To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.
Readings for This Week
Exodus 21-27, Luke 24, & John 1-6
Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Exodus)
Background of Exodus: The title “exodus” comes from the Greek word meaning “going out” or “departure” and describes the major event that occurs in the book. Exodus opens where Genesis leaves off – the descendants of Abraham are living in Egypt instead of in the Promised Land. The events in Exodus occur approximately four hundred years after Jacob’s family moved to Egypt, and as prophesied in Genesis 15, Abraham’s descendants became slaves. While Genesis highlights God as Creator, Exodus focuses on God as the Deliverer of His people, for He keeps His promise to free His people and to bring them back to the land of promise.
Structure of Exodus:
- Exodus 1-18 focuses on the deliverance of the people Israel from Egypt and God’s provision for His people.
- Exodus 18-24 explains God’s covenant with Israel.
- Exodus 25-31 provides instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and explanation for the priestly role.
- Exodus 32-34 describes God’s response to His people’s idolatry.
- Exodus 35-40 highlights the nation's obedience in building the Tabernacle.
This Week in the Old Testament: Exodus 21-23 continues with the giving of the Law, and it concludes case laws, which are representative types of rulings for things that the people would likely face. Exodus 24 records the first official worship service in the Bible where people gathering for the purpose of hearing from God and honoring Him, so the chapter includes a call to worship (Ex. 24:1-2), a proclamation of the Word (Ex. 24:3-4), a commitment of the people to obey the Word (Ex. 24:3-4), an offering of sacrifices (Ex. 24:4-8), and a communal meal that is eaten in God’s presence (Ex. 24:9-11). Exodus 24 presents the establishment of the “old covenant” or “Mosaic covenant” because it is when God officially sets Israel apart to be His people. It is the natural culmination of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In Exodus 25-31, God gives Moses instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and for the role of the priests. In Exodus 25:8-9, God tells Moses to make a sanctuary for Him to dwell with the people. While God is everywhere at all times, the Tabernacle provided a way for sinful people to approach a holy God, and the sacrifices and the regulations for worship were necessary because of the sinfulness of the people. In the context of salvation history, Genesis 1-2 tells of an unhindered relationship between God and His people, which was altered in Genesis 3. In Exodus, God reveals a plan to reside among His people via the Tabernacle, but there was still separation in that the people could not enter the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter once a year, and this continued for 1400+ years until Christ came. Then, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). No longer was it a high priest who entered God’s presence once a year, but the presence of God, God in the flesh, could be seen walking down the street (Col. 1:19; Heb. 1:3)! After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit came, and the New Testament describes Christ-followers as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19; Col. 1:27). Not only can believers access the presence of God, He resides in us!
The structure of the Tabernacle was a long rectangle that was a little over 1/3 of a football field long and ½ the width of a football field. It included an outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies (the innermost room). Why is it important to spend so many chapters in the Bible describing the Tabernacle? The details are important because of what the place represents and because of Who would reside there. Exodus 25 describes the Ark of the Covenant, which was the only furniture in the Holy of Holies, and this room was separated from the Holy Place by a curtain. It is no mistake that God leads out the instructions for the Tabernacle with the part that symbolized His presence with His people (Ex. 25:22). The mercy seat (the lid of the Ark) was where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled once a year (the Day of Atonement – see Lev. 16). The mercy seat and the Day of Atonement taught the people about their need to have guilt for sin removed through a sacrifice. The Ark contained the 10 Commandments, Aaron’s budding rod, and a pot of manna. So as God looked down on the Ark, He saw the Law (the 10 Commandments), knowing that His people could not keep the law perfectly, but God saw the Law through the splattered blood of the sacrifice. All of this points to how God can look upon us as sinners and have a relationship with us – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 3:23-24; Heb. 10:19-20).
The Holy Place (not to be confused with the Holy of Holies) contained three pieces of furniture: the Table of the Bread for Presence, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense (Ex. 25:23-40). Only the priests could enter this room, and they had to purify themselves before they could enter to burn the incense, to add oil to the lampstand or to replace the bread on the table. The Table for the Bread of Presence was changed on the Sabbath with incense being poured over it. This reminded the nation of God’s provision for His people as well as how His people should provide constant thanksgiving to Him, and it also represented the people’s communion with God. The Lampstand had a practical purpose of lighting the room, but it also illuminated the way to God’s presence.
Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (Luke & John)
Background of John: John 20:31 gives the thesis of this Gospel: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John stands distinct from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in his emphasis on eternal life and how it refers to both duration but also the quality of life that God designed us to have in Him. From John 1, this book establishes that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully human at the same time. Written by John who was one of Jesus’ disciples, this Gospel does not follow Jesus’ life chronologically. Instead, John 1-12 looks at the eight “I AM” statements of Jesus and at seven of His miracles in order to demonstrate by words and actions that Jesus is God, and it spends the remaining nine chapters on the night of Last Supper through Jesus’ ascension.
This Week in the New Testament: The last chapter in Luke’s Gospel features the resurrection of Jesus and some of His post-resurrection appearances to His followers. This fits with Luke’s stated intention in writing the book – for his friend Theophilus (and for us) to have certainty regarding the identity of Jesus. In Jesus’ interaction with His followers after His resurrection, Luke emphasizes how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures and how the writings of Moses and the Prophets all pointed to Him, and He explains that His sacrifice and the repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations (Lk. 24:25-27, 44-49). Luke concludes this Gospel by reminding Christ-followers of their purpose in light of what Christ accomplished and by telling them of the Holy Spirit who would empower them (Lk. 24:49).
John 1 opens with a description of Jesus as both God and the Son of God. He is not a Son in the same way that male human beings are, for He has always existed and was never made (Jn. 1:1-3). John 1 also explains why He came to earth and how John the Baptist was sent to point people to Christ (Jn. 1:6-16). John the Baptist clearly identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29) and as the One who existed before him (Jn. 1:30), for he understood that Jesus is both Messiah and God. In John 3, John the Baptist provides further clarification that Jesus came from heaven and is above all and that eternal life only comes from believing in Him (Jn. 3:31-36). In contrast, the religious leaders expected the Messiah to be either a great prophet like Moses, a great king like David, or some combination of the two. Their expectations about the Messiah did not make room for what God intended.
In John 1:35-2:12, Jesus calls four of His disciples (Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael) and performs His miracle – turning the water into wine at a wedding. This sign revealed His glory and resulted in the disciples trusting in Him (Jn. 2:11), for His actions confirmed His words. John 2’s record of Jesus cleansing the Temple is not a different event from what the other Gospels say happened during Passover Week; John just organizes this Gospel differently than the other Gospels. John 2:23-25 clarifies that Jesus performed many signs during His last week, and this is when Nicodemus approached him because he knew that Jesus’ signs indicated that God was with Him (Jn. 3:2).
John 4-6 contains four more signs of Jesus: the healing of the official’s son (Jn. 4:46-54), the healing of the invalid at Bethesda (Jn. 5:1-17), the feeding of the 5000 (Jn. 6:1-15), and Jesus walking on water (Jn. 6:16-21). Based on Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of the Samaritan woman’s life, she perceived that Jesus is a prophet, learned that He is the Messiah, and brought many to Jesus (Jn. 4:39-42). While the Jesus rebukes the official and the crowd for their lack of faith apart from His signs, He chooses to heal the official’s son, which results in the man and his household trusting in Jesus (Jn. 4:46-54). Because of His miracle in feeding the 5000, the people determine that Jesus is a prophet (Jn. 6:14), and Jesus follows this miracle with the bread and the fish by revealing that He is the Bread of Life, the One who gives life to the world (Jn. 6:22-59).