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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

April 2014

Daily Bible thoughts 588: Friday 4th April 2014:

 Micah 5:1-5

This marvellous prophetic passage reveals a stark contrast between the vulnerable king (1) and his vulnerable people (3), and the invulnerable ruler: the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus (2, 4 and 5). We have the temporary monarch and the eternal King. There is also a contrasting of the big city of Jerusalem and the ‘little town of Bethlehem’.

Verse 1 is about the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and the striking down of King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1-7). The call is to Jerusalem to mobilise its troops, but the effort to defend the city will prove hopeless. But for now, prepare for the worst, victim daughter! The siege is set against us. They humiliate Israel’s king, slapping him around like a rag doll. The Message.

But this terrible prediction is followed in (2) with a great hope. Israel will not be permanently destroyed, but will rise again under a new ruler. He will come from Bethlehem Ephrathah. Ephrathah is the ancient name for Bethlehem. It also signifies the area around the little town. But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter – The Message. Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David (1 Sam.17:12). So through a common birthplace, a connection between David and the Messianic ruler yet to come is established (Matt.2:3-6). Though the royal line of David had become corrupt and would be felled like a tree, another line from the family of David and his father Jesse would survive, and from that line the Messiah would come (Isaiah 11:1). God does great works in insignificant places. Preaching on revival in the 1950’s Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones said something like this: ‘The next revival will probably break out in some remote hamlet no-one much has heard of.’ This ruler to be born in Bethlehem is no ordinary man. His origins will be from before His birth (John 8:58); indeed, from ancient times, from the beginning of the world (John 1:1, 2). Only Jesus, the Son of God, truly fits the bill. He came into the world in fulfilment of this prophecy made centuries earlier. His family tree is ancient and distinguished. The Message. No doubt at the time no-one could understand the magnitude of this prophecy and how it would be fulfilled. Micah may have had a sense of it, but we don’t know if he did.

The second half of verse three looks forward to the coming of Gentiles to join Jews in the flock of the Messiah (John 10:16). The reference to she who is in labour giving birth may indicate Mary. (But it can also be about Bethlehem or abandoned Israel. The nation was about to suffer like a woman in child birth.)

How wonderfully (4, 5) along with (2) have been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. Compare John 10:7-18 with (4), and Isaiah 9:6 and Eph.2:14 with (5). AND THIS MAN IS OUR PEACE. He came and preached peace to them that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh. He has made peace by the Blood of his Cross. He is the Prince of Peace to loyal and loving hearts. He sheds abroad in our hearts his own peace, which the world cannot take away. F.B. Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.353.

 Prayer: Even in the middle of great difficulties may all your people experience Jesus as their peace.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 587: Thursday 3rd April 2014:

Psalm 104:31-35

This is the culmination of a wonderful psalm about the great God who is creator and sustainer of the universe.

The glory of GOD – let it last forever! Let GOD enjoy his creation. The Message. The reference to the glory of the LORD in (31) is to the Creator’s glory exhibited in His created universe. Verse 32 brings before us an awesome (and even frightening?) vision of God (see also Micah 1:3-5). He takes one look at earth and triggers an earthquake, points a finger at the mountains, and volcanoes erupt. The Message. Solid as the universe may appear it is of the utmost fragility in relation even to his eyes and fingers. J.A. Motyer: New Bible Commentary, p.554. (By the way, verse 35 seems to link to verse 32.)

In the light of the above, you might not expect a reference to song to appear next. But that is exactly what you do find (33). This is a great resolution on the part of the psalmist. It’s a good and right decision to make; not just to sing about God, but to sing to Him (recognising the personal relationship you have with Him: my God.)A friend of mine was facing a difficult time. He knew of a well-known pastor in the U.S.A. who had faced a similar situation. So my friend wrote to him to seek counsel. This busy pastor of a mega-church took the time to write back and advocated that he discover the awesome power of spiritual song. My fellow pastor put this advice into practice and it brought about a revolution in his heart. When I was staying at his house, I heard him go downstairs in the early morning, pick up a guitar and sing to God. I remember Bill Hybels saying in a talk to leaders that at times, out on his yacht, he sings his heart out to God with song after song. Not that you need a boat to do that!! But you do require a heart to do it.

So, can I ask what place song has in your personal devotions? (At times I have used a hymnbook as a prayer book. I have used the words of hymns and songs to pray to God.) In (34) the psalmist is continuing to refer to his song to the Lord in the words my meditation. Someone said that if you can worry you can meditate! Worry is just turning something over and over in your mind. Singing can help you meditate on God. It is by no means the only way to do so, but it is one way. However, we need to ensure that our songs are doctrinally sound. They are not all of equal quality. If we spent more time singing in private, it would undoubtedly impact our public worship in a positive fashion. (There is a very helpful book by Jack Hayford entitled ‘Worship His Majesty.’ It has some remarkable insights into the whole area of praise and worship.)

So the psalm ends where it began (35b; see 1). Say what you need to in order to bring your soul into line with God’s revealed truth. Don’t let the deceiver have his way with your mind and heart. Learn to preach sermons to yourself. I have told my soul today, ‘You need to sing more often to God, and not just speak your prayers.’ It’s an area where I need to learn and grow, and this has been the significant take away point from my ‘quiet time’ today. I am also thinking about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:15:…I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. I can sing to God out of a hymn book, but I can also sing brand new songs, composed by the Holy Spirit within my spirit. Those songs can be in tongues or in my native language, or, perhaps, a mixture of both. So many possibilities are open. I just need to ensure that I do it.

