Thursday, December 17, 2009

Matthew 2 - Christ was Born in Bethlehem

LINK: Matthew 2

Christ, our Savior, is born! Rejoice and see you in 2010 for the New Testament!

Notice Micah 5:2 is fulfilled here!


Here are the verses in the Jesse Tree that tell the story of the
Scarlet Thread of Redemption through the Old and New Testaments. It will be great review of the last two years of the Bible Book Club.

Our family starts on December 1st and puts a "symbol" on a felt tree every day until Christmas. If you want to make your own Jesse Tree, let me know, and I can put you in touch with a friend of mine who teaches a class that makes them.


Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Psalm 148 - 150 - Exuberant Praise!

by Becky

LINKS:
Psalm 148, Psalm 149, Psalm 150

BACKGROUND

We finish reading the Old Testament today and these three psalms are the perfect way to do it!

The book of Psalms ends with praise and so does our reading of the Old Testament. If we think through all we have read and meditated on, we will praise God. We won't be able to keep it in!

These last three psalms all praise the LORD, but they each approach praise from a slightly different angle. We can learn from them.

REFLECTION

In Psalm 148 all creation sings a hymn of praise to God, the Creator. There is a kind of counter movement of praise in the psalm that provides balance and harmony. In the beginning of the psalm, praise begins in heaven with the angels and works its way down through the created order in the heavens (verses 1-6). In verse 7, praise from earth begins with the sea monsters and ocean depths and works its way up through creation from the elements of weather, to mountains and hills, to trees, to animals and birds - ending with people who live between heaven and earth . The psalm tells all people to praise the LORD: kings, princes, judges, young men, maidens, old, young... Why? Because HIS NAME is supreme. He rules all that is. The last verse singles out one special group to praise God: His people, the godly ones, those who are called by His Name (v 14). He is near to us and has made us strong. We are looking ahead to the New Testament and are in the Advent season as I write this. It seems to me that this psalm looks forward to Jesus, God with us. God came in the flesh to be near us, to make us strong through His death and resurrection. That is why we, His children, have special reason to praise Him!

So Psalm 149 focuses on the praise of God's people. We praise Him with songs and musical instruments and with dancing. God has saved those who are humble! He takes pleasure in us! God's people are to adore God with swords in hands, prepared for battle. I love this image! We are to praise God before we see all made right. We are to be alert and ready for His call to serve Him. Someday all will be made right. Those who raise themselves up in pride against Almighty God will be judged.

The last psalm, Psalm 150, is the final culmination of praise - a doxology. God gives us breath to praise Him. There is nothing quiet and still about praise here! Listen to the noise! Imagine the instruments and singing and dancing.

"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! "


APPLICATION AND PRAYER

I think the application is obvious! Take time to praise the LORD. Think about what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. He is Creator and Sustainer. He is LORD of past, present, and future, the great I AM. He is LORD of heaven and earth. He is LORD of His people and loves us and provides for us and draws near us! He is GOD WITH US!

PRAISE HIM!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Psalms 146-147 - Praise, the Fruit of Trust

by Becky

The last five psalms all begin and end with halelu-jah, which means “Praise the Lord.” No puzzling questions are asked here, no doubts expressed, no fears or concerns are voiced. Only songs of praise remain – a fitting conclusion to the thoughts and focus of the psalms. There are struggles in life. We’ve seen how David and the other psalmists struggled and questioned in the midst of their trust. But turning to God as the one with the answers will result in praise. If we belong to the God who created and sustains the universe and who LOVES us – if we have the foundation of faith and trust in Him – then we will praise Him. Praise is the fruit of trust.


REFLECTION


LINK: Psalm 146

Often when I read the psalms I wish I knew Hebrew! Poetry is the highest expression of any language and relies on an intimate knowledge of it. Every once in awhile, I catch a glimpse of what I’m missing and I long to catch the puns and the language play. There’s evidently a pun in this psalm.


Verses 3-4 say this:


Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.


The point here is that we are to trust God, not in powerful people or human government. That phrase “son of man” is literally “son of Adam.” Adam means “of the ground, of the earth.” So the “son of the earth” will return to the earth and when he does all his plans will end. That puts life into perspective, doesn’t it?


