Ephesians 1:1-14

“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (v13-14). Paul reminded the Ephesians of the precious reality of their faith. They had burned magic books and risked persecution to follow Jesus (Acts 19), yet all they had renounced was nothing in comparison to what they received: the indwelling Spirit, adoption as sons and daughters, holiness, redemption, riches of grace, an inheritance (v5-7).

In Christ, God has lavished “every spiritual blessing” on us (v3), and the Holy Spirit is our guarantee that we belong to His coming kingdom (v11-14).

Psalm 133

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (v1). The ‘songs of ascent’ were psalms sung when the Israelites made the journey several a times a year to Jerusalem to worship at religious festivals (like Pentecost). This short psalm celebrates the beauty and centrality of spiritual brothers and sisters worshiping, working, and enjoying life together. The psalmist said it’s as holy as the precious oil that anointed Aaron the priest (v2), and like life-giving dew that waters Zion.

“Life forevermore.” Our individual relationship with God, now and forever, can’t be separated from our lives together as brothers and sisters in Jesus’ kingdom.

Isaiah 47

“Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely … (v8). Isaiah prophesied that Babylon (v1), symbol of wealth, success, and power, would come to ruin. They had mistreated Gods people (who were vulnerable because of their own sin), and Isaiah said that their “sorceries” and “enchantments” could not save them (v9). They felt “secure in their wickedness” and didn’t believe that God saw or cared what they did (v10). But God declared that judgment was coming.

“Our Redeemer … is the Holy One of Israel” (v4). God sees our failures, yet He doesn’t turn away. Our Redeemer calls us, Israel and Babylon both, to give up our desire for control, to repent, and to receive mercy.

Isaiah 46

“These things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts” (v1). “Bel” and “Nebo” (v1) were idols whose heavy carved images were carried by mules. Even made of gold, said Isaiah, “If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble” (v6). God didn’t want Israel to be burdened and crushed by false idols who demanded everything and offered nothing. Instead, He said, He was One who had carried them “from the womb” and was faithful (v3-5).

Pursuing our own security and happiness, apart from Jesus, ends with crushing burdens. Instead, we can trust the One who says: “I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (v4).

Isaiah 45

"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!” (v22). Through Isaiah, God declared that He was working through King Cyrus and other events for one purpose: “that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me” (v6). God’s desire was to use Israel to “bless” (Gen 12) the world by sending Jesus, so that the whole earth would be full of His sons and daughters.

“I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain.” (19). Just as God’s work through Israel was not in vain, He works in our lives so that we, and others, will truly know Him.

Isaiah 44

“He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself” (v20). God warned Israel not to fall into the idolatry of their neighbors, for “all who fashion idols are nothing. The things they delight in do not profit” (v9). Isaiah described how ridiculous it was that people burned part of a log for fire and carved the rest into an idol. Worshipping these empty things, just like our modern idols of money, status, work, and pleasure, revealed a “deluded” heart.

“I will pour water on the thirsty ground” (v3). Other objects of worship leave us dry, empty, and ultimately betray us. Only Jesus offers living water that satisfies.

Galatians 6:8-18

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (v12). Paul knew that the Jewish Christians who wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised were not concerned with morality, but with appearances. The Gentiles had found freedom in Christ, but their lack of obedience to the most basic Law was embarrassing for the primarily Jewish church. Yet Paul insisted only “the cross” was necessary for salvation (v14).

What counts is “a new creation” (v15). Rather than a change of appearance or label, Jesus desires to give us new hearts - real transformation.

Galatians 6:1-7

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness … Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v1-2). Paul urged the Galatians, Jews and Gentiles together, to get involved in each other’s lives. With wisdom and gentleness, they should not overlook sin, but make the effort to “restore” their brother or sister. In the end, each was responsible for his or her own choices: “each will have to bear his own load” (v5).

“Let each one test his own work …” (v4). When we live first for Jesus, we have the strength, peace, and confidence to help one another.

Psalm 132

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for his dwelling place: ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it’” (v13-14). David rejoiced that he could make provisions for the Temple that Solomon would build (v1-5). The Temple, and the ark inside the Holiest Place, symbolized God’s promise to dwell among His people. They wouldn’t have to go searching for Him; He was close. They could worship God in the place He chose, without fear (v6-7).

“Here I will dwell” (v14). Jesus came to bring God’s presence among us, becoming the Temple. And by His purifying Spirit, we ourselves have become God’s dwelling place.

Proverbs 25

“Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips” (v19). The proverbs say that three types of people can cause trouble in a community. The liar (v18) is destructive, like a weapon of war. The “treacherous” or unreliable individual causes pain to others like an abscessed tooth, and the tactless person (v20) strips a person of comfort on a winter day. In contrast, those who can be counted on to do what they promise are refreshing to our souls (v13).

