have always been a fan of the morning prayer service known as Matins. This
service has a rich tradition in the Church. This service is filled with
singing, prayer and other music. Growing up Lutheran I have seen many versions
of this service. But regardless of what hymnal it comes out of the words are
very powerful and have great meaning for me. We read one of the central
passages used in Matins this week. Lets use these words as our focus today.
come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.--Psalm 95:1-7 ESV
As we keep plugging away at Jeremiah I saw some great glimpses of gospel this
week. Here are a few that hit me:
I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them
abundance of prosperity and security. I
will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them
as they were at first. I will cleanse
them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the
guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.”
I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 33:11b
then a great Messianic promise: “In those days and at that time I will cause
a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and
righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem
will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD
is our righteousness.” Jeremiah
have come to the point in the story where there is more narrative than
prophetic. Many historic details are filled in and give us a better picture of
some of the events that took place right before the exile. We don’t usually get
many of these stories in Sunday School. I had forgotten that Jeremiah gets
thrown into a mud pit and almost dies. And that the king burned up the scroll
that was written almost in spite of the message it contained. Eventually we see
the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple itself. It was a sad day in the
life of the people. I put quite a few frowning faces in the margin of my Bible
this week. Another bit of the story that I forgot about was that of those who
were left in the country and not taken into exile. I found it very interesting
that the Lord promised protection for these people through Jeremiah as long as
they stayed in the land. But, like what seems to happen again and again, the
people do not listen and head to Egypt for what they think is “safety”. Their
self-centeredness was their destruction.
of the rest of our readings this week were pronouncements of judgments on the
surrounding countries. The Lord will finally punish all the other countries for
their unbelief. It is sometimes hard for us to read about all this destruction,
but we need to remember that God has every right to punish us for our sins. We
need to have a good grasp on this so we can see that the gift of Jesus Christ
is so amazing. We are not treated as we deserve. We have been given a wonderful
gift in Jesus…you see, I told you this book was Christ centered.
As a pastor I really feel that Paul is talking to me through the words of 1 and
2 Timothy. But just because you are not a “pastor”, does not mean you cannot
benefit greatly from these two letters of Paul. I kind of see these letters as
letters of encouragement, sort of like Paul is the coach and Timothy is the
player. Paul can’t do the work for him but he can give him some great advice.
One of the most famous phrases of encouragement comes from 1 Timothy 4, “Let
no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech,
in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” What awesome encouragement! Paul goes on to
say, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to
teaching.” Paul also reminds us all,
“You can’t take it with you.” We need to learn to be content where God has
placed us. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul makes a connection to the Old Testament. He
writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David,
as preached in my gospel” (2
Timothy 2:8 ESV). This is a flashback to the good old Davidic covenant that we
have seen in Jeremiah recently. Once again it all comes back to a story about
Christ. I love all the “trustworthy sayings” in these letters. The one on the
unity we have with Christ gives me great comfort and hope. “If we have died
with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with
him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny
himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV)
There are some big passages in 2 Timothy for us in our Theology. “All
Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God
may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17
ESV) This passage forms the basis for our belief in Scripture. We believe that
the Bible is the only rule and norm of faith. It comes from God, and is useful
for all sorts of things regarding our faith. It gets us ready to respond to God
in good works as well. This is one of those passages that should be committed
to memory!!! The end of 2 Timothy shows us some of the humanity of Paul. He is
stuck in Rome, under arrest, and many of his followers have left him. Only Luke
remains. Paul asks for Timothy to come to visit with him. It shows us that Paul
not only cares for his good friend and partner in ministry but he misses him
terribly and desires his companionship. I hope you have good friends like this;
I have been blessed with many of them.
will move on to the book of Lamentations this week and begin the book of Ezekiel.
Here are the vital stats for the books:
To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God
suffers when His people suffer.
Most likely Jeremiah
WRITTEN: Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or
VERSE: “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured
out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants
faint in the streets of the city.” (2:11)
THEMES: The Lord pours out His anger against the kingdom of Judah; Judah finds
no comfort; she cries, mourns, weeps, and laments the siege and exile.
