Year of The Bible – Psalms 141-147

Monday

 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7

Psalms 141-147 (145)

These psalms are a treasure house of precious worship-phrases employed by the many and various liturgies of the Christian Church. Psalms 141 to 143 hyperbolize the urgent prayers of God’s people by characterizing them as “cries.” They reflect the desperation that David felt when he was in great peril. His cries are not unlike our own. They are the recurring prayers of the Church, constantly assailed, constantly in need of God’s grace. Psalms 144-147 are psalms of praise. The praise of God is, in a sense, a proud description of God’s qualities, a confident boasting that is not self-centered but God-centered. As we read or sing these psalms, reflecting upon the qualities of God, since those qualities are for our benefit, we will find ourselves growing more confident in Him and in our life.

Psalm 141 calls upon God to hear the prayers of the one who calls upon Him, asking God to help keep the speech of the mouth and the thoughts of the heart be righteous. So often, in times of persecution, God’s enemies are looking for Christians to make mistakes. They want to use their mistakes as an opportunity to destroy and harm, like the “snares” of hunters.

Psalm 142 is a prayer of complaint. The condition of the person being persecuted or harmed is laid at the foot of God – with the expectation that God will deliver and protect the one who cries to him in need.

Questions – Psalms 141-147

  1. Psalm 141 For what reason should we be asking God to keep us from making blunders and mistakes?
  2. 2. Psalm 142 Are we permitted to complain to God?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – Revelation 12:1-16:21

sat

 

Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. – Revelation 13:11 

Revelation 12:1-16:21 (13:11-18)

This fourth vision of the Apostle John had seven parts, three of which are covered in this text. The first vision-part is about a woman with a dragon. The second is about a beast coming out of the sea. The third is about a beast that comes out of the earth. Each of the seven visions of the Apostle John give us further and greater insight into the activity of God and men, God’s kingdom and the kingdoms of men, in this world up to the final day of judgment and the entrance of our fallen creation into the new and glorious creation. The woman who appears represents the church, God’s children, and the dragon, as Satan. His crown signifies the deity that he wants to be (and cannot be), his tail and horns his power. His intention was to destroy the woman. His war was not only with the church, but with God and His heavenly angelic host as well.

The Church on earth has only two weapons in their battle against evil, but they are powerful weapons: They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. (12:11) The next vision is of a beast coming out of the sea. The sea has always represented “anti-god” powers within the world, the “secular antichrist.” Similar to Daniel’s vision, the beast is given the power to blaspheme God and to make war with the saints, to even conquer them (although the conquest is only an earthly one, not an eternal one).

The beast of the earth was of a different character than the beast of the sea. He had horns like those of a lamb (resembling Christ). He was and is the “spiritual antichrist.” He had the power to deceive the inhabitants of the earth into giving worship to the first beast. And the first beast gave his power to the spiritual beast so that he could force his imprint, his doctrine, his deception, upon the hands and forehead of men. His mark? 666. This calls for wisdom. (13:18)

Questions – Revelation 12 – 16
  1. What is a vision?
  2. What was the purpose of God’s visions given to the Apostle John?
  3. What did the “woman’ represent in John’s vision?
  4. What is the eternal activity of the dragon towards the woman and how can you see this in your own time and life?
  5. What are the weapons of the woman against the dragon?
  6. What do horns represent?
  7. How many beasts are there in these visions?
  8. What do the beasts represent?
  9. What is the mark of the second beast
  10. What is necessary for us if we are to understand all this spiritual symbolism?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – 1 John 1:1-3

Fri

 

. . . but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus in not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
– 1 John 4:3

1 John 1:1-3 John vs. 13 (2 John vs. 1-13)

These letters of the Apostle John are very short, but they are letters warning of the encroachment of a new false teaching, a heresy, that would infect the church like cancer infects the body. Christians were to be wary of it and not lose their faith. Gnostics had a false understanding of good and evil. They denied the incarnation of Christ and misunderstood Law and Gospel. John proved from Jesus’ nature and person that Gnosticism was false and dangerous. The Gnostics did not believe that the suffering and death of Christ actually brought about our forgiveness. John said: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)

The Gnostics taught that the Christian life was not important, that the sinful nature was unredeemable. John said: This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (2:6) We are to love our brother, hate the world, beware of antichrists, do what is right. John understood that all Christians sin. But continuing in sin, when we know better, is dangerous and a sign of unbelief: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (3:8, 9) This victory over the world was not accomplished by human might and effort, but by faith in the Word of God: This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (5:4, 5) John also wanted to emphasize that Jesus was not just a person who was present in the world a long time ago. Jesus was and is still present with us—but how? This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood…anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. (5:6, 10) The verb “comes” is a “durative present” – meaning, still comes.

