Week of 6 Pentecost – Odd – 07/05 – 11/2015

July 4, 2015

Week of 6 Pentecost – Odd

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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 6 Pentecost – Odd 

Sunday 6 Pentecost – Odd 

First Posted 06/25/05;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 4:12-22   –   The Death of Eli;
James 1:1-18   –    Trials are Blessings;
Matthew 19:23-30    –   Entering God’s Kingdom;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

There had been a battle of the Philistines against Israel. A man of the tribe of Benjamin escaped the slaughter of Israel by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:10-11) and came to Shiloh (where the temple was then located). He had torn his clothes and put dirt upon his head as a sign of mourning. Eli was sitting by the road in his customary place (by the temple door), worried about the Ark of God, which had been taken into battle by his sons, Phinehas and Hophni, who were (corrupt) priests. Eli was ninety-eight years old and had become blind.

When the man entered the city and told the news the people gave a loud cry, which Eli heard, and he asked the reason for the outcry. The Benjaminite came and told Eli that he had fled from the battle. The Philistines had defeated the Israelites, and a great many Israelites were slaughtered, including Eli’s two sons, and the Ark of the Covenant had been captured. When Eli heard the news he fell over backward from his seat, broke his neck and died. Eli had been a judge of Israel for forty years.

Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and nearly ready to give birth. When she heard the news that her husband and her father-in-law were dead, she went into labor and died in childbirth. The women who attended the birth told her she had given birth to a son, but she was unresponsive. She had named the child Ichabod (meaning “no glory” or alas for the glory), saying that “the glory (of God) has departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:21-22 because of the deaths of her husband and father-in-law and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant to the Philistines).

James Paraphrase:

The identity of James is unknown, but he was a Christian writing to Christians as spiritual heirs of Israel scattered (by persecution; Acts 8:1b) throughout the world. James urged fellow Christians to consider trials as blessings because testing causes faith to mature in steadfastness, and that we should cooperate with that process so that we will grow to complete spiritual maturity.

Believers should pray for and seek true wisdom from God, who gives generously and without reproach to those who ask. But in order to receive anything from God we must pray in faith without doubting; we must believe that God will hear and answer our prayer. Those who pray as a test to see if God will answer won’t receive anything from the Lord. Poor and humble Christians should rejoice and give thanks to God for their spiritual riches, and the rich should gladly learn humility (and generosity). Worldly status is fleeting and insignificant in comparison to eternal glory.

Those who endure trials without yielding will be blessed and will receive the reward of eternal life which the Lord has promised to those who love (and obey) him (John 14:15-17). God doesn’t tempt anyone and he cannot be tempted by evil. When we are tempted it is by our own sinful desires. Desire allowed to “germinate” sprouts forth as sin, and when allowed to grow to maturity yields a harvest of eternal death.

Let us not be deceived. The source of every good blessing and gift is God, the creator of the universe. He is eternal and unchanging. We have been created by his will, and out of his creation we have become a kind of “first-fruits” offering devoted to him through the “word of truth” (the Gospel of Jesus Christ).

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is comparable to the impossibility of a camel going through the eye of a needle. His disciples were amazed and asked Jesus how anyone could hope to be saved. Jesus replied that it is impossible for humans, but not for God; nothing is impossible for God.

Peter said that he and the rest of the Twelve (original disciples) had left everything to follow Jesus, and he wanted to know what they would receive. Jesus told him that in the new world (God’s eternal kingdom) Jesus would reign as king, and that the Twelve would be Judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Those who have given up houses, land, family or friends to follow Jesus will receive back many times what they have sacrificed, and will (also) receive eternal life. “But many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).

Commentary:

Eli had been a high priest and judge of Israel, but under his leadership he had allowed his sons to corrupt the priesthood. They had been sexually immoral, and had used the priesthood for their own benefit and to exercise power over other people. The Lord judged Eli and his sons, and prophesied through Samuel that Eli’s household would be cut off from the priesthood and destroyed (1 Samuel 2:31-34). This is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Phinehas and Hophni died on the same day (1 Samuel 4:11; compare 1:Samuel 2:34).

The Lord said that the one who would survive would be spared to mourn. Ichabod, the grandson of Eli, was the survivor, orphaned on the day of his birth. (In a sense, the Benjaminite who survived the battle and gave Eli the news also qualifies.) The Lord allowed the Philistines to slaughter the Israelites and capture the Ark because they did not honor and obey the Lord, and they thought they could manipulate God’s favor by carrying the Ark into battle. The Ark, symbolizing the Spirit of God, left the congregation of Israel because of the corruption of the priesthood and the sinfulness of the congregation.

The Church is the spiritual heir of Israel, and represents the New Twelve Tribes in dispersion. Church membership is not a good luck charm against tribulation, or a propitiation of God to do our will. The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who will trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). Discipleship calls for self-discipline and endurance. The purpose is to grow to spiritual maturity through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Believers should be praying for and seeking divine wisdom which is revealed through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, who opens the minds of Jesus’ disciples to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45) and gives them a voice and wisdom, as needed, that no one will be able to withstand or refute (Luke 21:14-15).

Worldly wisdom is not true wisdom; it only appears to be wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-7). Has the Spirit of the Lord (the Holy Spirit) departed from our congregations and our nation because of spiritual corruption of our leaders and disobedience and contempt for the Lord and his Word among our people? Do we think we can invoke God’s favor and be victorious over our enemies by religious rituals or token symbols?

Worldly standards of judgment are contrary to God’s standards. Worldly judgment and status are fleeting but God’s judgment is eternal. Christians are to be an offering dedicated to God and his service. We are to live to please God, instead of seeking worldly recognition and approval. God is the only source of any and every good thing, through Jesus Christ. Seeking good anywhere else is bound to fail. Anything which seems good is not to be trusted, if it leads us away from the Lord and his Word.

Faith is not like wishing on a star or making a birthday wish. Faith is not getting whatever we believe if we “believe hard enough.” Faith is obedient trust in God’s Word through Jesus Christ by his indwelling Holy Spirit. If we want the Lord to answer our prayers we must believe that he hears and has the power and willingness to answer, if we ask according to his Word (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

Forgiveness and salvation from eternal condemnation and destruction are only possible through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) by the grace (free gift; unmerited favor) of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus has been God’s eternal plan from the beginning of Creation, and has been “built into” Creation (John 1:1-5, 14). God accomplishes through Jesus Christ what is impossible for mankind to accomplish on his own. It is impossible for humans to completely obey God’s Word apart from faith in Jesus, through whom we receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-11; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Christians will have to surrender our desires in order to follow and serve the Lord, but the rewards now and eternally will make that sacrifice worthwhile.

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

Monday 6 Pentecost – Odd

First  Posted 06/26/05;
Podcast: Monday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 5:1-12    –   Ark Captured by Philistines;
Acts 5:12-26    –     Apostles Arrested;
Luke 21:29-36   –   Parable of the Fig Tree;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

God allowed the Philistines to attack the Israelites and capture the Ark of the Covenant because of the corruption of the priests, Phinehas and Hophni, the sons of Eli (1 Samuel 3:10-14) Samuel, raised from a small child by Eli was completely different; Samuel was a faithful and accurate prophet of God. Eli accepted the Word of the Lord.

The Philistines carried the Ark of the Covenant to Ashdod, where they brought it into the Temple of Dagon and set beside the idol. The next day they found that their idol had fallen on its face. They put the idol of Dagon back in its place, and the next morning they found that Dagon had again fallen on his face, and that his hands and head had been broken from the trunk of his body. As a result the superstitious Philistines became afraid to step on the threshold of Dagon (similar to the superstition of stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, or the carrying of the bride over the threshold.)

When the Ark was in Ashdod, the Lord afflicted the people of the city with tumors, and the people of Ashdod rebelled and refused to allow the Ark to remain. So the leaders of the Philistines had the Ark sent to Gath. Then the people of Gath began to get tumors, and demanded the removal of the Ark. The Philistine leaders sent the Ark to Ekron, and the Ekron began to suffer the tumors and demanded the removal of the Ark. They demanded that the leaders of the Philistines return the Ark to Israel. All the Philistines were deathly afraid of the Ark and the power of God, and the ones “who did not die were stricken with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to God” (1 Samuel 5:12).

Acts Paraphrase:

Solomon’s Portico was a covered porch on the east side of the temple where people gathered to discuss spiritual matters. It had been used by Jesus to teach and heal and it was used by his apostles (the original disciples) for the same purpose, although the others of the wider group of Christians were afraid to join them.

The disciples were highly regarded by the people. More multitudes of people were becoming believers. So many people were seeking healing that they brought the sick and laid them on mats along the streets hoping that, as Peter passed, his shadow might fall on some of them. Those in need of healing were being brought to Jerusalem from all the surrounding towns, and all the physically, mentally and spiritually sick were healed.

The religious authorities were filled with jealousy at the popularity and success of the disciples, so they had them arrested for a second time (for first time, see Acts 4:3) and imprisoned. But during the night an angel of the Lord released the disciples and brought them out of the jail, telling them to return to the temple and to continue proclaiming all the words of (true, eternal) life (the full gospel of Jesus). At daybreak the disciples did as the angel had told them.

That morning the high priest and the council of elders (the Sanhedrin; the official Jewish Court of religious leaders) assembled. They sent a temple guards to bring the disciples before the council, but the disciples were not in the prison, although everything had been securely locked. The members of the council were very troubled by this news, and worried about what might develop. Then someone reported that the disciples had been found teaching the people in the temple. The temple officers went and brought them to the council, but without violence because they were afraid of the people.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had been answering a question about signs of the coming of the end of the age. Then he told this parable of the fig tree. When a fruit tree begins to produce leaves in the spring one knows that summer is coming soon. Likewise, when we observe the changes in the heavens and in nature on earth (which Jesus had just described) we will know that the coming of God’s eternal kingdom is at hand. That generation will not pass away until all God’s Word has been fulfilled. Jesus declared that heaven and earth (the physical universe) will pass away, but Jesus’ words are eternally true.

Jesus warned us to be careful not to become so involved in the cares and pleasures of this life that we are caught surprised and unprepared for the Day of Judgment, because everyone who has ever lived will be held accountable to the Lord for what they have done in this life (John 5:28-29). Jesus advises us to be watchful and prayerful at all times so that we can escape the condemnation which is coming upon the world, and be vindicated at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary:

God is God whether we acknowledge him or not. He’s in charge; nothing happens except by his will. God allows sin because he designed us to have free choice to obey him or not; sin is disobedience of God’s Word. God’s purpose has always been to ultimately create an eternal kingdom of people who will trust and obey the Lord.

We have all been created with eternal souls, and this life is a selection process for eternity. Each of us will learn to trust and obey the Lord and receive eternal life in his heavenly kingdom through Jesus Christ, or we will reject Jesus and refuse to obey him and spend eternity in the absence of God and of every good thing (because the Lord is only the source of every good thing; James 1:17).

God allowed the Philistines to defeat Israel because of the corruption and disobedience of the priesthood and of Israel, the congregation and nation of God’s people. This ought to be a warning to the Church and to America today; both are in a similar condition. Israel thought they could manipulate God’s favor; they thought they could have God’s power and salvation on their side without obedient trust, by carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, into battle. The Philistines thought that by capture and possession of the Ark they could appropriate God’s power for themselves. God is the only true, all-powerful God. He can’t be put in a box and carried about. He isn’t a genie in a bottle who can be summoned to do our will.

The Jewish religious leaders at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry were as corrupt as Eli’s sons had been. They were using their office for personal benefit and personal power over others, and did not honor and respect God. They failed to understand the scripture they claimed authority in, and failed to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah and eternal king.

They were the religious “establishment.” They thought they could suppress the parts of God’s Word that didn’t serve their interests. They were jealous of the spiritual power and wisdom of the “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciples. They were trying to earn their own salvation by keeping the Law of Moses; by doing “good works,” relying on their own strength instead of relying on God. They were more concerned with their popularity among the people than they were in serving and pleasing the Lord.

The disciples are examples of what all Christians should be. They knew, understood, and proclaimed the scripture through the enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24: 45; Luke 21:14-15). They were guided by and obedient to the Holy Spirit rather than by worldly standards or authorities. They proclaimed the full gospel, not just the parts that people want to hear.

Jesus warned that no one can avoid God’s judgment; whether we are living or have died physically at the day of Christ’s return we will each be accountable to the Lord for what we have done in this physical life. We cannot manipulate the Lord, we cannot suppress the Lord. We can ignore and disobey God’s Word, but we cannot escape the consequences of God’s Word.

We will either trust and obey God’s Word and receive the fulfillment of the promises of God’s Word, or we will reject God’s Word, refuse to obey God’s Word and receive the condemnation of God’s Word. Jesus is the fulfillment and embodiment of God’s Word (John 1:1, 5-8, 14). Every promise and every warning in God’s Word, the Bible, will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ at his triumphant return on the Day of Judgment.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 6 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/27/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 6:1-16   –     Return of the Ark;
Acts 5:27-42    –   Apostles Before the Council;
Luke 21:37-22:13   –    Judas Plans Betrayal;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

The Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines, and was in their land for seven months. It was moved around to several locations, but in each place it caused plague and trouble, so the Philistines asked their spiritual advisors what to do. The advisors told them to return Ark, accompanied by a guilt offering.

There were five Philistine lords, so the diviners told them to make five golden tumors (images of the symtoms of the plague) and five golden mice (plague is spread by fleas on mice), one of each for each lord, and send them along with the Ark, in hope of appeasing the God of Israel, who was afflicting the land of the Philistines. The spiritual counselors advised them not to be stubborn like the Egyptians, who had been ravaged by a series of plagues, but ultimately had to give in and let the Israelites go.

The Philistine priests advised the rulers to make a new cart and to use two milk cows, which had never been yoked, to pull it. The rulers were to keep the calves of the milk cows at their home. Then if the cows took the Ark to Beth-shemesh, the nearest Israelite city (rather than turning back to their home where their calves were) the Philistines would know that it was the hand of the God of Israel who was afflicting them, rather than simply misfortune. The rulers did as they were advised, and the cows went straight down the highway to Beth-shemesh.

The Israelites were reaping the wheat harvest when they saw the cart coming with the Ark, and they rejoiced. Levites removed the Ark and the gold from the cart, broke up the cart for wood and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering.

Acts Paraphrase:

The Apostles had been arrested for preaching the gospel and healing in the temple in Jerusalem, and were brought before the Jewish high court (the Sanhedrin). The court had previously forbidden the Apostles from preaching the name of Jesus (Acts 4:1-22), but they had continued to do so, and were bringing blame for Jesus’ crucifixion upon the Jewish leaders. Again, the Apostles gave the leaders the same answer as previously; the Apostles had to obey God’s will rather than worldly leaders.

Peter told them that the Jewish leaders had crucified Jesus, God’s anointed King and Savior, whom God had raised (from death) to the right hand (power and authority) of God in heaven. Jesus is God’s (only) provision for repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 4:12; John 14:6), and the Apostles were witnesses to these things (which constitute the Gospel of Jesus Christ), “and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). The council was enraged by these words and wanted to kill the Apostles then and there.

But Gamaliel, a famous and respected teacher of Jewish law, had the Apostles taken outside of the council chamber to wait, and Gamaliel told the council members to be careful about how they dealt with the Apostles. He cited another occasion when Theudas gained public notice, claiming falsely to be the Messiah. In that case he attracted a following of about four hundred people, but he was killed, and his followers dispersed and his movement came to nothing. A similar thing happened with Judas the Galilean. Gamaliel advised the council that if Jesus was a false messiah his movement would dissipate as well, but that if Jesus was truly the Messiah by God’s will, the council would be unable to prevent Jesus’ mission, and would be in danger of opposing God.

The council heeded Gamaliel’s advice. They brought the Apostles back into the council room, had them beaten, ordered them again not to preach in Jesus’ name, and released them. The Apostles left the council, rejoicing that they had been found worthy of dishonor for Jesus’ name’s sake, and they continued daily teaching and preaching, at the temple and in the community,  that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).

Luke Paraphrase:

During the week preceding his crucifixion, Jesus taught and preached daily in the temple, but he stayed overnight on the Mount of Olives (in Bethany; Matthew 21:17).  The Passover holiday was near (when a lot of people would be in Jerusalem for the celebration), and the priests wanted to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people (because of Jesus’ popularity among them). Judas, one of Jesus’ Twelve original Apostles, yielded to Satan’s temptation, and went to the Jewish religious authorities and offered to betray Jesus to them when no crowds were present.

On the day of Passover, when the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Jesus told Peter and John to prepare for Jesus and his disciples to celebrate the Passover. They asked him where he wanted them to prepare, and Jesus told them that when they entered the city, they would see a man carrying a jar of water, and they were to follow the man to his residence. They were to say that the Teacher had sent them, asking him to show them the guest room where Jesus was to eat the Passover feast with his disciples, and the man would show them a large, furnished, upper room. The disciples did as Jesus had said and found it exactly as he had told them, and they prepared for the feast.

Commentary:

There are many signs around us that reveal God’s hand in the affairs of this world if we aren’t too spiritually blind to see; too preoccupied with our own worldly pursuits; too stubborn to learn from God’s Word. The Egyptians had repeated opportunities to learn from God’s Word during the ten plagues (Exodus 7:8-11:10). Nine times they refused to obey God’s Word, proclaimed through Moses, to let God’s people leave. The Passover was instituted by God through Moses, to spare the Israelites from the final plague. After the final plague of death of the first-born, the Egyptians did agree to let the Israelites go, but then they pursued them to bring them back, and were destroyed in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-29).

The Philistines were smarter than the Egyptians. It didn’t take them ten plagues to learn that God’s will is going to be done, whether we cooperate with it or not. Their spiritual advisors were better than the Egyptian’s spiritual advisors. The Philistine advisors told their rulers that when they perceived what they thought was God’s will, they should try doing it, and the results would indicate whether it was God’s will or not. (But note that God’s will is never contrary to the Bible, and will never lead us to harm ourselves or others.)

The Apostles had witnessed the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had experienced that what Jesus says is true and will be fulfilled. Jesus had told them beforehand that he would be crucified and would rise on the third day (Luke 9:22, 44-45; 17:25; 18:31-34). They were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus had promised that he would give the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to his disciples who trusted and obeyed him, and they had personally experienced the fulfillment of that promise (Acts 2:1-21).

The disciples of Jesus had learned that when the world says one thing and God’s Word says another, they would always trust and obey God’s Word, and gladly suffer the consequences, knowing that the Lord is able and faithful to deliver them from anything they might suffer for the gospel, just as Jesus had been delivered from persecution and physical death.

The Jewish religious leaders had God’s Word, they were expecting God’s Messiah (anointed King and Savior), but they were so focused on their worldly pursuit of wealth, power and status that they refused to accept Jesus’ rebuke and correction, and were unable to recognize that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s will. Their spiritual adviser, Gamaliel, gave them good advise in dealing with the Apostles of Jesus Christ, not to be so blinded by their own worldly ambition that they find themselves opposing God’s will, because God’s will will be done, whether we cooperate with it or not.

As Jesus prepared to enter Jerusalem the week preceding his crucifixion, he told his disciples to fetch a donkey from a nearby village. The disciples trusted and obeyed Jesus’ instructions and found them exactly as Jesus had promised (Luke 19:28-40).

Jesus knew that the religious authorities were going to have him crucified, but he went into the temple daily to preach his gospel anyway. On the Day of Passover, he gave his disciples instruction where to prepare for the feast, and they found it exactly as he said (Luke 22:7-13). One of the Twelve, Judas Iscariot, chose to cooperate with worldly rulers rather than following Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus needed to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins because we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus became the ultimate sacrificial Passover Lamb, and his Last Supper with his disciples became “Holy Communion” (Eucharist, the “Lord’s Supper”), the central act of worship in which his disciples enter into personal spiritual communion with the Lord through his Holy Spirit, having been spared from the final plague of eternal death as the result of God’s judgment on sin.

In Communion we commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice, and our hope in the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to celebrate it with us in the Kingdom of God, which begins now as the foretaste of the ultimate fulfillment. Jesus has revealed the truth of God’s Word; he has shown us the way to reconciliation and fellowship with God and has demonstrated the reality of resurrection from physical death, and the reality of eternal life (John 14:6).

We all have a choice of whether to trust and obey Jesus, or to join with the enemies of Jesus in this world. The choice has eternal consequences. The great news is that if we will begin to trust and obey Jesus we will come to know that Jesus is God’s one and only Lord and Savior as we begin to personally experience the fulfillment of his promises.

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

Wednesday 6 Pentecost – Odd

First  Posted 06/28/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 7:2-17   –     Samuel’s Role as Judge;
Acts 6:1-15    –    Appointment of Stephen;
Luke 22:14-23   –   The Last Supper;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

When the Ark of the Covenant was at Beth-shemesh, seventy men died because they looked into the Ark, so the people of Beth-shemesh sent the Ark of the Covenant to Kiriath-jeorim. It stayed in Kiriath-jeorim about twenty years, in the house of Abinadab, in the custody of Eleazar, his son, whom they consecrated for that duty.

All Israel was in mourning, beseeching the Lord for help (against the Philistines). Samuel told the people of Israel that if they were truly returning to the Lord they should put away their idols, and commit themselves to trust and obey the Lord alone. So Israel did as Samuel had said. Samuel called all Israel to gather at Mizpah to pray to the Lord. They fasted and confessed their sin, and made an offering to the Lord. Samuel became a Judge of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah they attacked, and the people begged Samuel to pray to the Lord to save Israel from the Philistines. So Samuel sacrificed a young lamb and prayed for Israel, and the Lord heard his prayer. As the Philistines gathered for the attack the Lord thundered against them and threw them into confusion and they fled in retreat from Israel.

Samuel set up a stone between Mizpah and Jeshanah (both near Jerusalem) and called it Ebenezer (“stone of help”) as a memorial to God’s help against the Philistines. The Lord protected Israel from the Philistines for the rest of Samuel’s life, and the cities and territories the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel. Samuel was a judge of Israel for the rest of his life, traveling a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah, and his home at Ramah, where he built an altar to the Lord.

Acts Paraphrase:

The church was growing rapidly and the Gentile Christians felt slighted in the daily distribution (the Christians were sharing resources with one another; Acts 4:32-5:11). The apostles called the congregation and chose seven members to supervise the distribution of food and resources. They chose seven including Philip, and Stephen, who was recognized as strong in faith and the Holy Spirit. The seven were consecrated for their office by prayer and laying on of hands.

The congregation in Jerusalem was growing rapidly, and many priests of Judaism were converted. Stephen did great miracles by his anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jews from several synagogues in Jerusalem began a dispute (about religion) with the Christians, but were unable to withstand Stephen, who spoke with the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 21:15). So they conspired to destroy Stephen by making false accusations, saying that Stephen had blasphemed Moses and God, and they stirred up the Jews against Stephen.

The religious authorities arrested him and tried him in the council (Sanhedrin, the Jewish court). They brought false witnesses against Stephen, and they testified that Stephen had said that Jesus would destroy the temple and would change the customs Moses had delivered to them (from God). Looking at Stephen everyone in the council saw that his face was like that of an angel.

Luke Paraphrase:

When Jesus and the Twelve disciples sat down to eat the Passover feast, Jesus told them that he had looked forward to eating this last meal with his disciples, before his suffering began. He told them he would not eat another Passover feast until it was fulfilled in God’s kingdom. Jesus took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God and passed it for his disciples to share, saying that he wouldn’t drink wine again until the kingdom of God was established.

Jesus took bread and gave thanks; then he broke it and passed it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body” (Luke 22:20). Jesus told his disciples that one of them would betray him. Jesus said that what was about to happen was necessary and God’s will, but it would be spiritual disaster for the one who chose to betray him. The disciples began to question among themselves who it was who would betray Jesus.

Commentary:

There are serious consequences for allowing the wrong people to have control and authority over spiritual matters. The seventy at Beth-shemesh didn’t have a proper regard for the holiness of God represented by the Ark and that disregard destroyed them. The Philistines had learned that lesson and had returned the Ark to Israel.

The people of Israel were suffering from the attacks of their enemies, the Philistines. The Israelites had allowed corruption in the priesthood by the sons of Eli. They had used the rituals and outward symbols of religion to try to manipulate God to their advantage (1 Samuel 4:1-11).

The trouble Israel was having with the Philistines was a spiritual problem. The people of God had become careless in their obligation to God. They were in a Covenant with God which required their obedient trust, but they were being disobedient and committing spiritual adultery by possessing and serving idols. Samuel told the people that if they wanted to avoid further trouble from their enemies they should repent, get rid of their idols, and return to obedient trust in the Lord.

Samuel was the right kind of leader for God’s people. He had a personal relationship with the Lord and he called the people to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord, in contrast to the sons of Eli, who considered the priesthood as a means of enriching themselves and manipulating others. After the sons of Eli had been killed and had lost the Ark to the Philistines, Eleazar was the person consecrated under Samuel’s spiritual leadership to have charge of the Ark after its return. Under that spiritual leadership the Philistines were no longer a threat to Israel, by God’s power.

The young Church in Jerusalem was threatened by division between Gentile and Jewish Christians over the operation of Church programs. The congregation chose several people from among them to oversee these programs. They were selected for their spiritual qualifications as well as their temporal abilities (they were Gentile Christians to ensure that the Gentile Christians weren’t overlooked) and were dedicated by prayer and the laying on of hands.

The Church was under attack by “Philistines” outside (and perhaps within) the congregation. They could not withstand and prevail against Stephen because he was a “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian who had received the fulfillment of the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23), and his conduct before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:2-53) demonstrated the fulfillment of the promise that the Holy Spirit would give his disciples voice and wisdom that none could withstand (Luke 21:12-19).

The Jewish religious authorities couldn’t refute Stephen, but they refused to heed his call for repentance and correction. Instead, Stephen’s word of Truth (see John 14:15-17) made them hate and murder him, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that his disciples would be hated and killed for his name’s sake (Luke 21:16-19).

The charge that Jesus would destroy the temple and would change the customs of Moses was the truth. At the moment of Jesus’ death on the Cross, the temple veil was torn in two, from top to bottom (Luke 23:45), by God’s act, signifying that the way to personal fellowship with the Lord had been opened through Jesus (John 10:1-2, 7, John 14:6). Jesus had instituted, at the Last Supper, a New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), not based on Law, but on God’s grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), fulfilling God’s Word through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-32).

The temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, the Jews were scattered throughout the world. Israel ceased to exist as a nation, until they began to return following World War II. The temple has never been rebuilt. The sacrificial system on which the Old Covenant of Law was based requires the temple.

Jesus knew that he was going to be killed by the Jews; he had told this to his disciples several times on the way to Jerusalem (Luke 18:31-34; 9:22, 44-45; 17:25). He told his disciples that one of them would betray him. God’s plan of salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home) required that Jesus be crucified, but God knows the human inner nature, and knew that someone would “volunteer.” Jesus loved his disciples and at the last possible time he tried to warn his betrayer of the spiritual consequences of his betrayal, but Jesus’ warning was not heeded.

These texts should be a warning to the Church and also to America (and all “Christian” nations), of the consequences of disobedience of God’s Word, and the danger of bad choices in leadership, if we expect God’s providence and if we hope to prevail against the “Philistines.” We need to hear and respond to God’s call to repent, get rid of our idols, and return to obedient trust in the Lord.

Are we disciples of Jesus Christ, or are we his betrayers? Are we willing to hear the Lord’s words of warning and be corrected and revived, or do we reject and oppose them? Are we making disciples of Jesus Christ and choosing our leadership from those who have been “born-again” and “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, or do we choose leaders who make us feel good and tell us what we want to hear.

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

Thursday 6 Pentecost – Odd

First  Posted 06/29/05;
Podcast: Thursday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 8:1-22   –     Israel Wanted a King;
Acts 6:15-7:16    –    Stephen’s Preaching;
Luke 22:24-30   –    Greatness in God’s Kingdom;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

When Samuel got old, he made his sons, Joel and Abijah, judges, serving in Beersheba. But his sons didn’t follow Samuel’s example. Instead, they used their office for personal gain, taking bribes and perverting justice. The elders of Israel went to Ramah (Ramathaim-zophim; about 5 miles northwest of Jerusalem), Samuel’s birthplace and home, and asked to have a king to rule them, like their neighboring nations, since Samuel’s sons were perverting justice.

Samuel prayed to the Lord about it, and the Lord told him to do what the people asked. The people were rejecting the Lord as their king, and the Lord had more reason to be offended than Samuel. Israel was continuing a pattern of unfaithfulness to the Lord since the day the Lord brought them out of Egypt. The Lord told Samuel to warn Israel the consequences of a monarchy, but to allow them to institute it.

Samuel warned Israel that the king would require the sons of Israel to serve as his attendants, man his army, plow his ground and harvest his crops, and make the implements of war to equip his army. He would require Israel’s daughters to cook and bake for him, to serve him and to produce the items of luxury the king would require. He would take the best fields, vineyards and orchards for himself. He would tax Israel’s harvest and herds to provide for his officers and servants. Israel would become his slaves.

Israel would come to regret having a king, but the Lord would refuse to hear and give them relief, because they had chosen for themselves and had not listened to God’s warning. The people refused to heed God’s warning and demanded a king, because they wanted to be like their neighboring nations, so the Lord told Samuel to do what they requested.

Acts Paraphrase:

Stephen had been arrested by the Jewish religious authorities and had been brought before the Jewish court (the Sanhedrin) on charges of blaspheming God and Moses. When given the opportunity, Stephen began to respond by reviewing the history of God’s dealings with Israel, beginning with the call by God to Abraham to leave his homeland in Mesopotamia to go to a land the Lord promised to show him and to give to his descendants, although Abraham did not have children.

The Lord told him that his descendants would be aliens in another land who would be enslaved for four hundred years. Then the Lord would judge that nation and would bring his people back to the Promised Land. The Lord gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision, and Abraham circumcised Isaac, the heir God had promised. Isaac became the father of Jacob (Israel) who became the father of the heads of the twelve tribes.

The sons of Jacob sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery in Egypt, but God was with Joseph and gave him wisdom and favor with Pharaoh, who made Joseph governor of Egypt and Pharaoh’s household. Then a famine arose in the region including Egypt and Canaan, and Jacob sent his sons to buy grain from Egypt (which Joseph had stored up in Egypt in obedience to God’s revelation).
On the second trip of the sons of Jacob to Egypt, Joseph revealed himself to them and introduced them to Pharaoh, who invited them to bring their households to Egypt. At that time the members of Israel consisted of seventy-five people. Jacob died in Egypt, but his body was brought back and buried in the Promised Land.

Luke Paraphrase:

During Jesus’ “Last Supper,” the celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem with his disciples before his crucifixion, his disciples started arguing about who among them was the greatest. Jesus told his disciples that “the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over their citizens, and their leaders are addressed with noble titles. In the kingdom of God, the greatest will be those with childlike obedient trust in the Lord (Luke 18:17) and the leaders will be those who are servants of others. In this world the greatest are served by those who are least, but Jesus, God’s anointed eternal king, came as a servant.

Jesus told his disciples that they, who persevered in faith (obedient trust), sharing in the trials which Jesus endured, would also share in Jesus’ kingdom, glory and fellowship.
Commentary:

The reality of life in this world is that what appears to be good becomes enslaving (consider Genesis 3:1-21). We will all be subject to someone or something. Leaders who don’t obey God’s Word become tyrants; they use their office for personal gain and justice is perverted. We must choose whether to follow God’s Word and submit to God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ, or to follow the pattern of the world around us. Israel ignored God’s warning and did what they thought was in their best interest, but later discovered themselves enslaved by the system they created.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but he trusted and obeyed God, and God freed him from imprisonment and gave him wisdom and favor with Pharaoh. By understanding and heeding God’s warning of the coming famine he stored enough grain to provide for God’s people.

The invitation to live in Egypt sounded like a good idea at the time, but worldly leaders come and go; a new Pharaoh was not sympathetic toward God’s people, and they found themselves enslaved in Egypt.

God hears and answers the prayers of his people, if they are trusting and obeying the Lord. But if they defy his warning and act contrary to his Word he has no obligation to hear and respond when they complain about the consequences (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

The history of Israel’s enslavement and God’s deliverance from Egypt is also a metaphor for life in this world. We are all, in one sense, slaves in the “Egypt” of this world. If we trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, he will free us from the bondage of sin and death, and lead us through the “wilderness” of this life and into the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom in heaven.

Stephen is an example of a faithful disciple sharing in the suffering of Jesus in this world. The Jewish religious authorities during Jesus’ earthly ministry are an example of leaders who claim to be serving God, but who are using their office for personal gain and perverting justice. When people say one thing but do something else, it is what they do which reveals what they truly believe; “the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).

Jesus is Lord and King, whether we acknowledge him or not. His Lordship is not oppressive, but freeing. That doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we please, but it will prevent us from doing things which will enslave and destroy us. If we follow him, he will deliver us from slavery and oppression and provide for us in the midst of “famine.” We can be certain and secure in knowing that he will bring us safely into his eternal “Promised Land.” If we will share in Jesus’ trials, we will share in his kingdom, glory and fellowship in eternity.

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

Friday 6 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/30/05;
Podcast: Friday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 9:1-14   –    Saul Comes to Samuel;
Acts 7:17-29    –   Stephen Preaches about Moses;
Luke 22:31-38   –    Jesus Prophesies Peter’s Denial;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

Saul was the married son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. His father’s donkeys had strayed and Saul and a servant went to find them. They passed through the hill country of Ephraim but could not find them. Saul decided that they should return home, but the servant suggested that there was a man of God (Samuel) with a reputation for foretelling the future who might give them a word from God concerning their journey. Saul asked the servant what they could give to the man of God in payment for his services, since Saul and his servant had consumed their provisions. The servant had a small piece of silver and they decided to give him that.

The holy man lived in Ramah, a city on the side of a hill. The water source was below the city and there was a sanctuary on the hilltop. Saul and the servant encountered women coming out to draw water and asked about the “seer” (a prophet of God). They were told that he was about to go up to offer a sacrifice. The women told them to enter the city and they would encounter the man of God on his way up the hill to the sacrificial feast. Saul and the servant did so, and encountered Samuel coming out, as the women had said.

Acts Paraphrase:

Stephen, one of the “Seven” who had been chosen by the Church to administer the programs of the church, had been falsely accused by the Jewish religious authorities of blaspheming God and Moses. He was making his defense in the Jewish Council (Sanhedrin; Jewish judicial court), reviewing the history of God’s dealings with Israel.

God had promised to give the descendants of Abraham the Promised Land (Canaan), and as the time of the fulfillment of that promise approached, the Israelites had grown in number in Egypt where they had taken refuge from famine. A new Pharaoh arose, who had no regard for the Israelites. Pharaoh required the Israelites to abandon their male infants (to reduce the threat of revolt). Moses was exposed at three months of age, but was found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought up and educated in the Pharaoh’s household.

At forty years of age, Moses decided to visit his Israelite brethren. He saw an Egyptian master abusing an Israelite, and Moses intervened and killed the Egyptian. Moses “supposed that his brethren understood that God was giving them deliverance by his hand” (Acts 7:25).

The next day Moses went forth again and saw two Israelites quarreling, and again he intervened. He asked them why they would hurt each other rather than cooperating. But the one who had been wronging the other asked Moses what right he had to judge them, and asked if Moses wanted to kill them as he had the Egyptian the previous day. When Moses heard this, he fled into exile in Midian (for forty years), where he fathered two sons.

Luke Paraphrase:

At the “Last Supper,” the celebration of the Passover of Jesus and his disciples on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus told Peter that Peter (and the disciples) would face trial and temptation by Satan, but that Jesus had prayed for Peter, that his faith would be preserved, and that after he had been tested he might strengthen the other disciples. Peter declared that he was prepared to go to prison and death with Jesus, but Jesus told him that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times that night “before the cock crows” (Luke 22:34).

Jesus reminded his disciples that when he had sent them out in pairs (the “seventy;” Luke 10:1-12), that they had needed no provisions, but from now on they would they would encounter hostility and must be prepared to persevere by their own resources. Jesus told them that everything in scripture about Jesus would be fulfilled, including the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 that Jesus would be regarded as a criminal.

Commentary:

The hand of God was working to accomplish God’s will. Although Israel had demanded a king, contrary to God’s warning, God allowed them to have a king and then guided the selection. Samuel was recognized as a prophet of the Lord, because what he prophesied was fulfilled. Fulfillment is the hallmark of God’s Word.

Stephen was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that his disciples would be arrested and brought to court where they would testify by the Holy Spirit who would give them what to say in that hour (Mark 13:11-13; Luke 21:12-19). Moses supposed that the Israelites would recognize that God was working through him for their deliverance, but they did not. If they had, they might have been freed from slavery in Egypt forty years earlier (Acts 7:30). Stephen was following the example of Jesus and was proclaiming God’s Word, but the religious authorities still refused to accept it.

Jesus spoke the Word of God, but the Jewish religious authorities didn’t recognize and accept it. Jesus told his disciples that everything in the scriptures about the messiah would be fulfilled. Jesus prophesied three or four times that he would be killed and would rise again on the third day (Luke 18:31-34; 9:22, 44-45; 17:25), and his resurrection was witnessed by over five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Everything Jesus preached and taught his disciples is true and is fulfilled for those who trust and obey Jesus. Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, and that prophecy was fulfilled (Luke 22:54-62).

Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 2:8-9). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and salvation from eternal death and destruction (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Are you seeking and following the guidance of God’s Word in your daily 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 6 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 07/01/05;
Podcast: Saturday 6 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 9:15-10:1  –    Samuel Anoints Saul;
Acts 7:30-43   –     Stephen’s Sermon;
Luke 22:39-51   –   Jesus’ Betrayal;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

The day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel that a man from the tribe of Benjamin would come the next day. Samuel was to anoint him to be “prince” of Israel, and he would save Israel from the Philistines, in God’s answer to the prayers of the people. The next day when Saul arrived, the Lord told Samuel that this was the man the Lord had told Samuel about, who would reign over Israel. Saul approached Samuel and inquired where the “seer” (prophet of God) could be found.

Samuel said that he was the seer that Saul was seeking, and invited him to come up to the sacrificial feast at the sanctuary on the mountaintop and eat with him. Then in the morning Samuel would tell Saul what he was seeking to know, after which he could leave. Samuel told Saul to stop worrying about the donkeys he was seeking for they had been found. Samuel told Saul that Saul and his household would have the best of everything in Israel. Saul replied that he was from the humblest family of the smallest tribe of Israel, and wondered why Samuel had prophesied thus.

Samuel took Saul up to the sanctuary and gave him the seat at the head of the table of thirty guests who had been invited. Samuel asked the cook to bring the portion that had been set aside for Saul. That evening Saul came down from the sanctuary with Samuel and slept on the upper floor of Samuel’s house. At dawn Samuel woke Saul, and he and Saul walked toward the outskirts of the city. Samuel sent Saul’s servant on ahead, and he and Saul stopped so that Samuel could tell Saul God’s Word. Then Samuel took a vial of (olive) oil and anointed Saul’s head and kissed him and told him that the Lord had anointed Saul to be prince of Israel.

Acts Paraphrase:

Stephen, one of the Seven deacons chosen to administer the programs of the church in Jerusalem, had been charged by the Jewish religious court with blaspheming God and Moses. When given the opportunity, Stephen made his defense by recounting the history of God’s dealings with Israel. Stephen said that Moses had killed an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite, but the Israelites rejected him as their leader, so he had fled to Midian, where he married and had two sons.
Moses had been in exile for forty years, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai as a flame in a burning bush. Moses was attracted to this sight, and when he drew near the Lord spoke to him, identifying himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses was afraid to look. The Lord told Moses to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground.

Moses, who had been rejected as a leader by his people, had been designated ruler and deliverer by the Lord through the angel that appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Moses led Israel out of Egypt after doing many great miracles, and led them through the Red Sea, supernaturally parted, and through the wilderness for forty years. Moses was the Leader who prophesied that the Lord would raise up another prophet like Moses. Moses received “living oracles” from the angel on Mount Sinai which he delivered to Israel. Israel’s forefathers rejected Moses’ leadership in the wilderness at Mount Sinai; they turned to Egypt in their hearts, and made and worshiped an idol of a golden calf. Stephen quoted Amos 5:25-27 to show that from the very beginning and throughout their wilderness wandering they were spiritually unfaithful and worshipped idols.
Luke Paraphrase:

After eating the Passover feast with his disciples on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, they went out to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom. Jesus told his disciples to pray that they not succumb to temptation, and then he went a short distance away to pray. Jesus prayed that if possible, that God the Father remove the destiny Jesus knew was coming to him, but he committed himself to accept God’s will, rather than his own. An angel appeared to Jesus, to strengthen him. Jesus prayed in great spiritual agony, and his sweat fell like great drops of blood. Then he arose and came to his disciples who were sleeping because of melancholy, and told them to rise and pray to avoid temptation.

While Jesus was saying that, a crowd came, led by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve disciples. Judas went to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus rebuked him for intending to betray Jesus with a kiss. The disciples saw what was going to happen and they asked Jesus if they should fight in resistance. One of them attacked with a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave, but Jesus told them to stop, and he healed the slave’s ear. Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders who had come to arrest him that they had many opportunities to arrest Jesus in public since he had been in the temple every day, but they had chosen to do it in darkness and away from public view, and they were able to only because it was their “hour” and the power of darkness.
Commentary:

Samuel is an example of a “man (or woman) of God.” He trusted and obeyed God’s Word, and the Lord revealed his will to Samuel. The Lord had told him that the person God had chosen to be “prince” would come to Samuel the next day, and Samuel had prepared for that fulfillment. Samuel was prepared to worship the Lord with a sacrificial feast, and had set aside the choice portion for the person God had designated to be king. Then Samuel fulfilled God’s command to anoint Saul, “the Lord’s anointed.” Saul would rule as king, but the Lord was the true King of Israel, in relation to whom Saul was a prince.

In a way, Samuel is a forerunner of “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciples. In the days of Samuel the Word of the Lord was rare and infrequent, but through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples have the same personal fellowship and guidance from the Lord which Samuel had. Through the “anointing” of the indwelling Holy Spirit we become members of the King’s royal family.

Stephen is another illustration of a “born-again” Christian, proclaiming God’s Word by the inspiration and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Stephen is an example of the  fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy that his disciples would be arrested and tried before various worldly authorities and would be inspired by the Holy Spirit in that hour (Mark 13:11-13; Luke 21:12-19).

Saul is a forerunner of the Messiah (or Christ, which means “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively). Saul was the “Lord’s anointed,” and God raised him up to save God’s people from the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16). Moses is also a forerunner of the Christ who would lead his people out of slavery to sin and death in the “Egypt” of worldly government, through the “sea” of Christian Baptism, through the “wilderness” of life in this world, through the “river” of physical death, and into the “Promised Land” of God’s eternal kingdom in heaven.

Israel had rejected God as their king, in favor of a human, worldly king (1 Samuel 8:7). In Egypt, they rejected Moses as their leader and accused him of trying to kill them (Acts 7:27-28), because they failed to recognize that God had raised Moses to deliver them from Egypt (Acts 7:25). Israel spent another forty years in slavery in Egypt, before the Lord called Moses to deliver Israel.

Because they failed to trust and obey God when he told them to enter and possess the Promised Land the first time, they were condemned to wander for forty years in the wilderness until all that disobedient generation had died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:26-35).

The Lord had promised through Moses to raise up another prophet like Moses (Acts 7:37), the Messiah, “the Lord’s anointed,” eternal Savior and King of Israel. Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of that promise. But the religious leaders of Israel rejected and crucified him. There was a sign nailed to Jesus’ Cross, declaring him “The King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38).

Stephen was falsely condemned (and killed) for (allegedly) blaspheming God and Moses, by the people who had condemned and killed their Savior, Messiah and eternal King. They had only been able to arrest Jesus because it was their “hour,” by God’s will, to fulfill his ultimate purpose. They arrested Jesus in the dark, because they knew that what they were doing would not withstand public scrutiny. Stephen’s sermon demonstrated that he was not blaspheming God or Moses, but the religious leaders executed him anyway.

The Lord has given us his Word so that we can know his will and purpose, revealed in Jesus Christ, so that we can have a reliable basis on which to make life decisions. The hallmark of God’s Word is that it is always fulfilled. We have been given a choice whether to accept God’s anointed Savior and Lord as our king and our leader. We will either trust and obey the Lord or we will die eternally in bondage to sin and the spiritual wilderness of this world. God’s Word promises that Jesus will return to judge the earth. Are you prepared for the coming of the Lord’s anointed eternal King?

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

Week of 5 Pentecost – Odd – 06/28 – 07/04/2015

June 27, 2015

Week of 5 Pentecost – 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 5 Pentecost – Odd 

Sunday 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/18/05;

Podcast: Sunday 5 Pentecost – Odd

Exodus 6:2-13; 7:1-6    –     Call of Moses and Aaron;

Revelation 15:1-8   –     Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath;

Matthew 18:1-14    –  True Greatness;

Exodus Paraphrase:

God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who had been known to them by the name El Shaddai (Almighty; High God). To Moses God revealed himself by a new name, the LORD (represented in Hebrew by only the consonants YHWH, probably pronounced “Yahweh.” In some versions of the Bible it is translated as “Jehovah” by using the vowels of a different word, but “Jehovah” doesn’t accurately represent any name for God ever actually used in Hebrew).

The LORD is the God of the Covenant with the patriarchs, who promised to give their descendants the land of Canaan for a possession and inheritance although the Patriarchs themselves were sojourners (nomads) in the land. The Lord told Moses that he knew the suffering of the Israelites under slavery to the Egyptians, and had not forgotten his Covenant with Abraham. God told Moses to tell the Israelites that God will deliver his people from bondage in Egypt, redeeming them by God’s great power, by many great acts of judgment.

God said that he would take Israel to be his people, and would be their God. Israel will know and remember that God is the Lord, who has delivered his people from slavery in Egypt. God will bring his people into possession of the land of Canaan, which God had promised the patriarchs to give to their descendants. Moses told the Israelites what God had said, but they didn’t listen to Moses because their spirits were broken by the conditions of their enslavement.

The Lord told Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to allow the people of Israel to leave Egypt. But Moses told the Lord that the Israelites hadn’t listened to Moses, so why would Pharaoh, since Moses had “uncircumcised lips” (a speech impediment)? God told Moses that he would make Moses like God to Pharaoh, and Aaron, Moses’ brother, would be Moses’ prophet.

God gave Moses and Aaron charge of the people of Israel. Moses was to receive God’s directions and Aaron would communicate them to Pharaoh. God warned Moses that Pharaoh would refuse to let Israel leave despite many great acts of judgment upon Egypt, but God would finally reveal his power decisively and Israel would be delivered. God said that the Egyptians would come to realize God’s power when he had delivered his people from Egypt. Moses, who was then eighty years old, and Aaron, who was eighty-three, did as God had commanded them.

Revelation Paraphrase:

John, in exile on the island of Patmos, had a series of visions of God’s ultimate judgment. This is the revelation to John of the seven (symbolizing completeness) plagues of God’s final judgment, ready to be poured out on earth. John saw the martyrs in heaven who had overcome the “beast (Revelation13:1-10) and      its image (Revelation 13:11-15) and the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16-18; 15:2). The martyrs “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Jesus Christ; the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of Passover), acknowledging the Lord God Almighty, whose deeds are great and wonderful, and whose ways are just and true.

The Lord is King of eternity; he alone is Holy (perfect in righteousness and goodness; worthy of complete devotion and worship). All nations will worship the Lord because his judgments have been revealed.

Then the seven angels carrying the seven bowls of the plagues of God’s wrath were released to pour out God’s wrath at God’s command (Revelation 16:1). God’s great presence and power filled the temple, and nothing was allowed to happen until that Judgment was carried out; the judgment was unalterable and unavoidable.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus had told his disciples for a second time that he was going to be crucified (Matthew 17:22-23). They were distressed when they heard this, but soon after they were arguing among themselves over whom among them was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus called a child to his side and told his disciples that unless they turned and became like children in their obedient trust in their heavenly father they would not enter the kingdom of heaven. The one who is humble like a small child will be considered great in God’s kingdom. Whoever receives such a true disciple in Jesus’ name receives Jesus, but whoever causes such a disciple to sin will wish he had died instead; his punishment will be far worse than physical death.

The world will receive the terrible consequences of causing and yielding to temptation. Temptation is a necessary part of creation (because God designed creation so that we would have choice and free will), but the person who tempts others or who yields to temptation will ultimately suffer profound disaster. A person would be better off suffering physical mutilation in resisting temptation in order to have eternal life in God’s kingdom, than to have perfect physical heath and beauty and spend eternity in the fire of Hell.

Jesus warns not to despise his disciples, because they will be in God’s presence in eternity (and those who despise them won’t). If a shepherd has a hundred sheep and one strays, he will leave the ninety-nine and seek the one that is missing, and when he finds it he is happier to have recovered the one that was lost than over the ninety-nine that never strayed. Similarly, God doesn’t want any of his disciples to perish.

Commentary:

God’s purpose has always been to create an eternal kingdom of his people who will trust and obey him. Creation was designed from the beginning to accomplish that purpose. We have all been created with eternal souls; God has prepared a place in his presence for his people, and a place of eternal misery and punishment away from him and his kingdom for those who refuse to trust and obey God’s Word. God has created everything good in creation, but he has allowed the possibility of evil, and evil has come into the world through sin (disobedience of God’s Word). Imagine what will be left when everything and everyone good in this world is led out and into God’s eternal kingdom.

The meaning and purpose of this present earthly life is to seek and come to know God, our Creator (Acts 17:26-27). God has been incrementally revealing himself to his people. To Moses he revealed that he is not only Almighty God Most High, but he is also Lord of Creation and of the universe. God chose Israel to be his people, and agreed to be their God.

God began to reveal himself to Pharaoh through a series of great acts of judgment, the ten plagues. Pharaoh did not acknowledge that God was Lord until God’s ultimate act of judgment of the death of the first-born of the Egyptians (while “passing over” the first-born of the Israelites by the institution of Passover). It was God’s intention that Egypt would realize God’s power as Lord when they saw the Lord’s deliverance of his people from Egypt, and that Israel would also know and remember that God is the Lord who had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt.

The history of God’s dealings with Israel was intended to also be a parable and an illustration of life in this world. Jesus is the “Moses” through whom God redeems his people from slavery to sin and death in the “Egypt” of this world. Jesus is also the “Aaron” who is our High Priest who mediates on our behalf to God and who makes God’s Word and judgment known on earth.

John’s vision is of the Lord God Almighty who has ransomed his people from the power of Satan, the “Pharaoh” of the “Egypt” of this world, by the sacrifice of Jesus, the ultimate “Passover Lamb.” God is about to pour out the plagues of his Final Judgment.

Jesus is the fullest revelation of God to the world. The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit whom only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17), is the ultimate personal revelation of God the Father and Jesus Christ, God the Son, to us individually. Jesus is the name of the Lord our God (John 20:28). Jesus is God’s Word in human form (John 1:1-5, 14). In Jesus, God’s eternal plan has been fully revealed to all nations and people of the world.

Jesus had revealed to his disciples God’s will that Jesus would be crucified and raised to (eternal) life, but they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. Instead they were arguing over who among them would have the most power, status and influence in the kingdom of heaven. Instead of learning to submit to God’s will they were arguing over who would submit to their will.

God’s creation allowed for the possibility for temptation and sin so that we could have free will and choice, but he also designed the Savior, Jesus Christ, into creation (John 1:1-5, 14). People will either be open and responsive to the disciples of Jesus or they will ignore or despise them. Those who respond favorably to Jesus’ disciples will receive Jesus. Jesus warns us of the eternally disastrous consequences of disobeying God’s Word and rejecting his free offer of forgiveness and salvation through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Will we listen to God’s Word and trust and obey him, or will we wait until it is too late to be saved from his wrath to discover that he is indeed Lord and King of Creation and this Universe? The Day of Judgment will be the final and complete revelation of the Lord God Almighty. In that day nobody will have any doubt about who is Lord, but then it will be too late to change our eternal fate. Will we refuse to recognize the signs of God’s power and Lordship all around us until we stand before his throne of judgment and are separated eternally from his presence and paradise?

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

Monday 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/19/05;

Podcast: Monday 5 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 1:1-20    –    Hannah’s Prayer for a Son;

Acts 1:1-14    –    Jesus’ Ascension;

Luke 20:9-19   –    Parable of the Vineyard;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

Ramathaim-zophim, the town called Zophim, the inheritance of a Levitical family in the district of Ramah in the tribal territory of Ephraim, was the birthplace of Samuel, whose father, Elkanah, was a descendant of Zuph, the Levite for whom the town was named. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had borne children but Hannah had not (Peninnah had probably been taken as a second wife because Hannah was “barren;” i.e., unable to conceive).

