Readings for the week of July 22, 2018

The First Reading is found in Jeremiah 23:1-6. This passage is written as an indictment against the leaders of Israel of Jeremiah’s day: they were not taking care of the people of God; in fact, they were scattering them instead of gathering them to the Lord. The Lord will bring His punishment against them, but then restore a remnant back to Himself. In this passage we see God’s judgment against sin, but also His mercy and forgiveness.
We also are pointed to the righteous Branch of David, a descendant of David, Who will restore God’s people. Jeremiah is looking forward to, and pointing his readers to, Jesus; He is the righteous branch of David Who restores us and makes us righteous in Himself.
Lord Jesus, the righteous Branch of David, we give You thanks and praise for seeking us when we were lost, for bringing us into Your fold, and for making us righteous in You. By Your Holy Spirit, keep us from straying, and enable us to bring others into Your fold. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

Today’s psalm, the 23rd Psalm, is a much-loved psalm describing God as our shepherd, Who cares for us and keeps us in Himself into eternal life. Read each verse, pause to consider what each verse reveals to us about God, and give Him thanks and praise for His care of us.
In the New Testament Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, picking up on this psalm. As we read the psalm, keep in mind Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we give You thanks and praise for Your on-going care of us, care that leads us into eternal life. Let us see Your hand of blessing and guidance as our Good Shepherd, and through us bring others into your fold. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

The Second Reading, Ephesians 2:11-22, continues reading through parts of the book of Ephesians. Notice the hostility that is behind the text, hostility between Israelites and Gentiles, hostility that was a dividing wall between the groups. But notice what Jesus does: through His death and resurrection He breaks down all dividing walls, He destroys all hostilities and brings peace. He then founds the Church on Himself as the cornerstone, with the teachings of the apostles and prophets as the foundation. Let us continue to be built up in Him into a holy temple where God dwells.
Jesus, we continue to live in a hostile world, a world where so many are at odds with others. We thank You that in You we can have peace, and that in You we are part of the temple of God. As You have brought us peace with God and with others at the foot of Your cross, so enable us to be peacemakers who bring the peace and unity that only You can give. Build us up in You. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

The Gospel is recorded in Mark 6:30-44. This reading occurs right after the account of the execution of John the Baptist, so there is stress and distress surrounding Jesus; plus the disciples have just exhausted themselves ministering to others. Jesus knows their need of rest and leads them off to a place where they can rest. But, the whereabouts of Jesus became known and people came from everywhere. What did Jesus do when the crowds came, did He chase them away? No, He taught them. Then, when the day grew late and they had no food, He miraculously fed them.
We sometimes grow weary and need rest, but Jesus continues to minister to all Who come to Him. Let us remember and take comfort in the assurance that we can always come to Him; He never tires of blessing us. And let us be a blessing to others as He has first blessed us.
Jesus, we thank and praise You that You never stopped caring for and ministering to all who came to You. Remind us that we can always come to You with all that is on our hearts and minds, knowing that You will work Your blessings at all times.
Enable us to sit at Your feet, hearing Your teaching, and let us be nourished by Your grace and mercy. Then send us out into a weary, hungry world, bringing Your blessings to others so that they too can be blessed by You. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

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