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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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November 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 1022: Monday 30th November 2015: Luke 2:41-52: Holy habits.

 Luke 2:41-52: Holy habits.(please click here for todays passage)

Here are some further thoughts from my recent reading in Luke:

  • Consider phrases like ‘’used to go’’, ‘’as usual’’ and ‘’according to the custom’’ (42). This speaks of holy habits of public worship. Jesus grew up in that atmosphere, where there was a commitment to attend the recognised gatherings. Although we don’t have ‘laws’ about church worship, we could learn a thing or two from the Jews about the importance of regularly coming together before God. Furthermore, we know that we should not give up on meeting together. Hebrews 10:25 is surely a word for these times. For Joseph and Mary, going up to Jerusalem for the Passover meant a 60-70 mile journey. It took effort. It was also a step of faith for many of the worshippers, trusting God with their land and work while they were away from home. We can afford to take time out to praise God with others. While we are resting, He will keep the universe running. It does not rest on our shoulders. In one sense, ‘Sabbath’ time is a necessary and humbling reminder that we are not God.
  • We (as individuals and as churches) can ‘lose’ Jesus in a sense, and not realise it for a time (43b, 44). We can lag behind Him. We can also (as here) move on ahead of Him. The key is to keep in step with Him.
  • Jesus’ primary submission had to be to the Father (49; cf. John 14:31). Nevertheless, the passage emphasises that He was an obedient boy.
  • Sometimes, a good question can be more potent than a good answer (46). I often pray that God will help me to ask the right questions. We have thought recently about how God blesses and uses older people. It’s important to know that years on the clock don’t mean you are finished. But here we see how God’s Hand can be on young people. Jesus was just ‘’twelve years old’’ (42).
  • For a second time in this chapter we read about Mary ‘’treasuring’’ (51) these things in her heart (see 19). ‘’His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself.’’ The Message.
  • Finally, here are three great things to pray for your children, whatever their ages (52; see also 40 and 1:80).

Prayer: Let my heart be full to overflowing with thoughts of Jesus

Daily Bible thoughts 1021: Friday 27th November 2015: Psalm 119:73-80: The faithful wounds of a Friend.

Psalm 119:73-80: The faithful wounds of a Friend.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’In affliction the psalmist himself reaped benefit.., but now we find that he is concerned so to live in affliction that the benefit can touch others also. The same human agents of affliction reappear (78, cf.69) but he prays to bear with their hostility in such a way that those who fear you may experience joy through his steadfastness of hope (74) and gather to him in fellowship (79).’’ J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, pp.568/569.

‘’…in faithfulness you have afflicted me.’’ (75b).

Previously we have read:

‘’Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.’’ (67); and

‘’It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.’’ (71).

He recognised God’s faithfulness behind His troubles. He came into a deeper relationship with his Bible because of them. So in today’s passage we see him:

  • Pinning his hopes in God’s Word (74b);
  • Claiming God’s promises (76);
  • Delighting in the Word (77);
  • Meditating on the Scriptures (78);
  • Seeking to live the Word (80);
  • Praying for more understanding (73b).

His suffering caused him to cling more tightly to his Bible, and to the God who wrote it. See how his heart’s desire was that in his sufferings he would be a blessing to others (74, 79). Today he is to us!

Prayer: Help me to live in such a way, Lord, that in my troubles I may bless others.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1020: Thursday 26th November 2015: 1 Timothy 4:6-16: Embody the message.

 1 Timothy 4:6-16: Embody the message.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Restlessness is discontent, and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.’’ Thomas Alva Edison.

Timothy was given a tough assignment. He had to work in the same arena where the false teachers were active and stand his ground. Here are some things he was told to do:

  • Teach the truth (6, 11, 13, and 14). Where there is darkness the entrance of light will dispel it. Whereas Timothy was to teach God’s Word verbally, he also was expected to do so visually; to live it out before men. ‘’Teach believers with your life…’’ The Message. He was called to lead by example (12); to embody the message. Indeed, Paul wanted people to be able to see Timothy’s ‘’progress’’ (15), both as a preacher and as a man. Apparently the godly Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne , said, ‘’What my people need most from me is my personal holiness.’’ It remains the case that leaders/preachers should ‘’Watch’’ their lives and doctrine ‘’closely’’ (and) pursue growth constantly. ‘’Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it.’’ The Message. Timothy’s teaching was to have at its heart the gospel message of salvation in Jesus (9, 10)
  • Turn away from error (7). We can’t help others reject heresy if we are enamoured by it ourselves. There can be an unhealthy fascination with unimportant speculative material.
  • Train to be godly (7b, 8). The idea of training implies work and effort. You think about an athlete training for a big race, and how he or she is disciplined; how they keep working, working to improve their time, even if only marginally. They are constantly straining to get better, and make numerous sacrifices in the process. They push themselves. They don’t take the easy option. We should all want to become better people, more and more like Jesus. Those of us who lead ought to have a strong desire to get better at what we do. This involves trying alongside trusting. We try even as we trust solely in Christ’s power. ‘’Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this.’’ The Message. Timothy had the example of Paul to copy as he read his words, for the great apostle (and his team) certainly put their backs into their ministry (10): ‘’This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally.’’ The Message.

