Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31

II Samuel 17:1-29; John 19:23-42; Psalm 119:129-152; Proverbs 16:12-13

Dah-dah-dah.  Dah-dah-dah.  Dah!  Dah!  That, ladies and gentlemen, is my written interpretation of the "Mission: Impossible" theme song.  Doesn't it seem appropriate for the Old Testament reading today?  Conflicting advice, double agents, messenger relays, covert hideouts - we've got it all!  Isn't it interesting that the Lord uses all these spy movements to accomplish his ends?  Though David is reaping the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, God yet has plans for the man after his own heart and thus protects David.  There's a tremendous amount of detail in this chapter, too; each step of the conspiracy to restore David is documented, not to mention the aid - both provisions and interpersonal support - offered to David and his men.  (I love the listing of the food in II Sam. 17:28-29, all necessary because "the people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert.")

I noticed the detail in our New Testament reading, too.  Jesus takes care of the necessary arrangements regarding the provision for his mother (Jn. 19:26-27).  The gospel writer is careful to note - three times - how Jesus' crucifixion fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (vs. 24, 36, and 37).  The last words of Jesus are spelled out for us in their heartbreaking suffering and weariness (vs. 28, 30).  Details on the post-crucifixion treatment of these men are given (vs. 32-34), and even the quantity and type of the burial spices is specified (vs. 39).  

And I couldn't help but hear the pure bell-tone of truth in our proverb today: "they [kings - or, for our purposes, those in authority, whatever that authority may be] value a man who speaks the truth" (Pr. 16:13).  Absalom misheard truth today; his throne was, ultimately, not established (vs. 12).  I think of the times in my life where truth has been spoken to me; oftentimes in painful situations.  While ignorance was more comfortable, growth could not happen until truth cleared out the weeds.  

Lord, your holy word to us is truth.  "Your laws are right and fully trustworthy" (Ps. 119:137-138).  "Give [us] understanding that [we] may live" (vs. 144).  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, May 30, 2017

May 30

II Samuel 15:23-16:23; John 18:25-19:22; Psalm 119:113-128; Proverbs 16:10-11

In yesterday's reading we saw there was much betrayal and hurt being done to both King David and to Jesus. In today's reading, we can see further parallels to their stories during this time of rejection, betrayal, despair, and doubt. 

At the beginning of yesterday's NT reading, we read these words, "Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it" (Jn. 18:1). These are the opening words of our OT reading today, "The king [David] also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the desert...But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went" (II Sam. 15:23, 30). This is an amazing connection I have never seen before! Maybe you have, but I don't think I ever realized that Jesus and King David walked the exact same path and sought the exact same place as a point of refuge in their time of betrayal.

I am sure Jesus knew exactly whose footsteps he was following in that night when he, too, crossed the Kidron Valley and went to the Mount of Olives. I think knowing this connection between Jesus and King David just strengthens Jesus' claim to be the Son of God and the true Messiah. His disciples, and all Jews of that day, would have known what had happened at the Mount of Olives hundreds of years past with King David as well. Jesus using this place as his refuge in his time of grief and intense prayer is no coincidence. I guess maybe I'm a little slower to notice everything and put it all together, but isn't our God good to reveal new things in his Word day after day as we continue to seek him? 

My in-laws recently visited Israel and did a tour for 3 weeks. They had a tour guide and a study book to complete as they went along. Upon return, they proclaimed that almost nothing has had as much impact on their spiritual lives as walking where Jesus walked, and learning about his life in the land he in which he lived and worked miracles. They were particularly struck by how many of Old Testament prophecies Jesus really did fulfill. This is just one more of those minor connections of the greatest King of Israel to the true King of all people. 

How I wish I could walk that path from the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives today. What grief and doubt must have accompanied those two men as they walked this road. I can't help but hear echoes of David's frustration and grief as we read in Psalm 119 today- "You are my refuge and my shield..away from me, you evil doers..uphold me, and I will be delivered" (Ps. 119:115-117). Even though David didn't write this psalm when he was fleeing from Absalom (he actually wrote Psalm 3 at that time), some of the same pleas for deliverance and strength are there. 

Lord, may we seek you in our times of rejection, hurt, and despair. May we walk the weeping road with you. May we find our own garden where we can pray and cry out before you. You always hear. You always respond. You are good.


- 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, May 29, 2017

May 29

II Samuel 14:1-15:22; John 18:1-24; Psalm 119:97-112; Proverbs 16:8-9

So much betrayal today.  Betrayal and conniving against the king and the King, but with a couple shining examples of faithfulness, too.  I love that Scripture doesn't leave us in the bleakness; there is always hope.

First we've got the manipulation of Joab, used to persuade David to bring Absalom back from his self-imposed exile.  The wise woman tells a story, much like Nathan did earlier when he confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba.  The wise woman's narrative is more murky, however; while Nathan argued for justice, the woman pleads for mercy.  Her "son," like Absalom, deserves death for the murder of his brother, but she begs him to be spared in order that she might have support and her dead husband's name be carried on (see II Sam. 14:7).  It's at this point that the comparison between the fictitious son and Absalom breaks down - not only was Absalom's murder of Amnon pre-meditated and executed in cold-blood, he is not the only son of a widow.  His life doesn't keep anyone else from destitution or despair.  But the story marries the two sons, making it easier for David to ignore his responsibility to punish Absalom for Amnon's death.

Then there's the outright, though underhanded, betrayal by Absalom.  Though his father has allowed his return (II Sam. 14:21) and embraced him (vs. 33), Absalom repays this clemency with treachery.  Through false promises (II Sam. 15:4) and disingenuous welcome (vs. 5), he "[steals] the hearts of the men of Israel" (vs. 6) over the course of four years.  He contrives a situation to make it appear that he has more support than he actually does (see vs. 11) and uses his father's own counselors to bolster his position.  David reacts in a similar fashion as he did to the threats of Saul and goes into hiding.  Ittai the Gittite, though "a foreigner, and exile from [his] homeland" (vs. 19), stands out as a model of loyalty to David, showing all that Absalom ought to have demonstrated.

In our New Testament reading, too, we see conniving and betrayal.  Judas' treachery is more egregious - and Scripture calls a spade a spade when he is referred to as the one "who betrayed [Jesus]" (Jn. 18:2) and as "the traitor" (vs. 5) - but Peter's might have been more painful to Jesus.  It is clearly a significant event; it's one of only a handful of events that appears in all four gospel accounts.  And when contrasted with the faithful support of "the other disciple" (vs. 15-16), Peter's abandonment stands out even more sharply.

I'm thinking of the ways I've been manipulated and betrayed...and of the ways I've manipulated and betrayed others.  My trust has been abused, and I have abused the trust of others.  On both fronts, I'm reassured: on the side of being betrayed, I'm in good company; on the side of betraying, I am yet redeemable, like Peter will be.  Even in the darkest sin, there is still hope.  Hallelujah.


- 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, May 28, 2017

May 28

II Samuel 13:1-39; John 17:1-26; Psalm 119:81-96; Proverbs 16:6-7

The Old Testament and the New Testament passages today are very different from each other. In II Samuel 13, we read the vile story of the rape of Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon, and his subsequent refusal to marry her after the evil deed was done. In John, we read Jesus’ beautiful prayer for His disciples.

