M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, March 24

Today’s Bible readings are from Exodus 35, John 14, Proverbs 11 and Ephesians 4.

Exodus 35-40 is the actual building of the tabernacle.  The plans had been given (25-31) so now they take up an offering to build it and the money pours in (35:1-29).  Moses prefaces his appeal for the materials to build the tabernacle with “Whoever is of a generous heart…” (v. 5).  They were willing to give, they gave what they could and gave it to the LORD.  Everything that was needed was provided because of willing, generous hearts.

Moses again recognized “Bezalel” and “Oholiab” as unusually skillful artisans, whom God had gifted and appointed to lead the construction work (35:30—36:2).

In John 14 Jesus seeks to comfort them at the news of His departure.  First, he tells them they will not be separated forever, that He is going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them (just like what happened in the engagement period between Jewish groom and bride) and would return to take them there (vv. 1-4).

Then, he promises them the Holy Spirit (vv. 16-17), to be their comforter.  Jesus had been their comforter, now they would have someone just like Him but with two distinct differences: (1) he would never leave them and (2) he would live in them.  What a blessing, to never be without the Comforter!

Third, he promises them that like Him, though they might die, they would live (v. 19).  Death wasn’t the end, but a new beginning.  They would see Him risen from the dead and that should comfort them that they will rise from the dead.

Dwight L. Moody once told his friends

“Some day you will read in the papers, ‘D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.’  Don’t you believe a word of it!  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now…”

And C. S. Lewis said of the children who had been the main characters in the Chronicles of Narnia series, that they had now grown to adulthood and died in a train accident:

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Finally, Jesus promises His disciples peace.  They would really need peace because Jesus would warn them that persecution was heading their way.  It would be God’s peace, not the world’s peace that was offered to them.  The world’s peace is shallow and short-lived.

I cannot imagine God pacing back and forth, wringing his hands, saying, “What now?  What am I going to do?”  He is always calm precisely because He is God and has everything, and I mean everything, under control.

It is that peace He gives us and we can experience it when we trust that God is with us and that He is working all things out for our good.

See Jack Dawson’s Peace in the Midst of the Storm for a visual demonstration of this kind of peace.  There is a video that explains some of the hidden imagery.

And Ron Hutchcraft tells this story (I don’t know if it is true)

Years ago a major art gallery sponsored a competition for painters.  They were offering prizes for the best painting on the subject of “Peace.”  As attenders browsed through the entries, most had decided that a one certain painting was almost sure to win.  It portrayed this lush green pasture under a vivid blue sky, with the cows grazing lazily and a little boy walking through the grass with his fishing pole over his shoulder.  It really made you feel peaceful.

But it came in second.  The painting that won was a real surprise.  The scene was the ocean in a violent storm.  The sky was ominous, the lightning was cutting across the sky, and the waves were crashing into the rock walls of the cliffs by the shore.  No peace.  But you had to look twice to understand what was going on.  There, about halfway up the cliff, was a birds’ nest, tucked into a tiny hollow in the rock.  A mother bird was sitting on that nest – with her little babies, tucked underneath her, sleeping soundly.  That was peace!

Anybody can have “peace” when the conditions are perfect, but we need the kind of peace that can weather the storms…and that is the peace that God gives.

Proverbs 11:1-8 focuses on matters of financial and personal security.  The riches of the wicked that will not save them (v. 4) and the false balance whereby a wicked man increases his income (v. 1) are contrasted with the just weight (v. 1) and righteousness (v. 4). Similarly, the pride (v. 2) and crookedness (v. 3) that lead people to ruin are contrasted with the humble attitude (v. 2) and integrity (v. 3) that guides people through the troubles of life.

11:5-6 parallel each other (The righteousness of the blameless/upright) and emphasize a common theme of the section: the faithfulness of the righteous guides (vv. 3a, 5a) and delivers them (see vv. 4a, 6a, 8a, 9b) from the fate of the wicked.

Wise investments are also the dominant theme of 11:16-31.  In 11:18 the wicked sows wickedness and reaps what he does not expect (“deceptive wages,” cf. Rom. 6:23): divine punishment rather than blessing.  The righteous, on the other hand, “sows righteousness” and reaps what he sows: blessing (cf. Gal. 6:7).  The former reward is often deceptive and disappointing, but the latter is truly satisfying.  Haman reaped a bitter harvest for his wicked sowing, whereas Jesus received nothing but glory for His sowing.

11:24-26 speaks of giving which is not loss, but gain.

If God rewards the righteous with blessings in this life (11:31, and He does, “how much more” will He repay wicked sinners before they die!  No one sins with impunity.  We reap what we sow.  God will judge every sin.

While ungodly people may appear to prosper and live carefree lives, they do not experience the blessing of fellowship with God, which is the greatest blessing human beings can enjoy in this life (cf. Phil. 3:7-11).  Job is an example of a righteous man who experienced great reward before he died, as did Abraham, David, Paul, and a host of others.  Several of the wicked kings of Israel and Judah illustrate the alternative.  Peter quoted this proverb (1 Pet. 4:18).

Ephesians 4 begins the practical portion of this epistle.  In chapters 1-3 Paul described what God has done for us and we might say that our position is in view and that we are seated in the heavenlies.  The dominant theme of Ephesians 4-5 is our walk, our practice, while Ephesians 6:10-20 calls us to stand.  The “therefore” at the beginning of 4:1 shows that our practice is based on our position, our character on our calling, imperatives are built on indicatives.

Ephesians 4:1-16 is organized in a large parallel known as a chiasm. The first part of this parallel (verses 1-6) deals with the unity of the church. The second part of this parallel (verses 7-16) deals with the diversity of the church.

Practical Unity (4:1-3)

Practical Diversity (4:12-16)
 
Doctrinal Unity (4:5-6) ————

Doctrinal Diversity (4:7-11)

Because the Trinity is united and everything God has done for us unites us, we are to be united.  The attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance in love is our part.

But that unity is not uniformity.  We are all given different gifts and those gifts enable us to build up the body.  Spiritual leaders are given (v. 11) to equip the saints for ministry, not to do all the work themselves.

The goal is maturity and unity (diversity is not divisiveness) so that we are not carried away by every “wind of doctrine.”

So we are called to walk according to our calling–in unity and diversity, but we are also called to walk differently than the Gentiles (unsaved).  Having “learned Christ” (4:20) we are to (1) put off the old self, (2) be renewed in our minds, and (3) put on the new self.  This threefold pattern is carried through chapter 4 into chapter 5.

The Old Self

The New Self

Your former manner of life The new life in Christ
On its way to destruction Created anew
Rotting under the power of lust Increasing under the power of God
Controlled by lust Controlled by truth

Some have called Ephesians 4:25-32 Four Rules for Fighting Fair:

  1. Speak the truth to one another (v. 25)
  2. Reconcile quickly (vv. 26-27)
  3. Use edifying language (v. 29)
  4. Be willing to forgive (vv. 30-32)

In each case Paul tells them what to put off and what to put on, and usually gives a reason (renewing of the mind, understanding why).

For example, in Ephesians 4:25 Paul tells them to put away speaking falsehood (lying, deception) and put on telling the truth and then tells them “for we are members of one another.”  Since we are members of one another, lying rips the fabric of that relationship.

See if you can pick out each of the three steps in the remaining verses.

 

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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