He is always present, even now, in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the following epistles John urges his believer-children to continue in their love and to watch out for false teachers, deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus coming into the world in the flesh. If someone comes and does not have all the doctrines of Christ, they are not to be given reception or welcome (fellowship). (II John 1:8-11) This principle of fellowship is further explained in III John.

1 – 3 John Questions:
  1. What heresy was the Apostle John warning against?
  2. Explain some of the basic beliefs of this heresy.
  3. What proofs does John say will mark or identify the Christian from those who only “claim” to be Christians?
  4. Do Christians, sincere Christians, stop sinning?
  5. How does Jesus come to us today?
  6. What responsibility do we Christians have towards those who try and have fellowship with us – when in fact they do not believe and teach the same things?
  7. Why?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – John 5:1-10:42

YOTB - John 5

 

 

The wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. – John 10:12b

John 5:1-10:42 (10:22-30)

Jesus healed a man by the pool of Bethesda. When He broke the laws of nature and spoke the healing Word, the paralyzed man believed Him and obtained the promise of His Word. This miracle was done on the Sabbath. The observance of the Sabbath was prescribed by the Law. But when Jesus healed, He showed not only that He was the One who gave the Law, but as He brought the lame man beyond the law of nature, so Jesus also had the power to bring us beyond the commands and demands and condemnations of the Law.

To encourage our hearts to believe in His power over Law and in the power of the Law over us to condemn us, Jesus said: I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (5:24) Once again, to prove His power over Law, Jesus broke through the laws of nature and fed five thousand people. He then called Himself the bread of life. The point: Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. (6:27) So with mouths of faith, we eat (trust and believe) these words: For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (6:40) It was and is faith in God’s Word that makes a person a child of God. Jesus demonstrated that when He forgave a sinful woman (John 8) and when He healed a man that had been born blind.

To shape all this into an easy picture that we can understand, Jesus tells us that we are like sheep cared for by a good and gracious Shepherd. To demonstrate His love for the sheep, Jesus predicted that He was about to lay down His life for them. From all over the world men would listen to the voice of this Shepherd and rest in the peace of knowing that nothing in all the world—not even beyond this world—would ever take His sheep away from Him.

Questions – John 5 – 10
  1. In what way did Jesus offend the Pharisees?
  2. What was Jesus proving by eliminating the effects of sickness?
  3. In what way can we say that sin operates in us like paralysis?
  4. What does it mean symbolically when we “eat” with “faith?”
  5. What are we supposed to eat?
  6. What proof does Jesus, our good Shepherd, give to us of His love for us?
  7. What promises are the sheep supposed to believe from the Shepherd?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – Acts 28:1-31

Wed

 

 

Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and . . . a viper driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. Acts 28:3

Acts 28:1-31 (28:1-10)

The Apostle Paul had been shipwrecked. Once ashore on the island off Malta it was necessary to be warmed. While going to get a pile of brush for the fire, the Apostle was suddenly bitten by a venomous snake. The local natives were sure that Paul was a condemned man. They believed in fate as justice.  When Paul did not die, they became convinced of just the opposite—that God’s blessings rested upon him. By using their own ways of thinking, God taught them something about the Gospel.

All Christians are guilty of sin and deserving of death. In Christ, however, the effects of death have been removed. Now, being baptized into Christ, we have become co-partakers with Him in eternal life. Since we do not experience the pains of death and have no need to fear death’s sting, we show to the world that God reckons us to be His children, heirs of the promised blessings. The Apostle Paul finally arrived in Rome. Though he wore a chain in his captivity, he had been granted the right to meet with Jewish leaders in Rome and present His case for Christianity.

