Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 46

Prayer Point. It is easy to despair over the evil in our world. We fear for our safety. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. The economy is uncertain. Psalm 46 calls us to fix our eyes on another reality, God’s reality. Pray that we might know that God truly is “our refuge and strength” so that “we will not fear, though the earth give way.”

John 5:1-15

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 guide you.

Background. The Jews were required by the Law of Moses to make three annual pilgrimages up to Jerusalem. John doesn’t tell us which feast it was, but Jesus as a good practicing Jew, makes the pilgrimage along with his countrymen.

Jesus encounters a lame man lying by the pool of Bethesda who had been crippled for thirty-eight years. The Jews of the time believed that the waters of the pool were stirred from time to time by an angel. The first man into the stirred waters was healed. This man had hoped for thirty-eight years for healing, but each time the waters were stirred, his hopes were dashed.

One other thing, the day that this healing occurred is important. This man was healed on the Sabbath (Saturday). The Sabbath, by God’s decree, was a sacred day where no work was to be done (see Exodus 20:8-11). The question was what constituted work. The religious leaders of the day considered both healing and carrying your mat to be work and therefor unlawful on the Sabbath day. This of course led to the absurd conclusion that God did not want people healed on the Sabbath and creates the tension you will see in today’s reading.

Pay close attention to …

  • The method Jesus uses to heal the lame man and what it says about his power.
  • The Jew’s surprising response the man’s miraculous healing and why.
  • Jesus’ warning to the healed man. Chronic conditions such as blindness or being crippled were widely seen in Jesus’ day to be God’s judgment for sin.

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.

James 4:13-17, 5:7-11

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 guide you.

Background. It is believed that the book of James was written by James the brother of Jesus. James was not one of the original apostles, but rose to become one of the leaders of the first church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15). James was written in the early days of the church when most Christians were Jewish and his emphasis was on living a holy life in response to what Christ has done for us.

What should a Christian’s attitude be towards future plans? Why? How is it possible to sin without doing anything?

James 5:7-11. At Christmas we celebrate the first coming of Jesus. Yet we also remember that we are waiting for his return, his second coming when He will put an end to death and evil once and for all. How are we to live today as we wait for His coming? What examples does James hold out as those who were rewarded by a loving God for their patience and perseverance (see the book of Job, particularly Job 42:10-17)?

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 Kings 3:5-14

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 guide you.

Background. Very early in his reign Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. In those days alliances were often confirmed in marriage between the parties. In this case Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh. This is strictly forbidden by the law of God (“You shall not intermarry with them [strangers, foreigners]…” Deut. 7:3 ESV) While the law was making reference to the peoples Israel drove from the land, the intent was that if the Hebrews intermarried with non-Hebrews, these non-Hebrews would prove a snare to them. Samson is perhaps the finest example and the disaster he suffered from the hands of Delilah (see chapter 16 of Judges).

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 597 3:1 marriage alliance with Pharaoh. This is another dubious act to add to those in chapter 2. Deuteronomy warns against a ‘return to Egypt’ (Deut. 17:16) in terms of too-close relations with that nation. The Hebrew verb (khatan), translated ‘made a marriage alliance’ in 1 Kings 3:1, is translated ‘intermarry’ in Deut. 7:3, where the command not to marry foreigners is explicitly tied to a warning that such marriages will lead the people to serve other gods (Deut. 7:4). This becomes all too real for Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4). Even though Solomon ‘LORD the lord’ (3:3), he is a king with a divided heart, failing to keep the Law of Moses wholeheartedly as David had instructed (2:1-4)”]

“Solomon loved the LORD … And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there for that was the great high place.” (1 Kings 3:3a, 4) As we continue through the Old Testament we will see the prominent place the “high places” has in the history of Israel (usually not for good). Until the Temple was built sacrifices were offered where the tabernacle was located but it was not forbidden to make such sacrifices in other locations called “high places”. Interestingly enough, the LORD was good enough to visit Solomon in a dream while he was at Gibeon.

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 597 “3:2 the high places. This is the standard translation of the Hebrew bamot, but it is not clear that height (whether natural or artificial) was an intrinsic feature of these worship sites. The idea is simply that of publicly accessible structures (including unenclosed altars and temple with altars) within which or on which offering were made to God or the gods. The continuation and proliferation of these local places of worship (as opposed to the one place of worship described in Deuteronomy 12) is one of the main concerns of the authors of 1-2 Kings (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 35). Solomon begins by tolerating worship of the LORD at these places and ends up being drawn into full-blown apostasy (1 Kings 11:7-8), as also later do Israel and Judah (e.g., 12:28-31; 2 Kings 21:3-9).”]

Solomon has a vision in a dream where the LORD appears to him and says, “Ask what I shall give you.” (1 Kings 3:5 ESV) After acknowledging all the good that the LORD had done for his father David, Solomon proceeds to his request: “And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. … Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your people?” (1 Kings 3:7, 9) Here Solomon displays unique wisdom (if not common sense) in this request.

The LORD was impressed! (How often can you say that?) “And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.’” (1 Kings 3:11-14)

Solomon then returns to Jerusalem and there gives thanks to the LORD before the ark of the covenant.

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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