Where We Are In The Story – Week 16

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Leviticus 18-24 & Psalms 22-31

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Leviticus & Psalms)

Background of Leviticus: Everything in Leviticus points to the holiness of God. His perfection and man’s sinfulness stands as the reason for all of the sacrifices, laws, and regulations included in this book, for Leviticus explains how a covenant between a righteous God and a sinful people practically plays out in everyday life in the era before Christ’s resurrection. Written by Moses as Israel wandered in the wilderness, it contains divine speeches that Moses delivered to the people of Israel about how to worship God and how they should live. Modern readers of Leviticus may tire of reading the many laws and regulations, but for Israelites in the Old Testament era, Leviticus provided relevant information for how they were to go about their day-to-day lives.

Structure of Leviticus:

  • Leviticus 1-7 explains the rituals of the different sacrifices.
  • Leviticus 8-10 gives instructions for the priests of Israel.
  • Leviticus 11-15 instructs the people on cleansing and purification.
  • Leviticus 16 details the sacrifice and instructions for the Day of Atonement.
  • Leviticus 17-27 provides directions regarding the festivals, the holy days, and how the people should live.

This Week in Leviticus:  Leviticus 18-20 contains instructions regarding ethics in everyday life. In these three chapters, God emphasizes the expectation that those who follow Him will be holy as He is holy (Lev. 19:2; 20:26), which is the central theme of Leviticus, and these three chapters give specifics regarding what a holy lifestyle looks like, particularly with regard to sex, idolatry, and our treatment of others. He instructs the people to live a life different than the Egyptians and the Canaanites (Lev. 18:3), and this principle of holiness applies to believers today (1 Pet. 1:16). Throughout these three chapters, God reiterates the reason for the commands – “I am the LORD your God.” This statement points to their covenant with God, how they owe their creation as a nation to Him, and His own moral character and standards. Our obedience should stem from a reverence for who God is and from gratitude and love for Him.

Leviticus 21-22 instructs the priests how to live and how to serve as servant leaders for the Lord, and Leviticus 23 describes the festivals and holy days that God prescribes the people to celebrate. These holy days include: the Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. These feasts and holy days taught the people that all that they have belongs to God, and they provided opportunities to remember and to praise God for what He has done. These national festivals and holy days also maintained the nation as a community of believers,

  • From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, the Jews were to keep Sabbath. This was the sign of their covenant with God (Ex. 31:13). For the Israelites, the Sabbath served as a commemoration of God’s work in creation as well as His work of redemption in delivering them from bondage in Egypt (Dt. 5:12-15). While it was a day of rest, its purpose was for worship and spiritual service, not personal pleasure.
  • Exodus 12-13 contains instructions for celebrating the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover celebrated God’s redemption of His people from slavery in Egypt, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread reminded the people that God expects the redeemed to pursue purity and to purge the sin from their lives, to live in light of their redemption. The Feast of Unleavened Bread also fell at the first harvest of the year in the spring.
  • With the Feast of Firstfruits, the people gave thanks to God and offered their first and best to Him This offering also represented faith that God would continue to provide for His people, and it points to Jesus’ resurrection since He was the firstfruits of the dead (see 1 Cor.15:20).
  • The New Testament refers to the Feast of Weeks as Pentecost, and it occurred fifty days after Passover when the wheat crop ripened. The people would each bring two loaves of bread baked with leaven and give thanks for the Lord’s provision in the harvest. As an expression of their gratitude, the people were to leave part of their harvest for the poor to glean and to eat.
  • The Feast of Trumpets took place in the fall and marked the end of the harvest season. Trumpet blasts announced the beginning of this memorial, and the people were to present a food offering to God and to rest from work. The people would celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths in succession since the month of Tishri included all three of these occasions. This feast called the people to rest from their labors and to worship the Lord.
  • Leviticus 16 describes the Day of Atonement, and on this day, sacrifices were made in order to wipe the slate clean with regard to the people’s sin. This day illustrated that fellowship with God cannot take place unless sin is removed, and sin cannot be removed without the shedding of blood from God’s appointed sacrifice.
  • The Feast of Booths (a.k.a. Feast of Tabernacles) commemorated how God provided for His people in the wilderness wanderings, so during this feast, the people lived in temporary dwellings or shelters. Afterwards, they rejoiced at not having to live that way before since God had given them the Promised Land. This feast also served as a time of thanksgiving to God for the provision of crops that year, specifically in the fall harvest, and a time to pray for God’s continued provision by sending rain in the winter.

Background  & Structure of Psalms: God used many different writers to write Psalms: David, Moses, the sons of Korah, Asaph, etc. The book is arranged in five parts, and this arrangement occurred after the people of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian exile. A doxology concludes each book or arrangement of psalms (Psalm 41:13 for Book 1, Psalm 72:18-19 for Book 2, Psalm 89:52 for Book 3, Psalm 106:48 for Book 4, and Psalm 150:6 for Book 5), and the entire book of Psalms climactically ends with a grand doxology of several psalms (Ps. 146-150).

  • Book 1: Psalms 1-41
  • Book 2: Psalms 42-72
  • Book 3: Psalms 73-89
  • Book 4: Psalms 90-106
  • Book 5: Psalms 107-150

This Week in Psalms: This week’s readings contain two well-known and beloved psalms, Psalm 22 and Psalm 23. Psalm 22 depicts the King David’s dilemma in reconciling the nature of God with His actions and what He permits to happen, event to His own people. King David’s response to his unanswered prayers provides instruction for God’s people as they attempt to navigate through times when they feel unheard or forsaken by God. Despite how he felt in his situation, the psalmist persevered in prayer (v. 1), remembered God’s character (v. 3), recounted God’s faithfulness to His people in the past (vv. 4-5), reflected on God’s faithfulness in his own life (vv. 9-10), praised God for His response to the psalmist’s prayers (vv. 25-30), and exhorted others to glorify God (v. 23).

This psalm also contains typology, which is an indirect prophecy. This means that the Holy Spirit led King David to write in such a way about his own circumstances that they would also become true in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The psalm foreshadows what would happen with Christ, but when King David penned Psalm 22, his words had more significance than he intended. For example, David would not have known to write about the Messiah being pierced in His hands and feet (v. 16) because crucifixion was a Roman form of execution, and the Roman Empire did not even exist during the reign of King David. Psalm 22 also contains typological references to the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ clothes (Ps. 22:18; Jn. 19:14), the mocking of Jesus (Ps. 22:7; Mt. 27:39), and Jesus’ thirst on the cross (Ps. 22:15; Jn. 19:28). Hebrews 2:12 also quotes Psalm 22:22 when it places the now exalted Jesus as the one offering praises before the congregation of believers.

On Good Friday, Christ quoted the first line of this psalm on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” However, Jesus was not asking God to explain the reason for His abandonment, for Christ knew why He was on the cross. In stating the first line of Psalm 22, Christ was appropriating the entire psalm and relating it to His experience – the confidence in the Lord, the petitions for deliverance, the deliverance from the suffering, and the glory given to God. Jesus prayed for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane, yet He died. He who is righteous prayed a prayer that went unanswered, yet Hebrews 5:7 explains, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” The Father heard the cries of the Son. God heard His prayers, but He chose to answer Him at a different time and in a better way. God had delivered David from dying, but he chose to deliver Christ through death. Furthermore, through the cross and the resurrection Christ became the source of eternal salvation for all who repent and believe in him as Lord (Heb. 5:9). We can be saved from the punishment we deserve for our sin! Jesus’ death is substitutionary. He was abandoned for us, so we will never be abandoned. He will never leave us or forsake us because He has already been forsaken.

Psalm 23 exudes confidence in the Lord, and it includes three scenes: a pasture with a shepherd and his sheep (vv. 1-4), a lavish banquet (v. 5), and the sanctuary of the Lord (v. 6). By comparing the Lord to a shepherd, the psalmist emphasizes the Lord’s role in caring for His people. This does not mean that God’s people get everything they want or even everything they physically need, for God does permit people – including His followers – to suffer. The provision mentioned by the psalmist is likely spiritual nourishment and spiritual growth, which aligns with Jesus’ instructions to Peter in John 21 to “feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:16). There is no lack in the Lord’s care (v. 1), and He also provides restoration and refreshment for His people (vv. 2-3), leads them in the way of righteousness (v. 3), and protects them (v. 4). Therefore, God’s people need not fear any evil or calamity because they have the promise of God’s presence (v. 4). With the banquet scene, the psalmist addresses God directly (v. 4), expresses trust in the Lord and in His protection despite the presence of his enemies (v. 4), and acknowledges God’s gracious hospitality and care (v. 5). The psalm concludes with the psalmist’s explicit desire to commune with God (v. 6), for his reflection on God’s character increased his affections for the Lord and stirred his desire to return to the sanctuary, where God made His presence known in that era of history.

