Jul 282018
 

After finishing Paul’s letters this coming Thursday, we’re going to go back to the Old Testament and look at a couple of books that are traditionally identified as having been written by Solomon.

Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of an old, wise man – looking back on a full and varied life and reflecting on his search for satisfaction and meaning.

It starts out by claiming that everything is pointless and finishes by encouraging people to remembering God:

 

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon is, on the face of it, a collection of love poetry between a man and a woman but some assign theological meaning to it as well.

 

Back in the New Testament, we’re going to be working through the rest of the books in the order in which appear in the Bible which takes us to Hebrews. A letter written to encourage believers to stay faithful to Jesus Christ – and full of many expressions of the supremacy and greatness of Jesus. A really wonderful book.

 

Jul 182018
 

We’re going to finish looking at Ezekiel on Friday 20th July with the message of hope of restoration of the city, of the, with God’s presence and glory coming back to the temple, and God living, again, amongst His people.

And we’re going to move on to finish our look at the letters of Paul, three letters known as the Pastoral Epistles where he writes to two men about how they should conduct themselves and carry out their ministry.

Writing to Titus, Paul speaks about how he expects different groups of people in the church to live and to work, and stresses the importance of living as people who have received God’s grace, and – as those people – to carry out the good works God has for them.

 

 

 

 

 

In the first of his letters to Timothy, Paul reminds him of the greatness of God, encourages him to fulfil his calling, to carry out his ministry and to follow Paul’s example. Clearly someone for whom Paul cares deeply, and holds in the highest regard, Paul encourages him as he nears the end of his own life.

 

 

 

 

 

And in the second of these letters, Paul gives thanks for Timothy, encourages him to stand up under opposition, to show what it means to be a good worker for God, to resist those who are unfaithful and to rejoice in God’s faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

As we listen in to Paul’s encouragement and challenge to these two servants of Christ, how does he speak to us in our different situations as we seek to live and work for God?

Mar 152018
 

We’re going to finish looking at 2 Chronicles on Saturday March 17th and will leave the people of Judah in exile, with their city in ruins but with a message of hope that they will come home and rebuild.

When we come back to the Old Testament we’ll look at how these stories developed and unfolded through the words of two of the “major writing prophets” – Isaiah and Ezekiel.

In Isaiah we find words of criticism, challenge and warning to the people of God before the exile; words that speak to the people in exile and words that speak of their homecoming. And often words that take on even deeper significance in light of the life, work, death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then in Ezekiel, we find words of someone in exile to whom God’s word came and he speaks about God’s holiness, humanity’s sin, the reality of judgment but also the hope of restoration.

(See Lamar Eugene Cooper, Ezekiel, vol. 17, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 40. for some more context)

 

 

 

 

 

An opportunity to step back a little from just the historical events and to see something of what was going on behind the scenes through this time in the history of the people of God.

But we’ll also pick up again our look at the writings of Paul – working through Colossians & Philemon (probably both written at the same time) and then Ephesians.

Colossians reminds us of the supremacy of Jesus and the implications of that for those who have chosen to follow him, while Philemon is a much more personal letter written on behalf of an escaped slave who had come to believe in Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Ephesians reminds us of the wonderful things that God has done for us through Jesus and calls us to live in unity with each other as we seek to follow and serve Him.

Exciting books and themes to explore – looking forward to sharing thoughts and reflections on them.

In terms of our “progression” we’ll be doing:

  1. Colossians and Philemon
  2. Isaiah
  3. Ephesians
  4. Ezekiel

 

Dec 232017
 

Our journey through Proverbs comes to an end on Tuesday 26th December and we’re going to follow that by picking up on Paul’s letters – where we have come to the letter he wrote to the church in Rome.

Recognised by many as the most complete statement of Paul’s understanding of the gospel of God,

the letter contains many different themes – with ongoing discussions as to which, if any, should be seen as the main focus:

  • justification by faith
  • union with Christ
  • how Gentiles were to be included among God’s people
  • the ongoing place of the Jews in God’s plan
  • how Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus could live and worship together

We aren’t going to resolve these questions in our short daily posts but it will be an opportunity to look again at this wonderful letter and remind ourselves of what it says about God, about Jesus, about the Spirit, about new life, about a certain hope for the future, about a call for whole-hearted service and much more besides.

 

 

After working through Romans we will return to the story of God’s people in the Old Testament and look again at how their history unfolded. We have already looked at the account in 1 & 2 Kings and we’re going to look at many of the same events again but through the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles. These books tell the story with a particular focus on what happened to the Judaean kingdom with less emphasis on what happened in the northern kingdom. Written after the return from exile, to inform and encourage the returning people, they have a very different purpose:

The purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles is to show God’s elective and preserving grace in His covenant people through David, the messianic king and priest. The purposes of 1 and 2 Kings are different. These books explain the fall and destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem as evidence of divine judgment of God’s people who had forsaken His covenant requirements

Eugene H. Merrill, “1 Chronicles,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 591.