Contrast that with what the psalm says about the LORD:


Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever;


God is the Creator of all that exists. He sustains the universe, too. He is the true ruler. Ponder that last phrase - who keeps faith forever. God is not made from earth. He keeps His commitments forever.


It doesn’t stop there. The psalm gives specific examples of God’s love and concern.. Read them. Look at how He intervenes in our lives.


How can we not praise Him?


Praise the Lord!


LINK: Psalm 147


This psalm begins by saying that it is good and fitting to praise our God, and that it also gives pleasure! I hope that you are, as I am, finding that to be true.


What hits me as I read this psalm is the series of contrasts. The poem alternates between speaking of God’s intimate care of His people and the display of God’s glory and power in nature.


In verses 2- 6 we see God’s concern for the brokenhearted and humble, those who know that they have nothing to bring to the LORD. Sandwiched between the expressions of God’s concern we are told that God determines the number of stars and names each of them! That’s an illustration of his power and understanding.


The next section, which begins by mentioning singing to the Lord, speaks once again of God’s power, this time showing His care for the created world. He gives rain to the earth; clouds in the sky; grass for the hills; food for even that lowly bird, the raven. Not one of those parts of creation does anything to deserve God’s care. And once again the text turns to what this means for us as His people.


His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.


Read that! He delights in those who fear Him – who know His awesome power and wisdom. He delights in those who hope in His faithful love. God doesn’t delight in us because we do things right or well. He doesn’t delight in our strengths. He delights in us when we turn to Him in trust and hope and obedience.


Look at the figurative language and images in the last section (vv 12-20)! God commands the weather. He scatters ice like crumbs, melts the snow and ice to give us water, sends the wind. That same powerful, commanding, caring God is in charge of human events. He is in charge of the nations. More than that, God cares about His people. He provided for the Israelites and He will provide for us. He gives us peace in the midst of storms.


Look at how the psalm ends:


He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.


We can praise Him because we know how He wants us to live! We have His Word.


Hallelu-jah!


APPLICATION


Read these psalms and meditate on them. Praise the LORD!


PRAYER


We praise you, O LORD, for your power and for your love and faithfulness. Open our eyes so that we can see you. We praise you and long to delight you. We hope in you, the One who made all that is and who continues to care for it. How can it be that the One who created and sustains also faithfully loves me? Praise the LORD!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Psalm 145 - Praise God!

by Becky

LINK:
Psalm 145

BACKGROUND

David speaks of singing a "new song" in praise to God in the previous psalm (144:9). Perhaps this is it! Certainly, this last psalm of David is a personal song of love and trust and praise to God. In Hebrew this is an alphabetical, or acrostic psalm, with consecutive letters of the alphabet beginning each couplet. It's also the only psalm titled so emphatically: "A Song of Praise of David."

REFLECTION

David praises God in detail in this psalm. No brief words of vague praise for him! Let's focus on three observations I've made as I've reflected on this psalm.
  • David praises God for who God is - His character.
  • David praises God for what God has done.
  • David actively uses his mind and his voice to praise God for who He is and what He does.
So, just who is God?

He is great, so great that we can't figure Him out. He is abundantly good, which is different from being nice. God is righteous, and gracious, and merciful. He is slow to anger and abounds in faithful love. He is the powerful ruler of a kingdom that will never end. God is kind. He is faithful.

What does God do?

God has done works which display His power and goodness and faithful love. He lifts up those who are falling down and weak. He raises up those who are bowed down and humble. He gives food and satisfies all that lives. This earth was made so that it can support life! We have air to breath and it produces food that tastes good. God's provision is great! The LORD is also near to all who call upon Him. He hears their cry and saves them. He preserves (saves) those who love Him. God does works for many, but He also is generous to individuals.

David says over and over again that he will speak of God's mighty works and who He is. His mouth will praise God. He meditates on the LORD's mighty acts and commends them to those around him, especially those in future generations. David is active in praise: extolling, blessing, declaring, meditating.

In 1670, a man named Victorinus Bythner said, "The ancient Hebrews declare him happy whoever, in after times, utters this psalm thrice each day with the mouth, heart, and tongue."

