October 17, 2014

My gleanings—the ‘mini devotional’


In my post, Some Bible Reading Pointers, I suggested a multi-genre way of reading the Bible, including some tips for getting the most out of it. One of those ideas was to take what you’ve read and connect-the-dots to formulate a ‘mini-devotional’.  This is easier said than done.  While in my mind I can see beautiful glints that form patterns, much like in a child’s kaleidoscope, it is not simple to put them in words.  The marvel of Bible reading is that the Spirit breathes life into the words and helps us make sense of it and see the glory of God woven through it.  This is not easily put in print.  However, it’s worth a try in hopes that you will be inspired to do the same (  :  So here are my gleanings for your consideration. 

This will not be a polished ‘devotional’, just some snippets from my October 15th reading.

Right now I’m reading in the books of Leviticus, II Kings, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Hosea, Matthew and Romans as per the Grand Tour of Redemption Bible reading idea I explained in the JUST READ IT tab (at the top of my home page), and referred to in this post. 

Note: This is really not an overwhelming amount of reading.  Just one chapter from each of these books took me 36 minutes, including the time it took to jot down some thoughts from each.  [And no, I don’t usually time myself!  I was just curious how much time was passing; I avoided rushing.  I like to ‘chew’ a little and go back and forth a bit comparing passages…and still it was just over half an hour.  So yes, this is quite doable time-wise even for a busier person than I!]

Anyway, here’s what I found:

Leviticus 24—It’s important to keep the lamps burning in the tabernacle, and to keep the bread of offering fresh and present on the table. 
Cursing ‘the Name’ was punishable by stoning. 
Laying on of hands was actually a form of testimony against the guilty—yes, this is the one; I heard him curse. (Now that’s interesting; (how) does this relate to the purpose of laying on of hands in the New Testament?)
And lastly, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ is presented as the just way of dealing with sin against one’s fellow man.  Yikes.

II Kings 12—Here’s a bit of practical wisdom for temple maintenance.  Take up regular offerings and do the maintenance as ‘funds’ become available.  And the workmen were trustworthy ‘in house’ maintenance men.  Hmm.  Seems pretty sensible.  But what’s this? Sacred gifts that had been dedicated to the Lord, and gold from the temple treasuries is given as a bribe to keep the King of Syria at bay!  Up till now King Joash, the boy king, under the tutelage of Jehoiada the priest, has been a good king.  But ‘oh no!’ his own servants conspired against him and killed him.  Why?!  I just had to detour from my ‘planned’ readings to the parallel account in II Chronicles (12).  It filled in the dismaying missing pieces.  When Jehoiada died King Joash returned to idolatry, hardened his heart against God’s prophets, one of whom was Jehoiada’s son whom he killed, and so Joash came to a bad finish himself. Sad.

Psalm 97—When the Lord reigns the earth rejoices! In comparison idols then look as worthless and shameful as they truly are. This psalm exudes gladness, light, righteousness, justice, glory and of course, Thanksgiving!  As I reflect on it I realize that in our world righteousness is often viewed negatively. God reigning sounds like oppression.  Idols are desirable objects—how can we live without them?  This is all wrong.  To what extent have these impressions crept into my thinking?  This psalm is a joyful restorative of truth—where the Lord reigns there is joy! And what a contrast to the reign of King Joash.  His own servants rose up and killed him.  Once he abandoned the Lord his reign became tyranny.

Ecclesiastes 10—So much of this book is a tad depressing and not really wise.  But here are some proverbs I jotted down—
A dull ax requires more strength.”  In other words, work smart; sharpen your ax. I wonder… what tools of mine need sharpening?
“A fool multiplies words.”  Hmm.  I’m reminded of that proverb that says something like ‘in a multitude of words sin is not absent’. (I found it just now: Prov.10:19--“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” ) Seems like wisdom requires few words. Hmm.  Is this post getting too long?!

Oh, and here’s a tidbit that sounds quite like modern thinking:
“Money answers everything”  (19) This certainly didn’t prove true for King Joash.  His bribe of gold was no use against the King of Syria. “Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the LORD delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers. (II Chr. 24:24)  The Lord is King after all and money is not everything!

And one more:  “The toil of a fool wearies him for he does not know the way to the city.” Is is a stretch to be reminded of the Celestial City?…We know where we are headed.  Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.  We need not grow weary in well-doing as the fool who has no purpose in what he does…I think of the workmen in temple gladly serving the Lord (II Kings 12)...I think of the gladness of all the earth when the King reigns (Ps.97)…Serving Him is not wearisome, unless we lose sight of the City he’s preparing. “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Heb.11:16

Hosea 12—At this point in my little notebook, my words are getting tiny and all jammed up. I loved this chapter. It underlines that it is not self-effort but reliance on God that honors him: "So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God." (6) Here again, God sends prophets to warn his people (as He did Joash), prophets which go unheeded.  God is not eager to judge.  He woos us to return to Him when we get off into our own ways of doing things.

Matthew 24—Jesus is coming again.  In the meantime there will be others who come in His name.  We don’t have to go check them out.  It will be obvious when Jesus comes.  His Glory will be unmistakable.  Meanwhile the love of many will have grown cold in an atmosphere of lawlessness.  (What is it about lawlessness that makes love grow cold?  Could it be the persecution that accompanies lawless times?)  The hope of Jesus’ return is designed to have a purifying effect.  This is illustrated in a parable of servants whose Master is away. The faithful ones live expectantly.  The unfaithful abuse their positions and incur the Master’s wrath at His unexpected return.

And I couldn’t help noticing the upcoming story (in Matthew 25) of the ten virgins, five foolish, five wise.  The wise had oil for their lamps and were ready to meet the groom when He came to get them.  Their lamps were lit…hmm…how does this relate to the constant burning of lamps in the Old Testament tabernacle? (See Lev.24)  I wonder… But there’s one last chapter…

Romans 7--  “We serve in a new way, by the Spirit, not the written code.” God gives us new desires but our ability to carry them out is dependent on the Spirit who gives life and power to these bodies destined for death (Yes, I peeked at Romans 8 also).  Could this be what the five foolish virgins were missing?  The Spirit.  That old Sunday School song comes to mind:
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray…
Keep me burning till the break of day.

Did we know what we were singing about?

And that was my reading for the day.  It took much longer to tell you about than it did to read and think about!  But it left me with an overarching awe of God’s Kingdom—Where He reigns there is joy and love and gladness. Until He reigns there will be wicked kings, crazy idolatry, lawless persecutions…but it’s not forever.  With His oil in our lamps and His love in our hearts we can serve faithfully as we wait eagerly to be welcomed into the joy of our Master!

Now it’s your turn. I hope you will have a try at reading widely throughout the Bible in one sitting. And I’d love to hear how it works for you. 

For the nitty gritty and some practical pointers check out the “JUST READ IT” tab above.

O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.  Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.  Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! Ps.97:10-12

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