Tags: bible, links
While preparing to teach my Sunday School lessons and create my weekly Bible passage posts on this blog, I often turn to the Internet to research commentaries, find similar verses, etc. Here are my favorite online resources for Bible study:no comments November 27th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, daniel
13 “In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven.
14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by him. 17 “The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’
18 This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
In this passage from the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar relates a strange dream to Daniel (called Belteshazzar while in Babylon). Daniel has already proven himself to be an able dream interpreter for the king in chapter 2, and so Nebuchadnezzar calls on him again.
Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t give much weight to the concept of Israel’s God at this time; he has his own gods, after all, and thinks more of his own kingly might. But he does at least recognize that Daniel is blessed with some sort of divine power to interpret these dream images. Unfortunately, this time the dream images of a humbled tree, sent directly from God, will not prove quite as favorable (verses 19-27), and Nebuchadnezzar will have to face their truth in only a year’s time (verses 28-34).
Sometimes we give God as little consideration as King Nebuchadnezzar did before his second dream was fulfilled. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in concepts of our own earthly strength (physical, emotional, financial, etc.) that we forget Who has the real power. But God demonstrates in His treatment of the Babylonian king that He is not afraid to correct us when we are in the wrong!no comments November 20th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, john
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
These 3 verses, which echo Genesis 1:1, speaks of the “Word” being with God, and also being God–whether it was thought or spoken word doesn’t seem to matter much. (The Greeks defined “Word” as the “rational principle which governs all things,” as my NIV translation states; however, the Jews defined “Word” as “Word of God,” which God used to both create the world and govern it through the Law.)
But the Word is not just the Law, nor was it just God’s spoken phrases–the Word is also Jesus! After all, the Law (Word of God) came from God and was fully God, and had its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. Thus, the phrase “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” takes on new meaning; John’s not just talking about the Mosaic Law here, but talking about Jesus, too.
I believe John puts this first in his gospel because he wants to make sure that his readers understand Jesus’ role. He was not simply a man, nor even just a prophet–He was the Son of God, the Word made flesh at long last to fulfill the Law and make it possible for us to reconnect with God. John asserts that Jesus was present with God at “the beginning,” in the midst of creation, and “nothing was made” without His assistance. This directly combats any doctrine which says that Jesus is somehow “lesser” than God the Father.no comments November 13th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, psalm
3 But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head; 4 To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
Here, David speaks of God as a subject would speak of a king; this concept of the king “shielding” his people was common among the Israelites of the day, and appears many times in the Old Testament to describe God’s character. David’s words further paint God as a wise and benevolent ruler, whom he can depend upon for blessings and help. With God there, David can rest securely (as he writes in verses 5 and 6, not quoted here).
God does the same in our own lives–even when it feels like no one has our best interests in mind, or that the world is against us, God is our shield. Even if we pretend He’s not there and we’re doing this all on our own, God still provides us with opportunities and abilities we need. We can depend on God because, like the best of fathers, God wants His people to thrive and to have a strong relationship with Him. He has proven He is faithful to us, even if we cannot yet see the subtle glories He has bestowed on us.no comments November 6th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, galatians
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Here we see the apostle Paul being pretty forceful–but it’s for a very good reason! After witnessing to the Galatian church, Paul continued his missionary journey, only to come back a little while later and find that the Galatians had started believing in a different gospel…one which said that the new Christians had to be circumcised and follow all the Jewish holiness laws in the Old Testament in order to be saved.
Paul was understandably confused and a little frustrated by this. This “different” gospel, preached by some Jews who had pretended to be converted long enough to infiltrate the fledgling church, was threatening to tear apart the Christian movement before it even had its wings. If the Galatians quit believing that faith in Christ was enough to be saved, then they had lost the core of what made Christianity different from Judaism in the first place–the identity of Jesus as Son of God and Savior, Who died to pay for sins and rose again.
Thus, Paul asks the above series of pointed questions: was their faith rooted in the old Law, as the Jews believed, or in the new knowledge of Christ as Savior? Did they really believe, after learning the sheer magnitude of what Jesus did for them, that they could attain salvation all on their own just by “acting good enough?” Was God among them because they were “being good” by human standards, or because they professed faith in His Son?
Paul works hard in his letter to the Galatians to correct the slumping gospel, and this helps the early church rally and gain its feet again. But these days, the modern church is just as susceptible to false gospels (I like to call them “Christian-esque” beliefs), which confuse believers and nonbelievers alike. How often have you heard people talk about their good deeds as if the deeds alone will win brownie points with God? Or how often have you heard that God is for one political party and against the other? These and many other false gospels only distract from the real message. To proclaim the message of Christ, we must first be sure we know what that message IS!no comments October 30th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: amos, bible
Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
In this verse, Amos echoes many other Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah and Zechariah, among others) in naming himself and them as “God’s servants.” They are the ones who relay God’s message to His people; they are the ones who write down what God has placed on their hearts. Israel and Judah, both made up of God’s people, were drifting far from God by this time, so nearly all of the prophets’ messages serve as warnings of divine punishment to come, as well as promises of divine restoration after punishment.
These days, the idea of a “prophet” seems a little outmoded; it’s easy to think that the Old Testament prophets were only saying what they wanted to say and passing it off as God’s words. But in fact, as Amos says here, prophets are literally God’s servants, listening to God and acting as God commands. This is not to say that modern Christians can be fortune-tellers, however! Instead, modern people can apply this verse to their daily devotional time, “listening” to God by reading His Word, and then acting in Godly ways based on what they have studied.
