gently and lovingly than he can in this letter.

Mark Paraphrase:

A great crowd of about four thousand people had gathered around Jesus and had been with him for three days without the opportunity to obtain anything to eat. Jesus had compassion on them and was afraid that they were too weak to return to their homes without fainting on the way, knowing that some had come from a great distance.

The disciples asked Jesus how they could possibly feed so many people in the middle of the wilderness. Jesus asked his disciples what food they had on hand, and they had seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus took the bread and fish and gave thanks to God and blessed and broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples to distribute.  They all ate and were satisfied, and seven baskets of leftovers were collected. Then Jesus sent the people home, and he and his disciples got into a boat and went to Dalmanutha (or Magadan; or Magdala; compare Matthew 15:39; apparently on the west side of the Sea of Galilee).

God fulfilled his promise to Israel to redeem them from exile in Babylon and lead them back to their homeland when Babylon fell to King Cyrus of Persia in 538 B.C.* God has also revealed his holy arm, his salvation, in Jesus Christ. The history of God’s redemption of Israel is also an illustration and prophecy of his ultimate plan of redemption of the world which will be fulfilled when Jesus returns on the Day of Judgment.

The Lord cares for his people. God allowed Judah to go into Exile to discipline them for not trusting and obeying God’s Word and God’s prophets, but his ultimate purpose was for their salvation. God comforts and redeems his people and frees them from slavery and exile in the Babylon of this world.

Jesus is the holy arm of God, God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6), which has been revealed to all the people on Earth. Jesus is the victorious Lord who will return to lead his people to the eternal Jerusalem in Heaven, ritually cleansed and purified by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.

Paul loved the Galatians as a father loves his children, and he also appreciated the way they had cared for his physical ailment. But he cared enough for their spiritual wellbeing and their eternal destiny that he was willing to speak the truth sternly to them even though the Galatians wouldn’t enjoy hearing it. In contrast, the Judaizers were flattering the Galatians and telling the Galatians what the Galatians enjoyed hearing, but which would lead them away from salvation and eternal life; and the Judaizers’ motive was to make themselves look good and feel important.

Jesus is our example of how Church leaders and all Christians should care for the needs of all people. Often it is too easy to dismiss our responsibility for the welfare of others because the situation seems vastly beyond our human ability and resources. The disciples asked how one could feed that vast crowd in the middle of nowhere. But Jesus told them to start doing what they could with the resources they had, and as they did so God provided the means to meet the need.

Jesus recognized the physical needs of the crowd, but his real ministry was to their spiritual need. Jesus didn’t give the crowd false encouragement that they could make it home without food, but that is exactly what spiritual leaders do, if they tell people what is popular and pleasant to hear, instead of the hard truths that people need to hear.

Paul told Timothy, his protégé in Christian ministry, that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate teachers to suit their own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth and will wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Are we seeking the truth, or do we just want our “ears tickled”?

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)?


* “Cyrus,” Easton’s Bible Dictionary, digital module, BibleDatabase  freeware, see Free Digital Bible Study Tools, sidebar top right, home.


Wednesday 4 Epiphany – Odd

To be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 02/01/05;

Podcast:
Wednesday 4 Epiphany – Odd

Isaiah 52:13-53:12   –   The suffering Servant;
Galatians 4:21-31    –   Allegory of Hagar and Sarah;
Mark 8:11-26  –   Leaven of the Pharisees;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord’s servant will prosper; he will be exalted and lifted up. His appearance has been so marred that many people, nations and kings will be astonished and speechless. They will see and understand what has not been told.

Who has believed what the Lord has declared; to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew like a young plant, and a root in dry ground. He was not physically attractive, and he was despised and rejected; he experienced sorrow and grief, and was treated like a leper. But he has borne our grief and sorrow. We considered him deserving of God’s punishment, but it was our sins he was being punished for, and we have been healed and restored by his punishment.

We have all gone astray like sheep, each following his own will, and God has placed on his Servant, the burden of all our guilt. He bore his suffering in silence, like a lamb being sheared is mute. His life was cut short and taken from him by oppression and judgment, but who considered that his suffering and death was for our sins?

He was buried with the wicked and with a rich man although he had committed no violence or deceit. Yet it was God’s will that he should suffer as a sacrifice and offering for sin, and because of his obedience he shall see his offspring (followers) and his days will be prolonged. He will be satisfied with the results of his suffering. “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many righteous; and he will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). God will give him an inheritance of great honor which he will share with those who persevere in faith, because he was obedient unto death, and suffered for the sins of many, making intercession for sinners.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Those who want to rely on their performance of the Law haven’t understood the Law. Abraham had two sons, one, named Ishmael, born of the flesh by Hagar, his slave, and one, named Isaac, born according to God’s promise by his wife, Sarah, who was free. The women are an allegory representing two covenants, the Covenant of Law of life in the flesh in the worldly Jerusalem, and the Covenant of Grace of life in the Spirit in Christ’s Church which is the forerunner of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Believers are children of the promise, like Isaac, and the Church is our mother. As Ishmael persecuted Isaac (Genesis 21:9-12), so the world persecutes Christians, but as the scripture says, the slave and her son will be cast out and will not inherit with the son of the free woman. Christians are the children of the free woman, who will inherit God’s promises.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples had just returned from feeding the four thousand. Some Pharisees (the predominant legalistic faction of Judaism) came and argued with Jesus, asking him for a sign from heaven to prove his authority. Jesus sighed deeply and asked why this generation insisted on seeking signs, because no signs will be given.

Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and went across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had only one loaf of bread among them, because they had forgotten to bring more.

Jesus was telling his disciples to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod (or the Herodians). The disciples thought Jesus was speaking of bread and they discussed it among themselves, saying that they had no bread. Jesus was aware of their discussion, and asked why they were discussing their lack of bread. Did they not see and hear and remember; why couldn’t they understand? Jesus reminded them of the abundance of the bread left over from the feedings of the five thousand and the four thousand. Jesus asked if they still did not understand.

They came to Bethsaida and people brought a blind man to Jesus for healing. Jesus took the blind man outside the city and laid his hands upon the man. The man’s sight was partly restored but he still couldn’t see clearly, so Jesus laid his hands on him again, and the man’s sight was restored and he saw clearly. Jesus sent him away to his home, telling him not to go back to the village.

Commentary:

To whom has the arm of the Lord (God’s power; his Servant, the Messiah) been revealed? Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy. To those who believe in Jesus, the parallel seems obvious, but to those who don’t, it isn’t. Jesus has borne and paid the debt for the sins of those who trust in him.

Jesus is our example of trust and obedience to God’s will. Those who come to know Jesus personally (through his indwelling Holy Spirit; compare Isaiah 53:11) will be made righteous (by his blood, shed on the cross). Those who follow Jesus in trust and obedience are his offspring, and their days will be prolonged for eternity (Isaiah 53:10c). Jesus will share his inheritance with those who persevere and endure in faith (Isaiah 53:12b).

Those who trust in their good deeds for their salvation, instead of trusting in Jesus haven’t understood God’s Word. God’s Law was given to restrain those in the flesh until the coming of Jesus Christ (physically, during his earthly ministry, and spiritually, when a believer is reborn through the indwelling Holy Spirit).

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ is the only sacrifice which is acceptable to God for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). We either accept Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins, or we will have to die eternally for them ourselves.

God’s promise of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ must be received by faith (trust and obedience). Christians are the legitimate spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah, who will inherit God’s promises. The illegitimate children of the slave will be cast out and will not inherit.

The Pharisees wanted proof from Jesus of his authority, but there was proof all around them and they couldn’t see it. God’s promise depends on faith. If he were to provide incontrovertible proof, there would be no need for faith. Jesus performed many miracles, doing things which are humanly impossible, and yet the Pharisees wanted further proof.

