Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 31

Job 37:1-39:30; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10; Psalm 44:9-26; Proverbs 22:13

My firstborn started kindergarten yesterday. I’ve been dreading it for months – not just the sadness of her going off to school, away from me for hours each day, but also the loss of time with her brothers. And I’ve mourned the change to our schedule this brings, namely that we now have a schedule. And we now have less control over what happens to her. When I let myself dwell on it too much, anxiety starts to creep in. Will she have friends at her school? Will she be made fun of? Will there be bullies? And as the years go on, what bigger problems will she face? Will some boy take advantage of her? Will she get in with the wrong group of girls? When we send our kids out into the world, it’s a truly terrifying thing.

And then I read the words from Elihu today – “God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour” (Job 37:5-6). Here is a God who controls each snowflake, each raindrop, a God who does great things I can’t even comprehend. Sure, Elihu’s purpose in writing these words is to put Job in his place; but they also reveal the truth of who our God is – in control, good, and sovereign. I’m so thankful for that reminder as I send my precious babies into the unknown.

And now we come to the part in Job that everything pivots on – God’s response to Job. Don’t you love how the author puts it: “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said…” (Job 38:1, emphasis mine)? Then God goes on to truly reveal himself and his omnipotence to Job in a series of questions that prove his power and authority. Here are just a few that really struck me:
  • "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4)
  •  “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place…?” (vs. 12)
  • “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.” (vs. 18)
  • “Can you send forth lightings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?” (vs. 35)
In question after question, God reveals himself to Job. I know this passage is sometimes viewed as God squashing Job, but I don’t completely see it as that (though I’m sure there is some of that here). God also wants to remind Job that no matter what Job is going through, God is still sovereign. He is still the one calling the shots, still in charge, and still good.

What a great reminder to us as well, as we struggle to remain confident in the truth that God is good no matter what our circumstances say. It ties in perfectly with Paul’s words in our New Testament reading: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

This week, on what feels like the precipice of our family’s future, I’m thankful for these truths and God’s word, which so clearly reveals who he is.

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August 30

Job 34:1-36:33; 2 Corinthians 4:1-12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 22:10-12

There's a rigidity to the God Elihu describes, a narrowness that says "God must do this; God must be like that."  He seems to forget that he cannot understand or comprehend God.  God is so completely other, so totally mysterious, but Elihu implies that to himself, God is neither so other nor so mysterious.  There's an arrogance to his speech: "One perfect in knowledge is with you" (Job 36:4).

Yet portions of his speech are so beautiful.  Consider this name of God: "God my Maker, who gives songs in the night" (Job 35:10).  Isn't that sheer poetry?  Think of the times when you've sung songs in the night: birthday parties, a church worship service, lullabies at a midnight feeding.  It is only from celebration, from contentedness and deep joy that songs are sung in the night.  And such celebration, such contentment, such joy come only from God.

Consider, too, the invitation that Elihu ascribes to God.  "He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food" (Job 36:16).  There are echoes and foreshadowings here from the book of Psalms, from Revelation's Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  What a vivid - and accurate! - description of the "jaws of distress," and how beautiful that God woos us from such dark places and into freedom and life.  I wish so much (indeed, I prayed this very idea today) for those in darkness around me to respond to God's wooing and to find the "spacious place free from restriction," with its joy and celebration.

There are beautiful words in our New Testament reading, too.  Read them as encouragement and hope: "[You] are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8-9).  You may feel hard pressed, but the Lord has promised that you will not be crushed.  You may feel perplexed, but you need not despair.  You may be persecuted, but the Lord has not abandoned you.  You may even be struck down, but you cannot be destroyed.  This is good news!

"Life is at work in you" and in me (2 Cor. 4:12), dear friends.  Praise the Lord!

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 29

Job 31:1-33:33; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 22:8-9

If your husband happens to come home from the Redbox near you saying that he got a “heart-warming, feel-good movie that you are really going to like,” and that movie is Miracles from Heaven, don’t believe him. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie, but if crying your eyes out and having your gut wrenching the entire movie is your idea of “heart-warming and feel-good,” then go ahead, watch it. My instincts were telling me to be wary and I should have listened.

Basically, the whole movie (spoiler alert!) is about this family watching one of their daughters suffer from an incurable disease and how awful an experience that is. They are believers in Jesus and the movie does a really good job of showing the struggle to keep your faith in the midst of such suffering and trying circumstances.  The mother, in particular, doubts and wavers in her faith. At one point she says that all too common line, “Why would a good and loving God let my innocent child suffer like this?” I kept thinking throughout the movie, she really needs to read Job. Job answers all those questions.

Job is one of God’s greatest gifts to us in Scripture. For me, it answers the “why” question. It answers the doubts and disbelief that God is there or even cares. In today’s reading, we see Job make his final case: “Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign my defense - let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing” (Job 31:35). Earlier Job again makes his defense that he has done nothing wrong to deserve this kind of suffering. Job is bold with God. Job is completely honest with God. Job is disgusted with God and totally done talking about it.  He almost views God as someone who has unjustly afflicted him and has then turned completely silent, not willing to answer his cries.

This is the gift part of Job. How many of us have felt that way? In the midst of our suffering, we feel angry, confused, and alone. Job shows us that we can be bold with God. We can be honest with God. We can even be frustrated with the way we seem to understand him working. God can handle it. God did handle it with Job and he will handle it with us. But what Job also reminds us is that there are things going on in the heavenly realms that we have no idea about. There is a whole other narrative that is totally unseen on earth. Will we have the faith to trust that other narrative God is writing? Will we, like Job, refuse to curse or deny God? Will we hold onto our faith that he is a good God even when nothing around us points to that?

Why does God allow such suffering? I don’t know.  But God is always at work in the heavenly realms doing things that I can’t begin to comprehend the reasons behind. I do know that God is still aware and participating with what is happening (just as he did with Job). I do know that I am not alone, that Jesus is with me and lives in my heart and that he will one day make all things new. And I do know that he has good for me in the future just as he did (spoiler alert!) for Job. God is in the business of restoration.

Psalm 43:5 says, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 28

Job 28:1-30:31; 2 Corinthians 2:12-17; Psalm 42:1-11; Proverbs 22:7

I was all set to write a post on Psalm 42...only to realize that I've already done that!  (See February 26, if you're interested.)  At least I'm consistent in being moved by certain portions of Scripture.