Using the Old Testament (the Law of Moses and the Prophets), the Apostle proved Jesus to be the Christ in the light of sacred Scripture. Some believed, but not all. The Jews as a whole could not accept the Gospel—that salvation depended upon God’s mercy and not upon man’s righteousness under Law. They were offended when Paul pointed out that they were like their hard-hearted forefathers, who refused to repent and believe God’s Word and promises. It was also an affront to the Jews to hear that the Holy Spirit was to be given to Gentiles. That is what Paul did, boldly and without reservation, throughout the next two years of His captivity.

 

Questions – Acts 28
  1. Where was the Apostle Paul shipwrecked?
  2. What did the inhabitants consider to be a sign of Paul’s condemnation?
  3. How was this reversed?
  4. How does this illustrate the nature of sin and what Christ has done for us?
  5. Who met with the Apostle Paul upon his arrival at Rome?
  6. From what source of authority did Paul argue that Jesus was the Christ?
  7. What was the result of Paul’s persuasion?
  8. How long did Paul continue his preaching in Rome?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – Daniel 6:1-8:27

Daniel

 

I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. – Daniel 7:11

Daniel 6:1-8:27 (7:8-14)

The fact that God is the ruler of all kingdoms is made clear in the book of Daniel. His rule over the world takes place through kingdoms and men. He lifted kingdoms up and brought about their downfall. Although it appeared that men were in control, behind visual appearances was the Almighty hand of God accomplishing His purposes. In the midst of such intrigue, during the height of the Kingdom of Babylon, stood the servant of God, Daniel. Daniel had been exalted to one of the highest positions in the kingdom of Babylon. But according to Daniel’s own prediction, the kingdom of the Medes and Persians overtook Babylon and Daniel was raised to an even higher position.

With success, however, comes envy and rivalry. Daniel was a pious and God-fearing man. He prayed three times each day to God. His enemies sought to destroy him by using the law against him. They deceived the king as to their true intent (they wanted, out of jealously, to have Daniel killed). They asked that no man be permitted to pray to anyone or any god except the king himself. They attempted to use justice, the law, to accomplish injustice. (A sin of the 9th and 10th Commandments.) The laws of the Medes and Persians were absolute. They could not be revoked, not even by the king. For his prayers to God, Daniel was thrown to the lions, but God’s angel saved him from the lion’s jaws and he passed through his death-sentence into life the next morning. Thereafter the king visited Daniel’s enemies with the same punishment that they had intended for Daniel.

Daniel’s success not only symbolizes the blessings that God will give to His faithful children; it is also a messianic symbol of the victory that Christ has won for us. By means of the righteous law that the devil uses against us, accusing us for sin and driving us to fear God’s wrath and punishment. But when Christ came, like Daniel, He was guiltless under the law. When brought to death Christ passed through death. He rose victoriously over sin, death and the devil. These “enemies” of our God have now been destroyed. The war with sin and evil has always had a similar pattern. The evil intrigues of evil men against the righteous children of God return to them, while God’s children are redeemed and saved “the next morning” to the glory of God.

Daniel Questions – Daniel 6
  1. What does the book of Daniel tell us about God’s relationship to the events taking place in the world today?
  2. What was the Kingdom that conquered Babylon?
  3. What was unique about Persian-Mede law?
  4. What commandments prevent us from using legal means to accomplish immoral ends?
  5. In what way was Daniel’s experience similar to Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection?
  6. How is Daniel’s experience symbolic of the Christian life?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – Psalm 134 – 140

Mon

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. – Psalm 130:6

Psalm 134-140 (139)  

Psalm 134

Why is the “way” that we worship on earth so important? Well, there are two Jerusalems! One is above, the heavenly Jerusalem, often called “Zion” in the Bible. It is heaven. The other is an “earthly Jerusalem.” It is our congregational worship, an image of the Zion above telling us something about what is happening in heaven above. Our worship on earth is like a shadow, an image of a cloud high above on a bright summer day. So it is very important that God is properly praised on earth – so that we may see something of the perfect praise of God in heaven. Therefore, when the ministers of the house below faithfully praise God, the psalmist asks God to bless them from the heavenly Jerusalem above.

Psalm 135

What do we say when we praise God in our worship? God is not just an idea. He is a real, living Being who acts inside our daily lives. The people of Israel gave Him praise for His wonderful acts of redemption and kindness that He had done for them in their history: God had chosen their ancestor and His children to be His chosen possession (4); He delivered them from oppression in Egypt (8); He destroyed kings and nations when they rose up against them (10). The great difference between the God of Jacob and all other gods was that Jacob’s God was real and living, unlike the worthless idols of the nations. Their God rules the heavens and the earth on their behalf (6). So what should and can we praise God for in our worship?