Elkanah made a pilgrimage each year to Shiloh [ten miles west of Bethel, where the tabernacle was located after the conquest of Canaan through the period of the Judges, until the Ark (of the Covenant) was captured by the Philistines]. Peninnah would receive portions of Elkanah’s offering for herself and her children, but Hannah received only one portion because she had produced no children. This was during the time the two sons of Eli, Hopni and Phinehas, were priests. Peninnah exalted herself and provoked Hannah year after year, because Peninnah was fertile and Hannah was not, causing Hannah to weep and not eat. Elkanah noticed Hannah’s mourning and tried to cheer her up, reassuring her of his love despite her infertility.

After the ritual feasting celebrating the offering, Hannah was in the tabernacle (the portable “temple”) praying. She vowed that if the Lord blessed her with a son, she would dedicate him to a lifetime of serving the Lord (in the temple). Eli, the high priest, was on duty at the tabernacle door, and he noticed Hannah’s mouth moving as she prayed and assumed that she was a drunken alcoholic, and told her to stop getting drunk. But Hannah explained that she was not drunk, but had been praying to the Lord with all earnestness. Eli then assured Hannah that her prayer had been heard and he prayed that her prayer would find favor with the Lord and be answered. Hannah trusted the Lord and was no longer sad.

When they returned to their home, the Lord answered her prayer and Hannah became pregnant by Elkanah, and she eventually gave birth to a son she named Samuel (meaning “heard of God,” i.e., that her prayer had been heard and answered).

Acts Background:

Luke, the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) is probably the author of both the Gospel of Luke, the “first book” (Acts 1:1 RSV), and the book of Acts, which continues the narrative where the Gospel of Luke leaves off (compare Luke 24:50-52 with Acts 1:9) with the ascension of the risen Jesus into heaven. Theophilus, which means “lover of God,” is either a real person, by that name, to whom both the Gospel and Acts were addressed, or is intended to address everyone who is a “lover of God.”

Acts Paraphrase

The commandment Jesus had given to his disciples before his ascension was to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:19-20), but first to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the gift, the “anointing,” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; 8) which Jesus promised to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by many people (over five hundred; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8) over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3) during which Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the fulfillment of John the Baptizer’s prophecy that Jesus would be the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5; compare John 1:33). Jesus told his disciples, who had gathered to Jesus on the Mount of Olives, that it was not their responsibility to try to figure out God’s timetable, but rather to obey Jesus’ commandment to wait for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, and then to testify to the Gospel beginning in their immediate surroundings and spreading out to the farthest parts of the earth (Acts 1:7-8).

Then Jesus visibly rose off the ground and up into heaven as his disciples watched. Two angels appeared and told the disciples that Jesus would return (on the Day of Judgment) exactly as they had witnessed him ascend.

The disciples returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem (about a half-mile away), and obeyed Jesus’ command to wait for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They waited in the upper room where they were staying (probably where they had celebrated the Passover, the “Last Supper”).  The eleven original disciples (minus Judas, the “betrayer”) and the women who had accompanied and provided for Jesus (Luke 8:2-3), including his mother and his brothers.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, knowing that he would be crucified (Luke 18:31-34). After the Pharisees had challenged Jesus’ authority, Jesus told this Parable of the Vineyard:

An owner of a vineyard rented it out to tenants and traveled to a distant country. When the time of harvest came, he sent a servant to collect the Lord’s portion of the harvest, but the tenants beat the servant and threw him out, empty-handed. The owner sent another servant, whom the tenants treated similarly. So the owner sent his beloved son, whom he expected the tenants to respect. But the tenants killed the owner’s beloved son, thinking that they would gain possession of the vineyard by default when the owner died. After all this, what can the owner do but come and destroy the tenants?

Jesus’ audience responded, “God forbid!” But Jesus replied that he was the fulfillment of prophecy of Psalm 118:22-23: that Jesus was the cornerstone rejected by the “builders” (the Jewish religious leaders) that would trip and destroy those who rejected him.

Commentary:

The Lord hears and answers the prayers of those who trust and are faithful to the Lord (see The Conditions for Answered Prayer; sidebar, top right, home). Hannah asked in faith for a gift (a son). She promised to commit to serve the Lord, she trusted that the Lord had heard and would answer her prayer, and she was faithful to fulfill her promise to the Lord. She testified through the name she chose for her son that God hears and answers prayer of those who trust and obey the Lord and ask for things which serve God’s will, rather than for their own will and pleasure (James 4:3).

Jesus promised to give the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to “lovers of God” who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17, 21, 23). The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the gift God wants to give the disciples of Christ who follow Jesus’ guidance and obey Jesus’ teaching. It is given to disciples so that they will be enabled and empowered to fulfill the commission Jesus gave to his disciples to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). That gift is to be used for and is essential to accomplish God’s will and purpose.

The other essential commandment of Jesus is to be discipled by a disciple of Jesus and to stay within the Church until they have received the Holy Spirit, before proceeding to proclaim the gospel in the world. It is possible for one to know with certainty that they have received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2), and one cannot honestly claim to be “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) or to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ until they have received the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Like Eli, a discipler assures the one he is discipling, that if the disciple trusts and obeys the Lord, the Lord will hear and fulfill a disciple’s prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, but like Hannah’s pregnancy, spiritual birth takes some time. The Lord wants to test our sincerity and commitment, because if one is reborn and then renounces the Lord and reverts to his old sinful ways there is no further hope of salvation possible for him (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Unfortunately, too often churches have failed to make “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples, settling instead for making members, “fair weather Christians,” who are encouraged to invite their friends and neighbors to become members, resulting in the spiritually blind leading the spiritually blind (Luke 6:39). When the churches fail to make disciples, the pool of people from whom they recruit preachers and teachers of preachers doesn’t contain any “born-again” disciples.

It takes a “born-again” disciple of Jesus Christ to make “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciples are to learn to be disciples, learning to trust and obey the Lord and seeking the gift of the Holy Spirit, rather than spending their time endlessly speculating about God’s plans and schedule of the events of the “End Times,” the end of the age (Acts 1:7-8).

Jesus’ word is absolutely trustworthy and true, both his promises and his warnings. Jesus has promised to return on the Day of Judgment to take his disciples to his eternal heavenly kingdom and to condemn everyone else, who refused to accept Jesus as Lord or who failed to trust and obey Jesus’ commands, to eternal destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus’ last commands to his disciples were to wait in Jerusalem (the Holy City; the Church) for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, and then to make disciples (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:4-8). The disciples obeyed Jesus’ command, and they received the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-21).

The Parable of the Vineyard is an illustration of life in this world. This world is God’s vineyard. We’re allowed to manage it, but we are accountable to God to give him his portion of the fruit it produces. God has sent a succession of servants, his prophets, and many of the people of this world have refused to heed them, or give what rightfully belongs to God. Jesus is God’s Son, the heir to the vineyard, and worldly people, who don’t want to give God what he’s entitled to receive, think they can destroy the Son and inherit the vineyard.

There is a Day of Judgment coming when God, the owner of the vineyard, is going to come and take possession of his vineyard and receive the fruit that belongs to him, and he will destroy the wicked tenants who have refused to honor and obey him and have crucified his Son in an attempt to destroy him and take possession of God’s vineyard for themselves.

Jesus is the cornerstone of eternal life, which the Jewish religious leaders rejected. Jesus will either be the solid cornerstone of our lives leading to eternal life, or he will be the stone which will make us stumble and be eternally destroyed.

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

Tuesday 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/20/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 5 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 1:21-2:11   –    Hannah Fulfills Her Vow;

Acts 1:15-26    –    The Appointment of Matthias;

Luke 20:19-26   –    Paying Taxes to Caesar;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

Hannah had been unable to conceive children so she had prayed to the Lord for a son and then trusted the Lord to hear and answer her prayer (1 Samuel 1:1-18; see entry for yesterday). Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, took his entire household, yearly, to the tabernacle (then at Shiloh) but after Hannah had given birth to Samuel, she stayed at home until the child was weaned. Elkanah approved of Hannah’s decision; his concern was that the Lord’s Word be established (1 Samuel 1:23). She had promised the Lord to give her son to the Lord’s service in the temple (1 Samuel 1:11).

After the child was weaned, while he was still a young child, Hannah again went to the Tabernacle with her husband and the household. She took a three-year-old bull and about three-quarters of a bushel of flour, and a skin of wine (for an offering), There they killed the bull and gave Samuel to Eli, the high priest. She told Eli that she was the woman that Eli had seen praying and who he had assured that the Lord would hear and answer her prayer (1 Samuel 1:17). She told Eli that Samuel was the child the Lord had granted her and that she had lent Samuel to serve the Lord all his life.

[The Song of Hannah is a “ballad” of national thanksgiving commemorating Samuel’s origin, and is a model for the Magnificat, Mary’s song of thanksgiving (Luke 1:46-55).]

Hannah’s (and Israel’s) heart rejoices and is strengthened in the Lord who has given her salvation and victory over her enemies. No one can compare to the Lord and his holiness. The Lord is the solid and secure rock. The arrogance of mankind is rebuked and silenced before the knowledge and judgment of the Lord.

The Lord defeats the power of the mighty, and gives strength to the week; the rich will know hunger, poverty and humiliation, and the poor will be satisfied and exalted. The Lord gives children to the barren, and bereaves those who are fertile. The Lord has established the foundations of the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9). The Lord will destroy his enemies. “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed” (1 Samuel 10b).

Hannah and Elkanah’s household went home, leaving Samuel with Eli, to serve the Lord.

Acts Paraphrase:

Before his ascension into heaven, the Lord had told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and await the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8). The group of believers numbered about one hundred and twenty. While they were waiting, Peter suggested that they should choose another disciple to fill the position of Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer.

Peter compared Judas to Ahithophel (an Old Testament traitor who hanged himself; 2 Samuel 17:23).  A potter’s field was bought with the money Judas had received to betray Jesus (Matthew 27:6-10), and according to Matthew 27:5 Judas hanged himself. (Here “falling headlong” may also be translated “swelling up;” or it may imply disastrous spiritual error and eternal fate.)

Peter quoted Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 as their basis for choosing someone to replace Judas, and the qualifications were that he must be one who had been an eyewitness to Jesus’ entire ministry from his Baptism by John  to until Jesus’ ascension (see Acts 10:37, Mark 1:1-4). There were two candidates, Joseph “Barsabbas” Justice, and Matthias. The congregation prayed for the Lord’s guidance and then cast lots (selection by “chance”) and Matthias was chosen and became the twelfth apostle.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, having foretold that he would be crucified (Luke 18:31-34). The religious leaders had challenged the authority of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 20:1-8; see entry for yesterday). Jesus had told the Parable of the Vineyard, and the religious authorities were enraged because they perceived that the parable was a criticism of them. They sent spies who pretended sincerity while attempting to trap Jesus in saying something against the Roman government so that they could hand him over to the governor.

“They asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it right for us to give tribute (taxes) to Caesar, or not?” Jesus knew their evil intent, and he asked them to show him a coin. Jesus asked them whose image and name were on it, and they replied “Caesar’s.  Jesus replied “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). They were amazed by Jesus’ answer and were unable to refute him or accuse him in public.

Commentary:

Hannah had begged (the same word in Hebrew means “borrowed”) the Lord for a son and had vowed to “lend” him to the Lord’s service all the rest of his life, once he had been weaned. Elkanah, the head of the household, was committed to the establishment of God’s Word. Samuel was the fulfillment of God’s Word through Eli, and Elkanah approved the fulfillment of Hannah’s vow to the Lord.

Samuel is a precursor of the Christ. Jesus is the ultimate eternal king, God’s anointed, who will judge the earth in the name of the Lord. It is through Jesus, that the rich, powerful and arrogant will be defeated and the poor, powerless and humble will be exalted. Christ is the child of the virgin, Mary, who she gave to the service of God. Her pregnancy was a type of supernatural remedy of a type of physical barrenness.

The Church was awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to Jesus’ command (Acts 1:4-5, 8; Luke 24:48-49). Peter knew from scripture that there would be someone who would replace Judas as one of the Twelve Apostles who had been a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. Peter reasoned that it must be someone who had been with Jesus from the time of Jesus’ baptism, and so while they were waiting, they identified two that met those conditions, and prayed and then chose by “chance” (like drawing straws, or flipping a coin). Matthias was chosen, but he was mentioned only in Acts 1:23 and 26, and nowhere else in the Bible.

I believe their decision was premature; they should have waited until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom they would have guidance and empowerment. I believe that Paul was the fulfillment of God’s Word and God’s choice to replace Judas.

Matthias had been appointed by unregenerate (i.e., not “born-again;” John 3:3, 5-8) disciples. He had “churchly credentials” but not God’s “anointing.” The qualifications for his appointment to office were set by unregenerate church leaders. It would be pretty hard today to find a candidate who had been physically present at Jesus’ baptism! A much more significant qualification is a personal relationship with the risen Jesus, through the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Paul had (formerly called “Saul;” Acts 9:17) and which his subsequent ministry demonstrated.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time claimed to be sincere, and claimed to be serving God, but they were trying to use God’s Word to accomplish their own worldly agenda. [Jesus is God’s Word, the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:1-5, 14), and he spoke God’s Word (John 14:24) and obeyed God’s will (Philippians 2:8).] God’s Word offended them and they refused to accept correction. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hannah’s song; the arrogance of mankind is rebuked and silenced before the knowledge and judgment of the Lord (compare Luke 20:26).

The fulfillment of Hannah’s promise and vow should be an example to us. If we are spiritually barren we can and should pray sincerely and earnestly to the Lord to ask for our own “rebirth” through his “anointing” with the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. God is happy to give us the gift of his Spirit, provided that we are obediently trusting in Jesus Christ and are committed to the establishment of God’s Word and to serving him with our lives. The Lord knows our innermost thoughts and intentions, and cannot be deceived by false sincerity, and he will not allow his gift to be used to accomplish our selfish worldly agendas. It is also a reminder that the Lord’s work is not accomplished by human effort but by God’s Spirit (1 Samuel 2:9)

Since Hannah had “borrowed” Samuel from the Lord, she “lent” Samuel back to the Lord (a play on words is involved here). In a sense, everything we have is “borrowed” from the Lord, and we should “lend” ourselves and our resources to the Lord’s service, not just those who are ordained ministers. Hannah kept Samuel at home until he was weaned. Likewise, young Christian disciples should be kept “home” in the Church until they have been spiritually “weaned” (have received the “anointing” of the indwelling Holy Spirit; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

These texts should also be a warning to the Church of the consequences of endorsing unregenerate candidates to ministry, according to worldly human standards, instead of by the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

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

Wednesday 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/21/05;

Podcast: Wednesday 5 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 2:12-26   –    The Sons of Eli;

Acts 2:1-21    –     The Day of Pentecost;

Luke 20:27-40   –    Question about the Resurrection;

I Samuel Paraphrase:

“The sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2 12; Phinehas and Hophni; see 1 Samuel 1:3b). When people came to the sanctuary (which was at Shiloh at that time), to offer sacrifice, the priest’s servant would stick a three-pronged fork into the boiling pot of meat and take whatever    came up on the fork. When someone was preparing a fat offering to be burned, the priest’s servant would demand a portion of the raw meat first, and would refuse to wait until the fat had been burned. He would threaten to take it by force if necessary. The sons of Eli treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.

Samuel was also serving the Lord in the temple. He wore a linen “ephod” (like an apron), which the priests wore. His mother, Hannah, would make him a robe each year and bring it to him at the annual pilgrimage of her husband, Elkanah, and his household. Eli would bless Elkanah and Hannah and would pray that the Lord would bless them with more children by Hannah, since the son she had “borrowed” from the Lord, she had “loaned” back to God’s service (a play on the Hebrew word which means “asked” or “borrowed”). The Lord did bless them and Hannah bore three sons and two daughters. “And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:21b).

When Eli was quite old he heard how wickedly his sons were behaving, and he confronted them, telling them how evil their conduct of their duties was. He said, “If a man sins against a man, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him” (1 Samuel 2:25). Since the sons refused to repent and amend their ways the Lord decided to destroy them.

Acts Paraphrase:

On the day of Pentecost (the fiftieth day after Passover, the “feast of weeks,” from the “first fruits” offering to the completion of the grain harvest; Leviticus 23:9-14; later Jewish tradition regarded it as the day the Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the Covenant of Law established) the believers (about one hundred and twenty) were together in one place. There was a sound, like that of a great wind, which filled the house, and there were what appeared to be tongues of flame resting on each believer. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in many different languages by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

There were Jews in Jerusalem from every nation on earth. A great crowd gathered to the house because of the sound, and each one in the crowd heard their own native language being spoken by the believers. They realized that all the believers were Galileans, and were amazed that they were speaking in a wide variety of foreign languages, declaring the mighty works of God. The bystanders were amazed and wondered what this meant, but some thought the believers were drunk.

Peter stood and began to address the crowd, saying that the believers were not drunk, since it was only the third hour (9:00 A.M.). What had occurred was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32) of the Messianic age, when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh (the Holy Spirit had formerly only been given to certain individuals who were chosen prophets of God). Now all (believers) will be enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit. All God’s servants will prophesy by the Holy Spirit. There will be signs and wonders and disruptions in nature in the days before the Lord’s return on the Day of Judgment, and whoever    calls on the name of the Lord (in obedient trust) will be saved.

Luke Paraphrase:

Some Sadducees (a faction of Jewish religious leaders who rejected belief in resurrection and existence after death) addressing him as “Teacher,” asked Jesus a hypothetical question about resurrection. The Law of Moses required a man to take the barren widow of a brother as wife in order to create heirs for his brother. Suppose that seven brothers had the same woman as wife, in fulfilling that obligation, each dying in succession without heirs. The Sadducees asked Jesus whose wife the woman would be in the resurrection, since she had been married to each of the brothers.

Jesus answered that marriage is a part of physical life in this age, but in the eternal life to come those who have been judged worthy of eternal life will not marry or be married, because they will no longer have physical bodies. They will have glorified bodies like the angels (and like Jesus’ resurrected body) since they will be sons (and daughters) of God, resurrected from death like Jesus.

Jesus used the scriptures to refute the Sadducees’ denial of resurrection. God is (not “was”) the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is the God, not of the dead, but of the (spiritually) living, who live for and in him. Some of the scribes (teachers of the law; the Scriptures) addressed Jesus as “Teacher,” saying that Jesus had answered well. No one dared to question Jesus further.

Commentary:

Samuel is an example of a child of God, a “son,” growing spiritually and committed to God’s service, as compared to the wickedness and corruption of the sons of Eli. Eli’s sons were born into the priesthood but they were only interested in what they could personally gain from it materially.

Samuel was aware that his life and everything he had in this world was a “loan” from God, and that he would use it to serve God. The Lord blessed Hannah with many children, because she had given her “first-fruits” to the Lord.

There is a Day of Judgment coming when we will all be accountable for what we have done with our life and all the material and spiritual blessings the Lord has given us. Those who, like Phinehas and Hophni, who have used their lives to serve and please themselves, who treat the Lord with contempt, and who refuse to repent, amend their ways, and trust and obey the Lord will be eternally destroyed in accordance with God’s will and judgment.

Jesus is the only mediator (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) who can and will intercede to God on behalf of those who are in Christ (Romans 8:9-10) for the forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation with God (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Those who trust and obey the Lord can be assured that the Lord will mediate justice for themselves with other people; they can leave vengeance to the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

The Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to believers, marks the birthday of the Church. Pentecost signified the establishment of the New Covenant of grace through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), replacing the Old Covenant of Law (Romans 8:1-8). Disciples of Jesus Christ, who trust and obey Jesus will receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23). But the Holy Spirit is given when the Lord, who knows our deepest innermost thoughts and attitudes, decides that we are committed to trusting and obeying him.

The believers who were “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) that first Pentecost by the gift of the Holy Spirit had been following and obeying Jesus for some time. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to enable and empower us to serve the Lord, not just for ourselves.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31a) are given to enable Christian disciples to accomplish God’s will. The gift of “tongues” is the reversal of God’s act of confusing the language of the people at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). The Holy Spirit is the “first-fruits” of eternal life; The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and that we have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh in the sense that the Holy Spirit is present in this world and active in convicting us of sin and calling us to repentance and righteousness (John 16:8-11). But the Holy Spirit only indwells those who have asked Jesus to come into their hearts in committed faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

The Sadducees were sure that resurrection and existence after physical death was impossible, and that they could prove why it wasn’t possible. They considered themselves experts and teachers of the Bible, but Jesus used the scriptures to refute them.

Each of us must decide for ourselves whether to believe Jesus and the Bible or not. Some will reject Jesus and God’s Word because their worldly “understanding” will make spiritual truth seem impossible. Some will have been born into the “Church” but won’t reverence, trust and obey the Lord. Some, as “members” of the “Church,” will continue sinful behavior without repentance and amendment, and will refuse to accept correction. Some will use “Christian” ministry as a “business” or “career” or as a way of manipulating God or people. Some will trust and obey Jesus and will receive the “first fruits” of eternal life through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and will grow to spiritual maturity in personal fellowship with 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 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/22/05;

Podcast: Thursday 5 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 2:27-36   –     House of Eli Condemned;

Acts 2:22-36     –    Peter’s Sermon on Pentecost;

Luke 20:41-21:4   –    David’s Son and Lord;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

Eli had confronted his sons, Phinehas and Hophni, who were abusing their office of the priesthood, but they refused to repent and change their ways. A prophet came to Eli and told him that the Lord had revealed himself to Eli’s forefather, Aaron, in Egypt, when the Israelites were enslaved. The Lord chose Aaron from all the tribes of Israel to serve at the altar of the Lord, to burn incense, to wear the priestly garb. The Lord allowed Aaron and his descendants to eat the meat of the burnt offerings, but the sons of Eli had abused that gift by taking the best portions for themselves. God condemned Eli and his descendants for pursuing their own interests instead of honoring the Lord.

The Lord had promised Aaron that his descendants would serve as priests of the Lord forever, but now the Lord revoked that promise. The Lord declared that he would honor those who honor him, and despise those who despise him. The Lord declared that he would cut off the vitality of Eli’s descendants. His descendants would die young. The household of Eli will envy the prosperity of the other families of Israel. The only one to continue in the priesthood (Abiathar; 1 Samuel 22:18-23) would be spared only to grieve. As a sign of the truth of God’s prophecy, Phinehas and Hophni would die on the same day.

The Lord declared that he would raise up a faithful priest who would be obedient to God’s will. God will build him a sure house and his priesthood will continue for ever. The descendants of Eli who survive will beg for food and financial support and the opportunity to earn a living as priests.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter preached to a large crowd which had gathered to see the cause of the commotion caused by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the followers of Christ. Peter said that Jesus of Nazareth had been attested to by God through the miracles Jesus had done in their midst and which were public knowledge. But Israel had delivered Jesus to be crucified by lawless men (Gentiles), according to God’s plan and foreknowledge. But God raised Jesus up from the bonds of death.

Peter quoted David’s Psalm (Psalm 16:8-11) declaring that David honored the Lord and that the Lord was always with David to strengthen him, giving David joy and hope, believing that the Lord would not “abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27). The Lord had revealed the ways of life to David, and would fill him with joy in his presence.

Everyone knew that David had died long before, and where he had been buried. Peter said that David was a prophet who was speaking of the Messiah, whom God had promised would be a descendant of David. David therefore foretold the resurrection of Jesus, whom God did not abandon to the realm of the dead, and whose flesh did not decay in the grave.

Jesus had been raised from the dead and the congregation of believers had personally witnessed that fact (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). Jesus had ascended into heaven where he was made king and received the promise of the Holy Spirit, which he has poured out on his disciples, which the crowd was witnessing.

David hadn’t ascended into heaven, and in Psalm 110:1 David called the Messiah, a descendant of David, Lord. That psalm also prophesies that the enemies of the Messiah will be vanquished. “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Luke Paraphrase:

The Sadducees (a faction of Jewish leaders who did not believe in resurrection and existence after death) and scribes (teachers of Jewish law and scripture), had challenged Jesus on the teaching on resurrection (Luke 20:27-40). Jesus used scripture to show them that they were wrong. The Scribes and Sadducees were afraid to ask him further questions. So Jesus asked why, if the Messiah is David’s descendant, does David call him Lord in Psalm 110:1, but they did not answer.

In the hearing of the whole crowd, Jesus told his disciples to beware of scribes (religious authorities) who like the public distinctions of their position, such as distinctive clothing and titles, who enjoy public honor and deferential treatment, who “for a pretense make long prayers” (Luke 20:47), but take advantage of the poor and needy. They will receive the condemnation they deserve.

Commentary:

The Lord took the priesthood from Eli and his descendants because of corruption. The priests were using the priesthood for their own benefit; they weren’t honoring or serving the Lord but themselves instead. Jesus is the faithful priest God promised to raise up, who would be obedient to God’s will. Jesus was completely obedient to God’s will, including being crucified. God promised to make him a solid, eternal house (both a temple and a family) and his priesthood will be eternal. The descendants of Eli will be beggars, begging for a priesthood as a means of earning a living.

Peter, who on the night of Jesus’ betrayal was afraid to admit to a servant girl in the high priest’s house that he knew Jesus (Luke 22:56-57) was now boldly preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large crowd, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which he and the other believers had just received. Peter declared that David had believed in resurrection and existence after physical death, that David hoped in his own resurrection and life in God’s presence in heaven, and had prophesied the resurrection of the Messiah. The prophecy had been fulfilled and the one hundred and twenty believers (Acts 1:15) who had just received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit were all witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus), the prototype of the modern, “post-resurrection” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple of Jesus Christ, is also included as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 9:5) even though he had not known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and did not encounter the risen Jesus prior to Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). Every truly “born-again” Christian is also a witness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and eternal life.

Jesus’ resurrection proved that he was the Messiah (Christ; both mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively), God’s anointed, eternal King and Lord of heaven and earth. The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of God’s Word and Jesus’ promise to his disciples (John 14:15-17, 21, 23; Joel 2:28-32).

The Sadducees and scribes (and Pharisees) were the corrupt ” priests” of Jesus’ day. They were not serving and honoring the Lord, but were using their “priesthood” for their own honor and benefit. They claimed to be expert teachers and interpreters of scripture, but did not believe in resurrection, although scripture taught the resurrection of the dead and eternal existence. They couldn’t recognize that Jesus was the Messiah God had promised in his Word, and they didn’t honor and serve Jesus as their Lord, although David had called him his Lord. The prayers and piety of these corrupt religious leaders was a pretense, which they used to defraud widows, the poor and weak.

The “sons of Eli” are alive today and begging to make a living peddling the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:17), using religion for their own benefit and victimizing the poor and weak. Parts of the nominal “Church” today look a lot like Judaism at the time of Christ’s first coming. Peter and Paul are examples of what Christian leaders and all Christians should be, and the gathering of the followers on the day of Pentecost is what the Church should be today.

Jesus has promised to return on the Day of Judgment to vanquish his enemies and receive his “born-again” disciples into his eternal, unshakable house in God’s presence. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross “has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God” (Revelation 1:5b-6) to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in heaven with the Lord, but those who have rejected Jesus as Lord or who have refused to trust and obey him will spend eternity in destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46; 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)?

Friday 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/23/05;

Podcast: Friday 5 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 3:1-21   –    God’s Call to Samuel;

Acts 2:37-47 –   The Call to Repentance;

Luke 21:5-19    –   Destruction of the Temple foretold;

1 Samuel Summary:

Samuel was a still a boy, conducting the duties of a priest under Eli’s training and supervision. At that time prophetic revelation was not a common occurrence. Eli was quite old and had lost his eyesight. Samuel was sleeping in the temple. There was a lamp representing God’s presence which burned all night outside the veil (curtain) to the Holy-of-Holies, and the Ark of the Covenant was in the Holy-of Holies. Samuel heard a voice call his name and he went to Eli’s bed and asked what Eli wanted, assuming that it was Eli who had called. Eli told Samuel to go back to bed, because he hadn’t called. This was repeated, and then the third time, Eli realized that it was the Lord calling to Samuel.

Eli told Samuel to go back and lie down, and when the Lord called, Samuel was to answer: “Speak Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9). Samuel did as Eli had told him, and then the Lord told Samuel that he was going to do something which would amaze and awe everyone in Israel. The Lord told Samuel that soon he would carry out his judgment against Eli’s household (1 Samuel 2:31-34). God held Eli responsible for allowing his two sons Phinehas and Hophni to blaspheme God (by their irreverence and wicked deeds in their conduct as priests). God vowed that no sacrifice or offering would ever atone for the sins of the house of Eli.

Samuel arose in the morning and began his routine of opening the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell Eli what God had revealed to him. But Eli asked Samuel to tell him what the Lord had said without concealing any of it. Eli told Samuel that the Lord should do to Samuel the same judgment and more if Samuel concealed any of God’s Word from Eli. So Samuel told Eli everything that the Lord had said, and Eli acknowledged that God was Lord, and he accepted God’s judgment.

Samuel grew up with the Lord’s presence with him and none of God’s Word was wasted or unfulfilled. Throughout Israel, from the land of the tribe of Dan in the north, to Beer-sheba in the south, Samuel was recognized as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord appeared to Samuel at Shiloh and revealed himself to Samuel      through his Word.

Acts Summary:

Peter had preached the Gospel to a large crowd which had gathered because of the commotion resulting from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The hearts of the observers were convicted of sin, and they asked the Apostles what they should do. Peter told them to repent (acknowledge their sins and change their ways) and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The promise (of forgiveness and reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit) is for all who will respond to God’s call. Peter urged his hearers to save themselves from God’s judgment upon their sinful generation. About three thousand people responded to Peter’s word and were baptized that day. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship (i.e., discipleship) and worship, participation in the Lord’s Supper (Communion; Eucharist) and prayer.

Every Christian had godly fear (awe and respect for God’s power and authority) and many miracles were done through the apostles. All believers shared their possessions with one another and helped each other as any had need. They attended worship regularly and celebrated the Lord’s Supper in their homes, rejoicing and praising God. Their conduct, generosity and love for one another earned them respect in their community.

Luke Summary:

Some were admiring the beauty of the new temple, and Jesus told them the day was coming when the temple would be utterly destroyed. (The temple was built by Herod to gain political favor from the Jews; begun in 18 B. C. and not completed until 65 A.D., destroyed in 70 A.D, forty years after Jesus’ prediction, and has never been rebuilt.)

The people asked Jesus when this would occur and what signs would foretell this destruction. Jesus warned them to be careful not to be misled by false “christs” and false prophets. Wars and uprisings, earthquakes, famines, and epidemic diseases will occur. There will be disruptions in nature. But before the end of this age, Christians will be persecuted, imprisoned, and judged by civil and religious courts. Judgment before worldly authorities will be an opportunity for disciples to testify to the gospel. Disciples are not to prepare beforehand what to say, because they will be empowered and inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit at the time that they testify. The Lord will give them voice and wisdom which none of their adversaries can withstand or refute (I have personally experienced and testify to that truth).

Christians can expect to be hated and persecuted even by their own immediate families, relatives and friends. Some Christians will be executed for Jesus’ name. But Jesus assures his followers that they will not suffer the slightest loss spiritually and eternally, and that by faithful endurance they will receive true, eternal life.

Before the coming of Jesus, the fellowship and guidance of God’s Spirit was only given to a few who were chosen by God to be his prophets by that spiritual anointing. Samuel was one example of the kind of person God chose to be his prophet. Samuel trusted and obeyed the Lord. He had an obligation to proclaim all of God’s Word, both the promises and assurances, and the warnings and judgments.

Samuel heard God’s call so clearly that he thought it was Eli’s voice. Samuel responded to God’s call in obedient trust; he acknowledged God as his Lord and himself as the Lord’s obedient trusting servant. The Lord revealed himself to Samuel through his Word and Samuel grew to spiritual maturity by the presence of the Lord’s Spirit. The result was that everyone in Israel came to recognize that Samuel was a prophet of the Lord.

Peter is an example of a “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple. On the night of Jesus’ betrayal Peter had been afraid to acknowledge to the high priest’s maid that he knew Jesus (Luke 22:56-57). Now, having just received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, he boldly preached the gospel, inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to a crowd of over three thousand people, and it wasn’t a message that made them feel good. They felt guilty, convicted of sin. That conviction was needed to motivate them to acknowledge their situation and seek God’s forgiveness and salvation from eternal condemnation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Peter told them that the promise of God’s forgiveness and salvation and the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit are available to all who respond to God’s call. Three thousand people heard God’s call that day and responded in obedient trust. Their lives were transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the change was obvious to everyone who came in contact with them.

Church is not about beautiful buildings. It’s about proclaiming God’s Word faithfully, accurately and completely. It’s about making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to know, trust, and obey all that Jesus teaches and commands (Matthew 28:19-20). It’s not about manipulating God to do our will, but learning to know and do God’s will. It’s not to give us false assurance and validate our worldly attitudes and behaviors.

There are many false “christs” and false prophets in the world today. It’s not about trying to know God’s timetable for return of Christ on the Day of Judgment (Acts 1:7). It’s about being a disciple now, seeking the fulfillment of the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and growing to spiritual maturity in personal fellowship with Jesus through his Holy Spirit.

As we trust and obey Jesus we will receive his Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23), and he will reveal his love, power and faithfulness to us. We will learn that Jesus’ word is eternally true. Peter is an example of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of the inspiration and empowerment of his disciples by his Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel.

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

Saturday 5 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/24/05;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Pentecost – Odd

1 Samuel 4:1b-11   –    Philistines Defeat Israel;

Acts 4:32-5:11   –     Ananias and Sapphira;

Luke 21:20-28   –    The End of the Age;

1 Samuel Paraphrase:

Phinehas and Hophni, the sons of Eli, were corrupt priests of the temple at Shiloh. God had prophesied through Samuel that he was going to bring disaster upon the household of Eli, and that Phinehas and Hophni would die on the same day, as a sign that this was the Word of God (1 Samuel 2:34).

The Philistine army camped at Aphek and the Israelites assembled at Ebenezer in the middle of the coastal plain. The armies engaged, and Israel was defeated and four thousand Israelites were slain on the battlefield. When Israel returned to camp, they wondered why the Lord had allowed them to be defeated, and they decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant (a portable shrine representing the power and presence of God) from the temple at Shiloh, so that God’s presence among them would give them victory.

They sent messengers to Shiloh and brought back the Ark of the Covenant, with Phinehas and Hophni, the sons of Eli, who were priests at the temple in Shiloh. When the Ark was brought into the Israelite camp a great shout went up.

The Philistines heard the commotion and wondered what was happening. When they learned that the Ark of God had come into the camp they were afraid. They had never experienced such a thing before, and wondered who would be able to deliver them from the God of Israel. They had heard of the plagues God had brought against the Egyptians when he delivered the Israelites from Egypt. The Philistine leaders ordered their soldiers to be brave and fight like men if they didn’t want to become slaves of Israel.

When the battle was joined the Philistines defeated Israel in a great slaughter. Thirty thousand Israelite soldiers were slain that day, including Phinehas and Hophni, and the Ark of the Covenant was captured.

Acts Paraphrase:

The Christians in Jerusalem were united in heart and soul, and shared every resource among themselves. No one withheld anything as his own possession. The apostles testified to the resurrection of Jesus with great power, and great blessings from God were on them all. There wasn’t anyone among them who lacked anything, because whoever owned land or houses sold them and gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as needed.

Joseph Barnabas (“son of encouragement”), a Levite who had been born in Cyprus, sold a field and gave it to the apostles, but Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and gave only a portion of the proceeds to the church, lying about the amount he had received (and appearing to be generous but inwardly selfish).

Peter, speaking by the Holy Spirit, knew that Ananias had lied, and confronted him publicly. Peter told Ananias that he had not been required to sell his land, and he had not been required to give the money to the church. Peter said Ananias had tried to lie to the Holy Spirit. At these words Ananias fell down dead.

Great fear came on all who heard about this. Young men from the congregation took Ananias’ body out and buried it. Three hours later, Ananias’ wife, Sapphira, came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her the details of the land sale, and she repeated the lie her husband and she had agreed to say. Then Peter told her that she had lied to the Holy Spirit and would suffer the same fate as her husband, and she immediately fell dead at his feet. The young men returned, found her dead, and carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear came upon the entire congregation, and everyone who heard about this.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had prophesied the destruction of the temple (not yet finished; built by Herod to win political favor with the Jews; Luke 21:5-9; and 19:41-44). People asked Jesus what signs would foretell the end of the age, and Jesus told them that when they see armies surrounding Jerusalem they will know that its destruction is near. Then they should flee from Jerusalem and from Judah, because those will be days of God’s vengeance to fulfill the scriptures.

It will be a very difficult time, especially for those who are pregnant or still nursing small children. “For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:23). They will be slain, and made captives throughout all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until they have had opportunity to accept the gospel (Romans 11:25, Isaiah 63:18 Mark 13:10).

The day of Jesus’ return will be foretold by disturbances in the heavens and disruptions in nature on earth. Nations and governments will not know how to deal with these things, and people will be fainting with fear and dread. Then they will see Jesus coming in a cloud, with great power and glory. When these things begin, Christians should rejoice, knowing that their redemption is at hand.

Commentary:

Phinehas and Hophni were corrupt priests who used their priesthood to enrich themselves and manipulate people (1 Samuel 2:22-34; 3:13-14). Israel was facing an attack by her enemy and went to fight, expecting God to win the victory for them, although they were disobedient to God and spiritually corrupt; they didn’t honor and respect God’s power and authority.

The first engagement should have been a warning to them to examine their spiritual condition, to repent and change their ways, and seek the Lord’s help. Instead they thought they could manipulate God to do their will through their corrupt priests. God’s prophecy against the household of Eli was fulfilled.

Ananias and Sapphira thought they could use religion to enrich themselves and gain status through insincerity. They didn’t have a proper fear of God for his power and authority. Their mistake cost them their lives.

The Jews were very proud of their fine new temple, begun in 18 B.C. by King Herod the Great (the King who had attempted to kill the infant Jesus by slaughtering boy children in Bethlehem; see Matthew 2:1-18). Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the dispersion of Israel throughout the world, and this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by the Romans, five years after the completion of the temple and about forty years after Jesus’ prophecy. The Jews were scattered throughout the world, Israel ceased to exist as a nation, and the land was “trampled by Gentiles” until Jews began to return to their land following World War II. The temple has never been rebuilt.

Judaism effectively ended at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the veil of the temple (separating the Holy-of-Holies containing the Ark of the Covenant from the main sanctuary) was torn in two from top to bottom (Luke 23:44-45). The tearing of the veil symbolizes that Jesus has opened the way into the personal presence of the Lord, through obedient trust in Jesus, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The temple was the means of forgiveness and reconciliation with God under the Old Covenant of Law through animal sacrifices. The temple is no longer needed because Jesus is the only sacrifice acceptable to God, once for all time (Hebrews 9:24-28) for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant of grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

At the time of Jesus’ first coming, the religious leaders had become corrupt like the sons of Eli. They were using their positions to gain status and to enrich themselves. They had become like the wicked tenants in Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard (Luke 20:9-16). They didn’t honor and fear God. They liked worldly praise better than God’s approval.

Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, but he also foretold the Day of Judgment when he will return to separate the wicked, who reject and refuse to trust and obey Jesus, from the righteous, who do trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus will return in a cloud, just as his disciples saw him ascend into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).

Whether we are alive or have died physically when Jesus returns, we will be accountable to him for what we have done in this life (John 5:28-29). The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple ought to be a warning to the Church and to Christian nations, which are in very similar conditions today as Israel and Judaism were then.

Do we imagine that God will bless and protect us although we do not trust and obey him? Do we think we can manipulate God to do our bidding by participating in some religious ritual or by some symbol? Do we imagine that we can fool God by insincerity?

Do we choose religious leaders who tell us what we want to hear and do what we ask them to do? Are we using religion for material and social benefit? Do we continue to make the same mistakes, instead of heeding warnings and honestly examining our spiritual condition? When Jesus returns will we be ready, or will we be fainting with fear and dread?

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

4 Pentecost – Odd – 06/21 – 27/2015

June 20, 2015

Week of 4 Pentecost – 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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Podcast Download: Week of  4 Pentecost  -Odd

Sunday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted  06/11/05;

Podcast: Sunday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 29:16-29 – Warning against idolatry;

Revelation 12:1-12 – Conflict between Christ and Satan;

Matthew 15:29-39 – Healing and feeding;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

As Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses warned them of the consequences of idolatry. Moses reminded them of the idolatry of the nations which Israel had passed through and which surrounded them, and warned them not to allow any member of the congregation of Israel to practice idolatry, “lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 29:18).

No one should think he could be safe from God’s wrath while following his own stubborn will. Disobedience within the congregation will result in good people being swept away along with the sinful. The Lord will not allow the disobedient to go unpunished, and the curses of God’s Word upon his enemies will be fulfilled. Those who break the covenant of God’s Word will receive the calamities God’s Word warns against. Those who break God’s covenant will suffer God’s wrath and punishment, as did Sodom and Gomorrah, (and Admah and Zeboim; two other cities destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah).

God intended for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to be an example to the world of God’s judgment against wickedness. Israel was warned that they would suffer a similar fate if they broke their covenant with God and practiced idolatry, which God has forbidden. God warned that Israel would be driven from the Promised Land and would suffer the curses of God’s Word if they disobeyed God’s Word and worshiped other gods. God’s people are to trust God and leave to God’s divine wisdom things which are beyond human knowledge and understanding, but are to obey, and teach our children to obey, what God has revealed to us through his Word.

Revelation Paraphrase:

John described a vision in the sky of a woman “clothed with the sun” (Revelation 12:1), standing on the moon, crowned with a crown of twelve stars (the twelve tribes of Israel; also, the twelve Apostles). The woman was pregnant and cried out in labor pain. Another vision appeared: a great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns. One third of the stars were swept to earth by his tail.

The dragon was poised to destroy the child once the woman had given birth. The woman gave birth to a male child, who is to rule all nations with an iron rod, but God snatched up the child to his throne in heaven, and the woman fled into the wilderness to a place God had prepared for her, where she is to be nourished for twelve hundred and sixty days.

John described a war in heaven, where Michael, the Archangel who is Israel’s guardian, fought the dragon (Satan) and Satan’s angels (i.e. demons), and defeated them. Satan and his angels were exiled to earth. A loud voice in heaven declared that “salvation, power and the kingdom of God and his Christ (Messiah; God’s anointed Savior and King) have come” and the accuser (Satan; Job 1:9-11) has been defeated. God’s people have conquered Satan “by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus, the “sacrificial Lamb” of Passover), and by the word of their testimony” (confessing Jesus as Lord, and proclaiming his gospel), willing to give up their worldly lives for the sake of the Gospel and the kingdom of God. Heaven and God’s kingdom rejoice, but the earth grieves in misery because Satan is plotting evil in anger, knowing that the time of his freedom and power is limited.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and Sidon to the hills (on the northern shore) near the Sea of Galilee. Great crowds came to him bringing the lame, maimed, blind, mute, and many others and Jesus healed them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute “speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing” (Matthew 15:31) and they glorified God.

The crowd had been there for three days, and Jesus told his disciples that he wanted to feed the crowd because they had nothing to eat and Jesus didn’t want them sent away hungry, or they might faint on the way home. His disciples asked Jesus where they could get enough bread in the wilderness to feed such a large crowd. Jesus asked what bread the disciples had, and they told him they had seven loaves and several small fish.

Jesus had the crowd sit down, and he took the bread and fish and after he gave thanks to God, he broke the bread and fish into pieces and had the disciples distribute them to the crowd. All ate and were satisfied, and the disciples collected seven baskets of food left over. There had been about four thousand men, not counting women and children. Jesus dismissed the crowd and then got in a boat and went to Magadan (on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee).

Commentary:

God’s Word contains promises and warnings, blessings and curses. God is God whether we acknowledge him or not, but we will either trust and obey him or suffer the consequences. God’s Word is eternal and is fulfilled repeatedly as the conditions for its fulfillment occur. God’s Word was fulfilled when Judah, the Southern Kingdom and remnant of Israel, was carried off by Nebuchadnezzar into exile in Babylon for seventy years from 587 to 517 B.C. Israel was again driven into “exile” in 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and the state of Israel ceased to exist, until it was reestablished following World War II.

In one sense, America is the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land” (on earth). The Church is also the “New Israel,” the “New People of God.” God’s Word is a warning to America and to the Church not to tolerate disobedience of God’s Word and idolatry. Idolatry is any thing which conflicts with obedient trust in the Lord. Money, power, family, hedonism, nationalism, humanism, self-sufficiency are all prevalent idols.

The woman in John’s vision symbolizes Israel, through whom the “child,” the Messiah, Jesus, came. After the coming of Christ, the Church, is under the protection and providence of God in the spiritual wilderness of this world during the time after Satan was defeated by Jesus on the Cross, until Satan is restrained. [Revelation 20:1-3; Daniel 7:25, 12:7. Some believe that the twelve hundred and sixty days, or forty-two months, or three and a half years, is the period of the “Great Tribulation,” before the “Rapture” of the Church. My personal conviction is that this is part of the “secret things (which) belong to the Lord our God;” Deuteronomy 29:29a. We should entrust those things to God (Acts 1:6-7) and focus on knowing and doing what he has revealed in his Word].

God’s people have overcome Satan by the blood of Jesus Christ, through his sacrificial death on the Cross, by their confession of faith (obedient trust) in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and by their testimony to Jesus and his Gospel, by word and deed, to the world. God’s grace (free gift; unmerited favor) of salvation in Jesus Christ must be claimed and received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s people receive salvation and eternal life by surrendering their worldly lives and their own will, in order to live for and serve the Lord, and God’s will.

Jesus is our healer of spiritual blindness, spiritual deafness, spiritual lameness, and spiritual muteness (Matthew 10:19-20), and the spiritually maimed, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit which he gives to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). Jesus is our “bread of life (John 6:31-35, 48-51)” which God provides to nourish and sustain us in the spiritual wilderness of this life and give us eternal life in God’s kingdom.

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

Monday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/12/05;

Podcast: Monday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 30:1-10 – Repentance and restoration;

2 Corinthians 10:1-18 – Paul’s defense of his ministry;

Luke 18:31-43 – The road to Jerusalem;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord warned Israel that obedient trust in the Lord was the requirement for life in the Promised Land. The Lord promised to bless those who obeyed him and to punish rebellion and disobedience, and he foresaw that Israel would disobey and be exiled from the Promised Land.The Lord promised to restore Israel to the Promised Land when they acknowledged their disobedience and turned to the Lord with all their heart and soul, in obedient trust.

The Lord promised that he would gather them back to the Promised Land no matter how far they had been scattered, even from the ends of the universe. He will restore them to their land and will bless them and prosper them more than their forefathers. “And the Lord will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (eternally; Deuteronomy 30:6).

The Lord promised that it would be the enemy of God’s people who would receive the curses of God’s wrath and eternal punishment. God’s people will return to live in obedience to God’s commands, and God will prosper them in their work and their offspring and the fertility of their livestock and their land. The Lord will delight in blessing his people if they will obey the Lord and his Word with all their heart and soul.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

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 has grown to spiritual maturity and obedience 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 others, and without conflict over who deserved the credit. It is not what humans think of themselves that counts, but what is approved by God.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told the Twelve (original disciples) that they were going to go to Jerusalem, and that every Biblical prophecy concerning the Son of man (Jesus’ name for himself, which allowed his hearers to reach their own conclusion as to who he was) would be fulfilled. For the fourth time (Luke 9:22; 44-45; 17:25; 18:31-33), according to Luke, Jesus foretold his suffering and crucifixion, telling his disciples that he would be turned over to the Gentile authorities, mocked, spat upon and treated shamefully, flogged and killed, and that he would rise again on the third day. But his disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying.

As they approached Jericho (about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem) they passed a blind beggar sitting along the road. He heard the multitude passing and asked what was happening. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, the blind man called out addressing Jesus as the Son of David (the Messianic heir and eternal king of the line of David), and asking Jesus to have mercy on him.

People preceding Jesus told the man to be quiet, but he called out even louder. Jesus stopped and asked for the man to be brought to him, and then asked the man what he wanted Jesus to do for him. The man addressed Jesus as Lord, and asked to regain his sight. Jesus commanded the man’s sight to be restored and his blindness was healed instantly. The man joined the multitude following Jesus, glorifying God, and the multitude also praised God for the miracle they had witnessed.

Commentary:

Obedient trust is the requirement for eternal life in God’s kingdom. God will reward obedient trust and will punish rebellion and disobedience. God foresaw Israel’s disobedience and prophesied that Israel would be exiled from the Promised Land until they learned to repent and return to the Lord in obedient trust. The Lord promised that when they repented and turned to him in obedient trust he would restore them to the Promised Land and would delight in blessing them.

God’s Word is eternally true and is fulfilled repeatedly as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. Judah, the remnant of Israel, was driven into exile in Babylon from 587 to 517 BC because of their idolatry and disobedience to God’s Word and God’s prophets. The Lord did restore them to the Promised Land as he had promised, when they repented and returned to the Lord in obedient trust.

But Israel forgot the lesson they should have learned in exile in Babylon, and refused to trust and obey Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and eternal King, the heir to David’s throne. The result was that they were again exiled from the Promised Land, and only began to return following World War II.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is also intended to be a parable and metaphor for life in this world, written down for our instruction so that we might avoid making the same mistakes (1 Corinthians 10:11). God’s prophetic warning applies to America, the “New Promised Land” and “New Israel,” (nation of God’s people), and also to the Church, which is the “New People of God” and the “New Jerusalem” the “New City of God” on earth.

Paul (formerly “Saul”) is the example of a modern, “post-resurrection” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, who did not know Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Acts 9:1-20; he was also the Lord’s apparent choice as the Apostle to replace Judas, who betrayed the Lord). Paul was carrying out Christ’s commission to his disciples to make disciples and teach them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20).

Paul was falsely accused of “not practicing what he preached.” Paul was personally enduring suffering to preserve and pass on the scriptural (as recorded in the Bible) Apostolic Gospel (as learned by the Apostles, including Paul, in personal fellowship with, and designation as apostles by Jesus). Paul’s goal was to disciple Christians to spiritual maturity through obedience to Jesus and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17).

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise in Deuteronomy to circumcise the hearts of his people and their offspring, so that they can love the Lord with all their heart and soul, and have eternal life with him (Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 8:9b-13) Paul’s conviction was that the Church would discipline and punish the disobedient among its members when the Church had grown to spiritual maturity and accepted Apostolic authority.

The Church is engaged in spiritual warfare; the “enemy” is human pride, argument and resistance to the knowledge of God. The objective is to achieve obedient trust in Jesus Christ. Anyone who claims to have spiritual sight should recognize the truth and authority of the scriptural Apostolic Gospel. The way to multiply and strengthen the Church is to uphold that Apostolic truth and authority.

Those who use any other standard than the divine standard of that truth and authority demonstrate their spiritual ignorance. Authentic Christians don’t seek personal glory, they don’t interfere or compete with the ministry of others and don’t argue over who deserves the credit. Their goal is God’s approval and the strength and health of Christ’s Church.

Jesus’ disciples didn’t have spiritual maturity and spiritual understanding until they had personally experienced Jesus’ Resurrection and had received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45, 49). Paul didn’t have spiritual maturity and understanding until he encountered the risen and ascended Jesus on the road to Damascus, repented, trusted and obeyed Jesus, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:1-20).

The beggar along the road to Jerusalem was physically blind, but spiritually sighted. The people following Jesus had not decided that Jesus was more than “Jesus of Nazareth” [regarded as an obscure village in a province far from the political and spiritual capital of Israel (John 1:46; 7:52)]. But the blind man cried out in faith, acknowledging Jesus as the Son of David, God’s anointed Savior and eternal King of Israel, and the blind man acknowledged Jesus as his Lord, trusting that Jesus was able to heal his blindness. His healing made it possible for him to follow Jesus and he used it for that purpose.

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

Tuesday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/13/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 30:11-20 – Choose life or death;

2 Corinthians 11:1-21a – Paul’s response to critics;

Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus the tax collector;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The covenant with God is not beyond the ability of Israel (God’s people) to understand and obey. The Word of God is near to them, in their very mouth and heart. The Lord sets before them a choice between (eternal) life and death; between good and evil. If Israel obeys God’s Word the Lord will bless and prosper them and give them long life in the Promised Land. But if they turn away from serving the Lord and refuse to hear his Word, turning away to worship and serve other gods, the Lord promises that they will perish (die eternally). God’s Word contains both blessings and curses and a choice between (eternal) life and (eternal) death. Choosing to love, obey, worship and serve God rather than practicing idolatry (worshiping or serving any other thing or person than the Lord) results in long life in the Promised Land.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

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 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. 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.”

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was heading for Jerusalem, knowing that he would be crucified (Luke 18:31-34). As he was passing through Jericho, a few miles from Jerusalem, Zacchaeus, a tax collector (a collaborator who had become rich collecting Roman taxes from his fellow Jews), wanted to see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed into a tree to see better. As he came to the tree, Jesus called him by name and told Zacchaeus that he needed to stay at Zacchaeus’ house.

Zacchaeus was glad to have Jesus as his guest. The crowd criticized Jesus for associating with a man they regarded as a sinner. Zacchaeus called Jesus “Lord” and vowed to give half of all his possessions and wealth to the poor, and promised to restore four times whatever he had defrauded anyone. Jesus declared that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day, “since he also is a son of Abraham.” Jesus declared that his mission was to seek and save the (spiritually) lost.