So we'll have to settle for some thoughts on Job instead.  

Isn't chapter 28 interesting?  After all this pain and confusion and self-defense and pleading and even anger, Job breaks off to deliver a soliloquy on wisdom.  If you lifted this chapter from its location in Job and inserted it lock, stock, and barrel into Proverbs, it feels like no one would be the wiser.  

"Where can wisdom be found?  Where does understanding dwell?" (Job 28:12) is the question answered by Proverbs 1:20 ("Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares") and 8:1 ("Does not wisdom call out?  Does not understanding raise her voice?").  Job wonders how a person finds wisdom, and Proverbs responds that wisdom desires to be found and even gives specific ways to gain said wisdom (see Pr. 9:10, 10:19, 13:10, 17:28, among many others).

"It cannot be bought with the finest of gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver" (Job 28:15).  Echoes again of Proverbs - "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver" (Pr. 16:16) and "[wisdom] is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold" (3:14).

And the listings in Job 28:16-19 of onyx, sapphires, crystal, coral, jasper, rubies, and topaz?  Proverbs repeats the rubies (Pr. 3:15 and 8:11). The value of wisdom is indisputable: priceless, superlative, outrageously and exceedingly costly.

It's days like this one where I realize anew just how interconnected all of Scripture is - years and distance and culture separate this chapter of Job from the collections in Proverbs, and yet the thoughts are so similar.  Such an amazing book our God has given to us.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 27

Job 23:1-27:23; 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 22:5-6

I was introduced to a new song this week. My husband and I were attending the New Student Dinner at Talbot School of Theology where we both teach: he is full-time and department chair and I’m part-time. The song is “He Will Hold Me Fast” by Keith and Kristen Getty.

And the words resonated with me.

                When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.
                When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
                I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path,
                For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.

                He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast.
                For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

                Those he saves are his delight, Christ will hold me fast.
                Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
                He’ll not let my soul be lost, His promises shall last
                Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.

                For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast
                Justice has been satisfied, He will hold me fast.
                Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
                Till our faith is turned to sight, when He comes at last.

It was an interesting musical choice because most of our new students come filled with joy and confidence and great anticipation. They probably don’t think they will need Christ to hold them, as they consider that they are holding fast to Him! But how true it is that, like baby Isaiah riding securely in a Bjorn on his mom, Esther, he may seem to be holding onto Mom, it is truly she holding him! And we all are being held securely by Christ; it’s not us holding on to Him.

Our passage today has that truth in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He appointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Standing firm.
                                His seal of ownership on us.
                                                His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit of the future.

Amazing truths. He does the work of securing us to Himself; we just let Him. Even when our love is cold, and it often is, He makes us stand firm in Christ.

He truly will hold us fast.

I find comfort, and rest, in those words. I pray that you do, too.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August 26

Job 20:1-22:30; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 22:2-4

I used to think my mother exaggerated her acquaintance.  "Don't stand too near the side of the road.  I know a man who was killed changing a tire."  "Be careful when you fly.  I know a mother whose son died in a small-plane accident."  "I know so and so; I know such and such."  Seemed a little too convenient, ya know?

I no longer think this.  I have realized that living long(ish) in the community of believers makes one privy to any number of pains and sufferings.  So many have cried, "I am poor and needy....You are my help and my deliverance. O my God, do not delay" (Ps. 40:17).  I know this cry; I know people who have uttered this cry.  Adultery.  Debilitating illness.  Abandonment.  Death of a spouse.  Death of a child.  Divorce.  Job loss.  Addiction.  I can see their names written in my on-going One Year Bible journal, a record of my prayers for them.  I know their faces; I hear their voices.

Part of what I have prayed for these men and women - and what I will continue to pray - is that "the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles" (2 Cor. 1:3-4) will comfort them with a comfort that overflows in like measure with their sufferings (see vs. 5).

There are as many happy endings to the griefs named above as there are unhappy and many that are both.  In each case, though, as they have turned toward God, they have found deliverance.  Many (not all) fulfill the hope of the psalmist: as they have sought the Lord, they have rejoiced and found gladness (Ps. 40:16).

Lord, even if we are not in the midst of crisis, we are yet completely, totally poor and needy.  You are the God of the broken, and we are those broken.  Comfort us in our troubles.  Thank you for knowing what it is to suffer and grieve.  Cause us to seek you in the midst of our pain, as Job does.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25

Job 16:1-19:29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-24; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 22:1

I thought I’d try my hand today at one of those “observation” posts that Sarah likes to do, which I think are always so interesting. Here we go!


*Job says in Job 16:2, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all,” and while I certainly can understand why he feels that way, I’ve always felt a little like Job’s friends get a bad rap. Did you notice the very first thing they do? Remember from August 21 – “They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (2:13). I mean, that’s pretty impressive. I don’t know that I could sit with a friend in grief for seven days and seven nights (especially without a word!). And when they do finally speak to Job, they are just speaking from what they know. At this time in history, if tragedy struck someone, it was commonly assumed there was some sin issue (we see this still at play even at the time of Christ, when his disciples ask Jesus about the man born blind, whether he sinned or his parents sinned – see John 9:2). So I feel like we can’t really blame Job’s friends – it seems like they were doing the best they could. True, they were wrong; but it doesn’t seem like they were malicious.

*This is probably obvious, but are you noticing how much of the book of Job is poetry? Because we can’t see the poetic pattern in our English translation (from Hebrew), our Bible translators help us know that it’s poetry by putting it in indented formatting. But the language speaks poetically for itself too; look at this sentence from today’s reading: “My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20). Pretty descriptive stuff!

*I love the exhortation in Paul’s writing to give generously to those in need – “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up” (1 Cor. 16:2). Paul doesn’t say “if you can;” he doesn’t say “for those of you who are wealthy;” he doesn’t say “at the end of the week if you have something left over.” No, he says on the first day and he says each of you.

*There are lots of wonderful verses in today’s psalm and I don’t need to retype them all here for you, so I’ll just chose one – “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD” (Ps. 40: 3). Beautiful!

*I like our Proverbs reading today, too. We have 3 children, with the hope of one more someday, and we have taken our naming responsibility very seriously.

That’s all for me, folks!