Let’s look first at David—where is he in this sordid mess with his children? He seems na├»ve, passive. He assents to Amnon’s ‘spoiled boy’ request for his beautiful half-sister to come to him while he is ill. Does David not understand the nature of this son? Amnon lures Tamar closer and closer to his bed and then cruelly overpowers her and rapes her.  The Scripture says that David was furious (II Sam. 13:21), yet he takes no action at all. We read nothing of Amnon being disciplined or being made to marry Tamar; in fact, we read that Tamar is a desolate woman who implores her half-brother to marry her now that she has lost her virginity, but he refuses her with disgust. And she goes to live with her full-brother, Absalom.

Two years later when Absalom asks King David for permission for Amnon to come to his sheep shearing party, David agrees, though he must have known there was bad blood between these half-brothers. Absalom orders his men to kill Amnon in revenge for his sister’s rape. The story is filled with violence and hatred. And Absalom flees to his grandfather in Geshur.

Yesterday we read the judgment that the prophet Nathan spoke to David, and now it is coming true. Nathan said, “The sword will never depart from your house because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah to be your own” (II Sam. 12:10). As David ages, he seems increasingly passive and unable to govern his own house. And he reaps God’s judgment for his own sin of adultery and murder.

Both Psalms and Proverbs speak to this sad evolution of the house of David. “Though love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil. When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Pr. 16:6). David didn’t fear the Lord enough on that fateful evening in Jerusalem to avoid the sin he chose—demanding sex with Uriah’s wife just as his son will later demand sex from his half-sister Tamar.

Psalm 119:92 says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” David loved God’s law, but he chose to ignore it in his adultery. And in his later years, I don’t see the devotion to God’s law and obedience to his law that we saw in his younger years.

For each of us who want to finish our lives well, we need the prayer that Jesus prays in the New Testament. In John 17:21, Jesus is praying for His own—he prays that they may be one just as He and the Father are one so that the world may believe that the Father has sent Him. He prays for their protection from the evil one (Jn. 17:15).

Jesus, thank you for praying for us, your followers. How we need your protection from our enemy, the devil. And we, your older followers, need this especially so that we may finish well the race you have given us to run. Help us to learn, from your word, the dangers that face us, and may we, by your grace, avoid them and “put our hope in Your Word” (Ps. 119:81b).

Amen.


- 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, May 27, 2017

May 27

II Samuel 12:1-31; John 16:1-33; Psalm 119:65-80; Proverbs 16:4-5

I always wish yesterday's reading wasn't here!  David is doing so well.  He's growing in power and wealth; his kingdom is firmly established; he's received a prophecy about the future of his family's significance.  All is good.

And, then, Bathsheba.  And Uriah.  And adultery and murder. (Off-stage boos and hisses.)  Quite the dramatic fall from grace, though it's neatly covered up with a convenient battlefield death and a hasty marriage.

We're not left there, though.  "The thing David had done displeased the Lord" (II Sam. 11:27) and God confronts David through his prophet Nathan, first by way of an analogous story and then directly: "You are the man!" (12:7).  David is immediately convicted, confessing "I have sinned against the Lord" (vs. 14).  Two thoughts always catch me here.  First: how different David's response to the accusation of the Lord is from Saul's responses (see I Sam. 15).  Second, David recognizes that his sin is first and foremost against the Lord.  Yes, he has wronged Uriah and even Bathsheba, but those human considerations pale before the holy God.

God's judgment on David is painful.  Though he himself is forgiven (II Sam. 12:13), the consequences fall on the innocent infant son (vs. 14, 15, 18).  How awful for David, to be responsible for the death of yet another blameless party.  Over his head, too, is the knowledge that "out of [his] own house [God is] going to bring calamity upon [David]" (vs. 11).  More children's lives will be damaged and destroyed; more betrayal awaits.

In the midst of all this pain, in the middle of his guilt and suffering, when the human tendency would be to hide in shame, David instead turns toward his God.  How amazing.  God clearly afflicts the child, yet David pleads for mercy.  His petition is sincere and deep; notice the details of his pleading (fasting, lying on the ground, seven days).  This movement toward God doesn't end with the child's death, either.  After he hears the news about his dead son, but before David breaks his week-long fast, "he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped" (II Sam. 12:20).  That would not be my reaction after the death of my son, much less a death I caused through my own sin!  David's posture is continually turned toward God, though.

And God continues to show mercy and favor to David.  The next child borne by Bathsheba is Solomon, to whom God gives the name Jedidiah, meaning "beloved of the Lord."  That is redemption!  That is healing!  The consequences remain, but the relationship is restored.

David lives out the truths of Psalm 119 - "You are good, what you do is good; teach me your decrees" (Ps. 119:68).  Though he failed, yet "it was good for [him] to be afflicted so that [he] might learn [God's] decrees" (vs. 71) once again.


- 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, May 26, 2017

May 26

II Samuel 9:1-11:27; John 15:1-27; Psalm 119:49-64; Proverbs 16:1-3

Man, there’s a lot going on today! I’ll just make a few quick comments about the first part of our Old Testament reading and then I’ll get onto the juicy part – David and Bathsheba!

I love what the first part of chapter 9 reveals about David’s heart – he’s so tender and sentimental and honorable. Even though he’s been hounded almost to the point of death by Saul, David still seeks someone of Saul’s line to show kindness to, in honor of Jonathan. Isn’t that amazing? And then, in Chapter 10, we again see David show honor and kindness. Did you notice that? One of David’s allies, the king of the Ammonites, dies and his son succeeds him; David’s immediate posture is to be loyal to the son, because of his father (II Sam. 10:2). Though we see that this plan doesn’t work as we read farther into the chapter, the heart of David is still shown to be in the right place.

Don’t these two stories make the disappointing actions of David even more painful in chapter 11? And did you notice the real kicker here? David’s not even supposed to be at home. If he’d done as the other kings do, and gone out to battle in the spring (II Sam. 11:1), then he wouldn’t have been home with time on his hands to get himself into trouble with Bathsheba. As you clearly saw when you read, things go downhill quickly. David makes one bad choice after another bad choice, with lies that result in even bigger lies. (These cowardly and dishonorable decisions provide such a foil for Uriah, who is noble and self-sacrificing and so loyal to his king.)

The story culminates with David’s order (and its follow-through) for Uriah to be put at the front of the line of battle so his chances of dying are increased. This plan succeeds, Bathsheba has a period of mourning, and is then brought into David’s house and made his wife. We see that she has a son, presumably from their adulterous relationship prior to their marriage but the timing isn’t totally clear. What is clear is how God feels about it. “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (II Sam. 11:26). We’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the final end of the story and God’s discipline in David’s life, but the reading today should give us great pause.

David’s actions show how one small bad decision can lead to several other big ones; his story shows how sin leads to more sin, how lying leads to more lying, and how people get hurt when we fail to walk in God’s ways. In David’s case, a marriage bed is defiled, a man killed, and a nation deceived by the king. Probably our fall wouldn’t be so dramatic. But let’s all be careful about lingering overly long at the cubicle of the attractive co-worker or talking unkindly behind our mother-in-law’s back or fudging the hours on our time sheet. These seemingly small things are steps away from God’s best. As we see in our New Testament reading, true life is found in abiding in Jesus (Jn. 15:6) and in this is found great joy (vs. 11).

I don’t know about you but I want to move toward life and joy!


- 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, May 25, 2017

May 25

2 Samuel 7:1-8:18; John 14:15-31; Psalm 119:33-48; Proverbs 15:33

Such beautiful passages today, don’t you agree?

