1 Samuel 2:1-10

"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (v2).  Hannah’s prophetic exaltation (like Mary’s, see Luke 1) declared the wonderful character of God.  Her own experience had suddenly confirmed the truth: God does not favor the wealthy or powerful, as many people think, but instead “by Him actions are weighed” (v3), and in Him “the feeble bind on strength” (v4).  Hannah had experienced rejection and the judgment of others because she had no children, yet God loved her.  

“My heart exults in the Lord” (v1).  God wants to show His love and power in our own lives, so that like Hannah, we overflow with praise.

1 Samuel 1

“So it went on year by year” (v7).  Hannah spent many years in distress because she had no children, while her “rival” (her husband’s other wife) deliberately provoked her and made the situation worse.  But God had not forgotten her. At the right time, God gave Hannah a son, whom she gave back for the Lord’s service (v11, v22).  The years of sadness and frustration were redeemed, and Hannah’s son grew up to one of Israel’s greatest prophets. 

“For this child I prayed …” (v27).  God always hears our prayers, and though we don’t know how or when He will answer, we trust His heart.  He is the Redeemer of our struggles and pain.  

Psalm 55

“He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me” (v18).  The psalmist’s battle was very serious; he used words like “fear and trembling” and “horror” (v5).  He faced attacks on many levels, including a close friend who had betrayed him (v13), and he was both terrified and heartbroken.  His instinct was to “fly away” (v6-7) from his troubles, but instead he remembered that God was the protector of his soul.  “But I call to God, and the Lord will save me” (v16).

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (v22).  Even in our hardest battles, God will lift our burdens and comfort our souls.  

Ruth 4

“He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age …” (v15).  Naomi celebrated when her grandson Obed was born, because the baby symbolized life and the promise of the future.  Naomi had thought that her life was over when her husband and two grown sons died; many widows were completely destitute and barely survived.  However, through Ruth’s loyalty and Boaz’s integrity, Naomi’s hope was restored, and her last years were joyful.

“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer … (v14). Even if we seem to be on a path of sorrow and difficulty, God is able to redeem every situation and bring us into a joyful future. 

Ruth 3

“My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (v1).  While in the rest of Israel things were falling apart, in Bethlehem, Boaz and others were working hard, providing for the poor, and following the laws about redeeming land.  In that community, Naomi could count on things “going well” for Ruth, because as people followed God, the vulnerable (widows and foreigners) were protected, and everyone thrived (Deut 5:33), just as the Lord promised.

“All that you say I will do” (v5).  God commands are for our blessing; when we follow Him, we find the security and peace we desire. 

Ruth 2

“Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" (v10).  As an upstanding Israelite, it was surprising that Boaz should pay attention to a foreign woman poor enough to glean in his field.  But Ruth’s willingness to take on her mother-in-law’s care (since Naomi was without provision or protection) had been “reported” to Boaz (v11), and he was impressed.  He recognized that Ruth had risked much in her choice to commit to Naomi and the God of Israel (v12).  

“She is the young Moabite woman …” (v6).  Ruth’s culture didn’t define her.  She was known by her convictions and her actions, which reflected a heart full of love. 

Ruth 1

“Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried” (1:16-17).  Ruth’s famous words to Naomi convey her deep, life-long commitment; she was making a voluntary covenant with Naomi, despite their different cultures.  Ruth’s faithfulness and loyalty are striking because she was a foreigner, and in her lifetime (v1) many in Israel had abandoned God’s ways and were unfaithful to Him (see book of Judges).     

“For where you go, I will go” (v16).  Ruth’s sincere, to-the-death loyalty reflects what God wants from us: a heart-level willingness to do whatever He asks and to go wherever He calls. 

Acts 3:13-26

“God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness" (v26).  Peter told the crowd in Jerusalem that God wanted to bless them through the rejected Messiah (v15).  However, the only path to receiving this blessing – the legacy of Abraham, foretold by the prophets – led through repentance (v19).  God wanted to restore and revive His people and, through them, the whole earth (v25), but they had to acknowledge their sin and turn to Him for forgiveness in Jesus’ name.

“That times of refreshing may come … “ (v20).  When we turn away from our sins and toward Jesus, He brings “refreshing” to our weary spirits. 

Acts 3:1-12

“And a man lame from birth was … laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple” (v2).  Every culture has its ways of dealing with life’s problems, like this man who “daily” tried to collect enough donations to survive.  His lameness and begging were accepted as normal, until Peter and John came by.  When he was healed in Jesus’ name, “wonder and amazement” (v10) gripped the crowds who, for the first time, saw ordinary brokenness made whole.  

“In the name of Jesus Christ…” (v6).  Jesus rose from the dead, breaking the powers that oppress us, so that we can “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).   

Psalm 54

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” (v4). David the psalmist was sometimes unjustly accused, betrayed, or even hunted by King Saul (v1).  He depended on God to bring justice to his undeserved trouble: “Vindicate me by your might” (v1), knowing that humans often get it wrong.  Trusting in God’s ultimate promise of justice keeps us from becoming consumed by our grievances and disappointments and gives us the courage to do right, even when we can’t control the outcome. 

“For he has delivered me from every trouble” (v7).  When we know that, ultimately, God will make everything right, we can live with peace and strength in a difficult world.

Judges 19-21

“We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners … but we will pass on to Gibeah” (19:12).  Scripture makes it clear: the Levite avoided Jebus, city of foreigners, thinking that an Israelite city would be safer, but the worst possible evil befell them in Gibeah of Benjamin. There, among the so-called people of God, the Levite’s woman was raped and killed.  This “abomination and outrage” (20:6) caused a civil war; the same Israel that stood against mighty enemies nearly self-destructed. 

“And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord” (20:23).  The enemy “out there” is not as dangerous as that within ourselves; God calls us to humility, repentance, and dependence on His mercy.   

Judges 17-18

“Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest" (v13).  In this time, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (17:6), and the worship of God was mixed up with idol worship (syncretism).  Instead of worshipping at the official tabernacle, Micah had a household shrine and idols, and he thought having his own Levite priest would give him supernatural power (v5). Instead, a group of Danites stole his priest and his idols (ch 18), symbolizing the spiritual chaos of the land. 

“Inquire of God, please … “ (18:5).  Thinking we can manipulate God to get what we want is magic, not Christianity.  God calls us seek His glory,  not our own. 

Acts 2:21-47

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (v36). Speaking to the crowd of international Jews, Peter referenced King David and his prophecies about a coming mighty ruler for Israel (v25-35); this “Lord and Christ” was the resurrected Jesus.  When the crowds repented and believed in Jesus, they immediately began living in obedience to their new King: sharing their possessions, learning, worshipping, praying, and spending time together (v42). 

“Repent and be baptized … in the name of Jesus” (v38).  “Repent” means to “turn away” from our old loyalties, by faith choosing to honor Jesus as the King of our souls.      

Acts 2:1-21

“I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (v17).  The waiting believers (men and women) were filled with the Spirit and began to praise God in “other tongues” (v4).  Each person listening, Jews from other nations who spoke Arabic, Italian, Persian, etc, heard and understood (v11).  Jesus’ gift of the Spirit meant that believers were empowered to cross barriers of language and culture to speak of God’s salvation in Christ, with the promise that those listening might repent and receive the same Spirit. 

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v21).  At Pentecost, God’s Spirit was poured out so that people from every culture could become one family by faith in Jesus.

Proverbs 11:13-31

“The righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (v28).  God is self-giving, loving, and generous, and our lives flourish when we act like His children.  We can “give freely” without fear, because God is generous (v24), and we can pour ourselves out for others because He will always refresh our souls (v25).  We don’t have to be perfect, but we can commit ourselves to God’s kingdom, desiring it and investing in it now by faith, and know that our efforts will end in good (v23,27).   

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” (v30).  When we are living at peace with God, we become like fruit-producing trees, spreading life to others.    

Proverbs 11:1-12

“The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead” (v8).  The proverbs teach that because God created our world, when we cooperate with Him, things go better, while choosing our own, rebellious path leads to trouble.  Living by true words and right actions protects us (v3), but we destroy ourselves by hypocrisy.  With every self-indulgent choice, we are “taken captive” (v6), and when we belittle and slander others, we destroy relationships and cause harm (v9,12,13).

There is a better way.  With God’s help we can be “trustworthy in spirit” (v13), people of kindness and integrity who shine brightly in a dark world. 

Psalm 53

“The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" (v1).  The beginning of this psalm seems to refer to radical atheists who deny God’s existence; yet, the psalm repeats that “there is no one who does good, not even one” (v3), implicating all of us.  We may believe in God’s existence, but we deny Him by sinful thoughts, words, and actions; we all fall short of God’s perfect love and holiness.  Therefore, we can all rejoice that “salvation for Israel” and for us has arrived (v6).

“God looks down from heaven on the children of man “…” (v2).  God sees our struggles and instead of condemning us, He restores our lives through His great mercy (v6).    

Judges 16

“That we may bind him to humble him” (v5).  The Philistines were only successful at capturing Samson because he had allowed himself to be bound by the cords of sin.  Samson visited prostitutes, fed his anger regularly, and pursued Delilah, who was in the pay of his enemies.  No man could conquer Samson; he surrendered to sinful pride and thus lost his God-given strength (v20).  Yet in the end, when a defeated Samson called out one more time to the Lord, God listened (v28).

“I shall become weak and be like any other man” (v17).  We are equally susceptible to sin and in need of grace.  God loves us enough to break our chains, forgive us, and give us new life. 

Judges 15

"As they did to me, so have I done to them" (v11).  God was concerned with the Israelites and their oppression under Philistine rule, and therefore He called Samson to be their champion.  Samson, however, was so destructive that the Israelites believed he was a bigger liability than a savior, and they personally gave him up into the hands of the Philistines (v12).  Empowered by the Spirit, Samson broke free and struck down a thousand of his enemies (v14-17).  He became Israel’s “judge” or warrior-leader for twenty years (v20).

God had given Samson a “great salvation” (v18) for Israel, yet he was his own worst enemy.  Often our biggest need is for God to deliver us from ourselves.

Judges 14

“His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord …” (v4).  Because this time in Israel’s history was so wicked, it was hard for Samson’s parents (who had spoken to an angel) to see the Lord at work.  Samson was raised as a Nazarite, but he was not personally righteous; he demanded a pagan wife and stirred up trouble (v3). Yet, God was so intent on rescuing His people that He used Samson’s passions and rages to subdue the Philistines.

“And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him …” (v19).   No era is so dark that God is absent; we can’t hide from His presence. His Spirit is always working to draw us back.