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

August 24

Job 12:1-15:35; 1 Corinthians 15:29-58; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 21:30-31

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (Ps. 39:4).  This is the theme verse today. All the sections of our scripture echo this idea that our lives are fleeting and small, and that God is large and in charge.

The brutal honest of Job is just simply refreshing. Some people find Job to be depressing, but I actually find it very honest and worshipful. All throughout Job, so many attributes of God are spoken in strong and irrevocable language. “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (12:10), and “to God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his… him belong strength and victory” (12: 13-16).  God is large and in charge. All breath and life comes from him.

As we continue in Job for quite some days to come, be on the look out for all these amazing picture images of who God is and how all of creation is in submission to him.

Our entire 1 Corinthians section exemplifies how fleeting and temporary our lives are and how our eternal God is above and beyond all that is earthly. “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed” (15:52). What a beautiful picture of our own transformation from mortal to immortal this passage paints.

And Psalms continues on with our theme: “Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (39:6-7).

It is good to be reminded of how fleeting our lives are, and how powerful our God truly is. A healthy dose of truth can reorient our perspective. And as we have this reorientation, we begin to anticipate in the work that God is doing instead of being consumed with our every day lives. Our eyes are lifted off ourselves and fixated on the Lord God Almighty and what he has done, is doing, and will do.

This post has not done justice to the power and glory of God that is represented in these texts. My words are just not strong or eloquent enough. I just want to yell, “Praise him!,” after reading today’s texts.  May we be made ready for the battle, because our victory is going to come from the Lord (see Proverbs 21:31). Our hope is in him. Our eyes are on him. No matter what life may throw at us, may we be able to utter, just as Job did, “though he slay [us], yet [we] will hope in him” (13:15).

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Ps. 39:6-7).

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 23

Job 8:1-11:20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-28; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 21:28-29

Every portion of our reading today caught my attention in one way or another.  No over-arching theme, but just thoughts and musings.  Consider the following:

Can you imagine anything crueler to say to a parent whose child has just died than "when your children sinned against [God], he gave them over to the penalty of their sin" (Job 8:4)?  I mean, really!  That's some serious salt in an already open and painful wound!  

Job 9:11 reminds me that God's ways are mysterious and often invisible, both in my moments of joy and in my moments of despair.

"By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect" (1 Cor. 15:10).  Hallelujah.  I am what I am by the grace of God - this is a blessing, a pronouncement of acceptance and welcome and delight and love.  I'm not merely tolerated.  I am what I am, yes, and it is by the grace of God, by his good gift to me.  And his grace continues - the effect of it, the results of it - as I am transformed into Christ-likeness.  More good gifts!

There's another hallelujah in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26.  Although less jubilant, it is no less fervent. Come, Lord Jesus, to make all things new, to defeat all your enemies, to eradicate the great thief, death.

Could not Job have prayed so much of Psalm 38?  Though he had no consciousness of sin or guilt, he endured piercing arrows (vs. 2), a diseased body (vs. 3, 5, 7), unceasing mourning (vs. 6), abandonment by loved ones (vs. 11), the terror of pain and uncertainty (vs. 17), even false accusations (vs. 20).  What grief and sorrow.  What agony.

The "bold front" of the wicked in Proverbs 21:29 reminds me of the bluffing done in a game of poker, or of the hearty self-deception that we practice against our own motives.  We're all too tempted to just ride it out, rather than stop and "[give] thought to [our] ways."

Lord, your word is timely and powerful and incisive.  Help us to consider it as bread and as honey, for our nourishment and for our delight.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22

Job 4:1-7:21; 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 21:27

So now we begin with the conversation back and forth between Job and his three “friends.” Thus far, they have done pretty well at being supportive and comforting friends. They sat in silence with him for 7 days and just mourned with him. They probably should have left it at that because they went downhill from there. Now the friends begin conversations that don’t bring healing or comfort, but actually make things worse for Job in his grieving process.  

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever been in deep grief and had someone come up and just say the wrong thing? It hurts, it’s hard. Have you ever been the one to say the word when you probably should have just stayed silent?

Job’s friends probably think they are speaking words of truth to him. In fact, there is a lot of truth in what they are saying. “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8).  Well, I have to agree with that. “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (5:8-9). Yes, also a true statement.

But not what Job needs to hear. And maybe it’s not even totally true to his particular situation.  I am learning, as the years go by, that words, even true words, can sometimes bring more harm than good. The times in my life when I have been most discouraged, or saddened, or deeply grieving, I don’t really remember what those closest to me said, I remember what they did. I remember the tears they shed with me, I remember the touch and the hand-holding they did with me, I remember the feeling of companionship as they entered into my grief and confusion.

I do remember some words. I remember the wrong words people said. I remember the further pain those words brought. They were not harsh words. They were not mean words. They were just the wrong words at the wrong time. I remember thinking, “Why would they say such a thing to me right now, when I know they really do care?”

As a pediatric nurse with oncology patients, I have seen the power of silent companionship in grief. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can say to a mom or dad who is watching a child suffer from cancer and chemotherapy treatments. All I can offer is kindness and presence in grief. 

I have a vivid memory of this silent presence in grief I will share quickly. The summer after my last year of college, I was working away at a Christian camp as the camp nurse for the summer. I was unclear where God was taking me next and feeling confused and lost. On one of my nights off, I remember going out to the parking lot to my car to find some privacy (as you know that is something there is not much of at camps for Jr. and High schoolers), and do some praying and seeking. I ended up crying, or rather, sobbing. I wasn’t even sure why then, and still don’t remember the nature of my thoughts or prayers at the time. I just felt lost.  I remember a middle-aged African American woman coming up to the car and asking me if I was okay. I just shook my head yes because I really didn’t want to talk to a stranger about it. Well, she just opened the door and leaned in and gave me a big hug. She held me like that for several minutes while I just continued to sob and cry, and all she said was, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus……” It was one of the most comforting and profound gifts anyone has ever given me. I didn’t even know her name. But, in the midst of my pain and sorrow, she held me in the presence of Jesus.

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21

Job 1:1-3:26; 1 Corinthians 14:1-17; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 21:25-26

Esther has written previously about her response to difficult Scriptures: consult a commentary or two in order to unpack what's really going on.  I can't think of many books more difficult than Job.  It seems like God is offering Job to Satan as a guinea pig, and there's so much suffering (I cannot imagine the loss), and there's even a second round of disaster, not to mention an unsupportive wife and, later, unhelpful friends.  So many hard things.  There was nothing else for me to do but go off to the commentaries.

