M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, March 7

Today’s readings are from Exodus 18; Luke 21; Job 36 and 2 Corinthians 6.

Exodus 18 describes a family reunion between Moses and his family, including his father-in-law, who had brought his family from Midian to the Sinai wilderness.  Here he offers Moses this advice:

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people?  Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times.  Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves.  So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

This was excellent advice, and maybe even more amazing is that Moses “listened…and did all that he had said.”  It is sometimes difficult for leaders to take advice.  We don’t like to be told that we’re doing something wrong.

But Jethro got first-hand knowledge of what Moses was doing by observing him all day long.  He noticed the effect that a day of intense ministry had on Moses.  He didn’t rebuke/instruct Moses until he had first-hand knowledge of all the facts.

Besides, the advice Jethro gave could immediately be seen to have positive impact both on Moses and on the people.  Maybe it hadn’t occurred to Moses, yet, to do this, or possibly Moses had a “messiah complex” and really believed that no one could do it better than him.  The reality is, when pastors over-function, the people naturally under-function.

Third, Jethro spells out all the benefits that could come of this new division of labor:

So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

Luke 21 continues with Jesus teaching in the temple on Wednesday of the passion week.  His practice is mentioned in v. 37

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet.

This chapter begins with Jesus drawing His disciples’ attention to a poor widow who gave all she had (21:1-4) and then transitions into talking about the future of the beautiful temple (21:5-38).  It deals with the tribulation (21:5-19) and return of the Messiah (21:20-27), so it was important for His disciples to be ready, to watch and pray (21:28-36).

David Guzik reminds us about giving, that…

The value of a gift is determined by what it cost the giver; this is what made the widow’s gift so valuable.  David refused to give God that which cost me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).

It is unlikely that we have ever given in the spirit of sacrifice as this widow.

The beautiful stones on the temple wall would shine brightly in the evenings and mornings.

Here is a model of the temple as it would have been at the time of Jesus and His disciples.

When the disciples praised its grandeur to Jesus (v. 5), the temple was in the midst of an eighty-three-year building program.  Started about 20 B.C., it continued until A.D. 63-64, just a few years before Jerusalem’s fall in A.D. 70.  Assuming an A.D. 33 date for the crucifixion, the program was over fifty years old at the time the disciples marveled at it.  The temple clearly made a deep impression on all who visited it.  Josephus gives detailed descriptions of its beauty (Jewish Wars 1.21.1 401; 5.5.1-6 184-227; Antiquities 15.11.1-7 380-425).  The Roman historian Tacitus also describes the temple as containing great riches (History 5.8.1).  Some of its stones were 12 to 60 feet in length, 7.5 feet in height and 9 feet in width (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.1-2 189-90 gives these measurements in cubits; a cubit is eighteen inches).  The temple loomed over the city like a “snow clad mountain” (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.6 223).  Not only was the building impressive, but it was decorated with gifts from other countries and had elegantly adorned doors and gates of fine craftsmanship (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.3-5 206-18).

No wonder the disciples felt national pride as they surveyed the awesome temple, exclaiming at its beautiful stones and . . . gifts dedicated to God.  Surely something so magnificent and God-honoring, something that had taken so long to build, would last a very long time.  God’s presence finally had a secure home.

Jesus’ response must have come like a knife in the heart: “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”  It is hard for us to appreciate the effect on Jewish ears of what Jesus predicts here. . .  The magnificent temple, the center of the nation’s worship and the sacred locale of God’s presence, will be destroyed and turned into a heap of rubble. Centuries of worship and years of reconstruction will be brought to an end.  The only way this can occur is if Jerusalem is overrun.

–from The IVP Commentary on Luke

Oh, no, they must have though, here we go again!

When the Romans were done with Jerusalem in 70 A.D., not a single Jew was left alive in the city.  The Romans eventually renamed the city Aelia Capitolina, and for many years would not allow a Jew to even enter what was formerly known as Jerusalem, except on one day a year—the anniversary of the fall of the city and the destruction of the temple, when Jews were invited to come and mourn bitterly.

–David Guzik

This was certainly terrifying and shocking news to the Jewish people.  This is why Jesus had wept over the city in Luke 19:41-44.

As great as the temple was, Jesus never hesitated to claim that He was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:5).  For man Jews of that day, the temple had become an idol-it subtly began to mean more to the people than God Himself did.  God has a habit of destroying our idols.

Good things can become the worst idols; and sometimes God sours even good things that we have allowed to become our idols.

David Guzik

Of course, all of this points to a far greater destruction which will occur in the end times (the tribulation).  But just as these disciples escaped the destruction of 70 A. D. so Jesus’ disciples in the end times can escape the far greater destruction that will come.

In Job 36 Elihu continues his diatribe against Job.  It will stretch into Job 37.  He is making up for lost time!  Of all Elihu’s discourses, this one is the most impressive because of his lofty descriptions of God.

From Tom Constable:

Four times in this chapter and twice in this section (vv. 1-25) Elihu said, “Behold” (vv. 5, 22, 26, 30).  In each case, he then proceeded to say something important about God. After this, he applied that truth.

Elihu’s first affirmation was that God is mighty and merciful (vv. 5-10), and He uses suffering to instruct people.  This is Elihu’s fundamental thought in all of his speeches.  There are two possible responses to God’s teaching, he said: hearing (v. 11) and not hearing (v. 12), and each has consequences.  Elihu developed these responses and consequences further, first the response of the godless (vv. 13-14), and then that of the godly (vv. 15-16).

