What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, December 16, 2022):
• 1 Samuel 24-30
• Ezra 10 ~ Nehemiah 1-6
• Revelation 22 ~ Proverbs 1-6
We will finish up Revelation and the New Testament this week. Then our third strand will jump back to the Book of Proverbs, and we will next read the remaining three books of poetry in order: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs (having already concluded Psalms a few months ago).
Notes on 1 Samuel
All week we will be reading about David and his exploits leading up to his kingship. He continues to win victories everywhere he turns, in spite of Saul’s relentless pursuit against him.
In chapter 24, he gets the first of two opportunities to easily take Saul’s life, but refuses to do so. We see what a tortured man Saul is in his response (24.16-19).
Though the king seems to try to make amends, David will never again trust the man, and follows him nowhere (24.22).
The story of David, Nabal and Abigail is found in chapter 25. It makes you wonder how such a wise, godly woman would end up with such a buffoon of a husband. In any case, at the end of the ordeal, after her husband dies, she ends up as one of David’s wives.
The second episode where David has an opportunity to take Saul’s life is found in chapter 26. Obviously, Saul had changed his mind about David and pursued him again with violent intent. But again, his tortured soul breaks down when he speaks directly with David in 26.17-21. And once again, they depart in separate ways (26.25b).
David goes to live among the Philistines and pretends to be their friend. Apparently, he and his men are destroying Philistine territories, leaving absolutely no trace of anything alive in order to protect himself (27.11).
Saul is nearing the end of his sanity and his life. He goes to visit the witch of Endor in chapter 28. The witch is in deeper than she realizes when Samuel himself appears, and she totally freaks out.
Samuel is upset about being roused from his “dead” sleep and informs Saul that he will be joining him shortly on the other side of the grave.
The Philistines do not trust David, and for good reason. He seems prepared to fight against Israel alongside them, but is cast aside by the military leadership.
The favor of God hangs heavily upon David. For we run across a situation in 30.3-6 where the wives and children of him and his men were captured while they were away. And yet absolutely everyone and everything is restored (30.18-19).
Notes on Ezra
Chapter ten is a truly distressing chapter. Last week we saw that some of the Jews who had returned with Ezra had been intermarrying with foreign women, creating a major spiritual crisis for the people of God. The solution was to send the wives that had been intermarried away, along with the children that had resulted from these marriages.
This was a horrible solution when you think of what that would mean for these women and children. But the Jewish men had deliberately stepped outside the will of God and created this mess. As terrible as this was, it was a necessary move.
Notes on Nehemiah
Nehemiah is one of my favorite Bible characters. This story takes place, of course, at the end of the Babylonian exile. Ezra has already rebuilt the temple. Nehemiah is going to go back and rebuild the city of Jerusalem, restoring its walls to bring protection to the Temple and the city.
Nehemiah is cupbearer to the king (1.11), a significantly high political position in a foreign government. He would have been a highly trusted adviser to the king.
This makes his account remarkable, because his life would have been much simpler, easier, and highly privileged if he had chosen to remain in Babylon and ignored this entire sorry mess. But as a faithful Jew, his heart was in Jerusalem. And as a leader, when he saw great need and great opportunity, he could not stay away. He is one of the greatest leaders that we find in the entire Bible.
In chapter two, he asks for permission from the king to go to Jerusalem, and it is given. He makes the trip and examines the damage to the walls, which is extensive.
In chapter three, the work commences, and a lot of progress is made. However, in chapter four, the opposition shows up. They will slow things down dramatically.
Now Nehemiah and his team have to work with half of the people standing guard, and even those working needing to keep a sword by their side as they worked (4.21–23).
On top of fighting outside opposition, he also had the nobles giving him grief on the inside. As a great leader he was able to manage both internal and external conflicts with wisdom. The nobles remind me very much of the nobles we find in the movie Braveheart. They change sides according to whoever serving their interest at the time. They have great influence, and an equal level of lack in regard to integrity.
The external opposition ramps up in chapter six. They try writing intimidating letters, they try infiltration, they go all out. However, the walls are completed, and the enemies lose their self-confidence. The bad guys realize that God is at work (6.16).
Notes on Revelation
If you need encouragement today, and you are a follower of Jesus, read Revelation 21.1-7. The new heaven is our future home!
At the same time, we need to continue to read the rest of this for the sake of our unsaved friends. The second death is described here, and it is terrible (21.8). The remainder of chapter 21 continues to paint an amazing picture of our eternal home.
This astonishing picture continues into chapter 22. This overwhelming picture of both the catastrophic and astounding events of the last days ends with an invitation: “Let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water life” (22.17).
Notes on Proverbs
The one-liners that the Book of Proverbs is famous for don’t kick in until chapter ten. After a short introduction, the first nine chapters contain some short narratives.
Solomon keeps referring to his father’s instruction. So there is a lot of influence from David found here. And it is amazing to see how much has to do with adultery and sexual sin, considering both of their lives.
However, the first narrative (1.10-19) is really about peer pressure, but in the context of murder and theft.
Following this, beginning in verse 20, wisdom is personified and speaks and calls to whomever will listen. Then in chapter two, Solomon gives us a commentary on wisdom. This continues into chapter three, where we find these well-worn and very powerful words: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your path straight” (3.5–6).
It is interesting to find these words is directed to “my son”, including wise words on accepting discipline (3.11-12). As far as we know, Solomon only had one son, Rehoboam, and this child of his learned none of this.
In chapter four, the treatise on wisdom continues. And then we have the very powerful verse in 4.23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
I like the older translations that say, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of your life.”
Chapter five turns our attention toward immorality and adultery. The words in this regard associated with these sins need to be taken to heart: bitter, consumed, utter ruin, death.
In the sixth chapter, Solomon hits on a number of vices: folly, laziness, and adultery.
What does God hate? A list of seven top-shelf targets are given to us in verses 17-19: arrogance, lying, murder, plotting wickedness, impulsiveness to evil, false testimony… and those who cause dissension “in the community”. I can’t help but think of this in the context of the church. God hates this.
In verse 26, notice the warning of adultery with a hired body contrasted with that of a married woman: “For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.”