I'm so glad I did.  Some very interesting bits that I'd never have seen or considered:
  • Satan has access to heaven and is in some sort of relationship with God (Job 1:6; 2:1).  I find this disconcerting.  Why would Satan present himself before God?
  • Satan's response to God's question ("From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it" [Job 1:7 and 2:2]) is not a vague answer trying to avoid trouble, like a teenager home late on curfew.  His words are actually more like a challenge to God.  He's boasting of surveying the domain he considers his: the earth and its inhabitants.  Twice.
  • God's next speech to Satan reminds Satan of true reality: the earth is the Lord's and everything in it (see 1 Cor. 10:26).  As an example, he mentions Job.  Though Satan may have dominion over the earth, God's people and plan are yet unpolluted.  Way to go, Job, that you could stand as an example (see Job 1:8 - "no one on earth like him...blameless...upright")!
  • Satan accuses Job of deep, essential selfishness.  He sneers that Job only follows God for what God can give him (Job 1:9-11) and then slanders Job's character further by supposing that his grief over the loss of his wealth and children is mitigated by the relief he feels over his own survival (2:4-5).  How awful.
  • God throws Satan's words back in his face.  The Hebrew word for "without any reason" (Job 2:3) is the same word that Satan uses in 1:9 "for nothing."
  • Job is truly extraordinary.  While his wife (who, let us notice, experiences the same calamities that Job does) fulfills Satan's predictions ("he will surely curse you to your face" [Job 1:11, 2:5]) with her response (see 2:9), Job does not.  He does not ask, "Why me?," but instead considers, "Why not me?"  What a statement to say at such a time: "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (2:10)
  • His friends, for all the bad press they'll get later on, do some very good mourning with Job, as the New Testament urges.  They weep with him, adopt the same mourning distinctions (torn robes, ashed heads), and sit with him in silence for days.
The ultimate question in Job is whether or not Job will worship and trust in the midst of his undeserved suffering.  It is an equally apt question for our world and our lives.

As an aside, scholars think that Job may have been afflicted with pemphigus.  Here's the Wikipedia link for those of you who are medically minded, click here.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20

Esther 8:1-10:3; 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 21:23-24

Today we read about one of the most powerful women in the Bible.


“The same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews” (Es. 8:1). Do you remember that Haman was second in command to Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Cush (see 1:1; 3:1)? This means that Haman’s estate was enormous. In addition to being queen, Esther was now independently wealthy and politically influential.

Esther immediately appointed her cousin (possibly uncle) Mordecai to oversee the estate (Es. 8:2) and she asked her husband for yet another favor: would he prevent the destruction of all the Jews in his provinces that Haman had planned (vs. 5-6)? And the answer is, yes. Even the King cannot revoke the decree that plans for the annihilation of the Jewish people, but he can write another one to counteract it. In the new decree, the Jews may band together and form armies to attack their enemies (vs. 11-13). The fastest horses and couriers are sent to all parts of the vast kingdom that King Xerxes ruled to announce this salvation for the Jews (vs. 10 & 14).

Esther also asked for Haman’s ten sons’ bodies to be publicly displayed on gallows (Es. 9:13). She then used her authority to proclaim days of Purim that would occur annually to celebrate the Jews victory over their enemies (vs. 29-32).

This queen, taken as a young virgin from her cousin Mordecai’s care, to a life she had never known and most likely never wanted, came to the kingdom for such a time as this (see Es. 4:14b), to save her people. She was elevated to the highest position in the land except for her husband. She was not only queen, but she became an active and ruling queen who worked on behalf of her people, as did Mordecai (10:3).

God turned tragedy in triumph. A lowly Jewish maiden became the most powerful woman in the world. Amazing.

Isn’t that just like our God? Our psalm comments perfectly on this: “Do not fret because of evil men [make no mistake—King Xerxes was an evil man] or be envious of those who do wrong [Haman did wrong]; for like the grass of the field they will wither, like the green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good: dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.… a little while and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy great peace” (Ps. 37:1-3, 10-11).

Will the LORD not do the same for us? Our circumstances are never too terrible for Him to deliver us. Do what you can to deliver yourself from the evil circumstances like Esther did. She had to act to save her people. And she needed urging by her cousin. But she did act. And God was faithful.

There are times when we, too, must act. Or we must urge others to act. Let’s look to the example of this brave young woman who saved her people by God’s gracious favor and we will find our own courage to act in the troubling times in which we live.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

August 19

Esther 4:1-7:10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-26; Psalm 36:1-12; Proverbs 21:21-22

I'm reminded of Psalm 68:6 today: "God sets the lonely in families." Isn't that beautiful?  Our New Testament reading expands this concept.  As Paul writes these poignant words about the value and worth and connectedness of each part of the body of Christ, we're reminded that we are the family of God.  Over and over again, Paul stresses the "same"ness and the "one"ness of the body and its head.  It is the "same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:4, 8, 9, 11), the "same Lord" (vs. 5), the "same God" (vs. 6).  It is a unifying Spirit (vs. 9, 11, 13), single itself and binding all of us together in unity.  We are loved.  We are accepted.  We are pursued and chosen by God.  We are all the same in his eyes.  We cannot do anything to make him love us more than any others; we cannot do anything to make him love us less.  We're all God's favorite, like children in a family.

And, yet, we're all unique and purposefully fashioned to be different.  For all the "same" and "one," we're also - again, just like a family - singular and discrete.  We are "many" (1 Cor. 12:14, 18, 20) in order to make the whole stronger.  I'm reminded of something Eric told me recently.  A friend (whose child had applied) had heard from Harvard that the university wasn't necessarily looking for well-rounded students; they were instead looking for a well-rounded student body.  That's what we are: we're not well-rounded parts; we're a well-rounded whole.  A single entity comprised of different bits that work together just right.

Because we're a whole, what we do and don't do matters.  Our joys are multiplied and benefit the whole body; our griefs and losses and sins affect more than just ourselves (see 1 Cor. 12:26).  This truth brings great strength, but also great responsibility.  We are not, after all, islands.

