Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 47

Prayer Point. The struggles of life can easily warp our view of the world. Psalm 47 encourages us to look up, clap, sing and shout praises to God. Take time to praise him that the Jesus we crucified has been raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and has been crowned king of all Creation.

John 5:1-18

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 central issue in John chapter 5 is the question of Jesus’ identity and his authority. The dispute centers around what was called the Sabbath. The fourth commandment, recorded in Exodus 20:8-10, directed Israel to work six days a week, but the Sabbath day, Saturday, no work was to be done. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh and so God’s people were commanded to work for six days and rest on the seventh.  Everyone was to rest: husbands, wives, children, servants, employees, farm animals; everyone.

That part of the law was straightforward.  The trouble comes when you try to apply it.  What constitutes work?  Does it only apply to paid jobs? Can you feed your animals and milk the cows on the Sabbath? What if you are a doctor and someone is sick? These were questions that everyone faced and it was the role of the teachers of the law to help apply the law to their unique life situations.  Enter Jesus and his interpretation of the Sabbath Law which contradicts that of the teachers of the Law.  The question is now: does Jesus have the authority to interpret what is legal to do on the Sabbath? The tradition of the Jewish elders held that healing constituted work and therefore was unlawful on the Sabbath.  By the way, carrying your mat was also considered work.  Whose authority is greater?  Jesus’ or the teachers of the law? If Jesus is greater who must he be?

Pay close attention to …

  • How desperately the paralyzed man wanted to be healed and how it contributed to his faith.  Notice what he does in response to Jesus’ “impossible” command.
  • The Jews’ reaction to the man’s healing and what it should have been.  Look at their response to the healed man (verses 9-12) and to Jesus himself (verse 14).
  • The reason Jesus gives for healing the man on the Sabbath and what it tells us about this identity (verses 17-18).
  • 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.

Hebrews 9:1-14

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. Verses 1-7 describes in great detail the layout of the tabernacle and the role of the priests who entered the inner room on the Day of Atonement to offer the blood of the sacrifice for the sins of the people.  God used the old covenant, the old priests, and the old sacrifices to teach us something about himself.  What do these old rituals teach us about God and how we are to relate to him?  What couldn’t these old rituals do?  Who were these rituals pointing to?  How does Christ complete the Old Testament rituals?

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.

Genesis 15:1-21

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. 

What is the first thing the LORD says to Abram in this chapter?
[“Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.” v. 15:1]

What is Abram’s complaint?  On what is this complaint based?  Why is he having a difficult time trusting God?
[“O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? … You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” vv. 15:2-3 NIV]

To what is Abram referring when he makes this complaint?
[Re-read Chapter 12:2-3]

What is the LORD’s answer to Abram’s question?
[“This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. … So shall your offspring be.” vv. 15:4-5 NIV]

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  Verse 6 is one of the most important verses in all of Scripture with respect of righteousness.  It is so important that Paul quotes this verse in Romans 4:3.

Back in Chapter 12 the Lord said to Abram regarding the land of Canaan: “To your offspring I will give this land.” v. 7  We have just seen that “Abram believed the LORD …” how is this at odds with verses 7 and 8?
[“He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’” vv. 15:7  Here the Lord reiterates the promise made in Chapter 12.  As quickly as Abram believes God, he also has his doubts: “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” v. 8.

*************************
The LORD then tells Abram to bring to him “a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” v. 15:10 (NIV)  “Abram brought all these to him, but cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however he did not cut in half.” v. 15:11 (NIV)

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” vv. 15:17-20.

This ritual requires some explanation.  I cite from The Archaeological Bible p. 1251.  This ritual was practiced throughout the Near East ({today’s geography} i.e., Eastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.).

“The Hittite Ritual of Passing between the Pieces of a Sacrifice

Jeremiah 34    Jeremiah 34:18-20 refers to Zedekiah’s covenant with God, in which the people passed between the parts of a calf cut in two.  A similar ceremony is described in Genesis 15.  What was the significance of passing between the pieces of an animal that had been split in half?  Ancient texts supply us with several parallels to the Biblical rite.

§ A Middle Hittite text describes a purification ceremony.  This ceremony required defeated troops to march between the severed halves of a human, a billy goat, a puppy and a piglet, with fires burning on each side.  The troops were first to perform the ritual near a river, where they would sprinkle themselves with water as they marched; then they were to enact it in the plain in like manner.

§  In an eighth-century B.C. Aramaic treaty between Ashurnirari V and his vassal Matilu of Arpad, Matilu and his sons are likened to a spring lamb whose knuckle is placed in the mouth of its severed head, lest he should “sin” against the treaty with his lord.

§   Esharddon (680-669 B.C.) of Assyria declared in a treaty that his vassal and the vassal’s children, if he were to break the Assyrian king’s covenant, were to be treated in the same manner as the animals that lay slaughtered and gutted before them.

  The Hittite ritual is similar to its Biblical counterpart, but the Assyrian texts may help us to understand its true significance.  Essentially, these rites served as self-imprecation oaths, by which people called down curses upon their own heads should they fail to keep their part of the covenant they were solemnly ratifying.  The ritual was a way of saying, “May what happened to these animals happen to us if we break this covenant.”  Zedekiah’s covenant symbolized what would befall covenant-breakers.  In this case Zedekiah and his people did break the covenant, and the death and destruction the ritual enacted were indeed the outcome.”

We understand from this passage that the “fire pot with a blazing torch” which passed between the halves of the cut up animals was the LORD.  He was the party which made this covenant with Abram and thus he was the only one bound by it.  By suggestion, if the LORD were to break this covenant, he would be calling down curses upon himself.   According to the local customs, this was a demonstration as to the seriousness 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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