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You Can Read the Bible Guided Podcast

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Day 83 Guided Podcast

One of our key motivators at YouCanReadTheBible is to allow the Biblical story to unfold on its own.  We bring in outside information sparingly, always looking backward for referents rather than forward, because that’s how the Bible itself was revealed.   We have chosen to approach the Gospels in the same way.  While the Gospel writers possibly shared information and referred to the same sources, each of them sets out to tell a unique story, drawing our attention to the episodes, patterns, and themes that serve their purposes.  There are four simultaneous stories being told about this one Jesus, and, as John says later on, if all that Jesus did could be written, “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that could be written.”  So when we turn to chapter 11 today and are introduced to “a certain man” named Lazarus, and to his sisters, Mary and Martha, try to put out of your mind anything else you know about them from the other Gospels.  John uses their appearance here to bring about the close of His Gospel’s first act.  Remember the issues that have been swirling thus far.  The Jews have insisted that Jesus is a Samaritan, demon-possessed, a blasphemer.  Jesus has insisted that His miracles are all the proof they should need to believe that God has sent Him.  Yesterday the Jews challenged Christ with: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Today Jesus will answer, standing in front of a grave at Bethany.  And the Jewish leaders will answer as well, with a plot to put the question of authority to rest once and for all.  The tension resolves a bit as the second act opens in chapter 12: Six days before Passover.  Some time has passed between these chapters and the tension has abated a bit.  Listen as John revisits the Pharisees’ love for “the glory that comes from man,” and contrasts it with Jesus’ insistence that it was the Father, and not He himself, who would lift Him up.  Listen as the theme of authority again rises to the surface.  And listen, along with the crowd, for a voice that sounds like thunder.  Our verse for this week is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John chapters 11 and 12.  Now let’s read it!

15 Dec 2017

Rank #1

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Day 7 Guided Podcast

The big question that guides today’s reading is this: “Will the LORD favor Abraham’s descendants in the same way He was to Abraham?” It’s hard for us who know the next 1,800 years of the story, but try to imagine the questions that must have filled Isaac. After all, the last time we saw him he was lying on an altar with his father’s knife over him. This question gets answered, in two ways. First, in chapter 24, when Abraham’s servant is sent back to Aram to find a wife for Isaac. And second, in chapter 26, when there is a famine in Canaan and Isaac considers throwing in the towel on the family property. Now at the end of last week we recounted the names for God that had been used thus far: Melchizedek’s “God Most High,” Hagar’s “The God Who Sees,” and Abraham’s “Everlasting God.” Add to this Abraham’s claim at the beginning of today’s reading: “God of Heaven and God of Earth.” These are terms of wonder as well as worship. They are also terms referring to a very specific God – Yahweh, or the LORD. Be careful not to read the future into the past: these people believed in the existence of many, many deities. This Yahweh was unique for the very personal way in which He revealed himself to Abraham, called Him, and showed him favor. But to everyone else Yahweh, or the LORD, was just one of the gods. In today’s first story, pay close attention to how people are experiencing the LORD. When Abraham calls Him “the God of Heaven and God of Earth,” he’s making a bold, universal claim that would have startled the original characters. Abraham’s servant experiences the LORD through Abraham, constantly referring to the LORD as “The God of My Master, Abraham.” And finally, after hearing the servant’s story, Laban and Bethuel offer a humbled confession: the LORD has spoken, and there is nothing more to say. These characters all come to recognize that they are a part of something bigger, and that the LORD is behind it, even if they aren’t moved to believe themselves. This week’s verse is Galatians 4:28: Now you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. Genesis chapters 24 to 26. Now let’s read it!