I'm part of multiple bodies: the Sunukjian clan (29 strong and hopefully still going); the Marsh clan (a wonderful group to marry into); the family of seven that Eric and I have created together (called by our children, for lack of a better descriptor, "our whole little family"); the body of Christ (past, present, and future).  In each of these families, there's both one-ness and distinctiveness.  In each of these systems, we laugh over new pregnancies and hold hands as we cry.  We have responsibilities to others and vice versa.  In addition, I have a body, and I know how a headache can affect every other aspect of my physical function.  An upset stomach touches all other portions of my self.  I can identify with Paul's comparisons and allusions.  His use of such vivid and personal metaphors make his words more real, more potent, more accessible, and more memorable.

Scripture amazes me.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, August 18, 2017

August 18

Esther 1:1-3:15; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 21:19-20

Today we start the book of Esther. You didn’t think I was going to pass up the chance to write on that, did you?

In my family of origin, we all have Bible names – my brothers are Peter and David and my sisters, as you know, are Sarah and Mary. And then me, Esther. In the family I’ll building now with Ian, we’ve followed the same pattern – we have a Ruth, a Jonah and an Isaiah. We love names that mean something and hope by naming our children after some of God’s ancient people, that they will be encouraged to take their places in the kingdom, along these other great witnesses.

My parents, I think, had the same idea. I was given the name Esther and I’ve always loved my name. Part of the appeal is that my dad has this great sermon called My Name is Harbona, in which he acts out the story of Esther from the perspective of one of the king’s eunuchs, Harbona (we actually saw him listed in our reading today – Esther 1:10). He wrote the sermon when he was in seminary but he preached it every summer of my life at the family camp we went to in Colorado. I could practically do the dramatization myself, though not nearly as wonderfully as my dad.

Anyway, Esther is probably most well-known for the famous verse in chapter 4, verse 14, which we’ll read tomorrow: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I love that verse and maybe tomorrow someone will write about it, but today, I wanted to share with you my dad’s take on the book. First, did you notice in today’s reading that God’s name is never mentioned? When we read tomorrow, you’ll notice it’s not there, either. Or the day after. That’s because God is never mentioned in the entire book. Esther is the only book in the whole Bible that doesn’t mention God. But don’t be mistaken – God is clearly present and active throughout the book. As my dad describes it in his telling of Esther, it’s like the characters in this book are people in a dollhouse and the Father is looking down into the dollhouse, controlling the events but never actually stepping into the dollhouse himself. God’s purpose is very clear in this book, as he guides Esther and Mordecai and as he protects his people from annihilation. His hand is directing the people and circumstances to unfold at just the right time, so that everything perfectly falls into place for the Israelites. As we read and finish the book over the next two days, be in the lookout for that and see how carefully the loving Father moves the pieces of the dollhouse around.

And I encourage you the think about God’s role in your own life and how you view him. Do you see him as a loving Father who has your best in mind? Or do you (falsely) view him as someone waiting for you to mess up so he can stick it to you? Our God is careful and thoughtful with you and your life. Keep believing, and keep reading.

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 17

Nehemiah 12:27-13:31; 1 Corinthians 11:3-16; Psalm 35:1-16; Proverbs 21:17-18

Should godly women cover their heads when they come to church to worship?

Paul addresses this issue in the Corinthians passage today. Women have read this for centuries and wondered how to be obedient to God. Men traditionally take off their hats when they pray or enter a house of worship (1 Cor. 11:4), while women in many parts of the world cover their heads with a scarf when they enter a cathedral. Is Paul saying this is necessary?

Perhaps the primary teaching of the passage is not about head coverings but about headship. Paul says the head of the man is Christ and the head of the woman is man (1 Cor. 11:3). Man was created by God from the dust of the ground, but woman was created by God from the side of man.

Before I taught on this passage at Talbot, I read several scholars to help my understanding. Here is what Dr. Craig Blomberg says in The NIV Application Commentary: “Yes it is true that men and women are equal in Christ, but that does not mean that all differences between the sexes may be blurred. The events seem to proceed as follows. Because of their newfound freedom in Christ, women in the Corinthian church were praying and prophesying. Christian tradition from Pentecost on had approved of such practice. But these women were not merely speaking in worship, but doing it in a way that unnecessarily flaunted social convention and the order of creation. So Paul has to encourage them to exercise restraint."

Conservative scholars like Dr. Blomberg are agreed that head coverings in this passage are cultural to the first century and conveyed the symbolic idea of the headship of men and the subordination of women to men.

A man should not, in that culture, cover his head when he prayed or prophesied because as the glory of God, he was to look manly and covering his head would, in that culture, be feminine. His bare head shows his headship; the woman’s head covered shows her subordination. God is equally pleased with both.

Today, as then, the church should be characterized by a lack of rebelliousness against gender differences. Both men and women leaders should be true to their created status. The women are to be distinctly feminine (NOT sexy, but feminine); the men are to be distinctly manly. Androgynous hairdos and clothing are to be avoided—we are made in the image of God as male and female. Women are not to dress like lesbians or prostitutes or like men. Men are not to wear women’s clothing or be effeminate. We are not like the angels who are asexual; we are male and female and our clothing/head coverings/lack of head coverings, as we come to worship, should reflect that.  The angels (who are asexual) observe us and they know that our femaleness and maleness together are reflections of God’s glory.

This is such a profound teaching. Do you see that previous sentence? Being made male and female together reflects God’s glory.

So it’s not head covering that is really being talked about, but being truly male and female and letting those innate differences be known. I like Dr. Blomberg’s distinction of not blurring gender lines. Women are to be feminine in their worship and men are to be masculine in their worship, and their apparel, hairstyle and demeanor should reflect that.

Headship illustrates that there is a difference in being male and being female. It began at creation and it continues to this day. Men are vested with headship and women are vested with being the glory of men (1 Cor. 11:7). Paul writes interchangeably about the literal head of a man and a woman and figuratively about the man as head of woman and Christ as the head of man (vs. 3). Careful reading shows which is which. The point is taking our rightful role as worshippers as a woman or a man, acknowledging our gender differences.

I’m thinking of a woman who led worship last Sunday with her sweet smile and modest dress. The men on the platform looked quite different than she—they were in jeans and shirts. Though she may not have known it, she was wearing a ‘head covering’ as her dress and demeanor were appropriate to her gender.