Psalm 136

What part of our liturgy is reflected in the litany of this psalm? A litany is a form of praise that uses simple repetition to include all people in worship (even children) and to emphasize an important theme. The theme of Psalm 136: His love endures forever. The three elements of praise reflected in this psalm emphasize truths about God that are reflected in our own Apostles Creed: God is our creator; God is our redeemer; God is our sanctifier – that is, He is the God who preserves and protects us on our lifelong journey to heaven.

Psalm 137

Besides praise, what else do God’s children include in their worship of God? When Israel was taken away into captivity to Babylon, they lost their Holy Temple – and with it, the privilege and joy of worshipping God. That is why they wept in captivity, for they could not joyfully worship God as long as they were strangers in a foreign land and slaves to evil men. The worship of God is not only the praise of God. It can also include requests to God, “petitions”, that God would remember His children and redeem them from their enemies.

Psalm 138

What moves us to have the right “spirit” in worship? Remember that we have outward actions in worship – for instance, we fold our hands, stand for important parts of the liturgy (like the Gospel), sing hymns, etc. But these actions mean nothing unless our spirit, our heart, is also involved in worship. Certainly God does many great things for us for which we want to praise Him, but the greatest thing of all, something that only the real God does, is that He binds Himself to His Word. The Word of God is not only the true statements. His Word is full of promises that God makes, promises that He will never break – despite our own failing or sins. David, therefore, in this psalm, shows us what is behind the true spirit of worship. It is gratitude to God for His unfailing Word of promise. By relying upon God’s unfailing Word, David and all the lowly people of the earth like him, are preserved and delivered from all their troubles (7).

Psalm 139

This Psalm reminds us that God is everywhere, that there is no place that we can go where He cannot find us or come to us. The omnipresence of God also tells us that God is also present within us, that is, He knows our thoughts and actions, the very things that we do in private. And why not? He was present in our mother’s wombs making us into human beings. His thoughts and ways are beyond those of man who is limited by power and space. The person of faith knows that he can stand before God and invite Him to look into his heart. Where Christ is, there all sin is washed away.

Psalm 140

This Psalm reflects upon a problem that rises up time and time again in the lives of God’s people. God’s children are hated, so often without any cause or justification. Only God is capable of stopping gossip and slander, so this psalm directs the heart of the worshipper to rely upon God for protection and justice.
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – Revelation 4 – 11:19

 

Saturday

 

Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. – Revelation 5:8

An angel was sent from God to help the Apostle John testify to the world about Christ and about “what must soon take place.” John’s testimony came directly from Christ Jesus Himself, in His resurrected and glorified state. John received from Christ a series of exhortations to be delivered to the seven churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Each of the congregations was struggling with intrusions of false doctrine, with heresies and false prophets who were attempting to corrupt the pure doctrines and teachings of Christ. For each congregation, Christ gave both warning and encouragement, reminding them that perseverance and faithfulness would be richly rewarded. Beginning in Chapter 4, John receives permission to see into the future, to see what would happen in his own time and in the coming generations. He is given a scroll with writings on two sides (Law and Gospel), with seven seals (things that no man could know or understand or have the authority to determine). As each of the seals is broken, John receives a vision of the judgments of God upon the world, the unbelieving world that refuses to repent and worship the Lamb of God. In Chapter 7 John sees the Church of heaven and watches as they worship before the throne of God. They are singing the words of our liturgy. They are distinctly seen and known for who they are: These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (7:14) John is witnessing the totality of all saints as they worship God in the new creation. Contained within the event of the final seal being opened are seven trumpet blasts, each one bringing forth a judgment from God upon the earth. The trumpet blasts make clearer the things that God is doing in bringing the world into judgment, climaxing at the end of time. Finally, when the seventh trumpet sounds, the end of time comes and the Kingdom of the Messiah “begins”—that is, brings to an end the rule of sin and evil in the world.

Questions – Revelation 4

  1. Who was sent to John to help him testify to Christ?
  2. Who did John see when he entered into his vision?    
  3. What are the names of the cities where the seven churches were located? 
  4. What does the number 7 represent?
  5. Seven seals and seven trumpet blasts – what do they represent?

© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland



Year of the Bible – Acts 27:1-44

 

Friday

 

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost. – Acts 27:22

The Apostle Paul was about to be transported to Italy to stand trial before the Emperor. He was placed into the hands of a soldier in the Imperial Regiment. As the ship set sail, conditions on the seas determined a course that placed everyone at great danger. The ship was carrying 276 passengers along with a large quantity of goods. As the ship was attempting to pass by the south side of the island of Cyprus, it was struck by a “Northeaster”, a storm that drove it out into the deep and uncharted waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It was so fierce that the ship was expected to sink. The Apostle Paul, however, was able to bring comfort and consolation to the passengers and soldiers. Since God was protecting him for the sake of the Gospel that he was bringing to the world, so also were the passengers being protected by God as well. No one was lost, though the ship was destroyed.

Questions – Acts 27

  1. Why was the Apostle Paul being sent to Rome, Italy?
  2. If a prisoner had the potential to escape, what was the Roman soldier in charge supposed to do?
  3. Why was the Apostle Paul certain that he would not die in the storm?
  4. What were the benefits that the other passengers experienced because they were with the Apostle Paul?
 
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – John 3:22 – 4:54

 

John 3:22

 

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. – John 3:21

A leader of the people came to him by night (as though he were afraid and ashamed) and wanted Jesus to explain Himself. Jesus made it very clear that a true disciple of Christ would courageously step forward into the light and make his faith known before all men. Without that courage, flowing out of a rebirth of the heart, there could be no enlightenment. A true disciple would be baptized publicly, and in accepting the praise of God, would also willingly accept the scorn or rejection of men. Jesus declared emphatically: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (3:36)

The members of this new Messianic Kingdom are not necessarily the people one would expect. In John 4 a Samaritan woman met Jesus at a well. He delicately guided her into an understanding of who He was: First by revealing to her that He is aware of her sinful past; then by revealing to her that through faith in Him, she could obtain the gift of truly worshipping God—and thereby receive eternal life in His eternal Kingdom. Unlike the great leader of Israel, this sinful woman went and spoke of Jesus to everyone she knew, realizing that it would also expose her for her sinful life.

Where the healing of the soul exists, however, there is so much joy and happiness that the believer is not afraid of exposing personal sin. How does one get this great joy and forgiveness? Not just by exposing sin, but by believing God’s Word of pardon. The spoken work of Jesus forgiving sins is all that we need to have our sins forgiven before God.

To make that point, that believing Jesus is enough, even though we might not see His forgiveness or a miracle attached to it, Jesus tested an official who came to him to have his son healed. He wanted the official to trust in His Word, to believe by faith. He told him to go home because his son had already been healed. The man went trusting, believing, and his son lived. Not only did the man believe in Jesus as his savior from that very moment, so also did his entire family.

 
 Questions – John 3:22 – 4:54
  1. If a person is really seeking forgiveness of their sins from Jesus, will they remain a secret Christian?  
  2. What is God’s attitude towards the unbelieving world?
  3. What special kind of people does God accept as worshippers?
  4. What pain must always go along with forgiveness?    
  5. In what way did Jesus test the official to see if he had faith in His Word?
 

© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland



Year of the Bible – Daniel 3:1-5:30

Daniel 3:1

 

 

The Lord we serve is able to save us . . . and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. – Daniel 3:17

Only a remnant of people survived and went into captivity in Babylon (modern day Iraq). It was often the case that after a nation was destroyed, the nobility of the vanquished country would be deported and raised to learn (and love) the ways and customs of their conquering masters. The young Jewish nobles were deported to be schooled in the literature and learning of the Babylonians. Four of them rose to prominence. Each was given a new Babylonian name: Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar; Hananiah became Shadrach; Mishael became Meshach; Azariah became Abednego. These four were devout and faithful to their God, the God of Israel. For their uncompromisingly faithful service and integrity, God richly blessed them. In a series of stunning events throughout the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, the four Jewish wise men came to be elevated to the highest positions of authority in the land of Babylon.

The first major event began with a dream of Nebuchadnezzar. The King wanted the wise men of Babylon to tell him what he dreamt one night — without telling them the content of his dream first. In other words, to prove their wisdom, they had to tell him something that only he knew. As Joseph had done many years before in the land of Egypt, God used Daniel to interpret the dream of the king, so in gratitude and respect, Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel as his chief seer and wise man.