Getting Beyond the Bunny: How We Can Celebrate Christ at Easter

Easter

At our staff meeting last week, we got into groups and were given several questions that everyone in the group was to answer.  Two of the questions involved what our family’s Easter traditions were and what we remember about Easter services that we attended when we were younger. New clothes, Cadbury eggs, Easter baskets, Sunday lunches, sunrise services, and Easter egg hunts were all mentioned, but one staff member in our group commented on how few traditions there are that families practice at Easter that actually reflect the reason for the holiday, especially in contrast to Christmas. When we consider that Easter represents the defining moment of the Christian faith – the death and resurrection of Christ, shouldn’t we live, prepare, and celebrate this day in a way that reflects its importance? As singles, couples, or parents, how can we approach this holiday in a way that enables us to reflect on what Christ has accomplished? Included below are several ideas that you can consider.

  • Celebrate Lent. I did not grow up keeping Lent, so it was a new concept to me when I went off to seminary. So in case you thought “Lent” is that stuff found in your jean pockets (or your belly button), let me give you a short summary. Lent begins 40 days prior to Easter on Ash Wednesday, and it comes from the Old English word meaning “lengthen” since Lent occurs at a time of year when the days are lengthening. Believers use Lent as a time to repent of sin, to remember our need for Christ our Savior, and to renew our love and devotion to God. Often, believers will fast during Lent in order to express dependence on God. Whether as an individual, a family, or as a small group, consider fasting during Lent or during Holy Week, whether it’s a traditional fast involving food or a fast from TV, social media, etc. For more about Lent, read this post from The Gospel Coalition’s blog.
  • Read about the Events of Passion Week from the Gospels during Holy Week. This would be something you could do starting today. Each day this week, read what Jesus did on that corresponding day during Passion Week (the week leading up to His crucifixion). Use this time to meditate on what Christ did 2000 years ago and to thank Him for choosing to sacrifice Himself for sinners. If you have a Family Worship time, this could be what you do for this week, and the Jesus Storybook Bible could be a helpful resource in telling this story to little ones. Something that I am doing this year during Holy Week is reading the daily meditations put out by Gordon Conwell, which you can read at this site.
  • Attend Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter services. For those at Brook Hills, we have Secret Church on Good Friday, which you can be a part of via simulcast if you don’t have a ticket. Many churches have one or all of the services mentioned above. Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, and “Maundy” stems from the Latin word for “mandate” or “commandment,” which refers to the commandment Jesus gave to His followers at the Last Supper in John 13:34-35. Many churches celebrate by observing the Lord’s Supper as Jesus did with the Twelve on Thursday, the night of the Passover meal that John 13 describes. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death, which took place on the Friday of Passion Week (read this previous BH Women post on “The Good in Good Friday”), and on Easter, we celebrate His resurrection. If you’re planning to attend Brook Hills this Easter, our Worship Gatherings will be at 8:00am, 9:30am, 11:00am, and 6:30pm, and we will only have childcare for birth-3 years. Whatever church you attend, be praying for those who are unbelievers and who will be attending Easter services this Sunday. Pray that God will draw sinners to Himself and that they will turn from their sin and trust in Christ, and consider who God would have you invite to an Easter service this Sunday.
  • Listen to songs and hymns about Christ’s death and resurrection. Use them to guide your praise of Jesus this week. If you’re like me and spend a good bit of time on 280 every day, it’s a good way to take that time and “set your mind on things above” (Col. 3:2). Here are a few of my faves: “Hallelujah, What a Savior,” “In Christ Alone,” “Jesus Paid It All,” “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” “Before the Throne of God Above,” “It Is Well,” and “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go.”
  • Watch The Passion of the Christ or the Jesus film. I can sometimes have a difficult time visualizing what I read, so pictures and movies are helpful for me when trying to get an idea of what something might have been like. While neither of these movies perfectly capture what Christ did, they can be helpful in expressing the gravity of the cross and the excruciating torture that Christ experienced. If you have young children, you may want to view the move for yourself in order to decide whether the images are age-appropriate for you kids.
  • If you have children (or even if you don’t), consider making resurrection rolls, Easter story cookies, resurrection trees, or using resurrection eggs (I’ll go ahead Resurrection Rollsand warn you that some of these are Pinterest ideas). When I taught kindergardeners at church, we would take marshmallows and roll them in crescent rolls and talk about how, when Jesus died, some of His followers placed His body in a tomb. Then we would bake the crescent rolls, and when we took them out of the oven, we would unroll the crescent rolls only to find no marshmallow because it had melted. I would use this object lesson to demonstrate how Jesus stayed in this tomb for three days, but on the third day, He no longer was dead inside the tomb. He left the tomb because He is risen! All of these activities are concrete ways that you can explain various aspects of the Easter story with kids.

The God of the Universe…the Latest from Lovelady

Today’s post was written by Brook Hills member Mary Ann Michael who serves at the Lovelady Center.

I teach a Bible Study at Lovelady every Tuesday night. It is  based on the book by Jo Kadlecek, Desperate Women of the Bible. Each week,  we look at a different “no-name” woman that Jesus had a personal encounter with. I also give a weekly devotion on prayer using the acronym ACTS:

  • Adoration-looking at God’s attributes
  • Confession-asking God to expose the darkness in our hearts
  • Thanksgiving-listing everything to be thankful for
  • Supplication-asking God for our own needs and the needs of others

As one who had always taught the Bible within the safe confines of a local church, I learned there is a whole different world “out there.” Lovelady is a center for recovering addicts, women from jail or prison completing their sentences, and the homeless.  Tuesday night, I asked if there was a time when they felt desperate. One lady replied, “Yes, when I was sentenced to 16 years in prison.” Another time when we were going over prayer requests,  one lady mentioned needing patience. A different lady replied, “Oh, don’t pray for that! The last time I prayed for that, I ended up in jail for 15 months.” These are definitely not the usual responses heard in Sunday small groups.

One night during each six week session, I have a “give-away” night that includes toiletries (usually samples from hotels that friends give me), cosmetics (leftovers from those department store gift samples),  cosmetic bags, greeting cards, socks, and whatever items I have received from friends and coworkers.  I will never forget one night, someone got a sample of the perfume “Beautiful,” and she said, “Can you believe it? The God of the universe cares enough about a woman like me in a place like this to give me my favorite perfume!” I still have to fight back tears when I think that, for most of us, that small bottle of perfume might have been something  we would have thrown in a drawer and forgotten about.

Another “give-away” night, I had 12 cosmetic bags for a class of 16 ladies. I thought that maybe 4 of the ladies might not want or need them, but one of my co-workers that night brought in 4 more cosmetic bags. She did not know my shortfall, but God certainly did.

I have to give a shout out to my two co-workers who faithfully pray for these ladies and who respond to their prayer requests with a Scripture and a written word of encouragement (Cyndy Keil and Vera Kee). They also show up each week with a basket of chocolates!

If anyone has any of the above mentioned toiletries, cosmetics, cards, etc. just collecting space in your house, please contact me so I can pass them on to some very grateful ladies. My email is nina_mich@rocketmail.com.

Where We Are In The Story – Week 15

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Leviticus 10-17 & Psalms 11-21

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Leviticus & Psalms)

Background of Leviticus: Everything in Leviticus points to the holiness of God. His perfection and man’s sinfulness stands as the reason for all of the sacrifices, laws, and regulations included in this book, for Leviticus explains how a covenant between a righteous God and a sinful people practically plays out in everyday life in the era before Christ’s resurrection. Written by Moses as Israel wandered in the wilderness, it contains divine speeches that Moses delivered to the people of Israel about how to worship God and how they should live. Modern readers of Leviticus may tire of reading the many laws and regulations, but for Israelites in the Old Testament era, Leviticus provided relevant information for how they were to go about their day-to-day lives.

Structure of Leviticus:

  • Leviticus 1-7 explains the rituals of the different sacrifices.
  • Leviticus 8-10 gives instructions for the priests of Israel.
  • Leviticus 11-15 instructs the people on cleansing and purification.
  • Leviticus 16 details the sacrifice and instructions for the Day of Atonement.
  • Leviticus 17-27 provides directions regarding the festivals, the holy days, and how the people should live.

This Week in Leviticus: Leviticus 10 tells how Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons who were also priests, received the death penalty from God for bringing “unauthorized fire” into the sanctuary. While we do not know what was wrong about the fire, the point is that these two priests disobeyed God’s instruction and faced His judgment. As a result of this incident, the priests were especially cautious, which is why they did not eat the sacrifice portion. Since priests had engaged in sin, they did not think it would please God for them to partake of the sacrificial meat.

Leviticus 11-15 contains laws that distinguished between what is clean and unclean and that provided instruction on how to respond when defiled or made unclean. These chapters of Leviticus encompass food (Lev. 11), childbirth (Lev. 12), skin diseases (Lev. 13-14), and bodily discharges (Lev. 15). If something was unclean, it did not mean that it was necessarily bad or sinful; for example, a woman was considered unclean after she gave birth, but childbearing occurs by God’s design and is part of the creation mandate in Genesis 1. Uncleanness was not a permanent state, for Leviticus explains the process by which the unclean individual can be made clean. This process involved either a prescribed time to pass (7 days, 66 days, etc.) and/or a ritual to be performed. However, anyone who was impure for whatever reason could not worship in the sanctuary, for impurity bars a person from entering God’s presence. Also, just because something was clean did not make it holy (set apart), so for something to become holy where it could be used in the service of the Lord, it had to be dedicated to the Lord with a blood sacrifice.