And I believe that is what Paul is teaching.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August 16

Nehemiah 11:1-12:26; 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:2: Psalm 34:11-22; Proverbs 21:14-16

A few, unconnected thoughts:

It surprises me that they had to take a draft in order to fill the city of Jerusalem.  I suppose it just shows how very far the mighty have fallen.  This jewel of a city, polished and honed until silver was commonplace in Solomon's day, now so broken and decrepit that men would prefer to live in the open villages of an occupied land (see Neh. 11:1-2)...

I wonder what Paul means by communion as "a participation in the blood...and body of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:16)?  There is some element of "with-ness" between us and Jesus when we are taking the juice/wine and the bread/cracker.  

I love the beautiful freedom and exuberant permission for joy that we find in 1 Corinthians 10:31 - "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (emphasis mine).  All of life is available to us as an expression of praise to God.  Everything that is done for the glory of God is well done, worthy of rejoicing in.  Napping in the sunshine; playing with my children at the water park; eating that perfect peach; organizing the garage; engaging in that difficult conversation; giving to the church's building campaign; sending a care package to a discouraged friend; faithfully fulfilling my work's requirements.  How can I glorify God in each of those activities?

Many years ago, before kids, Eric and I drove over the northwestern parts of the country on a road trip vacation.  We camped in the Grand Tetons, drove through Yellowstone, stayed in a motel on the beach in Oregon.  It was a lovely, special, memorable trip.  One of the bits that we come back to most often, though, is a moment of hilarity when we were stopped along a two-lane highway in the dead of night (truly, it was almost midnight) in the middle of eastern Oregon.  There were no lights other than our headlights, no cars other than us, no Siri telling us where to go and how much further it was.  But we were stopped, waiting for permission to continue on the road-under-repair ahead of us.  Somewhere up in front of us, this two-lane highway was down to one lane and we had to wait.  So we waited...for 30 minutes, for a mid-sized white pickup to drive slowly toward us, turn around, and lead us cautiously back along the one lane.  On the back of this truck was a lighted sign: FOLLOW ME.  And, let me tell you, we did.  For 10 miles, at under 30 mph, we followed that sign.  We were barely coherent by the end of it - the absurdity of it all was overwhelming: the lights, the FOLLOW ME, the complete and total lack of other cars, the night, etc.  But we were safely through that oh-so-perilous road work.  Do you see where I'm headed with this story and 1 Corinthians 11:1?  We followed that truck, as it followed the road.  We were led by someone with greater knowledge, and we were protected from unknown danger as we followed.  How true to what we need in our journey with Jesus!  Do you have someone to follow, who can help you navigate the difficulties of the road ahead, who is committed to your safety and thriving?  Someone for you to walk behind as he/she walks behind Jesus?

Psalm 34 is just such a mid-sized white truck: "I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it" (vs. 11-14).  Follow this, God's word says, through the dark of night and uncertainty.  Here are the directions; listen to the GPS voice of Scripture.  


- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August 15

Nehemiah 9:22-10:39; 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13; Psalm 34:1-10; Proverbs 21:13

“You gave them kingdoms and nations…. But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs.…But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them… and in your great compassion you delivered them time after time” (Neh. 9:22-28).

It gets a little painful to read about this cycle of obedience, blessing, rebellion, oppression, repentance, obedience, blessing, etc. and etc. and etc. Seems like we read and reread so many accounts of the Israelites' history in this same cycle over and over again. But that’s what happened. Why couldn’t the Israelites learn? It can be easy to judge them from a distance.

But what about a little closer to home? What about in the teachings of Paul? Here he is in 1 Corinthians still exhorting the Israelites (and now followers of Jesus) to the very same thing: obedience above all else. Paul reminds his audience that their forefathers were all spiritual and even drank from the spiritual rock of Jesus, but God was not pleased with them. Paul tells his readers that “these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (1 Cor. 10:6).

They had to be reminded over and over and over again about the mistakes of the past, so that they wouldn’t commit them again in the future. Therein lies the problem: people forget. The ancient Jews forgot the sins of their forefathers. They forgot their own sins. They became arrogant, thinking it was by their own might that they received blessing.

We too forget. We forget what it feels like to live under sin. We forget that we need Jesus every second of every day to help us keep in step with his Spirit and walk according to his ways and not our own. We think we have it under control. We think that obeying God’s laws are not important anymore in this culture and in this age. We think we have a special circumstance that will allow us to live according to what is wise in our own eyes. We forget.

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:11-13).

This passage says it all. I couldn’t say it better. What a great, great exhortation to us today. Heed the warnings. Be careful. Don’t think you are all okay all the time. Don’t think your case is the exception to God’s clearly written laws. Don’t think you can walk right up to the edge of sin and not fall over the cliff. I know that may sound harsh, but it’s so clear in Scripture. Don’t have history repeat itself.

Instead, walk humbly with our God, knowing that he can deliver us from every temptation to stray from his ways. He will always provide a way to stay in obedience to him. Break the cycle. Remember. Heed the warnings and examples from the past. He is our deliverer. He will help us stand.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14

Nehemiah 7:61 - 9:21; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18; Psalm 33:12 - 22; Proverbs 21:11-12

Time for another smorgasbord of comments on today's reading:

