Monday, December 31, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Proverbs 14-20

Readings for this week

Monday: Proverbs 14
Tuesday: Proverbs 15
Wednesday: Proverbs 16
Thursday: Proverbs 17
Friday: Proverbs 18
Saturday: Proverbs 19
Sunday: Proverbs 20

Introduction to Proverbs 14-20

Chapters 14-15 

After the extended Prologue, The second section of the Book is made up of the Proverbs of Solomon. The second unit, chapters 10–22:16, carries the superscription "the proverbs of Solomon", which may have encouraged its inclusion in the Hebrew canon. Proverbs 10:1–22:16 contains 375 sayings and consists of two parts.

Part One: Proverbs Which Contrast Righteous (Wise) with Wicked (Foolish) Living (10:1-15:33)

Part Two: Assorted Proverbs Which Exalt Righteous Living (16:1-22:16) 


The talk of fools is a rod for their backs.
Even in laughter the heart may ache.
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker.
A gentle answer turns away wrath.
The eyes of the LORD are everywhere.
Plans fail for lack of counsel.
The LORD hears the righteous. 

Chapters 16-20 

Proverbs 10:1–22:16 contains 375 sayings and consists of two parts.

Part One: Proverbs Which Contrast Righteous (Wise) with Wicked (Foolish) Living (10:1-15:33)

Part Two: Assorted Proverbs Which Exalt Righteous Living (16:1-22:16) 


A man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
Kings detest evil.
Pride goes before destruction.
Wisdom is a fountain of life.
A wise servant will rule over a shameful son.
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam.
Even a fool seems wise if he keeps silent.
A fool delights in his own opinions.
The name of LORD is a strong tower.
A gift opens the way.
The tongue can bring life or death.
Wealth makes friends.
A false witness will not go unpunished.
A good wife is from the LORD.
Whoever helps the poor lends to the LORD.
Wine is a mocker, beer a brawler.
Even a child is known by his deeds.
The LORD hates false weights.
It is a snare to make rash vows.

Monday, December 24, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Proverbs 7-13

Readings for this week

Monday: Proverbs 7
Tuesday: Proverbs 8
Wednesday: Proverbs 9
Thursday: Proverbs 10
Friday: Proverbs 11
Saturday: Proverbs 12
Sunday: Proverbs 13

Introduction to Proverbs 7-13

Chapter 7 

Lesson Twelve: A father urges his son to avoid the adulteress and to follow wisdom. 

First, the Exhortation -- Heed Your Parents' Words to Identify with Wisdom to Keep from the flattering Adulteress.
Second, is the Dramatization of the Naive and the Adulteress.

First, he presents The Naivete of the Victim.
Then he offers A Description of the Adulteress, describing both her character and her tactics.
He then describes The Fall of the Victim, and offers his Concluding Plea. 

First, the Exhortation… Listen and Steer Clear.

“Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths." 

And then he offers the Reason… Death.

"Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.” 

Chapter 8 

The father offers his conclusion… which is to Follow Wisdom’s invitation:

First, he discussed The Public Call of Wisdom. Then we hear The Words of Wisdom. Wisdom's Virtues are then presented:

“To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.”
Wisdom's Rewards are then discussed.

We then hear about Wisdom's Role in Creation:

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.”

We then hear Wisdom's Concluding Plea -- Pursue Wisdom for Blessing and to Avoid Injury. 

Chapter 9 

We then come to the Summary of the Lessons -- Contrasting Two Rival Women, Two Rival Minds, and Two Disparate Results.

First, The Woman of Wisdom: Wisdom like an honorable woman invites the naive to her feast of life.

On the Preparation for the Naïve:

“Wisdom has built her house;
she has set up its seven pillars.
She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servants, and she calls
from the highest point of the city..."

Details of the Invitation:

"‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’
To those who have no sense she says,
‘Come, eat my food
and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of insight.’”

The Lesson’s example -- The Wise and The Scoffer Contrasted.

First, On the Scoffer's Closed Mind -- Abuses Reprovers and Hates Reproof

Second, On the Wise Man's Teachable Mind -- Loves Learning, Increases in Learning, Fears the Lord & Lives Long.

Summary: The wise man benefits from wisdom, but the scoffer can blame only himself.

On the Woman of Folly: Folly like an adulterous woman invites the naive to her feast of Death.

On the Woman Folly’s Character -- Noisy, Simple, & Ignorant:

“Folly is an unruly woman;
she is simple and knows nothing."

On Her Position -- Religious:

"She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city..."

On Her Appeal to the Righteous:

"...calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way..."

