Monthly Home Bible Study

The Reverend Ronald F. Marshall

Along with our other regular study of Scripture, let us join as a congregation in this home study. We will study alone then talk informally about the assigned verses together as we have opportunity. In this way we can "gather together around the Word" even though physically we will not be getting together (Acts 13.44).

We need to support each other in this difficult project. In 1851 Kierkegaard wrote that the Bible is "an extremely dangerous book.... [because] it is an imperious book... – it takes the whole man and may suddenly and radically change... life on a prodigious scale" (For Self-Examination). And in 1967 Thomas Merton wrote that "we all instinctively know that it is dangerous to become involved in the Bible" (Opening the Bible). Indeed this word "kills" us (Hosea 6.5) because we are "a rebellious people" (Isaiah 30.9)! And so the "Word of God is never so despised as where it is richly taught" (Luther's Works 67:218)! As Lutherans, however, we are still to "abide in the womb of the Word" (LW 17.93) by constantly "ruminating on the Word" (LW 30.219) so that we may "become like the Word" (LW 29.155) by thinking "in the way Scripture does" (LW 25.261). Before you study, then, pray: "Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in Our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen" (quoted in R. F. Marshall, Making A New World: How Lutherans Read the Bible, 2003, p. 12).

1 Peter 1:12 

 

January 2021, Number 335

 

Week I. Read 1 Peter 1.12 noting the phrase serving not themselves. What’s wrong with serving yourself? On this read Luke 9.23 noting the words deny, self, daily and follow. In order to follow Jesus, why do we have to deny ourselves? On this read John 3.30 noting the play between the two words decrease and increase. Why is this asymmetrical relationship between Jesus and his followers necessary? Check out Matthew 6.24 noting the word pairs love and devoted, in contrast to hate and despise. Why this forced exclusion? Read Exodus 34.14 about God’s name being Jealous. Why does God force this narrowness on us – refusing to share any of us with another ultimate purpose? On this read John 3.3 noting the phrase born anew. Why isn’t our ordinary, first physical birth enough? Go to Psalm 51.5 where it says we are all born in sin. What does that do to us? Note in Mark 7.21–22 the list of what comes out of us – evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness, Are we really born with all of this inside of us? Or does it come from bad influences? On this read 2 Corinthians 7.5 noting the contrast between fighting without and fear within. The problems within take priority over those from outside because grieved into repenting is highlighted next in 2 Corinthians 7.9. So the corrupt heart described in Jeremiah 17.9 takes precedence – it’s our worst problem. Do you agree? If so, why?

 

Week II. Read again 1 Peter 1.12 noting this time the word revealed. Why does this negative view of ourselves have to be revealed to us? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the word blinded. Why does that require revelation to overcome? On this note the word exertion in Romans 9.16. So is there nothing we can do to help ourselves? On this check out the words wretched and deliver in Romans 7.24. So are we just plain sick sinners – as in Mark 2.17? What does that illness do to us? Read 2 Corinthians 3.4–6 noting how confidence and competence are not of our own making. Does that explain our need for revelation?

 

Week III. Reread 1 Peter 1.12 noting this time the words serving and you. How is that done? On this read Galatians 1.10 noting the words favor, men, pleasing, servant and Christ. Why shouldn’t serving others please them? Check out Isaiah 53.6 noting the words all, sheep and astray. Because of this we cannot serve others by giving them what they want. Are we really that clueless? On this read Matthew 9.36 noting the words helpless and shepherd. Deep down, then, we don’t know what’s good for us. On why this is so, check out Isaiah 5.20 on mixing up good and evil. Where does that leave us? On this read Luke 12.20 noting the word fool. How does that happen? Check out John 6.27 on laboring for the bread which perishes. Does that then leave us only with the transient as 2 Corinthians 4.18 says? How bad is that?

 

Week IV. Read 1 Peter 1.12 one last time noting the same words serving and you. What’s the best way to do that? Read John 6.68 noting the line words of eternal life. What do they include? On this go to Colossians 3.2 noting the line things that are above. This involves Christ. What’s he about? 1 Corinthians 15.3 say that Christ died for our sins. Why was that? Read Isaiah59.2 noting the separation that sin causes. How is that bridged? Check out Colossians 2.14 where sin – the bond with its legal demands – is canceled on the cross. How does the cross do that? Read Romans 5.9 about saving us from the wrath of God. How does the death of Jesus do that? Note the just requirements of the law in Romans 8.3. Note also the word peace in Colossians 1.20 – which eliminates God’s wrath. And note bearing our sin in his body in 1 Peter 2.24. Does it then all come down to his sacrifice in Hebrews 9.26? Yes – see that sacrifice in the exchange in 2 Corinthians 8.9 – rich for poor, and the poor becomes rich. Do you agree?

 

Job 9.12

 

February 2021, Number 336

 

Week I. Read Job 9.12 noting the question Who can hinder God? What does this say about God? On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the line God… does whatever he pleases. How is that possible? On this read Genesis 18.14 noting the rhetorical question Is anything too hard for the Lord? Read also Luke 18.27 noting the claim that what is impossible with men is possible with God. Does this restrict God’s power to the range of human possibilities? Check out Luke 1.37 noting the line that nothing will be impossible with God. Why does Job concede this unlimited power to God? Does he have any choice? On this read Psalm 62.11 noting the claim that power belongs to God. What’s the issue here? On this read Psalm 78.65 about God awaking as from sleep. Does that mean it looks like God is asleep at the switch and doesn’t exercise controlling power? Psalm 10.13 reports the wicked saying that God can’t catch them. How shall we respond? Read Psalm 10.15 on begging God to break their arms. Is that a good prayer?