18 Sep 2017

Rank #2

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Day 319 Guided Podcast

The first two chapters today provide stories that reflect political intrigues and cultural mores of the ancient Middle East.  In chapter 19, a team of emissaries is disgraced by the king of Ammon, a nation directly east of the Transjordan tribes.  Pay attention to the method of humiliation and David’s sensitivity to it, as well as the military response.  In chapter 20 the confrontation with Ammon continues, and its second Act is introduced with this curious observation: In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem... In the first assault on Ammon, the author relates that David sent out Joab and all the army of his mighty men… Here, he’s even more explicit about David remaining behind.  Is something being implied?  I want to point out something else fascinating in these first two accounts.  In the first 9 chapters of the David story, the words “God” and “LORD” appear over 130 times – seemingly every other verse.  In chapters 19 and 20, they appear but once apiece, and there only in the words of Joab.  David’s army continues to achieve success over Israel’s enemies; David’s kingdom grows and prospers; but out of nowhere there is a silence – perhaps deafening – about David’s relationship with the LORD.  Now this might mean nothing, a purely arbitrary coincidence.  But you’re allowed to notice these things.  Is the LORD’s silence in the literary record simply a lack of reporting, or is there more to it? Given the author’s efforts to emphasize the LORD’s with-Davidness through chapter 18, this could point to a growing pride or decadence within David.  Maybe David’s communion with the LORD during this time simply went unreported…but perhaps there was nothing to report.  I leave you to consider this as you read today, and especially as you enter the story of chapter 21, which begins, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David…” Our verse for this week is Psalm 119:11: I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. 1 Chronicles 19 through 21.  Now let’s read it!

17 Sep 2018

Rank #3

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Day 131 Guided Podcast

“…You shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there… And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.”  - Deuteronomy 12:5 & 7 Though Solomon and David each reigned for forty years, Solomon receives less than a quarter of the airtime given to his father.  The highlight of those four decades, though, was of such importance that the author erects a milepost: In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD.  This connection with the Exodus generation reinforces that Solomon can take no credit for the Temple, or for the conditions that allowed its completion.   For Solomon to even begin construction on so grand a structure this must have been an era of extraordinary peace and prosperity for Israel – security that those first Israelites could have only dreamed of.  No, the Temple is the fulfillment of a promise that the LORD made to Israel 440 years ago on the plains of Moab.  Back before the land had been taken, the kingdom established, and David’s family installed on the throne.  “In the four hundred eightieth year…” is not just a chronological marker; it’s a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His covenant and to His people.  These chapters are a reminder of all that Solomon inherited.  His father had left him a united kingdom that touched the Gulf of Aqaba in the south and the Euphrates in the north.  Tribute flowed from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Aram and Hamath.  He bartered as an equal with the wealth of Tyre and Sidon.  And to top it all, God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure.  Listen as peace, wisdom, and blessing converge in ways we’ve not yet seen. Our verse for this week is Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 1 Kings 4 through 6.  Now let’s read it!

9 Feb 2018

Rank #4

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Day 149 Guided Podcast

So His fame spread throughout Syria…and the great crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.  When Jesus looks out on these great crowds, he climbs, at the beginning of chapter 5, up on the mountain.  It’s often depicted that the sermon that Jesus gave on that mount was to the crowd, but the first verse only says, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  It’s possible that Jesus was leading the crowd up this mountain to preach to them; the language indicates the possibility that Jesus ascended to get away from the crowds.  Maybe there’s a reason Matthew leaves this ambiguous for right now.  The preaching is packed with conviction and encouragement: the hearers both reminded of their duty to the LORD and impelled to not settle for mere obedience.  “You’ve heard it said…” Jesus begins – connecting to their knowledge of the law – and then presses beyond:“…but I tell you…”  Later, Jesus’ hearers are reminded of the smallness of their faith both in the power and in the attention of their Heavenly Father.  Connecting it all is the integrating concept in the middle of chapter 5: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.”   This question of Jesus’ relationship to the Jewish past and faith will prove central to Matthew’s story: Is Jesus an aberration, is He an abomination, or is He truly Immanuel – God with us – the grand climax to which Abraham’s story always aspired? Our verse for this week is Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Matthew chapters 5 and 6.  Now let’s read it!

