Psalm 33

“The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue” (v17).  The psalmist warned against putting our ultimate hope in anything or anyone except the Lord.   Our Creator has infinite power - “For He spoke, and it came to be” (v9), and every other source of “salvation” will fail us (v10).  When we submit our anxieties, our desires, and our treasure to Him, He guides us in the right way.  His good counsel stands forever (v11).  

“Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield” (v20).  Whatever our trouble, God has promised to defend and save us

Numbers 31

“Only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead. Everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean” (v22-23).  The Israelites had fallen into terrible idolatry with the Midianites/Moabites, so more than being Israel’s rivals, they were also a source of corruption (v16). Everything of theirs won in battle had to be symbolically cleansed, because it was all polluted.

“It shall be clean” (v23). Jesus passed through death for us, and His cleansing is not symbolic, but real.  No matter our sin, then we claim His righteousness by faith, we become holy. 

Numbers 30

“If a man vows a vow to the LORD … he shall not break his word” (v2).  In the Old Testament, vows were sacred, voluntary promises that an individual made to God to act or to live in a certain way (like a Nazarite vow, or Hannah’s vow about her firstborn).  The only people allowed to break vows were daughters or wives whose household authority (father or husband in those days) objected.  They could not be expected to fulfill a vow that caused conflict in their home (v3-12).

God wants us to be at peace with Him so that we can also live in peace with one another.  Radical devotion to Him causes us to love others more, not less.

Numbers 28

“And on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work” (v25).  In addition to the weekly Sabbath, festivals like the Passover and Feast of Weeks were annual, week-long celebrations of God’s faithfulness.  The Israelites were commanded to regularly rest and remember that their land, their harvest, their animals, and their families belonged to God.  Only by focusing on Him and trusting in His provision could they continue to thrive.

“My offering … my pleasing aroma” (v2).  God enjoys our offerings not because He needs them, but because they are a “pleasing aroma” to Him as evidence of our gratitude and trust.

John 2:18-25

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v19).  John makes it clear to us that Jesus was “speaking about the temple of his body” (v21).  The temple in Jerusalem had been built as the center of worship for Israel; it housed the Holy Place of God’s presence and the sacrifices and offerings.  But all these things would ultimately be fulfilled by Jesus himself, who declared that “something greater than the temple is here” (Matt 12:6).

“When therefore he was raised from the dead …” (v22).  Jesus is alive, and through relationship with him – our high priest and sacrifice - we can enter God’s presence. 

John 2:12-17

“Do not make my Father’s house a place of trade” (v16).  John records that near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he entered the Temple and overturned the tables of people who were making a profit by selling animals for sacrifices or changing currency.  Jesus forced them out because they were using the sacred place for personal gain, and they were taking advantage of vulnerable people who were there to worship.  Nothing could be farther from the true purpose of the Temple.

“Zeal for your house will consume me” (v17).  Jesus corrects our distortions and misunderstandings about the Father, gives us a clear vision, and calls us to worship.

John 2:1-11

“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’” (v7). Jesus chose to perform his first major sign – turning water into wine - at a wedding (v7).  Weddings were even more important in the ancient world than they are today, celebrating the union of a new couple as well as honoring extended families and hosting friends.  When something in this important ritual went extremely wrong, Jesus stepped in to show his “glory” (v11): God’s willingness and ability to enter our fallen world and redeem our failures.  

“But you have kept the good wine until now” (v10).  We don’t have to live with the shame of our failure.  In Jesus’ hands, our not-good-enough water becomes God’s very best wine.

Psalm 32

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (v3).  The psalmist knew from experience that secrets and hidden sin cause damage to ourselves and our relationships.  When we confess our sins to God (v1-2), He forgives us and we are “blessed”; we discover the joy of living with an open heart, transparent before Him and others and without guilt (v5).  The psalmist urged “everyone” to call on God and be delivered from the crushing weight of lies and deceit (v6).

“Steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord” (v10).  When we call on God, He cleanses our hearts, restores us, and surrounds us with His powerful love.

Numbers 26-27

“Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him” (v18).  Moses had led the people out of Egypt and through 40 years in the wilderness, and he was about to die.  Like the entire generation of Israelites that were adults when they left Egypt, Moses would not enter the Promised Land (26:65). That original generation failed to believe that God could provide for them and conquer their enemies, except for Joshua and Caleb, who believed.

“And he laid his hands on him and commissioned him” (v23).  Joshua was chosen to lead not because of his battle expertise or eloquence but because he had faith in what God could do. 

Numbers 25

“And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family …” (v6).  Moses had already confronted the Israelites about their idolatry and sexual immorality with the Midianites (v1-5), and the leaders had been punished.  While the rest of the congregation was publicly repenting, Zimri chose to brazenly commit further sin “in the sight of the whole congregation” (v6).  He and the Midianite woman named Cozbi lost their lives as a result (v14-15).

“They were weeping in the entrance to the tent of meeting” (v6).  Because God doesn’t want our sin to destroy us, He gives us opportunities to repent and turn to Him.

Numbers 24

“The oracle of the man …who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty …” (v3-4).  When Balaam the prophet was confronted with God’s reality, he didn’t “look for omens” (v1); instead, he was filled with God’s Spirit.  He saw the truth of God’s mighty power on behalf of Israel, and not even “silver and gold” could make him say otherwise (v13).  Balaam saw a vision of God’s people thriving and, eventually, “a star” arising to rule the world (v17).

“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob … like gardens beside a river” (v5-6).  Experiencing joyful, abundant life with God gives us courage to follow Him during times of doubt or struggle.  

John 1:35-51

“The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus” (v37).  John’s testimony about Jesus convinced “two disciples” to follow Jesus.  One of those, Andrew, immediately brought his brother Peter to Jesus.  Another disciple in the same region of Galilee Philip, went to Nathanael and eagerly reported that they had found “him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (v45).  These men couldn’t help speaking about Jesus.

“He brought him to Jesus” (v42).  When our own experience of Jesus is genuine and fresh, the center of our lives, we want everyone we encounter to know Him too.

John 1:15-34

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (v29).  John the Baptist (not the John who wrote the gospel) was chosen by God to introduce Jesus to the world.  People recognized John as an Old Testament-style prophet, whose unusual birth was also foretold by an angel (Luke 1), so they listened to him “reveal” or explain Jesus to others (v31).  John described Jesus as the Lamb of God, the sacrifice that covers the sins not only of one person, or of Israel, but “the sin of the world.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God!” (v36).  The Word who existed with the Father “in the beginning” became flesh and sacrificed himself to save us from our sins. 

John 1:1-14

“In the beginning was the Word” (v1).  By using the term “the Word” to describe Jesus, John brought together the Jewish concepts of Law and Wisdom and the Greek ideas of reason and enlightenment.  Jesus is the source and the fulfillment of all our human striving for understanding – the answer to all our hopes.  He is not just another light or another teacher; Jesus is “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (v9).  And no darkness can overcome him (v5).

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (v12).  When we welcome Jesus as our “true light”, we become sons and daughters of God.  

Psalm 31

“Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!” (v2).  We never have to hesitate or be ashamed of asking God urgently for help.  The psalmist experienced attacks by seen and unseen enemies (v4), despair, loneliness, rejection (v11-12), and fear.  Yet he believed that God was close and working for his deliverance (v15).  God poured out His steadfast love even before the trouble was resolved, when the psalmist was still inside the “besieged city” (v21).

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (v24). We can take courage because God loves us and knows just how to help us. 

Numbers 23

“The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them” (v21).  Even though Balak, king of Moab, offered money and sacrifices for the cursing of Israel (a powerful weapon in those days), his efforts were useless.  God Himself was guarding Israel, and no enemy or curse could harm them.  “For there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (v23).  Like Balaam the prophet experienced, Israel’s only potential danger was their own rejection of the Lord.

“Has he said, and he will not do it?” (v19).  As God’s beloved people, we don’t have to fear.  He is the Good Shephard who will not abandon his sheep.   

Numbers 22

“And the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary” (v22).  Balaam, prophet of God, apparently did not intend to obey God’s voice.  When an angel stood in the path before him, Balaam was so spiritually blind that he didn’t see the angel – though his donkey did.  Frustrated, Balaam beat the animal until God “opened the mouth of the donkey” (v28) and he spoke.  Finally, God “opened the eyes of Balaam” (v31) to see the angel, too.  

As a prophet, Balaam should have known the Lord’s will (v34).  Yet in His mercy, even when we don’t listen well, God keeps speaking to us and guiding us back to the right path.

Numbers 21

"We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us” (v7).  God sent “fiery serpents” as punishment for the people's lack of trust and constant complaints (v5).  When they repented, He told Moses to raise up an image of a bronze serpent, and when the Israelites looked at it, they would be healed (v9).  The image itself didn’t cure them; instead, their repentance found favor with God.

“We have sinned …” (v7).  From the beginning, God has always been “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful” (Neh 9:17), and when we turn to Him, He welcomes us.

Numbers 20

“It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink” (v5).  The Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because of their disbelief.  The Promised Land (Cannan) was full of everything they desired, yet it was closed to them because they didn’t believe that God could help them conquer it.  Even in the wilderness, God had faithfully provided manna and water, yet they refused to trust Him.  Therefore, nearly all their generation died there, just like Miriam (v1) and Aaron (v28).

“Because you did not believe in me …” (v12).  The more we genuinely trust in God’s goodness, power, mercy, and love, the more we will obey Him.

Luke 24:36-53

“But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (v37).  While many religions believe in the post-death existence of the human spirit, Jesus’ resurrection was unique because it included his bodily renewal.  Very deliberately, he ate fish in front of the disciples to show that his victory over death wasn’t just “spiritual” (v43). In fact, he said, “Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (v39).

“You are witnesses of these things” (v48).  The disciples were witnesses of the good news: through Jesus, we can repent and be forgiven of sins, and through Jesus, God’s good gift of our bodily existence will be renewed.