Psalm 42

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (v5).  Even in the middle of turmoil and sadness, the psalmist declared, by faith, that God was his salvation.  He remembered what it felt like to praise God with “glad shouts” and a cheerful heart (v4), and he believed that God was still with him, despite his current experience of grief (v3).

“At night his song is with me” (v8).  Darkness and sorrow can’t shut out God; He still gives us songs of faith, and He comes to help us.

Proverbs 9

“Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight" (v6).  The proverbs teach young people to build their lives on a foundation of righteousness, yet they also call people at all stages of life to turn away from sin and choose God’s path.  Those who are hard-hearted won’t listen, but others will hear God’s voice and change their ways (v8).  At any stage, fearing God is the beginning of a life-long, better journey (v10-11).

“If you are wise, you are wise for yourself” (v12).  God calls us to follow His ways – wisdom – even when those around us are living differently.  We are responsible for our own choices.

Deuteronomy 31

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (v6,8).  Moses said these words to Joshua, Israel’s new leader, “in the sight of all Israel” (v7), because both Joshua and the people needed encouragement.  Moses was about to die, and Joshua was God’s chosen new leader, yet the people needed to put their trust in God before allowing Joshua to lead them.  

“It is the Lord who goes before you” (v6).  When we believe God Himself walks with us, fights our battles, and is our real King, we have the confidence to follow the leaders He gives us.

Deuteronomy 29-30

“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (30:6).  God wanted the Israelites to obey His commands and have prosperous lives, yet His ultimate desire was that their hearts would change.  He knew that, because they were human, their sins would cause disaster, but He promised to have “compassion on them” and give them a new future (30:3).

“Therefore, choose life …loving the Lord you God, obeying His voice” (30:19).  God’s desire for us is that we will choose Him, because He is our life and our good future.

Deuteronomy 28

“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field…” (v3).  God’s first covenant with Israel said that He chose them as His people and rescued them from Egypt, and if they would obey His voice, their lives would be full of blessing.  If they disobeyed, terrible consequences would follow – “afflictions severe and lasting” (v59).  Israel was supposed to demonstrate God’s reality to the world and shine the light of His goodness to others.

“And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity” (v11).  Serving God does not mean that our lives are trouble-free, but the truth is that walking with Him leads to real prosperity: peace, satisfaction, and joy worth far more than gold.   

John 11:45-57

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (v48). The religious leaders were not pleased that Jesus had done such a radical, wonderful sign as raising Lazarus from the dead.  They knew that Jesus’ power and authority threatened the status quo, including their own position and wealth.  Caiaphas’ prophecy that Jesus would “die for the people” did not change their attack on him (v57).

“What are we to do?” (v47).  Sooner or later, we all face the same question: how do we respond to Jesus’ power and authority?  He came to change everything.

John 11:1-44

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v5).  At the beginning of the well-known story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, John adds this significant detail.  Jesus loved these people.  He had a plan for good that included them and all those who would hear their testimony (v3-11).  Yet Jesus grieved as they went through their tragic experience (v35), because he shares our sorrows, though he sees the eternal perspective.

“See how he loved him!” (v36).  God has power to redeem difficult situations, and we can trust that He will, because He loves us.

Psalm 41

As for me, I said, "O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!" (v4).  The psalmist was suffering from a catastrophe; he was spiritually and physically weak, and his enemies were rejoicing.  They said that “a deadly thing” was poured out on him, and they “imagined the worst” (v7-8).  The psalmist called out to God for healing, not because he was entitled to it (he was at fault, v4), but because he knew God was merciful.

“By this I know that you delight in me …” (v11).  Even when we have caused our own troubles, God hears us when we humbly call on Him; He delights in us because we are His.

Deuteronomy 27:11-26

“Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image …” (v15).  As part of their covenant renewal ritual, the Israelites declared verbally what actions deserved to be “cursed” because they were contrary to life under God’s rule.  Setting up a false idol, dishonoring parents, abusing the disabled, oppressing foreigners, the fatherless, or widows, sexual immorality, and murder were all behaviors deserving of God’s punishment (v15-26).

“Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (v26).  We “confirm” what we believe by doing what we know God wants, and He turns away from sin and toward righteousness for our good. 

Deuteronomy 27:1-10

“And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones …” (v2).  As the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were supposed to renew the terms of their covenant with God.  God had saved them out of Egypt and given them the Law in the desert; now the time had come to live out God’s commands in their new home.  In order to thrive, they were reminded to keep “the whole commandment” (v1).

“And there you shall build an altar” (v5).  As with the Israelites, worship and obedience to the Lord form a solid foundation for how we build our lives.

Deuteronomy 25-26

“And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm … gave us a land flowing with milk and honey” (26:8-9).  During the very first harvest of the Israelites in their new land (26:1-4), each person was supposed to bring some of their produce to the “place of worship” while reciting the history of how God had rescued them.  This thanksgiving offering was used for the Levites (priestly tribe), foreigners, the fatherless, and widows (26:13).

“And you shall rejoice in all the good” that God has given you (26:11).  God’s goodness to us deserves celebration, and part of that celebration includes providing for others in His name. 

Deuteronomy 24

“You shall give him his wages on the same day” (v15). The laws of Deuteronomy tried to limit harm, promote justice, and protect the vulnerable in a sinful world. Divorce was regulated to protect women (v1-4), and those with the means to hire others were told to be sensitive to their precarious situation and pay them promptly.  Also, instead of claiming everything that was “rightfully” theirs, land owners were to leave some harvest for the poor and foreigners (v19-22). 

“You shall remember …” (v22).  The basis for our merciful of treatment of others is remembering that God has been overwhelming merciful to us.

John 10:19-42

"I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" (v32).  Some people tolerated Jesus’ good works but were infuriated with his claim to be one with the Father (v30,33).  They recognized that his words about being “the good shepherd” and “the door” were claims of unique authority and a call for people to respond with their whole hearts.   “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (v27).

“And many believed in him there” (v42).  “Believing” in Jesus is more than a mental idea; it is when we hear the Shepherd’s voice and answer his call.

John 10:1-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v11).  Jesus called people to follow him not just because it is right, but because he is good.  He explained that false paths and false gods only desire to “kill, steal, and destroy” us (v10), but he comes to bring us abundant life.  He is not just the victorious King and Judge but also the shepherd who loves us enough to die for us.

“If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (v9).  Jesus calls us to trust him, follow him, and obey him, so that we will “find pasture”: satisfying, joyful life.

Psalm 40

“I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation” (v10).  The psalmist knew that one way to thank God for His deliverance was to spread the great news to others.  So, he told the story of what God had done for him: “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (v2).  His testimony glorified God and encouraged others (v3).

“Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (v3).  We are God’s witnesses to one another and the world, as we tell the truth about His great love.

Deuteronomy 23

"No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD … (v3).  Israelite society was very concerned with boundaries between “clean” and “unclean” to teach people about God’s holiness.  God’s house (the assembly) had to be protected against the pollution of sin, including groups that represented rebellion (Moabites).  Then Jesus came, bringing forgiveness and purification with him, so that the lame, the blind, women and men, foreigners, and sinners of every kind, could “enter the assembly” of God by faith in him. 

“Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp …” (v14).  Jesus came among us not to condemn us, but to forgive and cleanse us, so that we can walk with God in holines

Deuteronomy 22

“You may not ignore it” (v3).  The laws for life in ancient Israel went beyond punishment for crimes; they also instructed people to look out for one another’s interests.  In the communal, family-centered world, individuals were instructed to take care of wandering livestock and make sure they were returned to their owners (v1-4).  No one was permitted to “ignore” the potential harm to someone else.  The law also tried to impose some sort of rough criteria for dealing with adultery and accusations of rape.

“That it may go well with you” (v22).  It will only go well with us individually if we also seek the welfare of those around us. 

Deuteronomy 21

“Accept atonement, O LORD, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed” (v8).  The Mosaic Law acknowledged that in some murder cases, the truth was unknowable.  Then it was the responsibility for elders and priests to acknowledge the crime and make an atonement sacrifice to God.  The Mosaic Law also tried to protect the rights of war brides and other women (v13,15) so that the vulnerable would not be exploited.  In all cases, the priests made regular “atonement” for the nation, because sin was always present.

“When you do what is right in the sight of the Lord …” (v9).  Even in our imperfect societies, as far as it lies with us, God calls us to “do what is right.”

Deuteronomy 20

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and see … an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them” (v1).  The Israelites went to war in order to conquer Canaan, and yet they were instructed to always remember that it the real battle was God’s.  They didn’t need to fear, despite their inferiority, as long as they were careful to trust and obey God in their all their methods, resisting the temptation to be just like their neighbors (v10-20).

“For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you” (v4).  We can never do battle as the world does; we have different values and a different King.

John 9:13-41

"For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (v39).  Jesus came to make reality clear to us, to make a verdict (judgment) about sin and righteousness, truth and lies.  The religious leaders had the reputation for righteousness, but as they harassed the man who was healed, it became clear that they were anti-god, more concerned with control and power than Life (v34).  The healed man, however, risked the consequences and declared “Lord, I believe” (v22, 34, 38).

 “If you were blind, you would have no guilt …” (v41).  When we admit our own failures and blindness, our guilt is washed away, and we can see clearly.