Prayer: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. O my soul praise Him for He is thy health and salvation…

 

Daily Bible thoughts 586: Wednesday 2nd April 2014:

 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 18

Four things stand out here to my mind:

  • Spoken message (13): Speaking should be a consequence of believing. Look at the repeated therefore in this verse.It indicates cause and effect: if there is belief in the heart, there will also be confession with the lips (Romans 10:9, 10). If we believe it we will live it. Our beliefs will be reflected in our behaviour. (So, for example, if I believe it is going to rain today I will probably carry an umbrella or waterproof coat.) But they will also be expressed in speech. Out of the overflow of our hearts our mouths will speak. We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, ”I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. The Message.
  •  Future hope/glory (14, 17 and 18): We have this great belief, and why would we keep quiet about it? Our doctrinal understanding is that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. Wouldn’t you want to shout that from the rooftops? One day we are going to be with Christ, which is better by far (Phil.1:23). We are going to see Jesus face to face and be with Him forever. We will also be with all our brothers and sisters in God’s family. We’ll be united and re-united in that wonderful heavenly home. Such a conviction will not only be spoken out loud; it will also carry you through the toughest of times. It will give you a perspective, so that can see experiences such as those described in 4:8-12 as light and momentary troubles (17). You will recognise that there will be a reward coming that far outweighs all this trouble. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. The Message. You are enabled to understand that today is temporary, but we are moving towards an eternal tomorrow.
  • Present worship (15): Paul could not only see that these sufferings would ‘achieve’ something in terms of eternal reward (17). He could also assert that they are productive now. Through the pain-filled ministries of Paul and the other apostles, more and more people were coming to experience God’s grace. As the gospel advanced triumphantly, all-be-it amid suffering, and the church grew, there was overflowing thankfulness given to God.
  • Inner renewal (16): This is the second time in this chapter that we hear Paul saying: Therefore we do not lose heart (see 1). As we have already seen, Paul wasn’t thinking primarily about the outward wasting away that comes from age taking its toll. Admittedly that does happen. But Paul had in mind the constant battering from opponents of the gospel. How he suffered at the hands of antagonistic people (both Jews and Gentiles.) But whilst the wrecking ball was bashing him on the outside, an inner renovation was taking place every day. Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. The Message. The reality of this truth can encourage us all, so that we too, in our struggles, do not lose heart.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus that what we have in you is not something to keep quiet about. We do not have ‘the right to remain silent’, but a responsibility to tell. Help us to do this.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 585: Tuesday 1st April 2014:

 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

We Christians look fragile; we are fragile (7). We no doubt feel our fragility more and more keenly as the years go by and the aging process takes its toll. (Although for Paul and his colleagues, it wasn’t getting old that caused them to feel fragile, but the persecutions they suffered.) So when all-surpassing power is seen to be at work in and through us, it is obvious that this is God’s and not inherently our own. It is clear that we are unimpressive, basic earthenware pots. We are so easily cracked, but when that happens what is inside us spills out. Paul says that we carry about treasure that is far more splendid than the outer casing. That ‘treasure’ is the gospel of the glory of Christ (4). We carry an infinitely precious jewel within a most ordinary jewellery box. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That is to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. The Message. The whole point is that God should receive all the glory from our frail lives. (See also Is.64:8 and 2 Cor.12:9).

 

There is an interesting repetition of the words but not in (8, 9). The mighty power of God within us does not allow these negative things to do to us what otherwise might be expected. The pot may be cracked (many times over), but it won’t be smashed, and the life and power will seep out through the cracks. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. The Message. No doubt you too can say but not. You have come through trials. There have been great losses; you have experienced sadness and difficulty; your heart has been torn with much pain. But none of this has deflected you from loving God and following Jesus. It has just created more cracks for the glory to shine through.

 

There is this paradox lying at the heart of the Christian faith, of life through death (10, 11). In fact it is a double paradox because it is life…revealed in a mortal body. If you want people to be able to see the life of Jesus now in this body of yours; a body that will one day die; then you’re going to have to be prepared to go to the cross one way or another. R.T.Kendall has said that the key to anointing is suffering. I believe that is Biblically true. Resurrection life bursts out of those who experience the sharpness of the nails and thorns and the roughness of the cross. My problem is that I would like to know the power without the pain (especially that of persecution.)

 

Any dying we do in the course of our lives and ministries is for the sake of others (12). Someone described Jesus as ‘the Man for others.’ To truly follow Him in this world will mean being a man (or woman) for others. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best. The Message.

 

There was a man who filled up a vessel with water every day, and carried it from the well. But his pot had a crack in it. After a while he noticed that all along the path he walked from the well to the house, flowers were springing up where he was inadvertently watering them. They were benefitting from the cracked pot! I don’t particularly like these cracks, or the things that cause them. But may God use them to bless others and glorify His Name.

 

Prayer: Help us, Lord Jesus, to understand that we cannot know an outflow of your resurrection life and power without a willingness to share your cross. Strengthen us to be willing to die so that the stone may once more roll away.

 

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