On Her Invitation to the Naïve:

"‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’
To those who have no sense she says..."

On Her Enticement -- Evil is Good

"‘Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!’"

On Her Fate -- Death!

"But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” 

Chapters 10-13 

After the extended Prologue, The second section of the Book is made up of the Proverbs of Solomon. The second unit, chapters 10–22:16, carries the superscription "the proverbs of Solomon", which may have encouraged its inclusion in the Hebrew canon. Proverbs 10:1–22:16 contains 375 sayings and consists of two parts.

Part One: Proverbs Which Contrast Righteous (Wise) with Wicked (Foolish) Living (10:1-15:33)

Part Two: Assorted Proverbs Which Exalt Righteous Living (16:1-22:16)

Monday, December 17, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Proverbs 1-6

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 39
Tuesday: Proverbs 1
Wednesday: Proverbs 2
Thursday: Proverbs 3
Friday: Proverbs 4
Saturday: Proverbs 5
Sunday: Proverbs 6

Introduction to Wisdom Literature 

Egyptian Instructional Wisdom 

Ancient Egyptians collected short, usually optimistic sayings about leading a successful life. These collections are typically addressed from a teacher—called “father” or “mother”—to a student—called “child” or “son.” Egyptian instructional wisdom bears some resemblance to Proverbs.

Instructions of Ptahhotep (2450 B.C.) 

“He said to his son: Do not become arrogant because of your knowledge, nor confident because you are wise. Take advice from the simple as well as the wise. You never reach your full potential, always having more to learn. Good speech is hidden like an emerald, but may be found as women grinding grain.”

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” – Proverbs 2:1-5

Instructions of Amen-em-Opet (1200 B.C.) 

“Give thy ears, hear what is said, Give thy heart to understand them. To put them in thy heart is worth while, See [you] these thirty chapters: They entertain; they instruct. Do not associate to thyself the heated man. Do not carry off the landmark at the boundaries of the arable land.”

“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge . . . Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge . . . Make no friendship with a man given to anger . . . Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” – Proverbs 22:17-28

Mesopotamian Discoursive Literature 

Ancient Mesopotamians composed lengthy, usually pessimistic monologues and dialogues about the lack of justice in the world. These documents teach cosmic retribution: righteousness leads to prosperity, and wickedness leads to suffering. The problem is that nobody is righteous, and everybody suffers because of the crimes they have committed. The solution to suffering is to accept the judgment of the gods. Mesopotamian discoursive literature bears some resemblance to Job and Ecclesiastes.

Ludlul bel Nemequi (“I will praise the Lord of wisdom”): 

A monologue in which a Babylonian tells about how he encountered misery in his life and how Marduk eventually restored him.

Babylonian Theodicy 

“Sufferer to his friend: ‘Your opinion is like the north-wind, a pleasant breeze for everyone. Pure and choice is your advice. But I have one problem for you: those who neglect the god prosper, while those who devoutly pray become poor and weak.’”

“Then Job answered and said: . . . ‘Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?’” – Job 21:1-7

“Friend to the sufferer: ‘When the great primeval, creator gods of the universe created humankind, they gave him twisted speech. They endowed them forever with lies and not the truth.’”

“Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: . . . ‘For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you.’” – Job 15:5-6

Old Testament Wisdom Literature 

The term “wisdom literature” comes from Old Testament scholarship, not from the Ancient Near East. Scholars recognized a different genre in Scripture and discovered other Ancient Near Eastern texts that were similar. The Israelites borrowed and adapted the wisdom literature of other cultures. “Wisdom” in the Ancient Near East often carried a secular or magical connotation. “Wisdom” in the OT often carries a moral or religious connotation. Proverbs 1:7, for example, states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

There are various inflections of the word “wisdom” (hokmah) in the Old Testament. It represents both a way of thinking and a way of living. Four biblical nuances are:

1. Skill in craft as an artisan (e.g., workers in the Pentateuch, Hiram of Tyre, goldsmiths in Jeremiah)
2. Insight into life and life’s details (skill in thinking and in intellect)
3. Way of thinking and acting morally (social conduct, private conduct, practical wisdom)
4. Philosophical/theological view of life (higher, reflective wisdom)

The goal of biblical wisdom literature is to encourage people to think and behave in covenant ways. Wisdom literature emphasizes creation theology more than covenant theology to make it simple and universal. It is also oriented for individuals more than for communities.

Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are considered true wisdom literature. There are also a number of wisdom psalms, and Song of Songs resembles wisdom literature in function and literary form. Therefore, all the poetic books may be categorized as wisdom literature.