We start with David, whose pure heart wants to build God a glorious temple. As it turns out, God wants Solomon to build it, but the words God says over David are so beautiful: “I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth” (II Sam. 7:9). And again, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your father, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (vs. 12-13). Can you imagine a more comforting or satisfying blessing for a man who has loved God his whole life? What assurance David has that his legacy will live on. I don’t know if David even realizes it in the moment, but this is actually a Messianic prophecy – Jesus, who comes from the Davidic line, will establish a kingdom that will truly last forever. FOREVER. Amazing!

And then we get to our New Testament reading, the second half of John 14, which is one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible. I know I wrote on the preceding passage yesterday but today’s portion strikes me as well. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). We’ve talked a lot in this blog about obedience and that’s because it’s all over the Bible. Jesus’ command here is simple – simple, but not easy, as my mom has said. Jesus tells us to keep his commands – that’s how we show him we love him. Don’t you want to show Jesus you love him? I do! But how often do I fail to keep his commandments?

I’m a part of the MOPS group at my church and earlier this month we had a speaker come talk about the ways moms with young children can still grow spiritually. It was a great time, and one of the things that the speaker said when she was talking about Scripture reading really struck me. She mentioned that sometimes the Bible can be intimidating or hard to understand, but then she quoted Corrie ten Boom who said, “Don’t worry about the parts of the Bible you can’t understand; worry about the parts you do understand and don’t do.” I’m reminded of that today, as I think about Jesus’ challenging words.

But then, THEN the next verse comes and look at what Jesus does for us: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…” (vs. 16). Isn’t that good news?! We’re not on our own! All too often I forget that, trying to muster through on my own. And Jesus says we don’t need to do that – we have the very presence of God living inside us in the person of the Holy Spirit. And see what comes next? “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (vs. 21). This is incredible stuff!

I hope you are encouraged, as you read both these passages. God has a plan for you, my friend. It may not be as grandiose as David, but it’s just as tender, just as dear. He loves you and he’s sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in you, to “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that [Jesus] has said to you” (Jn. 14:26).

And then the psalms – what richness today! “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in them” (Ps. 119:35) and “for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (vs. 47). I love it so much when I can see so clearly the ways that Scripture tells one story.

Thank you, Lord, for drawing us into your word.  Help us to show our love for you in our obedience.

Amen.


- 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, May 24, 2017

May 24

II Samuel 4:1-6:23; John 13:31-14:14; Psalm 119:17-32; Proverbs 15:31-32

Sometimes the Bible really blows my mind. Did you catch Jesus’ words at the end of our New Testament reading today? “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (Jn. 14:12). Did you take a minute to think about that statement? Greater works than Jesus? Greater works than the man who raised Lazarus from the dead? And healed the blind man? And ROSE FROM THE GRAVE? How can those who believe do greater works than these?

I’ve read that verse many times and been struck each time by the hugeness of this promise, given to a group of ragtag disciples on the verge of betraying the very man who is telling them this. And I’ve been daunted, feeling small and insignificant in my own “ministry” on earth. But I don’t think Jesus meant for us to feel overwhelmed and intimidated – I think he meant for us to be empowered and encouraged.

My reasoning for this claim is that "empowered and encouraged" is ultimately how the disciples felt. Right after Jesus' death, the disciples are lost. They don’t quite understand their role and they’re wandering purposelessly for a while. We’ve seen that this year already as we’ve read the accounts of the disciples fleeing and abandoning Jesus in his hour of need, as we’ve seen them wondering at the empty grave and not knowing what it means. And we’ll see it in the next few days as they return to fishing, not knowing what else to do.

But then as we get into Acts, we’ll see the disciples start to understand what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean, and, after the giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, things start to really get going. In Acts 2, Peter speaks to the Jews, recounting the history of Israel and the acts of Jesus and “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Imagine preaching a sermon and seeing 3,000 people coming to know Jesus! And this is just the beginning for the disciples. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, these “greater works” begin to pour out. In Acts 5, the people carried their sick friends and family into the street so “that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:15). That’s pretty amazing! And that’s just Peter’s works – Paul traveled all over the Roman Empire, spreading the news of Jesus. From these few, ordinary men, the Christian faith went from hundreds to thousands to millions and is now the world’s largest faith group, topping out over 2.2 billion believers (according to quartz.com, a digital global business news publication).

So what about me? What about you? What are our “greater works?” If God can do amazing things through some fishermen, because they believed in him and had the Holy Spirit, then so can we. Like the disciples, though, we have to be open and willing. Our works may not be as dramatic as healing people while we walk past them, but we are part of carrying the good news forward and into the next generation.   We touch thousands of people over the course of our lives – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, our children – and that’s just through physical encounters. These days, we can have a huge impact virally as the social media world has opened up new possibilities that weren’t available to Jesus.

Be encouraged, friends. Jesus wants to use you. Let’s take heart and look for opportunities to enter into these “greater works,” through the power of the Holy Spirit.


 - 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. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23

II Samuel 2:12-3:39; John 13:1-30; Psalm 119:1-16; Proverbs 15:29-30

Today’s Old Testament reading sounds like something out of a prime time TV drama series or maybe a reality show about a really crazy family.  We have battles, chase scenes, death, long-lasting animosity between families, wife re-stealing, lies, betrayal, and, finally, premeditated murder. All that in just two chapters.  Whew, I’m glad I wasn’t part of Saul’s or David’s family back then, aren’t you? And some people think the Bible is boring.

What I love about David’s character in this story, as well as in the previous drama with Saul, is that David continually refused to take retribution into his own hands. He would not retaliate or seek revenge for himself. He always took the stance that God would do the avenging, and “the Lord [would] repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds” (II Sam. 2:26). This is a good reminder for us that we don’t need to take control or seek revenge. We are patient in waiting for the Lord to bring the evildoer his just reward.

In our John passage, we again visit the Passover meal that Jesus enjoyed with his disciples before he is betrayed and crucified. This was a bittersweet time where he “showed them the full extent of his love” (Jn. 13:1), but also knew that even in spite of that all-encompassing love, one of them was going to betray him (vs. 22).

For me, these passages show the tension of everyday life having both good and bad simultaneously present. Rarely do we have days that are all good, or all bad. Usually there are elements of both in it.  And our good and bad for the day aren’t usually quite as dramatic as either of these biblical scenarios are. Yet somehow I think my life should always be easy and cheery. I resent the bad and only want the good. This is not reality, nor the way Jesus knew life on this earth would be.

Instead, I can embrace this dual nature of life here on earth and spend my time rejoicing in his statutes, mediating on his precepts, considering his ways, delighting in his decrees (see Ps. 119:14-16). As I do that, I become more aware of the hurts and needs of those around me.  As a nurse, I can embrace Proverbs 15:30 when it says that a “cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.” Many of my patients are in need of a cheerful face and words that offer hope and healing.

Where do you see the good and bad simultaneously in your life? How can you embrace them both? How can we trust God more, being patient for his actions, instead of taking matters into our own hands? Who around us needs a cheerful look or some good news? Lord Jesus, take me more and more out of the tendency to focus on my own life, and move me into the life of your kingdom.


- 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, May 22, 2017

May 22

II Samuel 1:1-2:11; John 12:20-50; Psalm 118:19-29; Proverbs 15:27-28

I'm struck by the condemnations in today's reading.  In all our passages except the Psalms, sharp words are spoken against fools.