The Pharisees didn’t want to acknowledge Jesus’ authority, because they were religious and secular leaders of their society based on their reputation of righteousness by their keeping of the Jewish law. They didn’t want to give that up and admit they were sinners in need of a Savior. They chose the approval of mankind instead of God’s approval.

Jesus was talking about the sin (spiritual “leaven”) of the Pharisees, but the disciples’ attention was focused on material things: bread and their stomachs. They had seen Jesus feed thousands with a few loaves of bread, and they were in the boat with Jesus, worried about having enough bread. They couldn’t understand Jesus’ spiritual teaching because their minds were on worldly, material concerns and they hadn’t learned to trust Jesus to provide for their needs.

Jesus healed the blind man’s physical sight, but it took more than one try. Jesus’ disciples’ spiritual sight wasn’t immediately and completely developed either, but they were following the one who could help them see. The Pharisees were spiritually blind but refused to acknowledge it and seek healing.

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


Thursday 4 Epiphany – Odd 

To be used only if there is a 5 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 02/02/05;

Podcast: Thursday 4 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 54:1-10 (11-17)   –   Song of assurance;
Galatians 5:1-15   –    Christian freedom;
Mark 8:27-9:1  –    On discipleship;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord assures exilic Israel that she will be restored and prospered beyond what she had before her exile. God has forgiven her unfaithfulness. The Lord her creator is her husband; God of all the earth, the Holy One of Israel, is her Redeemer. The Lord briefly forsook her in his anger, but now in compassion he calls her to return. The Lord has everlasting love and compassion for her.

As in the days of Noah, when the Lord swore that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood, so the Lord promises not to be angry with his people nor to rebuke them. Zion will be restored; her city will be beautiful. “All her sons shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be their prosperity” (Isaiah 54:13). She shall be established in righteousness, and will be oppressed no more.

God is the creator of those who make weapons and those who wield them. No weapon against her will succeed, and no accuser will prevail against her.” This is the heritage and vindication of the servants of the Lord.

Galatians Paraphrase:

We have been set free from bondage to the law of sin and death (the law convicts of sin and demands eternal death; Romans 3:23; 6:23), so we should not submit to slavery again (by Judaizers who want to require Gentile Christians to observe the Jewish Laws).

Paul tells believers that if they attempt to be righteous by keeping the Jewish Law they will be obligated to keep every part of the law (which is impossible). In trying to be justified (reckoned righteous) by works (keeping) of the law, they are severed from Christ and have fallen away from God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift). The Christian’s hope of righteousness is by faith in Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In Christ Jesus, righteousness is not by keeping the law but by faith through love (which results in good works; John 14:15, 21). False teachers had come into the Galatian congregation and were causing the believers to go off course. Paul declares that this emphasis on justification by works (keeping) of the law is not from the Lord, but is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a little yeast leavens the whole loaf, so false doctrine, or sin, can spread through and corrupt entire congregations. Through the Lord, Paul trusts that the Galatians will follow Paul’s teaching, and that God will judge those who are at work in the congregation in opposition to Paul and the Gospel. Paul points out that it is because Paul has defended the true Gospel that he is being persecuted.

The stumbling block of the Gospel of the cross of Christ to the Jews is that righteousness is no longer based on keeping the Jewish Law, but in faith (obedient trust) in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Circumcision symbolizes the Old Covenant of Law which is no longer brings salvation, so circumcision becomes a mutilation of the flesh, and those who advocate the mutilation of the Gentiles’ flesh should go mutilate themselves.

The freedom we have in Christ is not to be used to indulge our carnal natures; we have been freed so that we can serve the Lord and one another through love. If we truly love one another we will have fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. But where people “bite and devour” (use others to gratify their own desires) one another, they will destroy each other.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples went to the region of Caesarea Philippi at the northern border of Israel. On the way he asked his disciples who people were saying that Jesus was. The disciples said that some thought Jesus was John the Baptizer (risen from the dead). Others thought Jesus was Elijah (who was expected to return before the coming of the Messiah), and others thought he was one of the prophets (i.e., a prophet). Then Jesus asked who his disciples thought Jesus was, and Peter declared that Jesus is the Christ.

Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone about him. Jesus told his disciples that the “Son of man” (Jesus) would suffer, would be rejected by the religious leaders, and would be killed, and after three days he would rise. Peter rebuked Jesus, but Jesus rebuked Peter in front of the other disciples, saying that Peter was an agent of temptation and was opposing God’s will.

Jesus began to teach the crowd following him that anyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Jesus (his example and teaching). Whoever wants to keep his physical, earthly life will lose it. But whoever gives up his life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel will save his own (eternal) life.

What does it matter if a person owns the entire world if he dies. What could a person give which would be worth his life. When Jesus returns in glory with his holy angels, he will be ashamed of those who have been ashamed of Jesus and his words, now, in this wicked world. Jesus declared that there were some with him right then who would not die before they saw the kingdom of God come with power.

Commentary:

The prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled; Israel was restored to the Promised Land. But the prophecy also applies to the Church, which is the New Israel, in exile in the “Babylon” of this world. Jesus is the Holy One of Israel, our Redeemer, through whom we have God’s forgiveness.

Israel’s (the Church’s) sons and daughters will be taught by the Lord (Isaiah 54:13) through the indwelling Holy Spirit whom only Jesus gives to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 1:33; 14:15-17). No weapon or accuser will prevail against God’s people. Great will be their prosperity in the restored paradise of the New Jerusalem in Heaven. This is the heritage and vindication of the servants of the Lord.

Through Christ we have been set free from sin, death and the power of Satan, so that we can serve the Lord. We are free, but we should use that freedom not to serve ourselves but to serve our Lord and one another in love. Forgiveness is the free gift of God by grace to be received through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, not by works (keeping) of the law (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we have been forgiven and freed so that we can serve the Lord by doing good works which he has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

There have been false doctrines and false teachers in the Church from its beginning. Two examples are “Justification by Works” and the doctrine of “Cheap Grace*” (salvation without requiring obedience; without discipleship). Paul is addressing both in this text.

The Judaizers wanted the Gentile Christians to “earn” righteousness by keeping the Law. In refuting that false doctrine, he also warned about going too far in the opposite direction to a doctrine of “Cheap Grace,” using the freedom in Christ to indulge our self-interests rather than serving the Lord in obedience and discipleship. We are to be taught by, led by, and obedient to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

If we realize and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ then we should follow his example and his teaching. Following Jesus is going to cost us something. We have to be willing to deny our self-centered desires. We have to be willing to give up what we want for ourselves so that we can do what the Lord wants us to do. We must be willing to endure some personal discomfort in order to follow Jesus. We have to be willing to give up our earthly ambitions and goals and even physical lives, if necessary, in the assurance that Jesus’ promise and his example of resurrection from the dead will be fulfilled for us as it was for himself. In order to be a follower of Jesus we must follow Jesus’ example and apply his teaching in our lives; we need to trust and obey Jesus.

What is your eternal life in Paradise worth to you? 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)?