  • Don't you just love the immediate, tangible obedience shown by the people in Nehemiah 8:13-18?  They hear and they obey.  The previous day their response to the Scriptures had been "to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them" (vs. 12).  Aren't you reminded of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:34-39)?  He too didn't know, didn't understand, but when he understood, he obeyed with baptism and then rejoiced.  I love how we see different groups at different times respond to God in the same way.  Awesome.
  • Nehemiah 9:5-21 is a history lesson, a confession, and an extolling of God's generous goodness.  The Levites start at creation and rehearse the mighty acts of God in human (that is, Israelite) history (vs. 5-15), not shying away from the failures of their forefathers (vs. 16-18).  My favorite part, though, is the emphasis on God's extravagant giving - see vs. 10, 12 and 19, 13-15, 20, 21.  He sends and protects and guides and provides and gives.  In every way, he exemplifies his character: "a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love" (vs. 17).  Also, do you see how this passage is a section about God (""), followed by a section about Israel's failed response ("they...they...they..."), followed by a section about God ("")?  God is the great act-or, the great love-r, the great covenant-keeper, despite their faithlessness.
  • I Corinthians 9:17 prompts an observation and a thought.  Observation: Either way, the gospel is preached and God's purpose is furthered.  Thought/question: Should I not live by this also?  If I forgive voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am doing my duty.  If I am kind to my spouse or children or roommate, or am diligent in my work voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am discharging my responsibilities.  Either way, isn't the right thing done and God's kingdom upheld?
  • We sing a worship song at our church that expresses our need before God ("our eyes are on you," we declare).  Other places in the book of Psalms proclaim our expectancy before God ("our eyes look to the Lord" [Ps. 123:2]).  How much better is it that "the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine" (Ps. 33:18)?  To know that God is looking over me, keeping me always in his sight as a mother does her toddler in a crowd - amazing. 
  • Proverbs 21:11 is another expression of the ways, both direct and indirect, that wisdom can be gained.  I wrote about it a few weeks ago (see the post on July 22's reading), in reference to Proverbs 19:25.  So many really true things have to be said over and over and over again (I'm thinking of you, "quarrelsome wife") for us to start to catch them.
What struck you in your reading today?

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13

Nehemiah 5:14 - 7:60; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Psalm 33:1-11; Proverbs 21:8-10

I couldn't help but thinking about modesty when I read Paul's words in I Corinthians 8:9-13 today.  It's full into summer in LA, and the endless sunshine prompts the people here to shed clothes.  I've been to more than one beach and pool this summer, and I've seen far more skin than I wanted to see.  I have two sons on the cusp of manhood and a daughter who is extremely aware of fashion, not to mention the littles who, though still somewhat oblivious, always catch more than I realize.

I sometimes feel desperate to protect them all.  

Believers aren't exempt from the temptation to reveal more body than conceal.  There are Christian universities nearby and I drive to and from youth group.  I'm not naive and I'm not blind.

I worry about the young men growing up.  As the beautiful girls around them exercise their "freedom," how will my sons and their friends keep themselves with integrity and purity?  It will be difficult, if not impossible, to not see!  

I worry about the young women growing up.  As their peers' shorts grow shorter and shorter and their tank tops tighter and tighter, how will my daughters and their friends learn to value their bodies rightly and righteously?  It will be difficult, if not impossible, to choose otherwise.

I'll say it again: I sometimes feel desperate to protect them all.

I know Paul wasn't talking about modesty.  I know he was setting out guidelines on how to love fellow believers as they were coming out of paganism.  But I think the principle may hold true - or may at least be worth considering.

If our freedoms cause others to struggle, why hold to them?  Isn't the good of another person more important than my personal inclinations?  Sacrificial love means setting aside our preferences for the good of others.  It means taking unpopular stances and earning the disapproval of a teenaged daughter.  It means frank conversations and embarrassing questions with beloved sons. 

Jesus himself wanted to turn away from the cost of sacrificial love.  The gate is narrow, he told us (Mt. 7:13).  Living like Jesus was never supposed to be easy.

But, oh, like our psalm said two days ago, "How great is [his] goodness, which [he has] stored up for those who fear [him]" (Ps. 31:19)!  The abundance of God's goodness in exchange for me curtailing my 'rights'?  Seems like a very good deal.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August 12

Nehemiah 3:15-5:13; 1 Corinthians 7:25-40; Psalm 32:1-11; Proverbs 21:5-7

Friends of ours love the Lord and serve Him well. Their adult son and daughter-in-law also love and serve the Lord. Each family is regular in their church attendance and participation. Each family gives generously to their church and supports missionaries too. Each family has been on cross-cultural trips to share the Gospel with the needy. And each family earns their living in Christian ministry. But between these two sets of families a chasm has grown. It is now so wide it will be difficult to cross. On one side stands the elder couple; on the other, the younger couple. The elders have held out their hands, time and again, and asked, “What have we done to hurt you? How can we make it right?” The younger couple has named some stipulations; the elder couple considered them and did as asked, in the name of unity and family cohesiveness. But their efforts did not pay off in the hoped-for reconciliation.

So today, I prayed a hard prayer based on the reading in Psalm 32.

“Lord,” I prayed, “I ask that Your hand be heavy upon the younger couple until they repent and restore relationship with their parents. I pray that their strength will be sapped as in the heat of summer. I pray that they will repent of holding their parents away from them and will acknowledge and confess their transgression of disunity. This is a hard prayer, Lord, and I pray it in confidence that You hear and answer and that this is Your Will.”

And then I thought, “This is indeed a hard prayer. And, oh, how good it would be for all involved and for Your work, O Lord, if repentance should come.”

David explains the sweet reward of repentance and confession in verse 6, “You forgave the guilt of my sin.”

I prayed that my young friends would not be like the horse or mule which have no understanding but must be controlled by the bit and bridle or they will not come in obedience (see Ps. 32:9). I prayed that they would trust God and enjoy being surrounded by His unfailing love.

“Thank you, Lord, that Your Word directs us and counsels us how to live and how to pray. When I sat down to read today, I was not thinking of these friends, but You directed me through Your Word to them and to their needs and You showed me how to pray. Not an easy prayer, but a right prayer. And I trust You to answer it in Your time.


- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

August 11

Nehemiah 1:1-3:14; 1 Corinthians 7:1-24; Psalm 31:19-24; Proverbs 21:4

Today we begin a new book in the Old Testament. It’s sometimes easy in The One Year Bible to lose track of timelines and historical breaks, as we turn the pages from one book to the next. So, today, I thought I’d give quick overview of where we are in history.

There are 3 “returns” from Exile in Israelite history. After 70 years of captivity, the exiles come out to rebuild the temple in 538 BC, under Zerubbabel. This return lasts 23 years; then there is a 57-year gap (during which the story of Esther takes place) and then the second “return,” in 458 BC, where the people reform and follow God’s ways. This is part of the time of Ezra. However, it’s short lived; it only lasts two years and then we have another 12 years of unrecorded history.

After that time is when we pick up in Nehemiah, in 444 BC, when the wall is rebuilt, the beginning of which we saw in today’s reading (more on that in a minute). This rebuilding lasts 12 years and marks the final stretch of time until Malachi, after which God will remain silent in Israel for 400 years, right up until the pronouncement to Mary about the coming birth of Jesus. As a side note, doesn’t that just put into perspective how alarming and truly surprising the angel’s visit to Mary is? There hasn’t been a prophet or vision or any word from God in 400 years and then an angel appears to her to tell her she’s going to bear the son of God! Pretty crazy stuff. But I digress. Back to Nehemiah!

