Today’s readings are from Exodus 8, Luke 11, Job 25-26, 1 Corinthians 12.
In Exodus 8 the LORD brings three plagues upon Egypt–frogs (8:1-15), gnats (8:16-19) and flies (8:20-32). The frogs and gnats the Egyptian magicians could reproduce (but could not get any of them to go away). Moses clarifies that Israel needs to go three days into the desert (v. 27) and warns Pharaoh not to “cheat again” (v. 29) by going back on his word to let Israel go. But Pharaoh “hardened his heart” (vv. 15, 32).
The point of these contests is found in v. 10 “you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.” It was to prove that Yahweh was the supreme God, in fact the only God. Pharaoh seems to recognize that when he says, “plead for me” in v. 28, but promptly hardens his heart again (v. 32).
In Luke 11 begins with a discipleship lesson on prayer, Jesus first teaching them a prayer pattern (what we typically call “the Lord’s prayer” but might be better called “the disciples prayer”). It is patterned in such a way that we focus first on God and His desires before we focus on our own needs. However, those needs are important.
Then, Jesus teaches about the importance of understanding the generosity of God when we pray. God is not hesitant or stubborn about giving us what we need. He is even more generous than the typical person was in their culture at that time. Not only that, but notice the repetition (4x) in verses 5-8 of the word “friend.”
Doug Greenwold taught us this passage in Sunday school and said that the man in v. 8 gives to his friend not because of his friend’s boldness, but because of his own sense of honor, not wanting to be shamed. We are to keep on praying (vv. 9-11) because we know that God is more than willing to answer. He is even more conscious of our needs and willing to give us good gifts than our own fathers! (vv. 11-13).
Ralph Wilson has this helpful outline for the following section:
Jesus casts out a demon, and most of the crowds marvel, but
- Some accuse him of driving out demons by the power of Satan himself (dealt with in 11:17-28)
- Others ask for a sign from heaven (dealt with in 11:29-32)
He answers the accusation of casting out demons by the power of Satan in three ways: (11:17-22)
- If Satan were attacking his own forces, he would soon defeat himself.
- Jewish exorcists (of whom his opponents approved) would be subject to the same criticism.
- Jesus casts out demons by overpowering Satan who is oppressing the person.
Then he states emphatically that there is no place for neutrality in the war against Satan (11:23-28)
- Those who don’t gather with Jesus, scatter
- Unless the “house” of an exorcised person is inhabited and guarded, it will fall to demonic forces again.
- Freedom from Satan is only possible through obedience to God’s word.
Jesus then taught the disciples about spiritual warfare (overpowering the strong man, vv. 14-28). Jesus first indicates that two kingdoms are at war and that only God could defeat Satan (vv. 14-20). Then He indicated that it is not enough to cast out the strong man. One must also replace that presence with another (in particular, Jesus Christ). As Thomas Constable says, “A formerly demon-possessed person, who did not believe on Jesus, was in greater danger after his exorcism than he was before it. The expelled demon could return to inhabit his or her spiritually empty spirit with additional demons.”
Jesus then gave them the “sign of Jonah.” The point of comparison seems to be Jonah’s three days in the fish’s stomach and Jesus’ death and burial in the tomb, to be raised to life on the third day. Matthew’s Gospel spells out the point of comparison with great clarity: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). The sign of Jonah is the sign of the Resurrection.
The Queen of Sheba, a foreigner from far-off present-day Yemen, visits Solomon and acknowledges his wisdom and his God (1 Kings 10). She is a foreigner but she believes. The residents of Nineveh are foreigners and yet they believe and repent.
Jesus’ point is that if foreigners can believe and acknowledge God, what excuse do Jews have who can see the Son of God teaching in their midst, and yet meet him with resistance rather than repentance? Jesus states that his ministry is even greater than Jonah’s was, and yet his people still do not repent.
Jesus then ends Luke 11 by pronouncing six woes on the Pharisees (vv. 37-54).
Job 25-26 give the remainder of Bildad’s speech and then Job’s reply (chaps. 26-27). The brevity of Job 25 shows that the friends were running out of arguments against Job.
Bildad seems to have abandoned the earlier theme of the wicked person’s fate because of what Job had just pointed out. Instead, he merely emphasized the sinfulness and insignificance of all people, and God’s greatness. Perhaps he hoped Job would admit to being a sinner, since the whole human race is unclean. He felt Job was absurd in thinking that he could argue before God.
Job 26 begins a long speech by Job, in comparison to Bildad’s short speech. Job began by rebuking Bildad’s attitude (vv. 1-4). Sarcastically he charged Bildad with the same weakness and inability Bildad had attributed to all men (vv. 2-3). Bildad’s words were not profound but quite superficial (v. 4).
Next, Job picked up the theme of God’s greatness that Bildad had introduced (vv. 5-14). Job’s beautiful description of God’s omnipotence in these verses shows that he had a much larger concept of God than Bildad did (cf. 25:3, 5-6).
So Roy Zuck says…
“God’s power over and knowledge of Sheol, His creation of outer space and the earth, His control of the clouds, His demarcating of the realms of light and darkness, His shaking of the mountains, His quelling of the sea, His destruction of alleged opposing deities—to call these accomplishments the bare outlines or fragmentary sketches of God’s activities [v. 14] gives an awareness of the vast immensity and incomprehensible infinity of God! (Job, p. 119)
1 Corinthians 12 is the first of three chapters on spiritual gifts. Apparently there was a problem at Corinth in that people were exalting one gift above others. This was wrong on several counts. Paul does not want us ignorant about spiritual gifts (12:1), so he gave them this instruction.
First, Paul wanted them to know that although they had experienced “divine utterances” while Gentiles serving pagan gods (demons), truly inspired speakers will affirm Jesus’ lordship (vv. 2-3).
Second, spiritual gifts are given by the Triune God. Difference gifts are given to different people (vv. 4-6).
Third, the purpose of any spiritual gift is to build up others (v. 7).
Fourth, Paul identifies some of the gifts given (vv. 8-10) but they are all given by the Spirit, “as he determines” (v. 11).
Fifth, like a human body consists of different parts with different functions, so does the spiritual body (v. 12) and we were all baptized into that body (v. 13).
Sixth, every part is needed within the body (vv. 14-25) and every part affects the others (vv. 26-27).
Seventh, not everyone will be gifted in the same way (vv. 28-31).
Finally, there is a better way, a more fundamental reality, than any spiritual gift (v. 31), which will be explained in 1 Cor. 13.