 

Week II. Read again Job 9.12 noting this time the word snatches. What does God take away? On this read Psalm 139.10 noting the words lead and hold. How controlling are those words? Check out Jeremiah 18.6 noting the words potter, clay and hand. If God has this same kind of complete control over us, are we free at all to resist God and act contrary to his will for us? On this read Genesis 6.5–6 noting the words saw, wickedness, only, every, evil, sorry and grieved. Does this sound like the people acted contrary to God’s wishes? But check out also Romans 9.18 noting the words mercy, hardens and wills. Is God back in control in this verse? Read also Matthew 10.29 noting the words sparrows, fall and will. Is the same thorough control in this verse? Or is there some sort of combination? On this read Philippians 2.12–13 noting the three uses of the word work, and also the words obeyed, will and for. How do the beloved and God work together in these two verses?

 

Week III. Reread Job 9.12 noting this time the word say. Are we to talk back to God? On this read Romans 9.20 noting the words man, God and why. Why aren’t people to argue with God? On this read Isaiah 55.8–9 noting the words thought, ways, not and higher. How much of a disadvantage is this for us? Check out Luke 11.28 noting the words hear and keep. Is this strict obedience? If it is, then there isn’t any freedom to go over with God things we disagree about. On this read Job 40.4 noting the confession I am of small account. What sort of a place is that before God? Check out Job 40.7 noting the contrast between question and declare. Why can’t we question God? Read further on to Job 40.9 noting the words thunder and voice. We can explode nuclear bombs and amplify our speech, but what if our natural voices cannot simulate thunder? Does that prevent us from questioning God? Read Numbers 16.32 noting the words ground, opened, swallowed and all. Why can’t we duplicate an earthquake? Is it just a matter of time, waiting for the right inventions and technology?

 

Week IV. Read Job 9.12 one last time noting the same word say. If questioning God is not the way to go, what is? On this read Isaiah 43.21 noting the line I formed… people [to] declare my praise. Why is praising God better than questioning him? What position does worship put us in before God? On this read Hebrews 12.28–29 noting the words grateful, shaken, awe, consuming and fire. How does knowing that God’s kingdom cannot be shaken change the way we speak before God? Read Isaiah 6.1–5 noting the exclamation Woe is me! Read also Revelation 1.17 noting the line I fell at his feet as though dead. Why is this demeaning stance fitting for worship? On this read John 3.30 noting the contrasting words increase and decrease. Why is this inequality fitting? Check out Romans 1.25 noting the line they… worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator. Where’s the mistake in this? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the contrast between the transient and the eternal. The mistake is looking to the transient instead of the unseen eternal. Do you agree? Does John 9.39 with its contrast between seeing and not help? Why or why not?



James 5:5

 

March 2021, Number 337

 

Week I. Read James 5.5 noting the word luxury. What’s wrong with enjoying luxury? Read James 5.2–4 noting the words rotted, rusted and fraud. What do they suggest? On this read Luke 12.18 noting the words barn and store. They suggest hoarding over sharing. Is that the problem with wealth and luxury that we hoard it and keep it for ourselves rather than share it with the needy? On this problem check out 2 Peter 2.14 noting the line hearts trained in greed. Why is this? Luke 12.15 explains that it’s because we think the good life is the one that has an abundance of possessions. How can that be if 1 Timothy 6.7 is true? Note its line we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. Against this read Matthew 6.20 noting the line lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. What is this to save us from? On this read Ecclesiastes 5.13 noting the line riches were kept by their owner to his hurt. How does hoarding do this? Check out 2 Timothy 3.1–5 noting how lovers of money can also be arrogant and haters of good. That’s the corruption hoarding brings. Do you agree? If so, why?

 

Week II. Read again James 5.5 noting the same word luxury. If luxury is dangerous, why do we want it? On this read Hebrews 3.13 noting the line hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. How does sin trick us into thinking that hoarding wealth and luxury aren’t so bad, after all? First, read Isaiah 5.20 noting the words call, evil and good. This switch is close to what the serpent said to Adam and Eve. Then read Genesis 3.4 noting the denial from the serpent – You will not die. But God told Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.17 the opposite. Check it out. So why did they believe Genesis 3.6 which gives us three reasons for preferring the serpent over God – food, delight and wisdom. Anything wrong with them? The source is the problem. Read Jeremiah 17.5 noting the words trust and turns. Read also Isaiah 26.3 noting peace and trusts. Both of these verses say that only God is trustworthy. So he is to be trusted over the serpent. Do you agree?

 

Week III. Reread James 5.5 noting this time the phrase day of slaughter. Why such a threat? Why such a severe punishment? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the line storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. What makes this wrath righteous? Why isn’t it too extreme? Check out Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line one sinner destroys much good. Is that a good justification? Read also 1 Corinthians 5.5 noting the joining of the words destruction and saved. So can threats and punishments bring about the good? Is that another justification for God’s severe threats? Read as well Romans 5.3–5 noting how suffering leads to hope. Is that another explanation for God’s severity? Also check out Romans 11.22 noting how the words severity and kindness work together – with the threat hanging over the verse of being cut off. That hanging threat can motivate faith and obedience. On this read Jonah 3.4–5 noting the linkage between the words overthrown with believed and fast.