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


Friday 4 Epiphany – Odd

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 02/03/05;

Podcast: Friday 4 Epiphany – Odd 


Isaiah 55:1-13   –   Seek the Lord;
Galatians 5:16-24   –   Walk by the Spirit;
Mark 9:2-13   –  Transfiguration;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty are invited to come and be satisfied without cost. Why do we spend money and labor for things which do not satisfy or nurture us spiritually? Listen to the Lord and he will show us what is good and satisfying; come to him and hear, so that our souls may live. The Lord will extend to us his covenant of steadfast love which he had with David, whom the Lord made a witness, a leader, and a commander of people. God’s people shall call nations we have not known and they will come to us because of the Lord our God, and his Holy One, who has glorified us.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Let the wicked and unrighteous forsake their thoughts and their ways and turn to the Lord so that the Lord will have mercy on them, and he will pardon them abundantly. God’s ways and his thoughts are vastly higher than our ways and thoughts. Like the rain which causes seed to sprout and bear a harvest, so God’s Word goes forth and will not fail to bring forth a harvest according to God’s purpose. God will lead us forth in a New Exodus into the New Promised Land of paradise restored, which will be eternal.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Christians are to reject the gratification of the desires of their flesh and walk by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The desires of the flesh oppose and contradict the desires of the Spirit. We are given the Holy Spirit for that purpose so that we no longer follow our carnal desires. Those who are led by the indwelling Holy Spirit are no longer under the Law.

The works of the flesh include “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factionalism, envy, drunkenness, and carousing” (Galatians 5:19). We are warned that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). No law is needed to restrain such behavior. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to the top of a high mountain. Then Jesus was transfigured in their presence; his clothes appeared to glow intensely white beyond any earthly appearance. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus.

The three disciples were amazed and afraid, and Peter suggested to Jesus that they build three booths, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The shadow of a cloud came over them and a voice from the cloud said “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). Moses and Elijah disappeared and the three disciples saw only Jesus.

As they came down the mountain, Jesus told them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of man (Jesus) had risen from the dead. They kept the experience to themselves, but they wondered what Jesus had meant about rising from the dead.

They asked Jesus why the Bible teachers said that Elijah must return to earth before the coming of the Messiah. Jesus replied that Elijah had come first “to restore all things” (to call the people to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord).

Jesus told them that scriptures prophesied that the Son of man would suffer and would be treated with contempt, and that Elijah had come (John the Baptizer had fulfilled the prophecy) and he had suffered the same treatment (as Jesus would receive and as the other prophets had received), fulfilling what the scriptures foretold.

Commentary:

We are spiritual beings in physical bodies. God created us, and he knows what we need. He invites us to listen to him, and he will show us what is good and satisfying. If we realize that we have spiritual needs, he is the only one who can satisfy them. This earthly lifetime is the only opportunity we have to come to the Lord and be nurtured spiritually so that we will live eternally in the new creation of paradise restored.

No one knows how much time we have in this life. Now is the time to seek the Lord and call upon him. God’s Word will be fulfilled; his purpose will be accomplished, and his purpose is to bring his people out of the “Egypt,” the “Babylon” of this world into the Promised Land of his kingdom in Heaven.

Christians are to walk according to the Holy Spirit. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to guide and empower us to walk in trust and obedience to the Lord. The Lord only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). We are given the promise of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism, but it is only as we follow the Lord in trust and obedience that we receive the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say” (Luke 6:46; Mathew 7:12-24)?

Peter, James, and John were the disciples in the closest fellowship with Jesus. To them Jesus revealed his heavenly glory. They were witnesses to John the Baptizer’s fulfillment of the prophecy of the appearance of Elijah before the Messiah, but they were also witnesses that Elijah appeared to Jesus with Moses on the mountain of transfiguration. They were also witnesses to Jesus’ heavenly glory, and to the voice of God declaring that Jesus was God’s beloved Son, and telling Jesus’ disciples to listen to Jesus.

Peter, James and John obeyed Jesus. They are the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the extension of the covenant of David to them. They became witnesses and leaders of the New People of God (the Church). They proclaimed the Gospel to the Nations, and Nations came to them because of the Lord God and his Holy One, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

Peter, James and John were allowed to see Jesus’ heavenly glory because they were walking in close fellowship with Jesus. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, it is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that his disciples have close personal fellowship with Jesus and it is through the Holy Spirit that we experience Jesus’ heavenly glory and hear God speak. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who will lead us out of “Egypt” and “Babylon” into the Heavenly Kingdom.

Have you come to a personal fellowship with Jesus Christ? Are you walking by his 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)?

Saturday 4 Epiphany – Odd 

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 02/04/05;

Podcast: Saturday 4 Epiphany – Odd

Isaiah 56:1-8  –    A house of prayer;
Galatians 5:25-6:10   –    Walk by the Spirit;
Mark 9:14-29  –    Epileptic child healed;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Do what is righteous and just, because the Lord’s salvation is coming soon, and his deliverance will be revealed. Those who do so, and keep the Sabbath, refraining from doing evil or profaning the Sabbath, will be blessed. Eunuchs who keep the Sabbath and do what is pleasing to the Lord will have an eternal heritage in Gods’ house, and faithful proselytes (non-Jews who worship God) who love and serve the Lord and keep his covenant will be included among God’s people. God’s house will be a house of prayer for all people. God declares that he will gather other people to him beside the Jews.

Galatians Paraphrase:

If we have been “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the Spirit let us walk by (in obedience to) the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, nor envy one another; let us not provoke one another). If someone succumbs to temptation, Christians should gently restore him, being careful not to fall into temptation ourselves. We are to care for and help one another, fulfilling Christ’s commandment to love one another. We are not to exalt ourselves over others or compare ourselves to one another, but to honestly examine ourselves (according to God’s Word).

Each of us will be responsible for our own conduct. Those who are taught are to support their teachers. Let us not imagine that God can be fooled. We will all individually reap according to what we have sown.

If we live according to our flesh we will reap corruption (we’ll die and rot in our flesh). But if we live according to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. Let us not be discouraged with doing what is right, because we will eventually reap the reward of righteousness if we do not become discouraged. So let us do what is right to all people, and especially to our fellow believers.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus, Peter, James and John returned from the mountain where Jesus had been transfigured (see entry for yesterday, Friday, 4 Epiphany, odd year), and they found the rest of the disciples surrounded by a large crowd, arguing with some scribes. When the crowd saw Jesus they were amazed and ran to him.

Jesus asked what they were discussing, and a person in the crowd told Jesus he had brought his epileptic son to be healed by Jesus, but Jesus’ disciples had been unable to heal him. Jesus expressed exasperation with the faithlessness of the generation, and told the father to bring the boy to him.

When he was brought, the boy immediately began to convulse, and Jesus asked the boy’s father how long he had had this condition. The father replied that the boy had convulsions from childhood, and that they were life-threatening. He asked Jesus to heal the boy saying, “If you can” (Mark 9:22). Jesus replied, “If you can (Mark 9:23)!” Jesus told him that all things are possible to those who believe. The man cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Jesus saw that a crowd was gathering, and he rebuked the evil spirit and cast him out of the boy. The boy became so still that the crowd thought he was dead, but Jesus took him by the hand and he got up. Later, when the disciples were alone with Jesus they asked him why they had been unable to heal the boy themselves, and Jesus told them that this kind (of evil spirit) can only be driven out by prayer.

Commentary:

God’s people are all those who love him and do what is pleasing to him. Just being born into a Christian congregation or into a Christian family doesn’t make us Christians. God’s house is a house of prayer for all people who trust and obey his Son, Jesus Christ (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home). We cannot expect God to do what we ask unless we are willing to do what he asks.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26b) who have trusted and obeyed Jesus and have been spiritually reborn through his indwelling Holy Spirit. If we have new life by his Spirit, we are to live in that new life; we are to be guided and empowered by his Holy Spirit. We are to love and care for one another, and to help the fallen and the lost; not argue or feel spiritually superior to others. We should examine ourselves according to God’s Word, not against one another.

God is able to do what we ask, but are we willing to do what he asks? Perhaps one reason that the disciples had been unable to heal the boy was because they had gotten involved in an argument with the scribes (Bible teachers) instead of praying in faith. The Lord is not going to answer our prayer so that we can win an argument or so that we can look or feel more spiritual than others. The man had brought his son to see “if” Jesus could heal the boy. The Lord will not “prove” himself to us; we must choose whether to believe in (trust and obey) him.

