This week in our New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we encounter Romans 9-11. These three chapters are, by far, the most controversial section in this epistle, if not the whole of the New Testament. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Spirit of God did not inspire this text to confuse or divide us. The teachings in this passage of Romans is vital to the gospel and to our own spiritual walk. I’ve done my best to capture the essence of each chapter with the goal to inform and inspire our faith. Let’s keep reading together and may God’s rich blessing be upon us as we continue to read His word.
Monday, Mar. 25 – Romans 8; Psalm 35
The struggle described in Romans 7 doesn’t end when we become Christians. But there is a new dimension to that struggle which completely changes its outcome… the Spirit of God. This chapter contains the greatest concentration of references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, an average of one almost every two verses. Whereas there are 31 occurrences of “I” in chapter 7, there are 17± references to the “Spirit” in chapter 8. Here Paul explains the benefits of sanctification made available through the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. Make a quick list of everything Paul says in chapter 8 that the Spirit does in the life of a believer? What evidence do you see of your life being controlled by the Spirit? Meditate on the blessing of God’s Spirit from vv. 1-30 and Paul’s poetic praise of God’s love in vv. 31-39. How do these two teachings affect your attitude toward the God of your salvation, your struggles with sin and the current circumstances you face as a Christian?
With Psalm 35, David laments the unjustified opposition of his enemies as he calls on God to deliver him. With language that alternates between legal and military terminology, David cycles between exasperation and expectation. In vv. 1-10, he asks God to deliver him from enemies who were trying to kill him without cause. With vv. 11-18, he laments that “they repay me evil for good”. Lastly, in vv. 19-28, David petitions God on his behalf. Describe a time when you were betrayed by someone close to you. When they hurt you, did you seek your own vengeance or did you give it to God? If you sought your own vengeance in light of David’s plea in vv. 19-28 do you think God was pleased with your actions? Why or why not? If you allowed God to vindicate you then what was that experience like for you? For the other person? Praise God for His wisdom and mercy.
Tuesday, Mar. 26 – Romans 9; Proverbs 9:7-12
Coming off the uplifting stanzas of chapter 8, Paul writes, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsman according to the flesh” (vv. 2b-3). Paul writes this section of Romans with tears in his eyes because of Israel’s unbelief. Their Messiah had come and they had rejected Him. In chapters 9-11 Paul wrestles with the problem of Israel’s faithlessness. These three chapters are, by far, the most controversial section in this epistle. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Spirit of God did not inspire this text to confuse or divide us. The teachings in this passage of Romans is vital to the gospel and to our own spiritual walk. In this chapter Paul focuses on the difficult question of God’s sovereignty. What all can you learn from Romans 9 about God’s character and His treatment of Abraham’s decedents? Are you ever tempted to regard God as unfair or arbitrary in His dealings with people? If so, in what ways? How does the illustration of the potter and clay help you gain a proper perspective on your relationship with the sovereign God? Talk to God about your feelings.
In our last reading from Proverbs (March 21st) we noted Proverbs 9 presents the dilemma of deciding between two dinner invitations, one from Lady Wisdom the other from Lady Folly. Which one you attend will largely determine your health, your wealth, and your happiness for the rest of your life. With vv. 1-6, Solomon has Lady Wisdom describe her feast. Next, in vv. 7-12 we learn her dinner conversation will not consist of merely idle chatter. What do vv. 7-12 tell you about how Lady Wisdom imparts benefits to her guest? How do you generally respond when people correct you? Why do you think you act this way? What specific actions can you take to more humbly and wisely receive correct?
Wednesday, Mar. 27 – Romans 10; Psalm 36
Again, Paul begins this section with a note of lament, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (10:1). As previously stated, over the course of three chapters, Paul grapples with Israel’s faithlessness in light of the promises of God. Chapter 9 discussed God’s choice of the Jews for the purpose of choosing the gentile world as well but the Jews refused to embrace His choice. Now in chapter 10, Paul focuses on Israel’s opportunities to respond to the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ. He explains the Jew’s pursuit of righteousness is good, but their method is not (see 9:31-32). Likewise, their zeal for God is good, but its basis is not (see 10:2-3). What is wrong with the attitude behind their zeal to be close to God? What, according to Paul, does a Jew, or any person, need to do to be saved? Why can’t the Jews blame their unbelief on the fact that they can’t, or didn’t, understand the word of Christ? Why can’t you? Think about the lost in your orbit of acquaintances. Pray persistently that God will send them messengers with the good news. Pray with the attitude that if God think it best then you will go to them with the gospel.
