Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh
Services in the Kirk
are suspended at present.
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.
The Book of Habakkuk
August 1 Habakkuk 2:18–20
The sixth and final degradation is the erection of an idol. Man must worship something because he is made to worship. If he refuses to worship God then he must seek some alternative. Self-satisfaction, whether in the form of wealth, power, fame or enjoyment becomes his god. How many today will freely confess that ‘football is my religion!’ Habakkuk has been led to see the moral and spiritual destruction of those who turn away from God, and so he comes to see the ultimate reality of God.
August 2 Habakkuk 3:1–6
Earlier it had seemed to Habakkuk that God was doing nothing; now he understands that God is indeed active in the affairs of men. He sees that God is expressing God-self through a foreign power. He sees that God’s power is invincible. He sees that God may use disease and death to accomplish God’s will. This may seem obnoxious to us, yet God may use all things to achieve God’s purpose. Calvary’s cross was required to effect the glorious resurrection.
August 3 Habakkuk 3:7–12
Anger is not something that we normally associate with God. We prefer to think of God in terms of love and mercy. Yet we will never fully understand the nature of God until we accept that God is capable of real anger. If God truly loves us then God must feel anger at what threatens us. If God is to show mercy then God must have previously entertained a sense of righteous anger. So often our understanding of the love and mercy of God is so feeble that it is almost a parody of those great qualities.
August 4 Habakkuk 3:13–16
Here we see the reason for God’s anger. A nation’s enemies need not necessarily be other nations, but can exist within the nation itself – irreligious, corruption, and immorality. These were Israel’s real enemies. God’s action may sometimes be thought to hurt God’s own people, but always God acts in love and in mercy.
August 5 Habakkuk 3:17–18
Here is real spiritual peace. After all his questions and confusion, the prophet now sees the ultimate power and purpose of Almighty God, and he is perfectly content to rest upon that power and purpose no matter how desperate his material situation may be.
August 6 Habakkuk 3:19
Our God is the one who places us on firm foundations and saves us from falling.
The Call of Moses
August 7 Exodus 3:1–10
God knew of the people’s suffering and so God called one whom God had chosen to be the deliverer of God’s people.
August 8 Exodus 3:11–14
God calls Moses to one particular task, but Moses raised all sorts of excuses why he should not do it. We can understand Moses’ hesitation. He was being called to a task that seemed utterly impossible. Still today men and women make excuses when they know full well what God is calling them to do. But the great lesson of those verses concerns God’s name. There are many translations and interpretations of the Divine Name because it is based on the Hebrew verb ‘to be’. It is not a name in the ordinary sense. It means ‘existence’, ‘being’. God cannot be confined within the simple meaning of a name because God ‘IS’. He is the great ‘I AM’. No other name is adequate for the creator of the universe.
August 9 Exodus 3:15–17
God is always aware of what is going on in the world of God’s creation. There may be long periods of apparent Divine inactivity so that the people came to think that God is either asleep or impotent. But God knows what is going on. God simply waits for the appropriate time to act. God always operates according to a plan. Sometimes the plan may take a long time to be fulfilled, but God is always in control of world events.
August 10 Exodus 3:18–22
God always acts through an individual. When God decides to ‘do’ something, God inspires an individual with the strength and vision to do it. In this particular situation Moses is God’s agent. Moses is warned that the task will not be easy. The King of Egypt will fight to retain his slaves, but the ultimate victory will lie with God. God promises people will leave their bondage with wealth. At the time that promise must have seemed utterly impossible, even ludicrous. Very often God’s promises do seem impossible, but history always reveals their fulfilment.
August 11 Exodus 4:1–9
To many these verses may seem incredible, yet there is great truth in them. When God commissions us to do a task God also gives us the strength with which to do it. Moses was not to be left to face Pharaoh in his own strength alone. Here he is shown some measure of the power that is available to him. Christians have the promised power of the Holy Spirit.
August 12 Exodus 4:10–17
Moses was becoming aware of the immensity and fearfulness of the task before him, and so he recoiled in awe. We can understand his apprehension, but notice God’s anger. When a man refuses to obey God’s call he loses God’s favour. Indeed, he may well incur God’s anger. We must never think that God will sit around until we decide it is time to obey. God, however, does accept Moses’ claim to a speech defect and appoints Aaron to be spokesman.
August 13 Exodus 4:27–31
Notice that Aaron accepted Moses’ account of his commission without question. Moses not only enjoyed Aaron’s physical companionship but also his spiritual fellowship. Notice also the response of the Israelites when they learned of God’s concern for them. Worship is always the human response to the divine presence. There can be no worship if there is no sense of the presence of God.
August 14 Exodus 5:1–5
‘Who is God?’, or to put it another way, ‘What authority does God have over my life?’ If I do not accept God has any authority over my life, then there is no need for me to obey. But, if I do acknowledge God to be the ruler of all creation, then I must submit to God’s will and do whatever God commands. This is another form of the question Jesus put to his disciples – ‘Who do you say that I am?’
August 15 Exodus 5:6–21
The king saw Moses’ request as a sign of idleness, so he increased the workload of the poor slaves. Almost always obedience to the will of God brings into conflict with those who refuse to acknowledge the authority of God. Jesus never promised that his followers would find life easy. In fact, the disciple of Christ is brought into conflicts with those who refuse to acknowledge the authority of God. Jesus never promised that his followers would find life easy. The disciple of Christ is brought into conflicts of which others know nothing. The Israelites had to learn that obedience to God must be able to endure the inevitable consequence of that obedience.