Jesus’ answer shows that it is not a matter of whether Jesus could do it, but whether the father believed in Jesus. When the father replied that he believed and asked Jesus to increase his faith, Jesus was willing to do that. It isn’t a matter of the amount of faith, as long as we are willing to make the commitment. When we commit to trust and obey Jesus, he will reveal his power and faithfulness to us, causing our faith in him to grow.

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

Week of 3 Epiphany – Odd – 01/25 -31/2015

January 24, 2015

Week of 3 Epiphany – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

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

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  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.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available at:

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

This ‘blog is mirrored at:

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

Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

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

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http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/oddyear/Wklx_odd.htmlPlease Note:

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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.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of 3 Epiphany – Odd 
Sunday 3 Epiphany – Odd 
First posted 01/22/05;
Podcast: Sunday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 47:1-15   –    Downfall of Babylon;
Hebrews 10:19-31  –    Exhortations and warnings;
John 5:2-18  –  Jesus’ relation to God;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Babylon will be stripped of her royalty and power. She who was once unconquered will become a slave. Her nakedness will be exposed and her shame revealed. Babylon will no longer be exalted as ruler of kingdoms. Babylon did not recognize that it was only by God’s will that she had punished God’s people, and she did not learn, from Judah’s experience, to honor God.

Babylon pursues her own pleasure, thinking that she is secure and has no rival; she thinks nothing bad will befall her, but in a moment disaster will come upon her, despite her reliance on the worldly wisdom and the occult (idolatry, sorcery, demonic powers). Babylon feels safe in her wickedness, imagining there is no one who sees, and no one to punish her. Her worldly wisdom and knowledge have led her astray. Evil and disaster will befall her, from which she cannot escape or make amends.

Her ruin will come upon her suddenly with no advance warning, despite her worldly wisdom and her faith in sorceries. She has many “wise men” and counselors to advise her, but none sees Babylon’s downfall and none can deliver her. They will be like stubble consumed by fire. They cannot save themselves. The fire of God’s wrath will be no pleasant little fire to warm oneself by. The advisors upon whom Babylon has depended will be wandering every which way in confusion, trying to save themselves, but there will be no one to save Babylon.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

The writer of Hebrews compares the believers’ access to God with the temple practices of Judaism. Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross makes it possible for us to enter into God’s presence (the Heavenly equivalent of the inner sanctuary of the Temple, called the Holy-of-Holies) through the veil (of Jesus’ flesh). (Formerly, only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy-of-Holies, and only once a year, carrying a blood sacrifice for himself and the people; Hebrews 9:24-25).

Because Jesus is our High Priest, who has made atonement for our sins, we are to draw near to God in faith, with a true heart and a clean conscience. We must hold on to our faith in the Lord without wavering, trusting in the Lord’s faithfulness, and we are to encourage one another to live according to Jesus’ teachings (obedience to God’s Word and love for one another (Hebrews 10:24). We are to meet together regularly for worship and fellowship (in the Church) not neglecting this, as some are in the habit of doing, especially as the Day of Jesus’ return approaches.

Those who abandon their faith and return to a life of deliberate sin, after having come to know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ face eternal punishment. Rejecting Jesus after once having come into personal fellowship with him through his indwelling Holy Spirit has fearful eternal consequences. Spiritual rebirth is not possible more than once.

John Paraphrase:

There was a bathing pool in Jerusalem called Bethesda (or Bethzatha) which had five porticoes (covered porches), where invalids gathered. It was believed that an angel disturbed the water from time-to-time, and if one bathed in the water while it was thus disturbed, that he would be healed.

Jesus saw a man who he knew had been lying there for a long time. The invalid had been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked the invalid if he wanted to be healed. The sick man replied that he had no one to help him get into the water at the right time. Jesus told the sick man to rise, pick up his mat and walk. Immediately the man was healed, and he did as Jesus had told him.

It was on the Sabbath that the man was healed, and the Jews told the healed man that he was violating the Sabbath Laws by carrying his mat. The healed man replied that the person who had healed him had told him to do so. The Jews asked who had healed him, but the man did not know, and Jesus was not around.

Afterward Jesus found the healed man again in the temple. Jesus told him to sin no more, so that nothing worse would happen to him. The healed man went his way and told the Jews that Jesus was his healer. The Jews persecuted Jesus because he had healed and had told the healed man to carry his mat on the Sabbath, and since Jesus had answered their criticism by saying that his Father (God) was working and so was Jesus (on the Sabbath) they hated Jesus and sought to kill him because Jesus had called God his Father, making himself equal with God.

Commentary:

Babylon thought that she had become great and powerful by her own works, not knowing or acknowledging God or realizing that it was by God’s will, to accomplish God’s purpose. God had allowed Babylon to become powerful in order to punish Judah for their disobedience of God’s Word and their refusal to heed God’s prophets.

Babylon sought counsel from worldly advisors and sorcerers instead of seeking God’s guidance and God’s Word. Babylon thought there was no one who would recognize and punish her wickedness, but Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. Babylon was taken over by Cyrus of Persia in 539 B.C., and Israel, after seventy years of exile in Babylon, was allowed to return to the Promised Land. Is America the New Jerusalem or the New Babylon?

God wants us to have access to him. He wants us to know his will so that we will do it. He has given us his Word in the Bible. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven and cleansed of sin so that we can have access to the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to be our helper, our counselor.

Christians are to spend time regularly in worship and prayer, and in learning God’s Word and seeking his guidance, so that we can accomplish the “good works” which he has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Are we getting our counsel and guidance from the Lord and his Word, or are we relying on worldly counsel?

All of us are sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23); we are crippled and dying from sin (Romans 6:23). Jesus is the only spiritual Healer and Savior (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Are we hoping we can be healed by following worldly beliefs and remedies, trusting in superstition, or are we willing to trust and obey Jesus? Are we willing to do what Jesus tells us, even if it conflicts with our secular society?

Jesus warned the healed man that if he reverted to his former life something worse would befall him. Having been physically healed by Jesus by trust and obedience, the man needed to continue trusting and obeying Jesus or something worse would befall him. Eternal spiritual death is a lot worse than being a physical invalid for many years.

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 3 Epiphany – Odd 
To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/23/05;

Podcast: Monday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 48:1-11   –   Hear and see;
Galatians 1:1-17  –   Against false Gospel;
Mark 5:21-43  –   Jairus’ daughter;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Listen, descendants of Jacob (father of the heads of the twelve tribes), who are called by the name of Israel (the name given Jacob by the Lord, which became the name of God’s people), descendants of Judah (fourth son of Jacob by Leah, whose name was given to the Southern Kingdom of the divided monarchy; at the time of this prophecy, in exile in Babylon). Although they are members of God’s people by genealogical descent, and they swear by the name of the Lord and claim that the God of Israel is their God, their actions reveal that they are not truly serving the Lord.

In the past the Lord has revealed what would take place before it came to pass. This was necessary because humans are stiff-necked (proud), hard-headed (stubborn) and obstinate (unyielding); otherwise they would give credit for what God did  to someone or something other than God. The Lord is revealing new things to them of which they have never before heard; otherwise they would claim that they had previously known them.

Humans are treacherous and rebellious from birth. God has been forbearing towards us for his name’s sake. The Lord purifies us with the furnace of affliction to remove impurities, like silver is refined. The Lord won’t allow his name to be profaned.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul’s authority was not given him by other humans, but by God through Jesus Christ. He was writing to the churches of Galatia in central Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). Paul prayed that they might have the grace and peace which are only possible from God in Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, so that we might be delivered from the present evil age, in accordance with God’s will.

Paul immediately began by saying “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to another gospel, not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received (from Paul; i.e., the apostolic faith), let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul was not interested in modifying his message to please humans; his only concern was to please the Lord who entrusted him with the message.

