Ezekiel 35:1-36:38 + James 1:1-18 + Psalm 116:1-19 + Proverbs 27:23-27
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Old Testament - Ezekiel chapter 36 is an awesome chapter looking at the restoration of Israel, post-exile. I like that there are prophecies to the mountain and hills and valleys in this chapter! Great verses. Verses 8 & 9 stood out to me - "But the mountains of Israel will produce heavy crops of fruit to prepare for my people's return--and they will be coming home again soon! See, I am concerned for you, and I will come to help you. Your ground will be tilled and your crops planted." I like that God is concerned for the mountains and he wants them to be fruitful. If He is concerned for the mountains, think how much more He is concerned for each of our lives... Think He wants our lives to be fruitful as well?
Verse 22 shows God's grace - "I am bringing you back again but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name." The first sentence shows grace in that God is bringing them back, even though they are undeserving. The second sentence you might not initially see the grace in it - but, God is protecting his holy name so that ultimately all people's in all nations will come to faith in him - and not idols, which deliver nothing and lead to the grave. If God did not bring the Israelites back and protect his name, the rest of the world would see no reason to turn from their idols.
Verses 26 & 27 sound very New Testament / new covenant - "And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command." Do you have a new heart? With new and right desires? Do you have a new Spirit in you?
New Testament - Whoo-hoo! Today we begin the book of James!
~ James ~
Date: A.D. 45-49
Content: The book of James was written to Jewish Christians in order to provide them with some practical instructions in the Christian life. It contains many short proverbial sayings and reflects in a remarkable way the teachings of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. The problems addressed show the kind of difficulties that were troubling the church. We read of pride, discrimination, greed, lust, hypocrisy, worldliness, and backbiting. James writes to correct these evils by showing that faith without works is dead; that is, mere profession of faith is not enough. True faith will issue forth in a good life as surely as a good tree bears good fruit and not thistles.
Theme: James stresses the need for Christian living both to show the reality of one’s inner faith and to show the world that the Gospel does in fact change lives. If a person says he is a Christian but is no different than when he was an unbeliever, what benefit has there been either for him or for the needy world? But in fact the Gospel does change lives and if we will commit ourselves to Jesus, we will find that from our living faith will flow living deeds of love and kindness. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 31-32) A great overview of the book of James and the other “Non-Pauline Epistles” by J. Hampton Keathley is at this link. (scroll down just below his commentary on Hebrews to get to his commentary on James)
Today in James chapter 1 verses 2 – 4 we read: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Are you facing a trial of some kind in your life today? Do you see the wisdom in considering this trial pure joy? Do you think it is possible that this trial will develop perseverance in your life? Maturity? Completeness? Will you persevere in this trial? Will you persevere with pure joy?
I like verse 17 today - "Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows." Think about this for a bit - God is a God of no shadows. Pure light. Unchanging. No shadows. I like that thought of no shadows a lot... Of course, this means we can't hide out in God's shadows either! :) Praise God for his unchanging, un-shadowed & pure Light!
And verse 18 is an awesome closing to the James readings today - "In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession." Congratulations to you for diving into God's true Word today - the Bible! Please continue to accept the gift of God's true word by reading the Bible each day.... this will bless and change your life immensely. Do you realize that you are God's choice possession? Do you realize that you are a child of God?
Psalms - Psalm 116 verses 1 & 2 are amazing- "I love the LORD because he hears and answers my prayers. Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!" How is your prayer life these days? Do you believe God bends down and listens to your prayers? And answers them? Will you pray as long as you have breath?
Proverbs - Proverbs 27:23-27 are pretty much just agricultural advice. :) Agriculture was obviously a huge part of the B.C. economy - and still is today. So, a few proverbs verses on agriculture certainly makes sense!
Worship Video: Ezekiel 36:8 reminded me of the fantastic worship song "Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble" by Delirious! Here's a great live version of this song:
Do you know our Risen Lord? Click here to fling wide the heavenly gates!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3 (NIV)
Prayer Point: Pray for joy in the Lord when trials come your way, knowing that the the trials - though they may test your faith - will produce perseverance in you.
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you from today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Grace, love, peace, and joy!
p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our One Year Bible readings at this link.
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