In Leviticus 11:44, God instructs the people to “’be holy, for I am holy.’” Because He is holiness or set apart from all others, God requires that His people reflect His holiness in the way that they live. While Christ-followers today do not have to observe all of the instructions in Leviticus 11-15, 1 Peter 1:16 reiterates God’s command from Leviticus 11:44-46 in charging Christ-followers to be holy as God is holy. We are to live distinct from the world, for God desires that His people imitate and reflect Him.

Leviticus 11 provides the basis for Jewish dietary laws, and it establishes that God’s people should honor Him even in the way that they eat (see how this theme continues in 1 Cor. 10:31). However, this chapter does not prescribe kosher laws, which stipulate that dairy and meat products cannot be eaten together. Kosher laws come from rabbinic interpretation of Exodus 23:19 and Deuteronomy 14:21; however, the rabbinic interpretation of these verses is probably incorrect since the practice of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk was a Canaanite practice. Therefore, God’s instruction served as a distinctive between His people and the practices of the surrounding people. Leviticus 11 taught the people to distinguish between clean and unclean foods, and because of their distinct diet, it prevented the Israelites from establishing close relationships with the neighboring nations since an inability to eat with another inhibits fellowship with that person. The organization of the animals in Leviticus 11 corresponds with the three groups of animals in Genesis 1 – those who fly in the sky, those who swim in the water, and those who walk on the land, and this structure in Leviticus 11 reflects God’s design in creation and what was incompatible with the order of creation.

In Mark 7:14-22, Jesus nullified the Jewish dietary laws, and He emphasized that a person’s uncleanness stems from his heart rather than what he or she ingests. As the gospel spread to the Gentiles after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, God gave Peter a vision in which He clearly declared all foods to be clean (Acts 10:9-48). Even with this vision, the issue of food laws remained unsettled in the early church, which prompted the Jerusalem Council to advise the Gentile believers to abstain from food that had been sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from that which had been strangled in order not to offend the Jewish believers (Acts 15:1-34). Whereas the dietary laws were meant to separate the Israelites from the nations under the old covenant, the dietary laws were abolished under the new covenant in order to encourage the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles and to unite the Jews and the Gentiles, for according to Ephesians 2:11-22, under the new covenant Christ made one new person (the body of Christ) out of two (the Jews and the Gentiles).

Celebrated once a year, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur in Hebrew) served as the holiest day of the Jewish calendar (Lev. 16), for on this day, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and made atonement for himself and for the sins of the people of Israel. To prepare for this day, the people bathed, fasted, and prayed in order to spiritually prepare and to become clean before the Lord. After the high priest offered bathed and offered a sin offering for himself, this ceremony involved the high priest burning incense on the Altar of Incense in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies. By sprinkling the blood of his sin offering and of the sin offering for the people on and in front of the mercy seat, the high priest made atonement for the holy of holies because of the people’s uncleanness (Lev. 16:16). The sin of the people polluted the sanctuary, requiring that the sanctuary be purified by blood. By cleansing the sanctuary, God enabled the people to continue to come into His presence.

Two goats were selected on this day – one that was sacrificed and one that was sent away into the wilderness (a.k.a. the scapegoat). By laying hands on the goat’s hands and confessing the wickedness of the nation, the high priest symbolically transferred the sins of the people onto the animal. When Isaiah prophesies about the Suffering Servant, he points back to this image in his description of how “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). The scapegoat pointed to Christ in its picture of a substitute who takes on the sin of the people. By sending this goat away to the wilderness, God represented how the guilt and condemnation of the people was totally removed from them. After this ceremony, burnt offerings were made for the high priest and for the people, and the remains of the bull and the goat that were offered were taken outside the camp and burned in order to signify the complete removal of defilement and sin.

The Day of Atonement provided a picture of what Christ would accomplish through His death and resurrection, for His sacrifice satisfies the wrath of God against sinners and makes amends and reparations for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:17; 1 Pet. 2:24). Year after year, the people celebrated the Day of Atonement, yet the fact that this sacrifice had to be repeated pointed to its insufficiency. Furthermore, the presence of God could only be accessed through the blood of the sacrifice being sprinkled on the mercy seat. Yet, Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:11-10:18 explains how Christ offered Himself, took our sins, and by His blood made it possible for us to enter God’s presence. This was represented by the tearing of the veil in the Temple when Jesus died on the cross, and because of His sacrifice, we have unrestricted access to God.

Background  & Structure of Psalms: God used many different writers to write Psalms: David, Moses, the sons of Korah, Asaph, etc. The book is arranged in five parts, and this arrangement occurred after the people of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian exile. A doxology concludes each book or arrangement of psalms (Psalm 41:13 for Book 1, Psalm 72:18-19 for Book 2, Psalm 89:52 for Book 3, Psalm 106:48 for Book 4, and Psalm 150:6 for Book 5), and the entire book of Psalms climactically ends with a grand doxology of several psalms (Ps. 146-150).

  • Book 1: Psalms 1-41
  • Book 2: Psalms 42-72
  • Book 3: Psalms 73-89
  • Book 4: Psalms 90-106
  • Book 5: Psalms 107-150

This Week in Psalms:

  • Psalm 11 describes how the righteous stand firm despite attacks from the wicked because they trust in God’s sovereignty and righteousness. While He allows evil to exist, He will ultimately destroy all wickedness and all evildoers.
  • Psalms 12 depicts the psalmist as crying out to God because of the plight of the poor and needy (v. 5) yet expressing confidence in God’s deliverance and faithfulness to His promises. His words alone are true and pure in a world of deception and oppression.
  • As a lament psalm, Psalm 13 begins with an introductory cry to God (vv. 1-2) followed by a description of the situation (vv. 1-2), a confession of trust in God (v. 5), a petition (vv. 3-4), and a vow of praise to God, for the psalmist promises to praise the Lord when he receives the answer to his prayer. In a lament, the psalmist cries to God in a time of need such as war, persecution, or illness, and in this psalm, the lament concerns the psalmist’s enemies, his sorrow, and God’s apparent absence (vv. 1-4). This psalm presents an example of how believers should earnestly and confidently pray to God in times of trouble.
  • Psalm 14 portrays the godlessness of the world and the folly of denying God, but despite the corruption, the righteous can have hope because the Lord will deliver His people. Romans 3:10 quotes this psalm in its assessment of humanity’s utter sinfulness.
  • In contrast to Psalm 14, which depicts the ungodly, Psalm 15 characterizes the righteous by listing ten attributes of a true worshipper. This psalm may have been part of the liturgy used at the gate of the sanctuary, for before worshippers could enter the grounds of the sanctuary, they were asked who could enter and commune with God. The worshipper’s response to the question served as a reminder of God’s standard of holiness for those who seek to commune with Him.
  • Psalm 16 stands as a psalm of trust in God. The psalmist recognizes the goodness of God and praises Him for His provision, both in this life and the next.
  • In Psalm 17, King David petitions God for protection as his accusers and persecutors close in on him. Because of his uprightness, David confidently appealed to God’s justice, for his cause and his life was upright while that of his enemies was not. James 5:16 and Revelation 6:10 provide confirmation from the New Testament that the prayers of a righteous person are effectual, particularly prayers for vindication.
  • As a royal thanksgiving psalm, Psalm 18 records King David’s praise of God for rescuing him from the hand of Saul, and David also points back to God’s history of supernaturally delivering the faithful. The psalmist describes why God is worthy of praise, and he expresses his gratitude and love for God. With some variation, this psalm is also recorded in 2 Samuel 22, which provides a context for the psalm.
  • Psalm 19 can be divided into three parts: God’s revelation of Himself in nature (vv. 1-6), the value and sufficiency of the written revelation of God (vv. 7-11), and a prayer for preservation of sin in light of God’s revelation (vv. 12-14). Increased understanding of God and His Word should lead believers to greater commitment and faithfulness to Him.
  • As an intercessory prayer for the king’s victory in battle, Psalm 20 expresses assurance of God’s saving might.
  • While Psalm 20 sought God’s protection of the king in battle, the king in Psalm 21 rejoices in God’s deliverance and blessings. The psalmist links God’s actions to His loyal love and to the trust of the righteous in the Lord (v. 7). Because of God’s character, the righteous can know security, even when facing great opposition.

