Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, December 25, 2013 – Christmas Day

Prayer Psalm: 2

Prayer Point. It is easy to forget about the power of God when we watch news or read the papers. Psalm 2 reminds us that Jesus, the Anointed One, is on the throne.  He is in control. Pray that these words might become real to us, that we might live in our world with bold, fearless love.

John 3:31-36

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. The speaker in today’s reading is John the Baptist, the prophet who was sent by God to prepare his people for Jesus’ coming. John is the “one who is from the earth” and he is comparing himself to Jesus, the “one who come from above (heaven)” and “testifies to what he has seen and heard.”

Pay special attention to …

  • How John compares himself to Jesus, the one from above.
  • Jesus’ (the Son’s) relationship with the Father (God the Father). Look specifically for who leads, who follows and what the Father has given to the Son.
  • What is true of those who believe the Son’s testimony and how many will accept it.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 John 4:7-16

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. John understands Jesus and in particular his life, death and resurrection to be the ultimate expression of God’s love. This act of love can not be understood apart from what it means for Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice. An atoning sacrifice is one that turns aside the wrath of God. God’s anger burned hot against us for our failure to love him and our neighbor, but through Christ and for those who belong to him by faith, that anger is gone.

Pay close attention to …

  • The connection between loving others and knowing God and in particular knowing that God the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
  • The connection of Jesus’ sacrifice and the love we are to show others.
  • Whose love came first, God’s love or our love.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Micah 4:1-5, 5:2-4

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. What is the opening lament in Chapter 10:1-2? (Prosperity has brought corruption. “Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will demolish their altars and destroy their sacred stones.” (Hosea 10:2 NIV))

What seems to be at the root of many of Israel’s problems (Chapter 10:4-5)? (They are dishonest. “They make many promises, take false oaths and make agreements; therefore lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.” (Hosea 10:4 NIV) [When I see the word “oath” I immediately think of taking an oath – that would be to call God to witness what is about to be said. If these people are making false oaths as I understand it, this suddenly becomes a very serious offense. Saying something like “I swear to God” may come easily to our tongues, but words are quite weighty – especially those words. This is an act of lip service too. – j.t.])

What is the glaring offense described in verses 10:5-8? (Idolatry – the age-old issue in Israel. The golden calf will be carried off to fill the treasury of the king of Assyria. “The high places of wickedness will be destroyed – it is the sin of Israel.” (Hosea 10:8a NIV) “Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’” (Hosea 10:8b NIV) These words struck me because these are the same words Jesus quotes to the women of Jerusalem while he was on his way to his crucifixion in Luke 23:30.)

The Lord charges Israel of sinning and continuing to do so. He plans punishment for Israel (Ephraim) because of it. What does this sound like? (Reference is made to “the days of Gibeah”. This event is recorded in Judges 19:22-26 which also mirrors a similar event in the life of Lot when he was visited by two “strangers” [read angels] whom the townsmen wanted to “know”. This sounds like “…you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23b NIV) [This particular reference is alluding to a pledge by the “trans-Jordan” tribes to commit themselves to the conquering of Canaan which is west of the Jordan. – j.t] “When I please, I will punish them; nations will be gathered against them to put them in bonds for their double sin.” (Hosea 10:10 NIV) So there is a day of reckoning!)

What is in store for Ephraim and Judah according to verse 10:11? (It looks like what we call “hard labor” with “yokes” and “plowing”.)

What is the point of this “hard labor”? (The point of “hard labor” is to bring Israel and Judah to repentance: “…for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12b NIV))

Israel proves dull of hearing and remains unrepentant. What is the key to Israel and Judah’s obstinacy in verse 10:13? (“Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated – as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children.” (Hosea 10:13b-14 NIV))

Verse 10:15 portends the end of the kingdom: “Thus will it happen to you, O Bethel, because your wickedness is great. When that day dawns, the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.” Things don’t look all that promising.