The gospel which Paul preached was not the creation of humans, and Paul did not get it from other humans, but by revelation from Jesus Christ. Paul reminded the Galatians that he had previously persecuted Christians and the Church, because of his zeal for Judaism. But the Lord had created Paul for the ministry of preaching Christ to the Gentiles. Although Paul had done nothing to deserve his calling, by God’s grace (unmerited favor) God revealed Christ to Paul (Saul of Tarsus; on the road to Damascus; Acts chapter 9), so that Paul could fulfill God’s purpose for his life.

After Paul’s conversion he didn’t seek human teaching or human authorization. Instead Paul went into Arabia (the Nabataean kingdom, the capital of which was Petra, southeast of Israel, between southern Israel and the Red Sea), and returned to Damascus (capital of Syria, where Paul had been converted and had begun his ministry; Acts 9:19b-22).

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when one of the rulers of the synagogue, a man named Jairus, came to Jesus begging him to come and heal his dying daughter. Jesus went with Jairus, and the great crowd followed, thronging around him.

There was a woman in the crowd who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and who had consulted numerous physicians, spending all her money but only getting worse. (She would have been regarded as ritually unclean as would any she touched). She had heard about Jesus and she believed that if she would only touch his garment she would be healed, and so she touched Jesus’ robe and her hemorrhage ceased instantly.

Jesus knew immediately that healing power had gone forth from him, and he asked who had touched him. The disciples thought that obviously the crowd had just jostled against him. The woman who had been healed came fearfully and knelt before him, confessing all had happened. Jesus told her that her faith had healed her and said she could go her way in peace, healed.

While Jesus was saying this, Jairus’ servant came to tell Jairus that his daughter had died and that it was unnecessary to bother Jesus further, but Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid but to keep believing. Jesus allowed no one to accompany Jairus any further except for Peter, James and John.

At the house there was a large group of mourners weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus asked why they were mourning, because the girl was not dead but sleeping. They laughed at Jesus, but he put them outside, and Jesus, the child’s mother and father and the three disciples went in to where the child lay. Jesus took the child, a twelve year old girl, by the hand and told her to arise, and she immediately got up and walked. Those with Jesus were amazed, but Jesus told them not to tell anyone; he also told them to give the girl something to eat.

Commentary:

Salvation is not a matter of being born into the Church or of being a Church member. We aren’t saved by being the children of Christians, or by praying or affirming an oath by the name of the Lord.  Our prayers won’t be answered just because we add Jesus’ name to the end of the prayer (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home). Keeping Christian traditions doesn’t make us Christian: Setting up a crèche (Nativity Scene) under the Christmas tree or on the mantle or front lawn doesn’t make us Christians. Claiming to be Christian doesn’t make us one. What we do reveals what we truly believe. A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ who trusts and obeys Jesus (Matthew 7:21-24; Acts 11:26c).

The Gospel that Paul and the other Apostles preached is not the creation of humans. It was a revelation by God through Jesus Christ, and Paul’s experience (Acts 9:1-21) demonstrates that clearly. The Galatians were being misled by false teachers, were turning away from the Biblical Apostolic Gospel (as taught by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible) preached by Paul, and turning to a false gospel. Paul was committed to proclaiming the Gospel fully and accurately just as he had received it from the Lord, without being influenced by humans to make it more “popular” and acceptable to people. Paul did not seek human instruction, authorization or commendation for his ministry.

On the way to heal Jairus’ daughter, a woman in the crowd had faith in Jesus’ power to heal her, and she acted on that faith. As she acted on her faith she received healing. When Jesus asked who had touched him she was afraid, but she confessed all that had happened. Jesus told her that she had been healed by faith and could go in peace.

While this was taking place, Jairus’ servants came saying that his daughter had died, and there was no reason for Jesus to go further. Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid, but to keep believing. Jesus told the mourners that the girl was not dead and would arise. Jairus’ friends and relatives, the mourners, laughed at Jesus, but Jairus did keep believing in Jesus, and Jairus and the mourners found that what Jesus says is absolutely reliable.

What the Lord declares, has its fulfillment. There are lots of skeptics, lots of false teachers and false doctrines. Faith is not like “wishing on a star;” we don’t get whatever we want if we believe “hard enough.” It matters who and what we believe. Faith in anything other than Jesus and God’s Word will be betrayed. What does what we do reveal about our faith?

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

Tuesday 3 Epiphany – Odd 
To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/24/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 48:12-21 (22)   –   No peace for the wicked;
Galatians 1:18-2:10   –   Paul and the Church at Jerusalem;
Mark 6:1-13   –   Rejection at home; commissioning the disciples;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord is the first and the last, the creator of earth and heaven by the power of his Word. Assemble, Israel! God alone has declared his purpose (to give Babylon and the Chaldeans over to the power of Cyrus, King of Persia). The Lord has called Cyrus and will prosper him for this purpose. The Lord’s servant has been involved from the very beginning and has not spoken in secret. “And now the Lord God has sent me and his spirit” (Isaiah 48:16c).

The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, declares that he shows his people what is productive, and the way we should live. If God’s people kept God’s commands they would have peace like a river, and “righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18); their descendants as countless as the sands of the sea. “Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me” (Isaiah 48:19c).

God’s people will be released from their exile in Babylon by God’s redeeming act (through Cyrus), recalling Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God’s leading them through the wilderness and providing water in the desert from the rock. “‘There is no peace’, says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’”

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul (formerly “Saul”) had received the Gospel from God through Jesus Christ, not from humans (Galatians 1:1 & 11). After his encounter with the risen Jesus (Acts chapter 9), he immediately began to proclaim the Gospel, and it wasn’t until three years later that he first went to Jerusalem for fifteen days to visit Cephas (Aramaic for “Peter”), but saw none of the other apostles, except James, the brother of the Lord.

After the visit Paul went into Syria and Cilicia (in southeast Asia Minor; present-day Turkey. The capital, Tarsus, was Paul’s native city). The Churches in Judea had never seen Paul, but only knew him by reputation, as a former persecutor of Christians, then preaching the Gospel of Jesus, and they glorified God for Paul’s conversion.

After fourteen years Paul brought Barnabas and Titus with him to consult the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem about the Gospel to the Gentiles (over the issue of requiring Gentiles to keep Jewish Law, which Paul opposed; and the Council concurred with Paul; Acts 15:2). Titus was a Greek (a Gentile), but the Council did not require his circumcision. The controversy in the Church over this issue was stirred up by “false brethren” who wanted to restrict Christian freedom by imposing the bondage of the Law, but Paul strove to preserve the true Gospel for us.

Paul didn’t gain any new insight into the Gospel from the other Apostles, and Peter, James and John (Jesus’ inner circle; Matthew 17:1) recognized Paul as a fellow Apostle and Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles as equally valid as Peter’s ministry of the Gospel to the Jews, since the same Lord inspired and directed them both.  They only asked Paul to take an offering for the poor (persecuted Judean Christians; Acts 11:29-30).

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus went to his hometown (Nazareth; Luke 4:16, 23) and on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue. The people were amazed at his words and his miracles, and they took offence at Jesus because they knew Jesus’ father, mother, brothers and sisters, and couldn’t understand where Jesus had acquired his wisdom and power. Jesus replied that “a prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own kin and in his own house” (Mark 6:4).  Jesus was amazed at their unbelief, and he was unable to do many miracles there, with the exception of healing a few sick people.

Jesus began teaching among the villages, and he appointed the Twelve and gave them power to heal the sick and the demon-possessed. He sent them out in pairs, telling them to take nothing with them on their journey except a walking stick; no extra cloths; no food or money. He told them that when they entered a house they were to stay there until they left the village. If any place would not receive them and refused to listen they were to shake the dust from their feet as a testimony against those people. The disciples went as Jesus had told them, preaching for people to repent, and they cast out many demons and healed many who were sick.