Commentary:

God’s purpose has always been, from the beginning of Creation, to establish an eternal kingdom of God’s people who willingly trust and obey him. This Creation was designed from the very beginning to accomplish that purpose. This life is our opportunity to seek and find God, who is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27). Sin is anything other than obedient trust in the Lord. Idolatry is worshiping and serving anyone or anything other than the Lord.

All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). God gave us free will when he designed Creation and God knew that we would all be sinful by nature. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for forgiveness of our sins and restoration to fellowship and eternal life with God (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Creation was designed with Jesus Christ “built into it” from the very beginning (John 1:1-5:14).

This lifetime is a selection process for eternal life in God’s kingdom, and God has given us a choice. We are all created as eternal beings (John 5:28-29). We can choose to love, obey, worship and serve the Lord in paradise in his eternal kingdom, or we can reject his offer, but the consequence of rejection is eternal death separated eternally from God’s love and providence and everything good.

God has gone to great lengths to demonstrate that he is loving and righteous and that his will is our very best interest. He has given us his Word to guide us. He wants us to find him so that he can reveal himself to us and show us his love and goodness, but he won’t force himself upon us.

Paul and all genuine Christian evangelists are “friends of the groom” Jesus Christ (they have personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit), who are trying to arrange the “betrothal” of their hearers to Jesus Christ. Seekers and new believers are vulnerable to false apostles, “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). There are many false prophets and false doctrines in the world and in the Church today, which began in the first-century Church and are refuted in the New Testament. There are many examples of false apostles who appear to be righteous, for whom ministry is a “career choice” or a way to manipulate and have power over people.

Ministers of the Gospel deserve the financial support of their congregations, but they need to be genuine “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ commissioned and empowered by his Holy Spirit for ministry. There are many false doctrines being proclaimed in so-called “churches,” preaching a different “Jesus” than the Biblical Jesus, another “Spirit” than the Biblical Holy Spirit, another book or “another gospel” than the Biblical Apostolic Gospel recorded in the New Testament.

Since this whole earthly life is about learning to choose right from wrong we should read, know and apply God’s Word so that we have some sound basis for discerning the right choice. Satan knows God’s Word and quoted it to Jesus, the Son of God and the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:14), to try and lead Jesus astray. Jesus demonstrated that the only defense against Satan is knowledge of God’s Word (Matthew 4:4-11).

This life is our only opportunity to seek and come to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with, God through faith in Jesus Christ, who is God’s revelation of himself in human flesh to the world, through whom we come to know the love, goodness, faithfulness and power of God. As we learn to trust and obey Jesus we receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), who is the fullest revelation of God the Father and the risen Jesus to us personally and individually.

Jesus is near to us. If we make an effort to see him in the Bible scriptures, we can hear him calling us to have fellowship with him, and as we respond to his call by beginning to apply his teachings in our lives, he will reveal himself and come into personal fellowship with us through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:21, 23; Revelation 3:20). When we respond to Jesus in obedient trust we enter God’s eternal kingdom (1 John 5:11-12). The gift of 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).

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

Wednesday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/14/05;

Podcast: Wednesday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14 – The song of Moses;

2 Corinthians 11:21b-33 – Paul’s suffering;

Luke 19:11-27 – Parable of the pounds;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord is great; he is the Rock (solid; dependable); his work is perfect and he is just in all his doings. He is faithful, just and righteous. Israel (and mankind) has dealt corruptly with the Lord; they are no longer his children because of their sin. “They are a perverse and crooked generation” (Deuteronomy 32:5). Are they so foolish and ignorant as to treat the Lord that way? Do they not realize that he is their father and creator?

Remember the days of old; let them ask their elders. The Lord rules over the allotment and boundaries of nations, but he has chosen Israel as his own people. The Lord found Israel in the wilderness and protected and provided for them, and tended them like an Eagle cares for its young. The Lord alone led them; not some foreign idol. He lifted Israel up to the high places of earth and fed him with the produce of the field. The Lord gave them honey and oil from the rock, and provided the finest food from their herds, vineyards and fields.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul (formerly called “Saul”) 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 him (or her).

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 a window in the city wall (2 Corinthians 11:32-33; compare Acts 9:23-25).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, where he knew he would be crucified. (Luke 18:31-34). As they drew near Jesus told his disciples a parable “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). A nobleman went to a distant land to receive kingly power and then return (to reign over his own land). He called his servants and gave them each an identical amount of money (a “pound;” a “talent;” compare Matthew 25:14-30) and told them to invest and trade with the money until his return.

The nobleman’s citizens hated him and sent a delegation to try and thwart the nobleman’s appointment as king, saying that they didn’t want the nobleman to reign over them. When the nobleman returned, having received his kingly authority, he called his servants to account for the money he had given them to invest. One servant had used the pound to make ten more pounds. The king commended the servant for doing well, and gave him authority over ten cities. Another servant had made five pounds, and was commended and given authority over five cities. One servant had buried his master’s pound because he was afraid of his master and believed that his master possessed what the master hadn’t earned or deserved. The master condemned the unfaithful servant, saying that the servant should have at least put the pound in the bank where it would be safe and would earn interest.

The king took the pound from the unfaithful servant and gave it to the servant who had gained the ten pounds. Some were surprised and criticized the king for giving it to the servant who had the most. But the king replied that to those who have, more will be given; but to those who have not, even what they have will be taken away. Then the king commanded that the enemies of his kingdom who didn’t want the nobleman to reign over them be brought and executed in the king’s presence.

Commentary:

In one sense we are all God’s people, because he is our Creator, and we have been disowned, separated from God, because of sin. We have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of his righteousness (Romans 3:23). In another sense Israel was the chosen people of God, whom God brought out of the wilderness into the Promised Land, but who repeatedly disobeyed God’s Word and went astray, worshiping and serving idols.

God’s Word is a warning to “Christian” nations today, particularly America, the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” and also to the Church, which is the “New People of God.” Are we dealing corruptly with the Lord? Are we a crooked and perverse generation? Have we as Church and Nation forgotten what God taught our ancestors and our elders in the “wilderness?” Have we forgotten the care, providence and protection of God for us in the past?

Jesus is the fulfillment and manifestation in flesh of God, the Rock. Jesus is the only solid Rock on which to build, by obedient trust in him, a life that will last for eternity (Matthew 7:24-27). Jesus is the Rock who provides the spiritual water of life in the wilderness of this world (1 Corinthians 10:4b; Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:7-11; John 4:10-14; John 7:37-39).

The confession that Jesus is the Christ, God’s anointed Savior and eternal King, is the Rock on which his Church is built. (Matthew 16:16-18). Jesus is the Rock of salvation (Acts 4:11-12). Jesus is also the Rock which will cause people to stumble and be destroyed by unbelief and disobedience (Matthew 21:42-44; Romans 9:31-33; 1 Peter 2:7-8; Isaiah 28:16, 8:14-15).

Paul is the example and prototype of a modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple of Jesus Christ. The Lord gave Paul forgiveness and salvation from eternal punishment and spiritual death through Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-20), and from that moment Paul began investing that gift for maximum yield and benefit for God’s kingdom.

Paul wasn’t seeking his own profit or recognition. Paul was willing to be humble and to admit his own weakness so that the Lord’s power working in and through him could be seen and glorified. He was willing take personal risk and to endure hardship to benefit God’s kingdom, and so that others could also share the gift and the work of God’s kingdom.

The parable of the pounds is the spiritual reality of this life. We are the citizens of this world, and Jesus is the nobleman who has gone to the distant land of God’s kingdom in heaven, where he has received his kingly authority (Matthew 28:18). Some of the citizens of this world have refused to accept Jesus’ kingly authority over them. Those who have accepted Jesus’ kingly authority are his servants.

The Lord has given all the citizens of this world the gift of forgiveness of sin and salvation from eternal destruction, on the condition that they trust and obey Jesus as their Lord and King (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the gift which they are to invest by applying the Gospel in their lives, and by sharing the Gospel with others to produce a “profit” for Christ’s kingdom.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when Jesus will return in the glory and power of his eternal kingship. We will all be accountable to him for the gift God has given us. He will reward his servants in proportion to what they have done with the gift they have been given, and he will destroy those who have refused to trust and obey him (Matthew 25:31-46). Are you the Lord’s servant? What kind of servant are you?

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

Thursday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/15/05;

Podcast: Thursday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Ecclesiasticus 44:19-45:5    –   Abraham and Moses;

Song of Solomon 1:1-3, 9-11, 15-16a; 2:1-3a   –    Song of Songs;

2 Corinthians 12:1-10    –    Strength in Weakness;

Luke 19:28-40   –   Entry into Jerusalem;

Eccleiasticus (The Book of Sirach, or Ben Sira*) Text:

“Ecclesiasticus 44:19 Abraham was a great father of many people: in glory was there none like unto him;

Ecclesiasticus 44:20 Who kept the law of the most High, and was in covenant with him: he established the covenant in his flesh; and when he was proved, he was found faithful.

Ecclesiasticus 44:21 Therefore he assured him by an oath, that he would bless the nations in his seed, and that he would multiply him as the dust of the earth, and exalt his seed as the stars, and cause them to inherit from sea to sea, and from the river unto the utmost part of the land.

Ecclesiasticus 44:22 With Isaac did he establish likewise for Abraham his father’s sake the blessing of all men, and the covenant, And made it rest upon the head of Jacob. He acknowledged him in his blessing, and gave him an heritage, and divided his portions; among the twelve tribes did he part them.

Ecclesiasticus 45:1 And he brought out of him a merciful man, which found favour in the sight of all flesh, even Moses, beloved of God and men, whose memorial is blessed.

Ecclesiasticus 45:2 He made him like to the glorious saints, and magnified him, so that his enemies stood in fear of him.

Ecclesiasticus 45:3 By his words he caused the wonders to cease, and he made him glorious in the sight of kings, and gave him a commandment for his people, and shewed him part of his glory.

Ecclesiasticus 45:4 He sanctified him in his faithfuless and meekness, and chose him out of all men.

Ecclesiasticus 45:5 He made him to hear his voice, and brought him into the dark cloud, and gave him commandments before his face, even the law of life and knowledge, that he might teach Jacob his covenants, and Israel his judgments.”

Eccleiasticus Paraphrase:

Abraham was a great father of many people; no one (among men) compares to his greatness. He obeyed God’s Word and was faithful to God’s covenant. When tested he was found to be faithful. God promised to bless his descendants and make from them a great nation beyond counting, and promised to give them the Promised Land for an inheritance. God renewed his covenant and blessing with Isaac and Isaac passed it on to his son Jacob, and divided the inheritance of the blessing and land among the twelve tribes.

From the descendants of Abraham God brought forth Moses, who was highly regarded and beloved by God and by all people. God magnified Moses in peoples’ eyes so that his enemies would fear him. God gave Moses power to work wonders, exalted him among kings, gave him the commandments, and revealed a portion of his glory to Moses. God sanctified (purified and set apart for God’s service) Moses in Moses’ faithfulness and meekness, and chose him from all people (to be leader and mediator between God and God’s people). God allowed Moses to hear God’s voice, allowed Moses to enter into (God’s presence in) the cloud (on Mount Sinai) , gave Moses God’s commandments, the laws of life and knowledge, face to face, so that Moses could teach the descendants of Jacob (Israel) his covenants and judgments.

Song of Solomon Paraphrase:

The love of the King is better than wine or fragrant anointing oil; his “name is oil poured out.” His bride is beautiful and the King will adorn her with finest jewels and gold and silver ornaments. She is truly beautiful and beloved. The King is a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley, and his bride is a lily among thorns and an apple tree bearing sweet fruit among a forest (of unfruitful trees).

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

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.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was going to Jerusalem where he knew that he would be crucified (Luke 18:31-33). When Jesus and his disciples and followers came to Bethphage (on the outskirts of Jerusalem) and Bethany (about two miles from Jerusalem, on the slope of the Mount of Olives) Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village where they would find a young donkey which had never been ridden. Jesus told them to untie and bring the donkey, and if anyone questioned them they were to say that the Lord needed it.

The two disciples found it exactly as Jesus had said; they were questioned, and they answered as Jesus had told them, and they returned with the donkey. They placed their garments on the donkey and Jesus sat on it. Others put their garments on the road for the Lord to ride over. As he drew near to Jerusalem, descending from the Mount of Olives, the disciples and the whole multitude of followers began to rejoice and praise God, saying “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some Pharisees (legalistic religious leaders) among the crowd told Jesus to rebuke his disciples, but Jesus replied that if people were silent the rocks would cry out.

Commentary:

Abraham and Moses are both examples of the kind of person God can use to accomplish God’s purpose. Both humbly trusted and obeyed the Lord. Neither sought their own greatness. Abraham is also an illustration of God the Father who passes on his blessing and inheritance to his children who keep God’s covenant by obedient trust. Abraham is the father not just of the Jews but of all Christians who trust and obey the Lord as Abraham did (Romans 4:16-17).

Moses is a forerunner and illustration of Christ; Jesus is our mediator between God and his people. Jesus is our leader who leads us through the wilderness of this life and into the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom. It is through Jesus by his indwelling Holy Spirit that we enter into God’s presence, hear God’s voice, understand God’s Word, know God’s will, and learn the laws of life and divine  knowledge (in contrast to what the world falsely calls knowledge; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 2:6-7).

The Song of Songs is a love song of a king and his bride. It can be understood as describing the love between the Lord and his “bride” the Church. Jesus is the Messiah (Christ; both mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek, respectively), God’s anointed King of God’s eternal kingdom. The anointing was done with oil, so his name is literally the equivalent of “oil poured out” and the fulfillment of God’s Word .

The love of the King is illustrated and demonstrated in God’s Word and experienced in the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which is an “anointing.” I and all “born-again” Christian disciples can testify that the Lord’s love is far better than any worldly approval, honor, anointing with the most fragrant oil, or the “high” one gets from alcohol. It’s the Lord’s approval and the anointing with his Holy Spirit that we should be seeking.

Jesus is the Rose of Sharon; the Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1); the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s people beholding the glory and majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 35:1-2; the “rose” of Sharon is a crocus, or a lily). The Lord loves his “bride,” the true Church, “the body of Christ,” but not every Church and every person that calls themselves “Christian” is part of the true Church. It is the true Church that is “beautiful” in their love of and in obedient trust in the Lord, who produces good fruit, and whom the King will bless with spiritual riches.

Paul is an example of the modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple and Apostle (a messenger of the Gospel). He was obedient and faithful to the Lord. He wasn’t seeking his own glory, material wealth or worldly power. He did not allow himself to become prideful because of his spiritual vision, knowledge and insight. He was humble and willing to suffer physically and emotionally for the sake of the Gospel.

Paul accepted the Lord’s discipline. He learned from experience to trust and rely on the Lord’s power and providence. He admitted his weakness and acknowledged and gave the Lord glory for whatever was accomplished through Paul. Paul experienced personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord and experienced the Lord’s love and power through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul applied Jesus’ teaching and example in his own life.

Jesus, the Son of God, God’s anointed Savior and King of God’s eternal kingdom, in whom the complete deity of God dwelt bodily (Colossians 2:8-9), willingly entered Jerusalem, the “city of God,” on a young donkey, knowing that he would be crucified. His followers acknowledged and proclaimed him God’s anointed King and Lord. They gave him a “red carpet” welcome. Jesus didn’t come with great demonstration of power and glory; he came humbly, not in the horse-drawn chariot of a king, but on the back of a donkey. He didn’t expect or seek his own worldly praise and recognition, but he would not rebuke his disciples who recognized and acknowledged him.

Jesus is coming again. This time he will come with tremendous supernatural power and glory. Do you realize who Jesus is?

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


*One of the Deuterocanonical Books of the Bible, known as the Apocrypha. Quoted above, since not all Bible editions contain Apocrypha:

http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ecclesiasticus-Chapter-1/


Friday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 

Podcast: Friday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Ecclesiasticus 45:6-16*   –   Aaron’s priesthood; Song of Solomon 2:8-13; 4:1-4a, 5-7, 9-11    –   The lover comes in the spring; 2 Corinthians 12:11-21    –    Paul’s approaching visit; Luke 19:41-48   –   Cleansing the temple;

Ecclesiasticus Text:

“Ecclesiasticus 45:6 He exalted Aaron, an holy man like unto him, even his brother, of the tribe of Levi.

Ecclesiasticus 45:7 An everlasting covenant he made with him and gave him the priesthood among the people; he beautified him with comely ornaments, and clothed him with a robe of glory.

Ecclesiasticus 45:8 He put upon him perfect glory; and strengthened him with rich garments, with breeches, with a long robe, and the ephod.

Ecclesiasticus 45:9 And he compassed him with pomegranates, and with many golden bells round about, that as he went there might be a sound, and a noise made that might be heard in the temple, for a memorial to the children of his people;

Ecclesiasticus 45:10 With an holy garment, with gold, and blue silk, and purple, the work of the embroidere, with a breastplate of judgment, and with Urim and Thummim;

Ecclesiasticus 45:11 With twisted scarlet, the work of the cunning workman, with precious stones graven like seals, and set in gold, the work of the jeweller, with a writing engraved for a memorial, after the number of the tribes of Israel.

Ecclesiasticus 45:12 He set a crown of gold upon the mitre, wherein was engraved Holiness, an ornament of honour, a costly work, the desires of the eyes, goodly and beautiful.

Ecclesiasticus 45:13 Before him there were none such, neither did ever any stranger put them on, but only his children and his children’s children perpetually.

Ecclesiasticus 45:14 Their sacrifices shall be wholly consumed every day twice continually.

Ecclesiasticus 45:15 Moses consecrated him, and anointed him with holy oil: this was appointed unto him by an everlasting covenant, and to his seed, so long as the heavens should remain, that they should minister unto him, and execute the office of the priesthood, and bless the people in his name.

Ecclesiasticus 45:16 He chose him out of all men living to offer sacrifices to the Lord, incense, and a sweet savour, for a memorial, to make reconciliation for his people.”

Ecclesiasticus Paraphrase:

God blessed Aaron and gave him the priesthood which was to be passed on to his descendants. God put his perfect glory upon Aaron and strengthened him with a robe of glory. Moses consecrated Aaron and anointed him with holy oil. God chose him out of all people to offer sacrifice to the Lord, to make reconciliation for his people.

Song of Solomon Paraphrase

[The Song of Solomon can be understood as a love song of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his bride, the Church.]

The Lord’s coming draws near; his voice can be heard. He calls to his beloved to arise and come to the Lord and come away with him. The winter is past and the signs of spring can be seen throughout nature. His bride is beautiful and without flaw. The Lord loves her and desires her love above all.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

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).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem, knowing that he would be crucified (Luke 18:31-34). When Jesus approached and saw the city he wept over it, saying “Would that even today you knew the things that make for Peace! But now they are hid from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (fulfilled by the Romans in 70 A.D.), and declared that it would happen because Israel had not recognized and accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus entered the temple and drove out the merchants who conducted business (those who sold animals for sacrifice and exchanged Roman coins for Jewish coins required for use in the temple), declaring that they had made what God designated a house of prayer into a den of robbers (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11).

Jesus taught in the temple daily. “The chief priests and the scribes (teachers of Jewish law) and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words” (Luke 19:48).

Commentary:

Aaron is a forerunner and illustration of the Christ who was to come. Aaron’s priesthood was to be replaced by a better, eternal high priest, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one and only Messiah (Christ; meaning “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek respectively). Jesus is the only one who could and did offer a sacrifice, on the Cross, once for all people and all time, to make reconciliation for his people (all who trust and obey Jesus). God put his perfect glory upon Jesus and strengthened him with the robe of glory (through his Holy Spirit; Luke 3:21-22; Colossians 2:8-9).

Jesus passes on that priesthood to his spiritual children, not that they replace or become equal to Jesus, but serving under him and carrying on his ministry. The gift of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17) is the anointing of the perfect glory of God and the “robe of glory” who strengthens his disciples and enables them to carry on Christ’s ministry of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God.

The King is coming! The Lord Jesus Christ has promised to return for his bride, the Church, on the Day of Judgment. (John 14:3; Acts 1:10-11). Like we can tell when winter is over and spring is coming, we can see spiritual indications all around us that his return is drawing near. The Lord loves his bride, the Church, and desires her love for him. Jesus calls his beloved to arise and come to the Lord spiritually through obedient trust and spiritual growth, so that she is prepared to come away with the Lord. When Jesus returns will he find her beautiful and flawless?

Paul had promised to return to his Corinthian Church, and as his visit drew near he was trying to prepare the Church for his coming, so that his visit would not be an occasion for embarrassment and mourning. Paul was an authentic Apostle (messenger; of the Gospel), who testified to, and demonstrated his “anointing” by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He wasn’t in it for the money, for worldly acclaim, to manipulate people, or to please himself. Paul was seeking their spiritual growth and wellbeing.

Paul is an example of the inheritance of Jesus’ eternal priesthood by the spiritual children of Christ, and Paul’s fatherly concern for his spiritual children at Corinth emulates Christ’s concern for his Church. Paul is the example of what Church leaders should be, in contrast to the leaders of Judaism at the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. Paul was an authentic “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, and the Church at Corinth should have been able to recognize that from Paul’s words and actions.

Paul was worried that he would be embarrassed and grieved at his visit by finding a considerable number of members of the Corinthian congregation who were unrepentant and continuing to practice sinful behavior.

Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, “the city of God,” knowing that they were unprepared for his coming. Jesus knew that their city and temple would be destroyed because they had not recognized and accepted Jesus as the Messiah, God’s anointed Savior and King. When Jesus entered the city he went to the temple and began driving out those who were violating God’s Word and using religion for their personal profit. The reason that the temple was full of disobedient, unrepentant sinners was because there was tremendous corruption in the religious leaders.

How are we doing, Church? Are we ready for Jesus’ return? Do we tolerate unrepentant sinful behavior like impurity, immorality and licentiousness within our congregations? Are there quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder within our congregations?  Do we tolerate false apostles? Do we choose preachers who preach only what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4)?

Are we pursuing spiritual growth and the “anointing of the Holy Spirit?” Are we using religion for financial or political gain? Has religion become a “business?” Are we carrying on Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness, reconciliation and discipleship by his call and empowerment by the Holy Spirit?  Are we returning Christ’s love for us with indifference or anger? When Jesus returns, will he find his bride beautiful and without blemish, or will he mourn and be forced to drive out the wicked?

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


*One of the Deuterocanonical Books of the Bible, known as the Apocrypha. Quoted above, since not all Bible editions contain Apocrypha:

http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ecclesiasticus-Chapter-1/


Saturday 4 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/17/05;

Podcast: Saturday 4 Pentecost – Odd

Song of Solomon 5:10-16; 7:1-7a (9); 8:6-7 – The king and his bride;

2 Corinthians 13:1-14 – Paul’s impending visit;

Luke 20:1-8 – Jesus’ authority;

Song of Solomon Paraphrase:

[The Song of Solomon can be understood as a love song of the lover (the king; Jesus Christ) and his bride (the Church).]

The bride’s lover is the “fairest of ten thousand.” His words are sweet and he is completely desirable. He is the bride’s beloved and her friend. The bride is queenly and virginal. She is fair and pleasant. She is beloved and pleasing to her lover. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as (or stronger than) death, jealousy is cruel as the grave” (Song of Solomon 8:6). The fire of jealousy is an unquenchable flame. Love cannot be quenched or drowned, and love is worth more than any amount of material wealth.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

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).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, knowing that he would be crucified (Luke 18:31-34). Jesus was teaching and preaching the gospel daily in the temple, and one day the religious leaders demanded to know by whose authority Jesus was teaching and preaching (and healing; Matthew 21:14-15). Jesus replied by asking the religious authorities whether the baptism (authority) of John was from heaven or from men.

The authorities discussed the question among themselves, realizing that if they acknowledged John’s heavenly authority they were admitting their guilt of sin for not accepting John’s call for repentance. On the other hand, if they denied John’s heavenly authority the people would rebel against the leaders’ authority. So they decided to say they didn’t know. Then Jesus told the leaders that he wouldn’t answer their question either.

Commentary:

Jesus Christ loves his Church and his true and faithful Church loves and desires him. His words are sweet and his will for his Church and people is most desirable and in their very best interest. Jesus is more beautiful and desirable than any other person or thing. Jesus’ is a true friend, whose friendship exceeds any other. The Church is to be “queenly,” to act nobly, and virginal, not tolerating sin, immorality or infidelity.

The Church is sealed in Christ by the gift and “anointing” of the indwelling Holy Spirit within each member. It is the Holy Spirit who is the seal upon our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and that we have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Love is stronger than death because love is eternal (1 Corinthians 13:13). But the Lord will not tolerate any rival for his love and affections (i.e., idolatry; Exodus 20:2-6). Disobedience and idolatry will be punished by eternal fire in Hell (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Those who truly love Jesus will trust and obey him (John 14:21, 23).

Paul is the example of a modern, “post-resurrection,” “born-again” disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. His authority and commission were from the Lord through his “anointing” with the indwelling Holy Spirit, and he was using the authority he had been given to build and strengthen the church by rebuking and disciplining members for sin and wrongdoing. He was not using that authority to build himself up or for any personal or worldly benefit.

Paul knew and wanted his congregations to know that no one who is unwilling to hear the truth, though painful, can come to the Lord. Paul was speaking the truth in love, so that his congregation could receive the spiritual blessings the Lord has promised to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus.

Paul asked his congregation to examine and test themselves honestly against the standard of God’s Word, so that they would not drift away from the sound doctrine and gospel taught by Paul and recorded in the New Testament, and also to honestly assess their level of spiritual growth and maturity. He expected them to know whether they had been “born-again” (Acts 19:2), and expected those who had been “born again” to be able to tell from Paul’s words and conduct that Paul was “born-again” and acting in the guidance and authority of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s purpose and goal was to fulfill the “Great Commission,” given by the risen Jesus to his disciples, to make disciples of Jesus Christ who would trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20) and be “born-again,” as Paul (formerly known as “Saul”) had been (Acts 9:17-18), by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Note also the doctrine of the Trinity expressed in Paul’s benediction: 2 Corinthians 13:14.)

The Jewish religious leaders were so spiritually blind that they could not recognize that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah (Christ; God’s anointed Savior and eternal King). They demanded to know where Jesus had gotten authority to preach the gospel (and heal the sick and disabled; Matthew 21:14-15).

Where had the religious leaders gotten their authority? They refused to accept the truth that Jesus revealed to them in his reply: They loved their own authority over the people more than they loved God or the truth; otherwise they would have accepted John the Baptizer’s authority, repented and been ready to receive the Messiah, Jesus Christ. They were using their authority for their own personal benefit and for power over the people.

Is the Church examining itself to make sure it is practicing, preserving and passing on the true Biblical Apostolic Gospel? Is the Church making “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey all that Jesus commands? Is the Church rebuking and disciplining members who are doing what is sinful and contrary to God’s Word? Are the Church and each individual congregation making sure that its preachers have the authority and anointing of the Holy Spirit?

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

Week of 3 Pentecost – Odd – 06/14 -20/2015

June 13, 2015

Week of 3 Pentecost – 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.

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 Pentecost – Odd 
Sunday3 Pentecost – Odd   
First Posted 06/04/05;
Podcast: Sunday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 11:1-12   –     What the Lord Requires;
Revelation 10:1-11   –     The Little Scroll;
Matthew 13:44-58   –   Parables of the Kingdom;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

God’s people are to love the Lord, acknowledging him as our God, and keeping his commandments always. We are to remember in our time what the Lord has done in the past so that we might learn his greatness and power to deliver his people from Pharaoh, king of Egypt and from the army of Egypt when they were destroyed by waters of the Red Sea as they pursued Israel.

Remember all that the Lord did in leading his people through the wilderness until Israel came to the Promised Land. Remember how the Lord destroyed by an earthquake the households of Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben because they rejected the authority of Moses (Numbers 16:12-14, 25-34).

Obedience to the Covenant is God’s requirement for Israel to possess and live long in the Promised Land. The Promised Land is different from the land of Egypt; in Egypt the land was watered by the labor of man, but the Promised Land is dependent upon the Lord to provide rain at the proper times.

Revelation Paraphrase:

John had a vision of an angel coming down from heaven holding a little scroll. The angel stood with one foot on the land and one on the sea, and called out in a loud voice with the sound of seven thunders (seven is a symbol for completeness; totality). John was about to write down what the seven thunders had said, but the voice of God from heaven commanded that what the seven thunders had said was to be sealed and not written down. The angel lifted up his right hand and swore by the eternal God, the Creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them, that there would be no further delay.

During the days of the seventh trumpet call the mystery of God’s purpose, which had been revealed to his servants the prophets, would be fulfilled. The voice from heaven told John to take, from the hand of the angel, the little scroll and eat it. John was told that it would taste sweet, but would be bitter in his stomach. Then John was commanded to prophesy again about many races, nations, languages and kings.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught about the kingdom of God in a series of parables. The kingdom of heaven is like a buried treasure hidden in a field. When a person found the treasure, he covered it back up and then in great joy sold everything he had and bought the field.

The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great value. A merchant in search of fine pearls, on seeing it, sold everything he had to purchase it.

The kingdom of heaven is like a fishing net thrown into the sea. Then the fishermen pulled the net in, full of fish of every kind, and began to separate the good fish to keep, and threw away the bad. So the angels will likewise separate the wicked from the righteous on the Day of Judgment. The righteous will be gathered in to God’s eternal kingdom, but the wicked will be thrown into the fire of Hell where they will spend eternity in grief and agony.

Jesus asked the audience if they had understood what he was saying, and they replied that they had. So Jesus continued, saying that scribes (teachers of the Law of Moses) who have been trained for God’s kingdom are like a householder who selects valuables which include things that are old and things that are new.

When Jesus finished teaching these parables he returned to his own community (Nazareth) and taught in the synagogue. The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching and his miracles. They wondered where Jesus had gotten his teaching and authority. They knew his earthly father was a carpenter, and they knew his mother, sisters and brothers, so they were offended by him. Jesus replied that a prophet is honored and respected everywhere but in his own community and household. Jesus did not do many miracles there because of the people’s unbelief.

Commentary:

Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament scriptures) have not been made irrelevant by the coming of Jesus Christ. The history of God’s dealings with Israel has been written down for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11). Israel’s history is an illustration of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, freeing us from the “Egypt” of bondage to sin and death, through the “Sea” of baptism into Jesus Christ, leading us through the wilderness of this world by Jesus Christ, our “Moses,” and by the Holy Spirit, the “pillar of fire,” through the “River” of physical death and into the “Promised Land” of God’s eternal kingdom. We are to remember God’s saving acts for his people, and also God’s judgment and punishment of his enemies. God’s people need to learn to trust and obey the Lord in the wilderness of this life so that they will be prepared for eternal life in the Promised Land of God’s kingdom in heaven.

The mystery of God’s eternal purpose has been revealed in God’s Word and by his prophets, and it will be fulfilled at Christ’s return on the Day of Judgment. God’s purpose has always been to create an eternal kingdom of his people who trust and obey him. This life is an opportunity to seek and come to personal knowledge and fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27) which is possible only by obedient trust in Jesus Christ, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23). This life is a selection process for eternal life in God’s kingdom.

God’s Word contains both promises and warnings. If we don’t seek to claim and possess the promises we will receive the consequences of the warnings. Jesus is the one chosen and sent by God to be our “Moses.” Jesus didn’t come to abolish God’s laws but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus came to establish a new covenant based on grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). We are no longer under condemnation by the law, provided that we are filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:1-11).

What would eternal life in Paradise with the Lord Jesus Christ be worth? What treasure in this present world would be worth spending eternity in grief and agony in Hell? If we truly recognize the value of eternal life, it is worth far more than everything we possess in this world, and whatever price we pay for it will be a tremendous bargain and great investment. God’s Word promises that this present age is going to come to an end and there is going to be a Day of Judgment where our eternal destiny will be fixed and unalterable. The cost of life in God’s eternal kingdom is obedient trust in Jesus Christ.

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

Monday 3 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/05/05;
Podcast: Monday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 11:13-19   –    Obey God’s Commandments;
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2   –    Ministry of Reconciliation;
Luke 17:1-10   –    Forgiveness and Faith;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord promised that if his people would obey his commandments, loving and serving God with all their heart and soul, he would give rain in its proper season so that the harvest would not be damaged, and they and their cattle would be well-fed. The Lord warned them to be careful not to be deceived into turning from obedience to the Lord, to worship and serve false gods, so that God would not punish them by withholding rain or hindering the fertility of the land and that they might live long in the good land God is giving them.

God’s Word is to be stored up in their hearts and their souls, and constantly recalled by them as if written on their hands and between their eyes. God’s Word is to be taught by God’s people to their children at every opportunity; at table, while going to and fro, in the mornings on arising, and at night before bed.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Knowing the fear (respect for the power and authority) of the Lord, believers persuade others to fear the Lord also. Paul entrusted judgment of his ministry to God, and hoped that the Corinthians would also judge him fairly with a good conscience. Paul was not trying to enhance his reputation among them, but hoped that they would have reason for confidence in him, so that they could refute those who judge people on outward, worldly criteria, rather than inward spiritual conditions.

Paul endured worldly criticism that he was crazy (a charge made also against Jesus; compare Mark 3:21) for the sake of God’s glory and tried to publicly establish his rationality in order to save the lost. The love of Christ, who died to give us real life, motivates his disciples to share in Christ’s sacrificial death, dying to self-interest so we can live to serve Jesus and share in his resurrection.

Christians no longer regard anyone, including Jesus, from a worldly human perspective. Jesus is no longer regarded as simply a good teacher crucified by religious rivals. Anyone who is in Christ (through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9) is a new creation (“born again;” John 3:3, 5-8). The old sinful nature has passed away and the new spiritual nature has come.

Forgiveness, rebirth and reconciliation with God are his free gift, to be claimed and received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we have been saved so that we can join in Christ’s ministry of salvation and reconciliation. In Jesus, God offered reconciliation to the world, forgiving us of all our sins (disobedience of God’s Word) and entrusting the good news of reconciliation to us.

We are to be God’s ambassadors, offering God’s peace treaty to the world in Jesus Christ on his behalf, urging the world to accept his offer of peace through obedient trust in Jesus Christ. For our benefit God allowed his guiltless son, Jesus, to bear the guilt of all our sins, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God.

So cooperating with God’s plan of reconciliation in Jesus Christ, we urge you not to allow the unmerited forgiveness and reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ to be wasted in your case. In the perfect timing of God he has seen our need and has provided for it in Jesus Christ. Now is the day and the time to receive that provision in order to benefit from it; today is the day to be saved from eternal destruction and eternal death.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples that temptations are an inevitable part of life in this world, but that we should avoid causing temptation for others if we want to avoid the penalty (the penalty for sin is eternal death; Romans 3:23). It would be better to die the worst imaginable physical death than to experience eternal destruction in Hell by causing spiritually young believers to sin. We will be held responsible for our own eternal souls, but we are also to care for our brothers’ (and sisters’) souls, rebuking sin and offering forgiveness to the penitent. Forgiveness is abundantly sufficient to meet all our needs without limitation.

The apostles (the 12 original disciples designated by Jesus to be missionaries of his gospel) asked Jesus to increase their faith, and Jesus replied that only the tiny “mustard seed,” the “yes,” of faith (obedient trust) was necessary to accomplish the greatest of spiritual works. The servant is to serve the master; not the other way around. The servant should not expect to be commended for merely doing his duty.

Commentary:

God is God, whether we acknowledge and serve him or not. God has the power to bless us or punish us. It is in our best interest to know God’s Word and obey it and teach our children to know and obey it. Obedience to God’s Word is the condition for life in the good land of his eternal kingdom that God has promised to give us.

If we have experienced forgiveness, reconciliation and rebirth through faith in Jesus Christ we are called to join in his ministry of reconciliation. We will be accountable to God for our stewardship of his gift of forgiveness and salvation for ourselves and for others. Paul is an example of a “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple of Jesus Christ, who knows and obeys God’s Word and is an ambassador of the gospel to others. Paul was not using the gospel ministry to receive worldly acclaim but to serve others for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.

Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to be re-born by the gift of the Holy Spirit and then to join Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation. God has provided for every need. He provided our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death, before we recognized our need. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ he provides the gift of the Holy Spirit to open our minds to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45), to store his Word in our hearts (John 16:13), and to recall it to our minds at the appropriate time (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit guides and empowers us to know God’s will and to do God’s ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation in the world. All we need to do to accomplish his will is the simple “yes” of obedient trust. We will be accountable for what we have done with God’s gift of forgiveness for ourselves and for 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)?

Tuesday 3 Pentecost – Odd 
First Posted 06/06/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 12:1-12    –    Sanctuary of the Lord’s Choosing;
2 Corinthians 6:3-13 (14-7:1)    –   Christian Character;
Luke 17:11-19   –  Ten Lepers Cleansed;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The law given by God to Moses included statutes and ordinances concerning worship and sacrifices to be obeyed when the people entered the Promised Land. They were a requirement for life in the Promised Land. Israel was to destroy all the idols and places of idolatrous worship created and used by the native inhabitants of the land. Heathen altars, statues and pillars set up to memorialize idols were to be destroyed. Israel was forbidden to set up local altars and shrines to the Lord, but was to establish a central place of worship which the Lord would designate to manifest his name (nature and character, and through which the people would have access to the Lord).

Sacrifices and offerings were to be offered to the Lord only at his central sanctuary. Certain offerings were to be eaten at the sanctuary. The sanctuary was also where people were to rejoice and give thanks for God’s blessings on all their activities. They were expressly forbidden to continue their former practice of worshiping the Lord according to their own judgment of what was appropriate. Once they entered the Promised Land and had taken possession of it, after driving out the native people, and had rest and safety in the land they were to rejoice and give thanks to the Lord.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul was careful not to cause any obstacles to faith by his own example, but instead to behave in every way in a manner which would encourage “seekers” and new converts to follow his example. Christians are to bear all sorts of afflictions, persecutions and hardships with great endurance, demonstrating “purity, knowledge, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God’ (2 Corinthians 6:6-7), whether treated with honor or dishonor.

We are to be true although regarded as impostors, unrecognized by the world but acknowledged by God, dying but having life, punished but not destroyed, rejoicing even in sorrow, considered poor but spiritually rich and giving spiritual wealth to others. Paul had been honest and sincere out of his love for the Corinthians. Any estrangement by the Corinthians indicates that they need to grow spiritually to become more loving.

Paul taught that Christians are not to be mismated with unbelievers. There can be no fellowship or cooperation between righteousness and wickedness, spiritual enlightenment and ignorance, or belief and unbelief. There is no accord between Christ and Satan, or the temple of God and idolatry. (“Born-again;” John 3:3, 5-8) Christians are (individually and collectively) the temple of the living God.

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to dwell among and in his people, and that as “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7) we must be separated from the world, cleansed and dedicated to the Lord’s service (Isaiah 52:11). So Paul urges Christians to claim the promise of personal fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit by being cleansed and growing to spiritual maturity as we trust and obey Jesus, turning from every sin of body and spirit and growing to complete sanctification and dedication in the fear (awe and respect for the power and authority) of the Lord.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was at the border between Galilee and Samaria, on his way to Jerusalem. As he entered a village, ten lepers stood at a distance and called to Jesus, addressing him as Master, and asking him to have mercy on them. Jesus responded by telling them to go and show themselves to the priests. “And as they went they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14b). One of the lepers, a Samaritan (regarded as racially and religiously corrupt), when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, praising God, and worshiped and gave thanks to Jesus. Jesus asked why the other nine (who presumably were Jews, “God’s chosen people”) had not also returned to give praise to God, and told the Samaritan that his faith had healed him.

Commentary:

Israel was being prepared to enter the Promised Land. They were admonished that obedience to God’s Word is the condition for possession, occupation, blessing and life in the Promised Land.  God commanded them to destroy all the idols and idolatrous places and objects from the land (and to drive out all the pagans). They were expressly forbidden to worship God in whatever way they felt was appropriate, but were to let the Lord determine and command where and how he was to be worshiped (compare John 4:21-24). They were to cleanse themselves and their land through obedient trust in the Lord.

Paul is an example of a “born-again” disciple of Jesus Christ. The Lord confronted Paul (then known as “Saul of Tarsus”) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20), and convicted him of spiritual blindness. Paul repented and began to trust and obey the risen Jesus and his (spiritual and physical) sight was restored. Paul became an example of spiritual maturity. He’s an example of spiritual cleansing and complete sanctification (consecration and dedication to God’s service). Christians are to follow Paul’s example of living according to Christ’s teaching and example, instead of seeking the world’s approval and conforming to the world’s values.

Believers who follow the example of Christ and of Paul can expect to be opposed by worldly people. That opposition indicates spiritual deficiency on the part of the people who oppose Christian disciples. Christians need to grow in discipleship and seek and receive the gift, guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit before going out into the world in ministry of the gospel (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). “Born-again” Christians are to demonstrate and proclaim the gospel to the world but not to adopt the ways of the world; it is the world that needs to change to adopt Christian discipleship.

Only Jesus can cure spiritual blindness, and only Jesus can cleanse and heal us spiritually. That healing only begins when we hear his commands and begin to trust and obey them. It was as the lepers acted in faith on Jesus’ command that they were healed. Nine of the ten, who regarded themselves as God’s chosen people, received physical healing, which is only temporary, but missed eternal spiritual healing. They called Jesus Master, but they didn’t turn to him and worship him as Lord and make themselves available to his further service; they had received all they wanted from him.  In contrast, the Samaritan leper, who Jews regarded as spiritually corrupt and inferior, received spiritual sight and spiritual cleansing.

The Church and Christians, particularly in America, need to examine ourselves and honestly consider whether we have cleansed ourselves, our churches and our land of idolatry or whether we have adopted and allowed the pagan practices of the “natives” to infiltrate our lives and our churches. Have we allowed pagans to have fellowship in our churches? Have our churches entered into fellowship with false “churches”?

We must honestly examine whether we haven’t chosen to worship God according to our own personal desires and standards rather than by the guidance of God’s Word and his Holy Spirit. If we want to influence our culture and our nation for the gospel we have to begin to cleanse ourselves and our churches by obedient trust in Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

Wednesday 3 Pentecost – Odd 
First Posted 06/07/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 13:1-11   –    Warning Against False Prophets;
2 Corinthians 7:2-16    –    Godly Grief and Repentance;
Luke 17:20-37   –   The End of the Age;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Prophets who lead people to worship and serve other gods are false prophets, regardless of what signs and wonders they may perform. The Lord may allow false prophets to test our faith and discernment. God’s people must follow the Lord in fear (awe and respect for his power and authority) in obedience to his Word and in commitment to serve him and trust him.

False prophets are to be destroyed and purged from among the people of God. If the false prophet is a close relative or a beloved friend who advocates another god, one must not yield to him or conceal his wickedness. Any attempt to induce the members of God’s people to turn from obedient trust in the Lord and to encourage them to serve other gods is to be dealt with severely to remove such wickedness from among God’s people.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul had dealt honestly and sincerely with the Corinthian Christians out of love for them. He had rebuked the congregation for issues which needed repentance and correction, but his love for them was apparent and unchanged, and he asked them to continue to love him. Paul had not wronged, corrupted or taken advantage of anyone. Paul would continue to love them, sharing with them in life and in death. Paul had great confidence, comfort and joy in them, in the midst of Paul’s suffering and imprisonment for the gospel.

God comforts the downcast, and God comforted Paul through Titus, who himself had been comforted by the Corinthian congregation, and who returned to Paul with a report of the congregation’s longing, mourning, and ardor for Paul. Paul didn’t want to permanently hurt the congregation’s feelings by his reprimand, but only to cause them godly grief so that they would be moved to repent and be restored.

Godly grief leads to repentance and salvation (eternal life), in contrast to worldly grief which produces death. Godly grief had produced earnestness and eagerness to correct the situation, applying discipline and punishment, and revealing their blamelessness.

Instead of merely affecting the guilty person or the one who had been wronged, Paul’s letter had benefited the entire congregation by stirring up renewed commitment to the Lord and to Paul. Paul had expressed pride and confidence in the Corinthians to Titus, and he and Paul were both relieved and pleased that that pride and confidence had been fulfilled. The congregation was commended for their obedience and godly fear (respect) for the authority of Paul and Titus.

Luke Paraphrase:

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, and Jesus replied that the coming of the kingdom would not be with outward signs showing its approach, nor will it come in a specific location. The kingdom of God is in our midst (and within us). Jesus told his disciples that the time is coming when they will be eager to see the coming of the kingdom of God, but that they are not to be misled by those who will claim that the kingdom can be found in a certain location. When Jesus returns it will be sudden and visible to all as a flash of lightning which lights up the whole sky.

Jesus said that before his return he had to suffer and be rejected. Christ’s return will be like the time of Noah; the people of earth will be living worldly lives unprepared and not seriously believing God’s warning until the moment it happens, and will be swept away like the wicked in the flood. The Day of Judgment will be like the example of Sodom. Lot heeded (heard and obeyed) God’s Word and was saved, but the wicked in Sodom continued living their wicked lives until fire and brimstone fell from heaven and destroyed them.

So it will be on the Day of Christ’s return. As Lot’s wife was destroyed as she turned to look back, so we must not look back with longing for our worldly lives, or try to hang on to our worldly possessions. Those who try to save their worldly lives will lose them, but those who are willing to lose their worldly lives will live eternally in God’s kingdom.

The separation of the saved from the lost will be extremely precise; of two people sleeping in the same bed, one will be taken and the other left. People asked Jesus where those who were taken were going. In reply, Jesus said, “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (i.e. “where the carcass is, the vultures will be gathered;” Luke 17:37).

God is very serious about the sin of idolatry. God’s people are not to listen to false prophets who advocate idolatry in any form. Idolatry is the love of anything which interferes with our complete obedient trust in God. Today money, career, political power, nationalism, success, family, pleasure, and humanism are some of the prevalent idols.

There are many false prophets in society and within churches. Church robes, clerical garb or seminary diplomas are not reliable indicators or authenticators of God’s prophets, nor are miraculous claims. The only reliable basis for discerning false doctrine and false prophets is the Bible, with an understanding of the Old Testament from the New Testament perspective.

Two examples of false doctrine today within the “Church” (the “nominal,” self-defined church), which began in the first-century Church and which were refuted in the New Testament are the doctrine of “salvation by works” (the “circumcision party;” “legalism;” salvation earned by keeping Jewish law or doing good deeds) and the doctrine called “Cheap Grace”* (salvation by grace -a free gift- without the requirement of discipleship or obedience to Jesus’ teachings). In each of these “heresies” the advocates are encouraging followers to rely on something other than obedient trust in the Lord (see False Teachings. sidebar, top right, home).

Other examples of false doctrine are the deification of Mary, the mother of Jesus; or the worship of “Saints;” or teaching that Jesus wasn’t fully human and also fully God; or that Jesus was a man who became a god and that we can become “gods;” or that Jesus was just a man. Another is that there is some book other than the Bible necessary for salvation, or that there is “another gospel.”

In many cases, the “Church” has failed its commission from the Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples of Jesus Christ and teach them to know and obey Jesus’ commands (Matthew 28:18-20), and has instead been merely making “members,” “fair-weather Christians,” who worship the Lord as they think appropriate in their own judgment (Deuteronomy 12:13-14; see entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 3 Pentecost, odd year).

Paul is an example of a “born-again” (John 3:3-5, 8) Christian disciple who carried on the ministry of making disciples and teaching them to know and obey the scriptural apostolic gospel (as taught by the apostles, including Paul, and recorded in the New Testament). Paul proclaimed the truth, the full gospel, not just the parts that make us feel good. Paul didn’t rebuke the Corinthian congregation because of meanness, or to manipulate them for his own glory and power, but because he loved them and wanted them to repent and accept correction so that they could experience the fulfillment of the promise and hope of the Gospel. Paul commended the congregation for their obedience and for their respect for his scriptural authority.

Jesus warns that the kingdom of God is coming subtly, gradually and individually, as each individual hears Jesus and begins to follow him in obedient trust. Jesus has promised to give the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17).

The kingdom of God begins now and is present now in “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ. The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

But the kingdom of God is also coming suddenly, unexpectedly and universally. Those who have believed and acted in obedient trust on God’s Word will be gathered into God’s kingdom, and those who have refused to hear, trust and obey will be swept away to eternal destruction. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (and God’s only begotten Son; John 1:1-5; 14).  Jesus warns not to believe false prophets and not to be deceived by false “messiahs” (false “christs”). The question is not where we can go to be saved, or how long before we need to prepare. Now is the time to prepare by becoming Jesus’ disciple, learning to trust and obey Jesus, and seeking the new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

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

Thursday 3 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/08/05;
Podcast: Thursday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 17:14-20   –    Administration of Justice;
2 Corinthians 8:1-16    –    Offering for the Jerusalem Church;
Luke 18:1-8    –   The Parable of the Unjust Judge;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Israel was to appoint judges and administrators in their towns who would judge righteously. They were forbidden to pervert justice by taking bribes or showing partiality. Justice for all was a requirement for life in the Promised Land. The Lord allowed Israel to have a king to rule over them because they desired to be like the surrounding nations, but the king was to be appointed according to God’s choice, and must be one of the Israelites and not a foreigner. The king was not to use his position to multiply his wealth by acquiring horses, wives, silver and gold. He was also commanded to read the Bible every day so that he would know and obey God’s Word in all his doings, as a condition of his reign, and his life, and the lives of his descendants in the kingdom.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul had been collecting an offering from among his congregations to help the financially needy Christians in Jerusalem who were experiencing persecution. The Macedonian congregations, who were themselves experiencing affliction and poverty, had contributed generously beyond their financial ability, out of their joy and thanksgiving for God’s grace (free gift of salvation and God’s providence). Their generosity was the result of them having first given themselves in obedience to the Lord and to Paul by God’s will.

Titus was in charge of collecting the offering from among the churches and Paul urged the Corinthian church to demonstrate their faith, love and excellence in spiritual gifts through their contribution to this offering, not by his command but by their love and sincerity, following Christ’s example. Christ left the spiritual riches of heaven and became poor among us so that we could receive his spiritual riches.

The Corinthian church had agreed, the previous year, to contribute, but the collection had been interrupted by dissention within the congregation, which had now been resolved. The Corinthian congregation was apparently financially better-off than the Macedonian Church, and Paul reminded them that good intentions alone are not sufficient, but must be fulfilled by action.

Paul wasn’t asking the Corinthians to be unfairly burdened, but reminded them that their abundance in this situation should be used to alleviate the needs of others, and that in some other situation the roles might be reversed. The goal was that there should be equality.

Paul mentioned the example of God’s justice in distributing the manna in the wilderness so that everyone received no more or less than they needed. In the same way Titus was redistributing resources for the benefit of each member of the Church and for the well-being of the Church as a whole.

Luke Paraphrase:

To illustrate the effectiveness of persistent prayer, Jesus told a parable of an unrighteous judge. The judge didn’t fear God or care for other people, but there was a widow who kept coming to him asking him to give her justice in a legal dispute. The judge at first refused, but because she kept bothering him, he finally did what she asked only to be rid of the nuisance.

God is the ultimate righteous judge who cares for his people, so we can be assured that, if we are in the right and obeying his Word, he will not delay long in vindicating us. “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes (on the Day of Judgment) will he find faith” (Luke 18:8)?

Commentary:

It is God’s intention for his people to be governed by leaders they choose who will govern righteously according to God’s Word. God’s intention is that Jesus Christ is the king of God’s people, and the leaders of the people are to be the stewards of Christ’s reign on earth. The leaders are to know, trust and obey God’s Word, the Bible.

America today is far from God’s will. We have politicians who claim to be “Christians” but who don’t live according to Christ’s teachings. Instead of a government of the people by the people for the people we have government of the people by the rich for the rich. Influence and special interest for sale is the daily operating reality in our society. There’s vastly different “justice” for the rich than the poor.

There are examples of economic and social injustice all around us. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown wider. According to one editorial* the ratio between what a CEO earns compared to workers pay was 43 to 1 in 1973 and rose to 531 to 1 in 2000. In the wake of 9/11 it declined to 301-1 in 2003. The real ratio is even greater if compared to the wages paid for “outsourced” jobs. If the minimum wage had kept up with CEO pay increases, the minimum wage would have to be $15.76 an hour instead of the current $5.15. (See 2010 updates below**)

The rich who benefit most from our economy and government are unwilling to pay their fair share of taxes, and they are happy to pass off responsibility for the poor to the Church. It is the political and economic sectors which have caused the problem of economic injustice. But the Church also bears responsibility for not requiring discipleship and obedience of God’s Word from their members, and economic, social and legal justice from their government. The “middle class” continues to vote contrary to their economic interest because they continue to hope and believe that they can move up into the rich ruling class and benefit from preferential treatment.

“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.”*** But do those who benefit most feel any obligation to provide employment at a fair living wage for its own sons and daughters? Do we feel any obligation to redistribute God-given resources and to work to reduce economic, social and legal injustice?