As we look at 1 & 2 Chronicles we will see how God calls and continues to protect and provide for his people

 

Dec 052017
 

The BCaD post for 5th December 2017 quoted from Proverbs 10:1 which speaks about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

A fascinating question was asked – “any idea why the different parents are mentioned on the opposing sides?”

Here are some thoughts.

It’s first of all worth noting the context in which these words were written where there was much more emphasis on the male child – there are no comparable references to daughters in the book of Proverbs at all.

There is a recognition that both parents are involved in the teaching and instruction of a son – so we have:

  1. Proverbs 1:8 where a son is enjoined to listen to his father’s instruction and to not forsake his mother’s teaching
  2. Proverbs 6:20, similarly, calls on the son to keep his father’s commands and – again – to not forsake his mother’s teaching

There are three relevant references to the way in which sons behave and the impact on their parents:

  1. Proverbs 10:1 which – as noted above – speaks about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish son brings grief to his mother
  2. Proverbs 15:20 which speaks again about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish man despises his mother (so less about the impact on his mother but more about how he feels towards her)
  3. Proverbs 17:25 which speaks about a foolish son bringing grief to his father and bitterness to his mother – so here the resulting grief is felt by his father as opposed to his mother

(There are other references to fathers and mothers which add additional insight to this such as Proverbs 20:20, 23:22, 23:25, 28:24, 30:11, 30:17).

The contrast between Proverbs 10:1 and Proverbs 17:25 suggests that the actual distinction in terms of negative responses are not great but it is interesting that, overall, we see positive attributes (wisdom) being appreciated by his father while negative attributes (foolishness) affecting both parents.

Waltke suggests that we should not make too much of the distinction with the “father and mother” reference simply being a way of speaking about parents:

Word pairs may also involve common contrasts and/or broken, stereotyped phrases that may or may not include merisms such as “heaven” and “earth” in 3:16 [cited above]). In 10:1

bēn ḥākām yeśammaḥ-ʾāb
A wise son makes a father glad,
ûbēn kesîl tûgat ʾimmô
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

ḥākām “wise” and kesîl “fool” are common antithetic word pairs, and the phrase “father and mother” is a common broken, stereotyped phrase designating “parents” (1:8; 4:3; passim).

Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 42–43.

Kitchen makes a similar argument:

The effect of the ‘wise son’ is that he makes his father ‘glad.’ The word describes a joy that affects the whole of a person: heart (Exod. 4:14; Ps. 19:8; 104:15), soul (Ps. 86:4), and eyes (Prov. 15:30).3 The effect of the ‘foolish son’ is that he brings his mother ‘grief.’ Such a son brings much hardship upon his parents (Prov. 17:21, 25; 19:13). Indeed, he not only hurts them; he personally ‘despises’ them (Prov. 15:20)!
The father and mother are mentioned separately, not because one is more susceptible to hurt and the other more prone toward joy, but as a literary device to indicate that the whole of the family shares in the follies and triumphs of other family members. No child can avoid bringing either joy or pain to his parent’s lives (Prov. 17:21, 25; 23:24–25; 28:7; 29:3). While an age of greater independence is desired by all, one never outgrows one’s responsibility to, or effect upon, one’s family. What capacity for pain we take on when we hold our first child in our arms! But, oh, how our opportunities for joys untold are expanded at the same time!

John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2006), 214.

And these observations are consistent with what we see in the other references to the impact sons have on their parents.

So – on balance – I don’t think we should read too much into the distinctions but see them as speaking about different ways the behaviour of a son (and we can legitimately extend this to daughter) have on their parents. In a world where the long-term well being of parents was dependent on their children to care for them in later life – and with this responsibility primarily going to the eldest son – this was really important. As parents saw their son develop and grow so they would get an indication of how he would be able to take on the family business, how well he would care for them in later life.

With the many variations in family structures and social care provision we have in our culture today some of the ways in which this is worked out will vary – but it does encourage us to think about how our behaviour and attitudes are seen by our parents and what this says about how they will receive the care they need in later life.

Primarily it’s speaking about children and parents but it is good to recognise that how we are and how we behave can have positive and negative impacts on all those with whom we come into contact and, particularly, for those for whom we have some level of responsibility.

 

Nov 082017
 

Over the last few months – in posting thoughts from a “Bible Chapter a Day” – we have looked at 2 Corinthians as part of our survey of Paul’s letters and have just finished looking through Jeremiah and Lamentations where the prophet predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and laments over it.

Challenging times for Paul and the church as he rejoices in their response to his earlier letters but continues to have to defend himself against opposition; and challenging as we tracked the history of God’s people up to and into exile.

We’re going to take a break from Paul’s letters and Old Testament history – but will come back to them!

From Friday, we’re going to look at the one Gospel we haven’t looked at – the Gospel of Mark – and then look at the book of Proverbs.

Mark is the shortest Gospel, thought by many to be the first to be written. It is fast paced, challenging and presents Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of God”.

Proverbs is a book of wise sayings that encourages people to “fear the Lord”; advocates choosing a way of wisdom as opposed to foolishness; speaks about how life “normally works” – even if it doesn’t always work out that way; provides guidance and insights for living.