‘’If believers would put as much effort into the spiritual life as they do their recreation and hobbies, what a difference it would make! Physical exercise is important, but spiritual exercise is even more essential. Both discipline and devotion are needed to make a winning athlete and an effective Christian.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.799.

Prayer: May other see Jesus in me more and more.

Daily Bible thoughts 1019: Wednesday 25th November 2015: 1 Timothy 4:1-5: Sanctifying the ordinary.

 1 Timothy 4:1-5: Sanctifying the ordinary.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’God’s Word and our prayers make every item in creation holy.’’ The Message.

Paul must have had some specific false teachers in mind when he wrote these words; people who would be easily identifiable by the readers. The features mentioned were common among groups at the time which stressed the need for abstinence as a means of salvation.

We need to make sure that we hold on to what ‘’The Spirit clearly says…’’ (1). Above all this means sticking fast to the revealed truth in the Bible. It is tragically possible for a person to ‘’depart from the faith’’. So be careful about what you ‘devote’ yourself to (‘’devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons’’ ESV). The kind of teaching you take on board is not unimportant. Demonic powers lie behind false teaching, even though it may come via the lips of human beings (‘’Such teachings come through…’’) Jesus said about the devil, ‘’When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’’ (John 8:44b). He and his ‘team’ are committed to spreading error, and bad believing leads to bad living. In particular the demons will challenge the central truths about Jesus we have just read in 3:16.

Some things Satan entices people into may look quite good on the surface. There are forms of teaching about spirituality that are super-super-spiritual. Superficially they may seem to offer something excessively godly, but in reality they are world-denying in a misguided way. They are an insult to the Creator God. We do not have to apologise for any of His good gifts. Everything from God’s Hand is to be ‘’received with thanksgiving’’ (3, 4). Where there are instructions in ‘’the word of God’’ (5) about how to handle a particular gift (such as marriage) let us follow them whole-heartedly. We will find that life works best when we observe ‘the Maker’s Instructions’’. And we can ‘pray’ about these gifts also. This is how we sanctify the ordinary.

‘’Praise in the common things of life, its goings out and in; praise in each duty and each deed however small and mean.’’

Prayer: Thank you for all that is good in the world. It comes from you. Help me to enjoy and employ your gifts in a way that is pleasing to your heart.

Daily Bible thoughts 1018: Tuesday 24th November 2015: Luke 2:21-40: Word and Spirit.

Luke 2:21-40: Word and Spirit.(please click here for todays passage)

Someone said, ‘’If you just have the Word you will dry up; if you just have the Spirit you will blow up; but if you have the Word and the Spirit together you will grow up.’’

I am struck by the balance between the Word and the Spirit in today’s passage. Joseph and Mary were eager to perform what was prescribed in God’s Word. But we also encounter Simeon and Anna, who were truly ‘charismatic’ people. These two elderly individuals were living lives rooted in the Scriptures, but at the same time they were moving and speaking in the Holy Spirit. This is an important balance for all Christians to maintain. We must be obedient to the Bible and open to the Holy Spirit.

Here are some other thoughts from this part of Luke’s gospel:

  • Joseph and Mary were devout and godly parents who, from the beginning, wanted to raise their child according to God’s Word. That is such a blessing. Mary and Joseph were poor. They couldn’t even afford to bring a lamb (24). But Jesus was blessed to have such God-honouring parents. (I have to add, though, that Mary and Joseph were presenting ‘’the Lamb of God’’, presumably without realising the fact). He, who owns everything, came to nothing. What humility on the part of Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9);
  • Consider the miracle of timing that the Holy Spirit moved Simeon and Anna to be in the right place at the right time. Here are two examples of ‘divine appointments’. A hidden life of worship and fasting may be preparing someone for one special moment (27, 38);
  • Jesus is the hope of the world (29-32): Luke the Gentile is communicating that Jesus has come to save the Gentiles, not only Jews. (In every encounter with Mary thus far in this gospel there have been repeated affirmations of how special her baby is);
  • Jesus is also a divider of people (34, 35; see also Matthew 10:34-36). The response to Jesus will split humanity in two. It will determine eternal destinies. It will also reveal hearts. Perhaps nothing exposes a person’s heart quite like how they react to Jesus;
  • God mightily uses older people. Don’t think you are finished because you have a few decades behind you. Stay soaked in the Word and immersed in the Spirit, and always be ready for action. After Alan Redpath turned 70 he commented that he was now in ‘extra time’. But he said he realised that a goal scored in injury time could turn the game.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that there is no retirement age in the Kingdom of God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1017: Monday 23rd November 2015: Jeremiah 22:24-30: The cost of sin.