So, if we’re confused about an issue, we can seek out Bible verses and passages to learn what God thinks; if we’re having a problem, we can turn to the Bible to see how to handle it in a Godly manner, and so on. We can literally use the Bible as an instructional manual on how to lead a Godly life…and in so doing, become better servants, not only willing to listen but willing to model Christianity for others.no comments October 23rd, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, philemon
9b I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ–10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him–who is my very heart–back to you.
13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever– 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
Paul writes this short letter while imprisoned in Rome for speaking the gospel (thus the phrase “prisoner of Jesus Christ”). He sends it to Philemon, a slave owner and Christian believer living in Colosse. The man Onesimus, whom Paul speaks so highly of here, was once one of Philemon’s slaves; Onesimus was stolen from Philemon, but he had also run away once, meriting the punishment of death under Roman law.
The reason Paul speaks so strongly for Philemon to accept Onesimus again is because Onesimus has become a Christian in the interim, and has helped Paul quite a bit in spreading the gospel. Paul had, indeed, found him to be very useful (which is what “Onesimus” means), and had thought about keeping the man along with him on his missions. But Paul also knew that the legal and emotional rift between Philemon and Onesimus needed to be brought to conclusion and healed. So he sends this persuasive letter to Philemon, asking him to consider Onesimus now “no longer as a slave, but…as a dear brother” in Christ, a fellow believer who could now help Philemon with the gospel message as well. (In verse 18, not quoted here, Paul also offers to pay off any remaining debts or wrongdoings on Onesimus’ record, to further clear his name.)
In doing this, Paul is not only freeing Onesimus from indebtedness to his former master; he is modeling on a much smaller scale what Christ did for us. Onesimus was freed from the punishment that awaited him–a death sentence–and instead was granted life with fellow believers…just as we believers were freed from sin’s wages of death and granted eternal life with God. Of course, Paul was not crucified for Onesimus as Jesus was for us, but the main idea remains the same: redemption can belong to each of us, no matter how deep in sin we are, because Jesus has settled our sin debt and freed us all.no comments October 16th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, jeremiah
Jeremiah 10:5, 10
5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do you any good. …10 But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.
Here, Jeremiah compares false idols, which the Israelites’ neighboring nations worship, to God–and it’s a hard-hitting analysis. Not only are the idols powerless to speak or act, unlike God, but they also can neither do harm or good–they and the customs associated with them are ultimately “worthless,” as Jeremiah states in verse 3. In contrast to God, Who is the omnipotent, holy creator, these false idols are worth no more than the earthly materials they’re made of.
Why is this distinction so important? Because the Israelites have been repeatedly lured away from God by false idols of all sorts; the Old Testament is brimming with examples of Israel’s spiritual drifting, waffling between devout belief in God and the slow leak of worldly values into worship. Jeremiah knew that if he was to reach God’s people, he had to first snap them out of their belief in all these false idols. These idols were only dragging their attention away from God, when they should have been depending on Him most.
Today, we modern Christians must battle a similar tide of worldliness leaking into our faith life every day. This problem is not just an “ancient-Israel” thing–sin and false idols are still powerfully attractive to our human natures, and so the tug-of-war between the flesh and the spirit continues. None of us are immune, not even church leaders; sometimes, we worship false idols without even realizing it (worshipping church power, money, or accomplishments, anyone?). So Jeremiah’s words speak to us, too–even though modern false idols might be amazingly sparkly, they still cannot match up to the power and love of God!no comments October 9th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, matthew
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In these verses, Jesus is most likely referencing the “burden” which the Pharisees placed on followers of Old Testament Law–their highly legalistic reading of Scripture led to a strict way of life, almost barren of faith but full of never-ending atonement rituals. Jesus is literally saying to His listeners, “Follow Me and you won’t need these rituals to keep you spiritually cleansed.”
But this is not Jesus’ only reference–He is also speaking of the spiritual burden of sin, which these traditions were originally meant to pay for. The Israelites and their descendants had long struggled to come closer to God through these traditions, and now Jesus would provide them “rest” through His coming sacrifice on the cross, lifting the burden of sin and removing the yoke of constantly atoning for it. Replacing that yoke and burden is the command to “learn from [Jesus],” following His way of life, placing more emphasis on expressed faith than on mere policy and tradition.
This passage is just as much for modern readers as it was for Jesus’ listeners–we also need to be reminded of the importance of faith in God, rather than just blindly following “God-ish” traditions. Today, we too can “come to [Jesus]” and take on His way of life, emulating Him as best we can in thoughts, words, and actions. When we do this, our burdens become lighter as we learn to depend on God, even if our faith is challenged sometimes–because we know that we have a Savior who gives us rest.no comments September 25th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, proverbs
4 Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.
At first, this verse can seem contrary to all the traditional human wisdom we know. How can being humble and fearing anyone bring wealth or honor, and least of all life? But the humility and fear described in these verses is the humility of wisdom, and reverence for God.
For instance, when we are wise enough to understand that pride and arrogance will only ruin us in the long term, humility follows as we trust God with the things we know we cannot control. Also, when we have become humble, we are more ready to give God the honor and reverence He deserves, rather than relegating Him to a back-burner position in our lives as we stride on self-sufficiently following our own plans.
But what do humility and reverence have to do with wealth, honor, and life? Well, they have nothing to do with the worldly versions of these things, but rather the eternal/spiritual versions. It isn’t about getting rich, but getting saved; not about worldly honors, but the spiritual honor of heaven; not about physical life, but about eternal life. Humility and reverence, genuinely cultivated in our hearts, bring us closer to God, which is the best wealth, honor, and life we could ever dream of.no comments