 

Week IV. Read James 5.5 one last time noting the same phrase day of slaughter. How can we stop the coming of this impending wrath? On this read Luke 13.5 noting how the word repent stops the word perish. Read also Leviticus 26.40–45 noting the words confess, humbled and amend. Note also how those words lead to God saying to them I am the Lord their God. What is this confession like? Note the words contrition and broken in Psalm 51.17. Note also how the words rely and acknowledge contrast in Proverbs 3.5–6. Include also the words deny and daily in Luke 9.23. Add to these the word knowing in Revelation 3.17. Check out also the refusal in Luke 18.13 to lift [one’s] eyes to heaven, while still praying to God for mercy. What do you make of that combination? On the reticence in that prayer, read Hebrews 12.29 noting the line our God is a consuming fire. Does that also keep you from lifting your eyes up to heaven? How does that make you feel?

 

 

Isaiah 8:14

 

April 2021, Number 338

 

 

Week I. Read Isaiah 8.14 noting the phrase a rock of stumbling. How does God make us stumble? On this read 1 Peter 2.8 noting the word disobey. Why do we disobey? Read Isaiah 30.10 noting the words right, smooth and illusions. Why are we looking for the easy way out? On this read Jeremiah 48.10 noting the word slackness. What’s the advantage in that? Check out Amos 6.1 noting the correlation between the words erase, feel and secure. Why is there this illusion of security? Is it that being at ease implies that there are no threats to ward off? Read Psalm 30.6 noting the words prosperity and never moved. This is quite an assumption. On its dangers, read Hosea 13.6 noting how the word full leads to the word forgot. This forgetting then leads to the horrifying words about tearing, devouring, rending and destroying in Hosea 13.8–9. God explains why he punishes his people in Isaiah 2.22. What does it mean that they are no “account”?

 

Week II. Read again Isaiah 8.14 noting the words trap and snare. Why does God want to trap the disobedient? On this read Leviticus 26.15 noting the charge you… break my covenant. Why should God care about this? Check out Leviticus 26.12 noting how your God goes along with my people. If God didn’t care so deeply about making us his people, he could overlook it when we break his covenants. On this divine trait, read Exodus 34.14 noting the confession – my name is Jealous. Does that explain God saying, I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, in Isaiah 65.2? How long does this divine patience last? On this read Ezekiel 8.6 and 11.23 noting the words drive and went. Note also God’s new name – the Lord is there – in Ezekiel 48.35. But what matters most here is the fear and dread of the Lord in Isaiah 8.13. Why is dread added to fear? Is it because of the difficulty – I will teach you the fear of the Lord – in Psalm 34.11?

 

Week III. Reread Isaiah 8.14 noting this time the word sanctuary. What does God do to help us out in this way? On this read Isaiah 6.1 noting the throne and the temple in his sanctuary. Is it pleasant there? Read Isaiah 6.4–5 noting the words shook, smoke, woe and unclean. All of these are disturbing words. How then does God help us in his sanctuary? Read Isaiah 6.7–8 noting the words guilt and voice. What comes from this relief and direction? See Isaiah 6.11–13 noting the disturbing words waste, forsaken and burned. Is all help gone then? Check out the line stump remains standing in Isaiah 6.13. That is a hopeful word because of the new growth it promises. Note also the stump of Jesse in Isaiah 11.1. What comes from this stump? Check out Isaiah 9.2 noting a great light. What does it reveal? On this read Isaiah 53.5 noting the healing that comes through being wounded. This is alarming. Read the new thing in Isaiah 43.19. How new is it? Is it one more thing added to the traditions of old? Check out the phrases remember not… nor consider… the former things in Isaiah 43.18. That’s radical, don’t you think?

 

Week IV. Read Isaiah 8.14 one last time noting the same word sanctuary. How should we respond to it? Check out Isaiah 44.22 which says return to me. But how do we do that? Read Isaiah 1.15 noting the phrase hands… full of blood. Refraining from violence then is a beginning. What else? Note also the greed and disregard in Isaiah 1.23. Avoid both of them too. Isaiah 2.11 also denigrates pride – so humility is far better. Isaiah 3.8 says stop defying [the] glorious presence… of the Lord. And Isaiah 4.4 says to rejoice in the Lord washing away our filth. Add both of these too. Isaiah 5.24 says not to despise the word of the Holy One of Israel. And Isaiah 12.1–2 says that we should thank God and trust in him. Both of these readings should also be part of our response to God’s sanctuary. But also read Isaiah 14.1–3 noting the words choose and rest. They keep God in charge of our response to his sanctuary. On this read Isaiah 25.9 noting the line we have waited for… the Lord… that he might save us. By so doing, humility will keep pride at bay. Do you agree?


 

James 2.13

 

May 2021,  Number 339

 

Week I. Read James 2.13 noting the word judgment. What is this judgment? Note in James 4.11–12 that we aren’t supposed to judge others. Note also that this has to do with speaking evil of them. What’s the mistake we make here? On this read John 7.24 about right judgments. Is that too hard for us to do? If so, the judgment needed then has to do with God. On this read James 1.25 and 2.12 noting the law of liberty – as the basis for that judgment of God. And what is it? Read John 9.39 noting the judgment that helps and hinders – giving sight and taking it away. How is that divine judgment? It aids the humble or blind – and thereby frees, but knocks down the proud or those who think they can see on their own – and thereby destroys false freedom. Note also the judgment in John 16.11 against the ruler of this world or the devil. What does it do? See 1 John 3.8 about thwarting or destroying the devil’s works. What is this judgment overall then? On this read John 5.26–29 noting judgment at the end of the world for life or not. See also Matthew 25.46 noting either life or punishment.

