Bible reading for Aug 2 -- 3
Aug 2 -- Jeremiah 29 and Mark 15
Aug 3 -- Jeremiah 30-31 and Mark 16
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33)
A FUTURE AND A HOPE (ch 29). The first half of this chapter regards a letter sent from Jeremiah to exiles already in Babylon (before Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 BC). There had already been two waves of deportations -- 605 BC (Daniel leaves with that group) and 597 BC (when Ezekiel leaves). He encourages them to settle in for seventy years there in a new land. His advice is applicable for Christians today... "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (v 7). We are, as followers of Christ, exiles and aliens in the world (1 Pet 2:11-12). Verse 11 is a favorite verse for many, and needs to be seen in the context of God's saving purposes. Our "future and hope" is related not to our temporal plans but to our eternal destiny in Christ. The rest of this chapter relates to those left behind in Jerusalem -- most of whom are resisting Babylon. And another false prophet is called out, Shemaiah, but not the same Shemaiah as in 26:20.
A CURE FOR THE INCURABLE (ch 30). This chapter opens with, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you" (v 2). And that is the book we are reading, the book of Jeremiah. That's obvious, but we should remember that not only has God given his word to the prophet but it's the Lord's desire, and will, that those words would be preserved for us today. And he has done that by his power. Now as you read, contrast Judah's "incurable and grievous wound" (vv 12-16) with what God promises in vv 17-24, namely, "I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal" (v 17). Think about the miracles that Jesus did for the people of his day, as recorded in the gospels. There were many healings, and every kind of deliverance. Think about the worst of the worst, such as, leprosy, blindness from birth, disability from decades of paralysis, torment by a legion of demons, and people who had died, even one (Lazarus) dead for four days. There was nothing beyond the Lord. Nothing incurable. When the disciples asked, "who can be saved?" Jesus answered, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:26-27).
A NEW COVENANT (ch 31). This is an important passage containing the promise of a new covenant relationship with God. This comes to us by the sacrificial death of Jesus, as we read it explained in Hebrews 10. The biggest change we need, and the greatest healing we could ever hope for, is for the healing of the wayward human heart. To have a new guidance system -- prompting us to know and walk in the ways of the Lord -- is the greatest gift we could receive from the Lord. Here's how Jeremiah's contemporary and fellow prophet Ezekiel described it: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezek 36:26-27).
If you missed my notes on Mark chapter 12, you can read them here.
"Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." (Mark 16:6-7)
CRUCIFIED (ch 15). The Gospel writers, Mark included, do not dwell on the actual details of the crucifixion of Jesus. The language is terse: staurousin auton, "they crucified him." In Mark's day most people knew what that involved, and it was not often talked or written about. Long before the Romans, the Assyrians practiced impalement, for example, of the leading citizens of conquered cities. But the offenders died too quickly, and the Romans devised a way to prolong the suffering and dying. In the rest of Mark's account, we get a picture of the hatred and brutality involved -- the scourging, mocking, spitting, and beatings which took place. The last stage was to die in agony, naked or near-naked, beside a public road -- so that people would take warning from your death -- and with your last possessions being gambled for at your crucified feet. But the testimony of the centurion standing guard over the scene, echoed what the Apostle Peter said (in 8:29), when he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (15:39)
A SHORT ENDING (ch 16). The Gospel ends abruptly. It began abruptly, too, with John the Baptist rather than with birth narratives. There have been a number of additional passages that appear at the end of Mark in later manuscripts. There are many theories as to why the original gospel ended this abruptly. Pastor Joe Carter gives some helpful advice in "What Do You Do With The End Of Mark’s Gospel?"
TESTIMONIES TO CHRIST'S RESURRECTION. We should remember that the New Testament did not begin as one literary work. It is comprised of many documents that bring together the various accounts about Jesus. I see at least seven separate strands of testimony concerning Jesus' resurrection...
1) The witness of the OT. The OT prophets foretold this event hundreds of years before Jesus' resurrection. (Ps 16; Isa 25; Daniel, Isa 53)
2) The witness of Jesus himself, prior to his death. He predicted this several times. (Matt 16:21; 17:9)
3) The witness of the empty tomb. One needs to address the issue of where the body went, why the grave clothes were left behind, etc. Granted this is circumstantial evidence, but a grave that is supposed to be occupied and isn't needs an explanation. (Luke 24:6; John 20:6-7)
4) The witness of the women. (Matt 28:1; John 20:11-12) Though this is included in the gospel-writers accounts there is a significance to the women's testimony. This was not a point in favor of the case for the resurrection, which also highlighted that the male disciples were slow to believe. “The criterion of embarrassment... the early church would hardly have gone out of its way to create material that only embarrassed its creator or weakened its position in arguments with opponents.” ~John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (I:168).
5) The witness of the apostles. This is the bedrock of the eyewitness testimony. With the exception of John, who died at an old age, all the apostles died martyr deaths and sealed their testimony about the resurrection. (Luke 1:1-4; John 19:35; 21:24; 1 Cor 15:6; 1 Jn 1:1-3)
6) The witness of Paul. (Rom 1:1-4; 1 Cor 15:8-9) Paul's testimony about Jesus' resurrection needs to be seen as a separate but concurring testimony regarding the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. J. Gresham Machen wrote, “That involves this stupendous conclusion: that Peter and [James] the very brother of Jesus, men who had walked and talked with Jesus on earth, who had seen him subject to the petty limitations of human life—that these men actually agreed with this stupendous view of Jesus as a supernatural person, an object of worship, as presented in the epistles of Paul... The religion of Paul is a phenomenon of history that requires an explanation...” J. Gresham Machen, “The Witness of Paul” (1927) from Selected Shorter Writings (2004).
7) The witness of the Spirit in gospel proclamation, by signs and miracles, and in church growth. The gospel came with supernatural power and conviction. (John 15:26; Acts 16:14; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 2:4)
Image above: my photo of a first century tomb in Galilee, taken in 1997. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.
Bible reading for Aug 2 -- 3