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September 27th, 2010

DAILY BIBLE READING

 Sep 27: Neh 6-7
Sep 28: Neh 8-10
Sep 29: Neh 11-13; Ps 126
Sep 30: Malachi
Oct 1: Matt 1-2
Oct 2: Matt 3-4
Oct 3: Matt 5-6
Oct 4: Matt 7-8

 

NOTES ON THIS WEEK’S READINGS

·         Welcome to some new readers, who are joining (or rejoining) us for the New Testament!  In 10-15 minutes a day, you can read the New Testament between October 1 and December 31.

·         We will be reading the New Testament straight through in order.  Click here for the entire reading plan.  You might want to bookmark the page or make it your home page.  Click here if you prefer to read the New Testament in “chronological order” – but my notes and devotional thoughts will be on the “straight through” plan.

·         I commented last week on Nehemiah.  He does seem a little strict at the end!  But if he seems harsh, just remember that failure to keep God’s laws (about the Sabbath and intermarriage, for example) had led Israel down the slippery slope toward their doom.

·         Don’t miss Psalm 126 – the last of the Psalm readings that have been scattered throughout our chronological reading of the Old Testament.  What a way to go out!

·         Malachi is the “transitional” book of the Old Testament, ushering in what are sometimes called the 400 “silent years” between the Old and New.  The years were hardly quiet in Israel, and produced some incredible stories recorded in the Apocrypha – most notably the century of Jewish independence under the Maccabeans.  But these records have never been universally acknowledged as Scripture – thus the reference to God’s “silence.”

·         For more on Malachi, read my devotional thoughts below.  Or my 2009 sermon on the book – click here.  His book ends with an anticipation of what’s to come.  He probably had no idea 400 years would pass before its fulfillment.

·         After Malachi, it’s on to the New Testament.  Don’t pass over the genealogy in chapter 1 too quickly.  Notice (a) the poetic  arrangement of three sets of 14 generations, (b) the inclusion of women and Gentiles and “black sheep” in Jesus’ family heritage, and (c) the main point, which is that Jesus is the legal heir to the throne of Israel.

·         After the genealogy, it’s on to some familiar stories about Jesus’ birth and early life, and then the pace picks up dramatically and we’re full-speed into Jesus’ public ministry.  More on that next week.

 

DEVOTIONS

The half-life of satisfaction after an accomplishment is short. 

Last night I noticed my deck lights when I took out the trash.  We’ve lived in our house for a decade, and for most of that time getting the deck lights on and working right was an “I need to get to that someday” kind of project.  I finally found the time this spring.  For a week or two, the feeling of accomplishment was high.  “It’s done.” 

Now, not so much.  The lights are just part of the house.  And there are other things undone.

On a much larger scale, Malachi knew exactly what I’m talking about.  Following the devastation of Jerusalem, the people of Israel(those who survived the exile) had returned home.  They rebuilt their temple and their wall, restoring worship and security to the city.  The celebrations were memorable (Ezra 3, 6; Nehemiah 8-9).

But it didn’t take long for euphoria to normalize.  Life became mundane and routine.  Malachi addressed sloppy worship, hypocritical leadership, marital infidelity, complaints against God, and failure to tithe, among other issues.

Sometimes we count too much on accomplishments to make life satisfying.  The new house or boat we’ve waited years to buy.  The promotion at work that was a long time in the making.  The dream vacation.  Not long after “getting there,” we realize they were really like a really big bite of cotton candy.  The sweetness is temporary and soon vaporizes.

Somewhere we have to learn that the real issues with discontent are heart issues.  That was Malachi’s plea: “set your heart to honor my name” (Malachi 2:2).  Let him be your true goal and satisfaction.

 

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