Where We Are In The Story – Week 14

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Leviticus 2-9, John 21, & Psalms 1-10

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Leviticus & Psalms)

Background of Leviticus: Everything in Leviticus points to the holiness of God. His perfection and man’s sinfulness stands as the reason for all of the sacrifices, laws, and regulations included in this book, for Leviticus explains how a covenant between a righteous God and a sinful people practically plays out in everyday life in the era before Christ’s resurrection. Written by Moses as Israel wandered in the wilderness, it contains divine speeches that Moses delivered to the people of Israel about how to worship God and how they should live. Modern readers of Leviticus may tire of reading the many laws and regulations, but for Israelites in the Old Testament era, Leviticus provided relevant information for how they were to go about their day-to-day lives.

Structure of Leviticus:

  • Leviticus 1-7 explains the rituals of the different sacrifices.
  • Leviticus 8-10 gives instructions for the priests of Israel.
  • Leviticus 11-15 instructs the people on cleansing and purification.
  • Leviticus 16 details the sacrifice and instructions for the Day of Atonement.
  • Leviticus 17-27 provides directions regarding the festivals, the holy days, and how the people should live.

This Week in Leviticus: With this week’s readings in Leviticus providing the foundation of Israel’s sacrificial system, it is helpful to know how believers were saved in the Old Testament era and how the sacrificial system jives with the New Testament.

  • The sacrificial system looks forward to Christ (Heb. 10:3-4).
  • It demonstrates that sinners cannot enter God’s presence apart from God’s provision.
  • It highlights the holiness and righteousness of God, for sin is offensive because of Who is offended by it.
  • It shows that humanity’s access to God requires the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:18-22).
  • The sacrifice of the animals themselves is not what saved the people from their sins (Heb. 10:1-4), for no one is saved by works. The sacrifices in the Old Testament were two-fold. They pointed to the salvation that would come through Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, and they were outward expressions of an individual’s submission to God. The offerings were how believing people renewed and maintained their relationship with God. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem explains, “those who were saved under the old covenant were also saved through trusting in Christ, even through their faith was a forward-looking faith based on God’s word of promise that a Messiah or a Redeemer would come.”

The grain offering or the meal offering of Leviticus 2 acknowledged that everything an individual has comes from God and belongs to Him, and it was the worshipper’s way of dedicating what they have to God. When offered, the food was sacrificed after the burnt offering of Leviticus 1, but it could also be given by itself without any other sacrifice. There could be no leaven in this offering because it was to pure and without corruption.

The peace offering or the fellowship offering of Leviticus 3 and 7 was not given to make peace with God. Instead, it was offered as a celebration of the worshipper’s peace with God. Only the fat and the internal organs were burned on the altar. These organs represented the will and the emotions of the person, so by sacrificing them on the altar, the worshipper was symbolically offering themselves to the Lord. While the priests received the right shoulder and the right thigh, the rest of the animal was roasted in the courtyard and eaten as a communal meal that same day by those worshipping in the sanctuary. As the meat was roasting, the worshipper would grab the horns of the altar and praise God by declaring what the Lord had done. Through this sacrifice, the poor in Israel could come to the Temple and receive food to eat. The New Testament correlation to this offering is the Lord’s Supper, a communal meal that we eat to remember what Christ has accomplished as we look forward to His return.

The Old Testament often refers to things being either “clean” or unclean,” and a person could become unclean many different ways – skin disease, having a child, bodily discharges, coming in contact with a dead body, committing certain inadvertent sins, etc. (see Lev. 12-15). People who were unclean had to be cleansed in order to worship God in the sanctuary, and because sinners worshiped there, the sanctuary itself needed to be purified. The sin offering or the purification offering in Leviticus 4:1-5:13 was, therefore, the first sacrifice that was offered when a worshipper came to the sanctuary, for the blood of the substitute (the animal) provided purification with regard to the worshiper’s sin and to sin’s defiling effects in his life. This sacrifice in itself did not provide forgiveness of sin, for the worshiper also had to acknowledge and repent of the sin. But because sin disrupted fellowship between the worshiper and God, this sacrifice was necessary for restoring the relationship.

When an individual’s sin involved defrauding God or another person of something, the sinner was to offer a guilt offering or a reparations offering (Lev. 5:14-6:7). Therefore, this sacrifice was only offered as needed. This sacrifice indicates that the wrong committed had to be made right by the worshipper, so if a person was guilty of defrauding, then they had to give this offering and make full restitution. This offering necessitated that the sinner publicly confess their sin, make full restitution, and give an extra 20% of what they had defrauded as compensation.

Background  & Structure of Psalms: God used many different writers to write Psalms: David, Moses, the sons of Korah, Asaph, etc. The book is arranged in five parts, and this arrangement occurred after the people of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian exile. A doxology concludes each book or arrangement of psalms (Psalm 41:13 for Book 1, Psalm 72:18-19 for Book 2, Psalm 89:52 for Book 3, Psalm 106:48 for Book 4, and Psalm 150:6 for Book 5), and the entire book of Psalms climactically ends with a grand doxology of several psalms (Ps. 146-150).

  • Book 1: Psalms 1-41
  • Book 2: Psalms 42-72
  • Book 3: Psalms 73-89
  • Book 4: Psalms 90-106
  • Book 5: Psalms 107-150

This Week in Psalms: Psalms 1-2 introduce the entire book of Psalms. Psalm 1 contrasts the righteous with the wicked and sets the stage for the entire book by describing the importance of living in alignment with Scripture. Thus, Psalm 1 functions as a wisdom psalm, and it emphasizes the connection between meditating on God’s Word and living a righteous life. It also demonstrates the worthlessness of the ungodly life by comparing it to a chaff that is blown away by the wind, and it reminds the reader of the judgment that is to come, which reinforces that a person’s choice to either live a righteous or an ungodly life has eternal consequences.

As a royal psalm, Psalm 2 declares the kingship of an unnamed ruler of Israel. Royal psalms (Ps. 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 144) reference important occasions in the life of the king such as his coronation, wedding, or a great military victory given by the Lord, and they point to the role of the human king as God’s agent on earth. In particular, Psalm 2 reminds the nation of God’s plan for Israel and His sovereignty over all earthly kings and kingdoms. No nation can stand if God is against it. Because Psalm 2 can apply to every Davidic king, it ultimately applies to Christ, and Hebrews 1:15 and Revelation 2:27 draw upon this psalm in describing the exaltation of Christ and the establishment of His reign on earth at the second coming.

Psalms 3-7 overwhelmingly express confidence in the Lord: confidence in Him and in His plan during times of adversity (Ps. 3), confidence in His care despite antagonism from others (Ps. 4), confidence in His deliverance and in His judgment of the wicked (Ps. 5 & 7), and confidence that God forgives the penitent  (Ps. 6). Psalm 8 praises God for His majesty, and Hebrews 2:6-9 and 1 Corinthians 15:27 quote this psalm in reference to God’s plan in sending Christ to be born as a man and to give Him dominion over all things. Psalm 9 gives thanks to God for punishing the wicked and for defending the oppressed, and Psalm 10 follows with a cry for God to defend the helpless and the fatherless.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (John)

Background of John: John 20:31 gives the thesis of this Gospel: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John stands distinct from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in his emphasis on eternal life and how it refers to both duration but also the quality of life that God designed us to have in Him. From John 1, this book establishes that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully human at the same time. Written by John who was one of Jesus’ disciples, this Gospel does not follow Jesus’ life chronologically. Instead, John 1-12 looks at the eight “I AM” statements of Jesus and at seven of His miracles in order to demonstrate by words and actions that Jesus is God, and it spends the remaining nine chapters on the night of Last Supper through Jesus’ ascension.

This Week in the New Testament: The final chapter of John’s Gospel includes three scenes that are not recorded in the other three Gospels: the catch of fish after Jesus’ resurrection, the restoration of Peter, and Jesus’ remarks about the “beloved disciple.” The theme of this chapter focuses on mission. The events of John 21:1-14 reflect the circumstances of when Jesus first called Peter, James, and John to follow Him (Lk. 5:1-11), and both Jesus’ conversation with Peter and His remarks about the beloved disciple focus on those individuals carrying out His work. Jesus’ commands to Peter to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep” reflect that He is commissioning Peter for pastoral ministry. Tradition tells us that Jesus’ prediction to Peter about His death in John 21:18-19 was fulfilled in that Peter carried his cross on his way to be crucified and that he requested to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to die in the same way as Christ.

Where We Are In The Story – Week 13

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Exodus 35-40, Leviticus 1, & John 14-20

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Exodus & Leviticus)

Background of Exodus: The title “exodus” comes from the Greek word meaning “going out” or “departure” and describes the major event that occurs in the book. Exodus opens where Genesis leaves off – the descendants of Abraham are living in Egypt instead of in the Promised Land. The events in Exodus occur approximately four hundred years after Jacob’s family moved to Egypt, and as prophesied in Genesis 15, Abraham’s descendants became slaves. While Genesis highlights God as Creator, Exodus focuses on God as the Deliverer of His people, for He keeps His promise to free His people and to bring them back to the land of promise.