THEMES: The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases; great is His faithfulness; wait quietly for the salvation of the
Lord; he has redeemed you.
PEOPLE: Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem
FEATURES: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations—prophecy,
ritual, and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient
Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems corresponding to the
To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the
eventual salvation of God’s people
Ezekiel—the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest
WHOM WRITTEN: The Jews in captivity, in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere
WRITTEN: Approx. 571 B.C.
Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to
the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in
Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoichin.
VERSES: “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the
countries and bring you back into your own land. I will cleanse you from all
your impurities and from all you idols. I will give you a new heart and put a
new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a
heart of flesh.” (36:24-26)
THEMES: Death and God’s wrath come to Israel by the sword; Israel has not
walked in God’s statutes; in anger, God withdraws His glory and blessings;
idolatry as spiritual adultery; defilement; exile; famine and pestilence.
THEMES: God keeps His covenant; new hearts; gift of the Spirit; the Good
Shepherd; cleansing; restore the fortunes; God’s glory returns; the new temple.
PEOPLE: Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”
PLACES: Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt
The New Testament
will read two books in their entirety this week (Titus & Philemon) as well
as start another (Hebrews). Here are the vital stats on these three books:
To advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches in the island
WHOM WRITTEN: Titus, a Greek, probably converted to Christ through Paul’s
ministry (he had become Paul’s special representative to the island of Crete),
and to all believers everywhere.
WRITTEN: About A.D. 64, around the same time 1 Timothy was written; probably
from Macedonia when Paul traveled between his Roman imprisonments.
Paul sent Titus to organize and oversee the churches on Crete. This letter
tells Titus how to do this job.
VERSE: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what
was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I direct you” (1:5)
THEMES: Be above reproach; rebuke; the pure and the defiled; submissiveness;
devotion to good works.
THEMES: Election; soundness; God’s grace; redemption; washing and renewal;
PEOPLE: Paul, Titus
PLACES: Crete, Nicopolis
FEATURES: Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church
To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him
as a brother in the faith.
WHOM WRITTEN: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian
church, and all believers.
WRITTEN: About A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, at about the
same time Ephesians and Colossians were written.
Slavery was common in the Roman Empire and evidently some Christians had
slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, but
he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon’s brother in
VERSES: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was
that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a
slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as
a man and as a brother in the Lord (verses 15-16)
THEMES: Usefulness; imprisonment; service; debt; partnership
THEMES: Comfort/refreshment; reconciliation; forgiveness.
PEOPLE: Paul, Philemon, Onesimus
PLACES: Colosse, Rome
FEATURES: This is a private, personal letter to a friend.
To present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ
Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Pricilla, and others have been suggested
because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself.
Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23)
WHOM WRITTEN: Hebrew Christians (perhaps second-generation Christians) who may
have been considering a return to Judaism, perhaps because of immaturity,
stemming from a lack of understanding of Biblical truths; and all believers in
WRITTEN: Probably before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70,
because the religious sacrifices and ceremonies are referred to in the book,
but no mention is made of the temples destruction
These Jewish Christians were probably undergoing fierce persecution, socially
and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not yet returned to
establish his kingdom, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity
was true and that Jesus was the Messiah.
VERSE: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of
his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided
purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
THEMES: Retribution for disobedience; slavery to death and the devil; and
unbelieving heart; rebellion; obligation to sacrifice; repentance from dead works;
crucifying Jesus again; the living God’s vengeance; struggle against sin;
discipline; obedience to leaders.
THEMES: God spoke through Jesus; purification for sins; inheriting salvation;
our High Priest and Mediator; sanctification; God’s promises; Melchizedek;
sprinkled and washed; assurance of faith; the founder and perfecter of our
faith; the great Shepherd.
PEOPLE: Old Testament men and women of faith (see chapter 11)
FEATURES: Although Hebrews is called a “letter” (13:22), it has the form and
content of a sermon.