First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @



The First Church

Acts 2:41-47 NRSV

The first report of a formed church (v. 47), 3000 in Jerusalem, had baptisms (v. 41), preaching, fellowship, communion, prayers (v. 42), apparent miracles (v. 43), and gladness in their lives (v. 46). All of these in conjunction with their common beliefs or faith (v. 44). Our FPJ experiences are much the same.

Their sharing of private resources (vv. 44-46, cp. Rom. 12:12-13) was done out of necessity. Their needs were very apparent to Paul (Rom. 15:25-26, 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15).

Christianity is about beliefs. It is also about its practice, putting to life what one believes.

Sinai: The Laws Are Given

Exodus 19

Review & Remarks: This chapter begins the covenant between YHWH, the superior, and Israel, the inferior (Ex. 19-24) … YHWH issues orders, Israel promises to comply … Both promise loyalty … Because of this agreement, Israel becomes “God’s chosen people” … The precise location of Mount Sinai is unknown (vv. 1-2), possibly Jebel Musa pictured above … YHWH reminds Moses of Israel’s enslaved Egyptian past – how they have gotten to this point (vv. 3-4) … This Mosaic Covenant is specifically addressed to Israel, to which they totally agree with no reservations (vv. 5-8) … Israel was afforded the freedom not to accept (v. 5) … From this example, one might infer God to some degree accepts corporate or individual liberty for or against Himself … YHWH will manifest on Sinai to Moses in a ceremony (v. 9) … For this, Israel is to prepare their hearts, wash themselves and their clothes, and steer clear of Sinai until the sound of trumpeting is heard (vv. 9-13) … After three days of thick clouds, thunder, lightening, smoke, fire, and earthquakes from and on Sinai, a blast of trumpets is sounded (vv. 14-19) … Moses meets YHWH on top of Mount Sinai (v. 20), telling him to warn the priests and any from Israel not to ascend the mountain (vv. 21-22) … Moses’ reply is “they won’t” (v. 23) … Aaron is to accompany Moses, no priests or anyone else, on their next ascent to the summit of Sinai … The overall tone here is one of respect and reverence towards YHWH and His temporal enclave atop Sinai … One’s approach towards YHWH is on His terms, not one’s own … How could the created approach to the Creator be otherwise?

Elihu Speaks

Job 36-37

Review & Remarks: There are many correct interpretations of the Book of Job, one is not necessarily better than another … Including this one … It is not terribly surprising to find humans complaining to God regarding His justice … Even today … Job’s associates – Zophar, Eliphaz, Bildad & Elihu are simply speculating on the “why?” of Job’s problems … Broadly speaking, sin and suffering are related to one another, but not always … Real world answers to “why?” something happens are rarely straightforward or simple … Unlike glass breaking when it strikes a cement floor … Life can be puzzling (cp. Gen. 18:22-33, Psalm 37, 73, Jer. 12).

This book may be, in part, a transcription of conversations that took place between Job and his associates … I have purposely avoided using the word “friends” because their goal seems more to renounce rather than remedy … This reading (Job 36-37) is Elihu’s commentary on what he has heard … Elihu seems to be a “know it all.”

Elihu’s knowledge is perfect (36:1-4) … God is fair to all, understands all, and attempts to instruct all (36:5-10) … Obedience is related to prosperity (36:11-13), hypocrisy to judgement (36:14-18) … Wealth is not an “end all” (36:19-21) … God instructs by way of power, creation, clouds, rain, thunder, lightening, and food. All are His (36:22-33) … Ancients believed a great deal of God’s revelation was to be found in His creation … Elihu continues is his amazement towards the elements – thunder, lightening, snow, cold winds, and ice (37:1-13) … According to “climate change,” mankind bears some responsibility for these … What are you going to personally do to prevent or at least minimize the next snowstorm? … I, for one, have tired of shoveling! … Job, are you sensitive to your environment (37:14-20)? … To fully appreciate the Almighty is impossible for humankind (37:21-24), that is the finite attempting to comprehend the infinite … It it were possible, what would be the value of the faith of the finite?

The Defeat of Og King of Bashan

Deuteronomy 3

Review & Remarks: In the battle of Edrei, Israel under the guidance of the LORD, defeats Og and the peoples of Bashan (vv. 1-3) … 60 cities were sacked, their military forces destroyed, and the spoils (booty) of these conflicts – livestock, valuables, etc. were taken by Israel (vv. 4-10) … Og was said to be the last of the giants with his bed dimensions of cast iron bed (for strength?) 9 cubits long x 4 cubits wide or 13-1/2′ long x 6 ‘ wide (1 cubit = 18″).