The beginning of Nehemiah is really amazing. He hears that his people, the remnant, are in “great trouble and shame” and that “the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Neh. 1:3) and he is so moved by sorrow that the king (to whom he is a servant) notices his burden and asks him about it. When the king hears that Jerusalem lies in ruins, he asks Nehemiah what he wants to do. I love Nehemiah’s boldness and his faith – look at what he does: “So I prayed to the God of heaven and I said to the king…” Did you notice that? When the king asks Nehemiah what he wants, Nehemiah first prays to God and then steps out in boldness to ask if he can rebuild. Nehemiah is a servant in the palace of a powerful king; but he doesn’t let those circumstances stop him. He prays, gets direction from God and then courageously steps out in faith and asks to be released so he can go home and rebuild his beloved city.

King Artaxerxes agrees to this (because “the good hand of my God was upon [Nehemiah],” [Neh. 2:8]) and off Nehemiah goes. He gets the people organized and I love the verses that follow, showing all the family groups (some with fathers and daughters!) who build different portions of the wall. Pretty great stuff!!

I have no neat connection now to transition to the New Testament but there are verses here that deserve some attention. Look at 1 Corinthians 7:10 – “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” I know it’s unpopular these days to speak out against divorce and remarriage but if we’re going to read the Bible and say it’s God’s word, we have to read the whole Bible, not just the parts that are comfortable and fit neatly into our culture. And these verses really couldn’t be any clearer. God does not want us to get divorced, and if we do get divorced, he wants us to remarry only our original spouse. As Paul says, that’s not me saying that; it’s God’s word. And it’s up to us what we’re going to do with that information.

I’ll leave this post now with a few encouraging words from today’s Psalm: “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you” (Ps. 31:19). How abundant is God’s goodness, indeed! 

- Esther McCurry

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

August 10

Ezra 10:1-44; 1 Corinthians 6:1-20; Psalm 31:9-18; Proverbs 21:3

I was going to start today’s blog post with an “I’m not gonna lie, I’m tired today” but I don’t know why I would be tempted to lie, since we all get tired and that’s okay. You don’t judge me, right? Some days you’re not in the mood to read your OYB (or this blog, I’m sure), so you feel me, I know. We are nearing the end of summer vacation, which is WONDERFUL and I dare not complain, but there are some days that all the “special” just wears me out. Does that happen to you? Do your kids have the same habit of mine, asking “what are we going to do that’s special today?” I’ve literally been walking out of Disneyland (DISNEYLAND – the happiest place on earth!) and been asked by my five-year-old what other special thing we’re doing that day. Sheesh! So about this time of year, I’m a little worn down by the entitlement and craziness that manifests itself in my children every summer. And the truth is, I want to watch a Hulu or Netflix episode and veg out while they are sleeping. But one of the benefits of the OYB is that it keeps me on track; it keeps me coming back, even when I’m not highly motivated, because I want to keep moving forward, and because I know others are with me on the journey. So thank you for keeping me accountable!

Anyway, as is always the case when we come to God’s word, I was struck by something new today, in the midst of my tiredness. Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). In the past, I’ve read these words more like a threat; today, I read them as an encouragement.

I know why I’ve read it as a threat in the past – the text around it is pretty tough, coming down hard on various sins, and Paul is clearly right to do so, with this struggling, sinful church. (And, I dare say, he would say something very similar to our over-sexed, under-truthed culture as well.) Paul wants to emphasize to this church that they should be careful what they do with their bodies. So, yes, the command (even threat) is there. But there’s something else beautiful there that really struck me today. My body is a temple – the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Today, read that not as a warning, but as a promise. Thank you, Jesus, that my body is home for your Spirit, which has been freely given to me! What a wonderful truth. What a powerful proclamation to cling to. And what a motivator to use my body to do just as Paul says – to glorify God. The price was high, but Jesus was willing to pay it, and I am the beneficiary.


- Esther McCurry

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

August 9

Ezra 8:21-9:15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Psalm 31:1-8; Proverbs 21:1-2

"Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage.  He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia.  He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem" (Ez. 9:9).  

Ezra is well-aware of the circumstances regarding the exiled people of Israel.  They have no power; they have no homeland.  Their children have been taken from them; they are entirely dependent on the goodwill of an occupying enemy.  Their unique position of favor with God, symbolized by the temple, is in question.  Ezra sees truly.  He knows the seriousness of the situation.  But he also sees the hand of God truly.  He recognizes the faithfulness of God in the midst of these griefs.  The slavery to Persia isn't lessened or eliminated, but God is still active.  God is still good, and Ezra proclaims this.  Even in the face of one more great failure (the holy people taking foreign wives [Ez. 9:1-2]), he acknowledges God's mercy (see vs. 13).  

He is, in different words, praying portions of Psalm 31.  "Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me....For the sake of your name lead and guide me.  Free me from the trap that is set for me....You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.  You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place" (Ps. 31:2, 3, 4, 7, 8).
We, too, can turn to God with words of truth.  Truth about our situations - our pain, our fears, our heartache, our discouragement - but also truth about who God is, in his steadfast loving-kindness and mercy.  All too often, our pain blocks our view of the Lord's continuing presence.  Can we pray like Ezra and the psalmist?
            "Though my children do not walk with the Lord, my God has not deserted me in this sorrow."
            "God has shown me kindness, even in the sight of the oncology nurses."
            "I have been granted new life to rebuild relationships with estranged friends and family, to repair those ruins."
            "God has given me a wall of protection, and I trust in him above my pension, my government, my husband."
            "Though I miscarried once again, and my cousin is pregnant once more, my God has not deserted me in this sorrow."
            "God has shown me kindness, even in the sight of the divorce lawyer."
            "I have been granted new life to rebuild from addiction, to repair the ruin of trust and health and sobriety."
            "God has given me a wall of protection, and I rest behind it from the attacks of my enemy upon my mind and emotions."
            "You see the affliction and anguish of my soul, but I am not handed over to destruction."

Teach me to pray with such dependence and faith, Lord.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

 How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.