In a second test of faithfulness, the proud king decided to have an image of gold made of himself and to require that all his subjects bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as worshippers of God, refused, choosing death rather than to worship an image of the king. God used their faithfulness to prove that He could not only deliver His servants from the wrath of those who opposed their faith, but that in the process He could also convert the very king who was doing the persecuting. Each time, Nebuchadnezzar found himself praising the God of Israel as the true God of heaven and earth.

In a third test (chapter 4), Nebuchadnezzar has another dream. The dream revealed what God was going to do to humble Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian King had become the greatest and most powerful king of the entire civilized world. Daniel warned the king of the verdict of condemnation that stood against him, and prescribed a way for God’s judgment not to fall upon him and his people: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” (4:27) But the king did not listen and instead found himself in a state of insanity, out of which God later restored him, and through the humility that the king learned from God, he was able to become the greatest king in the world, the first in what was about to be a succession of kingdoms leading to the Messianic Kingdom. In the visions of Nebuchadnezzar, God pointed out the future kingdoms that were to come.

After the Babylonian kingdom would come the kingdom of the Persians and Medes. They would fall to the kingdom of Alexander the Great. After the Kingdom of the Greeks would come the Kingdom of the Romans, and out of the Roman Empire would come the Messianic Kingdom, a Kingdom that would be eternal. As Belshazzar succeeded his father, Nebuchadnezzar, he gave orders to have the gold and silver goblets, taken from the holy temple in Jerusalem, and he used them to drink and praise the pagan gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. As he spoke, a hand appeared and wrote an inscription upon the wall. Daniel was called to interpret the words. MENE TEKEL PERES. “Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” (5:26-28) That same night King Belshazzar was murdered and his kingdom was given over to Darius the Mede – either the regional ruler or the regional name of King Cyrus, liberator of the Jews.

 Questions – Daniel 3:1 – 5:30

  1. What did the Babylonians do for the young men of Israel taken into the service of the king?
  2. What do you see in the character of these young men that was so great?
  3. How did God demonstrate that He was with and protecting the three men who would not bow down to the idol?
  4. What lesson did Nebuchadnezzar have to learn from God?
  5. What kingdoms followed the Kingdom of the Babylonians?
  6. Explain the meaning of the words “Mene Tekel Peres.”

© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland



Year of the Bible – 2 Chronicles 34:1-36:23

Tuesday

 

 

The king stood . . . and renewed  the covenant in the presence of the Lord – to follow the Lord . . . with all his heart and soul. – 2 Chronicles 34:31

King Josiah was a most beloved king to the people of Israel. Not only does God’s Word commend him by saying: “He walked in the ways of his father David”, but it adds, “not turning aside to the right or to the left.” (34:2) Josiah kept his focus, sought to reform his nation and the true worship of Israel, and did not let himself be distracted from this high and noble cause.

One of the first things that Josiah did was to restore the temple building, the house of God, the place of divine worship. He collected funds from all the people, and with the money he hired skilled people to undertake renovation. While they were restoring the temple, something ancient and wondrous was discovered. They discovered—rediscovered—the “Book of the Law”, the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses. Amazingly, prior to this time, things had gotten so pagan, so careless and worldly, that God’s Word was no longer read, heard or studied, and the Bible was lost. Josiah immediately had it read to him.

As he heard it for the first time, he realized just how far astray the people of Israel had wandered from God’s commands. Overwhelmed with great sorrow at what had taken place, he ripped and shredded his clothing to demonstrate his repentance. He knew that he and the people of Israel were under the condemnation of the law and that God was very angry with His people for their neglect of God’s Word.

The king wanted to know the thoughts of God, so he sent for a prophetess, a woman named Huldah (34:22). She told Josiah that disaster was going to fall upon the Israelites, but that since Josiah was repentant, he would not experience this disaster in his lifetime. So Josiah had the Holy Scriptures read to all the people of Israel and they renewed their covenant with God. For the first time in many years, the king and all of Israel celebrated the Passover. Josiah and his officials, at their own expense, provided the entire nation with sheep and goats so that they could celebrate the Passover. Not since the time of Samuel the Prophet had Israel celebrated the Passover as they did that day. How wonderful that God’s people once again had a righteous king to rule over them!