First we see David, confronting the man who brings news of Saul's death.  We know the man has spoken falsely (see I Sam. 31:4-5), likely because he thinks David will be pleased by his information.  His claim to have mercifully dispatched Saul backfires on him, though.  David is appalled and outraged that this man was "not afraid to life [his] hand against the Lord's anointed" (II Sam. 1:14).  David himself, on multiple occasions, had the opportunity (and perhaps justification) to kill Saul, but he always refrained.  His respect for the authority granted by God was clear and inviolate.  This man, who was not even an Israelite, felt no such compunction and earned death for his words.  "Your blood be on your own head.  Your own mouth testified against you" (II Sam. 1:16) - words of a judge and jury sentencing death.

Although their penalty was not physical death, the Jews in our New Testament reading also received a very strong rebuke.  "They loved praise from men more than praise from God" (Jn. 12:43).  Ouch!  These people, face to face with the Living God, are more concerned with acceptance by their community than with acceptance by God.  And not just acceptance, but accolades.  They want the acknowledgement of their peers.  They wanted to follow Jesus on their own terms, at no cost.  All the while, Jesus is preparing to pay the ultimate cost for each of them (and us).

Lastly, in Proverbs, benediction and malediction: "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil" (Pr. 15:28).  The contrast between the measured, careful, thoughtful response of the righteous heart and the foolish, spurting, destructive words of the wicked mouth is stark.  You can see how blessing results from the former and disaster from the latter.  This wicked mouth is characterized by an excess, a carelessness, a wanton disregard for others.

Part of the reason these condemnations are so powerful to me is that I have engaged in each of these behaviors.  I have raised my hand (or my thoughts or my mouth) against leaders in churches; I have certainly chosen praise from men over praise from God; and I seem to gush evil all over the place.  The condemnation spoken in each of these readings is against me, too.

Yet God is still good and great.  Isn't the psalm today a wonderful expression of that truth?  "You answered me" (Ps. 118:21); "it is marvelous in our eyes" (vs. 23); "he has made his light shine upon us" (vs. 27).  Even though we fail and deserve judgement, we receive his mercy.

"You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever" (Ps. 118:28-29).

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. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21

I Samuel 29:1-31:13; John 11:54-12:19; Psalm 118:1-18; Proverbs 15:24-26

It’s spring in California and we’ve got bees!

We’ve got a swarm of bees in our front yard. They are massed together under a bush and they’ve been there for days. We aren’t sure what to do about them as we know bees are needed for the pollination of crops and flowers, but they are a bit ominous and we have grandchildren who come over.

And my daughter, Mary, had a swarm in her lime tree in the backyard. She said it was terrifying when the bees suddenly left the lime tree while she was in the garage. She ran, screaming for Mike and the kids, who were in the front yard, to run into the house.

David writes that His enemies surrounded him like a swarm of bees (Ps. 118:12). His enemies were armed soldiers who were on a quest to kill him! I’ve had enemies, too, but not ones who wanted to kill me.

One of my enemies was my next-door neighbor in Austin. We bought our lot and had our house built before the subdivision was finished and there was a large vacant lot next door. One day the surveyors came and staked the next house to be built. I went outside to look at the stakes and I realized that the house next door would be Next Door. Though we each had a half-acre lot, their house was staked to be built 10 feet from the lot line, and unfortunately, ours was built close to that same lot line. I was devastated by this plan. Why, with land to spare, and since I couldn’t move my house, please would they move theirs? I talked to them and presented my viewpoint, winsomely, I hoped.

That same day, in the spring, I read this verse. And I thought of the truth of it. If God could protect David from enemies bearing swords who were swarming around him like bees, surely he could protect me from my neighbor’s house intruding on what seemed like “my rights.” And he could keep them from becoming my enemy even if they didn’t move the house stakes. “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation…I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely but he has not given me over to death “ (Ps. 118:13-18).

The neighbors didn’t move the stakes. Their house was built right next to ours. I claimed this verse and they did not become my enemies. And it turned out all right, after all. Their house was built at an angle tilting away from us and ours was tilted away from theirs so, except for that front corner, there was actually plenty of room between the houses.  And years later, the owners told me they were sorry they didn’t listen to me, but, thank you, Lord, I was over it by then.

I had chosen what Proverbs 15:24 says: “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave. “ Because of the verses in Psalms about bees, I chose life and good relationship with my neighbors.

In the days ahead we will read of David’s sin that will change the trajectory of his life’s path. He will be defeated by an enemy, but not one with a sword.

In John, we see Mary’s lovely anointing of the Savior who will die. Her spiritual discernment leads her to perform an expensive and beautiful act for Jesus; she anoints his feet and the fragrance of the perfume fills the house.

Lord, you give us counsel in Your Word to keep us from going down to the grave. May we be like Mary in honoring Your spiritual authority in our lives and making daily choices to obey You in simple ways that have bigger consequences.


- Nell Sunukjian


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Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20

1 Samuel 26:1-28:25; John 11:1-54; Psalm 117:1-2; Proverbs 15:22-23

Man, did I hit the jackpot with today's reading or what?  This post can practically write itself, between David-Saul-Samuel and Jesus-Martha-Mary, with a little bit of Caiaphas thrown in.

It's so deeply moving to me to read of David's continued protection of "the Lord's anointed" (I Sam. 26:9).  David deliberately puts himself into dangerous positions to prove to Saul that he is not a threat to his kingship, to show that he's had all the opportunities and never taken them.  Even though Saul seeks David's very life, David never moves against Saul.  (Did you notice yesterday that David was "conscience-striken" for even cutting off a piece of Saul's robe [I Sam. 24:5]?)  Such integrity, such honesty, such confidence in God.  Not in Saul, mind you - David is quite certain that death will remain Saul's goal, regardless of Saul's conciliatory words.  Though Saul has blessed David for the second time in three chapters (see I Sam. 24:17-21 and 26:25), David is no fool; he knows that Saul is unchanged (see I Sam. 27:1).

Saul, on the other hand, has become a fool and a desperate one at that.  Exhibit A: consulting the medium in Endor.  Chapter 28 is such a curious chapter, raising all sorts of questions for me: Why does Saul disguise himself (vs. 8)?  Does the woman really have the power to call up anyone (see vs. 11)?  What is it about the appearance of Samuel that terrifies the woman and reveals Saul's true identity to her (vs. 12)?  What form does Samuel take - he seems both visible to the woman yet invisible (but audible) to Saul?  Why does Samuel give Saul the information he has gone to such evil lengths to acquire (vs. 19)?  Where did the woman go (vs. 21)?  Is Saul the only one who hears Samuel's words of disaster?

As Esther has exhorted us again and again, when we don't understand something in Scripture, look in a commentary!  In this case, however, there's some general uncertainty and mystery.  Clearly, God doesn't approve of necromancy/spiritism - he's forbidden it for the nation.  And yet, God allows truth to be spoken to Saul.  Also apparent is the unexpectedness of Samuel's appearance - the medium is startled and shocked!  She did not anticipate this outcome, but God uses her to move his own purpose forward.  God will prevail.

And then there's Martha's encounter with Jesus.  I've always felt sympathetic toward Martha.  I think she's gotten a bit of the short stick when it comes to the perception by the church: a busy woman who begrudges her sister time at the feet of Jesus, who complains to him about her sister's indolence, who is chastised by the Lord for not understanding the most important thing.  Those are all true (at least mostly).  But what a picture we see of Martha here.  She's proactive (sending word to Jesus about Lazarus' illness [Jn. 11:3]) and well-known-and-regarded in the community (notice that "many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother" [Jn. 11:19]).  She desires to understand and she goes to Jesus for that need (vs. 20).  Her statements of belief rival Peter's declarations: "my brother would not have died" (vs. 21); "even now God will give you whatever you ask" (vs. 22); and, most amazingly, "You are the Christ, the Son of God," the fulfillment of all the Scripture's prophecies (vs. 27).  Incredible!  At this great moment of crisis and grief, to turn to Jesus in such confidence and faith.  That's a woman I want to be like.  Mary reiterates Martha's first statement, but not the profound last one (see vs. 32).

All this leads us to Caiaphas, who is violently opposed to Jesus and yet speaks the words of God about him.  Though he proposes a course of action that ultimately leads to Jesus' death, Caiaphas is used to prophesy about the Messiah: "Better...that one man die for the people than that the whole [world] perish" (Jn. 11: 50).  How true his words were/are.  It is better for me that Jesus died; that death and resurrection prevent the loss of the whole world to sin and destruction.  Hallelujah!

A man of upright conduct contrasted with a faithless man, but both are used by God and encounter God directly.  A woman of great strength and belief contrasted with a fierce, unbelieving man, but both speak words of great truth and power.  Isn't Scripture amazing?


- Sarah Marsh

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Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44; John 10:22-42; Psalm 116:1-19; Proverbs 15:20-21

Today’s Old Testament passage is about a resourceful woman. I love resourceful women, especially as portrayed in the Bible. I strive to be a resourceful woman and take an eager interest when the Bible depicts stories of women who change history, however big or small, by divergent thinking. I love how the Bible describes Abigail – “discerning and beautiful” (1 Sam. 25:3). Somehow, she is married to Nabal, who is “harsh and badly behaved.” When David’s men come to Nabal and ask for some basic provisions, in return for the protection they’ve been offering his shepherds during shearing season, Nabal (who definitely knows who David is), responds by questioning David’s lineage and insulting his men. 

When David hears of this, his anger is kindled and he gathers 400 of his fighting men, with plans to wipe out everyone connected with Nabal’s house. Before he can get there, though, Abigail hears of her husband’s ungrateful and foolish behavior and she concocts a plan to save the day. She meets David before he can start waging war and presents him with gifts and begs that there be no bloodshed. Soothed by her complimentary (1 Sam. 25:28-31) and rational words, David’s hand is stayed and he goes away pacified. Later, when Abigail tells Nabal that she took a lot of his provisions and saved the household, he has some kind of stroke or heart attack and, ten days later, dies. David then comes back and claims Abigail as his wife. A happy ending for everyone.

I have always loved how the Bible represents women. In the New Testament, they are among Jesus' earliest and most faithful followers – they are the first to believe in the resurrection – and they are listed as Jesus’ financial supporters. In Paul’s writings, Phoebe is listed a leader in the Roman church, and Lydia is one of the first converts in Asia. In the Old Testament, we’ve already seen many stories in which women are the heroes – Rahab with the spies, Jael with her tent peg, Deborah in battle against King Jabin. These women are strong and resourceful and God uses them to bring good to those around them.

We can now add Abigail to the list. She knows her husband is acting shamefully and so she takes matters into her own hands and uses her discernment and quick thinking to protect those in her household and keep David from sin. Her resourcefulness and good ideas bring good to those around her.

May we be like these women!


- Esther McCurry


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 18

I Samuel 22:1-23:29; John 10:1-21: Psalm 115:1-18; Proverbs 15:18-19

I was on a panel recently at Biola University where I’m an adjunct professor, and a student asked a question about the brutality of the Old Testament. In particular she was questioning the spoils of war and why a foreign woman could be taken captive by Israel after a conquest. And somehow implied in her question was the comment, “If I were God, I would be much kinder than that and I would not allow such brutality as taking an innocent woman from her home as the spoils of war.”

Today we read two contrasting parts of Scripture: in I Samuel, we see Saul ordering 85 priests to be killed and their entire town and families demolished because he fears David will take his throne from him. And in John, we read of the tender care of the Good Shepherd for His sheep.

In one scene, brutality.

In the other, benevolence and tenderness.

Which is true of our God?

We misread the Old Testament if we read it and think that God is unjust or unkind or unfair to allow what He does. The people who lived around the Israelites were savage people, turning their backs on the True God and choosing instead to live in barbarity. Even Saul, who is an Israelite, in fact he is the king of Israel, orders an atrocious act. Saul’s own men know this is uncalled for and they refuse to kill Ahimelech the priest. However, Doeg steps forward and does the evil deed (I Sam. 22:18).

Is God unkind to allow a foreign woman to be taken into Israel as the spoils of war? In short, the answer is no for God cannot be unkind, He cannot be unmerciful and He cannot be unjust. It is against His nature. He is all kindness, all-merciful and all justice. So we are asking the wrong question. When we don’t understand God’s actions in the Word of God, we should ask, “Lord, help me to understand what you are about in this passage. Show me the truth of You and Your nature and give me skill in reading and researching and understanding your Word. I humbly place myself under Your benevolence and I wait on You for the answer.”

We don’t resist His actions in the Scriptures; we must assume God is always acting in righteousness and we ask for wisdom. This leads to a tender heart and not a prideful heart that says, “I’m kinder than God.”

I don’t fear the violent passages in the Scripture; I don’t fear people who say that the God of the Old Testament is cruel. He is the same in both Testaments; He is both just and benevolent. The God who says, “I am the good Shepherd” is the same God as the One who was present when Doeg murdered Ahimelech.

If He were only good, he would wring his hands, figuratively speaking, over this vicious act. And if He were only just, He might err in too quickly punishing those who do wrong. But He sees the whole picture; He balances love and justice. He will require justice for Ahimelech’s murder and He will do good at the same time. Anywhere we see God judging people, we can be absolutely sure that He is doing it in justice and love. If they are punished, they deserved it. If they receive mercy, they benefited from His love.

So the student’s question, although not directed to me, reaffirmed in my heart that I have no problem with the female captives of war being brought home to Israel and going through a process of cleansing before they entered life with the Israelite community. The nation they had come from was undoubtedly committed to the worship of idols and if God decreed it, and I don’t understand it, then it is my desire to humbly seek truth in Scripture. But I will never charge Him with being unkind or unjust.


- Nell Sunukjian

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17

I Samuel 20:1-21:15; John 9:1-41; Psalms 113:1-114:8; Proverbs 15:15-17

You can tell Saul's heart toward David - it has no patience, no mercy, no justice toward him.  His absence, instead of being a minor disappointment, is a huge deal, causing Saul to attack his own son (I Sam. 20:33).  Talk about blowing something out of proportion!  "He is determined to harm me" (vs. 7), David says, and all Saul's actions bear out this heart attitude.

I'm squirming a bit here.  I'm thinking of my own interactions with a person.  I assume the worst of this person in almost every instance.  I am quick to perceive slight when none has (likely) been given.  I am easily angered by this person.  I am sure this person senses some of my "determination to harm," and distance has grown in the relationship.  Though this person (barring personal sinfulness and selfishness) desires only goodness from and for me (as David does for Saul - he is no threat to Saul's kingship), I cannot usually see it or respond.  And as I write this, I'm ashamed to realize that these statements could describe my interactions with more than one person.  How horrifying and totally discouraging.

Our reading in Proverbs draws this divide into sharper relief: "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred" (Pr. 15:17).  I won't even mention the difference between the oppressed and the cheerful heart of vs. 15.

And here is Jesus and a man born blind, one needing healing and one who came to heal.  Jesus' heart is determined to bring wholeness, not harm.  He wants to act "so that the work of God might be displayed in [the blind man's] life" (Jn. 9:3).  

I, too, am blind, Jesus.  Your Scriptures today are shining "the light of the world" (Jn. 9:5) into the dark holes of my heart.  Your Spirit within me brings conviction, and I confess my sin and repent.  Forgive me for the ways I seek to harm these persons in my life, either actively or in the quiet fury of my own mind and heart.  You made these people in your image, and you love them.  Let me know how much you love me, filling me to overflow that I might love them too.  May I be an agent of blessing in their lives, and they in mine.  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, May 16, 2017

May 16

I Samuel 18:5-19:24; John 8:31-59; Psalm 112:1-10; Proverbs 15:12-14

What is truth? That is a question people ask a lot these days.  According to most people, we should all be able to live out of our own definitions of truth. And if you try to make anyone live according to your own personal truth, you will be dismissed and labeled. We might think this is something unique to our time period, but it has actually been happening throughout history.

Look at our example in I Samuel with Saul being so angry at David for doing good things for the people of Israel (I Sam. 19:5). Saul was believing his own truths and they were leading him greatly astray. But Saul was blind to it. He was so convinced the truth he heard in his head about David was right that he even tried to kill David, an innocent man, numerous times. 

In John 8:32, Jesus says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." The people listening are flabbergasted. According to them, they have been living by the truth all along. What do they need to be set free from? They, too, are so convinced that the truth in their own heads has to be the only one there is. 

Here is a truth I had to try very hard to believe recently- a righteous man "will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord" (Ps. 112:7).  I had this written on my index cards and posted on my mirrors as a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminder that I need not fear. There was a season of my life when fear wanted to take ahold of me. But the truth is, my heart is secure, it is steadfast, it is trusting in the Lord because in the end I will look in triumph on my foes (Ps. 112:7, 8).

What lies are competing with the Truth in your own life right now? Jesus longs to set us free. "If the Son sets you free, you WILL BE free indeed" (Jn. 8:36, emphasis mine). What good news! Who wants to walk in that freedom?!  Let's live according to the one and only truth. Let's let go of our own truths, no matter how convincing they may be in our own heads, and follow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


- Mary Matthias


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Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15

1 Samuel 17:1-18:4; John 8:21-30; Psalm 111:1-10; Proverbs 15:11

Today is my eldest son’s birthday.  A teenager now, it’s hard to believe how quickly these last years have gone.  The days, oh, they have been long, but the years, they have been fast.

I thought of our Caleb when reading about David.  We’re hopelessly biased toward him as his parents, but we think he’s pretty unique: kind, intense, sensitive, intelligent.  It’s crazy for us to look at who he is today and realize how he was much the same at 2 or 3.  We’ve seen these qualities manifest themselves in a toddler and an elementary-school kid and now as a teenager.  He’s living into the young man God has made him to be.

David does the same here.  David isn’t looking for glory; he isn’t searching after power or position.  He’s living into the young man God made him to be.  He’s had skills honed through work and struggle (see I Sam. 17:34-35), protecting sheep, whatever the personal risk.  He wasn’t chasing bears or lions for personal gain or bragging rights; he went after his flock because it was his job and his responsibility.  It’s interesting to see that Saul, who as king should have the responsibility to respond to the challenge from Goliath, is instead “dismayed and terrified” (I Sam. 17:11).  Saul’s not doing his job, so David steps into the breach.  The text indicates that David’s righteous frustration and anger over the impudence of Goliath are born out of his defense of “the living God” (I Sam. 17:26, 36, 45).  David is fierce for God’s honor and so he acts.  David knows God’s promises – that the land of Israel belongs to the Israelites – and he knows that Israel has failed to dislodge the Philistines.  Rather than impetuously rushing toward Goliath in the unreliable trappings of warfare, David recognizes this as an opportunity for God’s good will and word to be furthered.  Here’s a chance to defeat God’s enemies, in a way that could be nothing but God’s triumph.  And David is bold: see how he “[runs] quickly toward the battle line to meet him [Goliath]” (I Sam. 17:48).  This courage stands in total contrast to the men of Israel who “all ran from him [Goliath] in great fear” (I Sam. 17:24).

How I want Caleb (and his brothers, Noah and Levi) to be a man like this: confident in God’s promises, fierce for his holiness, reckless as he pursues the course of action laid before him by the Lord!  

How I need this for myself, too.  I’m convicted today by the words of a recent sermon out of James: do my actions match up with the Jesus I proclaim?  David’s actions did.  He moved out in perilous ways because of his certainty in God.  David was all in.  I’m not.  For me, I’m struck at my lack of generosity.  Not financially – we give generously to our church and other ministries; we set aside a mercy fund each month and are quick to respond to financial needs for those in crisis.  But my heart isn’t generous.  I often begrudge the time a friend might ask for – the moments it takes to respond to an email or the hours spent listening at a coffee shop.  I’m frustrated that my children need my time and attention once again.  I give money to offset an emergency, but with a frustrated spirit, full of judgment because I see how this emergency could have been avoided.  I take meals to new moms, but I remember who sent a thank-you note and who didn’t.  An ungenerous heart.  

Lord, I need to remember how much I have received, how much love has been extended toward me.  I want to be secure in who you are and in your promises, so that I might move out in boldness and extravagance.  May I, like David, “fear the Lord [as] the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10) and live fully into your promises.  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.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 14

I Samuel 15:1-16:23; John 8:1-20; Psalm 110:1-7; Proverbs 15:8-10

The theme of obedience to the Lord runs through our passage today in I Samuel. King Saul—not a patient man, not a discerning man, not a man who self-examines—declares that he has obeyed the Lord when the evidence is clear that he hasn’t. Samuel, speaking for God, had instructed him to completely destroy the Amalekites, including men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys (I Sam. 15:3). But Saul “spared the best of the sheep and the cattle” and then declared to Samuel that he has “carried out the Lord’s instructions” (I Sam. 15:13).

Samuel’s next words cut to the heart of the matter—no, Saul, you haven’t obeyed the Lord. “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Samuel asks in I Samuel 15:14.

And aren’t we so like Saul? Yes, we’re like Saul though we long to be like Samuel who boldly addresses wrong when he encounters it, even in the king of Israel. Samuel doesn’t hesitate to call a wrong a wrong!

But Saul, like us, tries to make the sin seem not so bad—I did obey the Lord, he says (vs. 20). Then he declares that the stolen sheep and cattle are for sacrifices to the Lord (vs. 21), after first blaming the whole thing on his soldiers in verse 15, “The soldiers...spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we completely destroyed the rest.”

Saul wanted to obey God in his own way, and then to declare that way was right. He was following the lead of Adam and Eve who chose to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to (Gen. 3:6-7). They wanted to obey God, but just not enough to do it fully.

And how do I obey God? He asks me for full obedience—to call right what He calls right, to defend the weak and powerless, to give generously to His work around the world and in my local church, to speak the truth of the gospel to those all around me who don’t know him.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).

Lord, may I choose this day to obey you fully. You detest the sacrifice of the wicked but the prayer of the upright pleases You (Pr. 15:8). I am upright only because of the blood of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Give me the courage of Samuel to address the wrongs around me. Give me insight into my own weaknesses and faults. Help me not to be blinded to my sin.

May my prayer please You as I seek to obey You fully. Amen.


- 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, May 13, 2017

May 13

1 Samuel 13:23-14:52, John 7:30-53, Psalm 109:1-31, Proverbs 15:5-7

“’If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’” (Jn. 7:38).

Jesus spoke these words on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary of John tells us that this feast was a established as “a memorial to the wandering in the wilderness, where water and food were scarce. When the people emerged from the desert into the land of Canaan, they enjoyed regular rainfall and plentiful crops” (pg. 86). The priests would draw water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out upon the altar while the people recited Isaiah 12:3 –“With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation.” For seven days the Israelites were to feast and then, on the last day, the Israelites were to make sacrifice for their sins.

Knowing this background information really helps us understand and appreciate Jesus’ statement in John 7:38 all the more. He is drawing off of practices and imagery the Jews had done for hundreds of years, redefining those practices in light of who he is as the Messiah. He knows how his audience will interpret his words. He is saying that now he is the promised land and now he is their salvation.

And in fact, his listeners do understand the significance of what he is saying. “’Surely this man is a prophet.’ Others said, ‘He is the Christ’” (vs. 40-41). They comprehend the full measure of his words and actions as paralleling the salvation of the Israelites from the desert wanderings to the land of Canaan. But will they accept him? Or will they, like the generations so long before them, not really be able to enjoy all the benefits of the promised land and salvation because of their unbelief?

“Whoever believes in me…streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (vs. 38, 39). Jesus’ message to the Israelites that day at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles is the same as it is to us today. Will we accept him? Will we believe him?

Does the Spirit of God live and move and flow from within me? How do I even know?

I must look for the results of living water flowing in my life, that is, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Gal. 5:22).  We have the Spirit. I will say it again because it is good news: we have the Spirit! If we believe in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for our sins, we have this Spirit and these streams of living water within us. Let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us walk according to what we have been given. We don’t have to thirst anymore; we have the living water. We don’t have to wander around looking for salvation; we have been redeemed.

Thank you, Lord, that you always make a way for your people to walk in freedom and fullness of life. Jesus, we accept your sacrifice. Holy Spirit, flow through us. Be living water that revitalizes every part of us until your peace and joy and love shine forth in every aspect of our lives.


- 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. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

May 12

1 Samuel 12:1-13:23; John 7:1-30; Psalm 108:1-13; Proverbs 15:4

I have a confession to make. I’m sure you haven’t been tracking who is talking about what (so you probably haven’t noticed this), but I have actually never written about a proverb before in my bi-weekly postings. I love the Proverbs and I think they are very applicable; I just haven’t exactly known what to say except “so true,” and that didn’t really feel like it was adding too much. =) But today, I was really struck by our Proverbs reading, for two reasons.

First, I love the imagery that a gentle (or some translations read “healing”) tongue is a tree of life. Isn’t that just amazing? The tongue is such a powerful, central force in our lives that it has great potential to be either incredibly destructive or beautifully life-giving. I’m sure you’ve experienced both outcomes, on both the giving and receiving end. I know I have.  But what a reminder and encouragement today to use our words to bring joy, to bring life, to bring healing. Gentleness is such a lost art these days – do you feel that? That in the midst of the busyness and the need to be important and productive, we’ve gotten caught up in the brashness and briskness of life? Maybe I feel it more in the race and fury of the LA area in which we live. Regardless, I was truly touched by the idea of my tongue, when it is gentle, bringing forth life, as solidly and as immovably as a tree. So beautiful.

I was also struck by the second part – “perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Again, this may feel more like an epidemic because I live in Southern California, but I feel like perverse talk is everywhere. Literally, EVERYWHERE. Coarse jokes, crass language, inappropriate conversations, malicious gossip – it is everywhere! Upon first reading, it’s easy to read this portion and see its contrast to the portion above, that when we use our tongue for evil, in perverse ways, then we crush the spirit of those around us. And while I certainly do think that’s true, I began to wonder as I sat with this verse if it isn’t also true in the reverse process.

When my mouth is repeatedly filled with things that are cruel or vulgar or mean-spirited, my own soul is deeply affected. I am brought down and discouraged by the negativity and wickedness coming out of my own mouth. Over time, if we let this behavior continue and become a habit, I truly believe we will literally break our own spirits, not to mention those of everyone around us.

What a reminder today to be gentle with our words, to bring life instead of death, for our own sake, as well as those with whom we do life.  Help me, Jesus!


- Esther McCurry


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Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 11

1 Samuel 10:1-11:15; John 6:43-71; Psalm 107:1-43; Proverbs 15:1-3

Some really profound words throughout our reading today, moments of beauty and clarity and God's purposes triumphant.  

Consider our Old Testament reading: "As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart" (I Sam. 10:9) and "the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying" (vs. 10).  Saul is fundamentally altered by his encounter with God (in this case, through his messenger, Samuel), and this change is demonstrated by his later activities in worship and in warfare.  The response of those who observe Saul's prophesying clearly indicates that this is not a regular occurrence for Saul; he is overflowing with the poured-out Holy Spirit (vs. 11-12).  Though he hides during the kingship selection (vs. 22), Saul later immediately reacts to a threat to his people (11:6-7).  No longer afraid, he assumes his role as king and leads his people to victory.  There's a clear before-and-after distinction in Saul, a distinction that occurs because he has met God.

Consider, too, our New Testament reading: "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn. 6:68-69).  What a confession by Peter!  No one else.  No where else.  No thing else.  Only Jesus.  Jesus alone.  He offers life.  It can be found in no other place and no other person (see also vs. 63).  And Peter both believes and knows this.  In Greek, these two words are in the perfect tense.  For those of you who don't geek out on (or remember!) grammar, the perfect tense "indicates that an action or circumstance occurred earlier..., often focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself" (from Wikipedia encyclopedia).  Peter has believed, he has known that Jesus is the Messiah, and this knowing and believing makes all the difference.  Because of this belief and knowledge, he could vow to continue as a disciple.  He, like Saul, has been changed by his encounters with God.

And, lastly, consider our psalm.  I love this psalm every time I read it.  There's a recurring motif: people are in desperation; God hears and responds; the restored people praise him.  Group after group are lost, suffering, alone, in need: "in desert wastelands,...hungry and thirsty" (Ps. 107:4, 5); "in darkness and the deepest gloom" (vs. 10); "fools through their rebellious ways and [suffering] affliction....[drawing] near the gates of death" (vs. 17); "on the sea in ships,....[reeling] and [staggering] like drunken men" (vs. 22).  And in each case, they reach the point where no one but God will be able to help them.  They echo Peter's words: where else can they go?  God, so faithful, so responsive, reaches out to each group in their specific predicament, bringing safety and wholeness and straightness and hope.  In each situation, though the outcome looks different, God "[lifts] the needy out of their affliction" (vs. 41).  God meets them in their crisis, a provision which moves them to praise (see vs. 8, 15, 21, and 31) and the psalmist to exhort us to "consider the great love of the Lord" (vs. 43).  Each of these men and women are changed by their encounter with God.

I'm thinking of various people in my life.  They are in darkness and deepest gloom; they hunger and thirst; they are suffering affliction; they reel like drunken men under the weight of folly and depression and debt and the brokenness of the world and their choices.  Their situations, to my human eyes, seem hopeless.  But God is yet faithful!  God is able.  God is ready and willing to respond; they need only to ask.  They must see that they have no where else to go.  So that is what I pray for them.  That they would meet God and be changed - like Saul, like Peter, like the characters in the psalm.

And that I would continue to meet God and continue to be changed.

Amen and amen.  Let it be.


- Sarah Marsh


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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 10

I Samuel 8:1-9:27; John 6:22-42; Psalm 106:32-48; Proverbs 14:34-35

I recently listened to a sermon that touched on the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt. 6:10).  God's authority is undisputed in heaven; his will is unequivocally done in heaven.  We are to pray that his authority comes in like measure here on earth, that his will is done as fully on earth.  Our reading today shows us the conflict between heaven's authority and will (that of God) and the usurping authority and will of earth (that of man).

In I Samuel 8:19-20, we hear the Israelites call for earthly power. "We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles," they cry.  No more of God as their King, no more of this invisible leader.  They want what every other nation has: a man, subject to a man's desires and frailties, as king and leader.  The nation is exerting its will against heaven.

And in Psalm 106, we can see some of the fallout resulting from the rejection of heaven's authority.  Israel becomes like all the other nations (see Ps. 106:34-39), and "therefore the Lord was angry with his people" (vs. 40) and sent them into exile.  When God's kingdom doesn't come on earth, when God's will isn't done on earth as it is in heaven, disaster follows.

But then there's Jesus.  He shows us what it looks like to live with this prayer as our heartbeat.  He puts action to it.  "To do the works God requires" (Jn. 6:28) involves denying our own wills.  We want to exert our control and desires on the world and people around us, whether in huge ways (as in political agendas or not-so-covert media messages) or in small ways (as in irritation over inefficient cashiers or subtle manipulation in our relationships).  Jesus stands in stark contrast to this.  "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me," he says in verse 38.  Jesus does God's will on earth in the same way that God's will is done in heaven.  True fulfillment (see vs. 35) and eternal life (see vs. 40) result.

Lord, show us where we seek to be like all the other nations.  Show us where we live in ways that do not bring your kingdom, do not reflect your will.  Teach us to pray with sincerity and intention, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  Thank you for the gift of Jesus, who lived out these words and thus brought us healing and wholeness.  Amen.


- Sarah Marsh


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May 9

1 Samuel 5:1-7:17; John 6:1-21; Psalm 106:13-31; Proverbs 14:32-33

After my initial reading of today’s Scripture, I was lamenting to my husband that I didn’t really have too much to say about it. I told him, “It seems like it’s about how powerful and holy God is, which is a good truth, but I don’t know how to make a whole blog post about it beside just saying God is powerful and holy.” This comment led to a wonderful discussion on the different portions of our Scriptures today and how they weave together to affirm this truth of God’s character. So, today’s post is a compilation of our thoughts and conversation. But before I get into writing more on that subject, let me make two quick plugs. One: we are meant to be in community around the Word of God; it stirs up new thought and insight and challenges. That is why Moses commanded us to talk about them, to bind them on us and in our homes. Two: sometimes journaling helps us come to greater understandings about the Word of God and ourselves when at first glance our reading of Scripture seems as though it may not really be speaking to us. These were both true in my experience of Scripture today. Let’s keep both of the practices up so that God’s word will dwell more richly in us!

Okay, back to God’s powerful and holy presence. Mike and I saw that theme scattered throughout all four sections of our reading. In I Samuel, it is clear to see that even the Philistines are struck, quite literally, by the power that accompanies the presence of God. When the ark of God, which was the physical representation or God’s physical presence in that day, is in their territory, bad things happen to their gods and to the people within that vicinity. They realized they needed to send the ark “back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people” (I Sam. 5:11). They acknowledged they needed to “pay honor to Israel’s god” (6:5). These pagans who serve and follow other gods are still able to see and acknowledge the presence of the God Almighty to be powerful and worthy of honor.

In John 6, we see back-to-back manifestations of God’s power through Jesus. First in the feeding of the five thousand, and then again as Jesus walks on water to the disciples' boat, three and a half miles from the shore. With the feeding of the five thousand, the people are amazed and in awe of Jesus, saying “surely this is a prophet who is come into the world” (Jn. 6:14).  With the disciples in the boat, they realize someone much more powerful than a prophet has entered their lives as they are “terrified” to seeing him walking on the water towards them.

Finally, in our Psalms and Proverbs, we see the recounting of God’s great deeds among the Israelites with Moses in the desert. We are reminded of how they “exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them” (Ps. 106:20-21). They forgot the power and glory and honor of the God who freed them from Egypt. In Proverbs, God’s power is made known in that “even in death the righteous have a refuge” (Pr. 14:32). Our God has victory even in death.

I am glad to be reminded again today of what a Mighty God we serve. Pagan gods bow down before him. Those who don’t acknowledge his true deity can at least see his power and glory made manifest in the miracles he performs. He has command of all the elements of nature and our natural laws do not apply to him. Nothing is too difficult for him. These are still active truths in our lives and world today. What a Mighty God we serve.  


- Mary Matthias


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Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8

1 Samuel 2:22-4:22; John 5:24-47; Psalm 106:1-12; Proverbs 14:30-31

Today is a story of fathers and sons, which is somewhat ironic as we're fast approaching Mother's Day.  But here we are, nonetheless.  We have good sons and not-so-good sons, good fathers and not-so-good fathers, and we can see the natural outworkings of those choices in relationship.

Eli knows all the sins committed by his sons.  Hophni and Phinehas have treated the Lord cavalierly, not considering his holiness to be most important.  We read yesterday that they've desecrated the holy sacrifices, and today we learn that they compound this sin by sexual immorality with women who should be under their guidance and protection (I Sam. 2:22).  Although Eli remonstrates with his sons, he is not effective in turning their hearts back to the Lord, and the Lord chastises Eli directly for his failure: "Why do you honor your sons more than me?" (I Sam. 2:29)  Eli is complicit in their guilt; God indicates that Eli's efforts to restrain his sons were half-hearted at best.  The death of all three results (I Sam. 4:11, 18).

This passage is sobering for me.  My sons (and daughters) are yet young.  What will I do if they act contrary to God's revealed word when they are grown?  How will I respond?  Will I honor God first and foremost, or will my love for my children cause me to turn a blind eye to their sin?  It's easy for me, with the eldest of our children just entering his teens, to be self-righteously sure that I'll stand firm on the side of truth and holiness, but I know my heart is weak.  And I also know my tendency to be sure that my opinions carry equal weight as God's.  I'm all too quick to condemn for a difference of personality or agenda, backing my position up with "religious" support.  How do I learn to see my children truly, and even so love them deeply - and deeply enough to speak God's sometimes-painful truth?

It's questions like these that make me glad I'm not to that point yet!

So Eli with his sons Hophni and Phinehas - those are the less-than-stellar entries in our sons-and-fathers competition today.  But we see that Eli does yet have a tender regard for God (witness his gentleness with Samuel in chapter 3), and at the very end of his life, it is the loss of the ark that undoes Eli, not the loss of his sons (I Sam. 4:18).  Perhaps Eli has reoriented himself and gotten his priorities back in order.

And then, poor Ichabod.  Orphaned at birth and saddled with an awful name.  A son without a father.

Here's the opposite side of the coin, though - Jesus, who calls himself both "the Son of God" (Jn. 5:25) and "the Son of Man" (vs. 27).  There's a clear intimacy in this passage between Jesus and his Father.  They share life (vs. 26) and purpose/mission (vs. 36).  Jesus is affirmed and confirmed, approved by his Father (vs. 37).  They are united in holding God's name as holy and single-minded in communicating God's will to others. Our winners, ladies and gentlemen!

Now, we know the climax of this story. Jesus, even though he's a good son - because, in fact, he's a good son - will yet die.  Living a godly life is no guarantee of life and prosperity.  But consider the rewards that Jesus reaps because of his obedience!  We are those prizes, those earnings, those gifts.  

Thank you, Jesus for your faithfulness, for the ways you fulfilled God's purposes even at ultimately great cost.  May we strive to be fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, who resemble you and your Father and not Eli and his sons.  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.