 

Week II. Read again James 2.13 noting the same word judgment. Why does God have to judge us for good or ill? Why not just cancel all comprehensive judgments of us? On this read Romans 2.12 noting the linkage between law and judge. Why are we measured against the law in the end? On this read Romans 7.12 noting that the law is holy, just and good. How does the law help us get into heaven? Note the word righteous in Psalm 118.20 and slaves of righteousness in Romans 6.18. When we are aligned with the law and doing God’s will, then we’re righteous. Isn’t that what Matthew 7.21 says? Now, there’s no other way to find out who is righteous except through judgment – for at judgment what’s hidden in darkness and secret is disclosed, according to Romans 2.16 and 1 Corinthians 4.5. Otherwise the righteous would never be known, and no one would go to heaven. That’s why at judgment we’re repaid in Revelation 22.12; our due is received in 2 Corinthians 5.10; and a crown is bestowed on us in 2 Timothy 4.8. What do these three verses offset? On that read about wrath in Romans 2.5. What differentiates this wrath from the crown? On this note the line every careless word they utter in Matthew 12.36.

 

Week III. Reread James 2.13 noting this time the word mercy. Are you ready now for Judgment Day? What if you lose your composure when Christ judges you? Or what if you lose track of all the careless things you’ve said? What then? On this read 1 John 3.20 noting how God is greater than your condemning heart. What follows from that? Note the line in Romans 8.1 there is… now no condemnation. How’s that possible? Read Romans 8.4 noting the line the just requirement of the law [is] fulfilled. How does that happen? Read 1 Peter 2.24 noting that Jesus bore our sins on the cross that we might be healed from them. So Christ is punished so that we won’t have to be. Therein lies the basis for the mercy we receive. Do you agree – or not like those in 2 Peter 2:1?

 

Week IV. Read James 2.13 one last time noting the same word mercy. What keeps us safe from the law somehow ambushing us again and making us guilty all over? First, read Ephesians 5.2 noting that God accepts Christ’s offering deeming it fragrant. So God confirms the sacrifice making it indestructible. Is that what the line Jesus Christ is the same in effect says in Hebrews 13.8? Then read Romans 10.4 noting that Christ is the end of the law. Add to that John 19.30 and the short line it is finished. Both of these also block any reversal of God’s mercy. Does that keep us safe in the arms of God’s mercy – as in John 10.29? Not if the word received in Romans 3.25 is true – as well as provided in Romans 8.17, apart in James 2.26, and confess in Romans 10.9. Are our troubled hearts in John 14.1 finally then at rest? 


 

Proverbs 19.11

 

 June 2021, Number 340

 

Week I. Read Proverbs 19.11 noting the word anger. What is so sensible about not getting angry fast? On this read James 1.20 noting how anger disrupts the righteousness of God. Note as well James 1.21 where anger is replaced with meekness. Read also Matthew 5.21–22 noting how anger is subsumed under killing. Why is hasty anger judged so severely? Read Proverbs 18.17 noting the error in stating first. Why is the subsequent careful examination better? Proverbs 19.2 says you’ll miss your way if you’re hasty. So haste leaves out needed information. It’s missing altogether from the analysis. Other factors are noted alright but still distorted by haste. Do you suppose that this was the problem the nine healed leapers had as well as Martha in Luke 17.14 and 10.40? Read also John 12.3–8 about Judas saying that the pure nard should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus exposes his deceit – but if he had discussed his misgivings with the other disciples, he may never have said it. Was there a good reason why he didn’t do that?

 

Week II. Read again Proverbs 19.11 noting the same word anger. Would slow, deliberate anger be okay? What purpose would it serve? Read Genesis 49.6–7 that links anger to violence. So if anger is peaceful it can make an emphatic point, which would be useful. On this read Genesis 30.2 where Jacob’s anger defends God against his wife, Rachel. Is that a good use of anger? Or read Acts 8.20–23 where Peter angrily castigates Simon the magician – your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! Another case of righteous indignation would be in Acts 13.9 where Paul lashes out at Elymas the magician – you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? Add to these two cases Mark 3.5 where Jesus himself gets angry because of the hardness of hearts of the Jews. Are Peter and Paul then imitating Jesus?

 

Week III. Reread Proverbs 19.11 noting this time the phrase overlook an offense. Is this always the right thing to do? On this read Luke 17.3 noting the line if your brother sins, rebuke him. Sometimes, then, we have to attend to infractions. When is it not a good idea? Read on this Philippians 2.3 and the line count others better than yourselves. This is about humility. If in rebuking you’re arrogant and proud, then it’s wrong. When would it be right? Check out Romans 14.19 and its line what makes for… mutual upbuilding. Rebuking, then, is supposed to be constructive rather than destructive. It’s also to be even-handed. On this read 1 Corinthians 5.5 noting how destruction is supposed to serve salvation. On this mutuality read also 1 Corinthians 11.11 and the line woman is not independent of man nor man of woman. Note also 1 Corinthians 7.4 that the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does,… likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do you see how such mutuality counters any and all abuse through mutual control?