Other Wisdom Literature:

Story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45)
Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha)
Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach (Apocrypha)
The Beattitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
James (e.g., 1:5) 

Introduction to Proverbs 1-6

Chapter 1 

The introduction the Book states its purpose and theme. The author of the book is introduced as “Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel. The Purposes of the Proverbs are given in a brief summary statement: Moral-To Bring Skill and Corrective Instruction, Mental-To Discern Sayings of Understanding

An expanded statement is then provided as well:

To receive: discipline, righteousness, judgment, equity
To give: prudence to the naïve, knowledge and discretion to young ones
To increase: in learning, in wise counsel
To understand: a proverb, a figure, sayings of the wise, riddles of the wise

On the principle of proverbs: Fearing the Lord is the first step of learning
On the foundation of knowledge: Fearing God is the foundation of knowledge
On the rejection of Wisdom: The rejection of Wisdom is folly

We then come to the Prologue of the first section of the book which is set up as a father's exhortations to his son to embrace wisdom. The first section (chapters 1–9) consists of an initial invitation to young men to take up the course of wisdom, ten "instructions", and five poems on personified Woman Wisdom. The first unit, chapters 1–9, was probably the last to be composed, in the Persian or Hellenistic periods. The extended prologue begins with an appeal to heed Wisdom.

Lesson One: A father urges his son not to yield to the invitation of robbers and murderers, and not to reject the invitation of wisdom.

On Evil Invitations: Refuse evil invitations

The Admonition:

“My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.

The Enticement:

If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul…”

The Results:

“These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!”

On Wisdom's Invitation: Do Not Refuse the Invitation of Wisdom

Wisdom's Invitation:

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square…”

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?”
“Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.”

The Rejection of Wisdom:

“…since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you…”

He then discussed the results of Wisdom… which are far better. 

Chapter 2 

Lesson Two: A father urges his son to receive his sayings on wisdom resulting in protection through discernment.

First, The exhortations to Wisdom:

“My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you…”

Then, The results of Wisdom--Protection through discernment.

“…then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.”
“Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.”
“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men…”
“Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman…” 

Chapter 3 

Lesson Three: A Father urges his son to trust and honor God.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Lesson Four: A Father urges his son to understand that wisdom will bring him blessing.

First, blessing will come through discipline.

On Blessings Enumerated:

“Blessed are those who find wisdom…”
“Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

Lesson Five: A Father urges his son to be wise in his relationships with others.

First, an exhortation to keep Wisdom is given. Then, an exhortation to be wise in relationships is given. 

Chapter 4 

The Book’s extended Prologue then comes to an Interlude… also on the theme of Wisdom: Here a Father urges his sons to acquire wisdom as their highest priority because it has proved itself to be good. 

First, is A Father's Exhortation to pay attention to Wisdom.

Second, is A Father's Experience of the Good of Wisdom.

Third, is A Father's Encouragement to acquire, love and prize wisdom:

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”

Lesson Six: A father urges his son to follow the right path of uprightness and to avoid the wrong path of the wicked.

First, is a Reminder of Past Guidance--The Right Path

Next, is a Reminder to Stay on the Right Path: Keep Instruction, Avoid the Path of the Wicked, Follow the Path of the Righteous.

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.”

Lesson Seven: A father urges his son to discipline himself by watching his motives and actions.

First, is An Exhortation to Heed the Father's Words for Life and Health.

Second, is An Exhortation to Guard Motives and Actions: Guard Your Heart, Guard Your Mouth, Guard Your Eyes, Guard Your Feet. 

Chapter 5 

Lesson Eight: A father warns his son about the temptations and costs of sexual immorality with the adulteress.

First Exhortation--Heed Wisdom, the Adulteress is Destructive.

“For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”

Second Exhortation--Heed Wisdom, the Consequences are Destructive.

“Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
lest you lose your honor to others
and your dignity to one who is cruel…”

Lesson Nine:
A father urges his son to enjoy his wife because of the consequences of doing evil.

First, he gives his Exhortation:

“Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?”

He then offers his Reasons:

"For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all your paths." 

Chapter 6 

Lesson Ten: A father urges his son to avoid the company of evil people like strangers in debt, sluggards, and worthless people.

On the Sluggard:

“Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.”

"How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.”

On the Worthless Person:

“There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes
a lying tongue
hands that shed innocent blood
a heart that devises wicked schemes
feet that are quick to rush into evil
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” 

Lesson Eleven: A father urges his son to avoid the adulteress.

First, is an Exhortation to Heed Parents' Teachings.

