We spent more time looking at the question of why we read the Bible as we began our readings almost one year ago. But now at the end, can you answer that question again? Why have you been reading? What has been a result of being in God’s word?
What has been a takeaway for you in doing this? Has there been a certain story that struck you and has changed how you see the world? Have you seen themes through and through?
I’m not trying to ask rhetorical questions. We should take time to reflect on what we’ve done. (Although maybe you want to take time next week, once we’ve finished.)
Think of it this way. You have a neighbor that knows hardly anything about the Bible and she comes up to you and finds out what you’ve been doing for the last year. If she were to ask, “Why do you read the Bible? What does it matter? What does it mean?”, how would you answer?
Or imagine that a family member who doesn’t go to church were to ask “What have you learned? Are you different now than a year ago”, how would you answer him?
Doing something as big as reading the Bible in the year can stand out to others and be a cause for questions and something that sparks discussion. If that happens, I’d urge you to be ready to witness to others about the importance of God’s word and seeking him in it. As it says in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Here are some more questions that push us as we look back on what we have done and why we have done it:
What has been your favorite part?
What has been the most difficult?
Would you do it again?
What did you learn about God?
Do you think you’re closer to God when you are in his word?
We read this week of more judgment that is poured out upon the earth and there are parallels to the plagues that afflicted Egypt. This similarity is helpful in understanding how these trumpets, seals, or bowls operate in God’s grand plan. Just as the plagues in Egypt were not random acts of God’s vengeance, neither is what we see in Revelation. The plagues were a judgment on Egypt, but there were also the means by which God brought about the deliverance of his people. Likewise, the wrath that comes upon the earth is judgment, but it also has the purpose to be a means of God’s restoration of his creation. It is judgment, but it also plays a part in how God’s faithful people will be saved.
All these are translations of the phrase, kiy l’olam hesedo, which creates the refrain of Psalm 136.
It is hard to take a robust word like hesed and condense its meanings to one word in the English language. There are parts of the word with which these different translations do well. Hesed involves kindness, and surely when it is described of God, his kindness to us, a sinful creature, must involve mercy and we know its motivation is his love for us. There are examples of its use in the Bible that relate to its enduring quality, which is fitting here given that it is coupled with the word olam, which means everlasting or without end.
It is kindness, but it is more than that. It is love, but more. There is more than just the action and orientation, it brings in a commitment, such as the covenant God has made with us. When speaking of God it conveys the steady faithfulness he has to his undeserving people, and is descriptive of one who has done so much to save and shepherd his own. We could never remain faithful as he has, nor could we maintain the covenant. But God, with his great hesed, goes beyond what we deserve to forgive us and lavish his love upon us.
I had the privilege to preach this last Sunday on chapter five from the book of Revelation. In it Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, steps up as the only one worthy to open the scroll of God. I thought I’d share the cliff notes version of the sermon, as I didn’t write too much on the book for last week.
One concern of mine in regards to this book is that we see it as just an extended forecast–something that shows us the future, but has no real bearing for how we live today. Revelation does show us what is to come, but I believe it also reveals a vision that breaks into our life in the here and now. Here is a summary of three takeaways for how we should live today.
Worship and Praise
Revelation pulls back the curtain to give us a glimpse of one so worthy, so glorious that he deserves our praise now and through eternity.
Perseverance and Hope
Revelation pulls back the curtain and shows us the truth that although this world appears to be in chaos, God has a plan, a plan that Christ accomplishes, and it is a plan for his victory, so let us persevere with hope.
Revelation pulls back the curtain and reminds us that the God who reigns has called us into that family business. We reign with Christ and live as a part of his kingdom, serving right now, as a royal priesthood in this world.
We see a powerful image of what life with God will be like, and in these verses are wonderful promises of Jesus truly fulfilled. Jesus, the bread of life, told us that if we come to him we won’t hunger and if we believe, we’ll never thirst. He said that he is our good shepherd. He offers us living water. Our lives are hidden within him, finding shelter there. Such hope is wrapped up in the scene around the throne in chapter seven:
They are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Tomorrow I’ll be preaching on Revelation 5. And I’m trying to keep it to just that. Although I’d like to go on about more of the book, the sermon would be so long.
I’m mostly done at this point, but are there things about Revelation you have questions about? What have you learned previously? Before you started reading, did you have any preconceived notions about what Revelation was about? Enjoying it? Perplexed?
If your question or comment is suitably earth-shaking, maybe I’ll have to rewrite my entire sermon. If not, I’ll try to tackle your questions in the weeks to come as we slowly make our way through this mysterious book.
Oddly, Ecclesiastes packs a punch even though it is talking about the listlessness of life. Life is vanity, we are a vapor, there is no point. If this were entirely true, then it is surprising that the author intends for you to keep reading more than one chapter.
There is meaning in life, and it comes through in Ecclesiastes, but much of the book is devoted to talk about what has no real worth.
I think this resonates with many in today’s world who have had the realization that they live a life with no purpose. Some leave jobs and lives behind to forge a new path searching for meaning. Others reject the values of wealth and power that society seeks to lift up hoping to live life according to a better principle or philosophy.
This creates a great opportunity to shine a light on what Christ offers. To those without, he gives direction. In Christ we all have a calling. We have a purpose as we seek to be his disciples, loving God and loving others. Participating in his kingdom work is of great worth and eternal value. The world offers goals like get a bigger house, have more cable channels on your bigger TV, and gain fame. But these are vanity and are nothing in comparison to the revolutionary purpose of living for Jesus.