September 17 

Hebrews 10:1-18 (ESV)

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ [1] came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ [2] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

September 17 

Luke 23:32-37 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [1] And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

Septemeber 17 

Proverbs 26:17-28 (ESV)

17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own
is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
19 is the man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I am only joking!”
20 For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
23 Like the glaze [1] covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
24 Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
25 when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
26 though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
28 A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.

September 17 

Isaiah 44-45 (ESV)

Israel the Lord’s Chosen

44:1 “But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen!
Thus says the Lord who made you,
who formed you from the womb and will help you:
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing streams.
This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’
another will call on the name of Jacob,
and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Besides Me There Is No God

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. [1]
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any.”

The Folly of Idolatry

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

The Lord Redeems Israel

21 Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified [2] in Israel.

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
25 who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
26 who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Cyrus, God’s Instrument

45:1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
“I will go before you
and level the exalted places, [3]
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.

“Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the Lord have created it.

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”

11 Thus says the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? [4]
12 I made the earth
and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.
13 I have stirred him up in righteousness,
and I will make all his ways level;
he shall build my city
and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward,”
says the Lord of hosts.

The Lord, the Only Savior

14 Thus says the Lord:
“The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will plead with you, saying:
‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.’”

15 Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.
16 All of them are put to shame and confounded;
the makers of idols go in confusion together.
17 But Israel is saved by the Lord
with everlasting salvation;
you shall not be put to shame or confounded
to all eternity.

18 For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
“I am the Lord, and there is no other.
19 I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’ [5]
I the Lord speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

20 “Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
21 Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.

22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ [6]

24 “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God FOR US.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,  for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. —Hebrews 9:23-28 

John Piper, in a sermon “What Christ Did at the End of the Age”

This is troubling at first and then tremendously comforting. It’s troubling because it raises the question why the heavenly holy place would need to be cleansed You see verse 23 says that the copies of heaven must be cleansed with the blood of animals, but “the heavenly things themselves [have to be cleansed] with better sacrifices.” Why is that? Is heaven defiled? Is there sin in heaven? Some have suggested that it’s because Satan has been there. Others have suggested that it’s because there are “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Maybe. But I think the most important thing to see is what verse 24 focuses on. Why did Christ enter [that heavenly] holy place with his better sacrifice the sacrifice of himself? It was “now to appear in the presence of God for us.” The words “for us” give the key to why there has to be cleansing in heaven. We are going to be there.

Here is a great comfort and encouragement to us. It is not complimentary. But it is wonderfully hope-giving. If you want to be made much of, rather than having the mercy of God made much of, you will not want to listen to this. But if you love the mercy of God and admit the misery of your own condition, you will love this. Verse 24 says that Christ enters the holy place of heaven with his better sacrifice “to appear in the presence of God for us.” This means that he will cleanse us there. We are what needs cleansing. And to the degree that we might defile heaven, Christ in that sense cleanses heaven.

Now listen to this. He is speaking to those of you (all of us, in our clear moments) who feel so dirty and so deeply bad that you would only pollute heaven if you got there. O how many people are kept away from Christ because of this! I pray that you will see what an invitation this is. This is God’s way of saying: “Come, you dirty ones. Come, you defiled, you deeply evil ones. Come, you who have soiled yourselves and who have been stained by others. Come to my heaven! For my Son is there. And he has not died in vain. He stands guard over my holy place, not to keep you out, but to make you clean so that you can be with me in perfect holiness forever. Come.

This is why he died. I did not send him to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners (Luke 5:32). Come.” Underline those words at the end of verse 24 “for us.” “Now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

In my research on Luke 23, I came across this wonderful sermon by Pastor Steven Cole, of Flagstaff, AZ.  He tells of Simon of Cyrene through the eyes of his son, Rufus.

Passion_of_Christ_Simon_of_CyreneThe Roman soldiers in our day got a sadistic kick out of making a condemned man carry his own cross to the site of his execution. It was just another way they rubbed in their superiority and dominance over the peoples they ruled. Just as the group passed by where Dad was, one of the prisoners, who obviously had already been badly beaten and abused, slumped to the ground under the load of his cross. The soldiers kicked him and cursed at him to get up, but it was obvious that this prisoner just didn’t have the strength to go another step under the load of that heavy cross. Before he knew what was happening, one of the soldiers shouted, “Hey, you!” He roughly grabbed Dad by the arm, dragged him toward the fallen prisoner, and barked, “You carry it for him!” The other soldiers laughed at Dad’s misfortune. Dad was stunned and protested, “But if I touch that cross, I’ll be defiled for the Passover.” That made the soldiers roar even louder! The guy who had grabbed Dad snarled, “It wasn’t a suggestion, buddy! It’s a command!” So Dad picked up the despised implement of death, hoisted it to his back, and fell in line behind the bloodied back of the prisoner who turned out, of course, to be Jesus. Since he was already involved and his celebration of the Passover was messed up anyway, Dad decided to stick around and witness the brutal proceedings. It was a day that marked him forever.