Commentary:

God, the creator of the Universe, has had a purpose, from the beginning of Creation, to produce a redeemed people (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). I believe that the meaning and purpose of our lives in this world is to seek and find God; to come into fellowship with him (Acts 17:26-27).

If we would keep God’s commandments we would have peace with God and would have eternal life with him. But the problem is that we cannot keep God’s commandments; we are all sinners (Romans 3:23 1 John 1:8-10) and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). We need a Redeemer.  The only way we can get from where we are (as sinners) to where God is (the Holy One) is through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

God has been declaring his purpose of redemption from the very beginning in his Word; from the time of Mankind’s fall from fellowship with God through sin in the Garden (Genesis chapter 3). The history of God’s dealings with Israel provides repeated illustrations of God’s plan of Redemption; God delivered his people from bondage to sin and death in Egypt, bringing them through the Sea and the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The return of Judah from exile in Babylon repeats the illustration. Moses was God’s servant to deliver them from Egypt; Cyrus was God’s servant to deliver Israel from Babylon; Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Redeemer to lead his people from the “Egypt,” the “Babylon,” of this world into the eternal Promised Land, the kingdom of God in Heaven.

Paul (as Saul of Tarsus) was a persecutor of Christians who was converted in an encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-21). He came to realize his spiritual blindness, accepted Jesus as his Lord (and Redeemer), and he came into a personal relationship with the Lord through the indwelling Holy Spirit who guided and empowered Paul.

Paul was a changed person, and he spent the rest of his earthly life, was imprisoned, and probably died defending and preserving the true Biblical Apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ against “false brethren” who wanted to add to or take away from that Gospel. Paul had been a Jew and a Pharisee, and he loved his Jewish brethren and wanted them to receive redemption through Jesus.

Jesus was the Jewish Redeemer, but many of his Jewish brethren would not receive Paul’s message (Acts 13:45-46). Paul is the prototype, the model, of the “modern,” “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple (having aparently never known Jesus during Jesus’ lifetime, but led and empowered by the Holy Spirit).

Jesus was rejected by his own people in his own hometown, in his own synagogue, he was rejected in Jerusalem, and he was rejected by Judaism. Jesus was the Redeemer God promised to send to his people, but God’s people didn’t recognize and believe in him. Those who do recognize and believe in Jesus have the power to become God’s children (but they must claim and take hold of that promise; John 1:10-12). Those who did, followed him, became his disciples, were filled with his Holy Spirit, were empowered to preach and heal, and spent the rest of their lives doing what the Lord had commanded them to do.

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

Wednesday 3 Epiphany – Odd 
To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/25/05;

Podcast:
Wednesday 3 Epiphany – Odd

Isaiah 49:1-12   –   The Lord’s servant;
Galatians 2:11-21   –   Justification by faith;
Mark 6:13-29   –  John the Baptizer beheaded;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Listen, coastlands (nations surrounding the Mediterranean) and peoples from afar. God called his servant from the womb and named him before his birth (see Luke 1:31). God made his servant’s mouth like a sharp sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16). God protected him and made him like a sharp weapon.

Israel is to be God’s servant, in whom God will be glorified. The servant’s ministry seems unproductive, but he looks to God for his reward. The Lord created him to restore Jacob, so that Israel would be brought back to the Lord. The Lord has honored him and given him strength. The Lord declares that his servant is not just to restore Israel, but is to be a light to the nations, and his salvation is for all people on earth.

The Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, declares that though his servant is despised and abhorred by the nations and is the servant of rulers, the Lord is faithful and will cause the rulers of the nations to honor the Lord’s chosen servant. God has seen the need of his people and in the right time has answered and provided help in the day of salvation.

The Lord has preserved his servant and has given him as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, and to apportion the inheritance to those who are desolate. He calls prisoners and those in darkness to come forth. The Servant will feed, protect and lead them to springs of water, like a shepherd (Compare Psalm 23). His flock will come from afar, from north, west, and south (Syene; i.e., Aswan, on the southern border of Egypt).

Galatians Paraphrase:

When Peter visited the Church in Antioch Paul confronted him over the issue of requiring Gentile Christians to keep the Jewish Laws. The issue had officially been resolved by the Council of apostles and elders in Jerusalem, at which Peter had supported Paul’s position, citing his own vision ending Jewish dietary restrictions, (Acts 10:10-35; 15 6-11.) and yet Peter had allowed peer pressure from the circumcision party (Judaizers; the group who insisted on enforcing Jewish Law among Gentile Christians) to behave contrary to what Peter believed and declared.

Peter had eaten at first with the Gentiles, but when the Judaizers arrived, he withdrew, and his insincerity caused other Jewish Christians to also withdraw from table fellowship with the Gentile Christians. Paul rebuked Peter for deviating from the true Gospel.

Paul pointed out the hypocrisy of Jewish Christians living like Gentiles, but requiring Gentile Christians to live like Jews. Paul said, “We ourselves who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified (reckoned righteous) by works (keeping) of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified (Galatians 2:15-16).

If we sin while trusting in Christ for our salvation, it is not Christ who has caused us to sin. But if, after trusting in Christ, we continue to try to be righteous through keeping the law all we will accomplish will be to prove that we are sinners, and Christ will be of no benefit to us (see Galatians 5:2-4).

Mark Paraphrase:

King Herod had heard of Jesus, as word of Jesus’ miracles spread. Some said that Jesus was John the Baptizer who had risen from the dead. Others believed that Jesus was Elijah (who, according to scripture, was to return before the Messiah). Others thought he was a prophet like the prophets of old. Herod believed that he was John the Baptizer, whom Herod had beheaded, raised from the dead.

Herod had imprisoned John because John had rebuked Herod for marrying Herod’s brother’s wife, Herodias. She hated John and wanted to kill him, but Herod believed John was righteous and holy and although John’s message was troubling, Herod wanted to hear him.

But Herod gave a party on his birthday for the leading people of Galilee, and Herodias’ daughter danced to entertain the group. Herod was delighted and promised in front of his guests to give her whatever she wanted, even half of his kingdom. The daughter asked her mother for help in deciding what to ask for, and her mother told her to ask for John’s head on a platter. The daughter did so and Herod was forced to behead John because of his public promise. The daughter gave the head to her mother, and John’s disciples claimed the body and buried it.

Commentary:

Isaiah’s prophecy originally applied to Israel as the Lord’s servant, but it also clearly refers to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who is the Savior of the World. It also applies to Jesus’ disciples and his Church. The Lord’s servant will be despised and abhorred by the nations. Christians are not going to be popular among worldly people. The disciples’ ministry to proclaim the Gospel of salvation may often seem futile and unproductive, but we are to remember that the Lord is faithful, and trust in him for our reward.

There is a lot of pressure in the secular world for Christians to conform to the world’s standards. Christians need to decide to be guided by the God’s Word and his Spirit, rather than yielding to worldly peer pressure. God sent Jesus into the world to seek and save the lost, and Jesus has commissioned his followers to carry on his mission of salvation.

Peer pressure is a hazard to discipleship. It can also be an obstacle within the Church. Christians should read the Bible for ourselves, and spend time daily in prayer and the scriptures seeking God’s direction for our lives. We should be more concerned with serving the Lord than with pleasing our peers.

Peter was guilty of acting one way among certain people, and acting differently with others, rather than following his convictions. Peter’s inconsistency, as a leader in the Church, had a harmful effect on others. Our justification is by faith in Jesus, not by “good works” (Ephesians 2:8-10), but it is important to live and act in a manner that is consistent with what we believe.