With Psalm 36, David presents a powerful contrast between human wickedness at its most malevolent and divine goodness in its many-sided fullness. Meanwhile, the singer is menaced by the one and assured of victory by the other. Few psalms cover so great a range in so short a space. This psalm is unique in that some translations describe it as an “oracle,” or in other words, a message from God (v. 1 NKJV; see also 2 Samuel 23:1). How does David describe the wicked? In contrast, how does David describe God? David relied on the character of God to strengthen his faith in the face of an evil world. In what ways will you find hope in God’s character as you face the evil world around you?
Thursday, Mar. 28 – Romans 11; Proverbs 9:13-18
Let’s start by looking back over the last couple of readings from Romans. In chapter 9, Paul explored God’s divine choice of Israel and the Jews rejection of God. Then with chapter 10, he focused on Israel’s unheeded opportunities to respond to the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ. Finally, in chapter 11, Paul answers the question that logically arises from the previous two chapters, “Has God rejected his people?” (11:1). Ultimately, what’s at stake in this discussion is whether God can be trusted to keep His promises. In your own words, how does Paul explain Israel’s unbelief as being partial (vv. 1-10)? Purposeful (vv. 11-16)? And temporary (vv. 25-32)? The mechanics behind all that Paul says in chapters 9-11 is boggling to our mortal minds. So then, focusing in on Paul’s description of God in vv. 33-36, how does this passage affect your willingness to trust God to work out the fulfillment of all His promises?
In our last two readings from Proverbs (March 21st and 26th) we noted Proverbs 9 presents the dilemma of deciding between two dinner invitations, one from Lady Wisdom the other from Lady Folly. Which one you attend will largely determine your health, your wealth, and your happiness for the rest of your life. We’ve examined Lady Wisdom’s feast and table talk now we’ll turn our attention to Lady Folly. Describe Lady Folly’s house, invitation, and feast. What similarities and differences to you see with Lady Wisdom’s house, invitation, and feast? No matter which invitation you accept, your decision will result in both pleasure and pain. How do the pleasure and pain from dining at Lady Wisdom’s house differ from the pleasure and pain one finds at Lady Folly’s house? What will help you to reject Folly and embrace Wisdom?
Friday, Mar. 29 – Romans 12; Psalm 37
After the song of praise in 11:33-36, what more is there to be said? Nothing but the practical implications of what has gone before. “Therefore” (v. 1) ties the rest of the letter to the first eleven chapters. Up to this point, Paul has described God’s gift of righteousness. In Christ we who were condemned are justified. We who were sinners are sanctified. And we who had no hope will be glorified. For the rest of his epistle, Paul explains how Christians should live in view of God’s grace, love, and mercy. Explain what you think Paul means when says we “should present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (v. 1). According to 12:2, what must happen in order for you to discern and agree with God’s will? How does this happen? Name an area of your life where you are tempted “to conform to this world.” Write down specific ways in which you can put into practice vv. 1-2 with regard to the temptation you are facing.
Here in Psalm 37, David urges the righteous not to let the prosperity of the wicked upset them but to continue to trust in God’s justice. Through an irregular acrostic form, David answers that age-old question, “Why do the ungodly prosper while the godly painfully struggle through life?” In the old gospel song, Father Along we still lyrically wonder the same question; “Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder Why it should be thus all the day long, While there are others living about us, Never molested tho’ in the wrong.” When have you wondered why the wicked prosper while believers suffer? In those times what did (or do) you think about the wicked person? Yourself? God? How can hymns like Psalm 37 and Father Along help you sort through your feelings?