I believe it!

APPLICATION

We are in the Advent season as I write this. This should be a blessed and joyous season - a time when we meditate and ponder all the works of God. If ever there was a time to praise Him for who He is and what He has done, this is it! But often, we get busy in all the preparations - in the busy-ness of the season. Our tempers get short and we find ourselves tired and drained and sometimes lonely. We focus on ourselves and our circumstances.

So stop!

I challenge you to read this psalm out loud as praise to the LORD three times each day for the rest of the Advent season. Do it with your family. Recount out loud what God has done for us individually and what He has done for all the earth. Surely we should be overflowing with praise right now - the promised KING is about to be born. Redemption is on its way! God intervenes in history to rescue us! Bless God out loud with each other for who He is. Commend Him. Declare His goodness and faithfulness and mercy. We take Him so for granted.

The point of praising God is that God is worthy to be praised and therefore should be. But I think there's a side benefit. Praise changes us.

So praise Him.

PRAISE

Read Psalm 145 out loud in praise to the LORD. Then praise Him for specific ways He's worked in your life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zechariah 12-13 - Judgment and Cleansing

by Katrina

LINK: Zechariah 12-13

BACKGROUND
Zechariah 12
The phrase "In that day" is used several times in this chapter and refers to the "day of the Lord," the day of wrath and judgment that the prophets have been telling about. The Lord begins by identifying Himself as the creator of heaven and earth and the one who gives life to man. Jerusalem will be attacked by Gentiles. The city is like a cup that the enemies drink from. But it makes them drunk and sick. Jerusalem is also like a stone, immovable, and it will eventually destroy the invading enemies. The Lord will defend and save the people then destroy their enemies. Then the people will recognize Jesus for who he is. They will see him as the Messiah whom their fathers had pierced (at the crucifixion), and they will weep bitterly in repentance. They will mourn individually as well as corporately.

Zechariah 13
When the people repent and mourn for their sin, then the Lord will cleanse them. Their hearts will be purified. The land will be cleansed of idolatry. False prophets will be destroyed. They will disguise themselves to try to save themselves.

The true Shepherd will arrive. He will be struck, and the sheep will scatter. This refers to the crucifixion of Jesus when the disciples scattered. Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 on his way to the Garden of Gethsemane, "I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered."

Then God will weed out all but one-third of Israel. This will be the remnant that will be refined and saved. They will finally, truly belong to God.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
Sometimes God has to refine us with fire. Are you going through difficulty that God wants to use to refine you? Though the fire is painful, the refined product is worth it! Bring any sin before God and allow Him to cleanse you. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)  Psalm 32 is a great one to read and meditate on for this.

PRAYER
Jesus, you are the good shepherd who truly cares for the sheep. Please lead us in your ways and teach us to follow you in all that we do. We bring our sins before you and ask for your cleansing. Make us pure and use us for your work. We trust in you and will rejoice in you! Amen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zechariah 10-11 - Shepherds

by Katrina

LINK: Zechariah 10-11

BACKGROUND
Zechariah 10
Once again, God compares His people to sheep lacking a shepherd, but He will turn them into war horses (vs 3). The cornerstone and tent peg in verse four both refer to Messiah. Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation. The tent peg is one who will take the burdens of others. They will be mighty in battle and be strengthened by the Lord. God will gather the people and bring them back. He will strengthen them, and they will walk in His ways.

Zechariah 11
This chapter explains Israel's rejection of Messiah and acceptance of Antichrist. The flock is doomed to destruction, and their own shepherds have no pity on them. The two staffs of the shepherd are "favor" and "union," and he used them to guide the flock. Eventually, God's patience ran out, and he broke the staffs, representing the breaking of the covenant. The people rejected the ministry of the shepherd. Zechariah was apparently acting all this out as a representation of the coming Messiah. The shepherd was purchased for 30 shekels of silver which were thrown to the potter down in the temple. Matthew will quote this in reference to Judas selling Jesus for 30 shekels of silver then throwing the coins down in the temple. Then that money was used to purchase a potter's field.