Peer pressure was Herod’s undoing. Herod wanted to hear John’s message even though the message troubled him and made him uncomfortable. He was open to receiving the Gospel. But at a party he wanted to impress his step-daughter and his guests and he made an unwise public promise. From then on he was locked into doing something he really didn’t want to do, because he didn’t want to lose face in front of his friends and supporters.

He killed John, who might have led Herod to repentance and prepared him to receive Jesus. Then, when Herod heard of Jesus, he was “haunted” by his unjust murder of John, a righteous and holy man, and was unable to realize who Jesus was, and come to receive forgiveness and salvation through 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)?


Thursday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/26/05;

Podcast: Thursday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 49:13-23 (24-26)  –   Zion rebuilt and restored;
Galatians 3:1-14  –    Faith, not works;
Mark 6:30-46   –   Feeding the five thousand;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. Zion (Jerusalem; God’s people; the Church) feels that the Lord has forgotten her, but the Lord can no more forget her than a mother can forget her suckling children. Even the mother might forget but the Lord won’t.  The Lord is so constantly aware of her that it is as if she were tattooed on his hand.

The Lord will prosper Zion’s builders and thwart those who would tear her down. Her people will gather to her, adorning her like a bride with jewelry. Her once destroyed and desolate land will be filled to capacity with children born in the time of her exile, in her bereavement and barrenness.

The Lord will signal the beginning of Israel’s restoration, and her sons and daughters shall return. Her oppressors shall be her servants “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” Isaiah 49:23c, d, RSV). The Lord will rescue the captives from the mightiest of tyrants; The Lord will contend with those who contend with his people, and will save Zion’s children. The oppressors of God’s people will consume one another, and all people on earth will acknowledge Israel’s God.

Galatians Paraphrase:

False teachers (Judaizers) had been telling the Galatian Christians that they must keep Jewish Laws. Paul wrote this letter to correct that false teaching. Paul asked them to consider their own experience: They had received the Holy Spirit by faith, not by keeping the Law. If they had begun their new life in the Spirit, did they now want to return to life in the flesh?

Abraham is the example and spiritual patriarch of all who have faith, because Abraham believed God, and was reckoned as righteous in God’s eyes (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:16 RSV). God planned from the beginning to justify the Gentiles by faith, and he told Abraham that in Abraham the nations would be blessed. Those who rely on keeping the law for their righteousness are under a curse (Deuteronomy 27:26): In order to be righteous according to the Law, one must keep and do everything in the Law (which is humanly impossible).

God’s Word says that those who have righteousness by faith shall live (Habakkuk 2:4b). The Law is not based on faith but on works (keeping; Leviticus 18:5). We have been freed from the curse of the Law by Jesus, who took the curse upon himself on the cross (Deuteronomy 21:23), so that the blessing of Abraham could be received by the Gentiles, “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14b).

Mark Paraphrase:

The disciples had returned from a missionary assignment, and after reporting to Jesus what they had done, Jesus invited them to come away to a secluded place to rest awhile, because the throngs of people coming to Jesus offered no free time even to eat. Jesus and the disciples departed by boat across the Sea of Galilee to a secluded place, but the crowds saw them go, and guessing where they were headed, went there on foot and were waiting for Jesus when he and the disciples arrived.

Jesus “had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34), so Jesus began to teach them. It grew late, and the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowds to the surrounding villages to eat, but Jesus told the disciples to feed the people. The disciples asked Jesus if he wanted them to go and buy enough food to feed the crowd, estimating that it would cost around two hundred days’ wages just to buy enough bread.  Jesus asked his disciples what food they had with them, and they said they had five loaves and two fish.

Jesus had the people sit down on the grass, and Jesus took the food, blessed and broke the loaves and fish, and gave them to the disciples to distribute. They all ate their fill, and there were twelve baskets full of leftovers, after feeding around five thousand people. Jesus made his disciples depart in the boat without him, while he dismissed the crowds, and then Jesus went into the hills to pray.

Commentary:

The Lord loves us all, not just some of us. In one sense we are all his people, because he is our creator. The Lord wants us to trust and obey him because his will is in our best interest. His people are those who choose to be; who acknowledge him and trust and obey him.

The Lord is building an eternal kingdom and that kingdom is the Church. He will prosper those who build it up, and will thwart those who oppose it. Jesus is the signal of the restoration of God’s people. The Lord has compassion on us. He doesn’t want us to die eternally for our disobedience. He wants to give us eternal life in the New Jerusalem in Heaven. Those who oppose God’s kingdom will be destroyed.

God has compassion on us. He doesn’t require us to do the impossible. He sent Jesus Christ to give his life as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1: 8-10). Salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-10); all we have to do is received it (John 1:12; Revelation 3:20).

God wants to give us his Spirit to cleanse, comfort, help and guide us. The Spirit does not enslave us but frees us from the curse of the law (Romans 8:15). If we believe in Jesus we will trust and obey what he says.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Good works won’t save us, but our works will reveal our faith.

False teachers were already working to tear down the Church in Paul’s time, with the false doctrine of justification by “good works,” There were other false teachers teaching the false doctrine of salvation by “cheap grace;*  grace without discipleship; grace without obedience (James 2:18-23). Both those false doctrines are still circulating in the Church today (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus had compassion for people. He gave respite to his disciples when they returned from ministry. He took them away so that they could eat, and he accomplished that while also having compassion on the crowd who had followed them. Jesus provided them with spiritual as well as physical nurture.

He has compassion for us because we are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us (John 10:11), who gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and sustain us to eternal life.

The Lord gives his Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the (Holy) Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b). It is possible for one to know with certainty whether he has received the indwelling Holy Spirit or not (Acts 19:2).

Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you” (Luke 6:46; compare Matthew 7:21-24). The feeding of the five thousand is an illustration of how the Lord, by his Spirit, enables his disciples to do what he tells them.

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



Friday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/27/05;

Podcast: Friday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

Isaiah 50:1-11    –   The Lord’s obedient Servant;
Galatians 3:15-22   –   The true purpose of the Law of Moses;
Mark 6:47-56  –    Jesus walks on water;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord has not divorced or sold Israel into slavery, but the Lord has punished his people for their unfaithfulness and disobedience. The people had not heeded God’s call through his prophets, and they did not recognize and acknowledge God’s power. God has the power to redeem and deliver; he also has the power to afflict and punish.

The Lord’s servant has been given divine wisdom so that his words can sustain the weary (God’s people). The Lord has opened the ear of his servant (to hear God’s voice) and the servant was not rebellious nor did he turn away, but endured abuse and shame for his obedience to God’s will. The servant is confident of the Lord’s help and his ultimate vindication, and is thus determined to persevere.

Since God is with him to help him, who will be able to contend with the Servant; who can oppose him or accuse him? His enemies “will wear out like a garment; a moth will eat them up” (Isaiah 50:9b). “ Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness (this present world) and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God” (Isaiah 50:10)? Those who walk through darkness by their own lights will be condemned by the Lord to eternal torment (Isaiah 50:11).

Galatians Paraphrase:

Paul used an example from common legal practice to illustrate the precedence of faith over works for justification (judgment of righteousness). Just as one cannot alter a person’s legal will or contract, after it has been ratified, God’s promise of inheritance to the descendants of Abraham had been made with Abraham by Abraham’s faith in God’s promise. The Law which was given more than four hundred years later does not annul the covenant previously made by God. If God’s promise was by (keeping the) Law, then it wouldn’t be a promise (it would be wages due, or entitlement).

Paul also shows that God’s promise is fulfilled through only one descendant of Abraham: Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). The purpose of the Law was to reveal God’s will so that we would be conscious of our sinfulness, and it was to be our “governess” (“nanny”) to keep us out of “trouble” until the coming of Christ, through whom the promise would be fulfilled. The Law is not in contrary to God’s promises, but the Law cannot make us righteous. “But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22).

Mark Paraphrase:

It was evening, and Jesus had fed the five thousand, and then had sent his disciples off in the boat, while he dismissed the crowd and spent time in prayer (see entry for yesterday, Thursday, 3 Epiphany, odd year). When Jesus had finished, he saw that the boat with the disciples was on the Sea of Galilee, not making much progress because the disciples were rowing against the wind.

Just before dawn, Jesus came to them, walking on the Sea. Jesus intended to pass by them, but they saw him and cried out in terror, because they thought he was a ghost. Jesus immediately spoke to them, identifying himself and calming their fears. When Jesus got into the boat the wind ceased, and the disciples were completely astounded, because they had not understood what had occurred at the feeding of the crowd.

The boat landed at Gennesaret (on the western shore of the Sea, southwest of Capernaum) and when they got out of the boat the people recognized Jesus and immediately ran to bring the sick to him. Whenever Jesus came, the people brought the sick to him, begging to touch the hem of his robe, and those who touched it were healed.

Commentary:

Although Israel was in exile in Babylon, God had not abandoned his people. God was disciplining his unfaithful and disobedient children. What parent allows his small child to willfully and repeatedly disobey him? God has the power to redeem and save, but he also has the power to condemn and punish.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God’s obedient servant. Jesus was obedient to God’s will all the way to his crucifixion. He did not turn away from it (Matthew 26:39). He endured physical abuse at the hands of his people (Matthew 26:67; compare Isaiah 50:6).

Jesus is also our example of how we are to be the Lord’s obedient servants. The Lord will give his disciples “the tongue of those who are taught;” He will open our ears to hear God’s voice (Isaiah 50:4-5), through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Disciples can expect mistreatment for the Gospel, but the Lord will deal with those who oppose us and will vindicate us (Isaiah 50:7-9).

Jesus is the light of the world; those who follow him will not walk in darkness (John 8:12). Those who trust and obey the voice of God’s obedient Servant, Jesus Christ, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, will have eternal life in Heaven. Those who try to walk through the spiritual darkness of this world by their own light will be condemned to eternal torment and death in Hell (Isaiah 50:11 RSV).

God gave his Law, the Ten Commandments, to Moses, to be a guardian, a custodian, for his people until the coming of Jesus, through whom God’s promise to Abraham (of an inheritance of eternal life in the Promised Land of God’s kingdom in Heaven) would be received by faith in Jesus. The Law was given so that we could be aware of our sinfulness.

All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death in Hell (Romans 6:23). There is no forgiveness of our sins apart from faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for his disciples to receive his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit is the new Guardian and Counselor who replaces the role of the Law. If we are obedient to the Holy Spirit we are no longer under the condemnation of the Law (see Romans 8:1-11).

If the disciples had fully understood what had taken place at the feeding of the five thousand, they would not have been amazed to see Jesus walking on the water. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of the obedient Servant. He has all the power of God, to save, and to condemn (Isaiah 50:10-11; Colossians 2:8-9). He can provide for our needs, he cares for us and can comfort and reassure us, he can calm the storm around us, and he can prosper our journey through life and deliver us safely to the eternal shore. He can heal us and give us 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)?

Saturday 3 Epiphany – Odd 

To be used only if there is a 4 Epiphany Sunday – Otherwise skip to 8 Epiphany.
First posted 01/28/05;

Podcast: Saturday 3 Epiphany – Odd

Isaiah 51:1-8   –    Deliverance draws near;
Galatians 3:23-29    –   One in Christ;
Mark 7:1-23   –  Tradition of the elders;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Listen, those who desire deliverance, those seeking the Lord. Look to the history of God’s dealing with Israel. Look to examples of faith like Abraham and Sarah, and see how the Lord has fulfilled his promises. The Lord will comfort Zion (God’s people; the Church). Zion’s wilderness shall become like Eden (paradise; the garden of the Lord; creation will be restored to its original perfection). She will be filled with joy, gladness, and thanksgiving. The Lord’s law and justice will be a light for all peoples.

God’s salvation has gone forth and his deliverance draws near. God will reign over all the peoples. Wait and hope for his deliverance. Watch and see: “The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell on it will die in like manner” (Isaiah 51:6d RSV, note “o”) but the salvation of the Lord is for ever and his deliverance is eternal. Those who know righteousness and uphold God’s law need not fear the reproach of humans who will pass away like a garment consumed by moths or worms. But the Lord’s deliverance and salvation are for eternity.

Galatians Paraphrase:

God’s law, given to Moses, was intended to be our guardian to restrain us until the coming of the Messiah (Christ), when we could be justified (reckoned righteous) through faith in Christ. Now that faith has come we are no longer under the guardian, because in Christ Jesus we’re (adopted) children of God. Those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (like a robe of righteousness). We are no longer to be divided and categorized by race, nationality, sex or social category, but are united in Christ Jesus (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). If we are in Christ, we are spiritual descendants of Abraham, and heirs to God’s promise.

Pharisees (the predominant, legalistic sect of Judaism) and scribes (teachers of Jewish Law) had come from Jerusalem to Galilee and were observing Jesus. They noticed that some of Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating, which is a violation of Jewish legal tradition, and they questioned Jesus about this. Jesus replied that these legalists were hypocrites who thus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, honoring God with their lips, but not with their hearts. Their worship is in vain; they teach human tradition as religious doctrine (Isaiah 29:13 RSV).

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that they abandoned obedience to God’s Word and, instead, enforced human traditions. As one example, Jesus cited the tradition by which Jews could avoid providing support for their (elderly) parents, by claiming that they had given it to God instead, thus violating the Fourth Commandment, which requires us to honor our fathers and mothers. Jesus told the crowd that it is not the external things which enter a person which make him spiritually unclean (unrighteous), but rather the things which come from within the person that defile him. Jesus declared that all foods are spiritually acceptable.

When they were alone, his disciples asked Jesus what he had meant by this parable, and Jesus told them that foods don’t make a person unclean, since they do not affect his heart (moral or spiritual character). It is the things which come out from one’s spiritual character that make him unclean. Evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride foolishness, are examples of such spiritually defiling things.

Commentary:

Christianity is not just a “New Testament” faith. The whole Bible is the Word of God. God’s Word has been given as a spiritual light for all people in the spiritual darkness of this world. Jesus is the fulfillment and the personification of God’s Word, God’s light, and God’s justice in this world (John 1:1-5, 14; 8:12; compare Isaiah 51:4b). Jesus is God’s anointed Savior and King.

Jesus has promised to return to judge the earth. Those who recognize God’s righteousness in God’s Word and in Jesus Christ, and trust and obey, will be delivered from God’s condemnation, and will receive eternal life in the new creation; in the new Eden.

Those who have been baptized into Christ, by water and by the infilling of the Holy Spirit are in Christ and are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. Those who are truly disciples of Jesus, who are trusting and obeying Jesus will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who seals us and bears witness that we are the adopted children of God (Romans 8:15-16). It is those who are filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit who are no longer under God’s Law and condemnation (Romans 8:1-11; see also God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home).

A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ who trusts and obeys Jesus. Attending Church on Sunday doesn’t make one a Christian. Are we honoring God with our hearts, or are we merely following human traditions? Keeping the Old Testament laws doesn’t make us Christians either. A Christian is one who has a personal relationship with the risen Jesus Christ through Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b). There are lots of human traditions being taught as religious doctrines in churches today. Those who desire deliverance, those seeking the Lord (Isaiah 51:1) and all who call themselves Christians need to read the Bible fully, from cover-to-cover, and regularly on a daily basis, prayerfully seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and they need to begin applying God’s Word in their daily lives.

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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