Our obedience to God’s Word and our appreciation of God’s grace are demonstrated by our concern for the poor and the marginalized, and our commitment to economic, social and legal justice for all. The Macedonian congregation contributed generously even beyond their economic ability because they had first given themselves to the Lord. But the Corinthian congregation was hindered by dissension and by the inclination to substitute good intentions for practical action.

God’s judgment will be just and impartial. We need to pray persistently in faith (obedient trust) for God’s justice and equity in our nation, for genuine Christian leadership, and we must be willing to contribute what we can in time, effort and resources to make that happen (see 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)?


* Jackson, Derrick Z., Boston Globe, “Ladder of success growing steeper,” The Sun, San Bernardino, Ca. Thursday, May 19, 2005, A15.

The One Percent, Video Documentary by Jaime Johnson
(2006)  Available on DVD from Netflix,

**see 2015 updates:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-gap-between-rich-poor-americans-widened-during-recovery-1409853628

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/inequality-between-americas-rich-and-americas-poor-at-30-year-high/383866/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/05/americans-see-growing-gap-between-rich-and-poor/

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Americans-unaware-of-staggering-gap-between-rich-5797486.php
***Bates, Katherine Lee, “America The Beautiful,” 1893.


 

Friday 3 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/09/05;
Podcast: Friday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 26:1-11   –     Offering of First Fruits;
2 Corinthians 8:16-24   –    Offering for the Poor;
Luke 18:9-14   –     Pharisee and Tax Collector;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Through Moses, the Lord instructed Israel that they were to make an offering of first fruits when they had entered and received possession of the Promised Land. The occasion was the grain harvest, seven weeks after the harvest began, called the feast of weeks (“Pentecost;” the fiftieth day). The worshiper was to present a basket containing the first fruits of the harvest at the central sanctuary. The worshipers were to give the offering to the priest and declare that they had come into the Land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give them.

The priest then would take the basket and set it down in front of the altar. Then the worshipers were to recite a liturgy (rite; formal recitation spoken by the congregation in worship), recalling that the patriarchs were “wandering Arameans” (nomads from Aram, now called Syria), that Jacob (Israel; the patriarch) sojourned in Egypt where his descendants became a nation (in multitude) and became enslaved by the Egyptians. Then Israel cried to the Lord and the Lord heard and delivered them from the Egyptians (by Moses) and brought them through the wilderness and into the land, “a land of milk and honey” (a paradise, compared to the wilderness), which he had promised the patriarchs to give to their descendants. Now the Israelites were presenting the first fruits of the Lord’s deliverance and fulfillment of that promise. Israel was to celebrate and rejoice in the blessings the Lord had given them.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul was sending Titus, who cared deeply for the Corinthian congregation, and two other unnamed individuals, one of whom was an evangelist who was well-known among the churches.  They had been appointed by the churches to help administer the offering being collected for the relief of the poor Christians in Jerusalem.

Paul was committed to see that the offering would be to the glory of God and for the upbuilding of the church, honorable not only in God’s judgment, but also in the judgment of the public. He was being careful that it be properly supervised and audited by honest and faithful people.  Paul urged the Corinthian congregation to demonstrate their faith and love in their contribution to this offering.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector, as a warning to correct those who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others. The Pharisee (a legalistic Jew) and the tax collector (a sinner; a Jewish collaborator with the Roman occupying government) both went into the temple to pray.

The Pharisee stood (rather than bowing in reverence and humility) and “prayed… with himself” (Luke 18:11; see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home), saying that he thanked God that he was better than other people, because he was not an extortioner, adulterer, unjust or even 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, but the Pharisee was not forgiven. Jesus declared, “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Commentary:

It is no coincidence that the Church was “born” on the Day of Pentecost, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:1-21). It is the climax of a plan which God has been developing since the beginning of this Creation. The Lord keeps his promises. Even before Abraham (formerly called “Abram”) trusted and obeyed God’s command to leave his native land (Aram) to go to a new land that the Lord would show him and give to his descendants (Genesis 12:1-9)

God has been working toward this purpose. According to Matthew 1:17, it was forty-two generations from Abraham to Christ. According to Exodus 12:40 Israel was in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. They wandered for forty years in the wilderness. It was a long time between the giving of the promise and the fulfillment (partly because Israel didn’t act in obedient trust the first time God told them to enter and possess the Promised Land).

Israel was now about to enter the Promised Land and was given instructions for commemorating the first fruits of the fulfillment of God’s promise. Through Jesus Christ, Pentecost became the occasion of God’s gift to disciples of Christ of the first fruits of God’s eternal kingdom, and the beginning of the spiritual harvest which had been sown so long before. It is the Holy Spirit who guides and empowers the Church to continue the spiritual harvest of making disciples, teaching them to grow in obedient trust in Jesus teachings (Matthew 28:18-20) to spiritual maturity through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness of sin, salvation (from eternal death), and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the first fruits, the “security deposit” on eternal life in God’s kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16) are God’s gift to those who trust and obey Jesus Christ. If we’re saved and we know it, we are to testify to that fact by using our lives and our resources to carry on Christ’s ministry of healing and reconciliation. Are we using our lives to glorify God, to build up the Church and help with the spiritual harvest by discipling others to spiritual maturity? Are we working to alleviate human need; poverty, hunger, homelessness, joblessness?

The Pharisee and the tax collector were both sinners, like all of us, but only one of the two was forgiven. We have all sinned against God and have fallen short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The Pharisee thought he didn’t need God’s forgiveness because he hadn’t committed any blatantly obvious sins. But the other acknowledged and confessed his sin and asked for God’s forgiveness and salvation. Jesus is God’s only provision for the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Regular attendance at church won’t save us; tithing won’t save us; only a personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit will save us. The Pharisee thought he was righteous, and he considered himself “just” in his dealings with others (Luke 18:11), but was he “just” in his assessment and treatment of himself and others? Did he care about the spiritual (or even the physical) condition of 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)?

Saturday 3 Pentecost – Odd
First Posted 06/10/05;
Podcast: Saturday 3 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 29:2-15   –    The Covenant in Moab;
2 Corinthians 9:1-15   –     The Duty of Giving;
Luke 18:15-30   –   The Rich Ruler;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

Israel was in Moab, about to cross the Jordan River to enter and possess the Promised Land. Moses directed the people to renew their covenant vows with the Lord. Moses reminded the congregation of the great signs and wonders the Lord had done in Egypt for their deliverance, which they had witnessed. Despite all the great things they had witnessed they still didn’t use the eyes, ears and minds God had given them to see, hear and understand.

Moses had led them for forty years in the wilderness, and during all that time their clothing and their shoes had not worn out. They hadn’t eaten bread nor drunk wine or alcohol. The wilderness experience was to teach them to trust and obey the Lord their God. When they came to Moab the Lord gave them victory over Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, and their land was given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh of Israel. Moses warned them to be careful to obey all the requirements of the covenant.

The covenant includes everyone from the greatest to the least in the congregation of Israel, every man, woman and child, including sojourners, servants and slaves. The covenant was renewed that day by the congregation as of that day; it wasn’t just something their ancestors had agreed to, but it applied to all the descendants of Israel, even those not yet born (Deuteronomy 29:14-15). That very day of covenant renewal Israel committed to be God’s people by God’s power, and God promised to be their God, fulfilling the promise he made to their ancestors.

2 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul had told the Macedonian churches that the churches in Achaia (a region in Greece), including the Corinthian congregation, had, the previous year, committed to contribute to the offering for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Now he was sending Titus and two Macedonian Christians to supervise and audit the collection of the offering, sending them ahead of Paul who intended to bring some Macedonians with him. Paul urged the Corinthians to be ready to fulfill their commitment willingly, so that neither they nor Paul would be humiliated.

Paul used an analogy of sowing seed to produce a harvest in order to illustrate Christian charitable giving. As one who wants an abundant harvest must sow seed generously, so Christians must be generous with others if they want God to be generous in his blessings to them, and if they care about the salvation of others.  Each person must follow his own conscience, giving willingly, not reluctantly or under compulsion. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7b). God supplies every blessing abundantly and is able to provide abundantly everything we need, so we will be able to give generously without fear of not having enough.

Paul quoted Psalm 112:9, teaching that a person who is righteous in God’s judgment is one who distributes generously to others and gives to the poor, and his righteousness will be eternal. It is God who provides seed for sowing, and bread for food, and he is able and faithful; “he will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10). God will supply the resources so that our generosity will bring glory and thanksgiving to God and build up the Church.

Charitable giving glorifies God by our obedience to and our demonstration of the truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our generosity demonstrates our love and concern for others and our thanksgiving to God for the inexpressible greatness of his gift of forgiveness and salvation to us in Jesus Christ, and it increases the love of others for us and their thanksgiving to God.

Luke Paraphrase:

People were bringing infants and small children to Jesus to be blessed, and the disciples tried to stop them. Jesus told them to let the children come to him without hindrance, because the kingdom of God belongs to those who come to the Lord in innocence and obedient trust as to their father. All who enter God’s kingdom must enter in the same child-like obedient trust.

A rich ruler addressed Jesus as a “Good Teacher,” and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied by asking the man why he had called Jesus “good,” since only God is truly good. Jesus told the person that the person surely knew the Commandments, and mentioned the ones dealing with a person’s obligations to other people (not memtioning his obligations to God). The ruler said that he had kept the Commandments since his birth. Then Jesus told him he still lacked one thing and that he should sell all of his possessions and give to the poor; he should exchange his worldly riches for eternal spiritual treasure, and then come and follow Jesus.

The rich man was sad when he heard this, because he was very wealthy. Jesus, looking at him, said it is very difficult, seemingly impossible, for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. Those who heard Jesus asked how anyone could be saved, since that was the case. Jesus said that what is impossible for humans can be accomplished by God. Peter remarked that the Disciples had left their homes (and everything) to follow Jesus. Jesus declared that those who have left anything for the sake of God’s kingdom will receive again many times what they have left in this age, and in the coming age of God’s kingdom will receive eternal life.

Commentary:

God led his people for forty years in the wilderness so that they would learn to trust and obey him and so they could learn to depend upon his providence. Their material needs were met supernaturally through God’s power. They learned to live by manna, “the bread from heaven.” The Lord gave them victory over their enemies and those who opposed them, and gave them possession of rich lands, on the condition that they would obey his Word, the Covenant. The people entered into a covenant with God to be his people by God’s help and power, and God agreed to be their God to guide and provide for them.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is also a parable, a metaphor, for life in this world. We are to learn to trust and obey the Lord as he leads us through the spiritual “wilderness” of this world. Jesus is our “Moses” and our “manna,” the bread from heaven which sustains us and gives us life (John 6:31-35). Jesus is the New Covenant of forgiveness and salvation from eternal death by grace (a free gift; unmerited favor) to be received through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:1-5, 14). Through obedient trust in Jesus, his disciples receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), who is the Word and power of God within us to help us truly be God’s people and fulfill our covenant with God by obedience of Jesus’ commands. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we share in Christ’s victory over the enemy of our souls, which he accomplished for us at the Cross, and enter and possess the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

If we are truly Christians (disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus) we are parties to a covenant with God through Jesus Christ. We have a commitment to obey God and love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). We have a commitment to carry on Christ’s ministry of healing and reconciliation, not just spiritually but physically and materially (James 2:14-18). What we do with the worldly resources which God has provided for all to share equally demonstrates our faith in the truth and power of God’s Word, and our love and commitment to trust and obey Jesus.

The rich man was right when he called Jesus “good,” but he did not see, hear, understand and acknowledge that Jesus is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9). The rich ruler thought that he was righteous; he thought that he obeyed God’s Commandments, but he had not fulfilled his obligation to love others as he loved himself, and he had not fulfilled his obligation to love God more than worldly riches and to fulfill and demonstrate his love of God by obedient trust in Jesus Christ.

We cannot save ourselves from God’s judgment or enter God’s kingdom except by God’s grace and power through obedient trust in 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)?

Week of 2 Pentecost – Odd – 06/07 – 13/2015

June 6, 2015

Week of 2 Pentecost – 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 2 Pentecost – Odd 

Sunday 2 Pentecost – Odd 

First posted 05/28/05;
Podcast: Sunday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:1-9    –    Moses’ Appeal for Obedience;
Revelation 7:1-4, 9-17   –    Sealing the Servants of God;
Matthew 12:33-45    –   The Sign of Jonah;

Deuteronomy Summary:

Moses warned the people of God to heed (hear, remember and obey) God’s Word. Israel must apply God’s Word daily in their lives to receive the fulfillment of God’s promise of long life in the Promised Land. They were admonished to keep God’s Word faithfully and accurately, neither adding to it nor taking away from it. Obedience to God’s Word is the requirement for life in the Promised Land. God’s people are to remember what happened to those who disobey God’s Word, and the punishment and death of the disobedient at Baal-peor is just one example (Numbers 25:1-9).

Moses had faithfully taught God’s people God’s Word. It was the responsibility of Israel to keep God’s Word, to demonstrate to the native people of Canaan (the land of Israel) that God’s Word is wisdom, and that those who obey him are wise. God’s people were to honor and glorify the Lord by living in obedience and demonstrating God’s power, love and faithfulness. The people and the nation were to be examples of righteousness and justice in living according to God’s Word. Moses warned God’s people to be careful not to forget God’s Word, and to diligently teach their children to know and obey God’s Word.

Revelation Summary:

John saw a vision of the coming Day of Judgment. In this portion there was an interlude before the opening of the seventh seal (the opening of the seals representing the revealing of God’s unchangeable, previously unknown purpose for the future), to give assurance to God’s people that they would be safe from God’s judgment and punishment. Angels standing at the four corners of the earth, ready to carry out God’s judgment, were told by a fifth angel, bearing God’s seal, not to harm the earth until all the Lord’s servants were sealed upon their foreheads with God’s seal. The number of the servants of God who are protected by his seal was one hundred forty-four thousand (a symbolic rather than literal number; representing completeness; twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel; Revelation 7:5-8).

John saw the vision of a great multitude, beyond counting, from every nation, people, tribe, and language. They were clothed in white robes (symbolizing righteousness) and waving palm branches (symbolizing victory), praising God, the sovereign King of Creation, and the Lamb (Jesus Christ, who served as the sacrificial Lamb of the Passover, for the forgiveness of sins).

Around the throne of God, with Jesus standing by it, were thrones for the twenty-four elders, and the four living creatures symbolizing all created beings (man and animals). The angels surrounded them, along with the vast multitude of people in white robes, and they knelt down and worshiped God, with a seven-fold praise of eternal blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might (seven is symbolic of perfection; completeness; see also Revelation 4:1-11).

One of the elders asked John who he thought the people in white robes were, and John deferred to the elder. The elder told John that the people robed in white were the people who had come out of the great tribulation; they had been purified by the blood of the Lamb (the blood of Jesus, sacrificed on the cross). They serve the Lord day and night and the Lord shelters them in his presence. This is a vision of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 49:10, and Psalm 121:6 that the Lord will care for and provide eternally for his people and will protect them from any need or trouble. The one who was their sacrificial Lamb has become their shepherd who will eternally provide for and comfort them.

Matthew Summary:

Jesus said that in order to produce good fruit one must start with good trees; bad trees inevitably produce bad fruit. Jesus called the crowds, particularly the Pharisees and scribes, who came to hear him, a brood of vipers (poisonous snakes; compare Matthew 3:7). One who speaks (or does) evil demonstrates an evil heart, because the heart of a person motivates what one says (and does). A good person values what is good and produces good according to what he values; the evil person values evil and that’s all he can produce. Jesus warned that on the Day of Judgment each of us will be justified (found not guilty; saved from punishment) or condemned by what each has done, individually, whether good or evil (compare John 5:28-29).

Some of the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign (a miracle proving Jesus’ claim to be doing the will of God), and Jesus replied that it is an evil and (spiritually) adulterous generation who seeks a sign; but no sign will be given, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, so Jesus would be in the tomb and be raised again on the third day.

Commentary:

The people of Nineveh (to whom Jonah was sent) will condemn this generation because the people of Nineveh heeded the prophetic preaching of Jonah and repented and turned to the Lord; Jesus has a greater message than Jonah (and did many great signs which were well known to the Pharisees and scribes) and yet Israel did not repent and turn to the Lord. The Queen of the South (Queen of Sheba) will also condemn this generation because she came seeking the wisdom of Solomon, and Jesus is the embodiment of divine wisdom, but Israel did not acknowledge or accept Jesus’ wisdom.

Jesus warns that a person can be cleansed of evil, but unless he fills the place in his heart that was occupied by evil with what is good (the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of Jesus; Romans 8:9), he will not be able to avoid reverting to his former state, and his final situation will be worse than before (because there is no way to be cleansed again after one has experienced the goodness of the Lord if he then renounces Jesus; Hebrews 6:4-6).

The requirement for life in the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom is obedience to God’s Word. God is God, whether we acknowledge him or not, but God cannot allow sin and disobedience to spoil his eternal paradise, the way we’ve spoiled his temporal Creation on earth. This creation which God created was good (Genesis 1:3, 25, 31), a paradise (the Garden of Eden), but God allowed us to have free will to choose whether to obey him or not, and when humans chose to pursue their will contrary to God’s Word, sin was introduced into paradise, and paradise was lost (Genesis 3:1-24).

The things that are wrong and evil in this world are caused, not by God, but by human disobedience (sin). God wants to create an eternal kingdom and paradise for his people who choose to trust and obey him. This life is an opportunity for us to discover that God is good and his Word is good and that obeying him is in our best interest, individually and collectively (see Acts 17:26-27).

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is also meant to be a parable and metaphor for life in this world; it is temporal truth which illustrates spiritual reality. The people and nation of Israel were to know, trust and obey God’s Word, and teach their children to do so also. In a sense, America and the Church are each the “New Israel” (God’s people) and the “New Promised Land.” The kingdom of God begins now, in the Church, as disciples who trust and obey Jesus are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit and begin to live as his people and his kingdom now.

It is those disciples who trust and obey Jesus who receive the promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17) and have eternal life. 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). Are we, in the Church and in America, living examples of God’s righteousness and justice and the truth and goodness of God’s Word? Are we teaching our children to trust and obey Jesus?

John’s vision was of the Day of Judgment. Those who belong to Jesus were marked with the seal of God’s Holy Spirit. Those who were not in Christ were about to receive God’s final judgment and eternal condemnation. Those in white robes have been redeemed from judgment and condemnation by the blood of Jesus Christ, through obedient trust in Jesus. They will enter the Lord’s eternal kingdom where they will worship and serve the Lord, and he will provide, protect, satisfy and comfort them eternally.

Jesus said that in order for us to produce good “fruit” we must be cleansed and filled with the goodness of the Lord through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Salvation from eternal destruction and eternal death is by grace (God’s free gift; unmerited favor) to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, not “earned” by “good deeds.” We are God’s “good works,” created by God to do “good works” he has prepared for us, as we live in obedient trust according to his will and guidance (Ephesians 2:8-10).

When we’re baptized into Jesus we’re cleansed of all our sin, but in order to stay cleansed we must grow in discipleship in Jesus to spiritual maturity, through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Without that growth we will not be able to maintain our spiritual cleansing. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the guidance, will and strength to continue and grow spiritually in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit within us who opens our minds to understand God’s Word and his will, and who recalls to our minds scriptures to guide and help us grow (but if we have not read the Bible, there’s no scripture in our minds to be recalled). Without the indwelling Holy Spirit there’s no way to produce “good fruit.”

For those who need “proof” in order to believe in Jesus, there is none, because it is God’s will that salvation should depend on faith (obedient trust). But for those who believe in Jesus there is overwhelming abundance of “proof.” There were signs that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God all around the Pharisees and scribes, but they were not willing to believe the signs. Jesus did fulfill the “sign of Jonah” as he promised, but they still didn’t repent and believe in Jesus.

Humanism declares that mankind is basically good. That’s not what God’s Word says. Humanism, which is basically idolatry of self, compares us to human standards; God compares us to the standard of Jesus Christ. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). We are all “bad trees” and if left to pursue our own nature and self-interest, we will inevitably produce “bad fruit.”

The only way to produce “good fruit” is to be cleansed inside and filled with the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth. Only by the indwelling Holy Spirit can we produce “good fruit’ for his eternal kingdom and accomplish the “good works” God created us 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)?

Monday 2 Pentecost – Odd

First posted 05/29/05;
Podcast: Monday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:9-14  –     Remember to Reverence the Lord;

2 Corinthians 1:1-11   –     Thanksgiving to God;
Luke 14:25-35    –   Conditions of Discipleship;

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 was an apostle (one sent with a message; a missionary) of Jesus Christ by the will of God (Acts 9:10-16). Paul was writing to the church at Corinth (in Achaia, one of two Roman territories into which Greece was divided, and where Corinth was located). Paul greeted them in the grace and peace which are in God alone through Jesus Christ, praising God the Father of Jesus Christ and the God of consolation and mercy in Christ. God has mercy on us and consoles us in every affliction so that we may share his consolation and mercy with others. Those who share in the sufferings of Christ will share in his consolation also.

Disciples bear Christ’s suffering so that others, when they patiently endure suffering for the gospel, may experience the same consolation the disciples have received, and that is Paul’s fervent hope for the Corinthian Christians. Paul testified to the power and faithfulness of the Lord to deliver him from almost unbearable persecution in Asia (the Roman province in what is now western Turkey).

God allows his disciples to experience affliction so that they will learn that he is faithful and powerful to deliver and console his disciples, so that they grow in faith to be confident in future afflictions. Paul asked the Corinthians to help by praying for Paul, so that others will give thanks to God for God’s blessings to them in answer to prayer.

Luke Summary:

Jesus told the crowds following him that unless a person loves Jesus so much more than he loves even family that his love for others seems like hate in comparison (a deliberate exaggeration to make the point vivid) he could not be a disciple of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus must be willing to carry his own cross (must be willing to suffer personally for discipleship) or he cannot be Jesus’ disciple.

A person planning on building a tower would be wise to consider the cost and whether he can afford it before he begins to build. Similarly, a king facing a battle would be wise to consider whether his forces can prevail over the enemy’s. If not, the king would be well advised to negotiate peace before becoming engaged in battle.

Jesus said that the same principles apply to Christian discipleship. A disciple must be willing to renounce all that he has in this life in order to follow Jesus. Disciples are to be like salt, influencing and changing the world greatly out of proportion to their number and strength. But if disciples cannot be differentiated from the world, they are like salt which has lost its savor. How could they possibly accomplish their intended purpose? They would be totally worthless! Those who are willing to hear spiritual truth should pay attention!

Commentary:

God commanded Moses, the spiritual leader of God’s people, to teach the people to obey God’s Word so that they could receive what God had promised. Until the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s people were under the Covenant of Law (the Old Covenant). Jesus is the promised Messiah who freed us from the Old Covenant of Law and established the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28) of salvation by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Christians are freed from obligation to the Jewish Laws, provided that they are in Christ through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-11). Only Jesus gives the gift of his Holy Spirit only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Luke 3:16; 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).

Jesus came to make it possible for us to fulfill the requirements of the Law not by fear of punishment but in love and gratitude for God’s love, mercy and grace, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Teaching God’s people that they are saved by God’s grace without obedient trust in Jesus and without the requirement of discipleship is false doctrine, called “Cheap Grace*” (see False Teachings, sidebar,top right, home).

Christians are the “New Israel,” the new people of God. We are to know and remember what God has done for his people through reading God’s Word, the Bible, and by experience by applying God’s Word in our own lives, and by teaching it to our children. It is only through obedience to God’s Word that we can receive God’s promises of the gift of the Holy Spirit, personal fellowship with the Lord, salvation from eternal death, and eternal life in the Promised Land of God’s kingdom in heaven, as well as many other promises.

Paul is the prototype of a modern, “post-resurrection” (not having known Jesus during Jesus’ ministry in the flesh) “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul suffered many dangers and persecutions in his preaching of the Gospel. He taught the Christians in Corinth that disciples must be willing to bear suffering so that they may also share in the comfort, consolation and peace (and joy) which only Jesus can and does provide.

Disciples endure suffering so that others may share in their joy, peace, comfort and the consolation of salvation. The Lord allows his disciples to suffer so that their faith will grow and be strengthened. If we never had any problems we wouldn’t realize that we need the Lord, and as he shows us his power and faithfulness in delivering us from small problems we learn to trust in him in the big problems.

Jesus told the crowds that gathered to him that any one who wants to follow Jesus must be a disciple, and a disciple must be willing to follow Jesus’ teaching and example. Jesus bore suffering to proclaim the Gospel during his earthly ministry, and he suffered and died on the cross for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death. His disciples can’t expect their proclamation of the Gospel to be any more popular to the people of this world than was Jesus.’ People should realistically consider the cost and requirements of discipleship before they make the commitment.

We live in a very hedonistic, self-indulgent society. No one seems to be willing to do anything if it isn’t “fun.” Some proponents of the “Church Growth” movement (in the nominal, “institutional” church, as opposed to the true Church of Christ’s body) are promoting worship as entertainment and designing programs that will attract “fun-seekers.”  That’s not what Jesus taught his disciples. Discipleship isn’t an optional category of “power-Christians.” “Born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ or new believers who are actively being discipled and seeking the gift of the Holy Spirit are the only authentic Christians there are.

Christian discipleship is costly in terms of self-denial, obedience, and endurance, but the rewards are beyond comparison, as Paul, then in prison and awaiting trial as a result of preaching the Gospel, told the Christians in Philippi (Philippians 3:7-10). Although there are costs of discipleship, there are great immediate and eternal rewards, including the joy, love, peace and assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The worst thing the world can do to a disciple is to put him to physical death, but the disciple knows that Jesus is alive, having risen from physical death to eternal life, and by the indwelling Holy Spirit he is comforted and assured that he has eternal life with Jesus. What in this present world would be worth death and destruction eternally in hell to possess, briefly, here (Luke 9:25)?

Christians are to be “salt” in the world; they’re to be different and distinguishable from worldly people. They’re to possess a vital element, the gift of the Holy Spirit, through the application of the Gospel, that the world needs in order to experience real life, and they’re to use that element to share it 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)?


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


Tuesday 2 Pentecost – Odd  

First Posted 05/30/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:15-24   –    Against Image Worship;

2 Corinthians 1:12-22    –     Seal and Guarantee of the Spirit;
Luke 15:1-10   –    Parables of the Lost;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

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 Paraphrase:

Paul was proud that he had conducted himself in the world and in the church with holiness and godly sincerity, not relying on worldly wisdom but instead on God’s grace. Paul wrote only what was necessary for the church to understand, so that, in the Day of the Lord their understanding would be complete and they would know the same pride for Paul as Paul had for them.

Paul had hoped to be able to visit the church at Corinth on his way to Macedonia and again on his return. Paul didn’t make plans, like worldly people, according to his whim (but by God’s guidance). Paul wasn’t vacillating (in his promise to visit them) nor is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which Paul and his associates preached wavering or uncertain. God is completely faithful. All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Luke Paraphrase:

Pharisees (strict legalistic Jews) and scribes (teachers of Jewish Law; Scripture) criticized Jesus for associating with tax collectors (Jewish collaborators with the Roman government) and sinners who were attracted to Jesus’ preaching. So Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep. A man had one hundred sheep. Who wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness to seek one sheep that had gone astray? When the man found the lost sheep he would carry it back rejoicing. The man would invite his friends and family to rejoice with him over the recovery of the one lost sheep. Likewise, in heaven there will be more rejoicing over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need to repent.

Another example is of a woman having ten silver coins. If she loses one, won’t she light a lamp and sweep the house thoroughly until she finds it? And when she finds it she will share the good news and her rejoicing with her friends and neighbors.

Commentary:

God is Spirit (the Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9). It has been God’s purpose from the beginning of Creation to establish a kingdom of his people who will trust and obey him. This life is an opportunity for us to seek and find personal knowledge of and fellowship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, by his indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 17:26-27).

God called Abraham to be the patriarch of God’s people, and Abraham responded to that call in obedient trust. God called Moses to lead God’s people out of the “blast furnace” (Deuteronomy 4:20) of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, but Moses lost the opportunity to lead Israel into the Promised Land or enter himself because he took for himself glory which rightly belonged to God alone. God wants us to find him; he wants to reveal himself to us, but he wants us to trust and obey him above any other thing or person.

Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus) had been zealous to be holy and godly, but until the Lord revealed himself to Paul and confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20), Paul had no personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord. When confronted with his sin and spiritual ignorance (although Paul was well-educated in theology), Paul repented and began to trust and obey the Lord, and as he did so he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul became a disciple of Jesus Christ and learned to rely on God’s grace (the free gift of everything necessary to know and obey God’s will) in Jesus Christ, rather than his human, worldly wisdom.

As a result of his encounter on the road to Damascus, Paul recovered what had been lost within him: fellowship and eternal life with the Lord, and was sharing the good news and his rejoicing with others. Now he was teaching the Church at Corinth what they needed to know to grow in Christian discipleship to spiritual maturity at the Day of the Lord (Jesus’ Second Coming).

It is God’s initiative and gift which establishes us as his people in Christ, and commissions us for his service, and it is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which is his 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 God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death and destruction in Hell (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Jesus is the revelation of the invisible God in human form (John 1:18; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus came to seek and save the spiritually lost. All of us are sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

The Pharisees and scribes thought they were righteous and had no need to repent because they met their own standards of righteousness instead of God’s. They demonstrated that they were not among the Lord’s family or his friends because they did not rejoice in the salvation of sinners.

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

Wednesday 2 Pentecost – Odd 

First Posted 05/31/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:25-31   –    Faithful and Merciful God;
2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17    –    Peddlers of the Word;
Luke 15:1-2, 11-32    –   The Prodigal Son;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

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 Paraphrase:

Paul told the Corinthian Christians that he had refrained from coming to them earlier to spare them from another “painful” visit. It was not that Paul considered himself so much better spiritually than they; Paul’s efforts were for their joy in standing firm in their faith. Paul didn’t want to cause pain to those who were his reason for joy. It was painful for Paul to write a severe letter, but it was done in love for them.

Those in the Corinthian congregation who had caused pain had hurt the Corinthian congregation, and realizing that should be punishment enough. Paul urged the church to forgive and comfort them and reaffirm their love. Paul had written the congregation hoping that their obedience would be confirmed. Paul declared that he had also forgiven the wayward members, and that forgiveness and reconciliation prevent opportunities for Satan to attack and divide the church.

Paul had an opportunity to preach the Gospel in Troas, but Paul was unable to pursue that opportunity because he was worried about Titus (a co-worker), and so Paul went instead to Macedonia. Paul thanked God that in Jesus Christ we are always triumphant (because he has already won the victory at the Cross).  Through his disciples he spreads the “incense” of the knowledge of the Lord everywhere.

We are the offering of incense of Christ to God among the lost and saved of this world. Christ is the fragrance of life to those who are being saved and transformed from physical life to eternal life, but the smell of death to those who are perishing, moving from physical death to eternal death. Paul recognized his human inadequacy for this ministry. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word; but as men (people) of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Luke Paraphrase:

The Pharisees (strict, legalistic Jews) and scribes (teachers of Jewish law) criticized Jesus for associating with tax collectors (Jewish collaborators with the Roman government) and sinners. Jesus answered with the parable (a story which uses common human experiences to convey spiritual truth) of the prodigal son.  A man had two sons, and the younger son asked his father to give him his portion of the inheritance. The father divided his inheritance between the two sons, and within a few days the younger son took his possessions and went to another country, where he spent his inheritance in loose living.

When his inheritance was spent, the country had a great famine, and the young son began to experience hunger and want. He became the servant of a hog farmer (the ultimate degradation and humiliation to a Jew), and would have been happy to eat the pods which he was given to feed the pigs, but he wasn’t allowed to eat them.

The young son began to remember how in his father’s house even the servants had plenty to eat, while here the son was starving with hunger. He decided to return to his father’s house to repent of his sin and become one of his father’s servants, since he felt no longer worthy to be his son. But the father saw him coming and ran and embraced and welcomed his son. He gave the young son the best robe and a signet ring (symbolizing authority) and prepared a feast to celebrate his son’s return.

The older son had been in the field (working) and when he returned home he heard the music and rejoicing, and asked one of the servants the reason for the celebration. The servants told him that his younger brother had returned and his father had made a great feast. But the older son was angry and refused to join the celebration.

His father came out to beg him to come in, but the oldest son criticized his father for rewarding the younger son who had been unfaithful and had squandered his inheritance in debauchery, while never rewarding the older son who had always been faithful and obedient. The father told his older son that he would always be with him and would possess all of his father’s estate, but it is right to celebrate over the return of one who was dead but has been restored to life; the one who was lost and has been found.

Commentary:

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is also a parable, a metaphor, for life in this world. God warned Israel through Moses that if they yielded to the temptation of disobedience and idolatry that they would be driven from their land and scattered throughout the nations of the world. God also promised that from that exile and tribulation, if they repented and returned to obedient trust in the Lord, the Lord would forgive and restore them and fulfill his covenant with them.

Israel did turn to idolatry and disobeyed God’s Word, and they refused to repent and heed God’s prophets. The result was that they were carried into exile in Babylon for seventy years from 587 to 517 B.C. When they repented and returned to worship, trust and obey the Lord, the Lord brought them back to their land as he has promised in his Word.

But Israel forgot the lessons they had learned in exile in Babylon, and at the time of Jesus Christ, they were again serving other “gods” and rebelling against God’s Word. They refused to recognize Jesus as the Son of God who spoke God’s Word and was the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:1-5, 14), and they refused to trust and obey him. The result was that God’s Word of warning through Moses was again fulfilled. In 70 A.D.. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans, and the Jews were scattered throughout the world. Israel ceased to exist as a nation until following World War II. The temple has never been rebuilt. God’s Word is eternal and continues to be fulfilled as the conditions for its fulfillment are met.

Paul didn’t want to hurt his Christian brethren in Corinth, but he loved them enough to faithfully proclaim the full Gospel, including “painful” truth. Paul didn’t consider himself spiritually superior to the Corinthian Christians; he recognized that he was unworthy, as are we all, of the ministry which he had been given, and that it was not any ability of his own but solely the work of God in Christ at the Cross who had procured the victory and salvation which Paul preached.

Paul was living according to the example of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation revealed in Jesus Christ. We are not to be “peddlers” of God’s Word; Church ministry is not just a “career choice” or a way to manipulate people. In Christ, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have been given the ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation which he provides to all who seek him in obedient trust.

In a sense we are all “prodigal” children of our heavenly Father. We have all used the resources he has provided to pursue our own pleasure and self-interest. We are all in exile in the “Babylon” of this world and away from God’s presence and kingdom through disobedience of his Word and the worship of other “gods” like money, power, pleasure, and self. He promises that when we repent and turn to him in obedient trust we will be forgiven, welcomed and restored to his presence as his own children.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) and for our restoration to personal fellowship with the Lord through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit which he gives to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17; 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)?

Thursday 2 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/01/05;
Podcast: Thursday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 4:32-40    –     The Lord is the Only True God;

2 Corinthians 3:1-18   –    The New Covenant;
Luke 16:1-9    –    The Dishonest Steward;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

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 Paraphrase:

Paul does not need to commend himself or have others commend him to people. The Church at Corinth is his commendation from Christ, delivered by Paul, written upon their hearts by the Holy Spirit through the new covenant, rather than on the tablets of stone of the old covenant of law. Paul is confident of his commendation and vindication by God through Christ. Paul doesn’t claim any adequacy of his own for his ministry of the new covenant but relies entirely on God.

The old covenant of written law kills (because it cannot free us from sin; it condemns us), but the new covenant gives life by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The old covenant brought a measure of splendor illustrated by the fading splendor of Moses’ face, but the new covenant brings a greater and eternal splendor, so that by comparison, the splendor of the old covenant seems like no splendor at all. Because of that great hope, we can be very bold, not like Moses who hid the fading splendor in his face with a veil, so that Israel would not see it fading.

“But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant (the Old Testament of the Bible) that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man [person] turns to the Lord the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:14-16). The Lord is the Spirit and the Spirit frees us (from condemnation under the Law, from eternal death, and from spiritual blindness) so we, with unveiled faces, can behold the glory of the Lord and be changed from the fading glory (of the old covenant) to the greater, unfading glory (of the new covenant); “for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18b RSV).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples a parable of a dishonest steward. His master heard that his steward was wasting his resources, and ordered the steward to give an accounting. The steward realized that he would lose his job, and that he was too weak to do physical labor and too proud to beg. So he decided to call each of his Master’s debtors and reduce their debts, so that when he was fired they would be willing to give him room and board.

The Master commended his steward for his prudence in providing for the steward’s future. Worldly people are wiser in their worldly lives than are those who are spiritually enlightened. Believers should use their worldly resources to gain God’s approval and thus secure eternal habitation when this earthly life fails.

Commentary:

This creation was designed and intended by God from the very beginning to be a selection process for the creation of an eternal kingdom of God’s people who will trust and obey him. God gave us free will knowing it would lead to sin, and from the beginning he provided for our salvation from eternal death, which is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23), through Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5; 14; and see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Eternal salvation as a free gift through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) has been built into creation.

God’s dealing with Israel is intended to be a metaphor for life in this world, as well as history. God brought his people out of slavery in Egypt, led them through the wilderness by his presence (in the pillar of fire and cloud; Exodus 13:21) and into the Promised Land. In the same way God wants to free us from slavery to sin and death in the “Egypt” of this world and lead us through the wilderness of this life, through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (our “Moses”), leading us through the darkness of this sinful world by the “pillar of fire” of the Holy Spirit within us, and into the Promised Land of his eternal heavenly kingdom. It is those who trust and obey Jesus who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham (Romans 4:9-16 RSV), and the “New Israel,” the people of God.

It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that the Lord reveals himself to those who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17, 21); Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:20). It is through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit that we hear his voice so that he can guide and discipline us. 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).

The old covenant was intended to be our guardian to restrain us until the coming of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The old covenant condemns us to eternal death because we’re all guilty of sin (Romans 3:23), and, since the coming of Jesus Christ (the Messiah), Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of sin and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Through obedient trust in Jesus we are spiritually “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the risen Jesus (Romans 8:9). It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who removes the “veil” and opens our minds to understand the scriptures (compare Luke 24:45). Those who are in Christ, who are born-again by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, are freed from the demands of the law, provided that they are obedient to the Holy Spirit.(Romans 8:1-9).

We should learn a lesson from worldly people who know how to look out for and promote their own worldly interests, but we should apply that lesson to our spiritual interests. We should be using our time, effort and material resources in this life to grow spiritually, learning to know and do God’s will, to recognize his voice, learning to trust and obey Jesus, and seeking to be filled with and guided by his Holy Spirit. When the dishonest steward learned that his future wellbeing was in jeopardy he immediately took action to remedy his situation; he didn’t put off action while he continued his daily routine and lifestyle.

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

Friday 2 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 06/02/05;
Podcast: Friday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 5:1-22    –    The Giving of the Law;

2 Corinthians 4:1-12    –    Paul’s Ministry;
Luke 16:10-17 (18)   –    The Coming of the Kingdom of God;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

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). 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 Paraphrase:

Paul was thankful for the ministry he had been given by God’s mercy, rather than being discouraged by the suffering he endured for it. He refused to use the Gospel for personal advantage or dishonorable purposes and he refused to alter God’s Word to make it or himself more popular and attractive. Instead he was committed to declare God’s truth openly and fully and leave its reception to the consciences of his hearers.

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world (Satan) had blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Paul was not using his ministry to glorify himself but to glorify Jesus as Lord, with Paul as the servant of others for Jesus’ sake. God, who by his Word created light to shine in the darkness (Genesis 1:3), has created spiritual light in the darkness of the hearts of believers who have come to know the glory of God in Jesus. But that spiritual treasure is in “earthen vessels,” (bodies of flesh; human weakness) to show that our salvation is not our own accomplishment but is by the power of God.

Believers experience all kinds of suffering for the gospel but are not overcome by them. We share in Christ’s suffering so that Christ’s life-giving power may be seen working in us. Paul was sharing in the suffering and death of Christ so that others could experience the power of Christ’s life in them.

One who demonstrates faithfulness in small matters will be entrusted with greater responsibility, and one who has demonstrated his ability to manage another’s goods can be entrusted with his own. If we have not been faithful to God’s Word in managing the temporal resources God has given us, why would we expect him to entrust us with spiritual treasures which are truly and eternally precious. No one can serve two masters; we cannot serve worldly values and God.

Luke Paraphrase:

The Pharisees loved material wealth and they scoffed at Jesus’ statement that one cannot serve God and pursue worldly success and acclaim. Jesus replied that the Pharisees considered themselves righteous according to worldly standards, but God knows their true condition. What the world approves is contrary to God’s judgment.

Jesus declared that the old covenant of law was in effect until John (John the baptizer; who was the herald of the coming of the Messiah). Since then, the gospel of the kingdom of God, the new covenant of grace through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus is in effect, and entering it takes effort and commitment. Heaven and earth will pass away but God’s Word will never change.

Commentary:

God is God, Creator and Lord of Creation, whether we acknowledge him or not, but if we want his blessings and long (eternal) life in his kingdom, we must acknowledge and obey him. The Lord will not share his glory with anyone or anything, including ourselves.

God is not obligated to be all that being the powerful, righteous, just, merciful, loving God implies, unless we are willing to be his obedient, trusting people. God promises that he will eternally bless those who love and obey him, and will eternally punish those who hate and disobey him (John 5:28-29).  God’s people are responsible to learn, remember and obey God’s Word, and to pass that knowledge and obedience on to their children.

Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant of grace through faith in Jesus. Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is the likeness of God whom we are to worship and glorify. Jesus is the name of the Lord (John 14:7; Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is God’s revelation of himself to the world, and the gift of God’s Holy Spirit is the fullest personal revelation of the Lord to his disciples who trust and obey him (Romans 8:9; John 14:21, 23). Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word (John 1:14), and  through Jesus only, all of God’s promises are fulfilled (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Paul was committed to passing on the scriptural (recorded in the Bible) apostolic (as taught by the apostles, including Paul) gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully, fully, and accurately. He refused to use the Gospel to glorify and exalt himself, or to alter the Gospel to make it more acceptable to people. Paul was willing to be the servant of others for the sake of the Gospel, and to endure suffering and hardship so that others could come to know and experience the glory of God and his life-giving power in Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the glory of God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Glorifying Jesus is glorifying God. It is impossible to serve ourselves and worldly values and also serve the Lord; we must choose whom we will serve, and the choice has eternal consequences.

The Pharisees did not believe Jesus. They did not see and recognize the glory of God in Jesus because Satan had blinded their minds. They were using God’s Word to glorify themselves. They wanted the promises of God without the obligation of obedient trust.

Salvation from eternal death and punishment is the free gift of God to be received through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). We don’t deserve it, can’t do anything to earn it, or take it by force or deception, but it requires our effort and commitment in order to receive it; it requires discipleship and obedient trust in Jesus Christ.

Christian discipleship is not going to be popular or always pleasant, in this world.  Jesus didn’t come to abolish God’s laws but to make it possible for us to fulfill them. The Lord does not give the gift of his Holy Spirit to those who have not committed to trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e, John 14:15-17).

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)?

Saturday 2 Pentecost – Odd

First posted 06/03/05;
Podcast: Saturday 2 Pentecost – Odd

Deuteronomy 5:22-33   –     Moses the Mediator;

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10    –    Paul’s Faithfulness;
Luke 16:19-31    –    The Rich Man and Lazarus;

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 followed the example of faithfulness of the psalmist (Psalms 116:10), who acted upon what he believed in the midst of adversity. Paul was confident that God would raise him and all believers from physical death to eternal life as he has raised Jesus. Paul’s suffering is all worthwhile to bring God’s grace to more and more people, increasing their thankful rejoicing so that God will be glorified. So Christians should not become discouraged, even though their physical nature is wasting away, because their spiritual nature is being renewed every day. Present afflictions are slight and brief from the perspective of eternity as we focus not on the visible physical life which is transient but on the invisible spiritual realm which is eternal.

Believers can know with certainty that if the earthly “tent,” the temporary physical body which houses our eternal soul, is destroyed we have a “building,” a solid and reliable eternal body, in heaven. While still in this physical life we long to be in our eternal dwelling; we long to be more fully spiritually clothed than we are in our present physical state, so that what is dying might be “swallowed up” by what is truly and eternally life.

God has prepared us for this very purpose, “and has given us the (Holy) Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:5). So we can be fully confident, knowing that as long as we’re in this physical life we are not able to experience complete fellowship with the Lord which we would prefer. Here we must live by faith in what we are not yet able to receive and experience. So whether we live or die, our goal is to please the Lord, for we will all be individually accountable to him for what each of us has done in this earthly life.

Luke Summary:

Jesus told a parable of a rich man and a beggar. The rich man dressed in fine clothes, lived in a mansion, and ate sumptuously every day. A poor beggar, hungry and covered with sores, sat by the rich man’s gate. The poor beggar longed to eat the crumbs fell from the rich man’s table. The rich man’s dogs not only got the crumbs, but they tormented the beggar by licking his sores.

The poor man died and was carried by angels to heaven to be in the presence and fellowship of Abraham, but the rich man died, was buried and found himself in hell. The rich man saw the poor beggar far off with Abraham, and asked Abraham to send the poor man to dip his finger in water and cool the tongue of the rich man who was in the eternal fire of hell. But Abraham told the rich man that he had received good things in his earthly life while the poor man had received evil; now each was being repaid according to their deeds in earthly life. Furthermore, heaven and hell are separated so that it is impossible to go from one to the other.

Then the rich man asked Abraham to send the poor man to his father’s house on earth to warn his five brothers, so that they might not wind up in eternal torment. Abraham told the rich man that his brothers had all the warning they needed from Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament scriptures). The rich man replied that that wouldn’t be enough, but they would repent if someone came to them from the dead. “He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:31).

Commentary:

God manifested himself to Israel and gave them his Word so that they would fear (have respect for the power and authority of) God and obey his Word. It is in our own best interest to trust and obey God’s Word. It is the only way to receive eternal life and blessings in the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom in heaven.

Jesus is the manifestation of God to his people in a loving non-threatening way. Jesus is our mediator, our “Moses,” who declares God’s Word while saving us from God’s judgment and wrath. Jesus is the embodiment and fulfillment of God’s Word in human form (John 1:1-5, 14).

“Born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ, like Paul, have the confidence of certain knowledge, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that we are in Christ and have eternal life because we experience personal fellowship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. We are freed from fear of physical death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and can endure adversity without becoming discouraged. The personal love and fellowship we experience in this present life through his indwelling Holy Spirit are only a small sample of the full experience of eternal life in his presence.

This lifetime is our opportunity to come to personal fellowship with the Lord, to learn God’s will and to learn to trust and obey him. Each of us will be accountable individually to the Lord for what we have done with the life and opportunity he has given each of us. Are we learning to please the Lord or are we only interested in pleasing ourselves?

The rich man used his earthly life to pursue his own pleasure and satisfaction. He had daily opportunities to please God and love his “neighbor,” the poor beggar at his gate, but didn’t allow the beggar to even share the scraps from his table with the rich man’s dogs; he wasn’t even considerate enough to restrain his dogs from bothering the beggar. When he died and found himself in hell, he still related to the beggar only in terms of what the beggar could do for the rich man.

God wants us to know his will so that we can learn to do it and receive the blessings he’s promised. He’s given us not only Moses and the prophets but Jesus’ word and example, and his demonstration of his Resurrection, attested to by over 500 eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), and the testimony of the Apostles in the New Testament scriptures. Jesus has returned from the dead to warn us of the finality of God’s judgment. What will it take to convince us to repent and turn to the Lord in obedient trust?

There is no such thing as reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27). This life is our only opportunity to seek and come to personal reconciliation and fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27). Jesus is the only mediator who can save us from God’s eternal wrath and condemnation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Once we die physically, our eternal destiny is fixed and unalterable for all eternity.

None of us knows with certainty whether we’ll live until tomorrow, but we can know with certainty where we will spend eternity. If we trust and obey Jesus we will come to personal knowledge of and fellowship with him through the gift of his Holy Spirit which he has promised to his disciples who trust and obey him. The Holy Spirit is God’s ultimate manifestation of himself to us personally and individually (John 14:21, 23). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and that we have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for us to know with certainty whether we have personally received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

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

Week of Holy Trinity – Odd — 05/31-06/06/2015

May 30, 2015

Week of Holy Trinity – 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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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 Holy Trinity – Odd 

Sunday Holy Trinity – Odd 

First Posted 05/21/05;

Podcast: Sunday Holy Trinity – Odd

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (10-15)   –    One Lord;
Ephesians 4:1-16    –   The Unity of the Spirit;
John 1:1-18   –   The Word of God;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Ten Commandments, along with God’s statutes and ordinances, the basis of the [Old] Covenant of Law, were given to Moses to teach the people to obey God in the Promised Land so that they would fear (have proper awe and respect for the power and authority of) God. They were to be careful to obey all God’s commandments, statutes and ordinances in order to prosper, multiply, and live long in the Promised Land, in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

The first and great commandment is that the Lord God is one Lord (not multiple gods; the one and only true, sovereign God). God’s people are to love God with their mind and will, their innermost self, to the fullest extent possible. God’s commandments are to be remembered and applied constantly and daily, and God’s people are to teach them to their children.

The Lord warned Israel of the consequences of forgetting his commandments when they began to prosper in the Promised Land. God was bringing Israel into a land which would seem lush after the barren harshness of the wilderness. Furthermore the Lord was displacing the native people of the Promised Land, so Israel would be able to take over houses, cities, fields and wells they had not labored for and built.

God’s people were warned not to forget that it was the Lord who had given them all these blessings, having brought them out of slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, as he had promised their ancestors. God’s people were to love, fear, honor, respect and serve only God. They were warned not to adopt the idols of the native people of the land, because God will not tolerate idolatry among his people and the consequence of his anger is total eternal destruction.

Ephesians Paraphrase:

Paul was a prisoner in Rome because of his preaching of the Gospel, and was writing to the Church at Ephesus. He exhorted the Ephesian Christians to live according to Jesus’ teachings, in humility, meekness, patience and forbearance of one another, loving one another, bound together in peace and the unity of the (Holy) Spirit (a seven-fold description of unity of Christian character; seven is symbolic of completeness).

“There is one body (the Church, the body of Christ) and one (Holy) Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope (eternal salvation and life) that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith (obedient trust in Jesus Christ), one baptism, one God and Father of us all (seven-fold unity of faith), who is above all, and through all and in all” (a “trinity” of God’s omnipresence; Ephesians 4:4-6).  Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 to illustrate that God is Lord of the physically living and dead, and Lord of eternity, filling all things (as in Ephesians 4:6).

God’s unmerited favor is received in each Christian by the gift of the (one) indwelling Holy Spirit expressed in a variety of spiritual gifts (abilities). “And his gifts were that some should be apostles (missionaries), some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers;” Ephesians 4:11) These spiritual gifts were given to equip and empower all believers for ministry, to build up (in spiritual strength, ability, and number) the body of Christ (the Church) until all believers attain “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of God” (Ephesians 4:13); until each believer grows up to spiritual maturity, to attain the full spiritual likeness and character of Christ.

Christians are to grow to spiritual maturity so that we are no longer spiritual infants, vulnerable to any false teaching and teacher that comes along, being deceived by cunning, unscrupulous and dishonest people. Instead Christians are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, lovingly speaking and doing what is true, and growing in maturity to resemble, in every way, Christ, who is the head of the Church and of every believer, so that each believer is united in Christ, and each uses his individual spiritual gifts to work together to accomplish Christ’s mission, building and strengthening Christ’s body in love.

John Paraphrase:

The Apostle John says that the Word (God’s Word has creative power, unlike humans’ words) existed at the beginning of Creation; the Word was with God and was God. Everything was made through the Word (Genesis 1:3; Psalm 33:6). In the Word was (true, spiritual, eternal) life, and that life was the light of men. The Word is the true spiritual light in the spiritual darkness and evil of this world, and that darkness cannot overcome that light.

John the Baptizer was sent by God (Luke 1:13-17) as the prophet to announce the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, the “Light of the World” (John 8:12), the true light of righteousness and spiritual enlightenment. The Word was physically present in the world which had been created through him, but the world didn’t know and recognize him. He came to his own home and his own people refused to receive him. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name (his character and authority) he gave the power (but that promise must be claimed and appropriated by obedient trust) to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father (John 1:14). John the Baptizer testified that Jesus, who came to manifestation chronologically after John, was greater in every way than John. From Jesus we receive inexhaustible loving forgiveness, and complete faithfulness of his promises.

The Law (which condemns sin to eternal death) was given through Moses, but Jesus has brought us unmerited redemption and faithfulness. No human has ever seen God; God’s only (begotten) Son, who is in complete fellowship and union with God the Father, reveals and makes God known.

Commentary:

The first and greatest of God’s commandments is that that the Lord God is one Lord, the only true and sovereign God. God’s people are to know, trust and obey God’s Word. The Lord blesses his people who fear, respect, honor, love and obey God, but he will not tolerate idolatry or disobedience. Those who worship and serve any one or thing other than God or refuse to trust and obey the Lord will be condemned to eternal destruction.

