Bible Readings for Jan. 21, 2018

We are now in the midst of the season of Epiphany. This is an exciting time of the Church Year as Epiphany sheds light upon Jesus as He is manifested to the world. Epiphany takes highlights of Jesus’ life and ministry and shows us Who He is by His words and actions.

The First Reading is recorded in Jonah 3:1-5, 10. Jonah is an interesting prophet. He was not sent to the people of Israel, but rather to the hated people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Jonah did not want to go because he was afraid that if the Ninevites listened to his prophecy and repented, then God would not destroy them; Jonah wanted God to destroy them, so he did not want them to repent. Jonah hopped in a boat going in the opposite direction of Nineveh, but God caused a great storm to strike the boat, forcing the sailors reluctantly to throw Jonah overboard, which caused a great fish to swallow him. Three days later the fish “spewed” (puked) Jonah on the shore near Nineveh. He got the message and went to Nineveh to call them to repentance. Much to Jonah’s dismay and anger, the people of Nineveh did repent, and God relented of destroying the city.
We shake our heads at Jonah, how could he be so hardhearted such that he wanted God to destroy the Ninevites. Perhaps we can get an idea of some of Jonah’s hatred toward the Ninevites when we realize that the ancient ruins of Ninevah are just outside Mosul, Iraq. Who do we want God to destroy? Does God want to destroy them, or lead them to repentance?
One final note, of all the Old Testament prophets sent by God to lead people to repentance, Jonah is one of the few, if not the only one, who succeeded; and he didn’t want to. God’s grace is so great, even to Ninevites!
Lord, we thank and praise You that You want all people to repent and turn to You in faith, including us! Give us Your love for others so that we share Your love with them, leading them to repentance and faith in You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Today’s Psalm, 62:1-12, is a psalm of David. David is one who had his share of enemies, from king Saul to his own son Absalom, and the Philistines; all wanting to kill him. There are many psalms where David cries out to the Lord in the midst of his enemies that God would deliver him; David continually trusted in the Lord, and God did rescue him. This is a good reminder for us that we should trust in the Lord Who is faithful to keep us safe in His hands, even into eternal life.
Lord, as the world seeks to overthrow Your kingdom, keep us firm in faith, knowing that Your kingdom through Jesus will reign forever. Keep us safe in Your hands now and forever. Amen.

The Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (32-35), is based on the idea that the return of Jesus would be very soon, and so the apostle Paul tells the people not to get bogged down in this life because they would soon be with the Lord. We don’t know when Jesus will return, but He is 2,000 years closer than when this passage was written; plus none of us know when we will die. Be ready. Yes, we live in this world, but don’t let this draw you away from Jesus.
Lord Jesus, our redemption was more important to You than anything else, including Your divine glory, which You set aside to redeem us. Keep our eyes fixed on You, keeping our relationship with You as the most important part of our lives. Amen.

The Gospel for today, Mark 1:14-20, records the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Notice the call of Jesus to repent and believe in the gospel. Yes, we should. Through the work of the Holy Spirit we can repent, trusting in the forgiveness we have in Jesus, and through the work of the Holy Spirit we do believe in the Gospel. Let us praise the Lord for His grace and mercy.
Notice also that Jesus called disciples to follow Him and that He would send them out to bring others to Him. Let us heed the call of Jesus to follow Him alone, and also follow His mission to go out into the world and catch people for Jesus.
Holy Spirit, guide us to follow Jesus as these first disciples did, turning from anything that got in the way of following Jesus. Lead us to daily repentance and faith, and send us out into the world to point to Jesus so that others will see Him and follow Him as the only Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

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