The proverbs teach us that how we treat others is spiritual. Our words, actions, and attitudes demonstrate the depth of our relationship with the Lord (v11-12).

Isaiah 43

“I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned” (v1-2). God reminded Israel that He was more powerful than any force that would try to destroy them. He made a way through the sea for them (v16-17); “besides me there is no Savior (v11).

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name …” (v6-7). In Christ, God declares us His sons and daughters, and we receive His name, His protection, and His unfailing love.

Isaiah 42

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (v1). Isaiah declared that God’s chosen servant would come to bring justice to earth, but his power would not be like human leaders. Instead, “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench (v2-3). By His own sacrificial love, He would win victory, set prisoners free, and open blind eyes (v7).

“He will not grow faint nor be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth …” (v4). Jesus is still at work bringing salvation, setting prisoners free, and strengthening the “bruised reed”.

Isaiah 41

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (v10). Through Isaiah, God reminded Israel that they were His beloved people. God had gathered them from the ends of the earth and not cast them off (v9); no matter how weak they felt (“you worm Jacob” v14), God would defend them. He promised to make their dry lands into springs of water and to plant trees everywhere (v18-19).

“I am the one who helps you” (v14). By faith in Christ we are included in God’s beloved people, and the “Holy One of Israel” saves, protects, and defends us (v20).

Galatians 5:14-26

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (v25). Rather than trying to control their righteousness by obeying laws (like circumcision or food rules), Paul urged the Galatians to live out of the “fruit” of their heart-relationship with God (v22). Centered on Jesus, their lives would overflow with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (v23-24). In contrast, those who followed their own desires were marked by “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger …” (v19-20).

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (v14). Loving Jesus results not in an obsession with rules, but in sincere love for others

Galatians 5:1-13

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (v1). The Galatian non-Jewish believers who had trusted Jesus as Savior were feeling pressured to accept circumcision to prove their “holiness.” But Paul said that if they tried to achieve holiness by following the Law in this way, they would be rejecting the gift of Jesus (v2-4). Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection had fulfilled the Law for everyone; circumcision was pointless (v6) and suggested a lack of faith.

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (v5). Laws can’t make us holy. What counts is “faith working through love” (v6).

Psalm 131

“I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother …” (v2). The psalmist made a decision to let the Lord handle things that were “too great and too

marvelous” for him. Instead, he learned to find soul-rest by placing trust and “hope in the Lord (v3).” He recognized that life is too big for us; we will never be able to understand it nor control all that happens. The psalmist declared that we find peace in the arms of God, like a child.

Echoing the psalm, Jesus urged his followers to find true rest in Him. “Come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).

Galatians 4:1-7

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father" (v6). Paul said that before Jesus came, people were saved by faith (ch3), yet they were like immature children or slaves, without the freedom of complete access to God (v1-3). “But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son …” (v4), and now through Jesus we have full membership as sons and daughters in God’s family.

“Since you are His child, God has made you also an heir” (v7). In Christ, we have a wonderful inheritance. The riches of fellowship with God are for today and for eternity.

Isaiah 40

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain … lift up your voice with a shout … say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" (v9). Isaiah prophesied that God would send His Messiah to comfort His suffering people (v1). God’s arrival in the Messiah would be “with power … with a mighty arm,” with reward and recompense. Yet the conquering King would also “tend his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (v11).

“Have you not heard?” (v28). All people need to hear the good news that Jesus the Messiah has brought God’s salvation in power and gentleness, justice and love.

Isaiah 39

“Lord, by such things people live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live” (v16). King Hezekiah was gravely ill, at the “point of death” (v1), which the prophet Isaiah confirmed. However, in response to Hezekiah’s desperate prayers, God miraculously healed him and added fifteen years to his life (v5). Hezekiah realized that the “anguish of his soul” (v15) was a lesson in humility, and he was grateful for how he had experienced both suffering and God’s help.

“He has spoken to me” (v15). God can work through our suffering in order to speak to us, to draw us closer, and to reveal Himself as the God who loves us.

Isaiah 38

“Lord, by such things people live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live” (v16). King Hezekiah was gravely ill, at the “point of death” (v1), which the prophet Isaiah confirmed. However, in response to Hezekiah’s desperate prayers, God miraculously healed him and added fifteen years to his life (v5). Hezekiah realized that the “anguish of his soul” (v15) was a lesson in humility, and he was grateful for how he had experienced both suffering and God’s help.

“He has spoken to me” (v15). God can work through our suffering in order to speak to us, to draw us closer, and to reveal Himself as the God who loves us.