Jeremiah 22:24-30: The cost of sin.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Let it be our care that we die in Christ, and then it will be well with us, whenever we die, though it should be in a far country.’’ Matthew Henry.

I note three things in this final section:

The seriousness of sin: God knew about this man’s sin and he was going to do something about it. Matthew Henry says that the king was going to exchange a crown for chains. In a way, we all do this when we choose the pathway of wrongdoing. We were created in God’s image to rule the earth under Him. But we have sold out to the devil and swapped the diadem for fetters. This king is actually ‘’Jehoiachin’’. He was also known as ‘’Jeconiah’’. Again, Henry suggests that his name may be shortened to ‘’Coniah’’ in this passage (as you find in some translations) to indicate that his reign would be. He was on the throne for just three months (2 Kings 24:8-17). The prophecy given to him was fulfilled only a few years later (2 Kings 24:15). This king the people may well have idolized as their leader quickly came to disappoint, and even to be despised. All our ‘idols’ will let us down. Jehoiachin would be found to be ‘’a leaky bucket, a rusted-out pail good for nothing…a man who will never amount to anything…’’ The Message.

The fact that sin separates: There is a picture of Hell here, and we have seen this point previously in the chapter. The language used is very strong; words like ‘’tear’’ (24, ESV), ‘’hurl’ and ‘’hurled’’ (26, 28). It’s the terminology of ferocity. Jeconiah was made to be near and dear to God, symbolised by the signet ring’’ on His ‘’right hand’’ (24, see Haggai 2:23). He was created to be close to God and to rule the nation out of that relationship with Him. But sin brings a massive rupture. There is something terribly final about the words in (27): ‘’You’ll be homesick, desperately homesick, but you’ll never get home again.’’ The Message (see Luke 16:19-31, and especially 26). Hell is like this, as we have noted before. It is to be exiled from our true ‘Home’ with no hope of return. It is eternal separation from the God we were created to know and love and serve. It is the ultimate in ‘homesickness.’

The surety of God’s purposes: ‘’Jehoiachin lived for many years in exile in Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Though he had children, none of them became king of Judah (verse 30). Jehoiachin was a direct ancestor of Jesus (1 Chronicles 3:17; Matthew 1:12); in Matthew he is called Jeconiah. In Hebrew, both names mean, ‘’The Lord establishes.’’ Jehoiachin was the last of Judah’s kings to die; with his death the throne of David became extinct – ‘’dis-established’’! Yet that is not the last word. The Lord was going to establish a new King on David’s throne, the Messiah Jesus Christ. And it is to this Messiah that Jeremiah turns as he begins the next chapter.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1107.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for Jesus – and He is not a disappointment.

Daily Bible thoughts 1016: Friday 20th November 2015: Jeremiah 22:20-23: Resistance movement

Jeremiah 22:20-23: Resistance movement(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Are you aware of the ‘resistance’ within your body, fighting off the advances of God’s Word and the moving of His Spirit? Be warned that such ‘digging in your heels’ may lead to unwanted outcomes.

‘’I spoke to you when everything was going your way. You said, ‘I’m not interested.’ You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you, never listened to a thing I said. All your leaders will be blown away, all your friends end up in exile, And you’ll find yourself in the gutter, disgraced by your evil life.’’ The Message.

In these verses the Lord speaks to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and that great city is personified as a woman. All her ‘’lovers’’ (i.e. the allies she trusted in) have been crushed by the Babylonians. The reference to ‘’Lebanon’’ (23) is actually about the royal palace in Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 7:1, 2). The Lord warns all who live there that if they do not repent they will soon be groaning in pain like a woman in labour. (The other reference to ‘’Lebanon’’ in verse 20, in conjunction with ‘’Bashan’’ and ‘’Abarim’’ refers to the entirety of the land. God’s Word is to be proclaimed everywhere).

We need to be wary of persistent disobedience. Yes, God is patient; He is long-suffering, and He may speak to you many times about a matter. But there will come a point when it is too late to change.

‘’I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, ‘I will not listen.’ This has been your way from your youth, that you have not obeyed my voice.’ English Standard Version.

What is the Lord saying to you today in ‘’your prosperity’’ and what will your response be? Is the resistance movement within digging in for a fight?

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1015: Thursday 19th November 2015: Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?

Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?
As we work through this ‘rogues gallery’ of the final kings of Judah, we come now to ‘’Jehoiakim’’ (18), who was one of that territory’s most evil kings (2 Kings 23:36, 37; 24:1-7). Josiah was his father and Shallum his brother. Jehoiakim only became king after his brother Shallum was exiled (2 Kings 23:34).
‘’Jehoiakim wasn’t much different from some modern politicians who profit from dishonest gain while they ignore the cries of the poor and needy.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.1236.
Here are some observations based on the text:
Loving justice (13): God is grieved when the poor are oppressed by the rich and powerful. One of Jehoiakim’s evil deeds was to make his countrymen work without pay (see Deuteronomy 24:14, 15). He was effectively reducing his brothers to slavery. We need to take care that we do not become complicit in any form of injustice.
True nobility (15, 16): What is it that makes a person noble? It has nothing to do with birth or the blood flowing in their veins. Not really. It has everything to do with character. Leadership is fundamentally about who you are. Jehoiakim’s ‘apple’ fell very far from Josiah’s ‘tree’. It was a case of ‘like father, unlike son’. Josiah lived comfortably, but fairly, caring about matters of justice. True religion considers the poor and needy (see James 1: 27). As someone said, knowing God and doing His will are inseparable. ‘’So that makes you a king-living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn’t he? He did what was right and treated people fairly. And things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn’t this what it means to know me?…But you’re blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself. Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims.’’ The Message.
Sheer folly (18): You can be a great person in the eyes of the world, but it’s only for a short time. Then what? Will it be seen that you were an ‘ass’ so to speak; that you wasted your life? ‘’They’ll give him a donkey’s funeral, drag him out of the city and dump him.’’ The Message. Just recently, a famous (or infamous/notorious ) lady died. She was well-known for devoting her life to an overtly sinful business, and no doubt made a lot of money from it. These words of mine are not intended to judge her. Only God can know the true state of her soul. But I couldn’t help but reflect on the tragedy of a life given over to the vanity and folly of sin. The words spoken about Jehoiakim (19) say that he would have no burial. Instead his body would be left exposed on the ground (see Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 36:30.This point is not contradicted by 2 Kings 24:6 by the way. The statement there simply means that he died. No burial is mentioned.) How tragic when someone dies and it can be said: ‘’Nobody will shed tears over him.’’ The Message.
Prayer: ‘’Teach me to live, that I may dread, the grave as little as my bed.’’ Bishop Thomas Ken.

Daily Bible thoughts 1014: Wednesday 18th November 2015: Jeremiah 22:10-12: A tale of 2 kings

Jeremiah 22:10-12: A tale of 2 kings (please click here for todays Bible passage)

‘’Don’t weep over dead King Josiah. Don’t waste your tears. Weep for his exiled son: He’s gone for good. He’ll never see home again. For this is GOD’s Word on Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah: ‘’He’s gone from here, gone for good. He’ll die in the place they’ve taken him to. He’ll never see home again.’’ The Message.

These verses talk about two different kings: ‘’Josiah’’, and his son ‘’Shallum’’, whose throne name was ‘Jehoahaz’ (2 Kings 23:31-35). Jeremiah tells the people not to weep for Josiah. He had died some years earlier while fighting the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29). His body was carried back to Jerusalem where it was laid to rest in peace and honour (2 Kings 23:30). But unlike his godly father, Shallum was an evil man, and reigned only three months. He was then taken into exile in Egypt, where he died (2 Kings 23:34). This tale of two kings was also a tale of two destinies, for one was a believer and the other an ungodly person.

We can understand the logic of verse 10: the call not to weep for Josiah. We can’t do any more for those who have died, but a whole generation would be separated from their true home forever. They would die as exiles in a foreign land. For most that far off country would be Babylon; but for Shallum it was Egypt (see also verses 24-30). This was a matter for tears; and it introduces us to the essence of hell, which is to be exiled (for ever) far removed from our true home – God Himself. It is ultimately a final destination we choose for ourselves by persistent and willful rejection of Jesus, and by refusal to turn back to the Lord, from sin, and be saved from sin. Shallum did not have to be an exile, and neither do you.

From a Christian perspective, we know we do not have to weep for those who die in the Lord. We may cry for ourselves, but it is not necessary to shed tears for them. They are safe, and free and happy; and all our weeping will not bring them back. But let us indeed feel the strongest emotions for those who are ‘lost’. Our prayer meetings should not be dry-eyed as we consider the state as those who now live as exiles from God, and who will remain permanently in that state if they do not repent.

Apparently there was a pro-Jehoahaz party in Judah, pinning their hopes on their king’s return. Perhaps some of the false prophets encouraged this expectation. But it was not going to happen. Neither do we have any Biblical reason to expect that those who die as exiles from God can ever get back home. Though some may preach it, I do not see that the Bible teaches it. The time to repent is now; the time to pray is now; the time to preach is now. Let’s do so, because lost people matter to God.

Prayer: Teach us to care about people, Lord, as you do.

 

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