Essentially, the godless typically become angry, and refuse to turn to God for help, and this often leads to a life of shame and an untimely death (vv. 13-14).  The righteous who suffer, on the other hand, more often turn to God, submit to His instruction, learn from it, and live (v. 15).

Finally, Elihu applied these points to Job, and warned him against responding to his sufferings like the ungodly (vv. 16-21).  Specifically, Job should avoid anger and scoffing and not let the large price he was paying for his God-sent education (i.e., humble submission to divine chastisement, the “ransom,” v. 18) divert him from godly living.

Elihu’s next major declaration about God, introduced by the second “Behold” (v. 22), was that He is a sovereign and supremely wise “teacher” (vv. 22-23).  Elihu’s application to Job was that he should worship God rather than murmuring, complaining, and pitying himself (vv. 24-25). Worship would enable him to learn the lessons that God was teaching him. The introverted (chiastic) structure of verses 22-26 emphasize the fact that God is worthy of praise.

Elihu focused next on God’s activities in nature.  There may be references to autumn conditions in 36:27-33, winter in 37:1-13, and summer in 37:17-18.  Perhaps the Hebrews thought of three seasons rather than four.

Elihu’s third “Behold” (36:26) draws attention to the infinite wisdom of God.  No one can understand how or why He deals with nature as He does (36:29).

The fourth “Behold” (36:30) affirms a similar point.  God uses rain to bring both blessings and curses on people. Lightning and thunder declare God’s presence even if people cannot fully understand when or why they come as they do.

Having introduced the idea of God’s sovereign control over all things as reflected in His control of nature (36:26-33), Elihu will elaborate on these thoughts in chapter 37.

Really, verses 1 and 2 of 2 Corinthians 6 should go with the previous chapter on the ministry of reconciliation God has given to us and our plea to be reconciled to God.

1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

It is possible to “receive the grace of God in vain,” for it to come up empty, to have no effect.  When God’s Spirit begins to convict us and woo us, that is the grace of God.  To say “no” when that happens is dangerous.

Paul’s personal ministry to the Corinthians was commended by hardships (6:4-5), by godly character (6:6) and Spirit-driven ministry (6:7), through paradoxical ministry (6:8-10) so open wide your hearts to us (6:11-13) and do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (6:14-18).  This will naturally lead into the commands to pursue holiness in 7:1-2.

The fact is, genuine apostolic ministry was hard and contained many troubles.  Paul will come back to this in chapter 11.  Since these were tests of character, they proved Paul’s integrity and authenticity as an apostle.

6:11-7:6 are therefore an appeal by Paul for the Corinthians to put their confidence in Paul, instead of these “super apostles”

Craig Keener notes:

“. . . in Roman politics and ancient Mediterranean culture in general, friendship included accepting the friend’s friends as one’s friends and his enemies as one’s enemies (e.g., Iamblichus Pyth. Life 35.248-49). How then can the Corinthians be reconciled with God if they mistrust his agent (cf. 6:14-16; Matt 10:40; Ex 16:8)?”

Regarding the arguments against forming binding relationships with unbelievers, Tom Constable writes:

Paul was not saying that Christians should break off all association with unbelievers (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-10; 10:27).  He had previously encouraged the saved partner in a mixed marriage to maintain the marriage relationship as long as possible (1 Cor. 7:12-16).  He had also urged his fellow Christians, as ambassadors of Christ, to evangelize the lost (5:20).  Rather, here Paul was commanding that Christians form no binding interpersonal relationships with non-Christians, that resulted in their spiritual defilement.  This is an extension to human beings, of the principle underlying the prohibition against breeding or yoking an ox and a donkey together, in Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:10.  Such alliances can prevent the Christian from living a consistently obedient Christian life.

The fulfillment of God’s will must be primary for a believer.  Obviously some relationships with pagans do not pose a threat to our faithfulness to God.  Where they do, the Christian must maintain his or her relationship with Christ, even it if means forfeiting relationships with unbelievers.  There is a conceptual parallel here with what Jesus (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25), Paul (Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1-2), and Peter (1 Pet. 2:13-17) taught about the believer’s relationships with God and the state.  We should obey both authorities unless they conflict, in which case we must obey God.

Paul set forth the folly of such behavior by pointing out five contrasts. Each contrast, in the form of a question, expects a negative answer.  All of them point out the incompatibility and incongruity of Christian discipleship and heathenism. Paul supported the last of these with quotations from the Old Testament (vv. 16b-18).

The main reason for Paul’s prohibition is that Christians belong to Christ.  We already have a binding relationship with Him, and we must not be unfaithful to Him by going after another.

Is this passage a warning against dating, or marrying, an unbeliever (if you are a believer)?

The reference to temples and idols suggests that Paul is still addressing the Corinthians’ tendency to try to blend the worship of God with the activities that went on the pagan temples.  In other words, the people wanted to be Christian while still partaking of all the activities that marked the worship of the Greek gods.  The attitude seemed to be that they could be spiritually Christian “inside” while the physical body could still enjoy the wild pagan lifestyle of Corinth.

I would say that this passage can apply to marriage, that when two people are united together in marriage they exercise tremendous influence over one another and therefore to be married to an unbeliever, while not sinful, is not wise.

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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