The “last days” Micah speaks of will be the time of the return of Jesus who will restore the earth to a state better than it was before Eden.

The opening verses discuss that the LORD’s temple will be established. Why will many nations go to the house of the God of Jacob (i.e., the LORD’s temple)? (“He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:2b NIV))

From where do the law and the word of the LORD go out? (“The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [Zion].” (Micah 4:2b NIV))

What, exactly, will the LORD be doing in Jerusalem? (“He will judge between many people and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.” (Micah 4:3a NIV))

Micah and Isaiah happen to be prophesying during the same time (Isaiah from 739-681 B.C. and Micah from 733-701 B.C.). Allow me to quote from Isaiah Chapter two: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:3-4 NIV)

Now notice Micah 4:3b: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” What two reasons may account for the verbatim-like nature of Isaiah Chapter two and Micah Chapter four? (The first reason I can think of is that either Isaiah had heard Micah speak using these words or that Micah had once heard Isaiah using these words in his prophesying. I think it is likely that one had heard the other and then adopted the phraseology as his own. I doubt that it matters in the end. Remember that Micah never identifies himself as a prophet whereas Isaiah may actually have been on the government payroll. [Official prophets were, in fact, paid by the king. — j.t.] It seems uncanny that both men would employ exactly the same words. The second reason I can think of is that since the scripture is the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he brought these identical thoughts to two different men — during the same period — as a means of driving home the message. These verses do refer to the time of Jesus’ return and the millennium.)

How do Isaiah Chapter 2:2-3 and Micah 4:3 differ from Joel 3:10? (Very near the same words are used in reverse order: Joel 3:10 “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” Oddly enough, Joel is also speaking of the time of, or just before, Jesus returns. This is also the time when God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh. All three prophets are, I believe, speaking of the same time and perhaps the same event. — j.t.)

How does Micah describe this time of peace? (“Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4 NIV))

Let us forge ahead and attack something all of my study bibles would rather eschew, namely Micah 4:5 “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” As good evangelicals we shy away from such thoughts as “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods…” During the millennium (i.e., before the White Throne Judgment) it may be allowed for non-believers not to believe. I just think it is impossible to ignore the truth once it (or in this case He) becomes self-evident. Jesus would never prevent someone from believing a lie — everyone is allowed to be stupid. It would be stupid because it could not be ignorance which literally means lacking knowledge or intelligence. These people would have at their disposal all of the knowledge and intelligence they require in order to believe. After all, seeing is believing and Jesus will be here. This choice to be an unbeliever will, in time, have major and serious consequences.

What is the LORD’s plan in Micah 4:6-8? (Micah is speaking here of the millennium: “The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever. … the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:7, 8 NIV))

Flashback from the millennium to the time of Micah and Isaiah (prior to the Babylonian Captivity). What is the message Micah is endeavoring to bring to the people? (Micah is telling the people of Judea that the time is coming when they will be brought to Babylon. “Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued. There the LORD will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies.” (Micah 4:10 NIV) At this point, to suggest that the Judeans would be defeated must have been akin to treason. Remember the prophesies of the false prophets: the LORD would not do this to us [or words to that effect]. — j.t.))

Micah tells the people something they already know which is that “many nations are gathered against you.” (Micah 4:11 NIV) Once the LORD gives the Jews the upper hand over their enemies, what are they to do with their enemies’ ill-gotten gain? (“You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their wealth to the LORD of all the earth.” (Micah 4:13b NIV))

What does “devote” mean in verse 4:13? (When the LORD wants things “devoted” to him, it means he wants them completely destroyed. King Saul learned a hard lesson regarding the “devoted things” in 1 Kings 15. Every time I hear the phrase “devoted to the LORD ” I immediately think of Samuel and his encounter with Saul. Samuel’s first words to Saul are: “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14 NIV) Read 1 Kings 15 for the thrilling encounter between the king and the prophet.)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

 

 

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