 

Week IV. Read Proverbs 19.11 one last time noting the same phrase overlook an offense. What sort of offenses are we worried about? On this read Matthew 23.4 about inflicting on others heavy burdens. Note also Mark 12.40 about devouring widows’ houses – especially in light of Mark 12.44 and 7.9–13 on Corban. Read also Luke 10.31–32 about passing by the injured and not helping. Another example would be Acts 2.43–47 about sharing wealth in community with glad and generous hearts. This practice would erase the offense of being stingy. Other offenses include Matthew 5.28 on looking at another person’s spouse lustfully, and 1 Timothy 6.10 about craving money. Those who offend us are to be treated differently than we would like to do. On this read Matthew 5.44 noting love and prayer. Do you agree? What would your prayer be?

 

 

Proverbs 21.1

 

July 2021, Number 341

 

Week I. Read Proverbs 21.1 noting the line the Lord… turns it wherever he will. What is the divine power like? On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the line God… does whatever he pleases. How is God able to do that without any interference? Check out Isaiah 55.9 noting how God’s ways are higher than ours. How does that give God extra power? Read Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belong to God. Does that mean God does everything? On this read 1 Corinthians 3.6 – 7 noting the words planted, watered, growth and only. So God doesn’t do everything but he controls everything. How is that? Read Proverbs 19. 21 noting the contrast between plans and purposes, mind and established. How in God in charge of what finally happens? Check out Philippians 1.6 noting the word completion. How is that out of our hands? Can only God control what people will think of what we do? On this read Joshua 2.11 noting the line hearts melted… because of you. Only God controls the fear that changes the way we think. Do you agree?

 

Week II. Read again Proverbs 21.1 noting the same line the Lord… turns it wherever he will. But can’t we thwart God through brute force as in wars and physical abuse? On this read Psalm 46.9 noting the words wars and cease. According to this verse, wars can’t obstruct God’s ways. But why do some wars seem unending? Can God stop only some of them? Check out Ezekiel 14.21 noting the word sword which is an euphemism for wars. Does that explain it? Apparently God sends wars to punish us. As long as the punishment is to last, God keeps the war going. So raging wars aren’t a sign that God is being thwarted. On abuse read 1 Peter 2.18–20 noting the words overbearing, unjustly, credit and approval. Inflicting pain like this is part of God’s plan, not the interruption of it. On this read Matthew 5.46 noting the low achievement of tax collectors loving only those who first love them. Believers in Christ have a higher standard – loving those who are mean to them. Do you buy into turning vices into virtues like this?

 

Week III. Reread Proverbs 21.1 noting this time the line the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord. But what about the bad ones? Can God control them too? On kings read 1 Samuel 8.10–18 noting the words ways, reign, appoint, the five uses of the word take, cry, not and answer. Why is God so unloving to them simply because they wanted kings like all the nations around them? Check out 1 Samuel 8.7 noting the line they have rejected me from being king over them. Read also Hosea 8.4 noting the line they made kings, but not through me. Kings, then, are a punishment. So allowing them to abuse people isn’t a sign that God can’t control them. Take King David. He committed adultery and murder, but God allowed David and Bathsheba to stay together, according to 2 Samuel 12.15–25, so that Solomon could be born next, whom the Lord loved. What other value did Solomon have? Read 1 Kings 5.3–5 noting the two contrasting lines could not build and I purpose to build. What did God think of his temple? Read1 Kings 9.3 noting the word consecrated. How does this fit with John 2.21?

 

Week IV. Read Proverbs 21.1 one last time noting the same line the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord. Because kings have wealth and military power they seem unstoppable. So how does God control them? On this read Matthew 27.19 noting the words nothing, suffered, much and dream. How can a dream do that? Why not just ignore it as a silly thought? How can dreams frighten us into changing our behavior? Check out Genesis 37.3–5 noting the line they only hated him the more. This happened by combining pre-existing jealousy with a dream. So dreams take on more power than they have by being linked up with other bad feelings. Other times God is more direct, as in 1 Samuel 16.14. Check out the evil spirit that he sends to torment King Saul. How odd is that?

 

Romans 14.8

 

August 2021, Number 342

 

Week I. Read Romans 14.8 noting the line we are the Lord’s. What’s that like? On this read John 10.29 noting the line no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. What guarantees that? Martin Luther believed it held as long as we don’t abandon Christ by running after new ideas (Luther’s Works 28:366). So as long as we are content in Christ we are safe (Philippians 4:11). What secures that contentment? Read Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. What happens then? Read James 1.21 noting the word implanted. What’s that like? Check out the phrase dwell in you richly in Colossians 3.16. Note also the phrase rule in your hearts in Colossians 3.15. Add to this the line the love of Christ controls us because we are convinced in 2 Corinthians 5.14. These solid verses explain the strength of the Father’s hand. Is there an example of this? Read Acts 9.22 about the converted Paul who increased all the more in strength and confounded his critics. No wobbling around here. Was the word implanted in him? How so?

 

Week II. Read again Romans 14.8 noting the line if we live, we live to the Lord. What’s that about? On this read Revelation 3.16 about being lukewarm. Why is that criticized? Read about drifting away in Hebrews 2.1; that shipwreck in 1 Timothy 1.19, and falling away and choking in Matthew 13.21–22. When we’re lukewarm these three verses kick in. Do you agree? What then replaces being lukewarm? Read 2 Corinthians 10.5 noting the line taking every thought captive to obey Christ. That’s what it is like to live to the Lord. Do you agree? On this read Galatians 2.20 noting the line it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Is that the new creation in 2 Corinthians 5.17? Ephesians 4.14 warns about being tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine – but that new creation would not allow for this. Why? Is it that the eternal weight of glory in 2 Corinthians 4.17 is too heavy to be knocked around in this way? If so, why?

