Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, December 20, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 59

Prayer Point: David composed this prayer with spies lurking outside his home looking for an opportunity to kill him, an innocent man hunted by a wicked king.  Pray this psalm for a group of oppressed people that God brings to your attention: it could be the unborn, factory workers in Bangladesh who work for $37 a month – 144 of whom just died in a factory fire, the people of Haiti, whomever comes to mind.  Pray that God will protect the weak and secure justice for them.

Matthew 3:1-12 

Background. Israel has been waiting for centuries for the coming of their Messiah. This ‘anointed one’ would restore their fortunes by defeating the evil powers that oppressed them and establish God’s peace on earth which Matthew calls the “kingdom of God”. Isaiah, one of Israel’s greatest prophets predicted that another prophet would come to prepare God’s people for their king’s arrival. That prophet is John the Baptist, who, as we saw yesterday, dresses and acts the part of a prophet of God.

Repentance refers to a humble return to God where one confesses his sin, depending on Him for forgiveness and the power to change.

The Jordan River happens to be place where Israel, hundreds of years earlier, had entered their Promised Land, the land we call Israel today. It is God’s way of telling his people, it’s time to start over.

Baptism exists in Judaism as well as Christianity. Converts to Judaism are baptized symbolizing the washing away of the filth of their old pagan lifestyle.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were rival Jewish factions who fought to control religious life in Israel. The Pharisees largely had the support of the people for their commitment to Jewish Law and tradition, often at great personal sacrifice. The Sadducees on the other hand were favored by the Romans because they abandoned traditional beliefs such as the resurrection and the after life, which they deemed dangerous and sometimes encouraged the people to revolt.

Pay close attention to …

  • The message John the Baptist gives to the Jews and what he asks them to do to prepare for their coming king.
  • Why John the Baptist is critical of the religious leaders of his day and how he warns them.
  • How John the Baptist sees himself compared to Jesus, the one who will come after him.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.
What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

2 Peter 2:10-16 

Background. 2 Peter is a letter that was written by the Apostle Peter and circulated among the churches that existed at the time. In chapter two Peter warns the church of false teachers who will infiltrate the church and lead many Christians astray.

Angels were highly respected by Jews and the early Christians alike. They were seen as messengers of God and to slander an angel was akin to slandering the God who sent them.

Pay close attention to …

  • The characteristics and behavior of the false teachers.
  • The judgment that they will receive from God and the example of Balaam (see verses 15-16 and Numbers 22:1-41).

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.
What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Isaiah 9:18-10:4         Self-seeking Becomes Self-destruction

To what is wickedness likened? (“For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns…” (Isaiah 9:18 ESV))

Who is getting the credit/blame for this “fire”? (While most of the problems are of Israel’s own making, it is the LORD who expresses his wrath through them. They are, in essence, doing all of this to themselves.)

How else may we read verse 9:21? (This is a case of “brother against brother”. Quite literally the ancestors of “Ephraim” and “Manasseh” were brothers — sons of Joseph, son of Jacob. These turn against their “brother” Judah (a brother of Joseph).)

“For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 9:21b ESV)

Can you make a connection between the opening verses of Chapter 10 (verses 1-2) and Chapter 9:15-16? (It is these elders and prophets who are writing the iniquitous decrees which destroy the widows and orphans. “To whom much is given…”)

What are the rhetorical questions being asked? (“What will you do on the day of punishment…? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth?” (Isaiah 10:3 ESV))

What is the LORD’s solution to this problem? (“Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain.” (Isaiah 10:4a ESV))

“For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 10:4b ESV)

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