Despite his great faithfulness, however, Josiah made a fatal mistake. The Pharaoh of Egypt brought his armies north to help the Assyrians do battle with the Babylonians at Carchemish. The rise of Babylon as a great power was due to God’s own plan and will, so God spoke through Pharaoh Neco to warn Josiah not to interfere with his battle plans. Josiah chose to side with Assyria—contrary to God’s will—and, in doing battle with Pharaoh Neco, lost his own life in battle. Jehoahaz, his son, became king, but within three months was deported by Neco to Egypt. He was replaced by his brother, whose name was changed by Neco to Jehoiakim. But Jehoiakim was attacked by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken into captivity into Babylon, and along with the king, Nebuchadnezzar also took the sacred articles of the temple. Jehoiachin was put on the throne, but deposed three months later. His uncle, Zedekiah, took his place, but he was an evil king and he did great evil in God’s sight, refusing to humble himself under the preaching of Jeremiah the Prophet.

With no righteous king to lead them, the priests and officials began to grow corrupt. God’s anger was aroused and the Babylonians finally came and destroyed Jerusalem once-and-for-all. A few people were taken into captivity and became servants of Nebuchadnezzar. The rest were killed, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down. All palaces were burned. The people went into captivity for seventy years, until the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia.

Questions – 2 Chronicles 34:1 – 36:23

  1. What words are used to emphasize the faithfulness of Josiah as he sought to reform both church and state?
  2. What did Josiah rebuild as the first act of reform?
  3. What was it that the priests discovered in their renovations?
  4. What was God going to do to His people because of their neglect of the Word of God and His commands?
  5. What special privilege did God give to Josiah because he was repentant?
  6. How did Josiah die?
  7. What foreign king destroyed Jerusalem?
  8. What king liberated the Jews living in captivity in Babylon?
 

© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland



Year of the Bible – Psalm 127-133

Psalm 127-133
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. – Psalm 130:6

 

Psalm 127
God’s blessings make small things into great things, small amounts into large quantities, small efforts into huge accomplishments. If God does not bless our work, small things remain small and eventually disappear. From this psalm we can identify some of the many blessings that God showers down upon us in daily life – things for which He deserves our thanks. What are the ones described in this psalm?

 
Psalm 128
Unbelievers often try to make us feel that we will not experience happiness or prosperity if we remain faithful to God. We may not become instantaneously famous. We may not become ridiculously rich, but God does make His children famous and rich in different ways, ways that are reflected in this psalm. Can you list them?

 

Psalm 132
Prior to the time of King David, Jerusalem did not have a temple. The ancient tabernacle (a portable tent) was some 500 years old when David began to rule and it was not located in the city of Jerusalem. Why did David desire to have the Tabernacle in Jerusalem? The reasons are reflected in this psalm: a. Because God would dwell in it (7-8); b. Because God’s presence would guarantee the protection and prosperity of the Israelites (15, 18); c. Because these protected and prosperous people would one day have an eternal King to rule over them (God promised David that there would always be one of his descendants upon the throne of Israel – which came to be fulfilled in Jesus 11); d. Because through the Messiah, eternal life and salvation would come to God’s people (16).

 

Psalm 133 
What pleases God? It can be very painful when people share the same faith and Savior and yet become contentious and bitter towards each other. The servant of God is what he is, not because he is better than any other, but because God has chosen him, set him apart, and given him the Holy Spirit that he might serve as a faithful servant of God. This psalm uses the vivid image of Aaron (the High Priest and brother of Moses) being anointed with oil (Oil representing the Holy Spirit). Some had become jealous of Aaron and Moses and this angered God. God does not show favoritism, but he does choose some people to carry out His holy work of ministry. What pleases God, therefore, is the people of God living in peace and unity as they receive God’s gifts – without contention or jealousy.

 

Questions – Psalm 127-133 

  1. What do you want out of marriage?
  2. What are the qualities of a good spouse?
  3. What do you need to have before you get married?
  4. What is the end-goal of marriage?
  5. What serves to be the foundation of trust in a marriage?
  6. What do you want your children to experience between themselves, above all other things?
  7. What does God have to do with you giving your children an inheritance?
  8. Why do parents want their children to respect them?
 
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland