Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 77

Prayer Point.  Asaph, the author of Psalm 77, is thinking back on how he prayed during a dark period of his life. He cried out to God and refused to be comforted. He also reminds God of the great things he has done in the past and asks him to do it again.  Try following this prayer pattern today, either for yourself or someone you know who is going through a difficult time.

Luke 12:22-31

Background. The biggest challenge in following Jesus is not so much in keeping his rules or working hard enough for him.  Our biggest struggle is to trust him. In today’s reading, Jesus challenges us to trust him for our daily bread (see also Luke 11:3).

Pay close attention to …

  • What the birds and the lillies can teach us about God’s ability to provide.
  • What it is about God our Father that allows us to trust him for our food, drink, clothes and shelter.
  • What we would be free to do, if we fully trusted God the Father to provide for us (see verses 31-34).

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 5:1-14

Background. The book of Revelation is a vision the Apostle John received while exiled on the
Isle of Patmos off the western coast of Turkey.  He was a victim of Roman persecution and was cut off from the churches that he so dearly loved.  It would have been easy for him to fall into despair had not God allowed him to see the world from his divine perspective.

The sky has been pulled back in today’s reading and John is given the privilege of peering into the throne room of heaven. Jesus is there in the form of a lamb. God the Father is seated on the throne and at his right hand is a scroll which represents his plan to save his people and restore the earth.

It is important to remember that John is experiencing a dream and so the images as well as the numbers are highly symbolic. Seven is one number that recurs throughout this passage which to the Jewish mind represented perfection or wholeness. In that light Jesus is not a genetic experiment that has gone horribly wrong, but one in whom lives the perfect Holy Spirit.  The lamb does not have seven eyes nor does God have seven spirits.  But there is one Christ and in him dwells the one perfect Holy Spirit.

Standing next to the Lamb are four living creatures and twenty four elders. These represent, respectively, creation and God’s redeemed people. There were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles and when you add them together you get twenty four.

Finally, the death of the lamb refers to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why John weeps and how the Lamb is the answer to his grief.
  • Why the Lamb is the only worthy one in heaven and earth to open the scroll.
  • The effect of Christ’s blood on God’s people (see verses 9-10).
  • The worship service in honor of the Lamb.

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 Kings 2:1-15

Background. [It is altogether fitting that we look at this particular passage on the eve of Ascension Day.]

Prophets come and prophets go but surely the greatest of the Old Testament prophets was Elijah.  This was confirmed on the mount of Transfiguration when he appeared with Moses talking to Jesus.  The LORD told Elijah to confirm Elisha as his successor shortly before he was taken up into heaven.  Now the confusion begins.  The lives of Elijah and Elisha are so paralleled that I often confuse the one with the other.  I think I might distinguish between them if I were to see them together simply because the bible tells us that Elisha was bald (and rather sensitive about it — later in this chapter vv. 23-25).  The bible, however, does not say that Elijah wasn’t bald — so maybe I would still be hard-pressed to tell them apart.  The upshot is that both of these men were remarkable instruments of God in Israel at a time of great apostasy.

Pay close attention to …

  • What Elijah commands Elisha when Elijah leaves for Bethel (v. 2 )*
  • Elisha’s response (v. 3 )**
  • What the company of the prophets at Bethel tell Elisha (v. 3 )
  • Elisha’s response to the company of prophets at Bethel (v. 3 )***

This same scenario is repeated twice more: once at Jericho and again at the Jordan River with similar responses from Elisha and the “company of prophets”.

  • Elijah’s not-so-unique method of crossing the Jordan (v. 8 )
  • Elisha’s request of Elijah (v. 9 )
  • What Elisha must do to get this double portion (v. 10 )
  • The first thing Elisha does once Elijah was taken away (v. 12b )
  • How Elisha knows he is confirmed in his new role (v. 15 )

* Bethel is significant because it was one of the two cities in Israel (the northern kingdom) where Jeroboam (I) had set up golden calves for his centers of worship.  As for Elijah’s command “Stay here” that may simply have been a way of forestalling the inevitable slated for later that day.

** Elisha’s response “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” Elisha may have wanted to prove his commitment and dedication to Elijah.  He also my not really have wanted Elijah to go away.

*** Elisha’s comment to the company of the prophets: “Yes, I know, but do not speak of it.”  The truth is that no one knew exactly what was going to happen to Elijah but it would have been considered very unseemly to speak thusly when one thought the person in question was going to die.

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)

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