Structure of Exodus:

  • Exodus 1-18 focuses on the deliverance of the people Israel from Egypt and God’s provision for His people.
  • Exodus 18-24 explains God’s covenant with Israel.
  • Exodus 25-31 provides instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and explanation for the priestly role.
  • Exodus 32-34 describes God’s response to His people’s idolatry.
  • Exodus 35-40 highlights the nation’s obedience in building the Tabernacle.

This Week in Exodus: Exodus 35-36 details the generous contributions from the people in order to build the Tabernacle and God’s call on Bezalel and Oholiab and other craftsmen to build the sanctuary. These two chapters include two emphases: the desire of the people to sacrifice for the Lord’s sanctuary and the empowerment of the Spirit to do His work.

Exodus 37-39 tells of the construction of the Ark, the Table of the Bread of Presence, the Lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Altar for the Burnt Offering, the Bronze Basin, the court, the priestly garments, and other materials. For explanations of the significance of the Ark and the Table of the Bread of Presence, view Week 10 of the Faith Family Worship Guide, and Week 11 contains information about the priests’ clothing and the Altar of Incense. While the Ark of the Covenant was in the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place (the inner room), the Table for the Bread of Presence, the Altar of Incense, and the Lampstand were in the Holy Place (the outer room). But the Altar for the Burnt Offering and the Bronze Basin were located in the courtyard of the Tabernacle.

The Bronze Basin was also called “the laver,” and it stood between the Altar for the Burnt Offering and the Tabernacle tent. It was for the priests to wash their hands and feet before entering the tent since they could not enter until they had purified themselves. In fact, if the priests entered without washing, they would die (Ex. 30:21). While the Bronze Basin served the practical purpose of a place to wash away the dirt, blood, etc. off the priests’ bodies, the laver also symbolized purification and what should be true of them internally and not just outwardly because of God’s holiness and righteousness (see Ps. 24:3-4; Tit. 3:5; Jas. 4:8; 1 Jn. 1:9).

The Bronze Altar (a.k.a. “high altar”) was made out of wood but covered with bronze to make it fireproof and waterproof. Once inside the Tabernacle courtyard, it was the first stop for the worshipper. The top of the altar was basically a very large grill, and the priests would use basins to dash the animal’s blood against the side of the altar. At each corner of the altar, a horn projected outward. While it was used to attach the ropes of the bound sacrifice, the blood of the sacrifice would be applied to the horns, and depending on the nature of the sacrifice, either the priest or the person making the offering would grab the horns and pray or offer praise to God. The Bronze Altar was a perpetual reminder that entrance to God’s presence requires a sacrifice. No one – not even a priest – could approach God without the shedding of blood. In Exodus 40, Moses records the Lord inhabiting the completed sanctuary, and God fulfills His intention to dwell among His people.

Background of Leviticus: Everything in Leviticus points to the holiness of God. His perfection and man’s sinfulness stands as the reason for all of the sacrifices, laws, and regulations included in this book, for Leviticus explains how a covenant between a righteous God and a sinful people practically plays out in everyday life in the era before Christ’s resurrection. Written by Moses as Israel wandered in the wilderness, it contains divine speeches that Moses delivered to the people of Israel about how to worship God and how they should live. Modern readers of Leviticus may tire of reading the many laws and regulations, but for Israelites in the Old Testament era, Leviticus provided relevant information for how they were to go about their day-to-day lives.

Structure of Leviticus:

  • Leviticus 1-7 explains the rituals of the different sacrifices.
  • Leviticus 8-10 gives instructions for the priests of Israel.
  • Leviticus 11-15 instructs the people on cleansing and purification.
  • Leviticus 16 details the sacrifice and instructions for the Day of Atonement.
  • Leviticus 17-27 provides directions regarding the festivals, the holy days, and how the people should live.

This Week in Leviticus: Leviticus 1 provides instructions regarding the burnt offering. When worshippers came to the Tabernacle, this was the second offering that they would make, for there were at least four, sometimes five, offerings made (see Lev. 1-5). It is listed first in Leviticus because it was one of the most important sacrifices that the people would make. It was also the only sacrifice where the whole offering belonged to God and where portions were not consumed by the priests or the worshipper. The burnt offering (a.k.a. “holocaust offering”) addressed the issue of how a sinful creature could approach a holy God, and it demonstrated both the complete surrender of the worshipper and the complete acceptance by God of the worshipper. By having the worshipper lay his hand on the animal’s head, the worshipper expressed the need for substitutionary atonement, for the worshipper could not approach God without the blood sacrifice of a blameless substitute. The fact that life would be taken in order for people to access God speaks to the severity of man’s offense against Almighty God. Passages such as Romans 3:25, Matthew 20:28, 1 Peter 2:19-22, and Ephesians 5:27 in the New Testament draw upon the imagery of the burnt offering.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (John)

Background of John: John 20:31 gives the thesis of this Gospel: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John stands distinct from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in his emphasis on eternal life and how it refers to both duration but also the quality of life that God designed us to have in Him. From John 1, this book establishes that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully human at the same time. Written by John who was one of Jesus’ disciples, this Gospel does not follow Jesus’ life chronologically. Instead, John 1-12 looks at the eight “I AM” statements of Jesus and at seven of His miracles in order to demonstrate by words and actions that Jesus is God, and it spends the remaining nine chapters on the night of Last Supper through Jesus’ ascension.

This Week in the New Testament: John 14-16 records Jesus’ words to the disciples on the evening of the Last Supper, and as a result, this group of teachings is often called the “Farewell Discourse.” In the hours before His arrest, Jesus reassures the disciples by promising His resurrection, His return, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In all of this, Jesus reiterates to the disciples why He must depart. Jesus also leaves them with instructions to obey Him (Jn. 14:21-24), to abide in Him (Jn. 15:4-5), to love one another (Jn. 15:12-14), to bear fruit (Jn. 15:16), and to bear witness about Christ even in the face of persecution (Jn. 15:18-16:4).

With regards to the Holy Spirit, Jesus describes Him as “Helper,” “the Spirit of truth,” and “the Holy Spirit,” but the Greek word used for “Helper” in John 14-16 also means “counselor,” “advocate,” and “comforter.” In the Farewell Discourse, Jesus gives five different sayings about the Holy Spirit.

  • The Spirit bears witness to the truth of who Jesus is, and while the world cannot receive the Spirit, He will reside in those who follow Christ (Jn. 14:16-17).
  • Sent by the Father, the Spirit would teach the disciples and remind them of Jesus’ words (Jn. 14:25-26). The Gospels demonstrate the fulfillment of this promise when the Gospel writers make comments such as “When he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (Jn. 2:22).
  • The Holy Spirit bears witness about Christ (Jn. 15:26-27).
  • The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:7-11).
  • The Spirit guides believers to the truth, declares what is to come, and glorifies Christ (Jn. 16:12-15).

John 17, which is often called the “High Priestly Prayer,” records Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest, and in this prayer, Jesus prays for Himself (vv. 1-5), His followers (vv. 6-19), and the church (vv. 20-26). John 18-19 details Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It differs from the previous three Gospels in its mention of Christ’s kingdom during Jesus’ conversation with Pilate (Jn. 18:33-37; 19:9-11). As Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked room after His resurrection, He breathes on them as He imparts the Holy Spirit to them (Jn. 20:22). This scene in John’s Gospel tells of us a private bestowal of the Spirit as Jesus sends them on mission, while Acts 2 tells of a broader bestowal of the Spirit at a large public event.

Where We Are In The Story – Week 12

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Exodus 28-34 & John 7-13

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Exodus)

Background of Exodus: The title “exodus” comes from the Greek word meaning “going out” or “departure” and describes the major event that occurs in the book. Exodus opens where Genesis leaves off – the descendants of Abraham are living in Egypt instead of in the Promised Land. The events in Exodus occur approximately four hundred years after Jacob’s family moved to Egypt, and as prophesied in Genesis 15, Abraham’s descendants became slaves. While Genesis highlights God as Creator, Exodus focuses on God as the Deliverer of His people, for He keeps His promise to free His people and to bring them back to the land of promise.

Structure of Exodus:

    • Exodus 1-18 focuses on the deliverance of the people Israel from Egypt and God’s provision for His people.
    • Exodus 18-24 explains God’s covenant with Israel.
    • Exodus 25-31 provides instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and explanation for the priestly role.
    • Exodus 32-34 describes God’s response to His people’s idolatry.
    • Exodus 35-40 highlights the nation’s obedience in building the Tabernacle.

This Week in the Old Testament: In Exodus 28-29, God gives Moses instructions specifically about the priests’ clothing and dedication. Because the priests were involved in the work of mediation between a sinful people and a holy God, God determined that Aaron and his descendants should have garments appropriate and symbolic of their work. Therefore, their breast piece had twelve jewels – one for each tribe of Israel, and the two onyx stones on the shoulder of their ephod would each be engraved with six of the tribes. They represented the whole nation of Israel when they entered the Tabernacle. As the priests performed sacrifices for the nation, they also needed to purify and to make sacrifices for themselves before they carried out their duties in the sanctuary. Exodus 29 details the sacrifices that were to take place in a ceremony as Aaron and his sons were set aside for the Lord’s work in the Tabernacle.

