Sneak Preview of 2013! \ Week 49 summary posted

What a year it’s been pointing to the cross!  We started this blog in January with a Bible reading plan that caught our interest, and went from the creation in Genesis all the way to the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus the Christ – one chapter a day, five days per week.  As we finish the year with the Scriptures pointing the way to His return and our salvation, we hope you have grown and benefited as much as we have from God’s word this year!

Cross-003But, alas the year is soon ending; and the question of what this blog will be focused on in 2013 must now be answered.  Well, fortunately, we recently figured that out.  A very different reading plan has come to our attention that is just too hard to resist.  As of this writing, the designers of this plan (again, not us) are working on the finishing touches of the schedule – which will be ready by the end of the year.  What we can tell you right now is that next year’s reading schedule for this blog will be focused on what is commonly called “The Wisdom Literature,” or sometimes “The Poetry and Wisdom Books of the Bible!”

More details to come before January, but we are excited about a year of an in-depth look into Psalms, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, the Book of Job and, as an added bonus, the Book of James!  The latter is not included in the list of “Wisdom books” normally, but it is often called the “Proverbs of the New Testament;” and we think it is a fabulous choice to end the year with in 2013!

So that brings us to the subject of the approaching date of December 21, 2012 and that pesky Mayan calendar.  We were recently treated to a very well-written article on that very subject.  Please enjoy it at the following link in its title – “What does the Bible say about the Mayan Calendar and Doomsday on December 21?”

Summing Up

Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week.  I have posted the summary for Week 49 (December Week 1) of the schedule I am following.  This short PDF document contains condensed comments about Ephesians 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

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James 2 – Faith Without Works Is Dead

This chapter begins with the warning about showing favoritism to the wealthy, or more to the point, less partiality to those of lesser means.  God has always made it abundantly clear how much He cares for the poor.  Besides idolatry, oppression of the poor was one of the main reasons for God’s judgment of destruction and captivity on His people in the Old Testament (Amos 2:6-7).  If we are the most Christ-like in all things, but show favor to some over others because of their station in life, we become accountable for all sin (verse 10).

James continues the same point in verses 10-13.  God’s word is to be followed in all things.  Christians do not have the luxury of ignoring part of God’s word.  The example of one person abstaining from adultery but committing murder makes the point in the extreme.

Abraham’s supreme example of obeying God (Genesis 22)

Verses 14-26 are often misquoted and more often misunderstood.  Paul says that we are justified by faith –  James says by works.  The problem, as is often the case, is that people tend to “section off” passages of God’s word and either pretend that supplementary passages do not exist, or that they are in conflict.  Coffman summarized these verses best:

This paragraph is perhaps the most disputed and misunderstood passage in the New Testament; but the interpretation presented here flows out of deep convictions: (1) that here indeed we have the inspired word of God; (2) that this portion of the New Testament is as easily understood as any other; (3) that the simple answers are the true ones; (4) that there is not the slightest contradiction between Paul and James; (5) that Paul’s affirmation that we are justified “by faith” and James’ declaration that we are justified “by works” mean simply that we are indeed justified “by both,” and that it is a sin to assert that men are justified either (a) “by faith alone,” or (b) “by works alone”; (6) that all of the alleged contradiction between the sacred writers James and Paul derives not from what either of them said, but from the false allegations of theologians concerning what they meant…

The point, as expressed in verse 17 is that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  Abraham’s works referred to in verses 21-23 did not occur without faith, but rather they occurred because of his faith.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

James 1 – Testing of Your Faith

A house in old Jerusalem today, a reminder of Bible-time houses

We break away for the next two readings from the book of the Acts of the Apostles to the book of James.  The majority of scholars believe that this epistle was written by James, the Lord’s brother – rather than John’s brother, who was the first of the apostles to be martyred (likely beheaded) in Acts 12:1-2 about 14 years after Jesus’ resurrection.  According to the historian Josephus (“Antiquities of the Jews“, Book 20, Chapter 9, 1), James the Lord’s brother was stoned; and the historical accounts surrounding that event allow his death to be reliably dated around 62 A.D.  The book is only 5 chapters long, but its wisdom and encouragement of faith has been written about in many volumes (James is often called the “Proverbs of the New Testament”).

Verses 2-4 are a perfect example of the way that James so beautifully reminds of the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:11-12).  The trials to which James refers are both the temptations of sin, and the adversities that one faces in this world due to hardship, persecution, and sometimes even tragedy.  Macarthur noted that it is these trials “which Satan persistently uses to try to make Christians doubt they are indeed God’s children and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.”  As verses 13-15 remind us, God does not bring misfortune or temptation upon us.

