Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 111

Prayer Point: The author of this psalm is awed by the power of God and worships him with his prayer. Meditate on a couple of the aspects of God that are mentioned in this prayer and use them to offer your own prayer of worship to God our king.

Luke 1:26-38

Background. Mary is most likely a young teenager when God’s chief angel (messenger) appears to her. Mary is cousin to Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, who is miraculously six months pregnant with the boy who will grow up to be John the Baptist.

Keep in mind that Mary is being thrust into a situation that will require great faith on her part. Her reputation with her neighbors and family is about to be ruined. Who would believe, apart from Elizabeth, that she had not been promiscuous but had conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit?

The “house of David” refers to the royal line of Israel that had long been absent from the throne.

Pay special attention to …

  • How the angel describes Mary and the Son she will bear.
  • Mary’s great faith even as she struggles to make sense of the angel’s words. Keep in mind she is probably no more than fifteen or sixteen years old.

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)

Revelation 21:9-21

Background. The book of Revelation is easier to comprehend if you understand that the visions John is communicating to us function as a dream. In a dream, objects operate as symbols. You are not looking at a photograph of a future time, but a landscape filled with images that point to a deeper reality. The good thing is that we have the rest of the Bible to help us interpret what these images mean. Here are some to keep in mind:
The bride, the wife of the Lamb is always a symbol for God’s people, primarily Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New. The bride is depicted as a great city, actually the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.
Measuring a city is symbolic of its protection.

Keep in mind that this book was written primarily to encourage Christians who were suffering for their faith. It seemed that Rome’s power would crush them, but this book gives them a view of the world through God’s eyes and confirms to them that he will protect them through whatever the enemy throws at them. Not even death can separate them from the love of God.

Pay close attention to …

  • Look for features of the New Jerusalem that connect it to Israel (verses 12-13) and the church (verse 14).
  • How this vision might have encouraged the first Christians to read this book.

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 28:9-22 “precept upon precepty, line upon line …”

What is the imagery Isaiah uses in verses 28:9-11? (I confess I needed some help with this: Isaiah is mocking the people while trying to bring them the message from the LORD. In Hebrews the writer warns: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV))
Who then will be called upon to speak to this people since they are not going to listen to the prophets whom the LORD sent? (“For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people.” (Isaiah 28:11 ESV))

This is a “free for all”. Who are the “people of strange lips” Isaiah refers to? (While the text does not specifically say, we may deduce that since the message is being delivered to Ephraim (see 28:1) that the foreigners will turn out to be our friends the Assyrians. It is unlikely that Ephraim (Israel) will respond any more favorably to the Assyrians “teachers” than to Isaiah and the other prophets.)

What is the message the LORD wants to deliver to the people? (“…the LORD will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose’; yet they would not hear.” Isaiah 28:11b-12 ESV))

What will this word of the LORD be to them (Israel [Ephraim])? (“And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:13 ESV) You will note that there is no improvement in the attitude of the people (from verse 9).)

Verses 28:14-16 report to the leaders [and teachers] what the Lord has in store for them. Since they cannot lead nor teach and have become arrogant trusting in their own power saying: “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge and in falsehood we have taken shelter.” (Isaiah 28:15 ESV) The covenant with death and Sheol is one which Ephraim [Israel] made with Egypt who was to protect Ephraim against the invading Assyrians (“the overwhelming whip”). The LORD has already pronounced judgment against Israel but somehow she thinks she can outfox the fox as it were. “… for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter.” (Isaiah 28:15 ESV) The problem here is that Israel is believing her own lies. We have seen this before and will see it again. For some reason these people think that God will not do to them as he has always done to idolaters. This is how a people can become hardened against God. The same is true of anyone. When Israel was still in Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart, at first, was hardened by God. But by the time of the tenth plague he had managed to harden his own heart. Try to learn from someone else’s mistakes; a mark of true wisdom.

What is the Lord’s message to the people? (“See, I say a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16 NIV) In Matthew Chapter 21 while Jesus was addressing the people with a parable of a vineyard: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a wine press in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son, ‘he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take is inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:33-43 NIV) This is the Rock we hear so much about. This is the same Rock that Moses struck in the wilderness which brought life-giving water to the thirsty Israelites.)

What will the LORD do about “the covenant with death and Sheol”? (Justice and righteousness will reign. The LORD will sweep away the refuge of lies and the covenant with death and Sheol will be annulled.)

“For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.” (Isaiah 28:20 ESV) This means that one can try to thwart the LORD’s plan, but that life will not be comfortable nor rewarding. One has to remember that these warnings were given to the leaders of the people, those who should have known better.

What is Isaiah’s final appeal to the people in verse 28:22? (“Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord GOD of hosts against the whole land.” Isaiah wants the people repent.)

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