• Impact

    Jonah, a reluctant prophet

    Jonah 3 forms part of the lectionary readings for the third Sunday after Epiphany, which is January 24th. Unlike the other Minor Prophets, Jonah is not a collection of oracles. Instead, it is an account of a period in the life of a prophet, namely, “Jonah son of Amittai” (1:1). Virtually nothing is known about Amittai. According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah lived in the northern kingdom of Israel. Jonah was originally from Gath Hepher, a town in the territory of the tribe of Zebulun, located about three miles northeast of Nazareth (Josh 19:13). According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah foretold Jeroboam II’s restoration of the territory of Israel from…

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    God’s deep knowledge of us

    Psalm 139 forms part of the lectionary readings for the second Sunday after Epiphany, which is January 17th. The heading of this ode indicates that it was originally meant to be a part of the worship liturgy performed in the temple by the leader of the Levitical choir. Moreover, the poem, which is attributed to David, was a melodious “psalm” intended to be accompanied by instrumental music. In this wisdom song of descriptive praise, Israel’s king affirmed that God not only created him, but also was familiar with every intimate detail of his life. Believers of all ages have understood that God knows the most minor aspects about them. Yet,…

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    In the beginning …

    Genesis 1:1–5 forms part of the lectionary readings for the first Sunday after Epiphany, which is January 10th. In this passage, the Bible begins with God and His creative activity. Genesis, like the rest of Scripture, does not try to prove God’s existence. Instead, it assumes that He exists. After all, Genesis was written for a people who already believed in God. Admittedly, other ancient cultures had their own creation stories involving their many gods and goddesses. Genesis tells about the creation of all things by the one true God. Three Hebrew terms are used in the Genesis account to speak of God’s creative work. The word used in 1:1…

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    Saul, a leader of squandered potential

    Title: Saul, a leader of squandered potential Aim: To follow God’s guidance in choosing leaders. Scripture: 1 Samuel 9:1–2; 10:17–26 The worsening situation in Israel, 1 Samuel 9:1–2 In Samuel’s old age, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Yet, unlike their father, who was a great prophet and leader, these men proved to be greedy (1 Sam. 8:1–3). The sons not only accepted bribes but also perverted justice. In response, the leaders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. They demanded that he give them a king like all the other nations had (vv. 4-5). Samuel was upset by the request of the…

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    The believers’ eternal blessings in union with the Son

    Ephesians 1:3–14 forms part of the lectionary readings for the second Sunday after Christmas, which is January 3rd. Ephesus was located at the intersection of several major east-west trade routes and became a vital commercial, political, and educational center of the Roman Empire. The size of the city is represented by its theater, which could seat over 24,000 people. Ephesus was perhaps best known for its magnificent temple of Diana, or Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. (Diana was the Greek goddess of the moon, forests, wild animals, and women in childbirth.) More importantly, Ephesus figured prominently and dramatically in early church history, for Paul used…

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    Proclaiming Jesus’ Birth

    Luke 2:22–40 forms part of the lectionary readings for the first Sunday after Christmas, which is December 27th. We learn that following Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph stayed on for a while in Bethlehem. During that time, the family traveled at least twice to the temple in nearby Jerusalem to fulfill their religious duties. On one occasion, the parents had Jesus circumcised. Another time they presented Him to the Lord. On the second visit, two elderly people—Simeon and Anna—recognized Jesus’ special nature and made pronouncements concerning Him. In a sense, they served as two credible Jewish witnesses (one male and the other female) who affirmed the truthfulness of Jesus’ status…

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    Mary, a joyful bondservant

    Luke 1:26–38 forms part of the lectionary readings for the fourth Sunday of Advent, which is December 20th. As with last week’s passage, the present focus is on Mary, the mother of Jesus. As previously noted, for around four centuries, God’s voice through the prophets had been silent in Palestine. The Roman army had nearly crushed the Jews’ hopes that the promised Messiah would come to deliver them from their overlords. Many undoubtedly wondered whether God had forgotten His people. In the first century AD, the Jews enjoyed limited political and religious freedom. Roman administrators had appointed the civil and religious leaders of Judea. When small groups of zealots tried…

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    Mary, the birth mother of Jesus

    Luke 1:46–55 forms part of the optional lectionary readings for the third Sunday of Advent, which is December 13th. The focus is on Mary, the mother of Jesus. A short time after Gabriel departed, Mary made preparations and quickly traveled from Nazareth to an unnamed town in the hill country of Judea. This is where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived (Luke 1:39). Mary possibly journeyed 50 to 70 miles by herself, which would have been a considerable distance for a single, pregnant teenager in her day. Perhaps Mary went to stay with Elizabeth to be secluded from inquisitive friends and neighbors. The privacy would give Mary an opportunity to reflect on…

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    The Messiah’s herald

    Mark 1:1–8 forms part of the lectionary readings for the second Sunday of Advent, which is December 6th. Verse 1 opens with the statement that what follows is the good news about Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Messiah, the Son of God. Then, verses 2 through 8 narrate the efforts of John the Baptizer to prepare the way for Jesus’ arrival. This material is followed by an account of Jesus’ baptism and testing, events that are recorded in verses 9 through 13. The other three Gospels make some reference to John’s baptism of Jesus (Matt 3:13–17; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:31–34), while only the other two Synoptic Gospels devote considerably…

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    Maintaining unity in Christ

    First Corinthians 1:3–9 forms part of the lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent, which is November 29th. Whereas most letter writers today sign their name at the end of their correspondence, it was customary in the Greco-Roman world of the first century A.D for a writer to identify himself or herself at the beginning of a letter. Paul followed the above literary convention. He also established his authority to instruct the church about spiritual matters by describing himself as one “called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (v. 1). A number of people in the church at Corinth were at odds with…