Aug 262017
 

As we worked through 1 and 2 Kings we saw many ups and downs in the situation of God’s people – linked to the way in which they were following the path He had laid out for them or going their own way. And we left them having been taken away as captives into exile, with Jerusalem destroyed and the temple looted and burned. The story isn’t over but we are going to leave it there for a while!

We’re going to pick up the story in the New Testament again looking through Paul’s letters. The last one we looked at was 1 Corinthians where Paul was trying to address a number of issues that had been raised. His next letter was to the church at Philippi and he then wrote another to Corinth and so we’re going to look at those two letters next.

Paul wrote Philippians while a prisoner but writes with a message of joy, hope and encouragement and seeks to point the believers to Jesus.

His second letter to the church at Corinth is a very personal one  He reminds them again about Jesus, encourages them but also feels the need to defend himself against those who would try to undermine his work amongst them.

And then we’ll come back to the story of God’s people in the Old Testament. We’ll be working through Jeremiah, written by a prophet who lived in Jerusalem just before the exile. He speaks and writes to warn the people, he experiences deep grief and distress, he continues to speak after the city has been destroyed and the people taken into exile. A challenging and powerful book.

And we’ll then look at the five poems that comprise the book of Lamentations – speaking of the sorrow and anguish experienced after the city of Jerusalem fell and the people were taken away into captivity

But even there, there is hope in the God whose love never ends.

Jun 242017
 

We’re going to leave David and the people of Israel behind for a time – but will come back to them shortly – and pick up our journey through Paul’s letters.

We’re going to be looking at 1 Corinthians – a letter Paul wrote to a church that had many issues and challenges to which he wanted to respond. Even though it starts with him thanking God for them, he has to go on to remind them of things they had forgotten and to encourage them to focus on Jesus Christ. We’ll see something of what Paul has to say about Christian leadership, (im)moral behaviour, marriage, idols, worship, the gifts of the Spirit, unity, the resurrection and much more. Real challenges in the church at Corinth, and topics that are important for us to reflect on today.

1 Corinthians 12 [widescreen]

And then we’ll pick up the story of God’s people again – in 1 & 2 Kings – and see what happened after David and how the kings that followed him behaved – some well but many of them badly – resulting in God sending his people into exile in response to how far they had turned away from him. Sometimes depressing, with occasional lights in the darkness, but a reminder of the importance of staying faithful to God and what he calls us to be and to do.

1 Kings 827 [widescreen]

Apr 222017
 

After spending nearly five months of our “Bible Chapter a Day” (BCAD) project reflecting on the book of Psalms it’s just about time to move on. But let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what we have seen:

  • We’ve encountered wonderful words of praise as people rejoice in the greatness and majesty of God
  • We’ve seen people crying out to God from the depths of despair and asking for his blessing
  • We’ve seen expressions of sorrow and contrition as people recognised their failings and asked God for forgiveness
  • We’ve shared in appreciation for the word of God
  • We’ve entered into the reality of life – joy, despair, great civil occasions, recognition of death
  • and so much more

We’ve seen how people engage with God in many different ways depending on what is going on in their lives – and we have seen people prepared to be authentic and real with God and to express the depths of how they are feeling and what they are looking for God to do. Great examples to us in how we speak with, cry out to, praise our great God.

But, from Monday, we’re going to move on to look at two short letters in the New Testament and then two longer books in the Old Testament.

1 & 2 Thessalonians were written by Paul (with Silas and Timothy) to the church at Thessalonica some time after Paul had established a church there as recorded in Acts 17:1-4. Now he is writing to them again to encourage them, to answer some questions, to defend himself against accusations, to correct some misunderstandings about life after death and the return of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 414 [widescreen]

1 & 2 Samuel picks up the narrative of the people of God from where we left them at the end of the book of Judges and Ruth. We encounter three key players – Samuel the last judge, Saul the first king and David who replaced him as king over the people of Israel. We will see how their stories intertwine; encounter intrigue, plot and deception; see Saul losing his position, David being chosen in his place and Saul being resentful; David being established as king and reigning although not always happily or without problems.

2 Samuel 52 [widescreen]

Let’s be open to hear what God has to say to us through His word.

 

Nov 212016
 

For our “Bible Chapter a Day” project (BCaD) we are moving focus to the Book of Psalms.

Often recognised as the “hymnbook” of the people of Israel this collection of poetic writings has been a real source of encouragement and blessing to many through the centuries.

They contain powerful expressions of worship, statements of faith, heart-felt prayers for God to act, expressions of sincere thankfulness, descriptions of God’s character and so much more.

While many of them could be seen as songs of praise there are also many which are “songs of lament” as people cry out to God from their depth of suffering and ask God to act and to restore.

They are open, they are honest, they give real insights into the human experience and show how people can relate to God in a powerful and authentic way.

They are generally classified into five “books”:

  • Psalms 1-41
  • Psalms 42-72
  • Psalms 73-89
  • Psalms 90-106
  •  Psalms 107-150

and approximately half of them are attributed to King David.

This is what will occupy us for the next five months or so.

ps-34v8