August 16 Exodus 5:22–6:1
Here is a dilemma often known to Christians. Moses has obeyed God’s command, but it has brought trouble. In the spiritual life, we often know such a time – when faithfulness seems to add to one’s trouble. God always has a long-term view on life. We may see the present difficulties, but God sees the ultimate consequences of the course of action. For the person who is wholly obedient to God the ultimate consequence must always be a blessing.
August 17 Exodus 6:2–13
God reassures Moses by reminding him of the past. Abraham has been long dead, but his God is still the ‘I AM’ of Moses’ generation. God always has a long-term plan for his people.
August 18 Exodus 6:28–7:7
God does not make a man stubborn at the beginning of his life, but a man may so consistently behave in some way that it becomes his very nature. A man may become so addicted to some habit that he is no longer free to break the habit – it becomes his very nature. And so there comes a point where God treats such a man as he really is. If a man is a liar then God treats him as a liar and no longer trusts him. The king of Egypt had developed such a stubborn streak in his nature that he would no longer listen to reason.
August 19 Exodus 8:1–15
Because of the king’s stubborn nature, God sent a series of natural disasters on the country. One man’s weakness can bring suffering to a whole nation. The king asks Moses to pray for him so that the disaster might be taken away. After the prayer was answered the king ignored his own promise. We see in the king’s nature much that is common in our own time.
August 20 Exodus 9:22–35
The series of natural disasters has been so severe that the king is now beginning to acknowledge that God is right and that he himself is a sinner. Such an admission is the very basis of the spiritual life. We will make no progress in the faith until we acknowledge that God is eternal, and that we are sinful. To believe in God is not enough, there must be a recognition of the relationship between God and myself.
August 21 Exodus 10:21–29
The king is being gradually broken. He now gives Moses and his people permission to leave the country, but they must leave their possessions behind. Little does he realise, at this stage, that when these slaves do leave, they will take the wealth of Egypt with them. He still hasn’t learnt that he must submit completely to the will of God – he is submitting only in part, and on his own conditions.
August 22 Exodus 12:1–14
The great day for which the slaves had prayed is almost here – the day of deliverance. But first they also must learn to submit to the will of God. No doubt many of them regarded the directions for the Passover as extremely strange; many might even have found it all very inconvenient. But to know the blessing of God there must be complete and total obedience to his will.
August 23 Exodus 12:21–28
Many are willing to obey for a short time, but God wants a life of obedience. We will never know the fullness of life that Christ can give until we give him the fullness of our lives. Notice also that they were to tell their children what the feast of Passover meant. God was doing something for one generation, but its impact would last for generations to come.
August 24 Exodus 12:29–36
What God had foretold now happens. So often we pay little attention to what God ordains because it sounds impossible. Notice the haste with which the Israelites had to leave. There are times when God seems so slow to act, yet when the time is right God acts swiftly. God’s people must be both patient, and yet prepared for instant action.
August 25 Exodus 12:43–51
How strange that the great adventure of the Exodus should be interrupted by rules about a religious festival. Yet the Exodus was a religious event – planned and brought about by God, and the Passover was to be a perpetual symbol of that Great Act of God. That is why the purity of the Passover had to be preserved. Had it been freely available to all and sundry then it would have lost its significance.
August 26 Exodus 13:3–10
The man or woman of faith must always remember the past and how God has acted in the past. We must also be aware of the present since the spiritual life must be expressed NOW in the ordinary affairs of everyday life. We must also look to the future – to the time when God’s promises will all be fulfilled. The Exodus is a symbol of the spiritual life – leaving the bondage of sin, journeying through the desert of faith and being received into the land of promise hereafter.
August 27 Exodus 13:17–22
Notice God’s care and concern. God knew that the Israelites were embarking on a totally new experience, and that they might possibly become discouraged if the conditions were too hard for them. So God leads them a longer way, but an easier way. God gives them a guide on their journey – the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. We may not now understand what these ‘pillars’ were, or how they were formed, but the essential truth remains unchanged – God never leaves his people to wander through life on their own.
August 28 Exodus 14:1–14
The King of Egypt remained true to his nature. Circumstances had forced him to relent and let the people go, but now his true nature re-asserts itself and he orders pursuit of his slaves. There are some men so stubborn that nothing can ever break through the hardness of their hearts. The Israelites were filled with fear. They had been slaves and there was no way in which they could hope to face the might of trained soldiers. Yet their fear was a measure of their lack of faith. Fearfulness is often faithlessness.
August 29 Exodus 14:15–31
Many have sought a natural explanation for the dividing of the waters. However it may have happened there was no doubt in the minds of those there that it was God who did it! And countless men and women of faith of every generation have known the same experience of being faced with some insurmountable problem, yet trust in God has revealed a way through. God can use such moments of crisis to demonstrate his own power to save and to rescue the weak.
August 30 Exodus 15:22–27
The journey to the Promised Land resumed, but soon another difficulty arose. They could find no water; when they did find some it was undrinkable! Being human, they complained. God was testing the people! The bitter water was in fact a test of their obedience and faithfulness. Such a test may happen once more often in the spiritual life than we realise – a physical pain, a disappointment, a temptation, and a sorrow – all of those are moments when God is saying – ‘Are you still trusting Me?’
August 31 Exodus 16:1–12
How delightful it would have been to remain at Elim – plenty of water and palm trees; but they had to move on. Peter wanted to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration, but had to return to the real world. From a sufficiency of water the Israelites were now moved into a situation where there was little food. Again God was testing them because they were not yet fully trusting. Just as it is possible to go through life with only partial vision, so also is it possible to have only partial faith!