2 Mar 2018

Rank #5

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Day 87 Guided Podcast

…since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.  The darkness of yesterday should not be easily emptied of its power.  John is sure that Jesus’ death is no ruse.  He saw with his own eyes that: “One of the soldiers pierced His side, and at once there came out blood and water.  He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth – that you also may believe.”  Place yourself in the disciples’ world for this moment.  Jesus – the one who they believed to be the way, the truth, and the life – was dead.  He had prepared them for this, they now could see, and they had perhaps spent the past few days parsing through his final words.  They were undoubtedly exhausted, after their unrelenting week.  Were they also confused?  Steadfastly hopeful?  Anxious?  Fearful? This silent interregnum hides in the background as the Gospel turns to its final act – On the first day of the week…  It’s interesting that this phrase is repeated later in this chapter, inserted unnecessarily (or so it seems) in verse 19.  And it’s not the only time John keeps a precise calendar in this chapter, as though he’s affirming a truth or refuting an error. The Gospel feels like it ends with the conclusion of chapter 20, where John explains his reason for writing this book: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  The revelations of chapter 21 seem to focus more on Peter than on Jesus.  Pay attention to this spotlight, remember where we left Peter at Jesus’ trial, and consider what John’s intentions are in highlighting this, and in Jesus’ repeated emphasis to “Follow Me.”   Our verse for this week is John 3:19: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John chapters 20 and 21.  Now let’s read it!

20 Dec 2017

Rank #6

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Day 75 Guided Podcast

At the beginning of yesterday’s reading, the author duplicated his effort to call attention to Joshua’s advanced age.  He held up Moses’ arms against Amalek, spied out the land, replaced Moses as Israel’s representative before the LORD, and led Israel through the years of conquest.  He has served longer, harder, and more faithfully than anyone alive. Keep this in mind as he faces new challenges today.  Our reading begins with Joseph’s inheritance, going all the way back to Genesis when Jacob doubles Joseph’s blessing between his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  There’s an inset about Zelophehad’s daughters, a situation that Moses resolved in Number 27, reminding us of the detailed promise-keeping that Joshua maintained. Chapters 18 and 19 are bookended by the affirmation that the rest of the land was allotted at Shiloh, “at the entrance of the tent of meeting.”  After Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh are settled, the remaining tribes are asked by Joshua, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”  Survey crews are sent out, lots are cast, and the remaining land is divided among these seven tribes.  And finally, once everyone else is accounted for, “the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun.” This would be one big celebration if not for two caveats.  The first is emphasized in chapter 16: “However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.”  While forced labor might sound better than annihilation (a tradeoff the Gibeonites were willing to make), remember God’s commands regarding the Canaanites, and pray that Israel’s present contentment doesn’t compromise their future.    A second storm on the horizon appears in the middle of chapter 17, when Ephraim and Manasseh take issue with their allotment: “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?”  Joshua fires right back: “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves…”  We’ll see if this tension between the sons of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah is revisited in the future.  One final note: there are plenty of good maps of the tribal divisions online.  A simple search of “Israel tribe map” can really help you visualize these chapters.   Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:30: By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  Joshua chapters 16 through 19.  Now let’s read it!

6 Dec 2017

Rank #7

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Day 76 Guided Podcast

As we saw throughout the law so we have also seen in this distribution of land: the LORD is a God who loves details.  This second act of Joshua has reflected God’s intimate knowledge of the land and his devotion to just provision.  Now that the land has been divided among the tribes of Israel, there are two final Mosaic commands to fulfill: designating cities of refuge and making provision for the Levites.  These divide neatly between chapters 20 and 21. You’ll remember that the cities of refuge were set aside by Moses to provide space for justice to take its course.  These cities, within a day’s journey of every Israelite, were a refuge for someone who kills another accidentally.  You can review Numbers 35 for the details, but the basic purpose was to protect a manslayer from impulsive, unjust vengeance, and there await trial. Chapter 21 contains an exhaustive list of the 48 cities given to the Levites, whose portion is the LORD.  Their special calling is to assist the priests in carrying out the sacrificial duties and in managing the Tabernacle.  They were to be provided for by the other Israelites, and thus were not permitted to accumulate wealth that would pass down through the generations.  There might be additional significance in Joshua, rather than Moses, completing this task.  Moses, you’ll remember, was a Levite.  Joshua, of Judah, has no vested interest – beyond simple fairness – in looking out for the Levites.  By placing nine Levitical cities within the combined borders of Judah and Simeon, Joshua’s tribe is at least carrying, if not exceeding, its fair share.    Chapter 22 records the homecoming of the Eastern tribes of Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh.  Place yourself among them, crossing the Jordan for perhaps the final time, leaving behind the land that they had been promised.  Did they see this as a natural expansion of Israel’s territory?  Were they indifferent, and just glad to be going home?  Did they see themselves as part of one great nation?  And most importantly, how did they view their relationship with Yahweh, whose promises they had been following for decades?  Hold onto these questions at the end of today’s reading, when yet another inter-tribal crisis emerges.  Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:30: By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  Joshua chapters 20 through 22.  Now let’s read it!

7 Dec 2017

Rank #8

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Day 78 Guided Podcast

The Gospel of John, chapters 1 and 2 You heard that right!  To prepare for Advent, we’ll jump now to the New Testament and read the Gospels of John and Mark.   We’ll return to Judges in a few weeks.  We begin with John, chapters 1 and 2.  In the beginning… As the first covenant began, so does the second: with creation, and God’s supremacy over it.  Remember that this Bible is about God, and with these echoes John tells us what he believes: that this Jesus – “The Word” as John calls Him – is God in the flesh, the One who created the world and who reigns over it.  Don’t forget to apply to the New Testament what you’ve been already learned about reading the Old.  Let the author tell the story he wants to tell, without looking immediately for theological categories or moral application. As we’ve already seen with Old Testament writers, John allows dialogue to reveal character and meaning.  “I am not the Christ” is the very first line of dialogue in this Gospel, and it packs the same punch as “Let there be light” did in Genesis.  When Nathaniel can’t believe his ears, John relays Jesus’ reply, “You will see greater things than these…”  Mary doesn’t preach about Jesus’ divinity, but just tells the wedding servants, “Do what he tells you.”  Listen also to how questions drive the plot.  “Who are you?” the priests and Levites ask the Baptist…  “What are you seeking?” Jesus asks the disciples who follow him.  Upon learning of Jesus’ hometown, Nathaniel mocks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  When Jesus’ mother asks him to help at the wedding, He retorts, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”  And when He drives the moneychangers out of the temple, the Jews ask “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”  These questions are at the heart of the tensions in this book. The New Testament writers add one more element: echoes of the law, history, and prophets of the Old Testament.  We’ve seen much of this thus far, especially in showing how the LORD has fulfilled His promises.  But in the New Testament the authors exert greater urgency to build a bridge between what had been known of God and what will be shown in Jesus.  Thus John gets ahead of the question: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  The gauntlet is thrown, and with this Gospel John aims to let Jesus prove it.  Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:30: By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  John chapters 1 and 2.  Now let’s read it!

9 Dec 2017

Rank #9

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Day 86 Guided Podcast

The action moves quickly in these chapters.  Jesus and the disciples head to a garden just outside Jerusalem, where a band of soldiers, led by Judas, intercepts them.  Jesus is then led before the High Priests and Pharisees, then to Pilate, then to the Place of the Skull.  I’ve noted before how John lets his emotions show when he speaks of Judas, and he takes one more shot in chapter 18.  He also enters a jab at the Jewish leadership by calling Caiaphas “High Priest That Year.”  A little background is fitting: You know from the law that the high priesthood was a lifetime appointment, passing down from Aaron to Eleazar and so forth.  Annas had served as High Priest and had been deposed by the Roman government.  However, it was an open secret that he maintained power as his sons, and son-in-law Caiaphas, rotated through the high priesthood.  John uses the “High Priest That Year” title to call attention to the corrupt power structure in Jerusalem and to the priest’s own violations of Moses’ law.  The story seems to pivot around a private conversation between Jesus and Pilate.  As He has so many times with the Jewish leaders, Jesus allows obvious facts to witness on his behalf: “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.”  Whether impressed, or fearful, or both, Pilate tries twice to release Him, but the Jews would have none of it.  John allows the weight of evidence to fall against the Jewish leadership, for their failure to accept what the Samaritan woman, the blind man, and this Roman governor could see.  So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross.  Listen as the Scriptures are remembered foretelling the events of this day… Notice the sparsity of dialogue in a Gospel that has been nothing but… Find Jesus’ mother, whose name escapes this Gospel, last seen at Cana, here at the last.  And listen finally for the name of one who once was thought to be lost, but who might now be found.  Our verse for this week is John 3:19: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." John chapters 18 and 19.  Now let’s read it!

19 Dec 2017

Rank #10

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Day 92 Guided Podcast

Yesterday, the rich young man approached Jesus, “As He was setting out on His journey…”  Today we learn the destination of that journey: Jerusalem.  With thousands heading there for the Passover feast, it would have been possible for Jesus to attend unnoticed, and certainly would have fit with his pattern of secrecy.  But all of that gets overturned, literally, in just a few hours.  First, he proceeds into town on a colt – just as the prophet Zechariah had said the king would – and not only do his supporters pick up on this, but He does nothing to stop them making a parade out of it.  Second, after a night in Bethany, He discovers that the Temple has been turned into a profit center for worship items.  Enraged, He drives out the sellers and overturns their tables, and would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. The remainder of our reading is launched by Mark’s observation that, upon hearing of this, the chief priests and scribes…were seeking a way to destroy Him, for they feared Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching.  The events of the next day – which occupy the rest of chapter 11 and 12 – focus on the various approaches the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes use to try to discredit and entrap Jesus.  Notice the cat-and-mouse game of this pivotal day.  Jesus is asked a series of questions: “By what authority are you doing these things?”… “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”… “If a woman is widowed seven times, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?”… and, “Which commandment is the most important of them all?”   Mark lets you know that each one is a trap, and lets you see Jesus’ agility and boldness in implicating the questioners.  Only once does He answer directly, and readers of the Pentateuch will recognize the references. As I’ve said many times, notice how Jesus plays the crowd against the Jewish leaders.  At times, the crowd is leveraged to protect Jesus, as when Jesus appears to condemn the Jewish leadership as “ungrateful tenants” on God’s rightful property.  At others, Jesus speaks indirectly to the Jewish leadership through them, as when in His teaching He said, “Beware of the scribes…”.  Mark gives you a front row seat to the rising tension, preparing, it appears, for a final confrontation.   Our verse for this week is Psalm 138:8: The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands. Mark 11 and 12.  Now let’s read it!

26 Dec 2017

Rank #11

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Day 110 Guided Podcast

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…”  The most famous of the promises that the LORD made to Abram regard land and nationhood.  Though Abram would not live to see it, his descendants would indeed become a great nation “in the land that I will show you.”  This promise sustained Isaac and Jacob and their grandchildren, and propelled Moses and Joshua across the wilderness. But the LORD also promises blessing and curse according to how others treat Abram and his family.  Yesterday we witnessed God’s long memory regarding Amalek, who opposed Israel in the desert.  Today the results are more immediate, as a Philistine champion dares to defy the LORD, Israel’s army, and a man after God’s own heart. The story of David and Goliath in chapter 17 is one of the most well-known in the Old Testament, and so it might be difficult to read it anew.  It’s important, however, to put aside popular impressions and pay attention to what point the author is trying to make.  Our first guides are contextual.  Remember the fascination with height and appearance throughout 1 Samuel; the Goliath narrative is a final rejoinder to Israel’s attraction to kings like those “of other nations.”  Consider also that Israel’s wars were religious in nature: a question of whether the LORD was indeed greater than other gods.  Next, listen to how the rich dialogue reveals character.  David’s youthful exuberance before Saul is coupled with experiential logic: as a shepherd, “when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb… I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth.”  Goliath’s speech calls Israel “servants of Saul,” but David comes against him “in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the Armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”  Now I have to address an issue of chronology here, because it seems throughout this story that Saul has no idea who David is, which seems impossible following yesterday’s reading.  A few possibilities exist, which all assume that the author or compiler of 1 Samuel knew what he was doing.  It could be that some time has passed since the events in chapters 16, that David had gone back home to tend sheep in the meantime, and his appearance had changed as he aged; however, David could easily have said, “Remember me?” and cleared the whole thing up.  It could also be that the LORD’s Spirit has so departed Saul that his lack of awareness is evidence of deeper madness – and future stories will point to this.  However these issues are resolved, one of the author’s key purposes is to show how David’s approach to the kingship will differ from Saul’s.  David refuses to take the king’s armor, choosing the clothing, and weapons, of a shepherd.  And whereas Saul seemed ill acquainted with the LORD’s character or promises,  David takes the fight to Goliath on the grounds that Goliath’s slight of the LORD and His people is unacceptable.   Our verse for this week is Isaiah 40:28:  Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. 1 Samuel 17 and 18.  Now let’s read it!

16 Jan 2018

Rank #12

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Day 84 Guided Podcast

Time slows now for John’s Gospel, and the next seven chapters cover just 36 hours of earthly time.  Today’s reading is of a dinner scene, the Passover feast, celebrated by the children of Israel “as a memorial day” since the first month of the first year of their nationhood – when the LORD had delivered them out of Egypt. These chapters are set against an intimate background of the unseen.  Jesus knows that “His hour had come.”  “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot…to betray Him.”  And Jesus, “knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands… rose from supper…” The spotlight here focuses on the disciples’ responses to this background.  The plot is pushed forward with a few staccato phrases: “You shall never wash my feet.”  Peter affirms his subordinate status by recognizing that Jesus has no business doing the work of a servant.  But Jesus lets him know that he’s missing the point.  This short event is the backdrop for the “new commandment” Jesus levels on his followers.  Not all of you are clean.  You may have noticed that every time John mentions Judas – so far in chapters 6, 12, and early in 13 – he makes sure you know that “this is the one who betrayed Jesus.”  It’s as though just mentioning Judas’s name scrapes a wound that John doesn’t want to forget.  He shares the encounter when he first learned about this – referring to himself only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – with cryptic details: a nod, a whisper, and a morsel of bread.  Seat yourself at that table as the rest of the disciples try to figure out what’s going on.  Let not your hearts be troubled.  As Judas departs into darkness, Jesus tells the eleven “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”   These men are sharing the same food around the same table, yet they are experiencing twelve different evenings.  The rising confusion and fear are evident in each question.  Yet Jesus answers by driving the wedge clean through: the things in which you had placed confidence are passing away.  Here – in Me – is where your trust should lie.  Our verse for this week is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John chapters 13 and 14.  Now let’s read it!

16 Dec 2017

Rank #13

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Day 112 Guided Podcast

As we closed yesterday Jonathan had warned David that Israel was no longer safe for him.   David is now on the run – and will remain so for the rest of Saul’s life. Our story today revolves around the town of Nob, a small town in southern Israel, to which David first flees.  There was a worship center there: not the tabernacle, but some settlement managed by descendants of Aaron.  The priest, Ahimelech, trembles when he sees David – David’s arrival was no good for the prophets at Naioth – but he’s also curious, “Why are you alone?”  David’s response might leave you scratching your head: “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything [about it]...”  On the surface, it sounds like a boldface, Abraham-style lie.  But it could also be an honest turn of phrase.  To which “king” is David referring?  I’ll let you decide.  Nonetheless, David requests help – food and weapons – from Ahimelech.  This David receives, and the story would be complete if not for one seemingly extraneous detail: “A certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day…”  David heads west to seek refuge in Gath, one of the five principle cities of the Philistines.  But his reputation has preceded him – perhaps too well, as he is described to the ruler of Gath as “King of the land,” about whom is sung, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  David realizes his danger, and finds yet another unique means of escape.  From there he traverses the land of Israel to Moab, on the Eastern shore of the Dead Sea.  On the way he picks up a following, as everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. But while David is safe, those who have abetted him are not.  His band will soon be joined by one more – the son of the priest of Nob.   Our verse for this week is Isaiah 40:28:  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. 1 Samuel 21 and 22.  Now let’s read it!

18 Jan 2018

Rank #14

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Day 4 Guided Podcast

The camera shifts from high overhead to just above the ground, as we zoom in on the story of Abram and his family. The rest of Genesis will follow Abram, his children, and grandchildren. It begins with a set of promises – a covenant that the LORD makes with Abram – and this raises some monumental questions for the reader. Will the LORD be true to His promises? Is the LORD powerful enough to fulfill them? In a world where gods were notoriously fickle and finite, these were no small considerations. Furthermore, remember that the subject of the Bible is God, so these questions are in the always in the background as the story of Abram and his descendants unfolds. In today’s reading you’ll encounter a few additional characters: Abram and his wife Sarai escape the Pharaoh of Egypt – despite Abram’s ill-conceived deception. We get our first battle scene in chapter 14, as Abram comes to Lot’s rescue when Mesopotamian raiders take him captive. And Melchizedek, king of Salem and Priest of El Elyon – God Most High, blesses him upon his return. But in the stillness of one late night, Abram nervously contemplates his lack of an heir. How can the promise ever mean anything if there’s no one to pass it on to? There is powerful emotion in this dialogue, as well as in the vision that follows. All of this reflects back on those first three verses of today’s reading: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country…to the land that I will show you, and I will make of you are great nation…’” This covenant is the framework for the whole rest of the Old Testament – and in some ways, for the whole rest of the Bible. Let this command and these promises sink into your bones. Our verse for this week is John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Genesis 12 through 15. Now let’s read it!

14 Sep 2017

Rank #15

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Day 3 Guided Podcast

As we begin today the earth is still covered by water, with Noah floating safely above it. There’s something striking about the very first line in today’s reading: “But God remembered Noah and all the animals…” Rescue wasn’t enough. Noah was rescued in order that he might thrive in some other future. Not only saved, but saved for something. You will notice today certain human metaphors that are used to describe the LORD: He “remembers” Noah. Later on, God “smells the pleasing aroma” of Noah’s sacrifice and “says in His heart” that He will never again destroy the earth in this way. Remember, the subject of this book is God, and this is the most personal description of the LORD we’ve seen thus far. You can ask, what is the author saying here? At the end of the Noah story there is a troubling scene with his sons. Pay attention to the names here, and the character of the men who bore them, as well as the names in the genealogy that follows. These names would have been familiar to the Hebrews when they heard these stories and many of them will be seen again as cities, tribes, and nations later on. Near the end of today’s reading is the story of the Tower of Babel. These nine verses have what’s called a “chiastic” structure: it’s a form of poetry where every event in the first half has a response, in reverse order, in the second half. You can even have fun mapping it yourself. Notice again in this passage the human metaphor of God “coming down” to view the city and tower. Also pay attention to the conversation God has in the heavens: using words like “us” and “we.” You’ve seen this before – “Let us make man in our image… Behold, the man has become like us, knowing good and evil…” Let this soak in. Again, our verse for the week is John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Genesis chapters 8 through 11. Now let’s read it!

13 Sep 2017

Rank #16

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Day 6 Guided Podcast

Today the focus shifts back to Abraham and will stay there for a while. Abraham moves to the Negev, a desert region in southern Canaan. There he enters the territory of Abimelech, he makes a second attempt to save his neck through deception, and it goes about as well as the first time. These stories of Abraham and Abimelech must serve some purpose in the overall narrative, and we’ll talk about that more in our Weekly Dig, which is now available for Week 1. We then swing between the joy of Isaac’s birth and Sarah’s jealousy of Hagar and her own son, Ishmael. Allow God to be the subject of the story as Hagar and Ishmael are sent away, yet with a promise of their own. Chapter 22 brings one of the most difficult passages in all the Bible: God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Pay attention to the very first line of this chapter: “After these things, God tested Abraham…” That verb “tested” is a clue to the meaning of what happens next. Since you know that it’s a test, you can immerse yourself in the story and imagine what it’s like for Abraham, who doesn’t know he’s being tested. The author is clueing you in that the terror to come is not arbitrary: there is a plan to sending Abraham – and you – into the valley of the shadow of death. But Abraham doesn’t know this. He’s still figuring out who this God is, and whether he can trust Him. Pay attention to the line, “God will provide,” when it’s first said, and how it gets repeated. There are two additional things to listen for today. The first is the elemental details that add color to the page: the bread and skin of water given to Hagar; the Tamarisk tree in Beersheba; the negotiation with Ephron over a burial plot. These are very human stories, with very human details, which don’t escape the author’s notice. And notice another name given in worship to the LORD: El Olam, The Everlasting God. Add this to “God Most High” and “The God Who Sees” that we’ve already heard this week, watch how excited these first followers were to make new discoveries about the LORD. For a final time this week we revisit John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Genesis chapters 20 through 23. Now let’s read it!

16 Sep 2017

Rank #17

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Day 57 Guided Podcast

If you felt a little lost with the hodgepodge of material in Numbers, then Deuteronomy should come as a welcome change.  Deuteronomy is raw and intense, full of emotion and reflection.  As Numbers could feel distant, Deuteronomy is personal, proximate, close to the ground.   The very first line establishes the setting of the book: “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness…”  Three extensive speeches fill the first thirty chapters: it’s what Moses wants Israel to remember most of their journey together, of God’s covenant with them, and even of him.   Remember that Moses will not join them in Canaan, and you’ll see today that his feelings are still raw about this.  Along the way, it’ll be important to keep in mind Moses’ final, passionate plea:  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Chapters 1 through 3 present the history of Israel’s journey: from Egypt to the borders of Canaan.  Listen for the LORD’s reminder of His provision and protection throughout.  Listen also for how the LORD has looked out for Esau, and Lot, names we’ve barely heard from since Genesis.  When Moses recounts their conquests, pay attention to the phrase, “…and we devoted them to destruction…”.  This is a translation of the Hebrew charam, which is to set apart for destruction to the LORD – in the sense of a sacrifice.  You will see this term often through Deuteronomy and Joshua.   And finally, you might need to listen twice to Moses’ intense acknowledgement of how much it burned him to lose Canaan.  Remember the LORD’s reason for excluding him, listen to Moses’ own perspective on the matter, and take time to sort through your own feelings on this. Our verses for this week are Matthew 22:37-38: “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.” Deuteronomy chapters 1 through 3.  Now let’s read it! 

15 Nov 2017

Rank #18

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Day 5 Guided Podcast

Yesterday’s reading ended with the hope and promise of an heir to carry the grand promises God had made to Abram. Today’s reading begins with Abram’s attempt to manage the promise by conceiving an heir with Sarai’s servant, Hagar. Now, as odd as this story might seem to us, there was nothing unusual about it in Abram’s time. A child born to Sarai’s slave would be legally considered to be Sarai’s child. This means that not only would Sarai lose her reproach as barren, but Abram would have a defined heir, and his possessions, and most importantly, his property in Canaan, would remain in the family. However, the LORD has other plans. Notice through chapters 17 and 18 that the LORD reveals first to Abram (now known as Abraham), and then to his wife (now known as Sarah), that she will bear the son who will carry the promise. Sarah’s disbelief is contrasted with Abraham’s faithfulness… but let’s understand that they are both experiencing something profound and unique for which they had no point of reference. When the three men arrive in chapter 18, notice how the author jumps back and forth between referring to them as “the three men” and at other times as “the LORD.” This is one of the most fascinating conversations in the whole Bible, and unfortunately sets up the negotiations that surround the destruction of Sodom. Notice how, in each of these discussions, the LORD listens to Abraham, pushes Abraham, but doesn’t condescend or humiliate Abraham. The reading closes with a few disturbing scenes – the depth of Sodom’s disgrace, the chains that bind Lot’s wife, and the corruption of Lot’s daughters. This is the last time we’ll see Lot, and last impressions are sometimes more important than first impressions. The author might be communicating something about Lot and his family by leaving us with these final glimpses. Hopefully you’re realizing that the Bible doesn’t shy away from dark corners. The subject of the story, again, is God, and it’s His character that we’re to pay the most attention to. I hope you’ve memorized it by now, but our verse for this week is John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Genesis chapters 16 through 19. Now let’s read it!

15 Sep 2017

Rank #19

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Day 317 Guided Podcast

The focus on David’s warriors and leaders continues as the king, at the beginning of chapter 13, turns to all the assembly of Israel and asks, “If it seems good to you and from the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities and the pastureland, that they may be gathered to us.  Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.”  Notice how the author presents King David: he seeks the counsel of his subjects, is concerned for the favor of the LORD, and wants to make his coronation a celebration of Israel finally being “at rest.”  With Jerusalem conquered and the Philistines subdued, Joshua’s mission is finally accomplished.  And the proper, first task of a land at rest is to grant the Ark of the Covenant a place of rest as well. The theme of national unity is prominent today, but notice that this unity is around David.  And the affirmation is warranted, for David is shown worshipping the LORD, fearing the LORD, and inquiring of the LORD before battle.  Furthermore, the LORD speaks to David and grants him victory in battle.  David’s response, of gratitude and celebration, reflects the best intentions of Deuteronomy 17, which outlines fearing the LORD and remaining grounded with the flock as among the primary tasks for Israel’s shepherd.  Yesterday I highlighted some of the ways that Chronicles differs from Samuel and Kings, with so much material lifted from those earlier works.  Indeed, today’s accounts of moving the Ark, fighting the Philistines, David dancing, and his wife’s response, are pretty much taken directly out of 2 Samuel.  However, we’re going to avoid the temptation to simply compare the different works.  Let’s assume that there are reasons inherent in Chronicles itself that merit its inclusion in the Bible.  The author has a unique story to tell, and we’re going to grant it the integrity it deserves.  Our verse for this week is Matthew 5:16: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 1 Chronicles 13 through 15.  Now let’s read it!

14 Sep 2018

Rank #20