What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, November 25, 2020):
• 1 Samuel 3-9
• Zechariah 7-13
• Jude ~ Revelation 1-6
Happy Thanksgiving! We near the end of the year, and it is one of the hardest times to keep reading on track, as our daily routine gets a lot of disruption throughout the holidays. So stay with it, and don’t allow yourself to fall too far behind on any given week. It never hurts to read ahead when you have the opportunity.
In two weeks, we will be finishing up the New Testament!
Notes on 1 Samuel
The Lord calls the boy Samuel, in dramatic fashion, in chapter three. The priest Eli’s sons were far too wicked to be of any use to the Lord. But for Samuel, even as a boy God could trust him to be faithful with his word. And so was God with Samuel’s: “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground” (3.19).
So much of what God gave to Israel over the course of time (the Ark and the Temple, as the most specific examples) were taken for granted by the people of God. They could not possibly comprehend that God would ever allow either to be vulnerable to theft or destruction. But a terrible lesson was learned here in chapter four when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant.
The shock of this news would do in the old man Eli. Being fat (an unusual condition back then), he became so distressed that he fell off of a chair and died.
The battle of the gods in 5.1-5 is really cool.
The Philistines realized that holding onto the Ark of the Covenant was far more trouble than it was worth, and they formulated a plan for its return. This speaks volumes to the significance of this amazing piece of furniture.
The Philistines treated the Ark with great respect (6.7-9), unlike some of the Israelites upon its recovery (6.19).
After all of this, still the Philistines attacked, and still the Israelites were afraid. Had no one learned anything? God himself intervened and gave his people a great victory that day (7.7-11).
Samuel was leading the nation all by himself, “riding the circuit” and ministering everywhere (7.15-16). He remained faithful to the Lord all of his days.
However, Samuel had intended to appoint his sons to succeed him, but they were all wicked. After all, he had grown up in the house of the Lord where his only parenting example was Eli, who failed miserably. Samuel as a father produced the same results with his sons (see 8.1-3).
So the people asked for a king. Neither Samuel nor the Lord seemed to endorse this as the best choice, but one that needed to be made anyway because of the complaining of the people.
The selection of Saul as Israel’s first king is detailed in chapter nine. It involved supernatural signs and leadings. Saul would have a powerful prophetic gifting. But it would for the most part go to waste after his coronation.
Notes on Zechariah
Throughout the seventy years of exile, the Jews had continued to fast and mourn regularly. They now asked the prophet if God wanted them to continue to do so. God basically told them, in chapter seven, that they had wasted their time doing it in the past, so there was no real need to consider keeping on.
Instead, they were to “administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another,” to refrain from oppressing widows, the fatherless, the foreigner and the poor, and to stop plotting evil against one another. In other words, dispense with the outward religious rites, and live out your lives with God’s heart as your guide.
In chapter eight, God delights in telling his people all of the blessing he will shower upon them in the future.
Judgement upon Israel’s enemies leads off chapter nine, with a Messianic promise following: “Your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9.9), prophesying the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem right before the crucifixion.
More promises of God’s protection and blessing for Judah are found in chapter ten, at the expense (judgment) of bad shepherds and hostile surrounding nations.
There is a somewhat cryptic parable given in 11.4-17 regarding “two shepherds.” But within this analogy we find the prophecies about Judas, the traitor. I believe this is the only prophecy we have in the Old Testament regarding Judas and his ultimate betrayal of the Messiah.
The intensity of Zechariah’s prophecies grow as he crescendos to the end of the book. More Messianic words are given in chapter 12: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced”(10).
The Messianic prophecies continue in chapter 13, but as in the others, future events are all out of order. The first half of the chapter alludes to the cleansing from sin as a result of the cross. The second takes us back to Gethsemane, where the shepherd is struck, and the sheep scattered (see Matthew 26.31).
Notes on Jude
Much of Jude is extremely similar to verses we find in 2 Peter. Then as now false teaching was a force to be reckoned with. Jude wanted to write about salvation issues specifically, but changed his focus to “contending for the faith” because of the ungodly who had wormed their ways inside of the church (see 3-4).
The deep spiritual connection between false teachers and the kingdom of darkness is spectacularly explained. The curtain is pulled back on the invisible world of the demonic, and it is frightfully horrifying.
In order to persevere, Jude exhorts us to build ourselves up in the faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, remain in God’s love, and wait for mercy that comes from Jesus himself (20-21).
Notes on Revelation
The name of this book is the singular form of the word, not plural (i.e. not Revelations), for the revelation is of Jesus himself, not so much end times (1.1).
There are many, many phrases of worship found throughout this book, along with many unique names of God that we do not find elsewhere. Here in chapter one, we see Jesus as:
Him who is, who was, and who is to come
The faithful witness
The firstborn from the dead
The ruler of the kings of the earth
The Alpha and Omega
The First and the Last
The Living One
Beginning in chapter two and continuing through chapter three are seven letters to seven churches. For the most part, they start out with specific description or attributes of Jesus. Then the church is commended for what they are doing right. Next, they are rebuked for what they are doing wrong. Finally, instructions for correction and promises for the future are given.
Some claim these are representative of the church ages. But this only really works if you look at them from a Western/American perspective. So I don’t like it.
The church in Smyra (2.8-11) is greatly persecuted, far more than the others, and Jesus has nothing negative to say to them. Of the seven churches, this is the only one that remains to this day.
The church in Philadelphia was known as a church with strong emphasis on missions. Jesus had no negatives for this church, either.
The church in Laodicea seems to have a strong correlation to the American church today. Jesus had nothing good to say to her. But he still offers restoration and promises in 3.18-22.
The picture of heaven in chapter four is astounding. How I look forward to seeing this myself! I am intrigued by the four creatures (4.6-8), wondering who or what exactly they are. Their position in relation to God’s throne tell us that they are massively significant (4.6).
Worship choruses in 4.8 and 11.
Even by chapter five, we have not gotten to all of those mysterious bowls and trumpets and other generators of cataclysmic events. But we have more pictures of the glories of heaven.
Here in this chapter is another peek behind the curtain, and it is glorious beyond words. After you read this, close your eyes and try to imagine what this will be like. We will be there, and it will be overwhelming beyond description.
More worship choruses can be found in 5.9-10, 12, and 13.
The horrible last events of the days of earth begin to unfold in chapter six. We understand spiritual warfare, and we know that there are things going on in the invisible world between angels and demons that affect the parts of life that we can see.
Now here, beyond angels and demons, amazing creatures are released that likewise will make a huge impact on human history as it winds down to the finish line.