The Reason—to provide Blessings and Protection from the Evil Woman.

“Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.”

“For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
He will not accept any compensation;
he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.”

Monday, December 10, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 32-39

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 32
Tuesday: Isaiah 33
Wednesday: Isaiah 34
Thursday: Isaiah 35
Friday: Isaiah 36
Saturday: Isaiah 37
Sunday: Isaiah 38

Introduction to Isaiah 32-39

Chapters 32-33 

Isaiah finishes off his series of six woe oracles that began in chapter twenty-eight. 

Fifth Woe Oracle: Against the Women of Jerusalem 

They are complacent women, thinking they stand secure.
Your merriment will be turned to mourning when this place is destroyed.
This place will become a wasteland forever until the Spirit is poured on us from on high. 

Sixth Woe Oracle: Against the Destroyer 

The LORD is a consuming fire who will destroy the destroyer and betray the betrayer. 

Chapter 34 

The next section of the book foretells Zion’s deliverance. First, Isaiah pronounces God’s Judgment against the nations. 

“Come near, you nations, and listen;
pay attention, you peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that is in it,
the world, and all that comes out of it!
The Lord is angry with all nations;
his wrath is on all their armies.
He will totally destroy them,
he will give them over to slaughter.
Their slain will be thrown out,
their dead bodies will stink;
the mountains will be soaked with their blood.
All the stars in the sky will be dissolved
and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;
all the starry host will fall
like withered leaves from the vine,
like shriveled figs from the fig tree.” 

Chapter 35 

Isaiah then proclaims the joy of the redeemed. 

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.” 

“Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” 

Chapter 36 

Chapters 36-39 are the same as 2nd Kings 18:17–20:21. This section retells almost verbatim the stories of Isaiah’s interaction with King Hezekiah. 

King Sennacherib of Assyria sends troops to surround Jerusalem. The field commander called out to the people of Jerusalem: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? Pharaoh will not be able to save you from us. We will give you a good new land to live in if you surrender to us. Will Yahweh really protect you? Haven’t you been unfaithful to Yahweh? None of the gods of the other nations of the world were able to save their people from our might. Yahweh himself told us to march against Jerusalem and destroy it! Surely you will all eat your own dung and drink your own piss!

The people remained silent as Hezekiah had commanded them. Hezekiah puts on sackcloth and goes to the Temple. He sends for the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz. Hezekiah hoped that God would “rebuke” the Assyrians for their blasphemy and save Jerusalem. 

Chapter 37 

Isaiah gave this message to King Hezekiah:

“This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.”

The Assyrians retreated because of threats of a Cushite invasion from the African continent. As they left, they sent a letter to King Hezekiah threatening that they would eventually come back and conquer Jerusalem and no one would be able to stop them.

Hezekiah’s Prayer:

“It is true that the Assyrians have destroyed the gods of other nations…because they were not really gods at all… Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

Isaiah’s message about Sennacherib, condensed:

“‘Virgin Daughter Zion
despises you and mocks you.
Daughter Jerusalem
tosses her head as you flee.
Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:
“‘He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

The angel of the LORD slaughters 185,000 Assyrian soldiers at night. Sennacherib returns to his capital at Nineveh. His two sons assassinate him. Esarhaddon becomes king of Assyria. 

Chapter 38 

Hezekiah becomes deathly ill. Isaiah’s message: Get your house in order because you are going to die. Hezekiah faces the wall and cries and asks God to remember his faithfulness. Isaiah leaves, but God stops him, sends him back. Isaiah’s new message: God has heard you. God will heal you. God will protect this city from the Assyrians. Hezekiah asks for a sign from God. The sign was the shadow moving backwards up the steps instead of following its normal course down the steps during the day. Hezekiah then offers a song of praise to God. 

Chapter 39 

Later, King Marduk-Baladan of Babylon is pleased when he learns that Hezekiah has recovered, and he sends envoys with gifts for him. Hezekiah shows off all of Jerusalem’s wealth to the envoys. Isaiah scolds him, and predicts the King of Babylon will one day come to plunder Jerusalem’s wealth. Hezekiah doesn’t care – he figures he’ll be long gone by then.

Monday, December 3, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 25-31

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 25
Tuesday: Isaiah 26
Wednesday: Isaiah 27
Thursday: Isaiah 28
Friday: Isaiah 29
Saturday: Isaiah 30
Sunday: Isaiah 31

Introduction to Isaiah 25-31

Chapters 25-27 

Within the section of the book known as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse”, he offers praise to the LORD: 

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.” 

Isaiah then offers up to God another song of praise. 

“Lord, they came to you in their distress;
when you disciplined them,
they could barely whisper a prayer.
As a pregnant woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pain,
so were we in your presence, Lord.
We were with child, we writhed in labor,
but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth,
and the people of the world have not come to life.” 

“But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.” 

Isaiah then speaks about the deliverance of Israel. 

“In that day,
the Lord will punish with his sword—
his fierce, great and powerful sword—
Leviathan the gliding serpent,
Leviathan the coiling serpent;
he will slay the monster of the sea.” 

“In days to come Jacob will take root,
Israel will bud and blossom
and fill all the world with fruit.” 

Chapters 28-31 

The book then contains six “woe oracles.” 

First Woe Oracle: Against Ephraim 

The name Ephraim here represents the northern kingdom of Israel. Isaiah denounced Ephraim’s pride and arrogance. God vowed to bring justice and righteousness to the land through his “tested cornerstone.” 

Second Woe Oracle: Against Ariel 

The name Ariel here represents the city of Jerusalem. “Ariel” seems to mean “hearth of God.” The people of Jerusalem spoke as if they knew God, but they had hardened their hearts from following Him. 

Third Woe Oracle: Against the Obstinate Children 

“They say to the seers,
‘See no more visions!’
and to the prophets,
‘Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.
Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!’” 

Fourth Woe Oracle: Against Those Who Rely on Egypt 

Isaiah condemned Judah’s attempt at foreign alliances. These foreign treaties often included formally recognizing the other nation’s gods. Also, Egypt had developed a reputation of promising its allies assistance and then failing to provide it. The LORD would one day raise up a righteous king whose coming would renew society. Other leaders would follow his example and bring blessing to all the land.

Monday, November 26, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 18-24

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 18
Tuesday: Isaiah 19
Wednesday: Isaiah 20
Thursday: Isaiah 21
Friday: Isaiah 22
Saturday: Isaiah 23
Sunday: Isaiah 24

Introduction to Isaiah 18-24

Chapters 18-20 

Isaiah then prophecies against Cush. God will humble Cush. The Cushites will one day bring gifts to Zion. 

Isaiah then prophecies against Egypt. God will judge Egypt and her idols. “So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord... In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’” 

Isaiah then prophecies against both Egypt and Cush. God told Isaiah to remove his clothes and his sandals and walk around naked and barefoot, preaching to the people in this way for three whole years. Just as Isaiah walks around “with buttocks bared” so will Egypt and Cush be led away “with buttocks bared” by the Assyrians. God will turn the tables on Egypt, and make them slaves instead of slave-masters. God will dry up the source of the Nile, devastating the nations of Egypt and Cush. 

Chapter 21 

Isaiah then prophecies against Babylon, Edom, and Arabia. Elam and Media will work together to bring Babylon down. Judgment will sweep away Edom and Arabia within a year. 

Chapter 22 

Isaiah then declared the day of Jerusalem’s judgment. The people had lived there in security for many years, and had come to believe God would protect them forever, no matter how they lived. Isaiah presented two pictures of leadership – Shebna and Eliakim. Shebna used his office for dishonest gain and God would bring him to nothing. Eliakim would serve his people as a father, but he was, unfortunately, one of only a very few examples of quality leadership in his generation. 

Chapter 23 

Isaiah then prophecies against Tyre. Tyre had used its strategic location on the coast to accumulate great riches. God would cause them to be destroyed because of their great pride. 

Chapter 24 

The next section of the book is known as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse.” He first speaks of the LORD’s devastation of the earth. 

“The floodgates of the heavens are opened,
the foundations of the earth shake.
The earth is broken up,
the earth is split asunder,
the earth is violently shaken.
The earth reels like a drunkard,
it sways like a hut in the wind;
so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion
that it falls—never to rise again.” 

“In that day the Lord will punish
the powers in the heavens above
and the kings on the earth below.
They will be herded together
like prisoners bound in a dungeon;
they will be shut up in prison
and be punished after many days.
The moon will be dismayed,
the sun ashamed;
for the Lord Almighty will reign
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and before its elders—with great glory.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 11-17

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 11
Tuesday: Isaiah 12
Wednesday: Isaiah 13
Thursday: Isaiah 14
Friday: Isaiah 15
Saturday: Isaiah 16
Sunday: Isaiah 17

Introduction to Isaiah 11-17

Chapter 11 

Isaiah described a “branch” who would come up from the line of Jesse, David’s father. He says, 

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” 

This Messiah (“anointed one”) would be empowered by the Spirit of the LORD to lead the nations. 