The phrase “let steadfastness have its full effect” recognizes that we have a choice.  We can “throw in the towel,” giving in to temptation or deciding that there is no point – no hope – in our faith.  But if we face even the afflictions that bring pain into our lives with the determination to persevere and remain faithful to the Lord, we gain strength and the patience of courageous endurance that brings us closer to the perfection that Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:48.

The wisdom to bear these burdens and to know how to persevere is available simply for the asking.  But one must have faith, and this means learning to trust in the Lord, and not in the world or in our own capability.  That does not mean that there is no need for action on our part.  Neither does it mean that God will instruct us specifically on every decision we make it life.  It means that He will give us what we need to know in order to bear our burdens, escape from temptation, and learn the divine truth of the way to our salvation.

Covetousness and the rich man, a story Jesus told — Luke 12: 15-21

Satan uses the “double-mindedness” that James refers to in verse 8 in other ways as well.  Verses 9-11 refer to different mind-sets of Christians in regard to wealth or the lack of same.  Those in humble circumstances are not forsaken by God, and the wealthy are not blessed by God.   Barclay noted that “…the great peril of riches is that they tend to bring to a man a false sense of security. He feels that he is safe; he feels that he has the resources to cope with anything; he feels that he can buy anything he wants, and buy himself out of any situation which he may wish to escape or to avoid.”   We are reminded in Luke 12:15-21 of the brevity of life, and the poverty of a different sort that awaits those who value the wrong things in life.  Conversely, verse 17 assures us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”   So we must never neglect giving thanks to Him for any good thing that comes to us.

The chapter concludes in verses 19-27 with the admonition that hearing (or reading, for that matter) is not enough if one does not do as the word of God says.  One must stay unstained from the world, and a big emphasis is placed on keeping the tongue bridled.  Verses 19-20 (be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger) remind us of  Ecclesiastes 5:2,  Proverbs 10:19 and Proverbs 14:29.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Exodus 33 – The Command to Leave Sinai

Climbing the trail near the summit of Mount Sinai.

Image via Wikipedia

The Lord tells Moses to take the people and leave Mount Sinai for Canaan; and again tells him that He will send an angel, but He will not go with them.  The people feel the loss in this proclamation (verse 4), and Moses intercedes.  Moses has matured, and has found favor with God, and their relationship reminds us of that of the Lord with Abraham – as verse 11 even uses the comparison of their conversations to that which occurs between friends.  God’s favor with Abraham as friend is recounted in Isaiah 41:8, where He reassures His people; as well as in James 2:23.

Moses also brings Abraham’s bargaining intercession to mind (from Genesis 18:22-33), as he pleads for the people in verses 12-16.  the Lord agrees in verse 17 because Moses has “found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Despite His very real and righteous anger, the Lord seems to be training Moses as the leader that He wants him to be.  His request in verse 18 should be understood as desire for an outward sign of his favor with the Lord as His chosen leader of the people.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Genesis 40 – Joseph Interprets Two Prisoners’ Dreams

Joseph has already been in prison for a long enough time to have earned great confidence from his keeper,  and now he is joined by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker (roles important to any Pharaoh, should he not wish to be poisoned), who are imprisoned for an unnamed “offense against their lord of Egypt.”  These men would be accustomed to a better lifestyle and to having access to the magicians and “wise men” in Pharaoh’s court.  It would seem that the Lord has inspired them to be very curious about the dreams they have had; and the scripture tells us that these dreams did in fact each have its own interpretation (verse 5).

But now they have nobody to turn to in order to try to find out what these dreams mean.  Joseph, seeing their distress, persuades them to tell him about the dreams.  After hearing each one, he says “This is its interpretation” – as someone speaking with authority,  as indeed he was.  In verses 20-22 both prophecies are fulfilled, proving him correct (unfortunate for the baker).

But the cupbearer does not honor Joseph’s request to “remember” him to Pharaoh, and Joseph remains in prison.  But note his confidence that he can interpret those dreams, and the knowledge of where that gift comes from (verse 8).  After all he has endured – and still in prison, he clearly knows that God is helping him.

When circumstances in life are such that our own outlook seems dim, do we tend to wonder why the Lord has turned His back on us?  If we do our very best to serve Him, we can sometimes examine some of those times and see for ourselves how He has enriched us – or someone else through us.

In those situations, I have often found great comfort in the book of James, and am fond of the New American Standard version’s translation of James 1:2-4 ” Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert