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)! As Lutherans, however, we are still to "abide in the womb of the Word" (Luther's Works 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).

Genesis 11.4

January 2016, Number 275

 

Week I. Read Genesis 11.4 noting the word build. Why did all of the people after the flood want to build a city with a huge tower? On this read the same verse noting the word heaven. Does this word connote more than height? On this read Genesis 28.12-22 noting the two uses of the word heaven and the many uses of the word God as well as the words bless and give. What does this suggest? Is this tower like a temple that manages access to God and his blessings? On this read 1 Kings 8.22-30 noting the words confirmed and hearken. If so, why is this control of God sought after? On this read Genesis 9.8-17 noting the words covenant, never, destroy and remember. Was it that the descendants of Noah didn’t trust God to keep his promise and so they had to find ways to confine him to his promises? Are there any signs of such rebellion? On this read Genesis 9.22 noting the words saw and told. Is Ham being cautious or disrespectful? On this read Genesis 9.23-27 noting the words backward, covered, cursed and slave. Do these verses show that Ham is the source of the evil generated after the Flood?

Week II. Read again Genesis 11.4 noting the phrase let us make a name for ourselves. How could building a city with a huge tower do this? On this read Deuteronomy 8.17 noting the words beware, heart, my and power. Is this the way it goes with all buildings and cities? On this read Genesis 6.13-22 noting the words make, ark, come, bring, take, did, God and commanded. So when we build according to God’s command – as in the case of Noah building the ark – there’s no problem. So how did things go awry in the case of the city of Babel? On this read Genesis 10.6-20 noting the words Ham, Nimrod, his, kingdom, Babel, Shinar, Canaanites and Sodom. Note also in Genesis 9.25 that the curse on Ham extends to his son Canaan. So Babel is built poorly because of the curse of Ham. And remember that Babel, according to Genesis 11.2, is in the land of Shinar where Ham’s descendants settled. So do you see the line of corruption extending down from the aftermath of the Flood on into the building of the tower of Babel years later? Does this illustrate the term fourth generation in Exodus 20.5? What do you think?

Week III. Reread Genesis 11.4 noting the word scattered. What’s wrong with being scattered? On this read Genesis 10.32-11.2 noting the word nations, spread, one, language and migrated. Here we see a migration that consolidates all people under one language and culture into what Genesis 11.6 calls one people. Why isn’t this togetherness good? On this read Genesis 11.6 noting the line nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. What’s wrong with this omnipotence? Surely it would be valuable for getting things done! On this read Genesis 18.14 noting the rhetorical question Is anything too hard for the Lord? Does this mean that omnipotence – being able to do any and all things – is reserved for God alone? On this read Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belongs to God. Note also the long list (some 40 things) that we cannot do in Job 38.4-39.30. Remember also the mighty Elijah sulking in a cave in 1 Kings 19.14 for fear of loneliness. No wonder James 4.14 says that we are but a mist. Do you agree?

Week IV. Read Genesis 11.4 one last time noting the word scattered. How is this a punishment for their rebellion? Wouldn’t you think the city and its tower should have been destroyed instead – as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.24–25? On this read Numbers 21.4-9 noting the words take and make. Notice here how God deals indirectly with the problem of death: he doesn’t eliminate the poisonous snakes but rather provides a way to survive the deadly snake bites. On this read Genesis 11.8 noting the line and they left off building the city. So did it work? On this read Hosea 8.4 noting the line but not through me. Does this mean Israel went about building kingdoms and cities contrary to God’s dictates? On this read Ezekiel 2.3 noting the words Israel, nation, rebelled and transgressed. Why did God allow this? So how was Babel punished?

 

Matthew 26.75

 

February 2016, Number 276

 

 

Week I. Read Matthew 26.75 noting the word remember. What does this refer to? On this read Matthew 26.34 noting the word deny. Why does Jesus warn Peter instead of keeping him from betraying him? On this read James 1.12 noting the words test and crown. Why does God test us instead of keeping us from failing? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the words God and the three occurrences of the word all. Why do we have to prove this to God? Doesn’t he already know how we’ll do? On this read Philippians 2.12 noting the words work, out, own and salvation. Why does God want us to work so hard on our salvation? On this read Romans 5.3-4 noting the words character and hope. Isn’t there any other milder way to build character and have hope? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.16-18 noting the words wasting, unseen and eternal. Do these verses say that the only way we will ever look at what can’t be seen is if we have what can be seen, waste away right before our eyes? What if it does. Then what?

  

Week II. Read again Matthew 26.75 noting the same word remember. How did the cock crowing jog Peter’s memory? On this read Matthew 26.41 noting the line the flesh is weak. If that’s so, how did Peter remember the Lord’s warning from earlier that night? On this read John 15.5 noting the line apart from me you can do nothing. So how did God help Peter remember? On this read James 1.21 noting the words the implanted word. So if God implanted the words of that warning in Peter, how did they jog his memory after he had sinned by denying Jesus? On this read Acts 9.3-16 noting the words flashed and fell. Could it be that there was some sort of flashing and falling inside Peter’s head that jogged his memory? What would that have been like? On this read Acts 2.37 noting the words cut to the heart. What is that like? On this read Psalm 51.17 noting the words broken and contrite. What happens to us when that occurs? On this read Luke 15.17 noting the words came to himself. What do we see in ourselves when that happens? On this read Luke 11.35 noting the word darkness. What is this darkness? On this read Galatians 5.19-21 noting the works of the flesh. What then do we know about ourselves? On this read Romans 7.18-23 noting the words nothing and war. How bad is that?

 

Week III. Reread Matthew 26.75 noting this time the word bitterly. How ashamed is this? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the words wretched and deliver. What does it mean to think we are wretched? On this read Mark 7.20-22 noting the word defiles. What is it like to be defiled from within? On this read Romans 3.12 noting the line no one does good. How can that be? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting how the two words, good and evil, get reversed. Why do we do this? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease. Read also Amos 6.1 noting the admonition, Woe to those who are at ease in Zion. Why does the Bible condemn ease and comfort and nonresistance? On this read Matthew 7.13 noting the line the way is easy that leads to destruction. What do you make of that?

 

Week IV. Read Matthew 26.75 one last time noting the word wept. Did this weeping save him? On this read Matthew 27.3-5 noting the words repented and hanged. Why didn’t Peter also hang himself? Was it because he wept? On this read 1 John 3.19-20 noting the words truth, reassure, condemn, greater and everything. Is this assurance what Peter had and Judas didn’t? If so, why? Why didn’t Judas believe that God was greater than his self-condemnation and suicidal plans? Could Peter’s tears also have been tears of joy over the grace and mercy of God? On this read Ephesians 1.7-8 noting the words riches and lavished. What about that excess and surplus? Did Judas believe in that? Did Peter? Is 1 Peter 1.8 with its unutterable and exalted joy what made the difference? If so, how so?

 

 

 

Exodus 3.15

March 2016, Number 277

 

Week I. Read Exodus 3.15 noting the names Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Is God’s name only associated with these names? On this read Exodus 3.13 noting the name I am who I am. What kind of a name is this more abstract one? On this read Psalm 50.12 noting the words if and not. What does this say about God? On this read Acts 17.25 noting the line as though he needed anything. Why is God so independent? On this read John 5.26 noting the phrase life in himself. How is that possible? On this read Revelation 1.8, 15.3 and 16.7 noting the word Almighty in all three verses. What is this almightiness about? On this read Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belongs to God. Does this mean that God will never come up short? On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the line the Lord does whatever he pleases. Why is this so important? On this read Deuteronomy 8.17 noting the words beware, power and my. Why is this warning given? On this read Romans 1.25 noting the word exchanged and the wickedness which comes from this mix-up. Are you now ready to follow Psalm 96.2 and bless the name of the Lord? Why would you want to?

 

Week II. Read again Exodus 3.15 noting this time just the name Abraham. What does this name tell us about God? On this read Genesis 22.1–2 noting the words tested, son and offering. Is God then the one who tests us? On this read 1 Thessalonians 2.4 noting the line who tests our hearts. What else does the name of Abraham connote? On this read Hebrews 11.8 noting the words go, not and where. Does this make God a frightening God? On this read Revelation 14.7 noting the line fear God and give him the glory. Anything else regarding Abraham? On this read Genesis 18.22–33 and 19.24–25 noting the words near, said and overthrew. Do these two sets of verses make God one of mediation as well as destruction? On the first read Genesis 9.15 noting the words remember and covenant. On the second one, read Jeremiah 26.29 noting the words fire and breaks. Why is the God of Abraham so rambunctious? Why is this the first person listed in God’s threefold name?

 

Week III. Reread Exodus 3.15 noting this time the other name Isaac. What does this name tell us about God? On this read Genesis 21.12 noting the line through Isaac shall your descendants be named. This says that physical lineage through Abraham is not enough, but that faith in God must also be there (unlike Ishmael, Isaac believed) – as Luther notes (Luther’s Works 4:33). We also see this in Romans 3:28 – a man is justified by faith. What else can we learn about God through Isaac? On this read Genesis 27.35 noting the words guile, taken, blessings and brother. Here we see how trouble follows God and his people, for as Luther again points out, the house of Isaac is an “exceedingly disturbed state” (LW 5:168). This is quite shocking given that Genesis 21:6 says Isaac begins with miracle and laughter. Then why the disruption? On this read Romans 8.17 noting the line provided we suffer with Jesus. Note also Matthew 10.36 and the line a man’s foes will be those of his own household. How startling is that?

 

Week IV. Read Exodus 3.15 one last time noting the last name Jacob. And what does this third name tell us about God? On this read Genesis 32.28 noting the phrase striven with God. Why is this important? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the words ease and merry. Are we then by nature opposed to God? On this read Romans 11.24 noting the phrase contrary to nature. Why do we clash with God? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line nothing good dwells within me. Contrast this with Mark 10.18 noting the words only, God and good. Anything else to learn from the name Jacob? On this read Genesis 28.7 noting the words awesome, place, house and gate. So while being universal, God is also localized. On the importance of this, read Colossians 2.9 noting the word dwells. Do you agree? And how about Psalm 96.2? Are you finally ready to follow it?

 

 

2 Corinthians 2.15

April 2016, Number 278

Week I. Read 2 Corinthians 2.15 noting the words aroma and perishing. What is this aroma? On this read 2 Corinthians 2.15 noting the line the aroma of Christ to God. How does this aroma go to God or affect God?  On this read John 5.22–29 noting the words Father, Son, judges, judgment, good and evil. How then does the negative judgment against those perishing affect God? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the line storing up wrath for yourself. How does this storing up affect God? On this read 2 Thessalonians 1.9 noting the line eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord. So when this deadly aroma ascends to God it incites his wrath against those perishing. What comes of this? On this read Luke 16.26 noting the line a great chasm has been fixed, in order that… none may cross. How horrible is this permanent isolation from God? On this read Luke 16.27–28 noting the word torment. Read also Revelation 9.5 noting the word torture, and Matthew 25.30 noting the words outer darkness and weep. What’s the point of these verses? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.6 noting the whole line these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Read as well Luke 13.5 noting the line unless you repent you will all likewise perish. What do you think of this? Does it matter?

Week II. Read again 2 Corinthians 2.15 noting again the words aroma and perishing. What does this smell like? On this read 2 Corinthians 2.16 noting the line a fragrance from death to death. The smell of death is universally foul to us. What is the point in this comparison? On this read Luke 12.20 noting the word fool. Does this word deal death to our self-esteem? Read also Mark 7.20–21 noting the words heart and defiles. Does this testimony to our rotten, defiled hearts also deal death to us? And read 2 Timothy 3.2–4 noting the words abusive, inhuman and conceit. Do these words also decimate the positive image we have of ourselves? Are these three readings just what we need to help us die with Christ according to 2 Corinthians 5.14–15?  If so, how so?

Week III. Reread 2 Corinthians 2.15 noting this time the words aroma and saved. What is this aroma like? On this read 2 Corinthians 2.16 noting the line a fragrance from life to life. What is this aroma of life? On this read Galatians 2.20 noting the line it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Read also John 10.10 noting the line that we might have life, and have it abundantly. And read as well John 6.53 noting the correlation between the words life, flesh and blood. So does this aroma of life come from us? On this read 2 Corinthians 3.5 noting the line not… to claim anything as coming from us. What’s so fragrant about this life, then? On this read John 5.26 noting the phrase life in himself. What does this sort of independence do when it abides in us? On this read Galatians 1.10 noting the words rejecting pleasing men. Read as well John 5.44 noting the words rejecting worldly glory. And read John 12.42–43 noting the words rejecting the praise of men. If all of this were to be followed, what would we be like? On this read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the words war, exiles and aliens. How does that make you feel? What are you going to do about it?

Week IV. Read 2 Corinthians 2.15 one last time noting again the word saved. How shall we come to this salvation as just outlined? On this read John 6.44 noting the words come and draw. Would this drawing be a struggle for us? On this read Romans 11.24 noting the phrase contrary to nature. Would that make it easy or hard? On this read Matthew 7.14 noting the word hard. That being the case, is it likely we’ll be saved? On this read Luke 18.27 noting the word impossible. So is our goose cooked? On this read Matthew 11.28–29 noting the words rest, gentle, easy and light. Does that wipe out all difficulty? On this note still the trembling in Philippians 2.12–13, but also the line God is at work in you. So can you now explain how rest and trembling go together? Does 2 Corinthians 6.10 help?

 

1 John 3.15

 

May 2016, Number 279

 

 

Week I. Read 1 John 3.15 noting the line has eternal life abiding in him. What is this like? On this read John 17.3 noting the line this eternal life, that they know… the only true God. How is this knowledge eternal life? On this read John 6.68 noting the line you have the words of eternal life. What is it like having these words in you? On this read 2 Thessalonians 2.16–17 noting the words eternal, comfort, hope, hearts, establish, work and word. How are such established hearts, grounded in the right works and words, a source of comfort? On this read 1 John 5.20 noting the words understanding, true and in. Why does the truth matter so much? On this read Hebrews 3.13 noting the word hardened. What does this hardening do to us? On this read Ephesians 5.10–16 noting the words unfruitful, darkness, wise and most. So the truth matters because our behavior matters. How is that so? On this read James 1.22 noting the words doers and deceiving. Is that it?

  

Week II. Read again 1 John 3.15 noting again the line has eternal life -abiding in him. Now how does that truth from last week guide our actions? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the phrase no soundness. How bad is this? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line nothing good dwells within me. What’s the effect of this corruption? On this read John 3.19 noting the line men loved darkness rather than the light. Where does that leave us? On this read John 6.44 noting the words come and draws; as well as 15.16 noting the play between the words choose and chose. What do these two verses say about our capacity to follow Christ on our own? On this read Romans 9.16–18 noting the words depends, mercy and hardens. Is our salvation out of hand then? On this read Philippians 2.12–13 noting all three occurrences of the word work. Are they all equal, or does one control the others? On this read 1 Corinthians 3.7 noting the word only. How’s that?

 

Week III. Reread 1 John 3.15 noting again the words has eternal life abiding in him. Is there anything else to say about the truth from last week? On this read John 8.12 noting the words light and world. Why does the world need light? On this read Philippians 2.15 noting the words crooked and perverse. Read also 1 John 5.19 noting the line the whole world is in the power of the evil one. And how does light come from Jesus alone? On this read John 10.30 noting the line I and the Father are one. What does Jesus pass on to us from the Father? On this read Exodus 3.2–6 noting the words fire and burning; and Habakkuk 3.3–4 noting the words brightness, light, flashed and power. What does this divine brightness manifest? On this read John 1.29 noting the words lamb and sin. How does Jesus put an end to sin? On this read Hebrews 9.26 noting the words sacrifice and himself. How does this sacrifice help? On this read 1 John 1.8–2.2 noting the words forgive and advocate. Is that all the light we need? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.26 noting the line death is… the last enemy; and Romans 6.23 noting the words death, sin and wages. What could be better?

 

Week IV. Read 1 John 3.15 one last time noting again the line has eternal life abiding in him. Is there any other word about eternal life? On this read John 14.2–3 noting the words house, place and where. What is this place like? On this read Revelation 21.10–23 noting the words city, wall, gates, pearl, street and gold; Revelation 21.3 – 4 noting the words dwell, death and former; and Revelation 19.6–10 noting the phrase marriage supper. Is this an actual place? On this read Luke 16.19–31 noting the words carried, to, bosom, between and place. Note also the two occurrences of the word place in John 14.2–3. Read as well Matthew 25.34 noting the words prepared and kingdom. Note also the line in 2 Peter 3.13 about waiting for new heavens and a new earth, as well as the word entrance in 1.11. These verses all point to eternal life as a place. Do you agree? On what grounds?

  

 

Psalm 115.1

June 2016, Number 280

 

 

Week I. Read Psalm 115.1 noting the phrase not to us. Why shouldn’t we be glorified? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.31 noting the line do all to the glory of God. Why shouldn’t we have any? On this read John 5.44 noting the words believe, glory, another and God. How does God get excluded if we are glorified? On this read Matthew 6.25 noting the words serve and two. Why is there this restriction? On this read Exodus 34.14 noting the line the Lord… is a jealous God. What does this mean if jealousy is a sin (Galatians 5.20)? On this read 2 Corinthians 11.2 noting the line I feel a divine jealousy for you. What is this different sort of divine jealousy? On this read Genesis 37.11 noting the word jealous and 37.19 noting the word kill. So human jealousy leads to murder. Does divine jealousy also? On this read Isaiah 65.2 noting the line I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people. Is that murderous anger or generous, earnest concern? How different can jealousy be, then?

Week II. Read again Psalm 115.1 noting the line not to us. What, then, should be given us if not glory? On this read Matthew 22.37–36 noting the two occurrences of the word love. Why is this duty given us rather than glory? On this read Mark 7.20 noting the words out and defile. How intrinsically corrupt are we, then? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the phrase no soundness. Read also Romans 7.18 noting the phrase nothing good. If we’re so bad is there no hope for us doing anything good? On this read Matthew 7.17 noting the two phrases sound tree and good fruit, as well John 15.5 noting the line apart from me you can do nothing. So with God’s help we can do good things, but never on our own because of our internal corruption. So without pressure from God, we’ll remain in our selfish defilements. On this read 2 Timothy 3.4 noting the line lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. So how do we get off the dime? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the word transferred. Will that do it?

Week III. Reread Psalm 115.1 noting the line but to thy name give glory. What good is our glorification of God? On this read Psalm 22.3 noting the line enthroned on the praises of Israel. What does this mean? On this read 1 Timothy 6.15 noting the phrase King of kings. What does this contribute? On this read Ephesians 1.21 noting the line far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. Why put God upon such a throne? On this read Matthew 4.10 noting the words serve and only. Why are we to give such exclusive loyalty to God? On this read Mark 10.18 noting the words good and alone. What does this mean for believers in God? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the three occurrences of the word all. How intense is this? On this read Romans 12.11 noting the words zeal and aglow. Read also Revelation 3.16 noting the word lukewarm. Why does God want so much from us? Note the phrase eternal weight of glory in 2 Corinthians 4.17. Does that answer it?

Week IV. Read Psalm 115.1 one last time noting again the line but to thy name give glory. What glory should we give to God? On this read 1 Thessalonians 5.18 noting the word thanks. Why should we glorify God with our thanks? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the line without your Father’s will. Does this mean that God controls all that happens and whatever happens takes place because he wants it to? On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the words whatever and pleases. Read as well Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belongs to God. Why can’t we be in control of at least some of what goes on? On this read Job 40.4 noting the line I am of small account. Read also Job 42.3 noting the phrase things too wonderful for me. So are we denied control of what’s going on because of our diminished capacity? On this read James 4.14 noting the line you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Note also the phrase mere breath in Psalm 39.5. So does that settle it?

 

 

 

Hebrews 11:38

 

July 2015, Number 269

 

Week I. Read Hebrews 11.38 noting the line of whom the world was not worthy. Who are these people? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the words believe and God. Is this some generic god? On this read Hebrews 12.2 noting the words Jesus, pioneer, perfecter and faith, and Hebrews 4.14 noting the line Jesus, the Son of God. So why does this faith in God through Christ Jesus, set us at odds with the world? On this read Hebrews 11.7 noting the line condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness. What was so bad about the world that we had to condemn it? On this read Hebrews 3.12-19 noting the words evil, deceitfulness, rebellious, disobedient and unbelief. Note also the line filled with violence in Genesis 6.11 (that is alluded to in Hebrews 11.7). On this corrupt world read also 1 John 2.16 noting the words lust, flesh, pride and life. Read as well 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the words lovers, self, money and pleasure. In this regard read also Hebrews 11.25 noting the line enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin, and Hebrews 3.13 noting the line hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So how bad is the world overall? On this read James 4.4 noting the line friendship with the world is enmity with God. Do you think all of the negativity is true even if it isn’t generally recognized? Why or why not?

Week II. Read again Hebrews 11.38 noting again the line of whom the world was not worthy. So why isn’t the world worthy of believers in Christ? What are Christians like that makes it this way? On this read Hebrews 13.1-7 noting the words brotherly, strangers, prison, marriage, judge, money and afraid. If these seven traits are central to the Christian life, what is its upshot? On this read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the words aliens and exiles. Read also John 15.19 noting the line out of the world. How is this so? What’s so radical about these traits? On brotherly love read, by way of contrast, Judges 15.11 and Matthew 7.12 (as well as Proverbs 24.29). On visiting prisoners, read Matthew 25.36. On marriage read 1 Timothy 4.3 and Ephesians 5.31-32. On judging, read John 7.24, Romans 2.6-11 and 14.10. On money, read 1 Timothy 6.9-10 and Luke 18.24-30. And on fear, read Matthew 10.28, Proverbs 1.7, Hebrews 2.15 and Psalm 34.11. Isn’t this quite a list?

Week III. Reread Hebrews 11.38 noting the line of whom the world was not worthy. Is it easy to stand against the ways of the world? On this read Matthew 7.13-14 noting the words narrow, hard and few. Read also Hebrews 11.32-37 noting the words lions, fire, sword, tortured, mocking, imprisonment, stoned, sawn, destitute and afflicted. Note also the word hated in John 15.18-19. Why isn’t this rigorous life easier for Christians to live out? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease, and 2 Thessalonians 3.11 noting the word idleness. Does laziness then control us? On this read 1 Thessalonians 5.6 noting the word sleep and the line let us keep awake and be sober. On this startling verse read also Romans 12.11 noting the line never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit. This predicament is part of the war between the spirit and the flesh in Galatians 5.16-17. Do you see that too?

Week IV. Read Hebrews 11.38 one last time noting again the line of whom the world was not worthy. How can we get help in fighting against our worldliness and laziness? On this read Matthew 11.28-30 noting the words rest, easy and light. How does Jesus help us out with our burdens? On this read James 1.21 noting the category implanted word. How does this take place? On this read Romans 10.17 noting the words heard and preaching. Read also Colossians 3.15-16 noting the words rule, thankful, dwell, richly, teach, admonish and sing. What power does the word have over us through these various means? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.17 noting the category new creation, and Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. Note also the word power in Psalm 62.11 and John 1.12. Does that settle it? If so, how?

   

Hosea 8.14

 

August 2015, Number 270

Week I. Read Hosea 8.14 noting the word Maker. Who is this maker? On this read Genesis 14.19 noting the words God and maker. Read also Psalm 95.6-7 noting the words Maker and God. What does God make according to this psalm? On this read Psalm 95.4-5 noting the words depths, earth, mountains, sea and land. It also says he did this with his hands. How did he do that? On this read Genesis 1.3 noting the words said and was. So are God’s words his hands? On this read Palm 33.6 noting the words word and made. Real also Psalm 107.19-20 noting the words word and healed. Read as well Isaiah 55.11 noting the words word and accomplish. How does God make things by way of his words? On this read John 1.1-3 noting the words Word and made. What is this Word? On this read John 1.14 noting the words Word and Son. What is the word that makes up Jesus? On this read Proverbs 8.1-36 noting the words wisdom, life and favor. What is this favorable design by which all things were made? On this read Colossians 1.16 noting the line all things were created… for him. That means they must serve his purpose in Matthew 22.36-39 – loving God and neighbor. How would the world be different if it followed its divine design?

Week II. Read again Hosea 8.14 noting this time the line Israel has forgotten. Was this an accident? On this read Psalm 81.8-12 noting the words listen and stubborn as well as the line Israel would have none of me. Read as well Hosea 13.4-6 noting the words filled and forgot. Does this then mean that blessings are curses? On this read Judges 10.10-16 noting the word yet. Does this mean that Israel’s forsaking of the Lord is a surprise and incongruent with what went before? On this read Exodus 19.8 noting the line all that the Lord has spoken we will do. Why does this resolve and confidence give way to forsaking the Lord? On this read Exodus 32.1 noting the word delayed. Is this because we are so impatient? On this read Psalm 13.1-2 noting the four uses of the question how long? Why are we so impatient? On this read Psalm 77.9-10 noting the words forgotten and changed. Because of delays in grace do we then abandon the abiding definition of God is Exodus 34.6-7, Psalm 145.8, Joel 2.13, and Jonah 4.2? What do you think of that?

Week III. Reread Hosea 8.14 noting again the line I will send fire upon… his strongholds. Why is God so mad at Israel? On this read Jeremiah 25.8-9 noting the words obeyed and destroy. So is the key to salvation obedience? On this read 1 Samuel 15.22 noting the words obey and sacrifice. Why is this obedience so important to God? On this read Romans 1.5 and 16.26 noting the phrase the obedience of faith. What is there about faith that implies obedience? On this read Romans 14.23 noting the words sin and faith, and I John 3.4 noting the words sin and lawlessness. So if faith is what stands against sin, and obeying God is contrary to sinning against him, then faith and obedience lead into each other. Key to this understanding if also keeping the Creator above the creatures as in Romans 1.25. Without God being kept above us, there will be no obedience or faith or salvation. Do you agree?

Week IV. Read Hosea 8.14 one last time noting the word strongholds. Why don’t our fortification protect us against God’s wrath? On this read Ezekiel 5.13 noting the words anger, fury, satisfy and jealousy. Read as well Amos 5.18-19 noting the words woe, darkness, bear and serpent. Why can’t we stand up against God and his assaults? On this read Psalm 39.5 noting the line every man stands as a mere breath. Read also James 4.14 noting the word mist. How more insubstantial could we be? But do we regularly think this way of ourselves? On this read Isaiah 61.3 noting the word oaks, and the word mountain in Psalm 30.7. So beware.

 

 

Hebrews 12.5

 

September 2015, Number 271

 

Week I. Read Hebrews 12.5 noting the word punish. How does God punish us? On this read Ezekiel 14.21 noting the words sword, famine, evil beasts and pestilence. Read also Luke 13.4 noting the words tower and fell. Are there then no accidents and simple acts of nature? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the line not one sparrow will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. What does this mean? On this read James 4.15 noting the line if the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that. What is implied by believing that nothing happens without God’s permission? On this read Job 1.21 noting the words gave, taken and blessed. What is it like to bless God and praise him for what he takes away? On this read Hebrews 12.6 noting the words disciplines and loves. How does discipline and punishment show God’s love for us? On this read Romans 1.22-25 noting the line God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity. This is God’s wrath (Romans 1.18). But God’s love punishes us to keep us from going down the path of impurity. Do you agree?

 

Week II. Read again Hebrews 12.5 noting the same word punish. How do God’s punishments keep us from going down the path of impurity? On this read Amos 4.6-11 noting the five occurrences of the word yet. In this case the punishments don’t block further corruption. For an opposite view, read Judges 6.1-6 noting the words very, low, cried and help. What was the difference between the two cases? Is it severity? On this read Exodus 12.28-33 noting the words great, cry, urgent and dead. Note that this is the tenth of the plagues hurled against Egypt to get Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves. For another view read Job 1.22-3.1 noting the shift from 1.22 to 3.1. What causes this? At 2.10 he is still abiding with God in spite of his suffering. But after this silent shock of his friends in 2.13 registers with Job, then he curses in the next verse. Was it then the bleak reaction of his friends that pushed him over the edge? For an opposite view read Hebrews 10.23-25 noting the words stir and encouraging. Without this help, matters become too severe? Is that why sin has to become sinful beyond measure in Romans 7.13 in order to change us? Note as well the curbs placed on repenting in 2 Corinthians 7.10.

 

Week III. Reread Hebrews 12.5 noting the same word punish. How are we to avoid being punished? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words unless, repent and perish. How does repentance save us from harm? On this read 1 John 1.8-10 noting the words deceive, confess, just, liar and word. How does confession and repentance trade on truth? On this read Job 10.7 and 42.3-6 noting the shift from innocence to self-loathing. Furthermore read 1 John 3.20 noting how God is greater than our condemning hearts. Read also Hosea 11.8-9 noting God’s extreme resolve to have compassion. Are these two matters – self-loathing and extreme divine compassion – the truth that repentance brings to set us free in John 8.32 and to be witnessed to in John 19.37? If so, then repentance is powerful indeed. It sets matters straight. It is the brokenness and contrition in Psalm 51.17.

 

Week IV. Read Hebrews 12.5 one last time noting again the word punish. So if we fail to repent and are punished after all, how should we deal with it? On this read Hebrews 12.4 noting the words yet and blood. This shows that things could always be worse. So we mustn’t complain when punished, but instead thank God for his leniency. Next read Matthew 26.75 noting the phrase wept bitterly. This shows that we shouldn’t make excuses to defend ourselves when caught in the act and punished, but instead concede to the Almighty that he is right to castigate us and we are wrong for sinning. Finally read Romans 5.3 noting the word rejoice. This shows that we are to transcend the pain of the moment when punished to rejoice in God’s correction and strengthening of us through that very punishment. Can you handle that? If not go to Matthew 11.28-30 for the interplay between burden and rest.

 

Psalm 102.7

October 2015, Number 272

 

Week I. Read Psalm 102.7 noting the word lonely. What makes us as lonely as a sparrow on a rooftop? On this read Jeremiah 15.17 noting the words alone, hand and indignation. Note also the words ears, closed, scorn and pleasure in Jeremiah 6.10. Read also John 15.19 noting the words of, own, chose and hate. Why does God’s word isolate us like this? Why doesn’t it rather help us gain many friends and influence people far and wide? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the words god, world and blinded. Read also 1 John 5.19 noting the words whole, world, power and evil. Are we then driven from the world by its wickedness and left to hole up in remote places? On this read Hebrews 11.37-38 noting the words destitute, wandering, dens and caves. Read as well Luke 9.58 noting the line nowhere to lay his head. Add to this 1 Corinthians 1.26-29 noting the words worldly, standards, powerful, noble, shame, low, nothing and boast. Do these many verses offer a sufficient explanation for what you could call Christian loneliness? How so?  

Week II. Read again Psalm 102.7 noting the same word lonely. In our loneliness, how can we witness to such a world that is passing us by? On this read 1 Peter 3.15 noting the two occurrences of the word reverence. What does this mean? On this read Hebrews 12.28 noting the words worship and awe. What do these words have to do with witnessing? On this read Matthew 17.6 noting the words fell and faces, and Romans 11.20 noting the word proud. Awe therefore points to a power that takes away the control we thought we had over our lives. Because of this awe in witnessing, God can get through to the worldly ones when we cannot due to our loneliness. All we need to do is talk and pray and leave the rest to God. This seems to be the point of the words only and growth in 1 Corinthians 3.7. Our talking is like the planting and watering in 1 Corinthians 3.6. And on the matter of prayer, read Matthew 17.21 noting the words never and except. Through prayer God is able to make our efforts effective when we are not able to. So even though we are removed from the mainstream by our loneliness, we can still witness effectively by way of God’s intervention. Do you believe that? If not, read Ephesians 3.20 noting the words able, do, far and more. Does that then do it for you? 

Week III. Reread Psalm 102.7 noting the same word lonely. Why is this sparrow perched on a lonely housetop? On this read Acts 10.9 noting the word pray. This suggests that the housetop is a place in between earth and heaven, as Luther thought―“I hover between the life of the world and eternal life, lonely in the faith” (Luther’s Works 14:181; 67:98). How do we get stuck on this rooftop? On this read Philippians 3.20 noting the words commonwealth and heaven. Read also 2 Peter 3.12 noting the words hastening and coming. This frame of mind gives us at least one foot out of this world which suspends us in the air as Luther thought. On this suspension read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the word alien. Is that you? Should it be? 

Week IV. Read Psalm 102.7 one last time noting again the word lonely. How can we live with the isolation that comes to us from this loneliness? On this read Matthew 28.20 noting the words with and always. Why is this so valuable? On this read John 15.13-15 noting the words greater, love, lay, down and friends. Does this make Jesus the best friend possible? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the two phrases could not do and for sin. This sacrifice on the cross makes Jesus unique and our best possible friend. On this promise read John 15.15 noting the line I have called you friends. Can this really fill in for having no ordinary friends? On this read Psalm 27.10 noting the contrasting words forsaken and take. In this light read also 2 Timothy 2.13 with the contrasting words faithless and faithful. Note as well the words faithful and endure in 1 Corinthians 10.13. Without God we couldn’t endure our loneliness. On this truth read Matthew 11.29-30 noting the words rest and light. Is that enough for you? In what way?

 

 

Colossians 1.22

November 2015, Number 273

 

Week I. Read Colossians 1.22 noting the word reconciled. Who needs reconciling? On this read Isaiah 59.2 noting the words iniquities, separation and hid. Why are our iniquities or sins so damaging to our relationship with God? On this read Romans 14.23 noting the line whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Does this, then, in large part mean that sin destroys or displaces faith in God? How bad is that? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the words faith and please. Is reconciliation with God, then, re-establishing God’s pleasure in us? If so, when was he first pleased with us? On this read Genesis 1.31 noting the phrase very good. How long did this last? On this read Genesis 6.6 noting the words sorry and grieved. How long did that last? On this read John 14.23 noting the words if, Jesus, loves and Father. Why did this divine regret on God’s part last so long? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line one sinner destroys much good. Does anyone else need reconciling beside us? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the line saved by him from the wrath of God. So just as Martin Luther thought, both parties – sinners and God – need reconciling (Luther’s Works 26:325). Do you agree, and if so, why?

Week II. Read again Colossians 1.22 noting the line by his death. Whose death are we talking about here? On this read 1 John 2.1-2 noting the words sin, advocate, Jesus and expiation. How does the death of Jesus do this? On this read Colossians 2.13-15 noting the words dead, alive, forgiven, canceled, bond, against, legal, aside, nailing, cross, disarmed and triumphing. How does his death cancel the legal bond that stood against us because of our iniquities? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the line in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. What does this likeness mean? On this read 1 Corinthians 5.21 noting the three words made, no and become. Is Jesus then both like and unlike a sinner at the same time? How can that be? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line bore our sins. So he was punished for our sin as if he had committed them when in fact he did not. And that’s what it means to say he came for sin in Romans 8.3. He came to be punished for our sins. What does that do for us? On this read Galatians 5.1 noting the word freedom. But from what? Well, being punished for our sins! How good is that? On this read Luke 16.19-28 noting the place of torment unforgiven sinners are headed for. How’s that for a wonderful reward?

Week III. Reread Colossians 1.22 noting the same line by his death. Was this a mean thing for God to make Jesus do? On this read John 10.18 noting the four occurrences of the word I. Read also John 10.30 noting the word one. Note as well the line not as I will, but as you will in Matthew 26.39. Read also Luke 23.46 noting the line Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Why, then, does Jesus use the word forsake in Matthew 27.46? Is that about a breakdown between Jesus and his heavenly Father? On this read Matthew 8.17 noting the words took and bore. So when he cried out from the cross was he really giving voice to condemned sinners and not to his own anguish? If so, there is then no division between the Father and the Son when Jesus cries out about being forsaken. Do you agree? Why or why not? To coax you in the right direction, note the words loves and all in John 3.35.

Week IV. Read Colossians 1.22 one last time noting the word irreproachable. How can we come off looking so good to God? On this read Revelation 7.14 noting the words washing and white. How can the blood of the Lamb do this? On this read 1 Peter 1.19 noting the words precious, blemish and spot. How does his innocence and holiness help us? On this read 2 Corinthians 8.9 noting the trading words rich and poor. Why does Jesus trade with us if it’s not to his advantage? On this read Mark 10.45 noting the words serve and give. Note also the word compassion in Mark 6.34. Are these verses enough to explain how pure believers can become?

 

 

Psalm 64.6

December 2015, Number 274

 

Week I. Read Psalm 64.6 noting the words crimes and deep. In what ways are we deeply criminal? On this read Isaiah 53.6 noting the words all and astray. Why do we stray? On this read John 3.19 noting the line men loved darkness. Why wouldn’t we prefer the light? On this read Genesis 3.8 noting the words hid and trees. Why can’t we stand up against God, but instead try to hide from him? On this read Jeremiah 20.7 noting the words deceived and stronger. How accurate is this? On this read 2 Timothy 2.13 noting the words faithless and faithful. Does that put the lie to Jeremiah’s lament? On this read Jeremiah 31.3 noting the words faithfulness and continued. What else is there to our deep criminal corruption? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the words foot, head and soundness. So nothing escapes tarnishing? On this read Romans 3.10 noting the line none is righteous, no, not one. How thorough is this? On this read John 8.44 noting the words you, father and devil.

Week II. Read again Psalm 64.6 noting the same words crimes and deep. Why are we this way? On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the words heart, desperately, corrupt and understand. Where does such a horrible heart come from that throws everything so off kilter? On this read Psalm 51.5 noting the words sin and conceive. But how is that we are made this way? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.22 noting the line in Adam all die. Read also Romans 6.23 noting that line the wages of sin is death. How did Adam’s sin set the course for everyone else in the world, and for all times to come? On this read Genesis 2.17 noting the play between the two phrases shall not and shall die. Just as inevitable as death now is because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, so is our constitutional corruption part of our new dying nature. Would that our corruption were as obvious as our dying nature! Job knew his death was inevitable (Job 14.12), but didn’t think that made him morally and spiritually impure (Job 6.24). What do you think of that?

Week III. Reread Psalm 64.6 noting the same words crimes and deep. What follows from our deep corruption? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line one sinner destroys much good. What else follows? On this read Hebrews 3.13 noting the words deceitfulness and hardened. Anything else besides destruction and deceit? On this read Romans 14.23 noting the line whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. So unbelief is part of it too. What follows from that? On this read Matthew 27.3-5 noting the words – and the huge gap between them – repented and hanged. So the corruption of unbelief is also fatal. For more on that, read John 3.36 noting the words believes, life and wrath. For more on this wrath, read Luke 16.28 noting the phrase place of torment, and 2 Thessalonians 1.5-10 noting the words judgment, vengeance, eternal, exclusion and believed. On this eternal exclusion read Mark 9.47-48 noting the words hell, worm and fire. So having a deeply corrupted heart is hardly of little consequence. Do you agree? Explain your answer.

Week IV. Read Psalm 64.6 one last time noting the same word crimes and deep. How can we escape all of this misery and corruption? On this read Ezekiel 11.19 noting the words stony and flesh. Why does God have to do this for us? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the word wretched. What does that wretchedness do to us? On this read Romans 7.19 noting the play between the words do and want. What is this about – besides sheer wretchedness? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the switching around of the words good and evil. Once this new heart is in place, then what? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. What do these take? On this read Luke 16.16 noting the word violently. Does that go without saying? On this read Acts 9.3-9 noting the words flashed, fell and nothing. Why does it take such violence to get us going in the right direction? On this read about the defilements within us in Mark 7.18-23. Note also the word slaves in John 8.34. Are those two passages enough to explain why God has to deal with us so roughly in order to save us?

 

 

 

 

"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.]