“He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” 

He would bring peace to all people, and even the animals themselves would no longer destroy each other. 

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.” 

Chapter 12 

Chapter twelve contains songs of praise, saying, 

“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.”

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.” 

Chapters 13-14 

The next section of the book covers the themes of universal judgment and universal salvation. First, Isaiah prophecies against Babylon. God will use the Medes to judge Babylon. Babylon’s destruction will be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. God will also destroy Assyria with Babylon. Babylon’s ruler had made godlike claims, but God would humble him. 

“How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
to the depths of the pit.” 

Christians have sometimes reinterpreted this as a description of Satan’s fall from heaven. 

Isaiah then prophecies against the Philistines. The Philistines rejoiced when King Ahaz died, thinking they could now shake off Judah’s domination, but Isaiah assures them that God will still protect His people. Isaiah warned Hezekiah not to join the Philistines and Egyptians in their rebellion against Assyria. 

Chapters 15-16 

Isaiah then prophecies against Moab. “Ar of Moab is laid waste. In the streets they wear sackcloth. The waters of Dibon are full of blood. A throne will be established from the house of David. We have heard of the pride of Moab. Within three years Moab will be despised.” Both Assyrian kings Sargon II and Sennacherib claimed victories over Moab. 

Chapter 17 

Isaiah then prophecies against Damascus. God will level Damascus of the Arameans. God will also judge Israel who allied themselves with the Arameans.

Monday, November 12, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 4-10

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 4
Tuesday: Isaiah 5
Wednesday: Isaiah 6
Thursday: Isaiah 7
Friday: Isaiah 8
Saturday: Isaiah 9
Sunday: Isaiah 10

Introduction to Isaiah 4-10

Chapter 4 

Isaiah describes the “Branch of the LORD.” He says that a “branch” will arise from the line of David, and he will serve as God’s instrument to bring in God’s kingdom on earth. 

Chapter 5 

The next section contains the “Song of the Vineyard." God’s people are a vineyard. God took good care of his vineyard. But his vineyard produced sour grapes. The point is that despite God’s care, Judah insisted on following a destructive path. 

After this comes a pronouncement of woes and judgments. Isaiah says:

Woe to those who selfishly increase their estates at the expense of others!
God will make their estates worthless.
Woe to those who live only to get drunk!
They will be too drunk to understand the destruction surrounding them.
Woe to those who put God to the test!
They mistake God’s patience for lack of power to judge.
Woe to those who call good evil and evil good!
They do so only to justify themselves.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes!
God will humble them.
Woe to those who take away the rights of the defenseless!
God will call another nation to consume them and carry them away. 

Chapter 6 

In chapter six we hear the story of Isaiah’s Commission. 

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” 

“‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’” 

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” 

“With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’” 

“Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” 

“And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” 

Chapter 7 

These events take place during the Assyrian threat over the nation of Judah during the reign of King Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah. The kings of Israel and Aram wanted Judah to join them in battle against Assyria. Ahaz refused and the armies of Israel and Aram surrounded Jerusalem. 

Isaiah offered a sign to Ahaz that God would protect Jerusalem. Ahaz had already planned on siding with the Assyrians, so he refused the sign. Isaiah condemned his lack of faith and offered the sign anyway. 

He says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”

Immanuel means “God with us.” In the New Testament, Jesus was referred as “Immanuel” because he was “born of a virgin” and was also “God with us.” 

Ahaz chose to trust in Assyria instead of God. The Assyrians conquered and destroyed Aram and Israel. Isaiah warned the people about Assyria’s incredible power. The land would experience devastation, and fertile areas would become desolate. 

Chapters 8-10 

God used Isaiah and his children as signs. Isaiah had two sons. His second-born son was named “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz,” which means “Quickly to the plunder!” He would serve as a sign to the people in that before the time would come when he was old enough to say “mommy or daddy” the Assyrians would have put an end to the threat of Israel and Aram by rushing quickly to plunder them. 

Isaiah’s first-born son was named Shear-Jashub, which means “a remnant shall return.” Later, Shear-Jashub was to be a sign to the people that even though Jerusalem would be destroyed in the future, God would bring a faithful remnant of his people back from exile to the land He had given them.

Before the time of this faithful remnant, Judah will certainly be judged. Isaiah condemned those who consulted mediums instead of consulting God. He claimed that the “insights” of the mediums only gave “lack of sight” to those who listened and they “dwelled in darkness.” However, Isaiah offers a ray of hope as well.

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.”