As Dad saw the sky grow dark and felt the earth shake, as he watched the way in which Jesus bore His suffering, how He treated His persecutors, what He said to the penitent thief hanging beside Him, Dad knew that this was no ordinary man. Dad heard Jesus cry out the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Just before He died, Dad heard Him proclaim, “It is finished!” As Jesus breathed His last, Dad heard one of the centurions standing nearby exclaim, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” and Dad had the strange sense that he was right.

From that moment, Dad began to wonder if this Jesus could possibly have been the Messiah the prophet Isaiah (53:4-5) wrote about: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell on Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” Later, Dad learned that the thick veil in the temple had been torn in two from top to bottom at that very moment, symbolizing what Jesus our Messiah had done in opening the way for us into God’s holy presence. Dad’s remaining questions were cleared up fifty days later at the Feast of Pentecost, as he heard Peter and the other apostles proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. That day Dad, along with 3,000 others, put his faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus as his Messiah and Savior. Dad’s life and our lives, as his family, would never be the same after that day. Dad led us to put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and we have devoted ourselves to serve Him. Later Dad shared with us some valuable lessons about salvation and service from his unusual experience that day, which I’d like to pass on to you. He taught us that …

Salvation is God’s doing and service means self-denial and sharing in Jesus’ suffering.

To continue reading the amazing story of Simon of Cyrene, through the eyes of his son, Rufus, and to hear what he learned about salvation and suffering, click here:

Proverbs 26:4-5

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Hmm…which is it?   When we come to confusing passages, we can approach it in one of two ways:

  1. “Do these verses contradict each other? Sure looks like it.  Guess I’ll give up reading the Bible now.”
  2.  “How can I understand what God is trying to teach me here, since I believe that God does not contradict Himself?”

John Piper comments: 

We believe that the Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the very word of God, written. Therefore, we believe that the Bible is true and coherent. It does not teach us things that are false. It does not contradict itself. We believe this because Jesus Christ has made himself real to us and has shown himself to be the trustworthy Son of God. He has taught us that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). He commissioned apostles to teach the church and promised to lead them into all truth (John 16:13). And he has given us his Spirit to open our eyes to see reality for what it is (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). So we have come to receive his Word as the very Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13), free from error and contradiction, because God is true and not a God of confusion.

The Ambiguity of Words

But this does not mean that there are no problems for us in the Bible. We are finite. We are sinful. We are culturally biased. And language itself can confuse us when different words carry the same meaning, and when the same words carry different meanings.

Here’s my attempt at understanding what the Proverb means:  To answer not a fool (v4)is the general policy because you will end up like him yourself, falling into his trap and getting sucked in to playing his game by his rules.  You will be replying to his remarks as he responds to your reply with further stupidity: ad nauseum!  To answer a fool according to his folly (v. 5) is to keep a conversation going with a fool,  in order to expose his stupidity.  This is the exception (to answer a fool), because sometimes he or others may think (to their own harm)  that he is “so wise!”  that we just can’t come up with an answer.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.  Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.  I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.  I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” Isaiah 43:10-13 

John Piper, in a sermon, “I Am the Lord, and Besides Me There is No Savior”

When he says, “I am God!” (v. 12b), he declares his deity – his God-ness. When he says, “I act and none can reverse it!” he declares his sovereignty. These are not two different declarations. They are one. To be God is to be sovereign; and to be sovereign is to be God.

You see it again in Isaiah 45:5-7 where God predicts the coming of Cyrus centuries later. He says,

I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me [speaking of the pagan king Cyrus, long before he was born]; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.

God is at pains to declare that he is God and he alone. And to drive that home through the prophet Isaiah, he is willing to go so far as to claim ultimate sovereign responsibility for all the calamities of the world. “I am the one who forms light and creates darkness, who causes prosperity and creates calamity; I am the Lord who does all these things.” Why does God take responsibility for all the disasters of the world? Because God is God, and that means he is sovereign: he acts and none can reverse it.

You see it again in Isaiah 46:9-10,

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

And so here they come together again. “I am God!” And: “I will accomplish all my good pleasure!” Deity and sovereignty.

Why Do We So Deeply Cherish God’s Sovereignty?

As I prepared for this series, I asked again what the deep, central values of my life are. Why, I ask, do I cherish God’s sovereignty so deeply? Why is it the cornerstone of my thought and my preaching and my life? Why do I love to talk about it and meditate on it in the morning and in the evening? The answer I come to again is that without sovereignty there is no true God. Without a sovereign God, there is no God. Don’t miss this great fact: the God of Isaiah is jealous to define himself in terms of sovereignty: “I am God . . . I act and none can reverse it.” “I am God. . . . My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” That is what it means to be God.

Do you see what is at stake here? If we lose the sovereignty of God, we eventually lose God.

September 16 

 Hebrews 9:11-28 (ESV)

Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, [1] then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify [2] for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our [3] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. [4] 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

September 16 

Luke 23:26-31 (ESV)

The Crucifixion

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”