~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Isaiah 45:11-48:11 ~ Ephesians 4:1-16
Psalm 68:19-35 ~ Proverbs 24:3-4
Old Testament - In yesterday and today's Isaiah chapter 45 readings we read about King Cyrus of Persia! Verse 13 says this about Cyrus in today's readings: "I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide all his actions. He will restore my city and free my captive people--and not for a reward! I, the LORD Almighty, have spoken!" The interesting thing to note here is that Cyrus was not Jewish - he was a Gentile ruler who was raised up for the purpose of freeing the Israelite captives from exile in Babylon and allowing them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. In yesterday's readings in chapter 45 verse 1 Cyrus was even referred to as "God's anointed." This is the only place in the Bible where a Gentile ruler is said to be anointed. It's also very interesting to note that Isaiah is calling Cyrus by name some 150 years before Cyrus ruled! Isaiah prophesied from 740 to 681 B.C. and Cyrus ruled from 559 to 530 B.C. Some Bible commentaries suggest that Cyrus read these prophesies of Isaiah during his reign and was so moved by them that he decided to indeed fulfill them. In any case, Cyrus played a pivotal role in our spiritual history - allowing the promise of Abraham's many descendants to continue to the fulfillment of the coming Messiah in Jesus! Below is a Bas-Relief from the 6th century B.C. found in Pasargade, the capital city of Persia founded by Cyrus II. It depicts "Cyrus the Great" (as Cyrus is commonly referred to):
Isaiah chapter 45 verses 22 & 23 are powerful and foreshadow Jesus' ministry here on earth: "Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by my own name, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to my name." These verses are also foreshadowing of the book of Revelation that we will read later this year. We read Paul quoting these verses to describe Jesus in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10-11. Do you believe that all the world should look to God for salvation? Is there another god? Is Jesus God? Do you believe that one day every tongue will confess allegiance to the name of Jesus and every knee will bow to Jesus? Below is an image of a local church's Christmas pageant capturing the essence of these verses:
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Isaiah titled "The Lord's Superiority to the gods of Babylon" is at this link.
New Testament - Great teachings from Paul today about unity in the body of Christ! Chapter 4 verses 4 through 6 are beautiful - "We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all." Do you believe these words of Paul's? Do you believe that all of us in Christ are all one body? That we have the same Spirit? And that we have been called to the same glorious future? I like that last piece of verse 6 - God the Father is living through us all! Do you realize that God the Father, who is indeed over you, is also literally living through you? This is powerful to consider...
Verses 14 and 15 I think are so important for each of us to meditate upon: "Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church." The thing that these verses remind me of is that indeed at some point we are all "children" in our faith. When we are new to Christianity we are certainly children who need others to lead us, disciple us, and help show us the way. And I guess as I think about this, we should always be like children before God - but I don't think we should always be children before humans. Because if we remain as children before humans, then we are at risk of "forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has cleverly lied to us and make the lie sound like the truth." Has this ever happened to you? I know it has happened to me and it's scary to think about. I once heard a church pastor say that his most important job was to help his congregation become "self-feeders" when it comes to their faith. I thought this was fantastic and very wise! This pastor did not want his congregation to always rely on him and what he had to say on Sundays as their only source of spiritual food. This pastor wanted his congregation to be able to spiritually grow in other ways outside of Sunday services - through Bible study, small groups, and other spiritual disciplines. So, this may be a good time to ask - are you a "self-feeder" when it comes to your faith? Can you grow in your faith and find food for yourself spiritually outside of what you hear at church? If you're new to the faith, I wouldn't stress about this - but think about it. I do think each of us should aim to become "self-feeders." Why? Well, if we don't then we are so reliant on the words of other people that we could be misled down wrong paths. The one thing that I think really is critical for each of us in our journeys of becoming self-feeders is reading, studying, and really meditating upon Scripture. If we can become well grounded in Scripture then we can filter through the lens of the Bible what others are telling us. It is amazing how much "spiritual stuff" or rules or rituals that I hear is so critical from others that I don't see in the Bible! In fact, as I'm typing all of this, I will also say that I hope you don't take everything I say on this blog as Truth - it's a blog trying to draw out some practicalities and questions and reflections and commentary based on the Truth, the Bible - but what I write is not the Word. I'm even thinking here about my little TV rant in yesterday's post... :) Consider all of that through the lens of the Bible - I would say you can't find any sort of rule / indication to not watch TV in the Bible. So, therefore I encourage you to please run through the lens of Scripture everything I type on this blog! :) (by the way, thanks for everyone's comments yesterday about TV et al in yesterdays posts - great points! I am disappointed in my overall tone of the post, but I'll leave it up for posterity and to remind myself to bring some love into my posts on topics like TV in the future...) As Paul writes in verse 15 today, instead of remaining forever children in our faith before people, let us "hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church."
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Ephesians titled "The Calling and the Conduct of the Christian" is at this link.
Psalms - Today in Psalm 68 verse 20 we read – “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” Do you believe God is a God who saves us? How did / does God do this saving? Do you believe that escape from death comes from God and his Son? I’ve been reflecting on this “death” aspect of our fallen world a bit lately, which has been sad to reflect upon. I had an experience with a few friends where I was reminded of how self-destructive we can be in our lives. I think that without Jesus we can oftentimes not know where to turn for an escape from death – we do not know where to turn from an escape from our own self destructive behaviors. My friends need Jesus. I need Jesus. The world needs Jesus. Our God is a God who saves. From God and Jesus comes escape from death! May these last few months of 2006 bring us, our friends, and families closer to the God who saves.
Proverbs - Proverbs 23 verses 3 and 4 can be looked at literally or metaphorically - "A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables." Has your house been built by wisdom? Has your life been built by wisdom? Is your house strong through good sense? Is your life strong through good sense? Is your house filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables through knowledge? Through knowledge, is your very life filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables?
Comments from you - What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!