Regarding “giants” of the OT, they are mentioned often (Gen. 6:4, Num. 13:32, Deut. 2:10-11, 20-21, 9:2) … David’s rival Goliath (1 Sam. 17:4-7) measured 9′ tall, wearing a 125 lb. bronze coat, and wealed an iron spearhead that weighed 15 lb. alone … Also mentioned are Philistine giants (2 Sam. 21:15-22, cp. 1 Chron 20:4-8) and a possible Egyptian giant (1 Chron. 11:23, cp. 2 Sam. 23:21) … Added to these examples are the giants of Greek Mythology according to Hesiod’s Theogony … Their explanation, according to Ovid and Apollodorus, is in a battle between the gods and giants/titans, Gigantomachy, the losing giants punishment was to remain in and beneath the earth while the victorious gods lifted to the heavens … It would be easy to dismiss all talk of giants if there were only a couple of references … We have a preponderance of evidence.

The Land of Bashan, due east of the Dead or Salt Sea, was given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh (vv. 11-17) … The LORD had made provisions to give Israel said land. Even so, it was still up to Israel’s army to capture and secure it, to make it safe before women, children, livestock, etc. could move inhabit it (vv. 18-20) … These conquests were completed, in part, to convince Joshua that the LORD Himself is fighting on his and Israel’s behalf (vv. 21-22) … Moses enters a plea with YHWH to allow him to cross the Jordan River in the final conquest of Canaan (vv. 23-25) … YHWH angrily denies said request because of His anger against Israel – their sins and Moses’ also (v. 26, cf. Deut. 32:51, Num. 20:12) … Moses is advised to climb to a high place and view the promised land, west of the Jordan, whose conquest will be led by Joshua (vv. 27-29).

It’s Complicated

Genesis 16

Review & Remarks: Since Abram is a wealthy man, old in years, and without a bloodline heir, his wife Sarai, who is barren up unto this point offers her Egyptian maidservant Hagar to him to conceive a child (vv. 1-3) … And so it goes, Hagar gets pregnant and a natural animosity is born between Sarai and Hagar (v. 4) … Sarai confesses her wrong to to Abram in conceiving, both in plan and execution. (v. 5) … Sarai deals “harshly” with Hagar, sending her away (v. 6) … At that time, childbearing was the mark of a successful woman, one favored by the LORD … In her estrangement, an Angel of the Lord meets Hagar telling her to obediently return to Abram’s estate. She will bear a son, Ishmael, whose descendents will be innumerable (vv. 7-11) … Ishmael’s disposition is wild, not the peaceful sort (v. 12) … Ishmael is the Arabs forefather, those “ites” in the OT … Hagar encounters God at a water well between Kadesh and Bered (vv. 13-14) … At the age of 88, Abram becomes a father, Hagar bears him a son, Ishmael (vv. 15-16) … Later (Gen. 21:9-21), after the birth of Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael are cast out for good … This is the start of our present day peace difficulties in the Middle East … Muhammad, founder of Islam, says the Arabs are favored. His claim is based on Ishmael as the first born heir to YHWH’s covenant with Abram (Gen. 12:1-3, 14-18, 15:1-6) … This saga seems strange to us looking at it around 4000 years later. However, it closely follows the precepts of the Code of Hammurabi, the conduct/law code of Mesopotamia, the homeland of Abram (Gen. 11:27-28) … Judaism/Christianity also claims the heir’s of Abraham through the birth of Isaac (Gen. 21:1-8), claiming his birth legitimate and Ishmael’s birth illegitimate … The viewpoint of each is easily understood… Sarai’s scheme has begot complications … God has used these descendents of Ishmael to discipline Israel up to the present hour … Some of their encounters have been God endorsed, many sections of the OT says as much. Others, based simply on their hatred of Jews, are not endorsed by God … Knowing exactly where the LORD’s will ends and human-kinds will begins is not easily discerned, at least by me … We’re left wondering, was there a better way? … In the fallen world in which we reside, possibly there was/is not a better way. It seems the plan of YHWH to create diversity among human kind … He certainly was/is perfectly capable of creating a human species completely devoid of diversity – all the same color and race, yet He did not … The rest, given our will is free, should always be a response to make the best of it … To this entrusted responsibility, well, you decide?!