The priests of Israel had four specific roles: teach the people about God and His Word, make intercession for the people, facilitate the offering of sacrifices, and take care of the holy things in the Tabernacle. In Exodus 19:5-6, God communicates that the entire nation of Israel was to be a “kingdom of priests,” for they were to do for the world what the priests did for the people of Israel. Along those lines, 1 Peter 2:9 terms Christ-followers as a “royal priesthood,” and as a royal priesthood, we are to carry out the role of priests for the world. For us, this includes: teaching people about God and His Word, making intercession for others, and introducing people to the work of Christ so they can turn from their sin and trust in Him as Savior and Lord.

Exodus 30:1-10 describes the Altar of Incense, which was the third piece of furniture in the Holy Place along with the Lampstand and the Table of the Bread of Presence. This altar was placed in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies, but it was not an altar where animal sacrifices were made. Instead, the priests were to burn incense on this altar twice a day (at morning and twilight). One of the priestly roles included making intercession for the people, and burning incense on this altar was one of the ways this was accomplished. The priest would take coals from the bronze altar in the courtyard (where animal sacrifices were made) and place it on the Altar of Incense, so the prayers would be made on the basis of the sacrifices. Then, the priest would sprinkle incense on the coals, so the prayers would have a pleasing aroma and be pleasing to God. Next, the priest would seize the horns on the altar and pray for the people. Here, in front of the throne (the Ark of the Covenant) – but separated by the veil – was the place of intercession. God designed the sanctuary to be a place where prayer would take place. Hebrews 7:24-25 informs us that Christ is our perfect and ultimate High Priest who makes intercession for us before the Father. Also, the Altar of Incense makes appearances in Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 as it depicts the prayers of the saints before the throne of God.

Although the people had agreed to keep the words of the Lord (Ex. 24:3-7), the Israelites quickly turned from faith to doubt and from obedience to rebellion (Ex. 32). While Moses is still on Mt. Sinai, God informs him of what has occurred in the camp and expresses righteous anger about their sin, making plans to destroy the people and to start over through Moses. Moses intercedes for the people, but when he sees their sin for himself, he breaks the two stone tablets on which God had recorded the law, which symbolized how Israel had broken their covenant with God. Yet despite their sin, he continues to intercede for them, for Moses understood that it is Israel’s relationship wtih God that made them distinct from any other nation.  In his communication to God, Moses asks for a sign of God’s presence, and Exodus 34 fulfills this request. Exodus 33:19 and 34:6-7 emphasizes the goodness of God as One who does not forsake His people, even when they are faithless.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (John)

Background of John: John 20:31 gives the thesis of this Gospel: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John stands distinct from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in his emphasis on eternal life and how it refers to both duration but also the quality of life that God designed us to have in Him. From John 1, this book establishes that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully human at the same time. Written by John who was one of Jesus’ disciples, this Gospel does not follow Jesus’ life chronologically. Instead, John 1-12 looks at the eight “I AM” statements of Jesus and at seven of His miracles in order to demonstrate by words and actions that Jesus is God, and it spends the remaining nine chapters on the night of Last Supper through Jesus’ ascension.

This Week in the New Testament: John 7 records the people’s discussion during the Feast of Booths about Jesus’ identity. Some considered Him to be a prophet while others said that He was the Messiah  (Jn. 7:40-41), although Jesus Himself plainly told them that He was “from God” (Jn. 7:28-29). After this debate, Jesus explicit states “I am,” which harks back to the name “Yahweh” (Jn. 8:24, 28, 58). Unless they trusted in Jesus, they would die in their sin (Jn. 8:24), but the Jews in this passage did not believe. Instead, they proclaimed that Jesus blasphemed the name of God, and they sought to stone Him (Jn. 8:59). In contrast the crowd in John 8, the blind man in John 9 moves from speaking of Christ as “the man called Jesus” (Jn. 9:11) to considering Him to be a prophet (Jn. 9:17) to stating that He was from God (Jn. 9:33) to worshiping Jesus as the Son of Man and as Lord (Jn. 9:35-38).

Although Jesus continued to teach about His identity in John 10, the people did not understand His words and were divided (Jn. 10:6, 19-21). They asked Jesus point-blank if He is the Messiah, but when He claimed to be the Son of God and to give eternal life, they did not believe Him, even though He explains that His miracles were meant to give evidence of His identity (Jn. 10:32). But once again, the people attempted to stone Him and arrest Him on the charge of blasphemy (Jn. 10:22-42).

In both John 9:3-4 and John 11:4, Jesus explains that both of the man’s blindness and Lazarus’ illness were meant to glorify the Son of God. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus demonstrates His authority to give unending life (see Jn. 11:25-26). As with the previous chapters in John, the people were split in their estimation of Jesus after this miracle (Jn. 11:45-57; 12:9-11). The escalation of the people’s response to Jesus reaches a point where the situation becomes volatile for the religious leaders, and they begin to make plans about His death (Jn. 11:53). John 12:36-43 explains how the unbelief of the people fulfilled prophecies made by Isaiah.

The events of John 12-13 takes place during Passion Week. In John 12, the crowd accompanying Him during the Triumphal Entry had seen Him raise Lazarus from the dead, and they spread the word about Jesus’ power (Jn. 12:17-18). The crowd and even some Greeks approached Jesus, and in response, Jesus prophesied about His impending death and resurrection (Jn. 12:20-36). John 13 provides the only account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. Although Lord of the universe, He chooses to serve them, and He expresses that they are to follow His example in serving others because “a servant is not greater than his master” (Jn. 13:16). After announcing that one of the Twelve would betray Him and instructing Judas to “do quickly” what he was going to do (Jn. 13:27), Jesus gives His disciples the command to love one another (Jn. 13:34-35). Although not a new command for anyone of Jewish origins, Jesus qualifies the command by stating that His followers are to love others as He has loved them. The standard for love is the love of Christ, which emphasizes the humility, service, and self-sacrificial nature of love, and this love should be a distinctive of Christ-followers.

John 8 begins with a note that “the earliest manuscripts do not include John 7:53-8:11” because many respected scholars think that these verses were added centuries after John wrote this Gospel. Nothing in this passage threatens doctrine regarding the identity of Christ. Whether or not this was an actual event in Jesus’ life that was circulated and later added to John’s Gospel, the point of the story is true; however, we must be careful not to give this story the authority of Scripture.

Capturing the Beauty in Brokenness

Today’s post was anonymously written by one of our Brook Hills members.

The last thirty-six hours have been an eye-opening journey for me. The Lord has used my daughter to teach me a lot about the “work God requires of us” that Jesus speaks about in John 6:28-29. The disciples came to Him and asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered them, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One he has sent.”

I witnessed a girl broken. Her heart destroyed in many ways by God. Because going into this relationship that God led her to, she believed Jesus spoke ever so softly to her, “Trust me, I will show you something beautiful.”

I was wrestling with the Lord this morning in prayer reminding Jesus that He spoke that to my daughter about six months ago when she was begging Him for direction as to whether to enter into a dating relationship with a godly young man.  She is twenty and has never dated. She had chosen to give her heart fully to Jesus and to trust Him to bring the man in His timing. She was even as bold as to ask Jesus to not bring her a man until it was her husband. She had seen so many of her friends be so damaged and hurt by immature boys that so flippantly came in and out of their lives – leaving them wounded and hurt. She didn’t want that. She didn’t need that. By God’s grace, she knew who she was in Christ.  She knew she didn’t have to have a “boyfriend” to be valuable. She understood that there was purpose for her in the Kingdom of God. As a matter of fact, there were things she could accomplish as a single woman that she probably couldn’t do as a married woman, so for this season, she had decided to RUN! Run after Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

And running was what she was doing when this nice godly young man came along. He began to pursue her with a godly pursuit. She had no interest in him in the beginning, but his perseverance and pursuit of her began to win her over. After four months of his persistent pursuit, he wins her trust. She hears Jesus whisper, “Trust me, I will show you something beautiful.” So, in faith, she steps out. And in faith, I know she pleased her heavenly father. Because after all Hebrews tells us clearly, “it is impossible to please God without faith.” So, this relationship pleased God. It remained 100% pure. They spurred each other on in the Lord. As a result of their differences, they learned what it meant to be flexible and to learn from each other. They chose to flee sexual immorality and chose to never kiss during this dating relationship.

Six months into the relationship, God led this young man to end the relationship he had pursued. He apparently came to the conclusion that their differences were more than could be bridged, and they both agreed that they were having to work too hard to make it happen. So six months later almost to the day, here she is sitting with her mom and dad in her bedroom weeping with a broken heart. The very thing she had trusted Jesus to protect her from.

In many ways, her initial response was to blame Jesus and be mad at God for doing this to her. After all, Jesus led her here.  So the wrestling begins, and we begin to try to understand this mystery. How can God be sovereign and good? It doesn’t seem to match up. How can God lead her into a relationship that He knew the whole time what would come of it? It almost seems like a cruel joke.

And this is where John 6:28-29 comes back into play. I saw my daughter that night, completely broken, but with a choice. Am I going to push through all my questions of why and am I going to just simply TRUST? If she stayed in the why, it would inevitably lead her to misery and hardness. Thankfully, by God’s grace, the next morning, that sweet child slipped into her prayer closet (she had made her walk-in closet into a prayer room), and she got on her face before God and began to literally cry out. I mean utter and total brokenness before God – screaming, yelling, crying, and proclaiming. But it was in that moment that she did the work that God requires…“to believe.” She chose to believe that even though I don’t understand why, I choose to trust you, Jesus. The following is an exert of what she wrote to the Lord in her brokenness…

Oh my soul, why do you resent the One who you know is sufficient to bring you rest? Oh, the battle between the mind and the heart! My mind is saying – don’t do it. You can’t afford to trust Him again. How can He really be good and sovereign? But my heart is saying – my Daddy is good, and He is faithful. I may not understand, but in the Name of the One who died for me, I will trust Him! My God is good. I know He is. I have seen it and felt it. This life is hard. There is heartbreak, and we often won’t understand. But my Abba is unchanging, and He holds me even now. My soul is wholly surrendered to Him, and it forever will be.”

“God’s refusals are ALWAYS merciful – ‘severe mercies’ at times, but mercies all the same. God never denies our hearts desires except to give us something BETTER!” – Elisabeth Elliot

In those moments of brokenness, it is “work” to believe. Because we can’t see it. It doesn’t make sense to our human minds. This is the same belief that Abraham had when the Word of God says that “he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18 says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him. Verse 19 says “without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead….Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God. But was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness.” Wow! Against all hope, Abraham in hope, believed God for His promise. It says he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead. DEAD! But what is Jesus’ promise from death? He brings LIFE. Do we really believe that? So this brings me to this morning as I was crying out once again for healing over my sweet daughter’s heart that she had surrendered to Jesus, and Jesus led her to a place of brokenness.

My journal entry:

“But, Lord, in the midst of all the unanswered questions of WHY, we trust! We trust in the ONE that formed her heart in the beginning to put it back together. It’s beyond my comprehension as to why, You, Jesus, would have led her into a relationship that would lead her to a broken heart! Where is the “something beautiful” you promised her? Jesus, you told her to trust you and you would show her something beautiful. Is ‘something beautiful’ her broken heart? Is this ‘something beautiful’ her utter brokenness? Is that really what you want? Her misery? That sounds so cruel and mean. A God who loves to see us miserable and broken? I don’t know Jesus… I don’t know…”

Then I heard the still small voice bring to my thoughts:

“Do you think death is pleasant, Beloved? … but from death comes life! True life. Our daughter has experienced in the last 2 months death to herself and death to some dreams that some her age will never face. However, because she has chosen to do the only work I require of her, which is to believe – she will walk in abundant life. She will truly live. It’s what you have prayed for; it’s what she has asked me for. 

My ways are higher, dear one.

My definition of good is often different than your definition of good.

My definition of beauty is often different than your definition of beauty.

My thoughts are not your thoughts.

You may think brokenness is ugly. I think brokenness is beautiful.

It is out of brokenness I can shape and mold into my image when “belief” is the action taken. It’s sincere. It’s beautiful.

Many don’t choose to believe me that are broken. Instead, they try to put themselves back together through self-reliance. Or they fall off into self-indulgence. As a result, they become sharp edges, hardened in their hearts, a mess, headed straight to destruction.

If only they would believe and trust in me, this is what I would do…

I would turn:

Ashes to a crown of beauty

Mourning into the oil of gladness

Despair into a garment of praise

Shame into a double portion of goodness

Disgrace into an inheritance of everlasting Joy.

I say to you, Beloved, in order to live you must die. If anyone would follow me, he must take up his cross daily. 

So, while you will never fully understand why I do certain things, I just say to you, Trust me, and I will show you something beautiful.”

Where We Are In The Story – Week 11

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Exodus 21-27, Luke 24, & John 1-6

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Exodus)

Background of Exodus: The title “exodus” comes from the Greek word meaning “going out” or “departure” and describes the major event that occurs in the book. Exodus opens where Genesis leaves off – the descendants of Abraham are living in Egypt instead of in the Promised Land. The events in Exodus occur approximately four hundred years after Jacob’s family moved to Egypt, and as prophesied in Genesis 15, Abraham’s descendants became slaves. While Genesis highlights God as Creator, Exodus focuses on God as the Deliverer of His people, for He keeps His promise to free His people and to bring them back to the land of promise.

Structure of Exodus:

  • Exodus 1-18 focuses on the deliverance of the people Israel from Egypt and God’s provision for His people.
  • Exodus 18-24 explains God’s covenant with Israel.
  • Exodus 25-31 provides instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and explanation for the priestly role.
  • Exodus 32-34 describes God’s response to His people’s idolatry.
  • Exodus 35-40 highlights the nation’s obedience in building the Tabernacle.

This Week in the Old Testament: Exodus 21-23 continues with the giving of the Law, and it concludes case laws, which are representative types of rulings for things that the people would likely face. Exodus 24 records the first official worship service in the Bible where people gathering for the purpose of hearing from God and honoring Him, so the chapter includes a call to worship (Ex. 24:1-2), a proclamation of the Word (Ex. 24:3-4), a commitment of the people to obey the Word (Ex. 24:3-4), an offering of sacrifices (Ex. 24:4-8), and a communal meal that is eaten in God’s presence (Ex. 24:9-11).  Exodus 24 presents the establishment of the “old covenant” or “Mosaic covenant” because it is when God officially sets Israel apart to be His people. It is the natural culmination of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In Exodus 25-31, God gives Moses instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and for the role of the priests. In Exodus 25:8-9, God tells Moses to make a sanctuary for Him to dwell with the people. While God is everywhere at all times, the Tabernacle provided a way for sinful people to approach a holy God, and the sacrifices and the regulations for worship were necessary because of the sinfulness of the people. In the context of salvation history, Genesis 1-2 tells of an unhindered relationship between God and His people, which was altered in Genesis 3. In Exodus, God reveals a plan to reside among His people via the Tabernacle, but there was still separation in that the people could not enter the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter once a year, and this continued for 1400+ years until Christ came. Then, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). No longer was it a high priest who entered God’s presence once a year, but the presence of God, God in the flesh, could be seen walking down the street (Col. 1:19; Heb. 1:3)! After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit came, and the New Testament describes Christ-followers as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19; Col. 1:27).  Not only can believers access the presence of God, He resides in us!

The structure of the Tabernacle was a long rectangle that was a little over 1/3 of a football field long and ½ the width of a football field. It included an outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies (the innermost room). Why is it important to spend so many chapters in the Bible describing the Tabernacle? The details are important because of what the place represents and because of Who would reside there. Exodus 25 describes the Ark of the Covenant, which was the only furniture in the Holy of Holies, and this room was separated from the Holy Place by a curtain. It is no mistake that God leads out the instructions for the Tabernacle with the part that symbolized His presence with His people (Ex. 25:22). The mercy seat (the lid of the Ark) was where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled once a year (the Day of Atonement – see Lev. 16). The mercy seat and the Day of Atonement taught the people about their need to have guilt for sin removed through a sacrifice. The Ark contained the 10 Commandments, Aaron’s budding rod, and a pot of manna. So as God looked down on the Ark, He saw the Law (the 10 Commandments), knowing that His people could not keep the law perfectly, but God saw the Law through the splattered blood of the sacrifice. All of this points to how God can look upon us as sinners and have a relationship with us – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 3:23-24; Heb. 10:19-20).

The Holy Place (not to be confused with the Holy of Holies) contained three pieces of furniture: the Table of the Bread for Presence, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense (Ex. 25:23-40). Only the priests could enter this room, and they had to purify themselves before they could enter to burn the incense, to add oil to the lampstand or to replace the bread on the table. The Table for the Bread of Presence was changed on the Sabbath with incense being poured over it. This reminded the nation of God’s provision for His people as well as how His people should provide constant thanksgiving to Him, and it also represented the people’s communion with God. The Lampstand had a practical purpose of lighting the room, but it also illuminated the way to God’s presence.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (Luke & John)

Background of John: John 20:31 gives the thesis of this Gospel: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John stands distinct from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in his emphasis on eternal life and how it refers to both duration but also the quality of life that God designed us to have in Him. From John 1, this book establishes that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully human at the same time. Written by John who was one of Jesus’ disciples, this Gospel does not follow Jesus’ life chronologically. Instead, John 1-12 looks at the eight “I AM” statements of Jesus and at seven of His miracles in order to demonstrate by words and actions that Jesus is God, and it spends the remaining nine chapters on the night of Last Supper through Jesus’ ascension.

This Week in the New Testament: The last chapter in Luke’s Gospel features the resurrection of Jesus and some of His post-resurrection appearances to His followers. This fits with Luke’s stated intention in writing the book – for his friend Theophilus (and for us) to have certainty regarding the identity of Jesus. In Jesus’ interaction with His followers after His resurrection, Luke emphasizes how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures and how the writings of Moses and the Prophets all pointed to Him, and He explains that His sacrifice and the repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations (Lk. 24:25-27, 44-49). Luke concludes this Gospel by reminding Christ-followers of their purpose in light of what Christ accomplished and by telling them of the Holy Spirit who would empower them (Lk. 24:49).

John 1 opens with a description of Jesus as both God and the Son of God. He is not a Son in the same way that male human beings are, for He has always existed and was never made (Jn. 1:1-3). John 1 also explains why He came to earth and how John the Baptist was sent to point people to Christ (Jn. 1:6-16).  John the Baptist clearly identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29) and as the One who existed before him (Jn. 1:30), for he understood that Jesus is both Messiah and God. In John 3, John the Baptist provides further clarification that Jesus came from heaven and is above all and that eternal life only comes from believing in Him (Jn. 3:31-36). In contrast, the religious leaders expected the Messiah to be either a great prophet like Moses, a great king like David, or some combination of the two. Their expectations about the Messiah did not make room for what God intended.

In John 1:35-2:12, Jesus calls four of His disciples (Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael) and performs His miracle – turning the water into wine at a wedding. This sign revealed His glory and resulted in the disciples trusting in Him (Jn. 2:11), for His actions confirmed His words. John 2’s record of Jesus cleansing the Temple is not a different event from what the other Gospels say happened during Passover Week; John just organizes this Gospel differently than the other Gospels. John 2:23-25 clarifies that Jesus performed many signs during His last week, and this is when Nicodemus approached him because he knew that Jesus’ signs indicated that God was with Him (Jn. 3:2).

John 4-6 contains four more signs of Jesus: the healing of the official’s son (Jn. 4:46-54), the healing  of the invalid at Bethesda (Jn. 5:1-17), the feeding of the 5000 (Jn. 6:1-15), and Jesus walking on water (Jn. 6:16-21). Based on Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of the Samaritan woman’s life, she perceived that Jesus is a prophet, learned that He is the Messiah, and brought many to Jesus (Jn. 4:39-42). While the Jesus rebukes the official and the crowd for their lack of faith apart from His signs, He chooses to heal the official’s son, which results in the man and his household trusting in Jesus (Jn. 4:46-54). Because of His miracle in feeding the 5000, the people determine that Jesus is a prophet (Jn. 6:14), and Jesus follows this miracle with the bread and the fish by revealing that He is the Bread of Life, the One who gives life to the world (Jn. 6:22-59).

Where We Are In The Story – Week 10

To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Exodus 14-20 & Luke 17-23

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Exodus)

Background of Exodus: The title “exodus” comes from the Greek word meaning “going out” or “departure” and describes the major event that occurs in the book. Exodus opens where Genesis leaves off – the descendants of Abraham are living in Egypt instead of in the Promised Land. The events in Exodus occur approximately four hundred years after Jacob’s family moved to Egypt, and as prophesied in Genesis 15, Abraham’s descendants became slaves. While Genesis highlights God as Creator, Exodus focuses on God as the Deliverer of His people, for He keeps His promise to free His people and to bring them back to the land of promise.

Structure of Exodus:

    • Exodus 1-18 focuses on the deliverance of the people Israel from Egypt and God’s provision for His people.
    • Exodus 18-24 explains God’s covenant with Israel.
    • Exodus 25-31 provides instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and explanation for the priestly role.
    • Exodus 32-34 describes God’s response to His people’s idolatry.
    • Exodus 35-40 highlights the nation’s obedience in building the Tabernacle.

This Week in the Old Testament: Exodus 7-17 contains the pattern of God working in a mighty way, then Israel facing a challenge, Israel murmuring and doubting God because of the hopelessness of their situation, then God protecting and providing for His people. This pattern occurs four times in these 11 chapters with the plagues and the Passover causing the release of God’s people, the crossing of the Red Sea, turning bitter water into drinkable water, and providing manna and quail for the people to eat. These events prepare the Israelites to receive the Law that God gives on Mt. Sinai by showing them that God has authority over them and that He is their Deliverer, Provider, Protector, and Creator.

In Exodus 19, God brings Israel to Mt. Sinai to have a “defining the relationship” moment, and Exodus 19-24 records this Sinaitic Covenant between God and Israel.  In Exodus 19:1-6, God calls the people to be in relationship with Him and to serve Him. God continues to develop the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) by making a covenant with Israel, forming them into a nation of His people and making them a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). This meant that Israel would need to be distinct from the world in how they lived and why they lived that way, and as a kingdom of priests, they would teach God’s Word, make intercession for others, and help others know who God is and enter into relationship with Him. In 1 Peter 2:9, these same descriptions of a “royal priesthood” and a “holy nation” apply to Christ-followers and depict how we are to live and interact with the world.

Keeping the 10 Commandments and the other laws did not save the Israelites. God’s people have never been saved by their works. It has always been by grace through faith. The contents of Exodus 19-24 were given as part of God’s covenant with Israel, and the Law lacks the power to save. In Galatians 3:24-25, Paul calls the Law our “guardian,” “pedagogue,” or “tutor” because it was meant to show us our sinfulness and guilt. We are unable to perfectly keep everything that the Law demands. The Law shows us God’s standard of how He wants His people to live.

Commandments 1-3 have to do with a person’s relationship with God, and the fourth command involves keeping the Sabbath. In the Old Testament, covenants would include a sign, which was something that the participants in the covenant would do to remind themselves of their promise(s), and God gave the Sabbath as the sign of His covenant with Israel. Commandments 5-10 involve how we relate to other people, and Matthew 5-7 either repeats or augments many of these commands. In Matthew 22:36-39, Jesus sums up the 10 Commandments (and the Law as a whole) by stating that the two greatest commands are to love God and to love your neighbor.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (Luke)

Background of Luke: In Luke 1: 1-4, Luke explains why he wrote this book – for his friend Theophilus (and for us) to have certainty regarding the identity of Jesus and the beliefs that Christ-followers commit themselves to. While Matthew focuses on Jesus as the Promised Messiah and Mark emphasizes that He is the Son of God, Luke depicts Jesus as Savior. Jesus came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk. 19:10), and by featuring Jesus’ interactions with three unlikely groups of people (the poor, the sinners, and the Gentiles), Luke shows that Jesus came to save all types of people – not just the Jews. These three groups were on the fringes of Jewish society, but Jesus chose to interact with them despite the comments of the Jewish religious leaders.

This Week in the New Testament: Luke 17:1-19:27 take place as Jesus journeys to Jerusalem in the weeks leading up to His death, and Luke 19:28 through the rest of the book records the events of Passover Week. Luke 18 includes two parables that are only recorded in this Gospel: the parable of the persistent widow (Lk. 18:1-8) and the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector (Lk. 18:9-14), and both parables address the subject of prayer. As Jesus teaches on the coming of the Kingdom, He instructs the disciples to pray with perseverance as the widow who repeatedly sought vindication from the judge (Lk. 17:20-18:8). With the second parable, Jesus warns against prideful motivations for prayer and piety and advocates humility and dependence on God. Luke’s descriptions of Jesus in Gethsemane are unique from the other Gospels with regards to his emphasis on prayer. Luke records Jesus’ instructions for Peter, James, and John to pray that they not fall into temptation, describes Jesus earnestly petitioning God for a different path than the cross yet being strengthened by an angel, then urging the sleepy disciples to pray so they do not fall into temptation (Lk. 22:39-46). Jesus exemplifies what He teaches and establishes the importance of praying in the midst of trials.

As with the other Gospels, Luke records Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, warnings about the cost of being His disciple, and descriptions of how His followers should live (Lk. 9:23-27, 57-62; 14:25-33). In Luke 12-16, Luke describes money as a chief hindrance to following Christ, and this theme continues in Luke 17-23. The story of the rich young ruler demonstrates the danger of possessions and wealth (Lk. 18:18-30). In contrast to the rich young ruler, Zaccheaus who was a tax collector trusted in Christ and demonstrated his repentance by restoring what he had taken (see Lk. 18:26-27). In this week’s readings, Luke contrasts wealth as a deterrant to following Christ with the generosity of both Zachaeus and the poor widow (Lk. 21:1-4).

As Jesus approaches Jerusalem on His way to Passover, Luke alone notes Jesus weeping over the city (Lk. 19:41-44). Although the people had praised Him (Lk. 19:28-40), Jesus had recently concluded a parable telling of His own rejection by the Israelites (Lk. 19:11-27), and He knew what the next week entailed. Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur in A.D. 70, and He weeps as He cites their rejection of Him as the reason for this coming judgment on the city (Lk. 19:44).