Israel learned to trust and obey God during their wilderness wandering, but God warned them to remember the lessons of their wilderness experience when they came into the Promised Land and became prosperous and successful. Despite the repeated warnings from God’s Word and God’s prophets, Israel kept turning to other gods and to disobedience of God’s Word, and they suffered the consequences.

America today, the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” is in a similar situation, founded mainly by Christian people who realized their dependence upon the Lord when they settled the wilderness and drove out the native people. But today America has forgotten the lessons our ancestors learned in the “wilderness.” We’ve become prosperous and successful and have turned from serving the Lord to serving ourselves. We haven’t taught the fear and obedient trust of the Lord to our children.

Paul is the prototype of the modern “post-resurrection” (having come to personal knowledge of Jesus Christ only after Jesus’ resurrection) “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle (messenger of the Gospel; missionary) of Jesus Christ. He was telling the Ephesian Church to hold on to the scriptural (recorded in the Bible) apostolic (taught by the Apostles, including Paul) doctrines of the Gospel, and he was describing the doctrine of the Trinity; one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father is Spirit (John 4:24), the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).

Jesus was God who became human (John 1:14; not a human who became God). In Jesus, the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:8-9). Jesus was more than just filled with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen Christ (Romans 8:9-11). Jesus is God’s only Son begotten by the creative act of God. We can become (adopted) children of God through Jesus by the gift of his Holy Spirit, but that does not make us gods or equal to God.

Jesus came in human flesh to reveal God’s nature and character to us, to make it possible for us to know and have personal fellowship with God the Father through the gift of his Holy Spirit within us, made possible by the forgiveness of our sins by obedient trust in Jesus (John 14:21, 23) and Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the Cross.

We can only come to know God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). When we see Jesus and realize that he is God in human flesh (John 20:28; John 1:14), then as we begin to trust and obey Jesus we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom we have personal knowledge and fellowship with God the Father and God the Son through God the Holy Spirit: three persons; one God.

Each “born-again” disciple of Jesus Christ is united in Christ with other “born-again” disciples, individually empowered and led by the one Spirit to fulfill the ministry of Christ as his body the Church. That ministry is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to grow to spiritual maturity within the Church, seeking the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, and then, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, repeat that discipling ministry with others.

The meaning and purpose of life in this world is to provide us the opportunity to seek and come to personally know God (Acts 17:26-17). God’s purpose from the beginning of creation has been to create an eternal kingdom of his people who trust and obey him. This life is our opportunity to learn to trust and obey the Lord so that we can live with him in the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom.

God gave us free will, knowing that we would disobey him, and he built a Plan of Salvation in Jesus Christ (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) into creation. Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (John 14:6). Through obedient trust in Jesus Christ, we receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit who cleanses us, frees us from bondage to sin, and gives us the power to serve and please God.

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

Monday Holy Trinity – Odd

First Posted 05/22/05;
Podcast: Monday Holy Trinity – Odd

Ruth 1:1-18   –    Ruth’s Commitment to Naomi;
1 Timothy 1:1-17   –    Commitment to Apostolic Doctrine;
Luke 13:1-9   –    On Repentance and Commitment; .

Ruth Paraphrase:

During the time Israel was governed by judges (after Joshua’s death, until the monarchy was established with Saul), a Jew from Bethlehem named Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, to live in the territory of Moab (east of the Jordan river at the southern part of the Dead Sea, whose people were considered enemies of Israel). Elimelech died in Moab. Naomi stayed in Moab with her two sons, who took Moabite wives named Orpah and Ruth, and then after ten years her two sons died also.

Naomi decided to return to Judah, because she had heard in Moab “that the Lord had visited his people (in Israel) and given them food” (Ruth 1:6). Her daughters-in-law prepared to go with her, but she offered to let them stay in the land of their people in Moab. Naomi wanted them to be able to remarry and have families, rather than staying widows with Naomi in Judah, so she released them and gave them her blessing although she was sad to be separated from them. Orpah returned to her people, but Ruth decided to stay with Naomi.

Naomi tried to convince Ruth to change her mind for Ruth’s happiness and benefit, but Ruth had made up her mind. Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth promised with an oath to keep her word. Naomi saw that Ruth had made her decision so they returned to Judah together.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul was an apostle by the command of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, writing to his disciple, Timothy, praying for Timothy to be blessed with the grace (unmerited favor), mercy, and peace which are only possible through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. When Paul had gone to Macedonia, Paul had left Timothy in charge of the Church in Ephesus, with the commission to restrain the teaching of false doctrine by certain individuals within the congregation, and to prevent preoccupation with “myths and endless genealogies which promote speculation rather than the divine training that is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4).

What disciples should focus on is genuine “love which issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith” (1Timothy 1:5). Some people have strayed from true faith by getting into vain discussion, and who desire to be teachers without having learned or experienced the things they are saying and claiming. God’s law is good if one applies it lawfully, but realize that the Law was given not for the righteous but “for lawless sinners, for the unholy and profane, murderers…, the immoral, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the glorious gospel” (of Jesus Christ; 1 Timothy 1:9-11).

Paul was thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ had judged Paul faithful to serve him and had empowered Paul for that service. Paul realized that he was unworthy (as are we all), because he had formerly blasphemed, persecuted (and opposed) Jesus, but the Lord was merciful to him because Paul had acted in ignorance and unbelief. Paul had received an overflowing abundance of the Lord’s free gift of love and faith which is received by faith in Jesus.

It is absolutely true and reliable that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul felt as though he was the foremost of sinners, but took joy in the idea that the Lord’s patience (and the transforming power of the Gospel) would be displayed in Paul’s example, for the world to see, so that they might receive eternal life through faith. The only true God and King of eternity is worthy of eternal honor and glory.

Luke Paraphrase:

Some in the crowd that had gathered around Jesus reported that Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, had killed Galilean Jews as they were offering sacrifices. Jesus asked them if they thought the Galileans thus martyred were more sinful than any other Galileans. Jesus said those martyred Galileans were not worse or more deserving of death than anyone else, but unless we repent we will all suffer a similar spiritual fate.

Worldly catastrophes are not the manifestation of God’s judgment, although they may cause physical death. The real spiritual catastrophe is dying without having repented and without having received forgiveness and salvation from spiritual, eternal death. Life is uncertain; no one can be sure that they won’t die suddenly and unexpectedly.

Jesus told a parable about a fig tree. For three years the owner came expecting to gather its fruit, but it had produced none. The owner told his gardener to cut it down and use the ground for something more productive, but the gardener convinced the owner to give the fig tree one more year. The gardener promised to cultivate the ground around the tree and fertilize it well. Then if the tree produced fruit the owner would be pleased and satisfied, but if it still was unproductive the fig tree would be cut down.

Commentary:

Naomi loved both her daughters-in-law enough to put their interest and happiness ahead of her own. Both daughters-in-law loved their mother-in-law, but Orpah accepted the freedom to pursue her own interest. Both Orpah and Naomi were willing to be separated from each other if that is what Orpah wanted and though would make her happy. Ruth loved Naomi and believed both would be happier together than apart; Ruth’s interest was in being with Naomi and making Naomi happy. Ruth was willing to leave her own land, her own people, her own family, and her own idols, and even to die with Naomi to be with Naomi, and Ruth was faithful to her commitment.

Our Lord is like Naomi. He loves us so much that he gives us the freedom to pursue our own interests; to seek our own happiness and fulfillment, even if that means permanent separation from him. He is also faithful like Ruth.  He loves us so much that he was willing to leave his glory and Father in heaven, to come to our land, to die for us to make it possible for us to be with him and spend eternity with him in the paradise of the heavenly “Promised Land.”

We have been given the choice to be like Orpah or Ruth. We’re free to pursue what we think and hope will make us happy on this earth, willing to be separated from our Lord’s love forever, or we can choose to commit our lives to love and trust our Lord, and follow him in obedience to the eternal Promised Land, renouncing our worldly idols to serve the Lord and physically die in and with him.

Paul is the example of a faithful disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. He is the prototype of the modern, “post-resurrection” (like us, having come to faith in the risen Jesus after Jesus’ earthly ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven), “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple. He made a commitment to love, serve and follow Jesus to foreign lands, to serve the one true God of Israel and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul was committed to preserve the scriptural, apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully and accurately as he had received it from personal fellowship with the Lord Jesus through Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit. He was committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus’ teaches and commands, in accordance with Christ’s Great Commission to his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and to faithfully and accurately preserve and pass it on to them the scriptural apostolic gospel as he had received it. Timothy is an example of that discipling process. Christians are called to grow to spiritual maturity, to know the scriptural apostolic doctrine so that they can avoid, restrain and refute false teachers and false doctrine.

Christians are warned to grow in the solid scriptural, apostolic doctrines and personal knowledge of the Lord and not to get side-tracked by unproductive speculations. It’s easy to get caught up in such things as speculations about the “End Times” and the “Second Coming.” No one but God the Father knows when the end of time will come, not even Jesus (Matthew 24:36 RSV). Instead of unproductive speculation it is far better and far more productive to develop a personal relationship with the Lord, so that we will learn to distinguish his voice and know and obey his will.

It won’t matter when the End comes, and it won’t be necessary for us to find the Lord, because he will know where we are (Matthew 24:26-28), and we will be secure in him. Another temptation is for people to become teachers before they have been discipled, grown to spiritual maturity and filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Just because one has read the entire Bible or even formally studied the Bible does not qualify one to lead others to discipleship, if one has not been truly “born-again” through the indwelling Holy Spirit. One does not appoint oneself to be an apostle, but is appointed by the command and call of God and by the empowerment of his Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:1, 12).

People in the crowds who gathered to hear Jesus believed that disasters were a sign of God’s judgment, and that anyone who suffered a disaster had deserved punishment by God. Jesus replied that the people who fall into disaster aren’t any greater sinners or more deserving of God’s punishment than anyone else. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and God’s punishment for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Life is uncertain; no one knows when disaster may strike. The real disaster is not physical death, but spiritual, eternal death. The real disaster is dying without having used the opportunity of this physical life to seek and come to fellowship with, and personal knowledge of God (Acts 17:26-27) through Jesus Christ, and spiritual birth by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, 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). Only through Jesus Christ do we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:332-34), which Jesus gives only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17; John 14:21).

Christians are to bear spiritual fruit for the kingdom of God. The only way to be fruitful is to abide in Jesus Christ and he within us through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 15:1-11). It is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit which guides, enables and empowers us to be fruitful in accordance with God’s will and purpose. God is gracious, loving and merciful, which is intended to give us time, nurture and motivation to become fruitful, but if we continue to be unproductive his grace and mercy will come to an end and we will suffer his anger and judgment.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Trinity – Odd 

First Posted 05/23/05;

Podcast: Tuesday Holy Trinity – Odd

Ruth 1:19-2:13    –    Ruth Gleans in the Field of Boaz;
1 Timothy 1:18-2:8 (9-15)   –   Instructions for Worship;
Luke 13:10-17   –    Healing on the Sabbath;

Ruth Paraphrase:

Naomi, a Jewish widow, returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, a Moabite. The barley harvest was beginning when they arrived, and a wealthy relative of Naomi’s husband, named Boaz, had a barley field. Ruth asked her mother-in-law’s permission to glean the barley left by the reapers, hoping to find favor among those overseeing the harvest, and Naomi allowed Ruth to do so.

Ruth happened to glean the fields of Boaz. Boaz came out from Bethlehem to the field, and noticing Ruth, he asked his servants who she was. They told him that she was the Moabite maiden who returned with Naomi from Moab. They said she had asked permission to glean, and that she had been a hard worker.

Boaz spoke to Ruth, telling her to stay close to his servants and glean only from his fields, telling her that she would be safe from molestation with them, because he had ordered them not to molest her. He also told her to help herself, when she was thirsty, to the water drawn by his servants. Ruth bowed to Boaz, thanking him for his favor toward her, a foreigner. But Boaz replied that he had heard all that Ruth had done for Naomi since Naomi’s husband had died, and that she had left her country and her family and had come to a strange land and to people she didn’t know. Boaz prayed that the Lord would bless and reward Ruth for her goodness and faithfulness, since she had sought refuge in the God of Israel. Ruth thanked Boaz for his kind and comforting words to a maidservant who was not in his responsibility.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul had entrusted the responsibility for the Church at Ephesus to Timothy and had given him instructions for Church administration. Paul exhorted Timothy first to faithfully and accurately preserve the apostolic Gospel and to guard against false teachers and false doctrines. Timothy was exhorted to “wage the good warfare” of holding to the apostolic faith and good conscience.

Paul warned Timothy to beware of people who were not guided by a good conscience, and used as examples Hymenaeus, who had falsely taught that the resurrection of the dead was already past, and Alexander, a Jewish coppersmith who had opposed Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:33). Paul had excommunicated such people in the hope that under Satan’s power they might be induced to repent.

Paul instructed Timothy that the Church was to pray with supplication, intersession and thanksgiving for all people, and for all secular rulers, so that Christians might lead quiet, peaceable, godly and respectable lives. It is good and in God’s will, because the Lord desires that all might be saved and come to knowledge of the (gospel) truth. God is the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and mankind. Jesus gave his life on the cross to pay the ransom of all people (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home), and this is the message Paul was appointed a preacher and apostle to proclaim and to instruct the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Paul urged that members in every congregation would pray with holy hands (with a clean conscience, unstained by disobedience) uplifted (the customary posture), without anger or quarreling. People should clothe themselves with modesty, and avoid ostentation. Instead of outward adornment, we should seek to adorn ourselves spiritually through good deeds befitting people who profess Jesus as their Lord. Our behavior should be governed by faith, love, holiness and modesty.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue one Sabbath, and there was a woman who for eighteen years had a “spirit” of disability of her back, making her walk “hunched-over” and unable to stand up straight. Jesus saw her and called to her, declaring that she was freed from her disability. Jesus laid his hands on the woman and immediately her back was straightened, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue was indignant, and told the crowd that they should not come to Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus replied, calling those who agree with the ruler of the synagogue hypocrites, because they feed and water their livestock on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that the woman was a descendant of Abraham (and one of God’s chosen children) whom Satan had oppressed for eighteen years, and that it was appropriate to free her from bondage to Satan on the Sabbath. Jesus’ adversaries were put to shame and the people rejoiced in the glorious things Jesus was doing.

Commentary:

Ruth had joined her mother-in-law’s community and religion. She wanted to participate in the support of the household, and she asked her mother-in-law for permission and guidance to glean in the fields. She wanted to find favor with the master of the harvest. Her behavior in the field impressed the servants and the master, and the news of her love and faithfulness, and the fact that she had sought refuge in the God of Israel also impressed the master. The master told Ruth to work only in his fields and to stay close to his servants so that she wouldn’t come to harm.

This is a “picture” of discipleship. Naomi brought Ruth to “church.”  The Master of the harvest is Jesus Christ. Christians are not just to hang around the “house” and visit with fellow members of the household. But they have to be discipled first by sticking close to “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian servants, who can teach them how to harvest correctly while preserving the scriptural apostolic gospel.

Not just anyone who wants to join in should be allowed to do so, unless they’re willing to bear the discipline of discipleship and are willing to obey the Master’s rules and guidance. They need to have a personal knowledge of and relationship with the Master, and to get his permission and guidance. They need to drink freely of the spiritual water the Master supplies (John 4:10-14; 7:37-39) through daily fellowship with the Lord and his Word. (I personally testify to this truth. This is how I came to this internet ministry.)

Timothy had been trained in discipleship by Paul. Paul made sure Timothy received the sound biblical apostolic gospel (the Gospel taught by the original apostles, including Paul, and recorded in the New Testament), and he urged Timothy, first of all to preserve and pass on that Gospel faithfully and accurately to his congregation, and to guard his congregation from false teachers and false doctrines. Paul warned Timothy to beware of people who were not guided by conscience to live according to the Gospel they professed.

Paul warned Timothy to teach his congregation obedience to Jesus’ teachings, so that their lives would be good testimony to the Lord, instead of allowing people to adopt the exterior appearance of “good Christians” while their deeds denied the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul advocated that false teachers and those who did not live according to the scriptural apostolic gospel should not be allowed to take refuge within the church; instead they should be excommunicated (or denied membership), in the hope that they might come to realize their spiritual condition and need and thus be induced to repent and be saved. How are we doing today, Church?

The ruler of the synagogue “looked good” on the outside, but he didn’t love and obey the Lord on the inside. He used his religion to make himself look righteous, but he didn’t love God or his “neighbor,” the basis and summation of all of God’s Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). He cared more for his livestock that the physical and spiritual needs of others, even his own people.

Jesus healed the woman physically, but there was a deeper underlying spiritual condition that only Jesus can heal. We can adopt a “Christian” posture and wear the garments of God’s people and God’s spiritual leaders, but it is only by the personal touch and guidance by the indwelling Holy Spirit through obedient trust in Jesus that our spiritual disability can be healed.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Trinity – Odd 

First Posted 05/24/05;

Podcast: Wednesday Holy Trinity – Odd

Ruth 2:14-23   –    The Kindness of Boaz to Ruth;
1 Timothy 3:1-16   –   Qualifications of Church Leaders;
Luke 13:18-30   –    Parables of the Kingdom;

Ruth Paraphrase:

At lunchtime, Boaz invited Ruth to share in the bread and wine and gave her parched grain to eat. She had enough to satisfy her hunger and some left over. When she returned to gleaning, Boaz told his servants to leave a little extra of the harvest for Ruth to glean, and not rebuke her. Ruth continued her gleaning until evening, and then threshed what she gathered. She had harvested more than one-half bushel of threshed barley.

Ruth returned to the city and showed her mother-in-law, Naomi, what she had gleaned, and also gave her the food left over from Ruth’s lunch. Naomi was impressed and asked Ruth whose field she had gleaned. When she learned it was Boaz’ field, Naomi invoked the Lord’s blessing on Boaz who had not forsaken the living or the dead. She told Ruth that Boaz was a close relative of hers.

Ruth told Naomi that Boaz had also protected Ruth from molestation by telling her to stay close to his servants, and Naomi was glad to hear of Boaz’ concern for Ruth’s safety. Ruth continued to glean in Boaz’ fields through the end of the barley and wheat harvests.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul gave Timothy instructions for selecting church leaders. Bishops (overseers) hold a noble position, but they also have a responsibility to be above reproach. A bishop should be faithful in marriage, moderate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, and a good teacher, not a drunkard, violent, quarrelsome or greedy. He should demonstrate his ability to manage God’s church by his ability to manage his own household well, with obedient and respectful children. He must not be a recent convert or he may be conceited and fail to resist temptation. If he doesn’t have a good reputation in the secular community, his lack of good character will lead to reproach and sin.

Deacons were appointed to serve the administrative, social and charitable activities of the church. Both men and women may serve as deacons and are to be committed to their duties, honest and truthful, moderate and faithful, not drunkards or greedy. “They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” [i.e. they must be “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) believers who practice what they profess; 1 Timothy 3:9].

“Let them be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons” (1 Timothy 3:10; i.e. they must be mature Christians, who have demonstrated their faith). They must demonstrate their ability to manage the church by good management of their families. Deacons are respected in their secular communities and their behavior influences the acceptance of the Gospel by the world.

The Church is and must be the pillar and bulwark of the truth in this world. Christ is the mystery of God “which has been manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus used several parables to illustrate the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed which grows into a supernaturally large tree, becomming a nesting place for birds. The kingdom of God is also like a small amount of yeast placed in dough and allowed time to permeate and affect the whole loaf.

Jesus was heading for Jerusalem, and on the way someone asked him if only a few people would be saved (i.e. enter God’s eternal kingdom). Jesus replied that one should earnestly endeavor to enter because the door to God’s kingdom is narrow, and many will try to enter and will not be able. Once the owner of the house has risen and closed the door, people will knock and ask to enter, but the owner will deny knowing them.

They will say, “we ate and drank in you presence and you taught in our streets” (Luke 13:26), but the owner will deny knowing them, condemn them as evildoers and command them to depart from him. Those who are denied entry will have great anguish and grief when they see the patriarchs and prophets in God’s kingdom while they, among the lost, are rejected. People from the farthest places on earth will come to the heavenly banquet. But Jesus warned that “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30).

Commentary:

The Church needs leaders like Boaz, who will train and supervise the servants who are responsible for reaping the harvest of God’s field. Ruth is like a new believer in the church who is not yet ready to handle the main work of the harvest, but is fed and given water and is warned to stay close to the reapers for her wellbeing. Mature, “born-again” Christian disciples are to be reapers.

Reaping is not the sole or even the main job of the ordained clergy. The main job of the clergy is to supervise the harvest, to see that both reapers and gleaners are spiritually nurtured and that gleaners are discipled and receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit before they become reapers. Both reapers and gleaners can bring home and share with others the “bread” they have received from the “overseer.”

Paul was the discipler of Timothy who had become the overseer of the Church at Ephesus. All pastors are to be “overseers” and managers of their congregation and the qualifications for “bishops” apply also to pastors. Paul himself was fulfilling the role of “bishop,” the pastor, overseer and manager of pastors.

Mature Christians are to fulfill the responsibilities of deacons, to help with the discipling of new members and to help with the reaping of the harvest. There may be specifically appointed and commissioned deacons who oversee the harvesting and discipling. Christians, like deacons, must keep their reputations in the secular community from reproach, and like deacons, remember that what they do in the secular community affects the reception of the Gospel by the world.

The Gospel is a tiny seed which grows into a large kingdom, provided that it is sown, fed and watered. Faith also begins as a tiny seed, with our “yes” to the seed of the Gospel, which when fed and watered grows to spiritual maturity. Christians are to be the “yeast” in our communities, which ultimately influences and changes the world. The Holy Spirit is the “yeast” within Christians that changes us so that we can be “yeast” in the world.

The Lord warns that we should diligently strive to enter the narrow door to eternal life in God’s kingdom. Jesus is that narrow door; Jesus is God’s only provision for salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’ Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). It is by obedient trust in Jesus Christ that we receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are “reborn,” and qualified, guided, and empowered to be servants in God’s “field.”

Jesus warns that it is not people who call themselves Christians, who call Jesus “Lord,” or who are active church members, or who receive “Communion” (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper), or who do good deeds, who will be saved from eternal death (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46). It is those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus, and who have received the promised rebirth and gift of the Holy Spirit, who know with certainty for themselves that they are in Christ and have eternal life with him in God’s kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Worldly judgment will be overturned and reversed. It won’t be what we think of ourselves, or what the world thinks of us that will matter; it will be what the “Master of the house,” Jesus Christ, thinks of us that will matter for all eternity.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Holy Trinity – Odd

First Posted 05/25/05;

Podcast: Thursday Holy Trinity – Odd

Ruth 3:1-18   –   Ruth and Boaz;
1 Timothy 4:1-16   –   False Teachers;
Luke 13:31-35   –    Herod’s Threat;

Ruth Paraphrase:

Naomi and her husband, both Jews, and their two sons, had traveled to Moab to live, and where her husband died. Her two sons had taken Moabite women as wives, and the two sons had also died. Naomi had released the two widows of her sons to marry again, and one had chosen to stay in Moab, but the other, Ruth, had chosen to return with Naomi to Bethlehem in Judah (see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, Trinity, odd year).

Naomi loved Ruth and wanted Ruth to remarry so that Ruth would be happy and cared for, so she suggested that Ruth go to Boaz, a near relative of Naomi’s whom Ruth had met while gleaning leftover barley from harvested fields. In that culture, kinsmen had the right and obligation to take, as wife, the widow of their kinsman, so that the kinsman’s genealogy and family inheritance would be preserved. Naomi told Ruth to show her love for Boaz, by going to the threshing floor and lying down at his feet after he had gone to sleep. Ruth agreed to do all that Naomi had instructed.

At midnight Boaz was startled to find a woman sleeping at his feet, and asked who she was. She told him her name and that she was his next of kin. Boaz appreciated that Naomi had honored him regardless of wealth, rather than seeking a young and physically attractive mate, and complimented her as a woman of worth. Boaz was willing to have her as wife, but realized that the right belonged to someone who was of closer kinship, and allowed that person to have the first choice.

In consideration of Ruth, Boaz allowed Ruth to stay the night, and to leave in the morning before her presence was known. In the morning, before daylight, Boaz gave Ruth six measures of barley to take to provide for herself and Naomi. Ruth gave the barley to Naomi, and Naomi told Ruth to be patient and wait for the resolution, assuring her that Boaz would resolve the decision that very day.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul told Timothy that in the latter days (the period before the Lord’s return on the Day of Judgment) some will abandon the (true, scriptural, apostolic) gospel by giving heed to lying spirits and the doctrines of demons, through false teachers whose consciences have been seared (desensitized; rendered ineffective), who advocate abstinence from marriage and from certain foods (like meat), contrary to God’s will and intention for his people who believe and know the truth and who receive everything with thanksgiving, having consecrated it by God’s Word and by prayer.

A good minister of Jesus Christ is nourished on the Word of faith (the Bible) and good doctrine (the scriptural, apostolic Gospel), and teaches it to others. We are not to have any involvement in godless and foolish myths (false doctrines created by humans). Instead we are to train ourselves in godliness (obedience to God’s Word).

Physical training benefits our physical bodies, but spiritual training is of greater benefit, because it improves our present lives, and also provides and prepares us for eternal life. God’s Word is absolutely true and worthy of full acceptance, and we hold fast to it and persevere, having our hope fixed upon the living God, the savior of all people who put their obedient trust in him. So let us command and teach these things. Let us not discount any on the basis of their youth, but let us set an example in speech, conduct, love and purity.

Let us proclaim the scripture, preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teach discipleship until Jesus returns. Let us not neglect the gift of the Holy Spirit which we have been promised in our baptism. Let us practice our Christian duties enthusiastically so that others will see our progress. Let us take heed to ourselves and to our teachings to apply them diligently in our own lives, so that all will see our progress in spiritual growth to maturity, so that we ourselves and our hearers will be saved.

Luke Paraphrase:

Some Pharisees tried to warn Jesus to leave because Herod was seeking to kill Jesus. Jesus called Herod a fox, and told the Pharisees to tell Herod that Jesus would continue to follow God’s will and fulfill his mission today and tomorrow, and would finish his mission on the third day (Jesus’ mission was fulfilled and confirmed by his resurrection on the third day after his crucifixion). Jesus declared that he must continue his ministry in Jerusalem (regardless of Herod). Jesus declared that the Jews would not be saved until they recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, who comes in the Lord’s name (his power and authority).

Commentary:

This text in the book of Ruth is a “picture” of the people of God, going about their daily lives, living honorable lives according to God’s Word. Naomi loved Ruth and wanted what was best for Ruth. She had offered to let Ruth stay in Moab and seek a husband from Ruth’s own people, but Ruth loved Naomi and had chosen to stay with Naomi and return to Naomi’s land and people. Ruth had taken the initiative to provide food for Naomi and herself by gleaning barley fields. She had gleaned barley in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s and he had demonstrated his good character, by providing protection from molestation, food and water, and had told his servants to deliberately leave extra barley for Ruth to glean.

When Ruth told Naomi about her encounter with Boaz, Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was kin, and counseled Ruth how to show her love for Boaz according to the customs of God’s people, and Ruth did as Naomi had instructed. Boaz again proved himself honorable by giving a closer relative the opportunity to choose first, and by his consideration for Ruth, providing her with food, preserving her reputation by not taking advantage of the situation, and allowing her to leave unnoticed. Each person in this text demonstrated love for God and love of others ahead of themselves

In contrast, Paul warned Timothy that in “latter days” some “professors” of faith in Jesus will abandon the true, scriptural, apostolic Gospel and give heed to false teachers and false doctrines, who teach abstinence from marriage and from certain foods. Unlike Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, who put the best interest of others ahead of their own, false teachers restrict and enslave their followers contrary to God’s will. These restrictions appear “pious” but they are of no benefit for our salvation (Colossians 2:20-23). Celibacy and vegetarianism won’t save us; only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through obedient trust and the gift of the Holy Spirit will save us from eternal condemnation and eternal death.

A good disciple of Jesus Christ is nourished by God’s Word, the Bible, and good doctrine: the scriptural (recorded in the Bible), apostolic (as taught by the Apostles, including Paul) Gospel of Jesus Christ. A good disciple of Jesus trusts and obeys all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:19-20), is “reborn” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5), guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, teaches God’s Word and scriptural apostolic doctrine to others. This is the discipling process. This is what Paul did with Timothy, and Timothy was to do to other faithful people, who would then repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2).

God’s people are not to have anything to do with false doctrine. Instead we are to train ourselves and one another in God’s Word and in obedient trust in Jesus Christ. Many people in our society are obsessed with physical exercise to perfect their physical bodies which are going to get old and die soon, regardless of what we do to preserve them. But they neglect to feed and exercise their eternal souls. We are all eternal beings in physical bodies. The question is where we will spend eternity (John 5:28-29).

This life is an opportunity for us to seek and come to personal fellowship with the Lord God through Jesus Christ (Acts 17:26-27). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation from eternal death and the only way to have forgiveness and fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

This life is a selection process and an opportunity to prepare for eternity. We are to learn to know, trust and obey Jesus through discipleship. Spiritual training has immediate benefits for this life, as well as the eternal life to come. We can experience the Lord’s power, love and faithfulness now in our physical lives, and we can know with certainty that we have eternal life with Jesus.

Paul exhorts Christians to proclaim God’s Word, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to teach discipleship until Jesus returns. He warns us not to neglect the gift of the Holy Spirit which we are promised in our (water) baptism into Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:11). We receive the promise, the authorization, at our baptism, but we must claim and receive the fulfillment of that promise by fulfilling our baptismal covenant by being disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus (John 1:12-13; 33; John 14:15-17).

We need to take responsibility to know God’s Word, to apply it diligently in our daily lives so that we grow to spiritual maturity. Then we are to teach the Gospel faithfully and accurately to others and demonstrate it in our own lives, so that we and our hearers may be saved from eternal death and destruction in Hell.

Most of the Pharisees were plotting to have Jesus’ killed, but some warned Jesus to leave to avoid being killed by Herod. The opponents of God’s Word want to suppress the proclamation of the Gospel by any means. If Satan can intimidate us by the threat of physical death he wins and we become his slaves.

Jesus wasn’t intimidated by the Pharisees or by Herod’s death threat. He just kept focused on God’s will and obedience to God’s mission. Jesus trusted God’s Word to raise Jesus from death on the third day and God’s Word was fulfilled. One of the reasons Jesus came was to free us from the fear of physical death and the power of Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15). What is keeping us from following Jesus’ example?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Holy Trinity – Odd

First Posted 05/26/05;

Podcast: Friday Holy Trinity – Odd

Ruth 4:1-22   –    Boaz Marries Ruth;
1 Timothy 5:17-22 (23-25)   –   Qualifications of Church Leaders;
Luke 14:1-11  –   Healing on the Sabbath; Humility;

Ruth Paraphrase:

Ruth had shown her love for Boaz, and Boaz was willing to marry her, but he was honorable and acknowledged that a closer relative had the right to choose first (Ruth 3:1-18). That day Boaz went to the city gate and waited for the kin who had first right to marry Ruth to pass by. When the man came past, Boaz asked him to turn aside and sit and talk, (as was the custom). Boaz also asked ten other men to observe as witnesses.

Boaz told the next of kin that a parcel of land belonging to Ruth’s deceased father-in-law was for sale, and the next of kin had first right to purchase it. The next of kin was interested in purchasing it, but Boaz told him that the next of kin couldn’t legally purchase it without taking Ruth, a widow, as wife. Under those terms the man was unwilling to buy the land because his family inheritance would be impaired (assuming that Ruth bore children). So the next of kin gave Boaz the right to the land and Ruth.

It was the custom to take off a sandal and hand it to the other party in a transaction to attest to the agreement, and the kin did so, and the ten witnesses were present to attest to the agreement. Boaz purchased the family property of Elimelech and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, who were all deceased, and took Ruth, the widow of Mahlon as his wife, with the purpose of perpetuating the lineage and inheritance of Elimelech and his sons.

The witnesses blessed Ruth and Boaz, praying that the Lord would use their marriage to build up the house of Israel as had Rachael and Leah (the wives of “Jacob” -also known as “Israel,” and the mothers of the heads of the twelve tribes). They also prayed that the family of Ruth and Boaz would be like the family of Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah. (Four hundred and sixty-eight “sons” of Perez came back from Babylon with the exiles, led by Zerubbabel, a descendant of Perez, and under whose leadership the rebuilding of the temple was begun.)

Boaz married Ruth and she bore a son and named him Obed. The people declared that Obed would be a restorer of life and a nourisher of Naomi, the mother of Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased first husband, in her old age. Obed was the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David, the great shepherd-king of Israel, and the ancestor of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:5-6, 16).

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul had discipled Timothy and was giving him advice on church administration. Church leaders, especially preachers and teachers who govern the church well, are worthy of special honor. Paul quoted Deuteronomy 25:4 and Matthew 10:10 to make the point that the congregation should support their pastors and teachers. Any charges brought against church leaders should be attested to by at least two or three witnesses. Anyone in the congregation who persists in sin should be publicly rebuked in the presence of the congregation.

Church leaders are to be impartial in their enforcement of these rules. Leaders should not be hasty in ordaining leaders or in restoring sinful members. All Christians are reminded not to “participate in another [person’s] sins” (1 Timothy 5:23) but instead keep oneself pure. Drinking alcohol in itself is not sinful (but there is great potential for addiction and drunkenness, which are not to be allowed). The sins of some people are obvious, but other sins may not be recognized until later. The same thing applies to good deeds.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had been invited to dinner one Sabbath at the home of a Pharisee where Pharisees and scribes were guests, and Jesus was aware that the Pharisees were watching him critically (looking for something they could use against him). One of the guests had dropsy (a condition causing swelling of the body with fluids). Jesus asked the Pharisees and lawyers present whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, but they kept silent, so Jesus healed the person. Then Jesus asked those present, who among them would not immediately rescue his livestock from falling into a well on the Sabbath? Those present again declined to answer.

Jesus told a parable about social status at banquets. When one is invited to a banquet he should not take the seat of honor, since a greater person might have been invited, and he and the host would be embarrassed to ask the person to give up the seat of honor to another. Instead it would be better to take the lowest seat. Then the host and this guest would be pleased to ask him to take a seat of greater honor. Jesus’ point is that the humble will be exalted, but the proud will be humbled.

Commentary:

Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi are examples of how God’s people should live (see entry for yesterday, Thursday, Trinity, odd year). Boaz wanted to marry Ruth, but he knew the right of first choice belonged to another, so he acted honorably and followed the rules of his community. The result was that God’s will was done, and everyone was satisfied with the outcome.

Ruth and Boaz became the parents of Obed, and were even more influential through their descendants in building the nation of God’s people than Rachel and Leah (and Jacob) or Tamar and Judah. Through the progeny of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob (Israel) came the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. Through the progeny of Tamar and Judah came Zerubbable, and then Boaz. Through Boaz and Ruth came David, and ultimately Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy that Obed would be a restorer of life and nourisher of his people.

The Church is the New Israel, the new people of God. The leaders of the Church must govern the Church well. They should be worthy and accorded honor. They should be supported financially and by the cooperation and labor of the congregation. They should be above reproach in their conduct, but they should be protected from unsupported charges.

They are to enforce Biblical standards of conduct impartially in the congregation. They should uphold Biblical standards for ordination, and for church membership. Paul warned Christians not to participate (or go along with) the sins of others. Not all deeds, good or bad, are immediately obvious, but will ultimately be revealed and made known.

How is the Church doing today? It is apparently no longer obvious, even within the nominal Church, that such things as homosexuality and fornication are unrighteous, sinful and abominations in God’s judgment (1 Corinthians 6:9-10;* Also see 1 Timothy 1:8-10). Sodom, from which we get the word sodomy, was the city so notoriously and blatantly homosexual that it was destroyed by God (Genesis 18:20-19:28). Also, many Churches are failing to make disciples and failing to teach them to obey all that Jesus commands.

People desire to be teachers of the “Word” without understanding the things about which they make assertions (1 Timothy 1:7). In many churches today administrators are ordaining ministers who have been “educated” in “theological speculation” in Seminaries but haven’t been discipled, and have not been filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit. People are attracted to the ministry as a career and are becoming mere “peddlers of the Word” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Jesus was in the midst of a group of Pharisees and scribes (teachers of the Law of Moses), but Jesus did not restrain himself from proclaiming the full Gospel truth to them, although he knew it wasn’t going to make himself popular and liked. The Pharisees and scribes were religious leaders who agreed on their own set of rules, instead of following God’s rules. They confirmed their own righteousness among themselves, while being totally in opposition to God’s will and to God’s own Son and promised Savior. The Pharisees gave themselves status according to their standards, instead of doing what was right and worthy of approval in God’s judgment.

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

* Because of the current controversy over same-sex marriage and the appointment of openly “gay” bishops (and clergy), I think it’s important to note that the word which is translated “homosexual” in the text (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; RSV, footnote “j”) is translated from two Greek words (Strong’s numbers 730 & 2845) which mean “effeminate sodomite.” I think it’s pretty hard to deny that “homosexual” is an accurate translation.

Saturday Holy Trinity – Odd

First Posted 05/27/05;
Podcast: Saturday Holy Trinity – Odd

Deuteronomy 1:1-8   –    Historical Insight;
1 Timothy 6:6-21   –    Godliness with Contentment;
Luke 14:12-24   –   Parable of the Great Banquet;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

It is only eleven days’ journey from Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai; from the giving of the Covenant of Law) to Kadesh-Barnea (from which the scouts, including Joshua and Caleb, scouted the Promised Land, and from which they could have entered and possessed the Promised Land if they had trusted and obeyed God’s command). Because they had not trusted and obeyed the Lord, they wandered for forty years (counting from the Exodus from Egypt) in the wilderness (until the disobedient generation had died in the wilderness; Numbers chapter 13-14), before they were again able to enter the Promised Land.

Now Israel was in Moab, poised, again, to enter the Promised Land. The Israelites had defeated Sihon, the king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan (who stood in the way of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land). Now the Lord commanded Israel to enter and possess the Promised Land. All of the land from Syria, Lebanon and the Euphrates in the north to the Arabah below the Dead Sea in the south, from the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the land of Edom and Moab on the east was promised to Israel.  (Israel never possessed the entire land that God intended.)

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul told his disciple, Timothy, that there is great benefit in satisfaction with godliness. We are born into the world with nothing, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave this world. As long as we have food, clothing and shelter we should be satisfied. Those who desire to be rich beyond the basic necessities of life fall into a trap and many desires which lead to destruction. It is the love of wealth and possessions which leads to destruction. By the craving for wealth some believers have been led astray and have suffered disappointment and loss.

As a godly person, avoid these things and instead aim for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Struggle for the victory of faith, take hold and claim the promise of eternal life, which was given when we publicly declared Jesus our Lord. In the presence of God the Father, the creator of all things, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore witness to God before Pontius Pilate, we are exhorted to conduct ourselves so that Jesus’ teachings will be beyond reproach, and this will be revealed in God’s perfect timing on the Day of Judgment.

God is the sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords who alone is immortal and “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). No mortal has ever seen or is able to see God. He is worthy of and possesses eternal honor and dominion.

The rich are warned not to be haughty or to trust in material wealth, but instead to depend upon God the creator and giver of all things for our enjoyment. The rich are “to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous” (1 Timothy 6:18) thus building an eternal unshakable foundation, so that they may possess eternal life which is true life. Disciples are admonished to guard the Gospel they have been given, and to avoid false doctrines and what the world falsely considers knowledge, which has caused some believers to fail to receive what has been promised.

Luke Paraphrase:

One Sabbath Jesus had been invited to a dinner at the house of a Pharisee. He told his host that when the host invited friends, neighbors and relatives to dinner they would repay him by inviting him to their dinners. If the man truly wanted to do something nice he should invite the poor, the crippled and the blind. They would not be able to repay their host, but he would be rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous.

One of the guests exclaimed that those who eat bread in God’s kingdom will be blessed. Jesus responded with the parable of the great banquet. A man gave a great banquet and invited many. When all was prepared he sent his servant to call them to dinner, but they began to make excuses. One was buying a field, another had purchased a team of oxen, and another had just been married. Each asked to be excused.

When the servant reported this, his master was angry with his invited guests, and told the servant to go into the streets and invite the poor, lame and blind to the dinner instead. The servant did as instructed, but there was still room for more, so the master sent his servant to the highways to compel people to come, because the master refused to allow any of the originally invited guests to have even a taste of his banquet.

Commentary:

After the great signs and wonders God had done in bringing his people out of slavery in Egypt and saving them from their Egyptian enemy by bringing them through the Red Sea, they were still unwilling to trust and obey the Lord and enter and possess the Promised Land. Only eleven days after they had received the Covenant of Law through Moses they could have entered the Promised Land, but they let the imagined threat of the native people of the land keep them from trusting and obeying the Lord.

Consequently they were required to wander in the wilderness for forty years, until those who had been disobedient had died in the wilderness, and during that time the new generation learned to follow the Lord in obedient trust. Now God’s people were again allowed and commanded to enter and possess the Promised Land. This time they did enter and possess the land, but because they still didn’t completely trust and obey, they never received the full extent of God’s promise.

Paul warned his disciple not to be distracted by material wealth, possessions or pleasures of this world, because they will never satisfy and will not last. We should be satisfied that our basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are met, and our efforts should be directed toward what is eternal: faith, hope and love, which are only possible through obedient trust in Jesus Christ.

We should earnestly pursue the victory over the things of this world through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. We have been given great and precious promises, but we must take hold of them and claim them if we are to receive their benefits. Christians are to conduct ourselves in ways that glorify and demonstrate the truth of Jesus and his teachings.

Those who have been blessed with material wealth and possessions are warned to put their trust only in the Lord, and to use their wealth in ways that glorify Jesus and accomplish Jesus’ purpose. Obedient trust in Jesus is the only sound foundation on which to build one’s life.

Disciples are warned to guard the scriptural apostolic Gospel, and to pass it on faithfully and accurately to others. We must not be misled by false doctrines and false teachers, nor should we be misled by what the world falsely calls “knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-7). False doctrine and false “knowledge” may cause “believers” (or those who profess belief) to fail to receive what the Lord has promised.

The Lord is the host of a great banquet in his eternal kingdom in heaven, and we have all been invited. All who will accept his invitation and act upon it will receive what he has promised in his invitation. Some of God’s own people, his “friends,” will fail to join him at that banquet because they have let worldly cares, pleasures, wealth and possessions interfere with their acceptance and participation. The Lord doesn’t limit his invitation to those who call themselves “Christians.” Anyone who hears the Lord’s invitation and acts upon it in faith to claim it will be accepted, and there is abundant provision for all.

All of us are spiritually poor, crippled and blind. None of us is worthy or can repay his invitation. Jesus paid, at the cross, for our admission; all we have do is to accept his invitation and act upon it in trust and obedience to his command (See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Will you receive what the Lord has promised, or will you die eternally in the wilderness?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Pentecost – Odd – 05/24 – 30/2015

May 23, 2015

Week of Pentecost – 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.

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Podcast Download: Week of Pentecost – Odd

Sunday Pentecost – Odd 

First Posted  05/14/05;

Podcast: Sunday Pentecost – Odd

Isaiah 11:1-9    –   The Messianic King;

1 Corinthians 2:1-13   –   Spiritual Wisdom;

John 14:21-29  –    The Gift of the Holy Spirit;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Messianic King will come forth from the stump and root of Jesse (the father of David). “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord (awe and respect for the Lord’s power and authority). And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2-3). He will be a righteous and faithful ruler and judge who will provide equity for the poor and the meek. He will not show partiality or be deceived like human rulers.

His Word will be obeyed and enforced, and will condemn and destroy the wicked. Under his reign, creation will be restored to the paradise God intended, and that it possessed before the fall of mankind by sin. Creatures will no longer fight, injure and destroy one another. Wild animals will be tame enough for a little child to lead them, and small children will be in no danger from them. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” Isaiah 11:9b).

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul told the Corinthian Church that when he had come to them preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ he made no attempt to impress them with his wisdom or oratory. The only thing he wanted to convey was Jesus Christ crucified, and he did so in human humility and weakness. Paul didn’t try to convince them with wisdom and oratory, but let the Spirit and power of the Lord be revealed in Paul, so that the Corinthians’ faith would not be based on human wisdom, but in God’s power.

“Yet among the (spiritually) mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). If the rulers of this world had possessed this divinely given wisdom, they would have not crucified the Lord.

God has prepared a destiny for those who love him which is far beyond anything humans know or can imagine, but which God has revealed to us (Christian disciples who trust and obey Jesus) through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s own spirit, his consciousness, and he knows everything including the deepest things of God, as we know our own innermost thoughts and desires.

The Holy Spirit we have received is God’s Spirit, not the spirit of the world, and God’s Spirit is given to us so that we can understand the gifts God gives us. And we pass this on (to other disciples) not in words of human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, “interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (or those who are spiritual; 1 Corinthians 2:13).

John Paraphrase:

At the Last Supper, (the celebration of the Feast of Passover with his disciples on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion), Jesus gave his disciples these words of assurance to help them to continue to believe in him through the turmoil of Jesus’ crucifixion. “He who has my commands and keeps (obeys; lives by) them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest (reveal) myself to him” (John 14:21).

One of the Twelve apostles, Judas (“Thaddaeus;” not Judas Iscariot, the betrayer) asked how Jesus would manifest himself to his disciples and not to the world, so Jesus rephrased what he had said: Anyone who truly loves Jesus will (trust and) obey Jesus’ teachings. God will love those who trust and obey Jesus, and Jesus and God the Father, in the gift and person of the Holy Spirit, will come to each of Jesus’ disciples individually and dwell within them. Those who don’t love Jesus won’t obey and apply Jesus’ teachings, and Jesus’ teachings are God’s Word, which he was sent by God to proclaim.

Jesus told his disciples these things to prepare them for the coming of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Counselor (or Comforter), whom God the Father would send in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit will teach Jesus’ disciples completely and help them to remember all Jesus’ teaching. Jesus promised to give his disciples his peace (through the Holy Spirit), not what the world calls peace and not as the world gives gifts that can be taken away or that don’t satisfy. Jesus told his disciples not to worry or be afraid. Jesus promised he would come back to his disciples, and he comforted his disciples by encouraging them to see Jesus’ separation from them as Jesus’ restoration to his Father’s glory and presence in heaven.

Commentary:

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah (Christ), God’s “anointed” Savior and King, would be a descendant of Jesse and would be the eternal heir to the throne of David. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah, the “son of David” (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 2:4; Matthew 21:9). Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon the Messiah. John the Baptist testified that, by the vision of the Holy Spirit descending and resting on Jesus when John baptized him, God had revealed to John that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and the one who baptizes (anoints) with the Holy Spirit (John 1:30-34).

It is by the gift (anointing) of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that “born-again” Christian disciples receive divine wisdom and understanding (the Holy Spirit opens the minds of Jesus’ disciples to understand the scripture). The indwelling Holy Spirit gives divine counsel and guidance to know God’s will and equips and empowers us to accomplish God’s call. It is by the Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of and fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, and through whom we personally experience God’s awesome power and love.

Jesus is God’s anointed righteous and faithful ruler and Judge. He will not show partiality or be deceived by outward appearances. He will ultimately bring equity to the poor and oppressed, will eternally reward those who have trusted and obeyed him, and will eternally punish the wicked, when Christ returns on the Day of Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). In the messianic age, creation will be restored to the paradise it was created by God to be.

When Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ he did not try to convince his hearers with wisdom and oratory. Instead he was guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit and allowed God’s Word to speak through him. Paul allowed the Holy Spirit and God’s power to be revealed through him.

God’s creation has been intentionally designed so that one cannot come to know God through (worldly) wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21). The only way to find and know God is through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. Spiritually mature, “born-again” disciples of Jesus Christ, like Paul, are to pass on divine spiritual wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-24) to believing, spiritually growing Christians, fulfilling the Lord’s command to his disciples to make disciples and teach them to obey all Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 28:19-20). Paul is the prototype, the model, and our example of the post-resurrection (having, like us, not known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh), “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-19)

God has prepared an eternal destiny, in paradise, beyond human comprehension, for those who love and obey him. But the foretaste of that destiny in the fellowship and love of the Lord is experienced now, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (the trinity; Romans 8:9). 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).

Jesus has promised that he will come and reveal himself, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which he gives to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). We have personal intimate acquaintance and fellowship with the Lord through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples to prepare for the outpouring and anointing of the gift of the Holy Spirit who would come to them from God the Father in the name of Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who leads Jesus’ disciples to spiritual maturity. Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the modern equivalent is the Church) until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8) before going out into the world in ministry in Jesus’ name, and this applies to his disciples today.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, commemorating the birth of the Church by the outpouring and anointing of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples (Acts 2:1-42). Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 05/15/05;

Podcast: Monday Pentecost – Odd

Isaiah 63:7-14   –    Declare God’s Faithfulness;

2 Timothy 1:1-14   –   Testify with Boldness;

Luke 11:24-36    –   The Sign of Jonah;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Let us remember and declare the steadfast love of the Lord, and praise our God for all he has given us and for his goodness to his people in great mercy and overflowing steadfast love. The Lord has declared us to be his children and has trusted us to be faithful to him, and has become our Savior. He bore our affliction for us, and the presence of his Spirit saved us; in love and pity he redeemed us. He lifted and carried his people from ages past.

But his people rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit, so he turned to oppose them and fought against them. Remember the days of old, of Moses, God’s servant. Where is the Lord who brought the shepherds of his flock up out of the sea; who put his Holy Spirit in their midst? Where is the Lord who caused his power to go at Moses right hand, who divided the waters (of the Red Sea) before them and led them through the depths, so that his name (his character and person) might be remembered forever? The Spirit of the Lord led them like cattle (or sheep) into the valley and gave them rest so that his name would be glorified forever.

2 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul was an apostle (messenger; one who is sent with a message; a missionary) of the Gospel of eternal life through Jesus Christ in accordance with God’s will. He was writing to Timothy, his protégé and spiritual child, offering a blessing of grace, mercy and peace (grace and peace were traditional forms of Greek and Hebrew salutations; real grace and peace, and in addition, mercy, are revealed and received only from God through Jesus Christ).

Paul was thankful that Timothy was following the faith of his mother and grandmother (who were Jews; Timothy’s father was Greek, a Gentile), serving the Lord God through faith in Jesus Christ, as was Paul. Paul urged Timothy to “rekindle” the gift (of the Holy Spirit) within him received by the laying on of Paul’s hands (Acts 19:2, 6).

Paul wanted Timothy not to be shy or ashamed about expressing his testimony by the power, love and self-discipline of the Holy Spirit. Paul asked Timothy not to be ashamed, either, of Paul’s imprisonment, and to be willing to suffer also for the gospel in the strength God supplies (through the gift of his Spirit). The Lord saves and calls us with a divine commission, not because we are worthy, but by his will and his merciful generosity which he gave us long ago in Christ and has now been revealed in Jesus’ incarnation (manifestation in human flesh; John 1:1-5, 14).

Jesus has abolished eternal death and revealed eternal life through the gospel of Jesus Christ, of which Paul had been appointed to be a preacher, apostle and teacher, for which he was suffering imprisonment and persecution. But Paul was not ashamed to be a prisoner, because he knew and had personally experienced the risen eternal Jesus and the truth of what he believed.

Paul was certain that the Lord is able to guard and preserve what had been entrusted to Paul until the Day of Judgment. So Paul exhorted Timothy to follow, in faith and love, the sound apostolic doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which Timothy had received from Paul, and to guard the truth which had been entrusted to Timothy by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus warned that when we have been spiritually healed of demons, we must be careful not to allow new demons to take refuge in us, because we will be even more attractive than before, and if we’re not careful we’ll wind up worse off than we were. Cleansing must be guarded if it is to be lasting and beneficial.

As Jesus was teaching, a woman in the crowd glorified Jesus’ mother and the nurture that she had provided, but Jesus said that, instead, it is those who hear God’s Word and obey it who are blessed. (Mary does not deserve credit for producing Jesus; she is just an example of obedient trust in God’s Word).

As crowds gathering around Jesus increased in size, Jesus began to warn that they were seeking “signs;” they were hoping that Jesus would prove whether he was the messiah or not. But Jesus warned them that there would be no sign except the sign of Jonah. Jonah had reluctantly proclaimed God’s Word, and it was up to his hearers to decide whether to repent and turn to the Lord or not.

Jesus’ situation was similar in that he would rather not have done what God asked (but Jesus was completely obedient, as Jonah was not); the response was entirely up to the hearers, and that, like Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale, Jesus spent three days dead in the tomb (he rose on the third day).

Jesus declared that, on the Day of Judgment, the Queen of the South who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and the people of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah, will arise and condemn our generation, because they acknowledged the God-given wisdom of Solomon, and the Spirit-inspired preaching of Jonah, but this generation does not acknowledge the greater wisdom and preaching of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in whom the whole fullness of God’s wisdom and God’s Spirit dwells bodily (Colossians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

Commentary:

It is the presence of Jesus’ Holy Spirit within us which saves us and 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 Spirit of the Lord, who gives his people spiritual life through the “sea” (Exodus 14:21-29) of baptism, and who is the “pillar of fire”(Exodus 13:21-22) leading his people through the “night” of spiritual darkness and the “wilderness” of this life, through the “river” (Joshua 3:14-17) of physical death and into eternal life in the Promised Land of his Kingdom in heaven.

Paul felt that he was Timothy’s spiritual father because Paul had led Timothy to be spiritually “born-again”(John 3:3, 5-8) through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that we experience the grace (unmerited favor), genuine peace (beyond comprehension, which only God can provide) and mercy (the forgiveness and cleansing of all our sins) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. Paul urged Timothy to “rekindle,” to fan the spark, of the flame of the Holy Spirit, which he had been given, into a roaring fire which would warm and kindle others (instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to be grieved and “quenched” by rebellion and neglect).

Paul urged Timothy to be bold in testifying to the power, love and self-control given to him through the Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who saves, calls and empowers us to complete Christ’s mission of forgiveness and reconciliation. It was by the presence of the Holy Spirit within Paul that he knew with certainty and had personally experienced the risen (from physical death), eternal Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel.

It was by the indwelling Holy Spirit that Paul knew with certainty that the Lord was able to guard and preserve the salvation which had been entrusted to Paul until the Day of Judgment, and Paul urged Timothy to hold fast to, guard and apply the sound apostolic (as taught by the apostles including Paul, and recorded in the New Testament) doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which had been entrusted to Timothy by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

It isn’t the hearers of God’s Word who are blessed and receive God’s promises, but those who apply and live according to God’s Word. Jesus can and is willing to heal us spiritually, but unless we trust and continue in obedience to Jesus’ teaching we receive no ultimate, eternal benefit. Mary is not to be worshiped for producing Jesus, but she is an example of a disciple’s obedient trust in God’s Word.

For those who require “proof” that Jesus is who he claims to be, there is none; but every word Jesus proclaimed is fulfilled. Jesus said that he would die and rise to eternal life on the third day, and his resurrection is as well-attested as any fact in history. Every authentic “born-again” Christian who has ever lived can attest that Jesus is alive and that Jesus’ promises are true! Jesus’ wisdom is greater than the God-given wisdom of Solomon, and Jesus’ preaching is greater than Jonah’s Spirit-inspired preaching. Can we recognize God’s wisdom and God’s Spirit in Jesus?

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

Tuesday Pentecost – Odd

First  Posted 05/16/05;

Podcast: Tuesday Pentecost – Odd

Isaiah 63:15-64:9   –     Prayer for Restoration;

2 Timothy 1:15-2:13     –    Exhortation to Endurance;

Luke 11:37-52    –    Against Pharisees and Scribes;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The prophet prayed for the Lord’s restoration of the remnant of Israel which was in exile in Babylon. He asked the Lord God to see Israel’s suffering and remember God’s love and compassion. God is Israel’s Father who remembers his children even though their earthly patriarchs no longer acknowledge them.

The Lord has been Israel’s Father and Redeemer from the beginning of their nation. Why does God allow his people to depart from his ways and from their love of God? The prophet asked the Lord to restore his people to God’s presence. The Lord’s sanctuary had been with Israel only a short time, and had been destroyed by their enemies, and Israel had become like pagans who had never known or acknowledged God’s reign (God’s kingship).

“Oh that thou wouldst rend [split] the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil- to make thy name known to thy adversaries and that the nations might tremble at thy presence” (Isaiah 64:1-2). There has never been any god but God, who acts for those who wait for him.

The Lord comes to those who do what is right in God’s eyes, and obey God’s ways. We have all sinned, and our “good deeds” are no better than a filthy garment. Because his people don’t call on him, God has hidden his face from them and they suffer for their iniquities. Let us acknowledge that God is our Father; God is the “potter” and we are the “clay.” We have been created by God. Let us acknowledge that we are God’s people and receive his forgiveness.

2 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul, in prison in Rome, had been abandoned by the churches in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), including Hermogenes and Phygelus, who had been Paul’s co-workers in Asia. Onesiphorus, an Ephesian Christian, had been a faithful co-worker in Ephesus, and he had sought Paul out in Rome and had brought comfort and refreshing to Paul. Paul prayed for Onesiphorus’ salvation at Jesus’ return on the Day of the Lord.

Paul encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace (unmerited favor) which he had in Jesus Christ. Paul urged Timothy to teach the apostolic gospel (as taught by the apostles, including Paul, and recorded in the New Testament) to faithful people who will be able to teach others (i.e. the process of discipleship).

Timothy was advised to accept his share of suffering for the sake of the gospel, like a soldier makes personal sacrifices for his calling. As a soldier, it is necessary to avoid civilian commitments which would interfere with his duty. An athlete cannot win his event unless he competes according to the rules. On the other hand, it is the farmer who deserves to have the first share of the crops.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David,” (2 Timothy 1:8 RSV) as preached by Paul. Paul was chained and in prison because of that gospel, but God’s Word cannot be imprisoned. Paul is willing to endure whatever comes his way for the sake of those who will come to salvation in Jesus Christ and eternal glory.

Believers who have died with Christ (who have sacrificed their worldly physical lives in obedience to Jesus, following Jesus’ example) will live eternally with him. Those who endure (in obedient trust in Jesus), as Jesus endured, will reign with him in eternal glory. God is completely faithful, even if we are not, because faithfulness is God’s very nature.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was invited to dine at the home of a Pharisee, and the Pharisee was amazed that Jesus sat down at the table without ceremonial hand washing first. Jesus replied that Pharisees were like dishes which are clean outside but inside (where it matters) are filthy with wickedness and corruption. Jesus called them fools, and told them that God had made their insides as well as their outsides; if they gave God his portion of their inner being, everything would be clean for them.

Jesus warned the Pharisees that they would pay the penalty for their superficial obedience in small details while neglecting the most important things like justice and loving God. Pharisees enjoyed the praise of people in “church” and in the market place (for their appearance of righteousness) but they were unaware of their inner corruption.

A scribe (a lawyer; teacher of the law) responded that Jesus’ criticism was against the scribes as well. Jesus answered that the scribes would bear the same condemnation because they burdened people with legal obligations which the scribes wouldn’t even try to fulfill themselves. Jesus told them that they built tombs memorializing the prophets who their fathers had killed, and in doing so they testified and consented to their father’s deeds.

Commentary:

God sent his prophets and apostles to Israel, and Israel persecuted and killed some of them. So this generation will bear the guilt for all the blood of all the prophets killed since the beginning of creation, from Abel to Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and sanctuary (in God’s temple). Jesus warned that the scribes would be punished because they had prevented the proper understanding of God’s purpose; they had not only rejected God’s kingdom (his sovereign lordship) themselves, but they had hindered and prevented their students also.

God is everyone’s Father, as our Creator, whether we acknowledge him or not. God is our great and perfect Father, beyond comparison with the best of earthly fathers; he is our example of what a good father should be. God is also completely faithful, whether we are faithful or not. God remembers and cares about his children even when their earthly parents do not. God had been the Father and Redeemer of Israel from the beginning of the nation, but Israel had been unfaithful to God.

Israel had become like pagans who had never known and acknowledged God’s sovereign kingship. Why does God allow his people to turn from their love, trust and obedience in God? Because, like good earthly parents, God loves us, and wants us to have the choice of whether to love, trust and obey him or not. Like a good parent, God allowed his children to suffer for their disobedience. But God is ready to restore his people when they repent, acknowledge his Lordship, and trust and obey him.

Unlike Israel in exile in Babylon, Paul was suffering because of his obedient trust in the Lord. Paul had come to a personal fellowship with the Lord through the indwelling Holy Spirit and had personally experienced the Lord’s love, faithfulness and power. Paul had believed and came to know that the Lord is completely faithful; that God’s very nature is faithfulness.

Paul was making disciples in obedience to Jesus’ command (Matthew 28:19-20). He was discipling Timothy. He was teaching Timothy the biblical apostolic gospel of Jesus Christ, which Timothy should faithfully transmit to faithful people who would transmit the same apostolic gospel to other faithful people (who would then repeat the process). Paul taught Timothy to accept sacrifice and persecution for the gospel.

Personal sacrifice is required of athletes and soldiers also, for less certain worldly rewards, but the disciples’ rewards are certain and eternal and they begin here and now. Like the farmer who gets the first portion of the harvest, disciples have the joy and love of fellowship with the Lord now, as a sample of the eternal life to come in God’s heavenly kingdom. Paul had experienced that joy of the Lord’s presence within him and was willing to suffer physically to share it with others.

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted worldly honor and acclaim more than God’s. They wanted to look good on the outside, but inside they were full of sinfulness. They weren’t even aware of their inner corruption. That is the human condition apart from the Lord. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the punishment for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us doesn’t want us to perish, but instead to live with him eternally in paradise (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8).

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for forgiveness of our sins and for salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is the only way to get “clean” on the inside through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Salvation is God’s free gift to those who trust and obey Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit we are cleansed and guided to spiritual maturity (completion; perfection) at the Day of Judgment. Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). Believing in Jesus requires more than superficial obedience; it requires discipleship.

Teachers of the Gospel are warned to teach the true scriptural apostolic Gospel. There are two major categories of false doctrine in the “nominal” Church today (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home) which first appeared in the First-century, New Testament Church: one is “Salvation by Works” (works righteousness; the “circumcision party,” which insisted that Christians had to keep the Jewish religious laws). The Pharisees and Scribes were in that category for substituting “good works” for inner obedience, and were condemned by Jesus.

The other category is “Cheap Grace”* which is teaching salvation by grace (unmerited favor; a free gift) without requiring discipleship and obedience. The Scribes are also condemned in this category because they hadn’t accepted God’s sovereign Lordship themselves, and had hindered their students’ acceptance also.

Isn’t the Church today a lot like Israel in exile in Babylon? The Lord is our Father and Redeemer, but have we followed his ways and shown our love by obedient trust in the Lord (John 14:21)? Has the presence of the Lord departed from those who call themselves his people and his nation? Is the Lord’s sanctuary polluted and in ruins because the enemy has been allowed to attack it?

Have God’s people become like heathens who have never known or acknowledged God’s Lordship? Are Christians so unwilling to suffer the slightest inconvenience for the gospel that they won’t even tolerate uncushioned wooden benches and lack of air conditioning in their churches? Will they only come to church if they have nothing else planned? Do we value worldly approval and success more than 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)?


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


Wednesday Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 05/17/05;

Podcast: Wednesday Pentecost – Odd

Isaiah 65:1-12  –    God’s Answer;

2 Timothy 2:14-26   –   Shepherd and Flock;

Luke 11:53-12:12   –    Encouragement of Disciples;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Isaiah had prayed for Israel’s restoration from exile in Babylon. The Lord replied that he was ready to be found, but Israel didn’t seek him. “I said, ’Here am I, Here am I’ to a nation that did not call on my name” (Isaiah 65:1c). The Lord invited and was prepared to welcome his people but they were rebellious and preferred to pursue their own interests and do what is not good.

The people constantly provoke and insult the Lord to his face, pursuing idolatry, pagan worship, and occult practices. These deeds are like acrid smoke in the Lord’s nostrils. The Lord will not overlook such flagrant provocation; he will repay them according to their sins and the sins of their fathers.

As good wine is produced from selected clusters of grapes, the Lord will bring Judah, a remnant of Israel, back to the Promised Land from exile in Babylon. The Lord’s chosen people, who are his servants, will inherit the Promised Land.

The Lord will cause the Promised Land to become lush and fertile for those who have sought the Lord. But those who forget and forsake the Lord, who serve idols such as Fortune and Destiny (the translation of Hebrew names of Syrian gods), will be slain because when God called they didn’t answer and they didn’t listen to God’s Word, but instead chose to do what is evil and abhorrent in God’s judgment.

2 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul urged Timothy to remind his congregation that faith requires discipline and endurance, and to tell them not to quibble over words (faulty interpretation of scripture), which is not helpful but destructive to hearers. Timothy is urged to be worthy of God’s approval in rightly handling the Word of truth (God’s Word; the Gospel) like a skilled craftsman. Godless chatter (false doctrine) should be avoided because it leads to more and more ungodliness, and is destructive, like gangrene, unless avoided or removed.

As an example, Paul mentions two members of the Ephesian congregation who were spreading the false doctrine that the resurrection had already occurred. Such false doctrines damage the faith of some. Instead one must hold onto God’s firm foundation (God’s Word and the apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ).

Two solid principles are that the Lord knows those who belong to him, and that those who belong to the Lord depart from iniquity (wickedness; sin).  Christians are to be purified from iniquity so that they can be consecrated to God’s service, ready for any good work. So believers must shun youthful passions (self-indulgence; lusts of the flesh), and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace so that they can “call upon God with a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

One must not get involved in “stupid, senseless controversies” (2 Timothy 2:23) which cause quarrels. “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Luke Paraphrase:

The Pharisees were increasingly trying to provoke Jesus into saying something they could use against him. Meanwhile crowds of many thousands were gathering to Jesus, so many that people were being trampled. Jesus warned his disciples to beware of hypocrisy, the “leaven” (sin, which from small amounts can affect the whole body) of the Pharisees. What people say or do in secret will become known; hypocrisy will be revealed.

Jesus’ disciples are not to fear worldly adversaries; the worst their enemies can do is to kill them physically. Instead, disciples are to fear (have awe and respect for) the Lord, who alone has the power and authority of eternal life and death. God knows and cares for the most insignificant creatures and the smallest details. His children (servants; disciples) are of much greater value.

Jesus promised that those who acknowledge Jesus to the people of this world will be acknowledged by Jesus in heaven. Likewise, those who deny Jesus in this world will be denied by Jesus in heaven. Furthermore those who speak against Jesus can be forgiven, but those who blaspheme (speak evil) against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Jesus told his disciples that they would have to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ before religious and civil authorities, but that they were not to worry in advance about what to say, because the Holy Spirit would tell them what to say at the moment needed.

Commentary:

The people of Israel called themselves God’s people, but they didn’t answer when God called; they didn’t heed God’s Word. They pursued their own self-interests, they did what was contrary to God’s Word, and they deliberately provoked and insulted the Lord with no sense of guilt or shame. The Lord promised to punish the wicked and disobedient people according to their deeds. The Lord promised to bring back a remnant of Judah (the remnant of Israel) back from exile in Babylon into a restored Promised Land.

The Lord did bring a remnant of Israel back to the Promised Land, but the history of God’s dealing with Israel is also a parable, a metaphor of warning, particularly for the Church and America today. In one sense, each is the “New Israel” In one sense we are all in exile in the “Babylon” of this world, and God promises to bring a remnant of his people into the eternal “Promised Land” of paradise in heaven. The remnant that will be saved are those who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ and who have trusted and obeyed Jesus. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Paul taught his disciple, Timothy, the apostolic (as received directly from Jesus and taught by the apostles, including Paul, and recorded in the New Testament) Gospel of Jesus Christ, and told him to hold firmly to it and transmit it faithfully and accurately to others. Followers of Christ are to be disciples taught to know and obey Jesus’ teachings. Faith requires discipline and endurance. Timothy was not to tolerate or allow false doctrine to creep in to the church and take root.

Paul reminded Timothy of two solid principles. First, those who are disciples of Jesus obey Jesus’ teaching; they stop doing what Jesus says they should not do. The other is that Jesus knows those who belongs to him, and they know Jesus and know they belong to Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, 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).

One cannot have the second without the first; Only Jesus gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34) only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). Christians are freed from bondage to sin, cleansed, prepared and equipped to serve the Lord by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees were trying to make Jesus conform to their standards instead of conforming to his. Since Jesus did not conform to them, they tried to provoke Jesus into saying something they could use against him to destroy him. This is what the world tries to do with Jesus’ disciples. Jesus urged his disciples to learn from his example not to fear their worldly adversaries, like the Pharisees who were plotting to kill Jesus.

Only the Lord has the power of eternal life or eternal death. Instead of conforming to the Pharisees’ standards, Jesus trusted and obeyed God his Father. Jesus warned his disciples that the sin of the Pharisees was hypocrisy; the Pharisees claimed to be God’s people but they wanted God to conform to their standards rather than conforming to God’s. The Pharisees did crucify Jesus, but they didn’t hinder God’s purpose of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus died physically but rose to eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection reveals the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Jesus promised that those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord, by their words and actions, to the people of the world, will be acknowledged as his disciples by Jesus in Heaven. Similarly, those who deny Jesus as Lord by their words or actions will be denied as his disciples in Heaven.

Not every one who calls Jesus their Lord is a disciple of Jesus. How is Jesus our Lord if we do not do what he says (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46)? Jesus promised his disciples that his Holy Spirit would give them the words to testify to his truth at the moment it was needed (and I have experienced and personally testify to the fulfillment of that promise).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 05/18/05;

Podcast: Thursday Pentecost – Odd

Isaiah 65:17-25   –   A New Heavens and a New Earth;

2 Timothy 3:1-17   –    Last Days;

Luke 12:13-31   –   Parable of the Rich Fool;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord will create a new heavens and a new earth. The things of this present universe will be forgotten. But God’s people will rejoice forever in the new creation. God will create rejoicing in a New Jerusalem, and joy in his people, and will rejoice in them. There will be no more weeping or distress. There will be no more premature death. Only sinners will die early. God’s people will reap the rewards of their own labor, instead of building up for another to inherit.

God’s people will be as long-lived as trees. They will not labor in vain, or bear children to be taken by disaster. They are the children and grandchildren of the blessed of the Lord. The Lord will answer before they call, and will hear them as they are speaking. In the New Jerusalem every one will live in peace and harmony. The wolf and lamb will feed together, the lion and ox will eat straw together, and snakes will no longer prey upon man or animals. None will injure or destroy another in God’s new creation.

2 Timothy Paraphrase:

In the last days (these days; the interval between Christ’s ascension and his return on the Day of Judgment) there will be times of stress. People “will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, profligates, fierce, haters of good, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion, but denying the power of it.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).

Christians should not fellowship with such people. The wicked will include “those who make their way into households and capture [the] weak, [who are] burdened with sin and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7). There will be people who oppose the truth (God’s Word; the Gospel), “who are of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith” (2 Timothy 3:8), who oppose Christ as the Egyptian Sorcerers opposed Moses (Exodus 7:11), but they won’t prevail against God’s Word any more than the Egyptians did.

Paul is an example of teaching, conduct, commitment, faith  patience, love, and steadfastness in persecution and suffering like those that befell him at Antioch (Acts 13:14-52), Iconium (Acts 14:1-20) and Lystra (Acts 16:1-5). Paul was confident that the Lord had and would continue to deliver him from all his persecutions and sufferings.

Paul warned his disciple, Timothy, that all who live according to Jesus’ teachings will be persecuted, and evil people and imposters will become more and more wicked, deceiving and being deceived. But the disciple is urged to hold on to the Gospel he has learned and believed, certain of the scriptural and apostolic authority of his teacher, and a personal knowledge of the Bible, which is able to instruct us “for salvation through faith in Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15). “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable (beneficial) for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Luke Paraphrase:

Someone in the crowd surrounding Jesus asked Jesus to command the man’s brother to divide the family inheritance with him, but Jesus told him that Jesus had not come as one of the “Judges” (rulers of Israel in the period preceding the establishment of the monarchy, who arbitrated disputes). Then Jesus told the crowd to beware of any covetousness, because it is not possessions which bring real life.

Jesus told the parable of the rich fool whose fields produced so abundantly that he didn’t have enough room to store all his crops. So he decided to tear down his barns and build new and bigger ones. The rich man thought to himself that he would then have security and resources to live a life of ease and self-indulgence for many years, but God called him a fool, and told the rich man that he would die that very night. The rich man would have to surrender his eternal soul and someone else would enjoy what the rich man had stored up. This is the eternal fate of all who live for themselves instead of living for the Lord.

Jesus told his disciples not to be anxious about material needs like food and clothing. Life is about more than food and clothing. The Lord provides for his creation and is able to provide for us. If we will seek him and his kingdom first, we will have all the material resources we need as well.

Commentary:

The Lord is going to create a new eternal universe and eternal kingdom of his people. This has been his plan from the beginning of this creation. This life is a selection process for eternal life in God’s eternal kingdom. This life is our opportunity to seek and come to personally know the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (from eternal destruction) and the only way to have eternal life (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). God’s plan of salvation (see sidebar top right, home) through Jesus Christ has been “built into” this present creation. (John 1:1-5, 14).

In the present creation we cannot provide our own lasting security, because real security cannot be provided through material things. We cannot accumulate enough resources and we cannot avoid physical death. Ultimately everything we accomplish will be inherited by someone else. In contrast, eternal life in the kingdom of God in heaven will be inherited by the children and grandchildren of the blessed of the Lord. It is what we do spiritually right now which can be passed on and inherited in eternity.

These are the Last Days! We can see the fulfillment of what Paul prophesied to Timothy. Watch out for those who make their way into families (or congregations) and try to manipulate the spiritually weak for their own purposes. Don’t be one of the spiritually weak who don’t know the Bible, who are vulnerable to those of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith.

Don’t listen to just anyone, because there are many imposters and false teachers; consider whether their doctrine is scriptural (recorded in the Bible) and apostolic (taught by the original Apostles and recorded in the New Testament). Don’t be one who never arrives at knowledge of the truth because you never seek and study God’s truth. Don’t be one of those who hold the form of religion (practice the rituals) without realizing and experiencing the power of faith in Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul is the example of the “post-resurrection,” “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple of Jesus Christ. He came to a personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ resurrection, without having known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Acts 9:1-20).

Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to be a missionary to the Gentiles, fulfilling the Lord’s commission to his disciples to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Timothy was a disciple of Jesus Christ as a result of Paul’s discipling, and Paul considered Timothy his spiritual child. Timothy is an example of the spiritual children of the blessed of the Lord who inherit eternal life in the new creation of God’s eternal city and kingdom in heaven.

Jesus warns us that real, eternal life is not found in wealth and possessions, but in obedient trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only way to have fellowship with God and eternal life (John 14:6) Are we spending our lives pursuing material things which someone else will inherit, while neglecting our children’s and our own spiritual and moral development and nurture, or are we seeking and passing on to our children spiritual things which are eternal? Jesus warns that if we seek his kingdom first, we will have the material necessities also, but if we seek material security we will never possess it, we will never get around to seeking God’s kingdom, and we will lose our eternal lives and the opportunity for real eternal security.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 05/19/05;

Podcast: Friday Pentecost – Odd

Isaiah 66:1-6   –   True Worship;

2 Timothy 4:1-8  –    Fight the Good Fight;

Luke 12:32-48   –   Be Ready;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The Lord is bigger than we can imagine. Heaven is his throne, and earth is his footstool. Does mankind think he can build a house to contain God’s presence? God has created everything and everything belongs to him. The people God regards with favor are those who are humble and contrite in their hearts and who tremble at God’s Word (who take God’s warnings seriously).

Those who offer sacrifices to the Lord but who are not humble and contrite and who do not trust and obey God’s Word might as well be participating in idolatrous pagan rituals.  “These have chosen their own ways (instead of God’s ways) and their soul delights in their abominations” (Isaiah 66:3d). The Lord will repay them with affliction and bring their worst fears upon them because, when the Lord called, they didn’t answer, and they paid no attention to God’s Word. They chose to do what God regards as evil and took delight in what God hates.

Hear God’s Word, all who respect and honor God’s Word: Our brethren, who hate us and cast us out for God’s name’s sake, claiming to glorify God, will be put to shame. The Lord will declare recompense to his enemies, and the city will be in pandemonium.

2 Timothy Paraphrase:

Jesus Christ is going to return on the Day of Judgment to judge the (spiritually and physically) living and dead, and to establish his eternal kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29). Paul commanded Timothy to urgently preach God’s Word, whether it was popular or not, to convince, rebuke and exhort, and to be faithful in patience and teaching. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having ‘itching ears’ they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). But the disciple of Jesus Christ is to be firm and stable, enduring suffering and faithfully fulfilling Jesus’ commission to carry on Christ’s mission.

Paul is an example of a faithful disciple, apostle (one who is sent with a message; a missionary) and evangelist who had “fought the good fight, …finished the race [and] …kept the faith.”  He and all faithful disciples who have loved Jesus’ manifestation and Jesus’ return will receive the reward of righteousness in the Day of Judgment.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid, because God wants to give us eternal life in his kingdom. Instead of accumulating material possessions, give to the poor and needy, and thus accumulate spiritual treasure in heaven which doesn’t fail or disappear. We must be prepared for the Lord’s return at any time.

We are to be like servants waiting for their master to return from a marriage feast in the middle of the night. We must be ready to open the door when he returns. We must be careful not to be found napping. The Lord will return like a thief in the night. If we knew when he would come, it would be easy to be prepared, but since we don’t, we must be always ready, as the Lord intends. The Lord doesn’t want servants who only do his will when he’s at the very door.

Jesus’ disciples are to be like stewards (managers) in their master’s house (this world). They are commissioned to provide food for the servants (the people of the household) regularly. Those who faithfully perform their duties will be rewarded, but those who mistreat the servants and indulge themselves will be caught in their misbehavior and punished, and placed among the unfaithful. Those who know God’s will and fail to do it will be punished more severely than those who do not. More will be required of those to whom much has been given.

Commentary:

For most people, their concept of God is way too small! God is really larger than we can imagine. Many people want to use religion to manipulate God to do their will. They want to contain God in a building they have built where they can find him when they need him to do something for them. They participate in religious ritual to appease God and gain his favor, but they don’t listen attentively and obediently to God’s Word. They want to do their own will and seek their own self-interest. God wants people who are humble and contrite, who seek to know God’s will and who trust and obey God’s Word.

Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus was not teaching his own word but the Word of God the Father who sent him (John 14:23-24) and who dwelt in him bodily (Colossians 2:8-9). Christians are disciples who trust and obey God’s Word in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 14), and are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus is the only way come to God and to fulfill God’s will (John 14:6)

Paul is an example of a disciple of Jesus Christ, carrying out Jesus’ commission to make disciples and teach them to obey all that Jesus teaches and commands (Matthew 28:19-20. Timothy is just one example of Paul’s fulfillment of that commission; Timothy was led to discipleship by Paul, and Paul was teaching him to go into the world and repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2). Christ’s commission was given to all his disciples, with the condition that they first be “born-again” and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Paul told Timothy to urgently preach God’s Word, whether it was popular or not. Paul warned that the days were coming when people would refuse to hear the truth in God’s Word, and would get preachers and prophets who would tell them what they wanted to hear. Those days have come! Timothy was urged to faithfully and accurately proclaim all of God’s Word, not just the parts that make us feel good. Every part of God’s Word contains promises, but also warnings. If we don’t claim the promises by obedient trust, we will receive the consequences of disobedience and lose the promises.

God wants to give us eternal life in his kingdom in paradise restored. If we will trust and obey his Word in Jesus Christ we will have nothing to fear, not even physical death (Hebrews 2:14-15). But God warns that those who have chosen their own way instead of God’s way will experience the fulfillment of their worst fears (Isaiah 66:4a).

We are to be prepared for Jesus’ return at any time. Jesus has commanded his followers to be his disciples, to seek and wait for the fulfillment of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then to be stewards of Jesus’ spiritual sustenance to a spiritually starving world.

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

Saturday Pentecost – Odd

First Posted 05/19/05;

Podcast: Saturday 7 Easter – Odd

Isaiah 66:7-14   –    Jerusalem Restored;

2 Timothy 4:9-22   –    Proclaiming the Word Fully;

Luke 12:49-59  –   The End of the Age;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Judah (the remnant of Israel) was in exile in Babylon when the Lord promised through Isaiah to restore Jerusalem. Jerusalem would be miraculously reborn by the Lord’s power without Judah’s perception of “pregnancy” and without Judah’s efforts and experience of “labor” and “pain” (of “childbirth”). Those who love Jerusalem and have mourned over her downfall will rejoice and enjoy her restoration.

Jerusalem will again nurture and comfort her sons and daughters. The Lord will prosper her and cause the wealth of nations to flow to her like a flooding stream. The Lord will comfort his people in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child. Israel will see and rejoice and flourish, and it will be evident that the hand of the Lord is with his servants.

2 Timothy Paraphrase:

Paul was at the end of his career, imprisoned and facing martyrdom in Rome (2 Timothy 4:6). He had been abandoned by Demas who had earlier been his companion and co-worker but who had been drawn away from his ministry by his love of the secular world. Other co-workers were away on missions. Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark with him to help Paul. Paul asked Timothy to bring a cloak, books, and most importantly, parchments Paul had left with Carpus at Troas (and needed for letter-writing).

Paul warned Timothy to beware of Alexander, the coppersmith, who had strongly opposed the apostolic gospel preached by Paul and had been excommunicated (1 Timothy 1:19-20). At Paul’s first trial no one had defended him, but Paul prayed for their forgiveness. Paul rejoiced that the Lord had been faithful in presence and in providing strength to proclaim the Gospel fully to many Gentiles.

Paul’s first trial led to his release, so Paul felt figuratively and perhaps literally rescued from the Lion’s mouth. Paul testified to the Lord’s faithfulness and power to deliver the apostle from every evil and to preserve him for eternal life in the kingdom of God. Paul praised the Lord and asked Timothy to greet Paul’s friends in the Ephesian congregation in behalf of Paul and his co-workers.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that he had come to bring “fire” (a symbol of God’s judgment) upon the earth and longed for it to be accomplished, but he had a mission to accomplish and was constrained until it was fulfilled. Jesus warned that he had come not to bring peace on earth but division. Jesus acknowledged that he would cause division even within houses (including “churches”) and families.

Jesus told the crowds who had gathered to him that people can predict the weather from the direction of the wind and from clouds in the sky, but they were oblivious of the signs of spiritual crisis all around them. If they can foretell the weather, why can’t they recognize from the spiritual signs God’s coming judgment? If they were aware of the approaching Day of Judgment they would be wise to negotiate a settlement with their accuser on the way to “court” to avoid condemnation and imprisonment.

Commentary:

The Lord fulfilled his promise to restore Israel, from exile in Babylon, to their Promised Land. The Lord delivered them from slavery and bondage in Babylon, without their own effort (without their uprising or revolt). Cyrus, king of Persia, was the instrument of God’s will who conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to their land.

The exile of God’s people in Babylon is also a metaphor for life in this world and a parable about God’s judgment of this world. God’s people are in exile in the “Babylon” of this world, but through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, God promises to bring his servants back to the eternal “Jerusalem” restored to paradise in heaven, where the Lord will prosper and nurture his people eternally. As the historic fulfillment of God’s promise to restore Israel revealed that his “hand was with his servants,” it will be evident on the Day of Judgment, at Christ’s return, that his hand is with his servants who have trusted and obeyed Jesus.

Paul was at the end of his life in this world, and had fought the good fight of faith; he had finished the race, and had unwaveringly kept the apostolic faith unblemished (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul testified that the hand of the Lord had been with him, comforting, strengthening and empowering him to proclaim the Gospel fully to many Gentiles, despite much persecution and opposition.

Paul testified to the Lord’s faithfulness and power to protect Paul from evil and to “preserve him in true faith unto eternal life” (in the words of a common benediction) in God’s heavenly kingdom. Paul was facing martyrdom, but physical death could not threaten him because his Lord could deliver him from physical death to eternal life.

Jesus warns the world that he has come to bring the fire of God’s judgment upon the world. Jesus has also promised to baptize his servants (his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17) with the spiritual “fire” (Matthew 3:11; John 1:32-34; also the mighty “wind;” Acts 2:2) of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4). The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the hand of the Lord upon his servants, which is evident to his servants, and to the world, if they look.

Jesus knew that his mission would divide people. He didn’t come to bring peace to the world, but to give to his disciples his peace which the world cannot take away (John 14:27). People can predict the weather. We’re trying to predict tsunamis and earthquakes. Why can’t we recognize the signs of spiritual sickness and impending disaster within our society and even within our churches? Will we heed the warnings of the spiritual “weathermen?” Will we negotiate a peaceful settlement through the Lord Jesus Christ while there is still time to avoid God’s judgment and condemnation?

Jesus has promised to return to judge the world on the Day of the Lord (Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus and who have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) by the indwelling Holy Spirit will live eternally in the “New Jerusalem,” in the eternal “Promised Land” of God’s heavenly kingdom. Those who have rejected Jesus as their Lord or have refused to trust and obey him will be exiled for all eternity in the “Babylon” of Hell. The gift of 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)?

Week of 7 Easter – Odd -05/11 -23/2015

May 16, 2015

Week of 7 Easter – 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:

http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/evenyear/wklx_even.html

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

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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.

Occasional Editorial: What’s Wrong with Our Churches? A commentary on the video: Little Hope Was Arson

In 2011, two church-raised young men destroyed a series of ten churches in East Texas by arson. They had been members of First (Southern) Baptist Church of Ben Wheeler, Texas. Little Hope Bapitst Church in Canton, Texas was the first church destroyed. The fire at that church was at first ruled accidental. During the course of the investigation of the subsequent fires the message “Little Hope Was Arson” was found scratched by one of the perpetrators on a bathroom stall in a local store.

[spoiler alert; watching the video first is recommended]

Little Hope Was Arson:

On demand at iTunes, amazon.com, Google Play, vudu, netflix.com

And at select theaters (see video website, above link)

This video documentary covers the story including interviews with the perpetrators, church and family members, church leaders, and law enforcement personnel involved. It raises a lot of questions without attempting to answer them. We’re supposed to reflect on them and answer them for ourselves. One might focus on economic or societal aspects, but I would like to direct our attention to the spiritual conditions.

Pastor Bill Parr, of one of the churches destroyed, said in an interview that that the congregation not merely sought to help those who came to it, but actively sought out those who needed help. The two young members who committed the arsons clearly needed help and the signs were missed by parents and guardians, church members, church leaders, and their pastor (Rev. Carlton Young).

I believe that this case illustrates a deep problem within the Church in our society today: making members and building buildings, but not making disciples of Jesus Christ. And I believe that the problem is multi-generational.

The arson instigator was Jason Bourque. He lit the first church fire himself. Jason was the son of formerly drug-addicted parents, and his mother, Kim, had given parental custody and supervision to her parents, Bob and Brenda Steel. The Steels were apparently “nominal Christians.” They decided to “drop-off” Jason at church weekly, but didn’t attend themselves at first. Apparently they had given their daughter, Kim, Jason’s mother, at least no more spiritual guidance than Jason, since Kim was un-churched and had gotten into a drug-addiction lifestyle. Eventually, the Steels realized that they needed to attend church with Jason.

Jason, who was described as very analytical, began taking a Bible to public school, and one day he asked his grandmother, Mrs. Steel, for a passage from the Bible to use to correct peers at school about cursing. Later he was successful in school in debate, lost a girlfriend he believed God intended for him, began questioning God, got into drugs, was expelled from college, dropped out of church, and was provided psychiatric counseling by his grandparents.

Jason’s accomplice was Daniel McAllister, described as a quiet misfit, who had been “born into” the church, attending from a few months of age. He had announced that he had been saved at nine years old. Daniel had been a regular church-attendee, but the father, David McAllister, had been a substance abuser and apparently sexually promiscuous in the past, and was angry with God for having let his wife die.

Daniel was mad at God for allowing his mother to die. David believed that she was God’s intended wife for him, and Daniel believed that God had not answered his prayers for her recovery. Daniel and his adoptive sister, Cindy, had cut down David, their father, when he had attempted suicide by hanging after Mrs. McAllister’s death.

One more significant character in this drama is James Ellis, the Sunday school teacher of both Jason and Daniel. To his credit, he has acknowledged his failure and hypocrisy, and has undertaken a new independent mission to seek the lost in a traveling ministry. Of particular note, he described Jason as always having a question at the end of class.

I see this case as the failure of the whole Church (not just one denomination or congregation) over several generations, to make “born-again” disciples. Instead it has been focused on making members and building buildings, despite verbal assertions that the Church is people, not buildings. Generally, the failure to make “disciples” has led to a lack of “born-again” disciples in leadership to the very top levels, including the leaders and teachers of Church seminaries and denominational organizations. I am convinced that it takes disciples to make disciples.

One of the earliest warning signs was missed by a primary “gatekeeper,” grandma Steel: When Jason began taking the Bible to school and asked her for scripture to rebuke his peers’ cursing. Another early opportunity was missed by Mr. Ellis, in responding to Jason’s regular questions in Sunday school. The easy answer is to offer a pertinent “proof-text;” but a better option would have been to open a dialog leading to “discipling” the young man. But probably neither Mrs. Steel nor Mr. Ellis had any prior experience being “discipled” by a mature “born-again” Christian. I don’t know Pastor Young’s spiritual background. He was certainly Church-educated in Bible and Theology, but perhaps not “discipled” by a mature, “born-again” disciple of Jesus Christ. None of these “gate-keepers” would have recognized the distinction unless they had.

The Steels saw to it that Jason received psychiatric counseling, but failed to note his spiritual illness and get spiritual counseling for it. Jason had been taking the Bible to school to read, but didn’t have any Godly guidance in what he was reading from mature Christians (“discipling”). Perhaps they assumed that he was getting that guidance at church. Jason later said in a jailhouse interview that “we both read the Bible day and night, but where you read black I read white.”

Would we be more receptive to hearing that God hates and wants to destroy those who curse, or that God loves and wants to save us from destruction in spite of our cursing? Are we using the Bible to share the “Good News,” or to club the opposition into submission to our agendas? Are we applying Scripture to real-life situations or merely reciting scriptural platitudes?

Daniel said, “If you pray, God will answer and whatever happens is his will” but Daniel prayed that God would heal his grandma and was mad when God didn’t. He couldn’t accept her death as God’s will. Daniel also suggested that it “may just have been God’s will” that he burned the churches. Jason’s grandma prayed after his conviction that she would do whatever God wanted her to do, to get her grandson back (out of jail). They were praying that God do their will, rather than seeking to know and do God’s will.

Jason criticized the Church for “building bigger and grander buildings, and Daniel criticized their materialism, saying, “It’s your spiritual wealth God cares about.”

I personally have raised two now-adult daughters. I had fallen away from church after college, having been born and raised in it. I didn’t come to accept Jesus as Lord and become “born-again” until after I married, around the time of my wife’s first pregnancy.

We brought both daughters to church from the time they were born, and as they grew, we presented the Gospel to them in the form of the video version of the word-for-word text of the Gospel of Luke. Here, for example, is a current version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94WGC_ioQ8E

[A similar video of the Gospel of Mathew is probably available and also a good choice, but I have not had time to research it]

I also personally and individually “discipled” them, using:

What Every Christian Should Know about Growing: Basic Steps to Discipleship, by LeRoy Eims

(Out of print; available used at very reasonable price, paperback.)

Neither girl presently attends church or is open to the Gospel message, so I am not unsympathetic to the challenges of transmitting the faith to the next generation in our present culture.

Becoming a Christian is not a one-time event; its an on-going spiritual-growth process. Discipleship is not an optional category of “super-Christian;” An authentic Christian is by definition a disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26c). One must be “born-again” by the (gift; anointing; infilling of the) indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5-8), which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34) only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 28-18-20).

What can we do?

-Ask Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior.

-Commit personally to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

-Meet with Jesus daily in Bible-reading with prayer, seeking to know and do God’s will one day at a time.

-Seek a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Bible-living church.

-Seek “discipling” by a mature, “born-again” Christian disciple.

Is this the reality that “The only church that illuminates is a burning church,” as the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durutti said? Are our churches on fire because of hypocrisy, disillusionment and disaffection, rather than aflame with the power of the Holy Spirit?

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

Podcast Download: Week of 6 Easter – Odd
Sunday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/30/05;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 15:1-11  –   The Year of Release;
1 Timothy 3:14-4:5   –    False Teachers;
Matthew 13:24-34a   –    Parables of the Kingdom;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord commanded that every seventh year was to be a year of release from debts. God’s intention is that there be no poor among God’s people; wealth would be redistributed to the poor. The Lord promised to bless Israel in the land which God promised to give them if they obeyed the commandments of God. Israel would lend to other nations but would not need to borrow from them, and Israel would rule over other nations but would not be ruled by them.

God’s people are to lend to the poor among them, sufficient to meet the needs of the poor. The Lord warned his people not to be hard-hearted and calculating in their dealings with the poor; they are not to withhold from the poor when the year of release draws near. Denying support to the poor and needy will be accounted in God’s people as sin. God’s people are to give generously and freely, and the Lord will bless and prosper his people in every endeavor. There will always be poor people, so God commands his people to be generous in giving to them.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The Church is to be the household of God and the pillar and bulwark of truth. The central mystery of our “religion” is Christ, who came in human flesh, “was vindicated (confirmed) in the Spirit,” preached and believed in among all nations, and ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit expressly warns that in latter times (before Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment) “some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Everything God has created is good, and is consecrated by God’s Word and prayer as long as it is received with thanksgiving to God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught in parables, allowing the hearer to accept or reject his message. Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a person who sowed a wheat field with good seed. But during the night an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the seed sprouted the servants discovered that there were weeds among the wheat and asked the owner if he wanted his servants to pull up the weeds. But the owner told them to let the weeds grow among the wheat until the harvest; otherwise the wheat would be lost or damaged during the weeding. At the harvest, the owner will send the reapers with instructions to pull the weeds first and bind them into bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat into the owner’s barn.

Another illustration of the kingdom of heaven compares it to a mustard seed which is a tiny seed, but which grows into a much larger plant than one would imagine from the size of the seed. The kingdom of heaven is also like leaven (yeast) hidden in bread dough. A small amount of yeast in the dough cannot be seen and identified, but in time it affects all the dough and its results are obvious.

Commentary:

Christians are not bound to obey the Law of Moses, provided that they are led by and obey the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:2). Eating pork is no longer a sin, for example, but the Ten Commandments still apply. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to make it possible for us to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). The Lord still commands justice for the poor and the oppressed. It is still contrary to God’s will to covet our neighbors’ things. It is still a sin to take anything that belongs to another by any deceitful or dishonest means, including “tricky,” unethical politics. People who are filled with and led by the Holy Spirit don’t do such things.

Is America the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” the nation of “God’s people” or is it the “New Babylon?”  Are our leaders alleviating poverty or creating it? Is our government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” or is it government of the people, by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful? Do we live by the Golden Rule, or is it Gold that rules? Have we become a two-class society ruled by the rich aristocracy, who regard the common people as “sheep to be sheered?” Do the wealthy and powerful pay their fair share of the cost of government, considering that they benefit most from it? Are the wealthy and powerful bearing their responsibility for the social consequences of their exploitation and unequal distribution of wealth and resources?

The Church is called to be the pillar and bulwark of the truth. The Church hasn’t created poverty, and shouldn’t be solely responsible for alleviating it. The Church needs to make democratic government accountable for policies which increase the unfair distribution of the earth’s resources.

It is the latter times, and many have departed from the true faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits, the doctrines of demons, and the pretensions of liars with seared consciences. The earth is the Lord’s “wheat field,” and there are plenty of “weeds” among the wheat. Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the seed, which the Lord will cause to grow to fulness and maturity, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, if we trust and obey him.

Jesus is going to return to judge the earth, and he will cast the “weeds” into the eternal fire of Hell, and will gather the harvest of the “good seed” into his eternal kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46). In the meantime, we are to be “yeast” by trusting and obeying Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us to influence the world for the kingdom of God through 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)?

Podcast Download: Week of  7 Easter – Odd

Sunday 7 Easter – Odd

First Posted 05/07/05;
Podcast: Sunday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 3:16-27  –    The Prophet’s Responsibility;
Ephesians 2:1-10   –    New Life in Christ;
Matthew 10:24-33, 40-42  –  Discipleship;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was transported by the Spirit to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. He was overwhelmed (speechless) among them for seven days (Ezekiel 3:14-15; see entry for yesterday, Saturday, 6 Easter, odd year). Then the Word of the Lord came to him. The Lord addressed Ezekiel as the Son of man and told him that he was to be a watchman over the house of Israel, and was to give warning to Israel whenever he heard a Word from the Lord.

If the Lord declares that the wicked will surely die, and the prophet fails to warn the wicked, so that the wicked can change their ways, and their lives be spared, the wicked will die in sin, but the Lord will hold his prophet responsible for their death. But if the prophet warns the wicked and the wicked do not heed the prophet and change their ways they will die in their sin, but the prophet will be saved.

If the righteous turn from righteousness and commit sin and the prophet fails to warn them of impending judgment, they will die in sin, and their past righteousness will be of no avail, but the prophet will be accountable to the Lord for their death. But if the prophet warns the righteous not to sin and they do not sin, they will live because they have heeded the warning and the prophet will have saved his own life.

Ephesians Paraphrase:

Christians have been restored to life when we were spiritually dead because of sin in which we all participated, according to worldly ways, serving Satan, the spirit of evil who rules this present world, whose spirit is at work in those who refuse to obey God. We all once lived to please the desires of our flesh and our carnal minds, and were by our sinful nature destined for (God’s) wrath along with all mankind. But in great mercy and love, even when we were spiritually dead because of our sin, God raised us up with Christ to be with him in his heavenly kingdom, so that throughout eternity he could demonstrate his immeasurable kindness given freely to us in Jesus Christ.

“For by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) you have been saved through faith (obedient trust); and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works (good deeds; obeying the law), lest any (one) should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in (do) them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Matthew Paraphrase:

A disciple cannot expect to be greater than his teacher, nor can a servant be above his master. Being like the teacher or like the master is sufficient. If the world has called our master, Jesus Christ, evil and demonic, Christians cannot expect to be treated any better. But don’t fear worldly people. Truth cannot be hidden. What the Lord reveals to us we must boldly proclaim.

The worst that worldly people can do is to put us to physical death.
We must not allow fear of physical death to prevent us from doing God’s will. Instead let us have godly fear (awe and respect for the power) of the Lord, who has the power of eternal life and eternal death over us. God’s knowledge, power, and authority are vast beyond our comprehension. The most insignificant bird does not die except by God’s will. God knows every detail about each of us, down to the number of hairs on our heads. We are more precious to God than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges Jesus to mankind, Jesus will acknowledge to God, but those who deny Jesus to mankind will be denied by Jesus to God.

Commentary:

God called Ezekiel and revealed himself to Ezekiel so that Ezekiel could fulfill God’s purpose by being a watchman over the house of Israel in exile in Babylon. At first Ezekiel was overwhelmed by his call, but the Lord told Ezekiel that the Lord would provide his Word, and that he would hold Ezekiel accountable to faithfully and accurately proclaim it, whether it was heeded or not.

We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) Christians are “reborn” (“born again;” John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34), which he gives only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e, John14:15-17). 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). Anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b) does not belong to Christ. It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

God calls us to be spiritually reborn through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus so that we can do good works God intends for us to do, to bring forgiveness and salvation to this lost world. When we have been restored to spiritual life through his indwelling Holy Spirit we are to be watchmen sounding God’s warning to God’s people in exile in the “Babylon” of this world. Through his Holy Spirit, God reveals his will for each of us personally and individually, opens our minds to know and understand his Word, and empowers us to fulfill his will and purpose for us.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. We are to be discipled by Jesus Christ through his word and his Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26), growing to spiritual maturity. We are to follow Jesus’ example, and continue his ministry of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus has promised to reveal himself to his disciples (John 14:21) through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). We cannot testify to things we haven’t personally experienced. What the Lord reveals to us we must boldly proclaim.

God doesn’t intend for his will and his Word to be a secret or a mystery. God wants us to know his will and his Word so that we can live by it. Worldly people don’t want to hear God’s Word and know God’s will because God’s Word convicts them of sin, and they want to do their own will which is contrary to God’s will.

God’s intended purpose of this life is to provide us the opportunity to seek and come to personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). We are to come to personal knowledge and fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit and then testify to the world of that truth. Those who deny Jesus in this world, by word or by deed will be denied by Jesus to God. Denial includes failure to obey Jesus’ teaching and commands (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).

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

Monday 7 Easter – Odd

First Posted 05/08/05;
Podcast: Monday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 4:1-17   –    Prophecy of Coming Siege of Jerusalem;
Hebrews 6:1-12   –    Christian Maturity;
Luke 9:51-62  –   Obligations of Discipleship;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel to dramatize the coming siege of Jerusalem by a series of actions and “visual aids.” Ezekiel was to take a sun-baked brick (softer than fired brick) and draw on the face of it a picture of Jerusalem under siege, with a mound built up against the wall to facilitate the attack, and with battering rams placed against it. Ezekiel was to place an iron plate between himself and Jerusalem and was to face toward it.  This picture was to be a graphic sign to the people of what was about to happen.

Ezekiel was to lie on his left side for three hundred and ninety days, representing the period of God’s punishment of the Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel. Then Ezekiel was to lie on his right side for forty days, symbolizing the God’s punishment of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Ezekiel was to face Jerusalem and prophesy against the city until he had completed the days of his demonstration.

Ezekiel was also commanded by the Lord to make bread from a combination of grains of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt (a different type of wheat) to be his only food during the three hundred and ninety days of his demonstration of God’s punishment of Israel, twenty shekels weight a day, once a day, with a measured ration of water. At first the Lord told Ezekiel to bake the bread over a fire of human dung, as a symbol of the rigors of the siege, but Ezekiel asked for consideration, and the Lord allowed him to use dried cow dung instead. God declared that he would break the staff of bread (the physical support of life) and that Israel would experience restricted rations of bread and water, in fear and dismay, so that they would know hunger and thirst, and would see themselves wasting away under their punishment.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Christians are to grow beyond the elementary doctrines of the Gospel which they should already know such as repentance from sin, faith in God, and instruction about baptism, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. We are warned that there is no way to restore those who have once been enlightened and have experienced the gift and power of the Holy Spirit and the goodness of God’s Word, if they then renounce their faith in Jesus, since in doing so they personally crucify the Son of God and subject him to contempt.

We are to be like a garden, receiving the spiritual blessing and nurture, like rain, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and producing the harvest that God has intended. If instead we produce an evil harvest, like spiritual “thorns” and “weeds,” we are worthless and about to receive God’s curse, which will result in eternal destruction.

Hopefully this is not our situation, so that we will produce the harvest which results from salvation. God will reward those work for his will and his kingdom, and who love and serve his saints (all who are saved by obedient trust in Jesus). We are to continue to earnestly seek the assurance and fulfillment of our hope (in Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit; i.e. spiritual maturity) for the rest of our lives, so that we are not unproductive, but instead follow the example of those who receive the fulfillment of the promises of God’s Word through faith (obedient trust) and patience.

Luke Paraphrase:

When the time of Jesus’ death drew near, Jesus began to travel toward Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for food and lodging, but the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus because he was going to keep the Passover feast in Jerusalem. (The Samaritans believed that the true sanctuary was their temple on Mt. Gerizim, and Jews regarded Samaritans as ethnically and spiritually impure.)

When James and John, two of the Twelve disciples, heard of the Samaritans’ rejection, they were angry and suggested that they command fire from heaven to destroy those Samaritans (as Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed; Genesis 19:24), but Jesus rebuked them. (Some ancient texts add that Jesus told them their response was not accord with Jesus’ purpose and would be misuse of the power of the Holy Spirit, since Jesus had come to save people rather than to destroy them.) Instead they went on to another village.

On the way, they encountered a man who wanted to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went, but Jesus told him “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus invited another man to follow him, but that man wanted to bury his father first. Jesus told him to let the dead bury their own dead; the man was to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Jesus’ example by proclaiming the kingdom of God. Another person was willing to follow Jesus, but wanted to say goodbye to his family first, but Jesus told him “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

Commentary:

God’s people refused to hear and obey God’s Word or God’s prophet, so God “drew them a picture,” having Ezekiel graphically illustrate what was about to happen, but they still refused to repent and be saved. The only option left was to allow them to starve and waste away under siege, and then be taken into exile. What else can God do with people who refuse to acknowledge and obey him as their Creator and God?

God had demonstrated his goodness and faithfulness by bringing them out of slavery to sin and death in Egypt and leading them through the wilderness and into the land he had promised to give them, but they forgot the lessons they had learned in the wilderness. They hadn’t grown in trust and obedience to God but instead were wasting away.

Christians are the “New People of God.” Are we hearing and obeying God’s Word? Have we learned the lessons of God’s goodness and faithfulness in bringing his people out of slavery to sin and death, and leading them through the “wilderness” of this life and into the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom? Have we heeded God’s prophets’ warning about God’s impending judgment; are we willing to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord? God has “drawn us a picture” of his love and faithfulness for us in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and he has “drawn us a picture” of the eternal consequences of disobedience of his Word in eternal exile and destruction in Hell.

Christians are to grow in discipleship to spiritual maturity, so that they can fulfill God’s will and purpose and produce the spiritual harvest God intended. The Lord intended us to be filled with and guided by his Word and his Spirit, so that we could carry on his mission of forgiveness and salvation from eternal destruction. Are we seeking to know and obey God’s Word so that we can receive the fulfillment of the promise of his indwelling Holy Spirit and eternal life? Are we producing the spiritual harvest which God intended, or are we producing spiritual “thorns” and “weeds” by pursuing our own will and desires?

The Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus because they wanted to worship God on their own terms, instead of accepting God’s terms. Are we worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), or arguing with other Christians over the “proper” way to worship God? Are we seeking to save and restore the lost or are we using “religion” to manipulate people to accomplish our own goals?

Are we willing to be disciples of Jesus regardless of personal cost? Are we willing to follow Jesus now, or is there something else we think we must do first?

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

Tuesday 7 Easter – Odd

First  Posted 05/09/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 7:10-15, 23b-27   –     The Day of Doom;
Hebrews 6:13-20   –    The Certainty of God’s Promise;
Luke 10:1-17  –    The Mission of the Seventy;

Exekiel Paraphrase:

The day of doom (of punishment; the Day of Judgment) is coming. Injustice and pride have blossomed. Violence has matured into punishment. None (of the wicked) will remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth. There will no longer be any who are great among them. Neither buyer nor seller will benefit from their transactions.

God’s wrath is upon the nation; because of their sin they will not keep their lives. God’s people have prepared for battle and have blown the trumpet but none goes forth. Those who go out into the field are slain by the sword, and those who stay within the city are slain by disease and famine. “Because the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence, I (God) will bring the worst of nations to take possessions of their houses” (Ezekiel 7:23b-24).
God will end their pride and their power, and desecrate their holy places. “When anguish comes they will seek peace, but there shall be none.

Disaster follows disaster, rumor follows rumor” (Ezekiel 7:25-26). They will turn to the prophets seeking a vision but there will be none. The priests and elders will be unable to provide scriptural guidance. The civil leaders will be in despair, and the people will be trembling with terror. “According to their way I (God) will do to them, and according to their own judgments I will judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:27b).

Hebrews Paraphrase:

God promised to bless and multiply Abraham and his offspring, and by enduring patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Because men rely on a sworn oath to bind a promise, God made an oath to Abraham to fulfill his promise. Both God’s promises and his oath are eternal and unchanging, so we can be mightily encouraged to claim the hope he has given us. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine (the holy-of-holies; God’s presence) behind the curtain (veil) where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus appointed seventy of the wider group of his disciples who followed him and sent them in pairs to every place where Jesus was about to visit. He told them that there was a vast harvest of souls, but few helpers to harvest. So Jesus’ followers should pray to Jesus, the Lord of the Harvest, to send (themselves as) helpers to gather the harvest and then to begin the work of gathering the harvest. Jesus warned his disciples that they were sent as lambs into the midst of wolves. Jesus told them not to try to provide their necessities for themselves, and not to get sidetracked and delayed along the way.

Whenever they entered a house they were to offer (the Lord’s) peace to the house. If the household was willing to receive peace, it would rest on them, but if not, it would return to the disciples. They were to remain in the house which receives them, and accept what they provided, rather than going from house to house. In every town where the disciples were received, they were to heal the sick and to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom.

Wherever a town refused to receive them they were to shake the dust of that town from their feet, declaring that the disciples refused to receive even the dust of that town on their feet, but that the kingdom of God had come near to that town. Then the disciples were to go on to the next town. It will be worse, on the Day of Judgment, for the town which has refused to receive Jesus’ disciples, than it was for Sodom on the day of its destruction.

Jesus mourned for Chorazin and Bethsaida, two towns in Galilee which witnessed Jesus’ preaching and miracles, and yet did not accept Jesus. Jesus warned that Tyre and Sidon, notoriously wicked Phoenician cities, would have been more receptive to Jesus’ ministry and would fare better in the Day of Judgment.

Jesus also warned that Capernaum’s human pride and arrogance in refusing to repent and accept Jesus, although Jesus had preached and done many miracles there, would bring them condemnation in the Day of Judgment. Jesus told his disciples that those who heed (hear, trust and obey) Jesus’ disciples heed Jesus and those who reject Jesus’ disciples reject Jesus, and reject God the Father, who sent Jesus. The Seventy returned rejoicing at the spiritual power and resources they had received as they trusted and obeyed Jesus’ command.

Commentary:

The Lord had patiently taught his people to trust and obey him. He had shown them his power and faithfulness, in delivering them from slavery to sin and death in Egypt, and in leading them through the wilderness into the land he had promised to give them. But they forgot all God’s blessings and the lessons of the wilderness. They refused to heed God’s Word and the warnings of God’s prophets that the Day of Judgment was coming and that they would be condemned to exile in “Babylon” for their failure to trust and obey the Lord and his prophets, and for their idolatry (Ezekiel 7:19-20).

Israel had trusted in their power and wealth instead of trusting and obeying the Lord. They had disobeyed God’s Word, and had allowed crime and injustice to fill their land. God’s people had prepared for battle with the enemy in God’s name, but hadn’t gone forth (Ezekiel 7:14). God warned them that their tolerance and practice of injustice, pride, and violence was going to produce a harvest of condemnation. God was going to judge them according to their own judgments.

Those who had refused to acknowledge God as Lord were about to discover that God is Lord, whether they acknowledge him or not. God warned them that his wrath was coming upon them and that when the siege actually began they would then seek spiritual help from their priests, prophets and elders, but would find none because by then it would be too late (Ezekiel  7:26). There would be nothing their civil leaders could do either.
Doesn’t this sound a lot like American and the Church today? In a sense America and the Church are each the “New Israel.”

God’s Word of Israel’s punishment and doom in exile in Babylon was fulfilled. God’s Word and God’s promises are eternal, continuing to be fulfilled as conditions for their fulfillment are met, and they are absolutely true and reliable. Abraham trusted and obeyed the Lord, and by enduring patiently, he received what God had promised. Christians are the spiritual descendants of Abraham as they trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus is our great high priest who intercedes for our forgiveness in God’s presence. Jesus is the “pioneer,” the “trail blazer,” who has opened the veil into the holy-of-holies (Matthew 27:51a), so that we can come into God’s presence through Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord promised to give his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17), and 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).

God’s Word contains both good and “bad” promises; God’s Word contains both blessings and condemnations. We will either heed God’s Word and receive God’s blessings, or we will disobey God’s Word and be condemned and eternally destroyed. God promises that there is a Day of Judgment coming, when every person who has ever lived on earth will be accountable to the Lord for what he has done in this life. 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).

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death and destruction (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in the “Promised Land” of God’s eternal kingdom in heaven with the Lord. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal exile, death and destruction in the “Babylon” of Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). That’s a promise!

Jesus appointed not just the Twelve, the apostles who were to become the leaders of the Church, but all of his followers, as disciples, to pray to the Lord to send themselves as helpers to gather the harvest, and then to trust and obey the Lord’s command to go, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bringing spiritual healing to the people of the world. (I personally testify to this truth; this is exactly how I came to do this internet ministry.) Are Christians praying for the Lord to send them, or are we prepared for the “battle,” and having heard (or blown) the Trumpet call, unwilling to venture into the battlefield (Ezekiel 7:14)?

Jesus has promised that those who receive his disciples receive Jesus, and those who receive Jesus receive God the Father (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). Jesus promises that if we will be his disciples who trust and obey him and go forth in his name according to his will and guidance, we will come home rejoicing at what the Lord has allowed us to accomplish through his Holy Spirit. First we must be prepared by discipleship and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Then we must pray, listen for and obey his call and his instructions.

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

Wednesday 7 Easter – Odd

First Posted 05/10/05;

Podcast: Wednesday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 11:14-25  –    Promise of Return of the Exiles;
Hebrews 7:1-17   –    Priesthood of Melchizedek;
Luke 10:17-24   –  The Return of the Seventy;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel that those of Israel who remained in Jerusalem when the rest of Judah went into exile thought the exiles were far from God’s protection, and that the exiles’ property had been given to the remnant in Jerusalem. The Lord said that although the exiles had been taken far from their land the Lord had not completely abandoned them, and God promised to bring them back to their Promised Land.

When the exiles returned to their land they were to remove all the idols which polluted the land. The Lord will give the returning exiles a new, tender heart, in place of their hard, stony hearts, and will put a new spirit within them. Then they will obey God’s ordinances “and they shall be my people and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:20).As for the remnant who did not go into exile, whose hearts go after sinful things and idols, the Lord will repay them according to their deeds.

Ezekiel had a vision of God’s glory, and in the vision God’s glory rose up from Jerusalem and stood upon the Mount of Olives. In a vision the Holy Spirit lifted Ezekiel up and brought him to the exiles in Babylon, and the vision departed and Ezekiel told the exiles all that the Lord had shown him.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God. When Abraham (then called Abram) returned from defeating Chedorlaomer, and rescuing his kinsman (nephew; the son of Abraham’s brother), Lot, who had been held captive (Genesis 14:12), Melchizedek came out to meet Abraham (Genesis 14:17-20; bringing bread and wine; Genesis 14:18) and blessed Abraham. Abraham gave a tithe of his plunder of Chedorlaomer to Melchizedek. The name “Melchizedek” means king of righteousness, and his title, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Melchizedek has no genealogy and no date of birth or death, so he symbolizes and prefigures the Son of God, who is the eternal priest of God.

Melchizedek is greater than Abraham and the Levitical priesthood (which had not yet been established, since Levi, a descendant of Abraham, had not yet been born), since Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham and blessed him. The Levitical priests are mortal men who receive tithes from their brethren, but Melchizedek symbolizes an eternal priesthood. If the Levitical priesthood, arising from Aaron, under whom Israel received the Old Covenant of Law, had been perfect there would not have been the need for another priesthood arising from the order of Melchizedek. Since the Levitical priesthood was established by covenant of law given by God, the change in priesthood would require a change in the law.

Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek, was a descendant of the tribe of Judah, which had no connection with the priesthood, according to the Covenant of Law given by God to Moses. The priesthood of Jesus is not based on the requirement of law, by genealogical descent, but by the power of his eternal life and God’s Word, which declares that Jesus is priest forever according to the priesthood of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17; compare Psalm 110:4).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had sent out seventy of the larger group of his disciples to proclaim the coming kingdom of God (in Jesus Christ) and to heal the sick (Luke 10:1-17; entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 7 Easter, odd year). They returned rejoicing that even demons were under the disciples’ power in Jesus’ name. Jesus declared that he had witnessed Satan’s defeat in heaven, and Jesus had given his disciples power over the enemy (Satan, the enemy of God and of our eternal souls). Jesus told them that the real reason to rejoice was that they were acknowledged in heaven (as God’s children), as their power over evil demonstrated.

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (in the joy of spiritual ecstasy of the Holy Spirit within him) and gave thanks to God for God’s great purpose and design of creation, that, by God’s will and intention, spiritual things are hidden from those who those who pursue and possess worldly wisdom and knowledge, but are revealed and understood by those who are humble, trusting and obedient.  Jesus has been given all things by God the Father. No one can know who Jesus is except by God, and no one can come to know God except through Jesus Christ, as Jesus chooses to reveal him.

Jesus told his disciples that they are blessed to witness the fulfillment of God’s purpose and to recognize and believe the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God. Many kings and prophets longed to see and hear these things and weren’t able.

Commentary:

The Lord sent his people into exile so that they would learn to trust and obey him. The Lord promised to bring them back to their Promised Land at the end of their exile, and that the Lord would give them a new, tender heart, and would put a new spirit (the Holy Spirit) within them. Then they will have the ability and desire to obey God. By being willing to obey God they demonstrate the desire and the fact that they are God’s people, and when people are willing to be God’s people, God is willing to be their God and all that being a good, merciful, loving, just, faithful and powerful God implies.

Ezekiel was a priest of God (Ezekiel 1:3). Because Ezekiel was willing to trust and obey God, God made his Word known to Ezekiel, gave him spiritual vision, and lifted and guided him to proclaim to God’s people in exile what God had revealed to Ezekiel. Ezekiel is an example and forerunner of the new priesthood established in Jesus Christ. He’s an example of the prophetic priesthood the Church needs today, and he is the example of the calling of all Christians to carry on Jesus’ ministry to the world in exile from God.

Nominal Christians, “Church members,” who are unwilling to be subject to the Lord’s discipline and to be in spiritual exile in this world are like those who called themselves God’s people but stayed in Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s time. They thought God was with them and far from those who were suffering in exile, and they thought the inheritance of the Promised Land and the spiritual assets of God’s people belonged to them, even though they did not obey God’s Word or heed his prophets, and allowed “Jerusalem,” God’s holy city, (the Church, today) to become polluted with sin and idolatry.

Melchizedek is God’s intentional symbol and illustration of the priesthood which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our great high priest, fulfilling the prophetic vision given in Melchizedek. Jesus comes to meet us and bless us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper), as we return from fighting and claiming the victory over the worldly king (Satan), which Jesus won for us on the Cross, and from rescuing our “brother,” “Lot,” who had been taken captive by the forces of evil. The priesthood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is not based on the Old Covenant of Law, or on genealogy, but is instead to be based on God’s Word and the power of eternal life: the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which 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).

Jesus calls all his disciples, not just the clergy (apostles), to carry on Jesus’ ministry to the world. Christians are to be a kingdom of priests serving God and offering God’s forgiveness and salvation to this world (Revelation 1:5b-6). Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, who trust and obey Jesus and have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Born-again disciples are to go into the world to offer spiritual healing and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls his disciples to make disciples of Jesus Christ, to teach them to trust and obey Jesus, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that is the absolutely necessary prerequisite for lay (church members) ministry, or ordained (clergy) ministry in Jesus’ name.

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34). Jesus only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Jesus is the only way to come to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with God (John 14:6), and to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, (John 14:23), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b). Jesus reveals himself and God the Father to his disciples through the Holy Spirit (John 14:21).

If we are Jesus’ disciples we can rejoice that we have been blessed with the spiritual insight to see, recognize and believe in the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ, and that we have personally experienced the truth of Jesus Christ in our own 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)?

Thursday 7 Easter – Odd

First  Posted 05/11/05;

Podcast: Thursday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32  –   Individual responsibility;
Hebrews 7:18-28    –    Jesus our high priest forever;
Luke 10:25-37  –    The good Samaritan;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel that the exiles must no longer blame their forefathers for their exile. All souls belong to God, both father and son. Each soul shall bear its own responsibility. Human judgment might find it right that the son should suffer for the sake of his father’s sins, but not God’s judgment. Each individual who sins will die eternally. The righteous will be rewarded according to their deeds, and the wicked will be punished for their wickedness.

A wicked person who turns from his wickedness and obeys God and does what is right will not die eternally, and his past wickedness will be expunged (forgiven and forgotten). If a righteous person turns from obedience to God and does what is wicked, he will die eternally for his wickedness; his past righteousness will not save him.

God’s ways are just; it is mankind’s ways which are not just. Therefore judgment belongs to God (and not to mankind). He will judge each individual according to the individual’s ways. It is our best interest to repent and turn from disobedience and sin so that we will not be condemned to eternal destruction for our transgressions against God’s Word.

We are urged to stop violating God’s Word and to get a new heart and a new spirit. Why would we refuse to repent and insist on doing what is going to destroy us eternally? The Lord does not take pleasure in destroying anyone, so let us turn to him in obedient trust so that we may have eternal life.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus is our eternal high priest fulfilling the prophetic illustration given in the priesthood of Melchizedek (see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 7 Easter, odd year). Comparing the Levitical priesthood established by God’s Law, given to Moses, and the eternal priesthood of the order of Melchizedek fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Jesus’ eternal priesthood required setting aside the legal requirement of genealogical descent (since Jesus was not descended from Levi). But the Law was not able to cleanse us from sin; it was intended to show us what God required, but the law could not enable us to do it. God had a better plan and hope for us in the priesthood of Jesus, through whom it is possible to draw near to God.

Furthermore, Jesus’ priesthood is established for all eternity by God’s oath. So Jesus has secured and mediates a better covenant than the Old Covenant of Law mediated by the Levitical priesthood. The former Levitical priesthood required many priests, because the priests’ terms were limited by physical death. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent and eternal, so “he is able for all time to save all who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus is the ideal high priest because he is completely righteous and sinless, and does not need to seek forgiveness for his own sins. Nor does he need to continually offer up sacrifices for our sins, because he accomplished this once for all time and all people (who willingly receive it), on the Cross. In the Old Covenant of Law, priests served in their human weakness, but [in the New Covenant of Grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus], established by God’s oath (promise), our high priest is eternally and completely righteous and spiritually mighty.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was teaching a crowd, and a lawyer (an expert in the Law of Moses) asked a question to test Jesus. The lawyer asked Jesus what the lawyer should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied, asking the lawyer what the law said. The lawyer replied that one must love God completely, and must love one’s neighbor just as one’s own self. Jesus told the lawyer his answer was exactly right and that if the lawyer did what the law said he would have eternal life.

The lawyer (trying to limit his responsibility) asked Jesus who the lawyer must consider to be his neighbor. Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was beaten and robbed and left along the road. A priest and a Levite (both examples of righteousness under the law), traveling separately, both saw the injured man, and walked by on the other side of the road, but a Samaritan (considered racially and spiritually impure by Jews) saw the man and gave him aid, cleaning and dressing his wounds and transporting him to an inn where he took care of the injured man.

The next day, the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to continue to care for the man until he recovered from his injuries, and promised to pay whatever additional expenses were incurred. Jesus asked the lawyer, who of the travelers proved to be the neighbor of the injured man. The lawyer answered that the neighbor of the injured man was the one who had mercy on him (i.e. the Samaritan). Then Jesus told the lawyer to go and do likewise.

Commentary:

There is a Day of Judgment coming when everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to the Lord for what he has done (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29). We will all be accountable individually for our own deeds. All of us have 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). God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

We are urged to repent, to stop disobeying God’s Word, and to turn to the Lord in trust and obedience, and he will give us a new heart to desire what pleases the Lord and a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit within us, to help us know and do his will and to resist and withstand temptation and sin. Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34), which he gives only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17).

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for his Creation which he had before Creation was begun (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s purpose for this present world is to create an eternal kingdom of his people who will trust and obey him. This life is our opportunity to choose for ourselves whether we are willing to live in God’s eternal kingdom or not.

This life is the opportunity to seek and come to a personal relationship with the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). No one can come to God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord. The Old Covenant of Law was intended to show what God requires and to keep us restrained until the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our high priest whose blood sacrifice on the Cross has paid for our sins. He has lived in this world and has been tempted just as we are, but without sinning. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If we will trust and obey Jesus, Jesus will give us a new heart and a new Spirit through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

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). Jesus, by his Spirit (Romans 8:9-b) within us, is the “guarantee,” and the “down-payment” of the new and better Covenant of Grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9; compare Hebrews 7:22).

Jesus didn’t come to make it possible for us to be saved without trusting and obeying God’s Word (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus came to reveal God’s nature and goodness, to demonstrate how God’s children are to live and to make it possible for us to live according to God’s Word and his will.

The lawyer was looking for “loopholes” in God’s law. He wanted to limit his responsibility by narrowly defining who he must consider his neighbor.

Jesus wanted to teach the lawyer that it is not enough to know the law, if one does not apply it, and it is not enough to keep the letter of the law, if one does not keep the intent of the law. Similarly, one cannot truly believe in Jesus without knowing and doing what Jesus teaches and commands.

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

Friday 7 Easter – Odd

First posted 05/12/05;

Podcast: Friday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 34:17-31  –    The Lord cares for his flock;
Hebrews 8:1-13   –   The New Covenant;
Luke 10:38-42   –    Mary and Martha;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord judges the sheep of his flock. He provides good pasture and fresh water for his sheep, but some of his sheep trample the pasture and muddy the water with their feet. The Lord will deal with unruly sheep who push his sheep around and scatter them. The Lord will save his flock and they will no longer be a prey. The Lord will set up one shepherd like David to care for his flock.

The Lord will make a new covenant of peace. Wild beasts will be banished from the land so that the flock will live in safety in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods without fear. The Lord will bless the land around Zion and send showers of blessing in the proper seasons. Fields and trees will yield their harvest, and God’s people will dwell securely in their land.

When the Lord frees them from the yoke of oppression they will know that God is Lord. Nations shall no longer prey upon them, nor shall beasts of the land devour them. There will no longer be any reason for fear. The Lord will provide abundant harvests so that there will no longer be hunger. They will no longer bear the reproach of the nations. God’s people will know that the Lord their God is with them and that they are God’s people; the sheep of God’s pasture.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus Christ is our great high priest in God’s presence in the true heavenly sanctuary. He performs the function of a priest in offering sacrifice to God, as do earthly priests. Earthly priests serve a copy, a shadow, of the heavenly sanctuary. The Lord gave Moses instructions to make the earthly tabernacle a replica of the heavenly one. Christ’s priestly ministry is the perfection of the ministry of the earthly replica, and the new covenant is the improvement and perfection replacing the old covenant of Law, because the new covenant is founded on better promises.

If the old covenant had been perfect there would have been no need for a new one. The new covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah (quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34; and also prophesied by Ezekiel), is superior to the old covenant, because the people were unfaithful and unable to keep the old covenant. In the new covenant, knowledge of God’s Word and a personal relationship with the Lord will be within all of God’s people (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). Prophesying a new covenant presupposes that the first one is “old” and therefore obsolete.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus went to Bethany and visited the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching, but Martha was busy preparing a meal. Martha asked Jesus if he didn’t care that Mary had let Martha do all the work alone. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus replied gently that Martha was worrying about many things that weren’t really necessary instead of the one thing which was really important. Mary had chosen what was truly important, and Jesus would not ask Mary to do otherwise.

God promised through his Word and his prophets that he would establish one shepherd in the nature, tradition, and lineage of David, the shepherd-king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Jesus is that Good Shepherd (John 10:11), descended from David (Luke 2:1-7), born in Bethlehem (the city of David), God’s anointed eternal King of kings (Revelation 91:16-19).

Jesus became the mediator of the new covenant (Matthew 26:26-28; Hebrews 9:20) at the Last Supper on the eve of his Crucifixion. His blood shed on the Cross ratifies the covenant, and is the sacrifice once for all for the forgiveness of our sins (Hebrews 9:21-24).

The new covenant is the covenant of peace and reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of our sins. Those who trust and obey Jesus are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, through whom we come to personal knowledge of the Lord and the assurance that he is present with us and that we are God’s people. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we receive showers of blessings, are spiritually nourished, and guided and empowered to be productive, bearing fruit for God’s kingdom. The indwelling Holy Spirit frees us from the yoke of sin and death. There is no longer reason to fear physical death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Commentary:

Jesus is our high priest mediating the new covenant, interceding to God on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Sprit (John 1:32-34). Jesus only gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to put the personal knowledge of the Lord and of God’s Word within us. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life as God’s people (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Mary and Martha are examples of two types of the sheep in the Lord’s flock. One is, in her own human ability, busily following her own idea of what best serves her Lord and demonstrates her love for him. The other is being discipled by Jesus, and seeking to know and do his will by his power within her.

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

Saturday 7 Easter – Odd

First  Posted 05/13/05;
Podcast: Saturday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 43:1-12   –     The glory of the Lord;
Hebrews 9:1-14   –   The earthly sanctuary;
Luke 11:14-23   –   Jesus’ power;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was a prophet to the remnant of Israel in exile in Babylon. After his prophecy of exile was fulfilled, Ezekiel assured the exiles that the presence of the Lord was still with them, and of their eventual return to the Promised Land. The Lord gave Ezekiel a vision of the restored temple, which had been destroyed in 587 B.C.. In this vision the Spirit brought Ezekiel to the eastern gate, and Ezekiel saw the glory of God come from the east (as he had seen the glory of God depart; Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:22-23).  The glory of God came with a sound like the roar of many waters, and the earth shone like the brightness of the sun. The glory of God entered by the east gate and filled the temple.

Ezekiel heard the voice of God say that the temple was the place of God’s throne on earth where he will dwell among his people forever. God’s people are commanded to no longer defile God’s holy name by (spiritual) harlotry (i.e. disobedience and idolatry), particularly by memorializing (Ezekiel 43:7 note “i,” RSV) their dead kings in God’s temple, or by using God’s temple for political purposes. Israel had been punished for disobedience of God’s Word and for idolatry. Now they are called to repent and return to trust and obedience to the Lord, on which condition the Lord promises to dwell among them forever.

Ezekiel was commanded by God to proclaim to Israel the appearance and plan of God’s temple and God’s laws concerning the sanctity of the temple, so that Israel may be ashamed of their sins, and may obey and perform all God’s ordinances concerning the temple. The entire temple mount surrounding the temple is to be kept most holy. (Israel did return to the Promised Land, and the Temple was rebuilt in 517 B.C.)

Hebrews Paraphrase:

The first covenant (the Covenant of Law) had rules governing worship and the earthly sanctuary (given by God to Moses; (Exodus 25:10-40). The original sanctuary consisted of an outer tent called the Holy Place containing the lampstand, the table and the bread of the presence. Within the Holy Place was a tent called the Holy-of-Holies, separated from the Holy Place by a curtain.

The Holy-of-Holies contained the golden altar of incense, the Ark of the Covenant covered in gold and containing the golden urn containing manna, Aaron’s (almond) rod that budded, and the tablets of the Law (the Ten Commandments) which Moses received from God on Mt. Sinai. Above the ark “were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat” (Hebrews 9:5). The priests continually performed their ritual duties in the outer tent, but only the high priest entered the Holy-of-Holies, only once a year, carrying blood from a sacrifice offered for himself and the people.

The curtain symbolizes that the way into the Holy-of Holies (into God’s presence) is blocked as long as the outer tent is still standing. In the temple system gifts and sacrifices cannot cleanse the people but instead only regulate the carnal nature “until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10; the new covenant, initiated by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross).

When Christ became our high priest of the new covenant he passed through the heavenly sanctuary into the Holy-of-Holies of God’s presence, taking his own blood, to obtain an eternal redemption. If the blood of animals purified and sanctified sinful flesh, how much more will the blood of sinless Christ purify our eternal souls from sins which cause eternal death, and enable us to serve the eternally living God?

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus healed a mute man of the demon who had caused the muteness, and the man was able to speak. The people who witnessed the miracle were amazed, but some suggested that Jesus’ power was from Beelzebul, the prince of demons, and others asked Jesus to prove that his power was from God.

Jesus knew what they were thinking and told them that a kingdom divided against itself is destroyed. Why would Satan fight against his own kingdom? Jesus was not the only one casting out demons in Israel, so if Jesus’ power was from Satan, then Jewish exorcists must also be empowered by Satan, and they will condemn Jesus’ critics. But if Jesus heals by God’s power then God’s salvation is near.

A well-armed strong man can guard his own property, but if someone stronger attacks and removes the armor in which the man trusted, then he can take the man’s goods. Jesus declared that those who are not with Jesus are against him, and those who don’t join Jesus in gathering cause scattering.

Commentary:

Israel had disobeyed God’s Word, had refused to heed God’s prophets, and had worshiped other “gods.” So God’s glory departed from the temple and he removed his protection, allowing Jerusalem and the temple to be destroyed and the remnant of Israel to be carried off to exile in Babylon. God promised to restore his people and bring them back to the Promised Land when they repented of their disobedience and unfaithfulness to God and learned to trust and obey the Lord. God promised that the temple would be rebuilt and re-consecrated, and the glory of his presence would again fill the temple.

God warned that God’s people must no longer defile God’s name by disobedience of God’s Word and by idolatry, with particular emphasis on not using God’s sanctuary to memorialize earthly leaders, or for pursuing political agendas.

The temple was designed according to God’s instructions as a replica of the heavenly sanctuary. Under the Old Covenant of Law, people had no direct access to God. Only the High Priest could enter into God’s presence (in the Holy-of-Holies) only once a year with a blood sacrifice. The curtain (veil) of the temple separated God’s people from God’s presence. At Jesus’ crucifixion the curtain was supernaturally torn from top to bottom (Luke 23: 44-45), symbolizing that the way into God’s presence had been opened by Jesus’ Crucifixion.

Jesus’ crucifixion ended the Old Covenant and initiated the New Covenant of grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Judaism effectively ended at the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, the Jews were scattered throughout the world, and Israel ceased to exist as a state. It is only since World War II that Israel was reestablished and Jews began returning. The temple has never been rebuilt.

The Old Covenant was dependent upon the temple sacrificial system. Jesus’ blood is now the only sacrifice acceptable to God for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death, and the only way into God’s presence and eternal life (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home)

Jesus is the new and living way into God’s presence through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus and are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. “Born-again Christians” are God’s temple, filled with the glory of God by his Holy Spirit. Congregations where two or three “born-again” Christians are gathered are filled with God’s glory and the presence of the Lord (Matthew 18:20).

The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of a New Temple, filled with the glory of the Lord. The resurrected Jesus is our High Priest interceding for us in the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus came to provide the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, to show by word and example how to live as a child of God, and to make possible the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7).

Jesus’ ministry was primarily to bring spiritual healing. The mute man Jesus healed couldn’t speak, physically, but the underlying cause was spiritual (represented as demonic), and the cure was spiritual. Jesus frees us from demonic powers so that we can be filled with, cleansed and guided by his Holy Spirit.

We are in exile in the Babylon of this world, and the Lord wants to free us from slavery to sin and death so that we can be his sanctuary, filled with his glory and eternal life. Are we willing to trust and obey him and allow him to cleanse and fill us?

In one sense both America and the Church are each the “New Israel” (the new “Promised Land” and the new “people of God”). Has the glory of the Lord departed from us because of our spiritual unfaithfulness, our disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophets, and our “idolatry” (loving and serving any one or thing more than our love and serving the Lord)?

Have we allowed God’s temple to be desecrated by things God’s Word declares to be abominations? Can we learn from God’s Word and God’s dealing with Israel to repent and return to obedient trust in Jesus so that the Lord can restore and revive us, or will we have to suffer God’s punishment and exile in “Babylon?”

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

Week of 6 Easter – Odd – 05/10 – 16/2015

May 9, 2015

Week of 6 Easter – 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.

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Occasional Editorial: What’s Wrong with Our Churches? A commentary on the video: Little Hope Was Arson

Podcast Download: Week of 6 Easter – Odd
Sunday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/30/05;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 15:1-11  –   The Year of Release;
1 Timothy 3:14-4:5   –    False Teachers;
Matthew 13:24-34a   –    Parables of the Kingdom;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord commanded that every seventh year was to be a year of release from debts. God’s intention is that there be no poor among God’s people; wealth would be redistributed to the poor. The Lord promised to bless Israel in the land which God promised to give them if they obeyed the commandments of God. Israel would lend to other nations but would not need to borrow from them, and Israel would rule over other nations but would not be ruled by them.

God’s people are to lend to the poor among them, sufficient to meet the needs of the poor. The Lord warned his people not to be hard-hearted and calculating in their dealings with the poor; they are not to withhold from the poor when the year of release draws near. Denying support to the poor and needy will be accounted in God’s people as sin. God’s people are to give generously and freely, and the Lord will bless and prosper his people in every endeavor. There will always be poor people, so God commands his people to be generous in giving to them.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The Church is to be the household of God and the pillar and bulwark of truth. The central mystery of our “religion” is Christ, who came in human flesh, “was vindicated (confirmed) in the Spirit,” preached and believed in among all nations, and ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit expressly warns that in latter times (before Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment) “some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Everything God has created is good, and is consecrated by God’s Word and prayer as long as it is received with thanksgiving to God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught in parables, allowing the hearer to accept or reject his message. Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a person who sowed a wheat field with good seed. But during the night an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the seed sprouted the servants discovered that there were weeds among the wheat and asked the owner if he wanted his servants to pull up the weeds. But the owner told them to let the weeds grow among the wheat until the harvest; otherwise the wheat would be lost or damaged during the weeding. At the harvest, the owner will send the reapers with instructions to pull the weeds first and bind them into bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat into the owner’s barn.

Another illustration of the kingdom of heaven compares it to a mustard seed which is a tiny seed, but which grows into a much larger plant than one would imagine from the size of the seed. The kingdom of heaven is also like leaven (yeast) hidden in bread dough. A small amount of yeast in the dough cannot be seen and identified, but in time it affects all the dough and its results are obvious.

Commentary:

Christians are not bound to obey the Law of Moses, provided that they are led by and obey the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:2). Eating pork is no longer a sin, for example, but the Ten Commandments still apply. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to make it possible for us to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). The Lord still commands justice for the poor and the oppressed. It is still contrary to God’s will to covet our neighbors’ things. It is still a sin to take anything that belongs to another by any deceitful or dishonest means, including “tricky,” unethical politics. People who are filled with and led by the Holy Spirit don’t do such things.

Is America the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” the nation of “God’s people” or is it the “New Babylon?”  Are our leaders alleviating poverty or creating it? Is our government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” or is it government of the people, by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful? Do we live by the Golden Rule, or is it Gold that rules? Have we become a two-class society ruled by the rich aristocracy, who regard the common people as “sheep to be sheered?” Do the wealthy and powerful pay their fair share of the cost of government, considering that they benefit most from it? Are the wealthy and powerful bearing their responsibility for the social consequences of their exploitation and unequal distribution of wealth and resources?

The Church is called to be the pillar and bulwark of the truth. The Church hasn’t created poverty, and shouldn’t be solely responsible for alleviating it. The Church needs to make democratic government accountable for policies which increase the unfair distribution of the earth’s resources.

It is the latter times, and many have departed from the true faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits, the doctrines of demons, and the pretensions of liars with seared consciences. The earth is the Lord’s “wheat field,” and there are plenty of “weeds” among the wheat. Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the seed, which the Lord will cause to grow to fulness and maturity, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, if we trust and obey him.

Jesus is going to return to judge the earth, and he will cast the “weeds” into the eternal fire of Hell, and will gather the harvest of the “good seed” into his eternal kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46). In the meantime, we are to be “yeast” by trusting and obeying Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us to influence the world for the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.

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

Monday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/01/05;
Podcast: Monday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 8:1-10   –   Sin of Pride and Self-sufficiency;
Deuteronomy 18:9-14   –   Conforming to Secular Society;
James 1:1-15   –    Strength through Trials;
Luke 9:18-27   –    Confession and Discipleship;

Deuteronomy 8 Paraphrase:

As Israel was about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses warned them to remember the lessons they had learned, in the wilderness, of daily dependence upon God. God’s people are to obey God’s Word, so that they may “live long and prosper” and may take possession of the land God has promised to give them. Israel is exhorted to remember how the Lord has led them during their exile in the wilderness, teaching them humility and testing their commitment to obedience of God’s Word. God had allowed them to be humbled and to experience want, so that he could demonstrate to them that they cannot be self-sufficient but must depend upon God’s providence, by obedience to God’s Word.

The Israelites’ clothing did not wear out, nor did they suffer physical disability during their forty years of nomadic life. Realize completely that God disciplines us as a father disciplines a son.  We must keep God’s commandments by obeying his Word, acknowledging his power and authority, realizing that God is bringing us into paradise overflowing with unimaginable bounty and blessing. We will certainly praise the Lord for his goodness and mercy to us.

Deuteronomy 18 Paraphrase:

The Israelites were warned that they were not to adopt the abominable pagan practices of the native people of the land. God’s people were specifically forbidden to sacrifice to idols or to consult or participate in magic or sorcery, witchcraft, or any form of pagan divination or occult practices. The practice of these things which are abhorrent to the Lord is the reason he is driving the native people from their land and giving it to Israel.

James Paraphrase:

The author is unknown, but probably not James, the brother of Jesus. He is writing to Christians scattered throughout the world, the “New Israel,” the “New People of God.” Trials and tribulations can be appreciated as blessings testing and strengthening our faith, in which we can rejoice, as we grow to spiritual maturity.

We can ask God for true wisdom, which only comes from God (compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-7), and he will supply it generously and without reproach. “But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-8).

The humble will be exalted and the rich will be humbled. The life of man is, like grass, quickly fading and unable to withstand heat. The rich (and proud) will pass away like the fading beauty of grass. “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). It isn’t God who tempts; God is not tempted to evil nor does he tempt anyone to evil. We are tempted by our own selfish, carnal natures. We are enticed by our own desires, which lead us to sin, and sin results in eternal death.

Luke Paraphrase:

One time when Jesus was alone with his disciples for prayer, Jesus asked them who people thought Jesus to be. The disciples answered that some thought he was John the Baptizer, and others thought he was Elijah, or one of the prophets, who had returned to life. Then Jesus asked who his disciples thought Jesus to be, and Peter answered, “The Christ (Messiah) of God. Jesus told them not to tell this to anyone, and Jesus told them that the Son of man (Jesus) would suffer and be rejected by the elders and religious leaders of Israel, would be killed, but would be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Jesus told his disciples that anyone who wanted to follow Jesus must be willing to deny himself, and willingly suffer daily, following Jesus’ teaching and example. Those who are willing to sacrifice and lose their physical earthly lives will gain eternal life, but those who value their present physical earthly lives more than Jesus, will lose both their earthly physical lives and eternity in God’s kingdom.

What good is it if one gains every worldly and material thing in this world, if he loses eternity. On the Day of Judgment, when Jesus returns, Jesus will be ashamed of everyone who is ashamed of Jesus, now, in this world. Jesus declared that some will not die before they see the kingdom of God.

Commentary:

God had led Israel daily during their forty years in the wilderness, in order to teach them to depend on God to provide for their daily needs. God allowed Israel to experience trials and want, so that they would realize that they were not self-sufficient, and had to rely on the Lord’s guidance and providence by obedience to God’s Word. As they were about to enter the Promised Land the Lord warned them through Moses not to forget the lessons they had learned in the wilderness. Unfortunately, Israel kept forgetting.

As results of forgetting the lessons of trust and obedience to the Lord, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, was conquered by Shalmanezer, King of the Assyrians, in 721 B.C. with the fall of the capital of Israel at Samaria; and the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom were deported and ceased to exist. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, fell to the (Chaldean) forces of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587 B.C. The Lord had promised to restore a remnant of Israel to the Promised Land after seventy years of exile, and that prophecy was fulfilled in 517 B.C. with the restoration of the Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem.

Israel had again forgotten the lesson of dependence and obedience to God’s Word in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and they crucified Jesus, God’s promised Savior and King. The result was that Jerusalem and the third temple, Herod’s Temple, were destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, and the remnant of Israel was scattered throughout the world. Israel as a nation and as the religion (of the people of God) ceased to exist (because Judaism is dependant upon the temple sacrificial system, and the will of God*). Only since World War II have the Jews returned and re-established Israel as a State; the Temple has never been rebuilt.

As Israel was about to enter the Promised Land they were warned not to adopt the abominable pagan practices of the people of the land. The “Promised Land” of America today is flooded with pagan and occult practices. I doubt that there is any newspaper in America which doesn’t publish a daily astrology; a form of pagan divination specifically forbidden by God’s Word. Do you get your daily guidance from God’s Word or from astrology and “Annie’s Mailbox?”

America is the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” founded as a Christian nation. The Pilgrims, founding fathers, and pioneers who settled the wilderness realized their dependence on God’s providence and protection. Have we forgotten the lessons our ancestors learned in the wilderness? As America has grown and prospered in this “land of milk and honey” we have come to think of ourselves as entirely self-sufficient.

Have we adopted the pagan practices of the secular society in which we live?  Have we exchanged the wisdom of God for the folly of men (1 Corinthians 1:20)? Have we become “double-minded,” with one set of values during the work week and in civil affairs, and a separate set of values on Sundays? Have we become so used to comfort and luxury that we are unwilling to suffer the slightest inconvenience for the name of our Lord? Is the reason we seem to be running out of natural resources these days because we have not acknowledged our dependence on God’s providence, and have not obeyed God’s Word?

Who do we say Jesus is? Who do we claim to be?

Christians are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26c) who trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 28:20), who deny themselves, and take up their crosses of suffering for the sake of his name and his kingdom, daily, and follow his example and teaching in our daily lives. Are we so in love with our lives in this world that we’re willing to lose eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven?

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


*Judaism effectively ended at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As Christ died on the Cross, the veil of the Temple, separating the people from the presence of God in the Holy-of-Holies was supernaturally torn in two (Matthew 27:51a; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Christians now have direct personal access to God the Father through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross is now the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of our sin (Acts 4:12, John 14:6)


Tuesday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 01/07/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 8:11-20    –   Obey God’s Word;
Deuteronomy 18:15-22   –   The Prophet of the Lord;
James 1:16-27  –    Doers of the Word;
Luke 11:1-13   –  The Disciples’ Prayer;

Deuteronomy 8 Paraphrase:

As Israel was about to enter and take possession of the Promised Land, the Lord warned them not to forget the Lord and fall away from obedience to God’s Word. Israel is warned that when they had become successful and wealthy in the Promised Land, not to become proud and to imagine that their wealth and success is their own, human accomplishment. They must not forget all that the Lord had done to free them from bondage in Egypt, and how the Lord led them through the wilderness, protecting them from serpents and scorpions and providing water from the rock and feeding them with manna.

The Lord allowed them to be tested in the wilderness for their benefit, so that they would grow in obedient trust in the Lord). It is God who gives his people the power to get wealth, and who blesses them in fulfillment of his promise to their fathers. If God’s people forget the Lord and turn to other gods and serve them, the people will perish. If Israel disobeys God’s Word The Lord will destroy his disobedient people as he is destroying the native people of the land in order to give it to Israel.

Deuteronomy 18 Paraphrase:

The Lord promised to raise up from among Israel a prophet like Moses, and him they must be careful to obey. The Lord’s prophet is to be a mediator between God and his people, as they asked for at Mt. Horeb when they were terrified by God’s voice and God’s glory. The Lord’s prophet will speak God’s Word by God’s authority, and God will hold accountable anyone who does not obey the words of God spoken by his prophet.

But any person who presumes to speak, in God’s name, words God has not commanded and given him to speak, or who speaks in the name of another god will die. God’s people will distinguish the prophet of God from false prophets by the fulfillment of prophecy. Those who speak a prophecy which is not fulfilled are not prophets of God, but are false prophets, and God’s people are not to fear or heed them.

James Paraphrase:

We are not to be deceived; every blessing and good gift is from God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, who is completely faithful and unchanging. God’s people are to be like an offering of first fruits, the Lord’s portion of the harvest of his creation. Let us be sure to learn and remember that each of us should be quick to hear God’s commands and to be slow to speak and slow to anger, because mankind’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. So we are to put away all uncleanness and wickedness, and humbly accept into our innermost being God’s Word, which is able to save our souls.

“But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Those who hear God’s Word but do not apply and live by it in their daily lives, are like a person who sees himself in a mirror, and then turns away and immediately forgets what he looked like. Those who hear God’s perfect, liberating law (the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the law of the Spirit; Romans 8:2) and apply it with perseverance, not hearing and then immediately forgetting, but acting on what they have heard and living by it, will be blessed as they act according to God’s Word in obedient trust. “Religion” is useless if one doesn’t apply it in his words, his thoughts and his deeds.

Luke Paraphrase:

One day when Jesus had gone apart with his disciples to pray, one of his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray as John the Baptizer had done with John’s disciples. So Jesus gave them what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer” as a model. Simple and sincere petitions are all that are necessary, because God already knows what is in our hearts and what we need.

The disciple acknowledges God as our Father in the sense that he has created us, and as our spiritual Father through our rebirth by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that his name is holy and worthy of reverence, and our commitment to reverence it in all that we think, say and do. His kingdom will come, but we pray that it will come to us, and that we may cooperate with and work for its coming. God’s will shall be done, whether we pray for it and ask to know and accomplish it or not; we ask that we will know, obey and work for the accomplishment of his will in all that we think, say and do.

We acknowledge that the Lord alone is the one who provides for all our needs, and ask him to provide for us this day, one day at a time. We ask him to forgive our sins, recognizing our obligation and commitment to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us. We ask for his leading, so that we may resist and avoid temptation, and to give us ultimate victory over sin and temptation.

Jesus used a parable to teach them about prayer. A man might have unexpected company arriving late at night, and he might ask a friend to lend him bread for his guests. The friend might not be willing to get up, because of the inconvenience, and lend the food for the sake of his friendship, but if the man persists, his friend will ultimately do what the man asks just to be rid of the nuisance.

Jesus promises that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, if we knock, it will be opened to us. Most human fathers, though sinful, would not give their children something evil when the children ask for what is good and necessary. “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13).

Commentary:

The Lord used the forty year wilderness experience of Israel to train them to trust and obey his Word. As they were about to enter the Promised Land, which was a lush paradise in comparison to the wilderness, God warned them not to forget the lessons of the wilderness of dependence upon the Lord in obedient trust.

God’s Word is absolutely trustworthy and true. God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses from the people of Israel, and Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus Christ is the “New Moses” who speaks God’s Word by God’s authority, and who leads us out of bondage to sin in the “Egypt” of this world, through the “wilderness” of this life by his indwelling Holy Spirit, the “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21-22), leading us through the darkness of this sinful world and into the light of God’s eternal kingdom in Heaven.

Jesus is the “Rock” who supplies the water of eternal life in the wilderness, by his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 4:14; 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus is the mediator between sinful humans and our righteous God, making it possible for us to be in God’s presence and hear God’s Word without fear of destruction. The distinguishing characteristic of God’s Word is that it is always fulfilled. Jesus is the Word of God, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14)

Every good thing in this world comes from God. God’s ultimate free gift is forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in Heaven through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. 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). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1;31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal fellowship with Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who guides and empowers us to know and do God’s will. This life is our only opportunity to come to personal knowledge and fellowship with the Lord and to learn to hear and obey him. God’s Word promises that we will be blessed as we trust and obey him.

God’s Word is always fulfilled, and God’s will shall be done, but he has given us the freedom in this lifetime to choose whether we, individually, will trust and obey him or not. The Lord knows how to give good gifts and he wants to bless us. The best gift he can give us is the joy of his love and his presence now and eternally. The Lord promises that if we seek, we will find; if we ask, we will receive; if we knock, it will be opened to us.

Have we truly sought the Lord, his will, and his presence? Have we asked for his forgiveness with sincere repentance, and his providence with genuine thanksgiving? Have we asked for his will and his guidance with real commitment to trust and obey? Have we asked him to open his Word to us, and to open our hearts and minds to receive it?

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

Wednesday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/03/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 19:1-7   –     Cities of Refuge;
James 5:13-18   –    Effectiveness of Prayer;
Luke 12:22-31  –   Warning against Anxiety;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord was going to cut off from God’s favor the native people of the “Promised Land” so that Israel would be able to take possession of the land, and they would receive houses and cities already established by the native people.

The Lord commanded Israel to set apart three cities of refuge (in Canaan) by dividing the land into three equal parts with a city of refuge in each part, and they were to prepare roads to them (Deuteronomy 19:3). The cities were to be safe refuge for those who accidentally kill someone, where there is no indication of past enmity with the victim. For example, if a man and his neighbor go into a forest to cut wood, and the axe slips, killing the neighbor, the man may flee to the nearest city of refuge and be saved from blood revenge of the neighbor’s family. The man does not deserve to die for accidentally killing his neighbor.

James Paraphrase:

If a Christian is suffering, he should pray, and if he is rejoicing, let him sing praise. If a Christian is ill, he should call the elders of the Church to come and pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. “The prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15; also see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

Believers should confess their sins to one another and pray for one another so that we are healed. “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16b). Elijah is an example of the effectiveness of righteous prayer. Elijah prayed for drought and there was drought for three and a half years (1 Kings 17:1). Then he prayed for rain and the drought ended (1 Kings 18:1).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples not to worry about the necessities of daily life, because life is about more than getting food and clothing. God provides food for the birds daily, without their need to plant, harvest, and store food, and God values us much more than birds. A person cannot add the smallest amount of time to his lifespan by worrying, so if worrying doesn’t accomplish the slightest benefit, why worry about bigger things.

God has provided for flowers and grass which are here today and gone tomorrow, and God will much more certainly provide for us. So we should not worry about food or drink or the necessities of life as the people of this world do, because God knows we need them. Instead we should seek God’s kingdom, and God will provide for our earthly needs as well.

Commentary:

The Lord taught Israel that the way to survive in the “wilderness” of this present world is to trust and obey the Lord and to be led by him. The Lord intends for the history of his dealing with Israel to be an example to us. Jesus is our “Moses” and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is our “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21-22) to guide us through the darkness of this sinful world into the light of the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom. God was going to give Israel the land with houses and cities already built, but the gift was conditional upon their trust and obedience of God’s commands.

“The Lord is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The Lord provides mercy and forgiveness if we repent of our sins. Prayer and praise are the paths into the Lord’s presence where we can be comforted and healed. In one sense, the Church is the “New People of God” who are heirs of the spiritual facilities built by the “native people” of Israel (Romans 11:17-24). The Church is to be a “city of refuge,” where the leaders are mature, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ who visit the sick, hear confessions, pray for and assure the penitent of God’s forgiveness, and disciple new believers to spiritual life and health.

Jesus promises his disciples that, if we will first seek the Lord and his kingdom, he will provide for our physical and material needs. There is no real security in any one or any thing, except the Lord. The people of the world try to protect themselves from every worry, and every trouble, but those “protections” are just illusions which can be wiped out in an instant. If we choose to provide our own security instead of trusting and obeying the Lord we are taking on an impossible task.

If we put off seeking the Lord and his kingdom until we’ve paid for the house and car, the kids’ education, our retirement, and on and on, we will never get around to it. Instead, if we seek the Lord and his kingdom first, we will be secure in the Lord, no matter what happens to us in this world, and the Lord is abundantly able to provide for us.

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

Thursday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/04/05;
Podcast: Thursday 6 Easter – Odd

Ascension Day

Ezekiel 1:1-14, 24-28b   –    The Glory of the Lord;
Hebrews 2:5-18  –    The Suffering of Jesus;
Matthew 28:16-20  –   The Great Commission;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet among the exiles of Judah in Babylon in 563 B.C. in the thirtieth year of his calling as a prophet of the Lord, the fifth year of exile of Jehoiachin, King of Judah. The date of his vision would be July 31, 593 B.C..* Ezekiel saw a vision and received a Word of the Lord, and the hand of the Lord was upon him in the land of the Chaldeans (Babylon).

The vision was of a stormy wind (compare 1 Kings 19:11) from the north, and a great, bright cloud (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 13:21), with fire (1 Kings 19:11-12) flashing from it and glowing in its midst like gleaming bronze.  From the midst of the Cloud came four living creatures (Revelation 4:7; cherubim, guarding God’s throne; Exodus 25:10-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28). Their faces are symbolic of attributes of power, intelligence, and mobility. The creatures darted quickly, like lightning, with their wings, and when they stood still they lowered their wings. When the creatures moved, their wings made a loud sound like a waterfall, or the sound of great battle, or like thunder.

A voice came from heaven, and looking into heaven, Ezekiel saw a great throne, and the likeness of a man seated on the throne. The throne and the man and the area around the throne were bright and radiant like fire or gleaming brass, and there was a brightness around the throne like a rainbow in the sky. This is Ezekiel’s description of the vision of the Lord’s glory.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus is greater than the angels, and he will reign over the new world which is coming. Jesus came in human form in humbleness and obedience to God, and God has crowned him with glory and honor and given him authority over everything. Nothing has been withheld from Jesus’ control. Everything isn’t yet submissive to Jesus’ authority. Jesus has been given glory and honor because he was humble and obedient and suffered death in our behalf.

Jesus is the pioneer who shows us that the way to salvation and spiritual maturity is through humility, obedience, and sacrifice. Jesus is our sanctifier through whom we are sanctified (purified; made spiritually complete; mature). Jesus and his followers have the same Father, and he is therefore our brother. Jesus has revealed the nature and character of God to us, and is an example for us of glorifying God through trust and obedience. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus has come, not for the benefit of angels, but for God’s people, the (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. Jesus had to become fully human like us, so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest, providing the forgiveness for our sin through his sacrifice. Since he himself has suffered and been tempted he is able to understand and help us when we suffer or are tempted.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The eleven (of Jesus original) disciples went to the mountain in Galilee, as Jesus had directed them (Matthew 28:10). “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17) “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Commentary:

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet among God’s people in exile in Babylon. His role was at first to warn of impending judgment, and then to proclaim hope and restoration of God’s people to the Promised Land. Ezekiel was called by God and given God’s Word and a vision of God’s glory in heaven.

Ezekiel attempted to describe things which are beyond human experience. His description of heaven corresponds to Israel’s experience of God’s manifestation at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-25) and also to the construction of the Ark of the Covenant according to God’s instructions (Exodus 25:10-22), which God intended to be an earthly representation of God’s throne in Heaven (Hebrew 8:5; see also Hebrews chapter 9). This is Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord on his throne in his heavenly kingdom.

Jesus came in human flesh to reveal God’s nature and character to us, to be the sacrifice once for all people for all time for forgiveness and salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home) from eternal death, and to show by example how to be God’s children, through obedient trust and self-sacrifice. Jesus trusted and obeyed God’s will to the ultimate self-sacrifice of death on the cross, and God has rewarded Jesus with glory and honor. As we follow Jesus’ example and his teaching we will be his brothers and sisters and will share in his eternal glory and honor in heaven with him.

Jesus is our sanctifier, who purifies us and brings us to spiritual completeness and maturity through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which he gives to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are guided, comforted and empowered to resist temptation. 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). By the indwelling Holy Spirit we know that Jesus is eternally alive and that we are eternally alive through him. Through obedient trust in Jesus we are freed from sin and eternal death.