 

Week III. Reread Romans 14.8 noting this time the line if we die, we die to the Lord. What is that like? On this read John 11.25–26 noting the line though he die, yet shall he live, and… never die. Does that mean that death isn’t real? Check out 2 Corinthians 4.14 noting the line he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us… into his presence. That line only breaks the permanence of death – instead of denying it. How will that restoring of life happen? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.53 noting the verb putting on immortality and imperishability. But also note 1 Corinthians 15.50 and the phrase cannot inherit. Does the second verse block the putting on in the first verse? On this read John 5.26 noting the line has life in himself. This explains why we can’t overturn our own death even though God can. Therefore we can put on what we cannot inherit on our own. Do you believe that? Why or why not?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 14.8 one last time noting the line we are the Lord’s. Does that line also mean that death cannot separate us from God? What would that be like? On this read 2 Thessalonians 1.9 noting the  correlation between punishment and exclusion from the presence of the Lord. Against this verse read Romans 8.39 noting the line that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ   Jesus our Lord. So Christ’s love for us keeps us close to God – even,    according to Romans 8.35–36 – when death strikes. How does his love  do that? Check out Hebrews 2.14 noting how the death of Jesus destroys the power of death. In what way? His death destroyed the cause of death – which Roman 6.23 says is sin. How does his death do that? 1 Peter 2.24 says that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross. That suffering paid the penalty for sins so that sins no longer can cause death. Does that explain the phrase put away sin in Hebrews 9.26? If so, how so?

 

 

Job 42.12

September 2021, Number 343

 

Week I. Read Job 42.12 noting the word blessed. What’s this blessing? Note the word restored in Job 42.10? What had been lost that’s now being restored? Read Job 2.7 noting the line Satan… afflicted Job with loathsome sores. Did he lose anything else besides his health? On this read Job 1.13–19 noting the words oxen, sheep, camels, sons and daughters – as well as all of the servants attending to his vast household. How were these losses restored? Were they raised from the death (see Hebrews 11.19) or replaced? Read Job 42.13–15. There it looks like the daughters were replaced because of the new names listed – and so it’s been assumed that all of the other possessions, plus his new seven sons, were also replacements. What is the blessing in that? Wouldn’t you think Job would at least miss his original ten children and that replacements for them wouldn’t be a blessing at all? On this read Job 42.10 noting the word restored, and then Job 42.11 noting the words sympathy, comforted and evil. From this sequence we learn that this new blessing from God doesn’t erase all the grief from the old attacks from God – albeit via Satan – as both Job 1.12 and 2.6 put it.

 

Week II. Read again Job 42.12 noting the same word blessed. What was the evil that Job was grieving over in Job 42.11 that wasn’t displaced by the new blessing from God in Job 42.12? Was it really the loss of his original ten children? Or was it his health? We’re not told. But we do know that Job complains repeatedly over the loss of his health, but never over the loss of his children after his vague and brief lament Job 1.20. Why is that? On this read Job 1.4–5 noting the words feast, wine, sanctify, offerings, sinned, cursed, hearts and continually. What do these two verses tell us about Job’s original children? Check out 1 Corinthians 4.4 about not knowing our sinful infractions. Is that his fear? Or is it more severe in that our will actually matches up with Satan’s desires as in John 8.44? Does that explain why Job never laments like David did over the loss of his son in 2 Samuel 18.33?

 

Week III. Reread Job 42.12 noting this time the word more. Why did God treat Job so poorly in the first place – even though at the end he treats him better than he did at the beginning? On this read John 6.27 noting the line labor not for the food which perishes. How are we to break the hold that the perishable has on us? Luke 18.27 says it’s impossible for us to do that. The verse goes on to say that God will have to do this for us. That’s what happened to Job alright. It is also what happened to Abraham in Genesis 22.12 – albeit without any death happening. So is Job all about Colossians 3.2 – shifting our attention from what’s on earth to what’s above, so that we might live rightly with God? If so, isn’t this turbulence more than we can bear? Losing one’s children seems to be an unreasonable expectation. But Acts 14.22 includes such tribulation anyway. Can this be headed off in any other way? On this read 1 Samuel 1.28 about lending our children to God. What would that be like in our day?

 

Week IV. Read Job 42.12 one last time noting again the word blessing. Why is Job pleased with having more if that’s what we are supposed to give up according to Colossians 3.2? On this read Matthew 6.33 noting the contrast between the words first and all. Why doesn’t having everything after seeking God’s kingdom first wipe out seeking the kingdom of God first? We’re not told why. But what we can surmise is that after seeking God’s kingdom first, it isn’t the same to have other things after doing that. Life changes. Having health and prosperity are no longer the same. They no longer matter the most. They have been demoted by the kingdom of God. Is that what Romans 8.18 means? How about 2 Corinthians 4.17? Or Hebrews 12.1–4? Is that what faith does to us? Does it put things in a different perspective? Is that what Jesus means about our eyes and ears in Mark 8.18? Is that also what he has in mind about seeing and being blind in John 3.39? If so, how would you explain it?


