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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

Sunday Services at 10 am and 11.30 am

Bible Reading Notes

These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!

These guidelines may help you.


January 2018

God: Our Refuge and Strength

January 1      Psalm 46:1–11

In the Psalms the emphasis is on what God is or on what God wants. So often we are concerned only with our achievements. Many human achievements reflect great credit on our ingenuity and courage and endeavour; but there come times of trouble when human ability fails. The most obvious moment of such failure is the moment of death itself – human strength and intelligence have come to their natural end. Men and women of God down through the ages have discovered that in such times of trouble ‘God is our refuge and our strength, always ready to help’.

January 2      Psalm 47:1–9

When we discover that God is our ‘refuge and strength’, then the natural reaction is one of sheer joy and praise. That is what this psalm is all about. It’s simply brimming over with laughter and joy and praise. Nowhere in the whole world is there a sense of joy and satisfaction equal to such a discovery.

January 3      Psalm 62:1–12

What a realistic book the Bible is! It speaks of angelic visitations and the great joy of those who have found God. It also speaks of the harshness of life and of our constant need of protection  and defence against the all-too-real dangers and temptations of this life. Such words are meaningless if there is no real danger from which to be protected. This psalm holds the balance between our need of defence and God’s ability to defend all those who trust in God.

The Humanity of Jesus

January 4      Luke 4:1–13

The great mystery about Jesus is that he is revealed as truly man and truly God.  He is not half man/half God. He is truly human and truly divine. Unless we grasp this and understand it fully, we shall fall prey to the many heretical sects presently operating within society. This week we try to see the humanity of Jesus and how he shares our human condition. Jesus could easily have won popular recognition by providing material bread or by doing the spectacular. But he knew that these were not God’s ways. Notice how he met temptation through reliance on God’s Word alone; notice how Satan could also quote scripture (verse 10). We must know the whole of God’s Word and not merely a few verses that appeal to us.

January 5      Matthew 21:18 and John 19:28–30

Jesus was hungry; he said ‘I am thirsty!’ Jesus shared our basic human needs for food and drink.

January 6      Mark 3:1–6

Jesus felt angry – more evidence of his essential humanity. Notice that his anger did not spring from a short temper, nor was he angry on his own account. Rather, he was angry because he was faced by men who had little or no concern for a poor paralytic but were more concerned to see that he broke no law.

January 7      Matthew 26:36–46

‘The sorrow in my heart is so great.’ Here we see Jesus coming to that point which is the breaking point for so many – the sense of sorrow and grief welling up within the heart. He remembered how crowds had flocked to him for healing in the early days. He saw how they now drifted away because they didn’t understand the real significance of his message. He saw the hatred and cunning of those who opposed him. He knew the suffering that lay ahead of him. He saw how even those closest to him could not keep awake in a moment of crisis. It was a cup of suffering he could not share with others. How bitter such a cup can be!

January 8      John 11:28–37

Verse 35 is the shortest in the Bible – Jesus wept. How good it is to know that Jesus had such a close personal relationship with this family in Bethany that, when the brother dies, he was moved to tears. Jesus knew that kind of sorrow.

January 9      Matthew 9:35–38

Temptation, hunger, anger, sorrow – but perhaps the noblest of all human characteristics is compassion, the awareness of the needs and weaknesses and distresses of others – so aware that your heart swells with pity and a burning desire to help. It is hardly surprising that this human characteristic should also be found in Jesus.

January 10      Luke 4:16–30

If compassion is the noblest of human virtues then rejection must be the experience most painful to bear – and especially if the rejection is undeserved. Notice how Jesus was rejected in the very town where he had been brought up. It was his own people and not strangers who rejected him. And they rejected him because he sought to lead them further in the truth of God.

The Divinity of Jesus

January 11      John 1:1–18

This is perhaps the greatest passage in the whole of the New Testament. We now look to the divinity of Jesus, of how he is truly God. In this passage John speaks not of Jesus but of the Word. John saw Jesus not merely as a man but as a message from God. John saw that, through Jesus, God was trying to tell us something, and so he quite naturally thinks of Jesus as a ‘Word’ – a word from God. Notice especially verse 1, also verse 10, which tells of how the Word was not recognised, and verse 14, which tells of how the Word became a human being and lived among us.

January 12      Luke 4:31–37

The richness of this passage is that it reveals what ordinary people thought about Jesus. They were impressed not so much by what Jesus did but rather by the authority with which he did it. They saw him as a man who possessed a power and an authority greater than that normally found in a man. His authority came from God.

January 13      John 3:1–17

Nicodemus recognised that what Jesus was doing was impossible ‘unless God were with him’. The great verse of this passage is, of course, verse 16. Here we have not only the extent of God’s love, but also its purpose: that all who believe in him may have eternal life. Notice that Jesus is here referred to as ‘Saviour’. The whole message of the Christian Gospel is that man, without Christ, is in a condition from which he needs to be saved, hence the need of a Saviour.

January 14      Mark 6:45–52

These verses are often dismissed as ‘impossible’. It is certainly impossible for any mere man to do what it is claimed that Jesus did, to walk on water. Jesus was God’s Son and he possessed God’s power and so we must not restrict him to doing only what is possible to man.

January 15      John 8:48–59

In verse 58, Jesus is claiming to have existed even before the time of Abraham. On the face of it, it is a stupid claim, but again we must remember that we are thinking of God’s own Son. Jesus didn’t just ‘begin’ when he was born in Bethlehem. God’s Son co-existed with him before creation. Bethlehem on ly marked what might be called the beginning of the ‘earthly phase’ of Christ’s ministry. This is a hard thought, but once it is grasped it opens a whole new panorama of God’s grace and God’s love.