Jesus is our “Ezekiel,” the priest and prophet of God in our exile in the “Babylon” of this world. He warns us of impending judgment, and provides hope and the promise of restoration to the Promised Land of eternal life in his heavenly kingdom. We are also called to follow Jesus’ example and be “Ezekiel” to the world, when we have received God’s Word, and God’s hand is upon us by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ disciples trusted and obeyed Jesus’ instructions to go to the mountain in Galilee, and there they saw Jesus as Jesus had promised. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus is Lord of lords and King of the Universe, but not everything has submitted to his authority yet.

Jesus will return in great glory and power on the Day of Judgment, and in that day everything will be subject to his authority. He told his disciples to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Trinity), teaching them to trust and obey Jesus. Jesus promised that as his disciples trust and obey him they will “see” Jesus and Jesus will be with them personally and individually through his indwelling Holy Spirit until the end of this present age and the coming of his eternal kingdom.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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, Ezekiel 1:1-3n, p.1000, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.

Friday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/05/05;
Podcast: Friday 6 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 1:28-3:3   –    Ezekiel’s Call to Prophesy;
Hebrews 4:14-5:6   –  Jesus our High Priest;
Luke 9:28-36   –   The Transfiguration;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel had a vision of the glory of the Lord on his throne, and prostrated himself before the Lord. The Lord addressed him as “son of man” and told him to stand up. As the Lord spoke, the (Holy) Spirit entered Ezekiel and Ezekiel heard the Lord speaking to him. The Lord sent Ezekiel to the people of Israel, who had rebelled and transgressed against the Lord. The Lord described them as impudent and stubborn. Ezekiel was to prophesy in the name of the Lord. Whether they were willing to listen or not, the Lord declared that they would come to know that there had been a prophet among them.

The Lord told Ezekiel not to be afraid of the people, or of their words or angry looks, even though Ezekiel might suffer and be extremely uncomfortable. Ezekiel was called to prophesy, whether the people were willing to hear or not. Ezekiel was warned not to be rebellious like Israel, and the Lord told Ezekiel to open his mouth to eat what the Lord was giving him.

Ezekiel looked and saw a hand stretched toward him holding a (papyrus) scroll, written on both sides, containing words of lamentation and mourning. The Lord commanded Ezekiel to eat the scroll, and then go and speak God’s Word to Israel. Ezekiel did as the Lord commanded, and the scroll was as sweet as honey in taste.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus is our great high priest who has “passed through the heavens” (has entered into the “holy-of-holies” in heaven, into God’s presence) so we are exhorted to hold firmly to our faith. Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, but without committing sin, so he is able to sympathize with our weakness. We can approach him in time of need, confident that he will be merciful and will freely give us help when we need it.

Human high priests are chosen and appointed (by God) to offer gifts and sacrifices on behalf of men in relation to God. A high priest can deal gently with human weakness because he also shares in human weakness, and he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for those of his people. The office of high priest is not to be held by human choice, but by God’s call. Even Christ did not presume to appoint himself, but was called by God who declared Jesus to be his Son and eternal priest according to the priesthood of Melchizedek (an eternal priesthood).

Luke Paraphrase:

About eight days after Peter confessed his belief that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) of God, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he took his three closest disciples: Peter, James and John. As Jesus was praying, his face and his clothes appeared to glow brightly (compare Exodus 34:29-30), and two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared with him, talking about Jesus’ departure (by his death) which was to take place in Jerusalem.

Peter, James and John were sleepy but not asleep, and they witnessed Jesus’ glory and the presence of Moses and Elijah. As the men were departing, Peter suggested that the disciples should make three booths (shrines), one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, not realizing what he was saying. As he was speaking a cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen (or Beloved); listen to him” (Luke 9:35). When the voice finished speaking, Jesus was alone with the three disciples, and the disciples told no one at that time what they had witnessed.

Commentary:

Ezekiel was called by the Lord to proclaim God’s Word to his people, whether they wanted to hear it or not. First he came to a personal experience of the Lord’s presence through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, through whom he heard God speaking to him. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit he was called to a specific ministry by the Lord, and he was given the resources to accomplish his commission. The Lord counseled him not to be afraid or discouraged, and reassured him. The Lord filled Ezekiel with the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Christ, who opens our minds to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we experience a personal relationship and fellowship with the Lord (John 14:23). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we hear God’s voice and understand and are guided in God’s will for us personally and individually. Jesus came to make it possible for us (his disciples) to be filled with the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8).

Jesus didn’t decide on his own to become the Messiah. Jesus was called and appointed by God in fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah, our Savior. Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Jesus is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28) Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12).

God’s purpose for Creation has always been to create an eternal kingdom of people who trust and obey him. God’s plan of salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) in Jesus Christ has existed from the beginning of Creation and has been “built” into it (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is our high priest, who sacrificed himself once for all people for all time for the forgiveness of sin for those who trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is our mediator who intercedes for us to God, and restores us to fellowship with God through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Moses was a forerunner and prototype of Christ, but he wasn’t God’s Son and Messiah (anointed eternal king; “chosen;” “designated”). Elijah was the great prophet of Israel who ascended into Heaven without experiencing physical death, but he wasn’t God’s Son and Messiah either. Ezekiel was filled with the Holy Spirit, but that didn’t make him God’s Son and Messiah. Believers are “born-again” by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5-8) and become God’s children by spiritual “adoption” as we trust and obey Jesus as our Lord and eternal King (John 1:12-13).

Jesus is God’s first-born and only begotten Son (John 1:14) and God’s anointed Savior and King of Creation. The entire Bible is God’s Word of testimony to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Messiah. Jesus is the only way to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God and to eternal life (John 14:6).

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

Saturday 6 Easter – Odd
First posted 05/06/05;
Podcast: Saturday 6 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 3:4-17    –    The Watchman;
Hebrews 5:7-14   –    Christian Maturity;
Luke 9:37-50  –   True Greatness;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel to go to Israel and proclaim God’s Word to them even though Israel would not be willing to listen, because they were not willing to listen to God. People of a foreign language would be more willing to hear and understand God’s Word than Israel. Israel is a people with thick foreheads and stubborn hearts, but the Lord had given Ezekiel the ability to overcome their stubbornness and rebellion.

Ezekiel was to hear God’s Word and receive it into his heart, and then proclaim it to the exiles of Israel, whether they listen or refuse to hear. The Holy Spirit transported Ezekiel to Telabib, a Jewish settlement in Babylon near Nippur (in present day Iraq). Ezekiel dwelt among the exiles for seven days, overwhelmed. At the end of the week, The Lord commanded Ezekiel to be a watchman over the remnant of Israel, faithfully warning Israel whenever he received a Word from God.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

During Jesus’ earthly life he prayed to God, who was able to save him from death, and his prayer was heard because of his godly fear (trust and respect of God’s power and authority). Although he was the Son of God, he learned obedience through suffering, and when he was complete and mature in obedience “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

God has designated Jesus to be our eternal high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. There is much to know and understand beyond the elementary doctrines of the Gospel, and Christians should be growing to spiritual maturity through discipleship, and then becoming teachers of discipleship to others, but many haven’t mastered the first principles of God’s Word. Lack of basic knowledge and understanding of God’s Word prevents them from growing to spiritual maturity through training by practice to know how to live according to God’s Word, which is the objective of discipleship.

Luke Paraphrase:

When Jesus returned from the mountain of his Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) with Peter, James, and John, to the rest of his disciples, a great crowd met him. A man in the crowd asked Jesus to heal his only son who was an epileptic. The man had asked Jesus’ disciples to heal the child but they had been unable. Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you” (Luke 9:41)? Then Jesus told the man to bring his son to Jesus, and while he was coming the boy had a seizure, but Jesus rebuked the epilepsy and healed the boy. The crowd was astonished by the power and greatness of God, but while they were praising Jesus, Jesus told his disciples “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44) But they didn’t understand what Jesus meant, and they were afraid to ask him.

The disciples began to argue among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus knew what they were thinking and brought a child to his side and said to his disciples that whoever receives a child in Jesus’ name receives Jesus, and whoever receives Jesus receives God. Jesus told his disciples that the one of his disciples who is least among them is the greatest. John told Jesus that they had rebuked a man who had been casting out demons in Jesus’ name, because he was not a disciple of Jesus, but Jesus told him not to forbid such people, because whoever is not opposing them is working with them.

Commentary:

The Lord called Ezekiel to proclaim God’s Word to God’s people, and to be a “watchman” to give them warning of God’s judgment, whether God’s people were willing to listen and obey or not. Ezekiel was to first hear and know and live according to God’s Word (receiving it into his heart), and then to proclaim it to God’s people in exile in Babylon. This is what all Christians are called to do: to be discipled in God’s Word, learning to apply it in their own lives, and then to be watchmen warning the world in exile in the “Babylon” of this life.

Jesus is our example of how to be children of God. Even though he was the Son of God he had to learn to trust and obey God’s Word through suffering and self-denial. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is the example of his struggle to trust and obey God’s will. Because Jesus accepted the discipline of obedience and self-denial, he accomplished God’s purpose and became the source of eternal salvation to all who trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus’ prayer was answered. God did deliver Jesus from death after Jesus had gone through death on the Cross, by raising him from death to eternal life. Christians are to follow Jesus’ example and learn to trust and obey God’s Word by going through suffering and self-sacrifice, not by praying and expecting to avoid it.

Jesus had left most of his disciples to carry on his ministry while Jesus went to the mountain to prepare spiritually for his death. When he returned, he found that they had been unable to bring spiritual (because the condition was understood to be demonic; Luke 9:39, 42) healing to an “epileptic” child. Jesus was exasperated by his disciples’ spiritual immaturity. Jesus was soon to be crucified, as he had repeatedly told them, but they didn’t understand what he meant, and they were afraid to ask him.

Jesus’ Twelve disciples were to be the leaders of his Church on earth, to carry on Jesus’ mission. They were to be the source of eternal salvation in Jesus’ name, by discipling others as they had been discipled by Jesus. They were to lead others to spiritual maturity; to know and understand God’s Word and to learn by practice to live according to it. Instead, when Jesus returned from the mountain, he found his disciples arguing among themselves over who was the greatest, and trying to restrict ministry in Jesus’ name by those outside of their “select” group, instead of carrying on Jesus’ ministry of spiritual healing.

Jesus has gone to the “mountain” of God and has left his disciples to carry on his ministry of eternal salvation by making disciples of Jesus Christ who are to learn to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20). He hasn’t left us alone (John 14:18); he gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to enable and empower us to know and do what he asks (John 14:15-17). Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the city of God on earth; the Church) until they had received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). They were not sent into ministry until they had been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It takes “born-again” disciples to make “born-again” disciples.

Jesus has promised to return for his disciples (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11). When he returns will he find his disciples carrying on his ministry of disciple-making? Are we willing to hear God’s Word? Are we seeking to understand God’s Word, or are we afraid to ask?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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 Easter Sunday – Odd – 05/03 – 09/2015

May 2, 2015

Week of 5 Easter – 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.
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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 5 Easter – Odd
Sunday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/24/05;
Podcast: Sunday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:1-15 – Jeremiah Buys a Field;
Colossians 3:18-4:18 – The Christian’s Duties;
Luke 7:36-50 – The Woman who was a Sinner;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In early 587 B.C. a ‘Word from the Lord” came to Jeremiah. It was during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah had been imprisoned in the court of the palace guard by King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, the remnant of Israel, because Jeremiah had prophesied Judah’s defeat by Babylon. Jeremiah had told Zedekiah that Zedekiah would be captured and taken to Babylon.

The Lord told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, would come to Jeremiah offering to sell him a field belonging to their family so that it would remain in the family. When this prophecy was fulfilled Jeremiah knew that this was God’s Word, and he bought the field. Jeremiah paid seventeen shekels by weight in silver.

The deed was signed, witnessed and sealed in the presence of buyer and seller, the witnesses, and the Jews sitting in the court of the palace guard. Then Jeremiah gave both the sealed deed and an open copy, for reference, to Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, with instructions to seal both in an earthenware jar so that they would be preserved for a long time. This was the Lord’s Word of assurance that fields and vineyards would again be bought and sold in Israel.

Colossians Paraphrase:

Wives are to be subject (obedient) to their husbands (as to the Lord), and husbands are to be loving and gentle with their wives (as the Lord is to them; compare Ephesians 5:22-30). Children are to be obedient to their parents as we have the example in Christ, and their parents are not to be unreasonable with their children (as we have the example of God the Father). So also servants are to serve and obey as serving the Lord, not merely having the appearance of obedience in order to receive worldly approval. We are to fulfill whatever our worldly role is, as serving the Lord, knowing that by doing so we will be rewarded by the Lord in eternity.

Every one who does evil will be punished, because God is totally impartial. Masters are to treat their servants justly as the masters would themselves wish to be treated by our Lord. We are to be in prayer daily, being alert to pray for needs as they occur (rather than allowing ourselves to become careless and lax). Let us pray also for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they may do so boldly, accurately, enthusiastically and completely. Let us use the time we have, constructively, to reach the lost. To that end let our speech always be gracious, but pointed, so that we can convey the truth and reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. A woman of the city heard where Jesus was and came with a flask of ointment; and kneeling behind Jesus at his feet, began to wash his feet with her tears, and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

The Pharisee was thinking to himself that if Jesus realized that the woman was a sinner he should not have let her touch him. Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and Jesus told him a parable about a creditor with two debtors, one of whom owed a large sum and the other who owed a small amount. Jesus said that the creditor had forgiven the debts of both debtors, and asked the Pharisee who he thought would be more grateful. The Pharisee chose the debtor who owed the greater debt, and Jesus told him that he was right.

Then Jesus said that when Jesus had entered the Pharisee’s house, the Pharisee had not provided him with the hospitality of washing Jesus’ feet, anointing him, or greeting him with a kiss, but the woman had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and had kissed them and anointed them with ointment. Then Jesus said that her many sins had been forgiven because she loved much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little. Jesus told the woman that her sins had been forgiven. The guests of the Pharisee were critical of Jesus for pronouncing forgiveness, but Jesus told the woman she could go in peace because she had been saved by her faith.

Commentary:

God revealed his Word to Jeremiah because Jeremiah was committed to trust it, obey it, and proclaim it faithfully and accurately, regardless of who it might offend. Jeremiah told the king what the king did not want to hear and consequently the king had Jeremiah imprisoned. But Jeremiah’s imprisonment did not keep God’s Word from being fulfilled. Judah was conquered by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and King Zedekiah was captured and taken to exile (in about 587 B.C.) in Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; Jeremiah. 32:4,5; 34:2, 3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11).

As Jeremiah trusted and obeyed God’s Word, God revealed his power and faithfulness to Jeremiah. The Lord consoled and assured Jeremiah, who was in prison for declaring God’s Word. God told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin would come to Jeremiah offering to sell a plot of family land. When that happened, Jeremiah was certain of God’s will and he had no hesitation to buy the land with the assurance that God’s promise of return and restoration would be fulfilled. Jeremiah’s obedience was a testimony to Judah of the faithfulness of God’s promises. This is what the Lord wants to do for us as we begin to seek to know and obey his Word and will.

Christians are to learn to live according to the example and teaching of Jesus; we are to be disciples of Jesus, learning to trust and obey Jesus. As we do, he will lead us to spiritual maturity as we experience his power and faithfulness. In every relationship, we are serving as witnesses to the world of the truth of Jesus Christ, so we need to conduct ourselves accordingly.

We should be in fellowship with the Lord daily in personal Bible study and prayer, seeking his will and guidance as well as his provision for our needs. We should pray for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they will do so boldly faithfully, accurately, enthusiastically and completely.

Let us make the most of the time we have been given to use it effectively to reach the unsaved. We are to become evangelists and witnesses of the Gospel after we have been discipled, empowered and led according to his specific will for us individually, by the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Discipleship is not instantaneous. The original apostles lived in constant fellowship with the Lord twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for three years, personally witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, and yet were not ready to fulfill their ministry until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

We must come to know the entire Bible, and we must learn how to be led by the Lord by his Word and his Holy Spirit. We must learn to wait on the Lord, for his guidance and his authorization, rather than just going in our own direction and our own human strength. We can actually waste what time and opportunity we have by not being willing to wait for and seek the process of spiritual growth. We need to be disciples in order to make disciples, and we need a personal experience of fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit to be able to lead others to a personal relationship with Jesus.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet believed God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation in the Messiah, and that Jesus was the Savior God had promised. She trusted God’s Word and acted on it, and she received what had been promised. She was saved by her faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

The Pharisees thought they were righteous by their own “goodness.” In fact they thought they were more righteous than Jesus, because Jesus associated with sinners, and Jesus had assumed the prerogative of God alone in declaring the woman’s forgiveness. Their response revealed that these Pharisees’ sins had not been forgiven.

We are all sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10); see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) but only those who trust and obey Jesus are forgiven and saved from eternal destruction (Romans 6:23). What do our actions in daily life reveal about 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)?

Monday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/24/05;;
Podcast: Monday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:1-15 – Jeremiah Buys a Field;

Colossians 3:18-4:18 – The Christian’s Duties;
Luke 7:36-50 – The Woman who was a Sinner;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In early 587 B.C. a ‘Word from the Lord” came to Jeremiah. It was during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah had been imprisoned in the court of the palace guard by King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, the remnant of Israel, because Jeremiah had prophesied Judah’s defeat by Babylon. Jeremiah had told Zedekiah that Zedekiah would be captured and taken to Babylon.

The Lord told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, would come to Jeremiah offering to sell him a field belonging to their family so that it would remain in the family. When this prophecy was fulfilled Jeremiah knew that this was God’s Word, and he bought the field. Jeremiah paid seventeen shekels by weight in silver.

The deed was signed, witnessed and sealed in the presence of buyer and seller, the witnesses, and the Jews sitting in the court of the palace guard. Then Jeremiah gave both the sealed deed and an open copy, for reference, to Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, with instructions to seal both in an earthenware jar so that they would be preserved for a long time. This was the Lord’s Word of assurance that fields and vineyards would again be bought and sold in Israel.

Colossians Paraphrase:

Wives are to be subject (obedient) to their husbands (as to the Lord), and husbands are to be loving and gentle with their wives (as the Lord is to them; compare Ephesians 5:22-30). Children are to be obedient to their parents as we have the example in Christ, and their parents are not to be unreasonable with their children (as we have the example of God the Father). So also servants are to serve and obey as serving the Lord, not merely having the appearance of obedience in order to receive worldly approval. We are to fulfill whatever our worldly role is, as serving the Lord, knowing that by doing so we will be rewarded by the Lord in eternity.

Every one who does evil will be punished, because God is totally impartial. Masters are to treat their servants justly as the masters would themselves wish to be treated by our Lord. We are to be in prayer daily, being alert to pray for needs as they occur (rather than allowing ourselves to become careless and lax). Let us pray also for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they may do so boldly, accurately, enthusiastically and completely. Let us use the time we have, constructively, to reach the lost. To that end let our speech always be gracious, but pointed, so that we can convey the truth and reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. A woman of the city heard where Jesus was and came with a flask of ointment; and kneeling behind Jesus at his feet, began to wash his feet with her tears, and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

The Pharisee was thinking to himself that if Jesus realized that the woman was a sinner he should not have let her touch him. Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and Jesus told him a parable about a creditor with two debtors, one of whom owed a large sum and the other who owed a small amount.

Jesus said that the creditor had forgiven the debts of both debtors, and asked the Pharisee who he thought would be more grateful. The Pharisee chose the debtor who owed the greater debt, and Jesus told him that he was right.

Then Jesus said that when Jesus had entered the Pharisee’s house, the Pharisee had not provided him with the hospitality of washing Jesus’ feet, anointing him, or greeting him with a kiss, but the woman had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and had kissed them and anointed them with ointment. Then Jesus said that her many sins had been forgiven because she loved much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little.

Jesus told the woman that her sins had been forgiven. The guests of the Pharisee were critical of Jesus for pronouncing forgiveness, but Jesus told the woman she could go in peace because she had been saved by her faith.

Commentary:

God revealed his Word to Jeremiah because Jeremiah was committed to trust it, obey it, and proclaim it faithfully and accurately, regardless of who it might offend. Jeremiah told the king what the king did not want to hear and consequently the king had Jeremiah imprisoned. But Jeremiah’s imprisonment did not keep God’s Word from being fulfilled. Judah was conquered by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and King Zedekiah was captured and taken to exile (in about 587 B.C.) in Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; Jeremiah. 32:4,5; 34:2, 3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11).

As Jeremiah trusted and obeyed God’s Word, God revealed his power and faithfulness to Jeremiah. The Lord consoled and assured Jeremiah, who was in prison for declaring God’s Word. God told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin would come to Jeremiah offering to sell a plot of family land. When that happened, Jeremiah was certain of God’s will and he had no hesitation to buy the land with the assurance that God’s promise of return and restoration would be fulfilled. Jeremiah’s obedience was a testimony to Judah of the faithfulness of God’s promises. This is what the Lord wants to do for us as we begin to seek to know and obey his Word and will.

Christians are to learn to live according to the example and teaching of Jesus; we are to be disciples of Jesus, learning to trust and obey Jesus. As we do, he will lead us to spiritual maturity as we experience his power and faithfulness. In every relationship, we are serving as witnesses to the world of the truth of Jesus Christ, so we need to conduct ourselves accordingly.

We should be in fellowship with the Lord daily in personal Bible study and prayer, seeking his will and guidance as well as his provision for our needs. We should pray for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they will do so boldly faithfully, accurately, enthusiastically and completely.

Let us make the most of the time we have been given to use it effectively to reach the unsaved. We are to become evangelists and witnesses of the Gospel after we have been discipled, empowered and led according to his specific will for us individually, by the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Discipleship is not instantaneous. The original apostles lived in constant fellowship with the Lord twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for three years, personally witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, and yet were not ready to fulfill their ministry until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

We must come to know the entire Bible, and we must learn how to be led by the Lord by his Word and his Holy Spirit. We must learn to wait on the Lord, for his guidance and his authorization, rather than just going in our own direction and our own human strength. We can actually waste what time and opportunity we have by not being willing to wait for and seek the process of spiritual growth. We need to be disciples in order to make disciples, and we need a personal experience of fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit to be able to lead others to a personal relationship with Jesus.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet believed God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation in the Messiah, and that Jesus was the Savior God had promised. She trusted God’s Word and acted on it, and she received what had been promised. She was saved by her faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

The Pharisees thought they were righteous by their own “goodness.” In fact they thought they were more righteous than Jesus, because Jesus associated with sinners, and Jesus had assumed the prerogative of God alone in declaring the woman’s forgiveness. Their response revealed that these Pharisees’ sins had not been forgiven.

We are all sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10); see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) but only those who trust and obey Jesus are forgiven and saved from eternal destruction (Romans 6:23). What do our actions in daily life reveal about 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 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/25/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:16-25 – Jeremiah’s Prayer;
Romans 12:1-21 – The Consecrated Life;
Luke 8:1-15 – Parable of the Sower;
Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had obeyed the Lord’s command to buy a field from his cousin, even though the Chaldeans (the army of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon) were preparing the siege of Jerusalem which would conquer Judah, the southern and only remaining kingdom of divided Israel (Jeremiah 32:1-15; see entry for yesterday, Monday, April 25, 2005). After the purchase, Jeremiah had given the deed to Baruch, his secretary, to be sealed in a jar, so that it would last a long time. Then Jeremiah prayed to the Lord acknowledging the Lord as creator of the universe whose power is unlimited. The Lord’s love is completely faithful, but he is also a righteous judge.

The Lord is great in wisdom and in deed. The Lord knows everything; the thoughts and deeds of mankind cannot be hidden from him, and he repays every person according to that person’s deeds. God has revealed his greatness to Israel and to all mankind. God has delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and fulfilled his promise to give Israel their own land. Yet Israel did not obey God’s voice or live according to God’s Laws.

Because of Israel’s disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophets, God has allowed Judah to be attacked and conquered by their enemy. Israel will suffer from sword, famine, and epidemic disease, and will be conquered by the Chaldeans. God had warned Judah, the remnant of Israel, through Jeremiah’s prophecy (but Judah did not heed, repent and return in obedience to the Lord) and now God’s Word has been fulfilled. But even now the Lord had told Jeremiah to buy the field in the presence of witnesses, although the nation has been given to the Chaldeans.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul urged Christians to give themselves, by God’s mercy, as living sacrifices to the Lord’s use, in lives devoted and obedient to God as an act of worship. We are not to adopt the ways and values of the worldly culture in which we live, but to be transformed by understanding, and living life in a new way according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that we can experience and demonstrate that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect. We should examine our daily conduct and our spiritual growth honestly and seriously, not deceiving ourselves.

The Church is like a human body, made up of many members, each having different functions, but connected and working together. We have differing gifts given to us according to God’s will and purpose, which we should employ for God’s service. Some examples of such gifts are prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, contribution, aid assistance. Whatever our gifts we should employ them diligently, enthusiastically and cheerfully so that the Lord will be glorified and his mission accomplished.

Christians are urged to truly love others, to reject what is evil and to pursue what is good. We should love one another with brotherly affection and show them respect. Let’s not become tired of doing what is right but instead be radiant with the Holy Spirit, serving the Lord. Let’s rejoice in our hope, pray regularly and often, and be patient in tribulation. Remember to contribute to the needs of Christians (and the poor) and to practice hospitality.

Christians should always bless our enemies instead of cursing them. We should rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are mourning. Let us live in harmony with one another, without haughtiness or conceit, but instead be friendly with those who are poor and humble. Don’t return evil with evil but instead do what is noble in everyone’s eyes; we should try to live peaceably with all, and should leave vengeance to God’s wrath. Instead, let us be kind to our enemies, so that their consciences will bother them. Evil cannot be overcome with more evil; instead let us overcome evil with good (as Jesus has done at the cross).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus traveled around from village to village preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, accompanied by his twelve disciples and numerous women, some of whom Jesus had healed of physical disabilities or demons, who provided for the group from their resources. Among them was Mary Magdalene, who had been healed of seven demons.

When Jesus attracted a large crowd, he told them the parable of the sower broadcasting seed by hand. Some seed fell on the path and was stepped on, or eaten by birds. Some fell on rock, and as it sprouted it withered because it was unable to take root. Some fell among thorns, and as it sprouted the thorns choked it out. Some fell on good soil and grew to maturity, producing a great harvest.

Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus privately what the parable meant. Jesus told them that he taught in parables so the crowds were free not to see and understand, but the secrets of the kingdom of God are revealed to those who choose to be Jesus’ disciples. The seed is God’s Word. The soils are hearers. The path represents those who hear God’s Word but Satan takes it away so that they won’t believe and be saved. The rock represents those who hear God’s Word gladly, but don’t allow it to take root, and then when temptation comes, they fall away. The thorny soil represents those who hear the Word but allow other worldly things to interfere and prevent the Word from growing to maturity. The good soil represents those who hear God’s Word and apply it in their lives allowing it to root and grow to maturity.

Commentary:

God’s Word warned Israel that judgment was coming upon them for disobeying God’s Word and God’s prophets, but Israel did not heed God’s Word of warning and repent and return in obedience to the Lord. God’s Word of warning is not given with the intention to destroy us, but to lead us to repentance and salvation. At the time when God’s punishment was about to carried out, God promised through Jeremiah that he would save and restore those who trust and obey his Word.

God’s Word is completely reliable and always fulfilled. It is eternally true, and is fulfilled over and over as conditions for its fulfillment are met. Judah was conquered by the Chaldeans, the Jews were carried into exile in Babylon, and were returned to their land seventy years later just as God’s Word promised (Jeremiah 25:11-12).

The history of Israel’s exile is also a metaphor for life in this world and God’s impending judgment. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14), God’s only provision for our salvation from eternal exile in Hell, and the only way to return and be restored to eternal life in the “Promised Land” of God’s kingdom in heaven (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. We are to be witnesses to the truth of salvation and renewal by faith in Jesus Christ, like Jeremiah testified to God’s Word of salvation by buying that plot of land. In order to do that we have to trust and obey God’s Word of salvation in Jesus Christ, by applying Jesus’ teachings and receiving his Holy Spirit as Jesus promised (John 14:15-17). One can only be a witness of what one has personally experienced. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds and enabled to live, now, in God’s eternal kingdom (Romans 12:2 RSV).

God’s intention and purpose for us is to experience and demonstrate to others that God’s will is good, acceptable (within our ability, and enjoyable) and perfect (in our ultimate best interest). The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit provides the knowledge, resources and guidance to accomplish God’s specific will for our individual lives in his service, so that the Lord will be glorified and the Lord’s mission of proclaiming his salvation and his kingdom will be accomplished by us together as the Church. Christians need to be honest and serious in examining our own individual conduct and spiritual growth to see if we are growing and fulfilling God’s purpose.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ and are called to complete Christ’s mission on earth. The Lord opens our minds to understand the Bible when we are committed to be his disciples and to trust and obey him (Luke 24:45), but to the rest of the world, God’s Word is veiled, so that they are free to not understand and see God’s truth (2 Corinthians 3:14-17; 4:3-4). What kind of “soil” are you; what have you done with God’s Word? What kind of “Christian” are you?

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

Wednesday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/26/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:36-44 – Promise of Restoration;
Romans 13:1-14 – The Christian and the State;
Luke 8:16-25 – Wind and Sea Obey Him;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had bought a plot of land in Israel when Jerusalem was about to be conquered by the Chaldeans, the army of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (see entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 5 Easter , odd year). Jeremiah had prayed to the Lord as the city was about to be conquered, and the Lord replied, promising that he would bring his people back to the Promised Land from where they had been driven by God’s anger at their idolatry and their disobedience of his Word and his prophets. In that day of restoration, the Lord will again give them security, and they will be God’s people and he will be their God.

The Lord will unite them in one heart and one way; they will fear the Lord (respect God’s power and authority) for their good and for the good of their descendants. The Lord will make an everlasting covenant with them and put the fear (awe and respect) of God within them so that they will not turn from obedience to God and they will be firmly established in the Promised Land. The Lord declared that just as his promise of punishment of Israel for disobedience was fulfilled, so will God’s promise of return and restoration be fulfilled. The land of Israel is about to become a barren desolation, given to the Chaldeans, but Israel will again own land in the Promised Land.

Romans Paraphrase:

Christians are to be obedient to the governing authorities because God is the ultimate authority, and those who govern are accountable to God. Rulers restrain bad conduct, not good conduct. So if we want to live peaceably under the rulers, we should do what is right and we will receive approval from those who govern, because they are God’s servants for our benefit.

But if we do wrong, the rulers have authority from God to punish wrongdoers. So we must be subject to rulers not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of our consciences. For the same reasons we must pay taxes, and honor, and respect those in authority. We should repay all of our debts and not become obligated to anyone, except for the obligation to love one another. If we truly love one another we have fulfilled all of God’s commandments regarding our relations with people because love does no wrong against another.

Now is the time to be alert and apply the Gospel in our daily lives, because Jesus could return at any moment and our opportunities are slipping away. So let us be done with sinful worldly ways, and put on the armor of faith (obedient trust) in Christ. If we have the light of Christ let us walk in it, instead of doing shameful things which we would prefer to keep hidden, like drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy. So let us live in obedient trust in Jesus, applying his teaching in our daily lives, instead of seeking to indulge and gratify our sinful natures.

One doesn’t light a candle and then attempt to hide the light. Instead it is lit to give light to those who are in darkness. Nothing can be hidden or kept secret that won’t eventually be discovered and made known. Let us be careful to listen attentively to God’s Word, and to apply what we have heard. The Lord will reward those who seek spiritual things, but those who don’t will lose everything.
Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus’ mother and brothers came seeking Jesus but the crowd which had gathered prevented them from getting close. Jesus was told that they wanted to talk to him, but Jesus looked at the crowd around him and told them that those who hear God’s Word and do it are his true mothers and brothers.

One day Jesus was crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with his disciples, and a windstorm arose, threatening to sink the boat, but Jesus was asleep. His disciples woke him to warn him that they were sinking; Jesus awoke and commanded the wind and waves to stop, and there was a great calm. Jesus asked his disciples what had become of their faith. The disciples were awestruck and said to one another, “Who is this that he commands even wind and water and they obey him” (Luke 8:25)?

Commentary:

Israel had been called by the Lord to be his people in the world, living in obedience to God’s Word. From the beginning of Creation, God has had a purpose and plan to create an eternal kingdom of people who will trust and obey him. Jesus has been God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) from before God’s Creation was begun (John 1:1-5, 14), and salvation through Christ alone has been built into Creation. God punished Israel for disobedience to God’s Word, for ignoring the warnings of his prophets, and for worshiping other “gods.” God had warned Judah that punishment was coming, but they refused to repent and return in trusting obedience to the Lord.

Although Judah (the remnant of Israel) was about to be exiled to Babylon, God promised he would bring them back to their Promised Land, and he would make a new, everlasting covenant with his people. God would put the fear (awe and respect for God’s power and authority) within them so that they would not turn away from obedience to God and so that they will be firmly established in the Promised Land. Israel’s disobedience did not prevent God from fulfilling his purpose and plan, but the exile was seventy years, a virtual life sentence for those who were adults at the beginning of the exile. It was virtually a “renewed” (“re-born”) people who God restored to their Promised Land.

The history of God’s dealings with Israel is also a “parable;” a metaphor for life in this present world. Those who refuse to trust and obey God’s Word and ignore the warnings of God’s prophets will be eternally exiled in the “Babylon” of Hell. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

Jesus is God’s everlasting New Covenant (Mark 14:24 NKJV; Jeremiah 32:40) with his people. It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that God puts the awe and respect of God’s power and authority within us and enables us to be obedient to God’s will. It is also how we have personal fellowship with the Lord, experience his love for us, and have a foretaste of eternal life with the Lord.

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). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). It is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit who fulfills God’s promise, uniting God’s people in one heart and one way (Jeremiah 32:39). It is by the Holy Spirit, by obedient trust in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, that God’s people are renewed, restored and returned to the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom in Heaven.

Christians are the “New People of God.” We are to be witnesses to the world, testifying to and demonstrating the truth and goodness of God’s will and God’s salvation by our obedience to God’s Word in Jesus Christ. Now is the time for us to learn to trust and obey our Lord, so that we can be filled with his Holy Spirit. We are to be children of light in the darkness of this sinful world. The armor of light is the Gospel of Jesus and the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

In order to fulfill our calling to give light to those in darkness in this sinful world, we must listen attentively to God’s Word and begin to live in obedient trust in Jesus. The meaning and purpose of life in this present world is so that we can seek, find and come into personal fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 17:26-27) so that we will have eternal life in God’s kingdom.

The Lord rewards those who seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness (which is only through faith in Christ; Romans 3:22; and see Matthew 6:33). Those who don’t seek him now while there is time will lose everything, including eternal life in Heaven. Those who seek Jesus must hear and obey God’s Word (Luke 8:21).

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. The forces of nature obey his command because Jesus is their Lord and Creator (John 1:1-3). He is also our Lord and Creator, whether we acknowledge and obey him or not, but he has given us the freedom to choose whether to accept him as Lord and trust and obey him or not. He could command us to obey him but he has given us the freedom to choose. But there is a day coming when he will command and we will have no choice but to obey (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

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

Thursday 5 Easter – Odd
First posted 04/27/05;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 33:1-13 – Judgment and Restoration;
Romans 14:1-12 – The Strong and the Weak;
Luke 8:26-39 – The Gerasene Demoniac;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had been imprisoned by Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, because Jeremiah had prophesied the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and Zedekiah’s capture. The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in the prison in the court of the guard a second time (for the first, see Jeremiah chapter 32). The Lord, the Creator of earth, said to Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3).

The houses of Jerusalem which had been built up against the city wall were torn down as part of the defensive preparations for the siege by the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar’s army. The Lord told Jeremiah that the Chaldeans would breach the walls and fill the city with the dead bodies of Jews whom the Lord would slay in his wrath; the Lord had removed his protection from the city because of Judah’s disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophet, and because of their idolatry.

But the Lord promised that he would heal his people and restore their prosperity and security. The Lord will restore the circumstances of Judah and Israel and rebuild them to their former prosperity. The Lord “will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me” (Jeremiah 33:8). The land which is about to become desolate will be restored. It will again be populated by God’s people who will rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and steadfast love. The Lord will restore their former prosperity. Barren wasteland will become pastures and refuge for shepherds and sheep.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul urges Christians not to argue with one another over personal expressions of faith. Some Christians are vegetarians while others believe they have been freed from any dietary laws and can eat anything (see Acts 11:5-12). Each should follow their conscience and not be judgmental and condemning of the other, because each will be accountable to the Lord, and the Lord is able to uphold each of them. We have no right to judge the servant of another.

Similarly, Christians are not to judge one another over matters like the observation of Sabbaths and holidays, as long as each does so giving honor and thanks to God. None of us is living solely for ourselves; whether we live or die (physically), we belong to the Lord. Jesus died and arose from physical death to eternal life so that he could be Lord of the living and the dead. We should not be judgmental or despise our brothers and sisters in the Lord because each of us will be accountable to the Lord. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall give praise (or confess) to God” (Romans 14:11, quoting Isaiah 45:23).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore. When they landed they were met by a man of the city (probably Gadara) who had demons. The man had lived among the tombs like a wild animal, without clothes. The people of the community had tried to bind him with ropes and chains but he was able to break them.

When the demoniac saw Jesus he knew Jesus’ name and acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. The demoniac asked Jesus what he was going to do with him and pleaded with Jesus not to torment him. Jesus asked the man’s name and he replied, “Legion” because the man was possessed by many demons. The demons begged Jesus “not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8:31).

There was a large herd of pigs nearby, so Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the pigs, and when they did so, the pigs stampeded down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned. When those herding the pigs saw what happened they fled in terror to the city and told the people what had happened.

The townspeople returned with the herders to see for themselves. They saw the demoniac clothed and in his right mind, and heard how he had been healed by Jesus, and they were frightened and begged Jesus to leave. So Jesus and the disciples got back into the boat.

As they were doing so the healed demoniac asked to go with them, but Jesus told him to return to his home and tell them how much God had done for him. So the man did as Jesus had said, telling everyone he encountered how much Jesus had done for him.

Commentary:

God has planned from the beginning of creation to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who will trust and obey him. God created us to have free choice to seek him or not; to trust and obey or to reject and disobey. The Lord has designed this world as a selection process for eternal life in the kingdom of God, and he has given the choice to us. The meaning and purpose of life in this world is to seek God, groping for him in our spiritual darkness, so that we might find him and come to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27).

God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ existed before creation, and has been built into it (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the only way to have personal knowledge of and fellowship with God, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus can give (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). In Jesus Christ, God is inviting us to call upon him in obedient trust and he will answer us and open our spiritual eyes and our minds to understand the Bible and receive his divine, spiritual wisdom.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is meant to be a parable, a metaphor for life in this world. In a sense, we are all God’s people, because he is our creator. God invites us to seek him while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6; and see Deuteronomy 4:29; 2 Chronicles 15:2). The Lord promises to cleanse us from the guilt of our sin and rebellion (through obedient trust in Jesus Christ, who died as the sacrifice for our sin), and God promises to restore us to the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom. But those who reject Jesus and refuse to obey him will be eternally slain and exiled to the eternal “Babylon” of Hell, the “abyss,” with the demons (Luke 8:31).

In another sense we are all in exile in the “Babylon” of this present world. The Lord’s purpose is to bring to his eternal kingdom people who rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and steadfast love (Jeremiah 33:11), who have learned to trust and obey him.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when each one who has ever lived in this world will be individually accountable to the Lord for what each has done in this life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven, but those who have refused to accept Jesus as their Lord and have not obeyed Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus is Lord whether we acknowledge him or not; right now we’re free to accept him as our Lord and trust and obey him or not. In the Day of Judgment everyone will have no choice but to acknowledge him as Lord, and he will command and we will obey.

Jesus came to a place called the region of the Gerasenes, and he healed a man who had been a great problem for the community for a long time. Jesus demonstrated his goodness and his power to heal spiritual illness and bondage, but the response of the community was not gratitude and rejoicing. Instead they were afraid of Jesus’ power and authority, and angry that Jesus had and might continue to ruin their “pig” business.

The demonic had been restored to his “right mind” and he wanted to remain with Jesus, but he trusted and obeyed Jesus’ command; he had been spiritually healed. The townspeople, who thought they were in their “right minds,” rejected Jesus, and the spiritual healing only Jesus can provide. Even demons know that Jesus is the Son of God, and don’t want to spend eternity in the “abyss” of Hell.

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

Friday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/28/05;
Podcast: Friday 5 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14 – The song of Moses;
Romans 14:13-23 – Christian freedom and love;
Luke 8:40-56 – Jairus’ daughter;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord commanded Moses to write this psalm as a guide and witness to true faith, to confront and rebuke the people of Israel (the people of God) when they deviate from obedient trust in God (Deuteronomy 31:16-22). Moses calls the earth to listen to his teaching of God’s Word, that it may encourage spiritual growth like dew and gentle rain on tender plants. Moses proclaims the name (character and power) and greatness of the Lord. Moses calls the Lord the Rock (a stable and dependable foundation; a place of refuge and security, and source of God’s providence, as was the rock in the wilderness; Deuteronomy 8:15; Exodus 17:6).

God is completely faithful and without any iniquity. God is just and righteous in everything. Those who deal corruptly and perversely with the Lord reveal that they are no longer his children. Is this how God’s people should repay their Lord’s goodness? Do we deny that the Lord is our father who created and established us? Remember what the Lord has done for us in ages and generations past. Ask our forefathers and our elders and they will tell us.

The Lord apportioned to the nations their inheritance and separated the sons of men, fixing their boundaries according to “the number of the sons of God” (compare Acts 17:26-27; Deuteronomy 32:8c RSV; divine judgment; referring perhaps to the heavenly court of divine beings; 1 Kings 22:19; alternatively: “sons of Israel;” MKJV). The Lord has chosen Israel as his portion and heritage.

The Lord found his people in the wilderness; he encircled, provided for and protected them, like an eagle for its young, providing shelter under its wing; catching them when they fall, carrying them on its wings. In the wilderness Israel was led by God alone, and did not follow idols. The Lord elevated his people and provided the finest resources for them beyond physical worldly expectations (i.e. supernaturally).

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul urged Christians not to be judgmental of others (because the Lord will be our righteous judge), but instead to be considerate of others and not use our freedom in any way which hiders another or causes him to stumble. Paul was convinced that no food or drink is sinful in itself, but if exercising our freedom causes another to be shaken in their faith, we are violating the law of love. We must not use our freedom in sinful ways.

God’s kingdom is not about feasting, partying, and self-idulgence, but about righteousness (doing what is right according to God’s standards), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Those who serve Christ in that manner will be acceptable to God and mankind. So let us pursue peace and those things which encourage and strengthen one another in faith.

We must not let our personal religious practices or attitudes interfere with God’s work, but instead let those issues of faith (devotion) be between ourselves and our Lord. We will be happy when we have no reason to condemn ourselves for our beliefs and behavior. But if we do what we believe is not according to God’s standards of righteousness, we are guilty of sin because we have violated our faith.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples returned by boat from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and were met by a crowd who had been waiting for him. A man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue, fell at Jesus’ feet begging Jesus to come and heal his daughter who was very sick and dying. As Jesus went with Jairus the crowd was pressing close to Jesus and he was being jostled by them.

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years and had found no cure came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his garment and immediately knew that she had been healed. Jesus asked who had touched him. When no one admitted it, Peter suggested that it must have been someone jostling him in the crowd, but Jesus said he knew someone had touched him because he felt power go forth from him.
The woman realized she could not conceal what had happened, so she came trembling to Jesus and fell down and declared to all that she had touched Jesus and had been healed immediately. Jesus addressed her as daughter, and told here she had been healed by her faith, and could go in peace.

While Jesus was speaking, a messenger from Jairus’ house came to tell Jairus that his daughter had died, and Jesus was no longer needed. But Jesus told them not to fear but to believe, and she would be well. When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t allow any to enter with him but the girl’s parents and Peter, James, and John (three of his disciples).

Mourners had gathered, but Jesus told them not to weep, because the girl was not dead, but sleeping. They laughed at Jesus, because they were sure the girl was dead. But Jesus took the girl’s hand and commanded the child to arise. The girl’s spirit returned to her and she got up. Jesus told the parents to give her something to eat. Her parents were amazed, but Jesus told them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Commentary:

It was by God’s will and command that Moses taught Israel to obey and trust in God, and declared God’s Word to the world through the Old Testament scriptures. Those who heed Moses’ call to listen to (hear and obey) God’s Word will experience the spiritual growth God promised through Moses. God’s Word is intended to witness to and guide us in obedient trust in the Lord, and to rebuke and correct us when we deviate from that obedient trust.

In one sense we are all God’s children because he is our Creator. But the true children of God are those who trust and obey him. Those who deal corruptly and perversely with the Lord demonstrate that they are not God’s children. Moses counsels us to remember what the Lord has done for his people in past ages and generations, and to seek that testimony from our spiritual forefathers; that testimony is recorded in the Bible, including the testimony of Moses.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is recorded in the Bible for our instruction; it is intended to also be a parable, a metaphor for life in this world. As the Lord chose Israel and led them through the wilderness, protecting, providing and leading them to the Promised Land, he has also chosen us to be his people to be led by him through the wilderness of this world and into his eternal kingdom.

Jesus Christ is the “New Moses,” and the Holy Spirit is the “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21; Numbers 14:14) which leads us through the spiritual darkness into the light of Christ and eternal life (John 8:12). The Lord wants us to be led only by his Word (the Bible and Jesus Christ who is God’s Word in human flesh; John 1:1-5, 14) and his Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

Paul urged Christians to live according to the true faith; the scriptural, apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to live according to Jesus’ teachings. We are to live in peace with our fellow Christians and encourage and strengthen each other in that scriptural apostolic faith.

We should not deviate from the true faith by insisting on “legalism,” the keeping of Jewish laws (“works righteousness”, salvation by works, “the circumcision party;” Acts 11:2; compare Galatians 5:2-6). Nor should we deviate from the true faith in the other direction by preaching “Cheap Grace,*” salvation by God’s grace (free gift, unmerited favor) without requiring discipleship or obedience to Jesus (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus had returned from the region of the Gerasenes on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where the people had refused to receive him and had lost the spiritual healing that only Jesus can provide (Luke 8:26-39; see entry for yesterday, Thursday, 5 Easter, odd year). On the western shore there was a large crowd eagerly seeking and waiting for Jesus and when he arrived they welcomed him. Jairus asked Jesus to come and heal his dying daughter.

On the way, a woman whose hemorrhaging had been a spiritual as well as physical disorder, because a hemorrhaging woman was regarded as ritually unclean and restricted from worship and fellowship in the religious community, reached out in faith to touch Jesus and she was instantly healed. Jesus knew healing power had gone forth from him and he wanted people to understand that it was by faith in Jesus that she had been healed.

The messengers from Jairus’ home came to tell him that his daughter had died, and everyone assumed there was nothing more that Jesus could do, but Jesus told them to trust in him and she would be well. The Lord can do more that we can possibly imagine. Nothing is beyond the Lord’s power to heal if we come to him in faith (obedient trust) and do what he says.

Jesus asked the child’s parents not to publicize the child’s healing, because Jesus’ mission was primarily to bring spiritual healing, and sensationalism over physical healing would obscure his spiritual message. The people seeking and waiting for Jesus, who welcomed him, received healing when they asked him in obedient trust.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus 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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*See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6
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Saturday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/28/05;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (42) 43 – Vindication for God’s People;
Romans 15:1-13 – Bear with the Weak;
Luke 9:1-17 – Feeding the Five Thousand;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The corruption of the nations is being stored up for God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. The day of calamity is coming, when they will stumble and fall. “The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants” (Deuteronomy 32:36). The day is coming when those who put their trust in other gods, and who seemed to prosper in their idolatry, will have no refuge from disaster.

Know that God is the only true God; there is no other god beside him. God has sovereign power over all things, including life and death, punishment and healing. There is nothing which can deliver us from his judgment. God’s promises are eternal.

When the Lord takes hold of his sword in judgment he will take vengeance on his adversaries and avenge himself against those who hate him. The destruction of his enemies will be terrible and total. Let his people and the nations praise the Lord, because the Lord will avenge his servants and punish his adversaries. He will purge and cleanse his people’s land.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are spiritually strong should be patient and forgiving of those who are weak, seeking the good of others rather than pursuing self-interest. We should try to strengthen others and build them up, as we have an example in Jesus, who bore reproach for us. The Bible accounts of God’s dealings with his people in the past have been written for our instruction, so that the faithfulness and encouragement of the scriptures will give us hope. May God who is the Lord of faithfulness and encouragement help us to live in harmony with one another in accord with Jesus’ teaching, that in unity we will glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As the Lord has welcomed us without reservation we should also welcome others. Christ came humbly as a servant to the Jews, in fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarchs of Israel, not to exclude the Gentiles but to include them, so that they could also rejoice in God’s mercy. The salvation of the Gentiles through Jesus Christ was not an afterthought, or a second choice; God planned it from the beginning, as the scriptures and the prophets show. May God fill us with joy and peace through faith, so that we may abound in the hope which only God can provide, by the power of his Holy Spirit.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus called his Twelve apostles (Luke 6:13) together and gave them power and authority to heal and to cast out demons. Jesus sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. Jesus told them not to carry any provisions for their journey. They were to accept the hospitality of one household wherever they went, and wherever they were not welcomed they were to shake the dust of that place off their feet in testimony against that place.

They departed and did as Jesus had told them, healing and preaching everywhere they went. News of Jesus’ activities reached Herod and he was puzzled, because some said that John the Baptizer, whom Herod had beheaded, had been raised to life, or that Elijah or one of the other prophets had risen, so Herod sought to see Jesus.

When the apostles returned they reported what they had done, and Jesus took them away to an isolated spot near Bethsaida. When the crowds found out where Jesus was going they followed him, and he welcomed them and preached the kingdom of God and healed the sick. As evening approached the apostles suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to buy food and lodgings for themselves, but Jesus told the apostles to feed the crowd.

The apostles said that they had brought only five loaves of bread and two fish, and that they would have to buy a lot of food in order to feed the crowd of about five thousand. But Jesus told the apostles to have the people sit down in groups of fifty, and they did so. Jesus took the bread and fish, prayed and then broke them into pieces and gave them to the apostles to distribute. All ate and were satisfied, and the apostles collected twelve baskets full of leftovers.

Commentary:

God has sovereign power and authority over all things, including life and death, punishment and healing. God has created us to have fellowship and eternal life with him in his eternal kingdom. Life in this world is intended to be an opportunity to seek and find a personal relationship with God (Acts 17:26-27) through Jesus Christ by his indwelling Holy Spirit, by learning to trust and obey Jesus Christ (John 14:15-17; see also entry for Thursday, 5 Easter, odd year, above).

Today is the day of healing and salvation which God offers us through his Son, Jesus Christ, who came and died for the forgiveness of ours sins, so that we could have eternal life with him in God’s eternal kingdom. But God promises that there is a Day of Judgment coming, when everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in this life. Those who have rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord, and have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal destruction in Hell with all evil, but those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. Only those disciples of Jesus who trust and obey Jesus are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). Those who are spiritually strong (mature) are to be patient and forgiving with those who are “young” (new) Christians (regardless of how long they have professed faith in Christ or have been church members), and mature Christians should lead young Christians to grow to spiritual maturity. Mature Christians are to follow and live according to the example and teaching of Jesus, serving the spiritual best interests of others, rather than building up their name, position and interests in the Church and community.

Disciples of Jesus are called to make disciples, not merely “church members.” Church leaders need to be “born-again” disciples; one cannot make disciples without being a disciple, and we’re to make disciples of Christ, rather than disciples of ourselves. We’re to seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit; only by the indwelling Holy Spirit do we have a personal relationship with Jesus and are guided and empowered to become spiritually mature. We can only testify to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by his indwelling Holy Spirit if we have a personal relationship with Jesus and have experienced spiritual “rebirth.”

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of spiritual healing and eternal life. Jesus is the example of the ministry of the Gospel that we are to follow. We are to be his disciples growing in spiritual maturity until we receive power and authority from him, by the gift of his Holy Spirit (Luke 9:1; compare 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8), to go out into the world and preach and heal in Jesus’ name. We are to obey his commands and trust Jesus to supply what is needed to accomplish his command and to produce results.

Jesus took his disciples on a spiritual retreat, to be renewed, after the demands of ministry in his name. But Jesus always was welcoming and ministering to the needs of people who sought him. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away unfed and unhealed. Jesus physically healed and fed the five thousand, but his primary ministry was to offer spiritual nurture and healing.

Jesus wasn’t able to heal and feed people in his human flesh alone. It was only by the Spirit of God within him (John 1:33-34; Colossians 2:8-9) that he was able minister to people (But understand that the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit does not make us “god” or equal to Christ.) Jesus is inviting all to come to him for forgiveness, spiritual healing and nurture, fellowship and eternal life with 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)?


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