 

Psalm 50:12 

October 2020, Number 332

 

 

Week I. Read Psalm 50.12 noting the line I would not tell you. Why is that? On this read Acts 17.25 noting the words needed, gives and everything. Do you then believe that God needs nothing from us? On this note the word almighty in Revelation 1.8 – translated as Omnipotens in the old Latin Bible. If God has enough power to do all things for himself, why would he need us for anything? Regarding this read Isaiah 43.21 noting the word praise we were made to return to God. Does God need us at least for that? Martin Luther didn’t think so (Luther’s Works 68:188, 75:197, 76:129, 79:90). According to him, we return praise to God for what he has done for us so that we do not “cling” to what we’ve received from him. It’s for us, not for him, that we sing praise to him. Remember Luke 19.40 about stones praising Christ if no one else did. Well if he doesn’t need us, does this verse mean that he needs stones? On this read Colossians 1.16 noting the phrase before all things. Because God was not deficient before anything was made, he doesn’t need stones or anything else for that matter.  

 

Week II. Read again Psalm 50.12 noting the same line I would not tell you. How does that make you feel? If God doesn’t need you, do you feel worthless? On this read Luke 17.10 noting the term worthless servants. Does that seem unnecessarily severe? In addition note James 4.17 and the line you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Read also Psalm 22.6 noting the line I am a worm and no man. Add in this line from Psalm 39.5 my lifetime is nothing in thy sight, and the line you are nothing and your work is nought from Isaiah 41.24. What is our value, then? On this read the line so neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who gives the growth in 1 Corinthians 3.7. Note that this lack of value doesn’t erase calling us fellow workers with God in 1 Corinthians 3.9. Do we then have something worth contributing, after all? Note the end of that verse where it says we are the field or building where God does all of the work. Note the similarity to the word temple in 1 Corinthians 6.19. But the next verse add this line so glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6.18 says that we do this by shunning fornication with prostitutes. Is that something we can do? But on this read Romans 9.21 noting that it is God who makes us for one use or another.

 

Week III. Reread Psalm 50.12 noting that line I would not tell you again. Where does that leave us then? Read 1 Corinthians 1.9 noting the brief line God is faithful. Is that enough for us? Matthew 10.31 says you are of more value than many sparrows. But what can they do to build a better society – something we wished God needed us to help him with? Why aren’t we praised for building cities? On this read Genesis 11.4 noting how building and making a name for oneself go together. Note also Cain building a city in Genesis 4.17. And the cursed Canaan (Genesis 9:25–27) also spreads abroad in Genesis 10.18–19. Building cities and the wealth required to do so are corrupting activities according to Matthew 19.24. They make us enemies of God according to James 4.4. That’s because Mark 7.20–23 says that what we do and what comes out of us is defilement. Note Isaiah 59.2 on how God’s holiness doesn’t need our defiled or wicked contributions.

 

Week IV. Read Psalm 50.12 one last time noting the same line I would not tell you. Why doesn’t God need us? On this read John 5.26 noting that God has life in himself. Why is God like that? Note Romans 16.26 that he is the eternal God. Note also in Isaiah 55.8–9 that his ways and thoughts are so far superior to ours. Isaiah 26.4 even says God is an everlasting Rock – something never said of us. So does that settle it? If not, what’s missing?

 

Romans 14:17

November 2020, Number 333

 

Week I. Read Romans 14.17 noting the line the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. What is this righteousness? On this read John 16.10 noting the line because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. What does this have to do with righteousness? On this note how Christ is our righteousness in 1 Corinthians 1.30. What does that? Read Ephesians 5.2 about the fragrant offering that Jesus made of himself… to God. And how does that sacrifice make us righteous? On this read Revelation 7.14 noting how believers are washed white by the blood of the Lamb. What is that washing? Read Titus 3.5–7 noting the words mercy, washing, regeneration, justified and heirs. How are we made heirs? Read Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. Who does this? Read Philippians 3.12 noting the line that Christ Jesus has made me his own. Is there anything for us to do? Yes, in that same verse we are told to make Christ our own after he has made us his own. How do we do that? Note the famous line work out your own salvation with fear and trembling in Philippians 2.12. That struggle brings righteousness and faith together as in Romans 3.22.

 

Week II. Read again Romans 14.17 noting the same line the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And what is this peace? On this read Romans 12.18 noting the line live peaceably with all. How can we live that way? Note mutual upbuilding in Romans 14.19. What’s that like? Check out the two uses of interest in Philippians 2.4. How can we combine these? Note the connection between grace and humility in James 4.6. How do we then pursue humility? Read 1 Peter 5.6–10 noting the operative words under, mighty, cast, anxieties, sober, resist, firm, world, suffered and restore. These ten words work together to make us humble – which we can’t accomplish on our own.

 

Week III. Reread Romans 14.17 noting again that line the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Finally, what is this joy? Read Philippians 4.4 noting the line rejoice in the Lord. How does this joy take hold when there is so much sadness, failure and sorrow? On this read 2 Corinthians 6.10 noting the line as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. But how do these go together? Read 1 John 3.19–20 noting the assurance that comes even when we condemn ourselves because God is greater than our hearts. What makes God greater than our sorrow now? Check out 2 Corinthians 4.16–18 noting the eternal weight of glory that offsets everything that is transient or temporal, seen, and wasting away. What does this greatness do for us? Read John 14.1–3 noting how having a place prepared in heaven with Christ enables us not to have troubled hearts. But can’t the sadness now also be ended? Read John 16.33 noting that tribulation now is unavoidable – but cheer also abides because what is now here will eventually go away. Read also about this in 1 Corinthians 7.31 – the present form of this world is passing away. 2 Peter 3.10 says it will be burned up. Do you find comfort in that? Why should you?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 14.17 one last time noting the same line the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Many of the parables also talk about the kingdom of God. Which one is most like this verse? Read Matthew 13.45–46 noting the pearl of great value and then the selling of all in order to get it. What shall we make of this pearl? Read Ephesians 1.8 and the word lavished. Note also the phrase surpassing worth in Philippians 3.8. These two verses about excess inspire us to sell all that we have in order to get that pearl. It enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling in Philippians 2.12. How can we put up with this trouble? On this read Romans 8.18 noting how our present suffering is devalued by the coming glory. Do you agree?

 


 

Job 6.4

December 2020, Number 334

 

Week I. Read Job 6.4 noting the words arrows, poison and terrors. What is Job referring to? On this read Job 2.7 noting the loathsome sores. Why does Job describe these sores in such a gruesome way? On this read Matthew 26.41 about our weak flesh. How do we see this weakness? Check out 2 Corinthians 12.7 noting the word harass. Why aren’t we able to endure this pain of harassment? Read 2 Corinthians 4.7 about people being earthen vessels. So we aren’t powerhouses. Our inherent weakness drains our stamina. We aren’t mighty; we’re earthen. We aren’t able to sustain ourselves unceasingly. Note the fear of growing weary in Galatians 6.9, 2 Thessalonians 3.13, and Hebrews 12.3. So the call to always abound in the works of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15.58 is an ideal that’s rarely done. But doesn’t practice make perfect? On this read Philippians 3.12 noting the phrase not… perfect. Why is that? Will it come eventually? Read Romans 1.25 about mistakenly exchanging the creature for the Creator. That would say no. Do you agree?

 

Week II. Read again Job 6.4 noting this time the words Almighty and God. Does God really want to hurt us and Job? On this read Job 2.6 noting how God puts Job into Satan’s power. But it is still Satan who inflicts Job with those sores. So why does Job think God has done it? Why doesn’t he think it’s a mystery – with the source of his misery unknown? On this read Isaiah 45.7 noting the words weal and woe. Note also wound and heal in Deuteronomy 32.39. And even in Job 1.21 note the words gave and taken. In all three God is responsible for both. Why would God send or allow woe to inflict us? On this read Leviticus 26.14 – 16 noting the words but, not, hearken and terror. So punishment is one reason for the woe. What does Job think of that? Read Job 9.15 noting the line I am innocent, and without cause in Job 9.17. Job, then, would think any divine punishment to be mistaken. Another reason for woe is in Romans 5.4 – it builds character. But if Job was the greatest man around, as says Job 1.3, then he wouldn’t need any character formation. Do you agree?

 

Week III. Reread Job 6.4 noting again those words Almighty and God. Why is Job upset with what he thinks God is doing to him? On this read Job 23.1–7 noting the words case and reason. He thinks that if he could only explain his side to God, he would agree with Job that he is suffering unjustifiably. Because he hasn’t had that chance, he’s mad at God. But does this take Isaiah 55.8–9 into account? There we learn how vastly greater God is than we are. If that’s so, then how could Job reason with God to change his mind? They aren’t on the same level. What is his recourse then? On this read Psalm 99.5 noting God’s footstool. Here reasoning is replaced with humiliation. And this is what happens when God finally shows up in a storm and says in Job 38.2 – “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Do you see in that an invitation to Job to make his case against God? Why or why not?

 

Week IV. Read Job 6.4 one last time noting the same words Almighty and God. Is there anything that Job can do to placate God so that his fortunes and good health are restored? Complaining didn’t work. Demanding a hearing didn’t either. In Job 42.10 his fortunes are restored – to even twice what they were before. How did that happen? Job 42.10 says that it was because he prayed for his friends. Why would that work? On this read Matthew 6.14–15 noting how the two uses of forgive work together. Does that explain Job’s good fortune? Or does Job 42.6 and its words despise and repent add anything important? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words repent and perish. Note also Job 40.4 and his confession I am of small account. What does that add? Does it refine repentance so that it doesn’t end up in ruin as it did with Judas in Matthew 27.3–5? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"This is how God proceeds with his Word and work, as he opens them up to the unlearned. To make it known to the wise and prudent is impossible.... [For them] it will be and will remain utter darkness.... Intellectuals don't get into it; the Scripture remains locked to them. Saint Augustine laments how he at first, for nine whole years, coursed through the Scriptures with a random spirit, wanting to understand the Scripture through his reason; but the more he studied it, the less he understood, until at last, to his shame, he discovered that we have to poke out reason's eyes and say, What Scripture says, I leave unscrutinized and simply believe it with a whole heart. If we proceed that way, then Scripture is clear and plain, while before it was dark.... There's no room, therefore, for a smart intellectual and disputer when it comes to this book, the Holy Scripture.... Here with Holy Scripture, the Word of God, let disputing and questioning cease, and say, God has spoken; therefore, I believe. There's no room for disputation and argument.... But if you want to dispute and ask, How is that possible? you will distance yourself from the truth and understanding of Scripture."  
 
[Martin Luther, Sermon on Luke 24:13-35 (1534),
Luther's House Postils, 3 vols., ed. E. F. A. Klug (1996) 2:22, 23, 29, 31.]