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

In these chapters Isaiah speaks of the LORD’s anger against Israel. Israel “hardened herself” to God’s judgments. God used Assyria as an instrument of punishment against his people. The Assyrians never realized the role they played in God’s plan, and instead became proud and arrogant. God says, “Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it?” And so God promised to judge Assyria as well. 

After this Isaiah tells us about the remnant of Israel. He says, 

“In that day the remnant of Israel,
the survivors of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
who struck them down
but will truly rely on the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel.
A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
will return to the Mighty God.
Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel,
only a remnant will return.” 

“Shear-Jashub” = “A remnant shall return.”

Friday, November 9, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 1-3

Introduction to Isaiah 1-3

Isaiah is the first book in a section known as the Major Prophets. 

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah take place during the time of the events of the second half of the book of 2nd Kings. 

The book of Isaiah is not presented in chronological order. 

The book opens with the words: 

“The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” 

The book of Isaiah can be divided into different sections according to different theories of authorship… 

1st Isaiah – Isaiah 1:1–39:8 (pre-exilic)
2nd Isaiah – Isaiah 40:1–66:24 (exilic) 

1st Isaiah – Isaiah 1:1–39:8 (pre-exilic)
2nd Isaiah– Isaiah 40:1–55:13 (exilic)
3rd Isaiah – Isaiah 56:1–66:24 (post-exilic) 

Chapters 1-2 

The opening chapters of Isaiah deal with Judah’s rebellion against the covenant they made with God. But God plans to redeem his people living on his holy mountain of Zion (Jerusalem) and through them to spread his Law to all the nations of the world. And there will be no more wars. 

We then hear about the “Day of the LORD” which is described as a “day of judgment, terror, and destruction.” 

Isaiah says:

“People will flee to caves in the rocks
and to holes in the ground
from the fearful presence of the Lord
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.” 

Chapter 3 

Isaiah then talks about the coming judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. He says that God is going to “cut off” the leaders of his people who have abused their positions of authority. Also, God is going to judge the women of Judah who trusted in their beauty and jewelry.

Monday, November 5, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Galatians 3-6

Readings for this week

Monday: Galatians 3
Tuesday: Galatians 4
Wednesday: Galatians 5
Thursday: Galatians 6
Friday: Isaiah 1
Saturday: Isaiah 2
Sunday: Isaiah 3

Introduction to Galatians 3-6

Chapter 3 

Paul makes a defense of Justification by Faith. He talks about the experience of the Galatians, declaring them to be bewitched fools who had already been made fully aware of Christ’s crucifixion.

Paul interrogates the Galatians:

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
Are you so foolish to begin by means of the Spirit, but finish by means of the flesh?
Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Paul then refers to the example of Abraham in making his defense of Justification by Faith. He quotes Scripture, saying that Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” He says that those who have faith are children of Abraham. He says that Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” He says that those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Paul then talks about the curse of the Law, saying that all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse. And he quotes Scripture, saying, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” He says that no one who relies on the law is justified before God… because “the righteous will live by faith.” And he says that Scripture does not say that the law is based on faith. On the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”

Paul then speaks of Christ bearing the curse of the Law. He says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

He then speaks of the blessing of Abraham. He says that Christ redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Paul then speaks of the permanence of the promise given to “Abraham’s Seed”…Christ. He gives an example from everyday life: No one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established.

God’s promise was to Abraham’s seed – meaning one person, not many. Who is this one person? Christ!

Paul then speaks of the Law’s irrelevance for the Promise. He points out that the law that came 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant does not change that covenant. The inheritance does not come through following the law, it comes strictly through the promise God graciously made to Abraham.

Paul then addresses the purpose of the Law. First, he discussed the Law’s temporary nature.

Why was the law given at all?

It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator, even though a mediator usually implies more than one party, and God is only one.

Does this mean that the law is opposed to the promises of God?

Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin.


So that what was promised (being given through faith in Jesus Christ) might be given to those who believe.

Before the coming of this faith…

We were held in custody under the law
We were locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.
The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.

Now that this faith has come… we are no longer under a guardian.

Paul then discussed the Law’s inferior status. First, he talks about equality in the Body of Christ, saying that in Christ Jesus...

You are all children of God through faith
All of you were baptized into Christ
You have clothed yourselves with Christ
There is neither Jew nor Gentile
There is neither slave nor free
There is no male and female
You are all one in Christ Jesus
You are Abraham’s seed
You are heirs according to the promise 

Chapter 4 

Paul then compares the Law and the Promise to slaves versus sons (heirs). Paul’s point about being an heir: If an heir is underage, he is no different than a slave . Likewise, when we were underage we were slaves to the spiritual forces of the world. But at the right time, God sent his son, a human born under the law, to redeem everyone else under the law and to make them children of God. If you are a child of God, then the Spirit of Jesus is in you. The Spirit of Jesus calls God “Daddy”. And if God is also your daddy, then you are no longer a slave, but an heir of God.