A Lament of David

Psalm 69

Review & Remarks: David is “up to his neck” in troubles metaphorically – water, mire, and floods (vv. 1-2) … Sobbing, dry throat, failing eyesight are his in waiting for God’s response (v. 3) … He is despised by many (v. 4, cp. Jn. 15:25) … Lord, you know me (vv. 5-6) … Because of my public relationship with You – fasting , sackcloth clothing, I am song for Jerusalem’s drunks (vv. 7-12, cp Jn. 2:17, Rom. 15:3) … I want out (vv. 13-15) … Deal me out!… LORD, listen to me, I have nowhere else to turn (vv. 16-18) … LORD, you’re witness to it all (v. 19), they are treating me horribly (vv. 20-21, cp. Matt. 27:34, 48) … Punish them, consistent with Your righteousness (vv. 22-28, Acts 1:15-20) … To summarize, David expresses God will eventually hear his concerns, and pleas and respond (vv. 29-33) … God will do His part in rebuilding Judah, into making it habitable for generations to come (vv. 34-36) … This is a similar vein to Isaiah 53, something I blogged on for Christmas Day, the Suffering Servant … A reference in my Bible associates Paul’s Rom. 11:9-10 with verses 22-23 … This psalm is classified Imprecatory as it calls for divine vengeance to befall the”enemies” of the writer … Imprecatory calls or prayers have been thought to be inappropriate for Christians to apply … Nevertheless, quite a bit of this psalm is quoted in the New Testament, including from Jesus as indicated above … Make up your own mind in this New Year … For what it’s worth, “making up my mind,” freely, on any matter that matters is not easy, as it comes with responsibility.

Spiritual Wisdom

Proverbs 3

Review & Remarks: A covenant exists between those whose heart and life has been changed by the Word of God. It gives life to peace, mercy, and truth. Not only is the Word to be remembered, it is kept before the eyes so it cannot be forgotten (vv. 1-4) … Trusting in God is an admission of one’s incomplete knowledge (v. 5) … One who has been humble in their own self-assessment can more easily be YHWH guided (v. 6) … A wisdom driven life denounces self-sufficiency, evil, and fears the LORD, resulting in strong bones and healthy flesh (vv. 7-8) … There’s little doubt Western Civilization has had more fear of the LORD than she currently does … Humanism, that of mankind being the center of earthly life – including the control of weather and climate, has played a part … Certainly, His capabilities have not diminished … The LORD blesses life, with beginning it. Part of blessing is correction. The LORD’s chastisement is to help one grow in wisdom (vv. 9-12) … Wisdom and understanding are to be prized as the most precious of anything, simply nothing compares to them. All that is good is based on understanding and wisdom (vv. 13-20) … We have an invitation to enjoin the LORD in His wisdom (vv. 21-26) … Finally, instructions and good advise are penned on how to be at peace with each other and coincidentally in communion with the LORD (vv. 27-30).

The Greatness of Christ

Isaiah 53

Review & Remarks: This section of Isaiah (Isa. 40-56) deals with Israel in exile, due in large measure to their committed sins towards God and one another … This recurring history exists outside of Israel too, both on corporate and individual levels … These exile episodes recur until said sin issues are dealt with, once and for all … To address these sins, God calls out a Servant (v. 11) … This Servant is of lowly status and appearance (vv. 1, 2), one hated and cast aside (v. 3), one acquainted with sadness and difficulties (v. 4) … This is not someone to whom people are drawn to … This despised Servant, seemingly rejected by God, bears our wrongs (v. 5) … On Him, the LORD has laid all the ugliness of our sins (v. 6) … To this, He accepts His death fate silently, without a hint of protest or revolt (vv. 7-9) … Subsequently, God approves, willing this suffering to the Servant (v. 10) … The chapter concludes by summarizing the successful mission of the Servant, that of taking the “sins of many” and interceding for them all (vv. 11-12) … This passage seems more fit for Lent rather than Christmas Day, yet it is what the liturgy has planned for us on this day … It must be that this was the plan for Jesus’ death. Hence the main, but certainly not only, reason for His life … The first day of which is Christmas Day … Merry Christmas!

Mary Visits Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56

Review & Remarks: Mary pays her cousin Elizabeth a visit in Judah (vv. 39-40) … When Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, John leaps in her womb, the Holy Spirit fills her (v. 41) … This is an example of Spirit knowing Spirit … It may explain the feeling we Christians have when we see and visit with one another, that of felicity … I personally do miss the felicity I’ve experienced visiting with folk at FPJ during this COVID-19 interruption … Elizabeth expresses wonder for their situation, and gladness in accepting what the Lord has and is doing to and for them (vv. 42-45) … The experience these woman share, that of carrying a child is something I’ll never know … Nor do I care to, actually! … Mary responds with her “Magnificat,” her sayings echo those of Hannah who gave birth to the OT prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 2:1-10) … Expressed is the LORD’s remembrance of the poor and downtrodden to save them, how he has raised the lowly and lowered the proud, sending the rich away empty (vv. 46-53) … He has remembered Israel through His mercy (v. 54) … He has remembered and fulfilled His promises to Abraham (v. 55, cp. Gen. 13:14-18, 15:1-6, 17:6-8, 15-19) … Afterwards, Mary stays with Elizabeth, in the residence of Zacharius for around three months (v. 56) … No doubt some of this time was spent in chitchats only women would appreciate.

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