II Corinthians 7:8-16

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (v10). Paul’s earlier letter to the Corinthians warned them against tolerating sexual sin within the church, and he knew this letter would cause sorrow. Paul took no joy in rebuking them, but he did rejoice at the consequence: “Not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting” (v9). Rather than be weighed down by guilt and regret (“worldly grief”), they were able to turn away from their sin (repentance) and find salvation.

“I have perfect confidence in you” (v16). Genuine repentance gives us the freedom to reach out to Christ for forgiveness, restored relationships, and new life.

II Corinthians 7:1-7

“We were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within” (v5). With great transparency, Paul confessed that he and the apostles had struggled physically and emotionally in their ministry. Their heavy burden for the Corinthian believers, in which they called them to forsake sin and pursue holiness (v1), came from love: “you are in our hearts” (v3). Paul was comforted by the arrival of Titus, who brought the good news that the Corinthians had received Paul’s correction and teaching with humility.

“But God, who comforts the downcast …” (v6). Serving the Lord may include experiences of “fighting and fear” or other trials, yet God is faithful to bring us comfort and revive our strength.

Song of Songs 4-5

“I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?” (v3). Using dramatic imagery, the wedding poem continues to describe the lengths the lovers go to be with one another. The beloved knocks on his bride’s door (v2), but when she opens it, he’s not there, and she hastily runs out into the city, risking everything to find him (v6-8). The danger is worth it, because the beloved is “distinguished among ten thousand” (v10).

“What is your beloved more than another beloved?” (v9). We pursue what we highly value. Following Jesus is worth every effort, every risk, everything we might give up for His sake.

Song of Songs 3

“I will seek him whom my soul loves” (v1). The wedding poem, likely written in honor of King Solomon, v11, describes the all-consuming desire of romantic partners to be with one another. The need to be with the beloved surpasses everything else of value: “I found him, and I would not let him go” (v4). Love is so powerful, says the poem, that we should not “awaken” it until we are ready to deal with its demands, because passion may take over our lives (v5).

“I sought him …” (v2). Scripture says when we seek the Lord “with our whole hearts” – with the same zeal that we pursue human love – we discover overwhelming blessing (Psalm 119:2).

Song of Songs 1-2

“My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone’” (2:10-11). The Song of Songs celebrates human love in the context of a royal wedding, but it has also traditionally been used to point us toward the powerful love of God. Within a relationship of trust and delight, the Beloved calls to his bride to “come away” with him, because “the time of singing has come” (2:12).

“The flowers appear on the earth …” (v12). One day our King will announce that “the winter is past,” and the Resurrection begun by Christ will burst forth in a new beginning for us all.

Psalm 120

“Too long have I lived among those who hate peace” (v6). The psalmist had grown weary of constant battles, and he wanted God to save him from “lying lips and deceitful tongues” (v2). He longed for the peaceful and righteous kingdom of God, yet he lived in a broken world, just as we do, and contributed his own sins to its problems. His efforts toward peace seemed fruitless, until he called on the Lord, who has real power to save (v1-2).

“Deliver me, O Lord …” (v2). Our God, who conquered sin and death through Christ, can bring peace to our souls and show us how to shine brightly in a dark world.

II Corinthians 6:11-18

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open …” (v11). With much love and compassion, Paul continued to urge the Corinthians to live wholly for the Lord, warning them against idolatry and being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers (v14). He and the other apostles had discovered that in Christ life was joyful and wide-open; while owning little, they possessed “everything” (v10) and wanted the Corinthians to experience this freedom. The only way to enjoy freedom in Christ was to reject the idols of sexual sin, wealth, image, and security.

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (v16). As we live faithfully as God’s people, He supplies everything we need.

II Corinthians 6:1-10

“Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain …” (v1). Paul said in the previous chapter that God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, and that we as believers are “working together with Him” as ambassadors to make the message of gospel clear and credible (5:20). In Paul’s case, his own experiences of hardships, beatings, sleepless nights, as well as the power of God and genuine love, were being used by God to make Christ known.

“Through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise …” (v8). In God’s hands, even difficult experiences can draw us closer to His heart and help us to reflect Christ more.

Ecclesiastes 12

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come …” (v1). In this context, the “evil days” are the end of life, when the Preacher says that all opportunities will be over. He describes a quiet, deserted village where “the doors on the street are shut” (v4), work has ceased, and “man is going to his eternal home” (v5). Facing our eventual death means that we live now with purpose, because the days are short, and humility, because only God knows the future.

“Fear God and keep His commandments …” (v13). When our lives are rooted in the Life-giver, everything is different. We can work without striving and leave the future to Him.

Ecclesiastes 10-11

“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (11:4). The Preacher warns against striving so hard for perfection that we become paralyzed by indecision or disappointed by life’s imperfections. Go ahead and sow your seed, and “cast your bread upon the waters” (v1), for “you do not know which will prosper, this or that” (v6). Wisdom is helpful, like sharpening an axe, yet we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we are like God and can understand and control everything (10:10, 11:5).

“Light is sweet …” (11:7). When we trust in God’s perfection and not in ourselves and our achievements, we are free to enjoy the life we’ve been given.

Psalm 119:113-176

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments” (v176). The psalmist rejoiced that God is always the one who initiates our salvation. He gave Israel His Word when they were still wandering in sin and didn’t deserve it, and when we “go astray,” He still seeks us. We can go to the Lord, knowing that His desire is to help us by making our path straight. “Give me life according to rules … according to your steadfast love (v156-159).

“Great peace have those who love your law” (v165). God’s Word is His gift to us, so that we can know Him, obey Him, and enjoy His peace.

Psalm 119:57-112

“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes” (v68). God’s revelation to us teaches us what is good. God’s own kindness, truth, mercy, justice, and holiness are revealed to us in His Word and brought visibly into our world through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. On our own, we are easily blinded, ensnared by the world’s attractions, and our feet tend toward the wrong path (v61,101,110), but we have been given the priceless treasure of God’s Word to guide us (v72).

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v105). God’s Word shows us clearly how to live, and His Spirit in our hearts enables us to follow Him.

Psalm 119:1-56

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” (v10). Psalm 119 is a beautiful acrostic poem that extols the riches and blessings of God’s Word. The psalmist uses multiple words – statutes, precepts, testimonies, law – to describe God’s revelation to His people. Rather than a checklist of rules, the psalmist sees God’s Word as a way of life to embraced from the heart, a life in which we discover “wondrous things” (v18).

“And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts” (v45). God’s desire is not to confine or limit us, but to lead us to the “wide place” of overflowing life with Him.

II Corinthians 5:11-21

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (v17). Jesus Himself began the resurrection; He is the “firstfruit” of the new creation. When we are “in Christ,” the old curses of death and sin lose power over us, and we become citizens of the new world that is coming. While we remain in this difficult world, the Spirit is the sign of the new kingdom: by the Spirit moving among us, Jesus continues to save (v18-20), to heal, and to restore broken lives.

“Be reconciled to God” (v20). By faith we receive the Spirit of new life, and we live according to the values of Jesus’ coming kingdom

II Corinthians 5:1-10

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (v9). Paul reminded the Corinthians that their relationship with Jesus was both present and future; we will all appear before Him for an evaluation of our lives (v10). Rather than fear this day, we should look forward to it, “longing” for our heavenly dwelling (v2). We can be confident because “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (v5).

“So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (v14). The Spirit in our lives is the guarantee that more Life is to come – abundant, eternal life with Christ.

Ecclesiastes 9

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might ...” (v10). The Preacher had little hope of the resurrection (v10), yet his advice was repeated by Paul, who added, “for the Lord” (Col 3:23). While we know our ultimate future, we still don’t control our earthly days – “time and chance” surprise us – and so we should take full advantage of every moment (v11-12). Circumstances may alter our plans in unexpected ways, yet “whatever” our hands find to do, we can do with all our hearts, for the Lord.

“The words of the wise heard in quiet …” (v7). Humility and contentment are the quiet virtues that give us the power to live “for the Lord” in any circumstance.

Ecclesiastes 8

“For there is a time and a way for everything, although man's trouble lies heavy on him” (v6). The Preacher believes that wisdom is helpful (v1,5), yet he cautions against thinking that we can figure everything out. We don’t know the day of our death (v8), and we don’t understand why bad things happen to good people (v14). Yet even with these uncertainties and troubles, joy is possible for those who humbly accept God’s simple gifts and trust in Him.

“Yet I know it will be well with those who fear God” (v12). The “time and way” isn’t always clear to us, yet we can be confident that in the end all will be well.

Ecclesiastes 7

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting …” (v2). Preferring mourning and sorrow to laughter and parties is a dramatic way of saying that shallow, thoughtless living is for fools. Wise people confront the fact of death and evaluate their lives. “For this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (v2). Knowing that we will all face death causes “the heart of the wise” to question our investments of money, time, affection, and passion (v4).

“Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" (v10). Today is the day in which we are called to serve the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 6

“For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life …?” (v12). We think we know “what is good” for us: wealth, possessions, honor, children etc. (v2-3). However, the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that it is quite possible to attain all these things (good gifts from God) and not enjoy them. “His soul is not satisfied (v3). The problem with setting our hopes on attaining all these goals is that we risk “the wandering of the appetite” (v9), or a heart that is never at rest, striving after the wind.

“His appetite is not satisfied” (v7). True contentment is only found in the Giver Himself, not in idolizing His gifts.

Psalm 117-118

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (118:1). These psalms extol the Lord’s “steadfast love” (117:2) – His enduring, faithful, active, merciful kindness toward us. God’s steadfast love is not an abstract idea; it comes to us in visible ways, especially in Christ, the cornerstone (118:22). “The Lord answered me and set me free” (118:5). As we experience God’s help and mercy in our own lives, the Lord “becomes” our salvation (v14,21).

“I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me” (118:13). Whether we are “pushed hard” by stress, conflict, illness, or loss, the Lord is our help.