In the final three verses of the chapter, Zechariah represents a foolish shepherd. "Foolish" doesn't mean silly or ignorant, rather, it means "morally deficient, corrupt." This so-called shepherd will not care for the flock, but will devour and destroy them. This shepherd will be the tool of Satan. But in the end, God will break his power (represented by the right arm) and will confuse his mind (represented by the right eye).

Keep Reading . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Psalm 144 - The Rock and a Vapor

by Becky

LINK:
Psalm 144

BACKGROUND

A transitional psalm, Psalm 144 links the preceding psalms which plead for help with the psalms of praise that follow it!

This psalm is reminiscent of Psalm 18, which David wrote when fleeing from Saul. Perhaps David is remembering and reiterating what he has learned in life.

REFLECTION

David was a warrior king. God chose him to be king and then gave him a task. God was intimately concerned with David. This psalm recognizes that what God calls us to do, He also equips us for. That doesn' t mean that there will be no problems! Just look at David's life. But God gave him what he needed to be king and to lead Israel into war. God protected David so that David could fulfill God's plan. In the first two verses, David compares God to a rock, a trainer, a faithful friend, a fortress, a tower of safety, a deliverer, a shield, a refuge, a subduer.

That's how this psalm opens - David ponders what God is and provides. And then he is filled with wonder!

O Lord,what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

Look at the figurative language there! Man is like a breath or vapor. His days are like a shadow.

The images used about God are strong and sturdy and permanent. The images used of man are without substance and short-lived. No wonder David is filled with wonder!

Why does God care about us? It is truly amazing that He does. He is intimately concerned with those who are His.

Because He does care, we can talk to Him. We can ask for His help and blessing, which is what David does in the rest of this psalm. The psalm makes it clear that God rescues us and blesses us so that we can sing His praises.

APPLICATION

Do you belong to God? Has God called you to be His? If so, know that He is concerned about you - so concerned that He will equip you with what you need to serve Him.

Sing that new song along with David!

What responsibilites has God given you with His people? Read through this psalm again in that light and consider how David prays. What can you learn?

PRAYER

We praise you, our God, for giving us all we need for life and godliness. Thank you for your faithfulness to us, your care of us. How can it be that you think of us and and are concerned about us? Give us a new song to you when we think of that! Help us to turn to you for all we need. Prosper your church, and bless us with spiritual fruit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Zecharaiah 1 & 2

by Katrina

LINK: Zechariah 1-2

BACKGROUND
Zechariah joined Haggai in Jerusalem two months into Haggai's four-month ministry there. So, for at least two months, they were together there, urging the people to finish the temple. Zechariah had a series of eight night visions from God, recorded in the first six chapters.

Zechariah has more prophecies about the coming Messiah than any other prophet except Isaiah. So, although it begins with a call to repentance, there is a great deal of hope and consolation in this book.

First Vision - Horses and Riders (Zech 1:7-17)
These horsemen were God's angelic army that patrols the earth and carries out God's orders. God also brought comfort to the people saying He would return to Jerusalem with compassion and the temple will be built. He would also punish the nations who tried to annihilate Israel.

Second Vision - Four Horns and Four Craftsmen (Zech 1:18-21)
The horn represents the power of a ruler or a nation. In this case the four horns are the enemies that have tried to destroy the Jews. The craftsmen are nations that God will use to defeat these enemies of the Jews

Third Vision - The Surveyor (Zech 2)
In this vision, God assured the people that He had a plan for their future. He would protect them and destroy their enemies. One day the city would burst at its seams with people and livestock. Ultimately, Jesus Himself will dwell in the midst of the people, and everyone will know that God has sent Him.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
These chapters remind us once again that God is sovereign over all the nations. He is paying attention to what they do, especially to how they treat Israel, and will judge them. Also, one day there will be a glorious restoration of Jerusalem and Israel. The Messiah will come to cleanse the Jews. Jesus will one day sit on the throne in Jerusalem and rule as the Prince of Peace. Imagine the day when Jesus reigns in glory and there is truly peace in Jerusalem!

PRAYER
Lord, you are sovereign over all nations, all rulers, all peoples on this earth. Nothing goes unnoticed from your eyes. Thank you for providing cleansing through Jesus. We long for the day when Jesus will return. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.