January 16      John 4:13–26

Notice how the woman is becoming aware that this stranger at the well had a profound grasp of spiritual truth. She expresses her confidence that the Messiah (the Christ) will come and then Jesus makes a startling revelation – ‘I am he, I who am talking with you’. There is no mistaking what Jesus meant. You and I are left with a problem – was Jesus telling a lie, or was he telling the truth? If it is not true then not only is Jesus a liar, but an appalling blasphemer as well. If it is true, then he is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Jesus – liar? Or Lord? Our whole spiritual future depends on the answer we  give to that question.

January 17      John 10:7–21

Was Jesus mad? Some who saw him and heard him evidently thought so. They recognised that in these verses Jesus was saying things that reminded them of the ramblings of a deranged mind. Certainly, if some man came up to us in the street and said, ‘I am the gate of the sheep’, we would have good reason to doubt his sanity or his sobriety. Again, we are back to this dilemma – Jesus, liar or Lord? Jesus, madman or the True Word of God? For Christians, there is no doubt.

January 18      Acts 11:1–18

The first Christians came from a Jewish background and, as Jews, they had been brought up to regard all non-Jews as ‘Gentiles’. Gentiles were thought to be some kind of second-class people, and so the first Christians had what was then a very difficult problem to solve.  Where did Gentiles stand in relation to the Gospel of Christ? Some even wondered if it were possible for a Gentile to be a Christian at all! Here we see Peter being led to God’s answer. The Gospel of Christ is for all people, irrespective of nationality, race or creed. All of us are sinners whom Jesus died to save.

January 19      Acts 1:6–11

We may be a national church, but the Gospel we preach is international. In Christ there is no east or west. The great prayer that must be ever on the lips of all Christians is that there will come soon the day when artificial barriers and restrictions are taken away, and all men and women everywhere will worship the one God and Lord of all.

January 20      Mark 7:24–30

The wonder of this passage is not that Jesus healed a sick girl but that he healed the daughter of a foreign woman also. The healing and reconciling power of Christ is for all.

Christian Unity

January 21      Psalm 139:1–12

The Gospel of Christ is for all people because God is the God of the entire universe. How often we try to cut God down to a size that we can understand. We need to turn to a psalm like this again and again to be reminded that God is the God of the whole world – that there is nowhere we can go that is beyond the range of God’s love and God’s judgement. Even the very darkness is, to God, as bright as the mid-day sun.

January 22      Genesis 1:26–2:4

Here is a picture of the universe as God created it and as God meant it to be, and it is a picture of harmony and peace, unity and goodwill. When we are really praying for something that God ‘put there’ at the very beginning. That that unity and peace no longer exists as it did at the beginning is the direct result of man’s sinfulness and selfishness.

January 23      Acts 9:10–19

What a world of difference between these two men! Saul (later to be known as Paul), a devout Jew, armed with the necessary power to stamp out this new religious sect called Christianity. Ananias, a member of this new Christian Church, knowing full well why Saul had come to his town and fearful of the consequences. The classic confrontation of hunter and hunted. At least that is what it would have been had God not intervened on the Damascus Road. Even then it took a lot of courage for the hunted to place his hands on the hunter and say, ‘Brother Saul’.

January 24      1 Corinthians 1:10–17

What a picture of disunity and division – I follow Paul; I follow Apollos; I follow Peter; I follow Christ. Notice the emphasis on ‘I’. This is what causes disharmony in the world, the emphasis on what I want. So we get demarcation disputes between unions, distrust between management and workers, bitterness between political opponents, hatred and bigotry among people of different races and different faiths – and all because each says, ‘I want …’.

The Call of Peter

January 25      Luke 5:1–11

Jesus was able to see into the very heart of a person. He could see the secret sin, the subtle motive, the untapped potential. Peter was just an ordinary fisherman, an ordinary working man, yet Jesus saw in him a ready response and knew that underlying the rough exterior there was one who could be a leader.

January 26      Matthew 16:13–20

The first step in Peter’s pilgrimage was obedience, then the discovery that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. These are truths we can only learn through personal experience and discovery.

January 27      Matthew 16:21–28

How often do we get some little insight into divine truth and then assume that we know it all. That was Peter’s trouble. As we grow in the spiritual life, we have to learn to take the knocks as well as the praises.

January 28      Matthew 26:31–35

Such enthusiasm and confidence are most commendable qualities, but not when they lead one to make promises that one is unable to fulfil. Before we criticise poor Peter, let each of us ask ourselves if we do not also make rash promises that we can never fulfil.

January 29      Matthew 17:1–13

What a privilege it was for Peter, James and John to be allowed to be present! So often nowadays we think only of our rights. Perhaps we would enjoy better spiritual health if we thought more of our privileges. And to be a member of the Christian Church is a very real privilege.

January 30      Matthew 26:69–75

What a humiliation! Here, Jesus was in agreement that the woman should be punished, but he made one condition: that the man among her accusers who was himself without sin was to cast the first stone. Who amongst us is so confident that he has never denied his Lord?

January 31      John 21:15–19

Notice how Jesus wisely caused the triple denial to be wiped out by a triple declaration of love. Each declaration of love was met not by a windy speech, but by the offer of responsibility within God’s Kingdom. Feed my sheep! Christ’s grace is always accompanied by an invitation to work in his Kingdom.