Paul then makes his appeal concerning justification by faith. Paul discusses his concern for the Galatians because of their return to bondage. He says to them, “When you didn’t know God you were slaves to things that are not gods. But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – why are you turning back?” The Galatians are observing special holidays and seasons that are contrary to the life of Christ, and Paul is worried that he has wasted his time on these people.

Paul then discusses his concern for the Galatians because of their loss of joy. Paul tells them that they should become like him since he had become like them. He remembers that previously…

They did him no wrong
He first preached the Gospel to them because he was ill
His illness was a trial to them
But they did not treat him with scorn or contempt
They treated him like an angel
They treated him like Christ himself
They would have been willing to tear out their own eyes and give them to him

But now…

They no longer bless him
They have become enemies of Paul because of the truth he spoke to them

The Judaizers…

Want to win the Galatians over
Do not have the benefit of the Galatians in mind
Want to alienate the Galatians from the Apostles
Want to win the zeal of the Galatians


Is a fine thing if the cause is good
Should be present at all times, and not just when Paul is around

Paul sees the Galatians as his children. He says he is in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in them. He wishes he could be with them. He wishes he could change his tone with them. They perplex him.

Paul then makes an allegorical appeal to them. He starts by asking, “Since you want to live under the law, do you even know what the law says?”

He says, “It is written that Abraham had two sons. One by the slave woman. The other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh. But his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.”

These things are being taken figuratively:

The women = two covenants
Hagar = The Sinai Covenant which bears children who are slaves
Hagar = the present city of Jerusalem, because Jerusalem’s children are slaves to the law
Sarah = the heavenly Jerusalem, who is our free mother
Isaac = you who are children of the promise
Ishmael persecuted Isaac = those born according to the flesh persecute those born by the power of the Spirit

But what does Scripture say?

“Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”

Paul’s conclusion: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” 

Chapter 5 

Paul then offers a practical defense of Christian liberty. His argument contrasts liberty versus Law. The Law enslaves the believer. He says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Don’t let yourselves become slaves again. Christ means nothing to you if you choose the way of circumcision.” He adds that the Law obligates the believer, saying that every man who lets himself be circumcised is obligated to obey the whole law. He says that the Law alienates Christ. He says that if you try to be justified by the law you have fallen away from grace. Through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

In Christ Jesus…

Circumcision has no value
Uncircumcision has no value
Faith expressing itself through love is the only thing that counts

Paul also says that the Law hinders growth. He says to the Galatians, “You were running a good race, but someone cut you off. Whoever persuaded you was not the one who first called you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. The one throwing you into confusion will have to pay the penalty.”

He says that the Law removes the offense of the Cross. He poses, “If I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

Paul then contrasts liberty with license. First, he discussed the fruit of license saying “you were called to be free.” But your freedom…

Shouldn’t be used for fleshly indulgence
Should be used to serve one another humbly in love

Paul says that the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He says, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Paul says that the acts of the flesh are obvious:

Sexual immorality
Fits of rage
Selfish ambition
Other such things

Paul warns that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. And he says that the fruit of the Spirit is…


And he adds that there’s no law against things like this. He says that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. And he adds that since we live by the Spirit…

Let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. 

Chapter 6 

Paul then speaks of our liberty or freedom to love. First he discussed the responsibility we have toward the weak and sinful. If you catch someone sinning…

You who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently
You should watch yourselves, or you might also be tempted
You should carry each other’s burdens, and then you will fulfill the law of Christ
If you think you’re someone special, you’re not
Test your own actions and see if they’re worth being proud of, and don’t compare yourself to others

He then discussed responsibility toward those who are leaders. He says that “The one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction. Whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Paul then discusses the responsibility we have to do good toward all people whenever we have the opportunity, especially those who belong to the family of believers.

Paul then comes to his conclusion. First, he seeks to provide authentication of the epistle he is writing to the Galatians. He says, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”

He then condemns the Judaizers. First, he discusses their motives. He says that they want the Galatians to be circumcised so that they may impress others by means of the flesh, and he adds that the only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. He says that not even those guys who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want the Galatians to be circumcised that they may boast about their circumcision in the flesh.

Paul then discusses his own motives. He says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Paul then closes with a benediction:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.”