Scripture reading for January 24th: Genesis 43-44, Galatians 1, Psalm 24
Key Scriptures: Genesis 43:29-31 “And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.”
Galatians 1:3-5 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
God had brought Benjamin, along with his brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery, to Egypt during the seven years of famine. When Joseph saw Benjamin for the first time, he was overcome with compassion and had to withdraw and weep at God’s grace. After composing himself, he was able to serve food to his brothers in the time of famine. How like Jesus Christ, our Brother, who God sent before us sinners, to serve us living bread through His tears of compassion, shed on the cross and in the Garden. Hallelujah!
Faith Confession and prayer: Amazing Lord and Father, I stand in awe of Your great compassion for Your brothers and sisters. How through Your great compassion and weeping, You give us living Bread that feeds us for eternity! Fill me with Your compassion for lost brothers!
Scripture reading for April 26th: John 16, Psalm 84, Proverbs 22
Key Scriptures: John 16:20-22 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.”
Jesus plainly told the disciples that they would experience a time of great anguish and sorrow as He was crucified and died. He likened it to a woman at the time of giving birth. He told them that the world would rejoice as they were in anguish. But that sorrow was not the end, they would see Him again and then they would have joy that no one could ever take away
Faith confession: Thank You Lord for the comfort of Your word! Even the times of sorrow that we have here while the world rejoices will soon be turned around. No one can take my joy away!
Psalm 84:5-7 “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing Your praise! As they go through the Valley of Baca (tears), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”
Scripture reading for May 8th: Ezra 8-10, Nehemiah 1-2
Key Scriptures: Nehemiah 1:3-4 “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I (Nehemiah) heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah was a servant (cup-bearer) to the king of Persia. He heard a report from Jerusalem that the rebuilding of the city and its walls had stopped and the people there were demoralized and in trouble. This caused him to weep and fast before the Lord. He repented of sin and confessed wickedness. He poured out his heart in prayer and opened his life for God’s purposes.
Thankful for men who weep: Jesus Christ, too, wept, over Jerusalem and then offered Himself as the One who would give His life to save His people! “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)
Scripture reading for February 1st: Matthew 22
Key Scriptures for over-comers: Matthew 22:11-14 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.””
Towards the very end of His earthly ministry, Jesus told this parable about a wedding for the king’s son and a guest who came without a proper wedding garment. The man was confronted by the king, and he was without excuse and speechless. The king had him thrown outside, bound hand and foot. Jesus concluded the parable with “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This parable speaks to us today about our need to respond properly to the invitation to the wedding feast of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ! We need to accept the wedding garment of His righteousness to be properly clothed and say ‘yes’ to the King’s invitation through His ambassadors, the ‘Church!’ Those who come thinking they are good just as they are will be in for a rude surprise! The only ‘clothes’ come by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! (Ephesians 2:8-9) All are invited to this wedding banquet, but few will chose to come properly dressed!
Observations for over-comers: Over-comers will wear garments of Christ’s righteousness and be watching for the Bridegroom’s return! Some will be surprised and left out! “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) “I will clothe her priests with salvation and her saints will ever sing for joy.” (Psalm 132:16)
Scripture reading for May 4th: Ezra 1-3
Ezra was a priest who God raised up to lead in the restoration of spiritual worship in a rebuilt temple. This book records the return of God’s people to rebuild the temple after the seventy years of captivity. God’s promise of a return became a reality under Cyrus, king of Persia. As we look into this window of the history of God’s people we can get a glimpse of the Lord’s temple building in our own day!
Cyrus, king of Persia, was called by God to send His people back to rebuild their temple. The decree of Cyrus is recorded in Scripture as a record of God’s faithfulness to His promises and people. Cyrus knew God as the “God of heaven.” (Ezra 1:2-4) He also knew that he was appointed by this God to rebuild the temple. He asked for willing volunteers and givers to supply the needs for this temple. God wants people who will act by faith and freely surrender! Cyrus, himself, surrendered 5400 articles of gold and silver taken originally from the house of God to Babylon. (Ezra 1:11)
Scripture records that nearly 50,000 people volunteered to be in the rebuilding party. The priests Jeshua and Zerubbabel led the people in restoring the altar and offering sacrifices. They celebrated the feast of Tabernacles as prescribed in the Law of God. The people were filled with generosity and gave freewill offerings to the Lord.
The next step was to lay the foundation stone of the temple. The priests were all properly chosen and dressed for this joyous occasion. Trumpets were blown and cymbals crashed as the people sang with thanksgiving to the Lord: “He is good; His love to Israel endures forever!” Ezra 3:11 The people shouted and praised the Lord. However, some who were older and remembered the former temple wept aloud. There were mixed emotions on this special day!
As we contemplate this scene, we remember the building of the “new temple” of God, the church. Jesus was the chief cornerstone! (Ephesians 2:20) It would be built by those who would freely give themselves to God for His work. It would be built by freewill offerings in response to Christ’s great love! As the foundation is laid, some who are looking to the past weep. Others rejoice at what the Lord is doing today! The work goes on with mixed emotions!
Scripture reading for May 12th: Nehemiah 8:2-10:39
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
After rebuilding the walls, Ezra and Nehemiah had a great church service. They brought out the book of the Law of Moses and began reading it to all who had gathered inside the walls near a high wooden platform built for this sacred occasion. Ezra the priest mounted the platform and those who would help with translation stood with him. When he opened the Book, all the people stood in reverence. (Nehemiah 8:4-5) Ezra praised the Lord and the people responded with “Amen! Amen!” and bowed in worship. As the word was read, the teachers instructed the people and made the meaning clear to them. The people began to understand what God had said and how they had failed to follow God’s word. This triggered emotions and conviction in the people and many began to weep and mourn.
Why did Nehemiah tell the people not to grieve and weep before the Lord? I thought that repentance was needed and that God would be pleased to see them with broken hearts for their sins. Godly sorrow that leads to true change is commended in Scripture. (2nd Corinthians 7:8-11) Nehemiah actually sent the people away to enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and share with those who didn’t have any. He told them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength! (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
Joy always follows true understanding of the grace and mercy of God. Joy is the result of God’s mercy being revealed to us as a gift to be received by faith. As the people understood God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness for them, they could celebrate as people who were forgiven. The Book of the Law revealed this mercy and love of God. They could celebrate it’s restoration to their lives and to the lives of their children.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God. (Galatians 5:22) New Testament believers can enjoy the Lord’s promise of joy as a fruit of abiding in Him and His word abiding in us. When we understand God’s word and promises, the joy of the Lord becomes our strength! The Holy Spirit comes into us upon our conversion and marks us internally. We have God’s law written on our hearts and the Spirit gives us understanding of God’s word. We can have this same joy for our strength, too! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13