Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh
Sunday Services are at 10.30 am
Wednesday Stillness Services are at 10 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.
The Lord’s Prayer: hallowed be thy name
November 26 Luke 1:17, 57–66
Modern parents choose names for their children which have family associations or are popular at the time. We think that only an unusual or embarrassing name will perhaps influence the child as they grow up, but in ancient times a name was directly linked to a person’s character or personality.
November 27 Exodus 3:11–17
When Moses asked to know God’s name, he was really asking to know more of God’s nature, character and personality. The reply he received was puzzling, ‘I am who I am’. In Hebrew, this is part of the verb ‘to be’. In other words, God’s name and character are closely related to ‘being’ and ‘existing’. A well-known hymn begins, ‘Lord of all being, throned afar’.
November 28 Acts 3:1–10, 16
We have been thinking of the link between God’s name and character. Here we learn of a similar link between the name of Christ and the power of Christ. When Peter said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk’, he was, in face, invoking the healing power of Christ. Peter made no claim that he healed the man of his lameness. ‘It was the power of His name that gave strength to this lame man’ (verse 16).
November 29 Exodus 20:1–17
The third of the Ten Commandments quite clearly declares that God’s name is not to be used for evil purposes (verse 7). There is the added threat that ‘I will punish anyone who misuses my name’. Christ taught his disciples to pray that God’s name be hallowed. This rather old-fashioned word means ‘honoured’ or ‘reverenced’. Obviously, those who ‘misuse’ God’s name are not hallowing it.
November 30 Leviticus 22:1–13
This strange passage may seem irrelevant to modern times, yet it has as its central theme the honouring of God’s name. Those who would serve God in any way must avoid all moral contamination, otherwise we dishonour God’s name. Jesus taught that ‘no man can be the slave of two masters’ (Matthew 6:24). We cannot truly serve God while still living by, and enjoying, ungodly standards.
The Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom come
December 1 Deuteronomy 28:58–68
Many will reject these verses as typical of the ‘hellfire and brimstone’ kind of theology. But where God’s name is not honoured or hallowed then certain results follow. Think of the great fears in the world today; mental depression, moral breakdown, famine, global warming or nuclear disaster. Is there any connection between all this and our rejection of God’s laws?
December 2 Isaiah 29:15–24
While there is certainly a great deal of doom and gloom in the Old Testament, but also much hope and rejoicing. Isaiah sees a day coming when God will redeem his people from all their distresses. Even the poor and humble will again find the happiness which God can provide (verse 19). When all this comes to pass then God’s people will honour (hallow) God. We can only truly honour God when we are fully aware of God’s power to save and when God’s majesty is revealed.
December 3 Mark 8:31–9:1
In Mark 9:1 Jesus makes a tremendous promise that the rule of God will come even to earth, it will come with power, and some of those listening to his words would see it happen in their own lifetime. We are not told how those listening to Jesus reacted to his promise. Perhaps it was so far beyond their comprehension that they failed to grasp what he had said. On the other hand, he had taught them to pray ‘Thy kingdom come’. One wonders how many of them really believed that such a prayer could ever be fulfilled. Christ’s promises are often dismissed, not because he is not to be trusted, but because what he promises seem so utterly impossible.
December 4 Luke 7:18–23
Was John the Baptist having second thoughts about the true identity of Jesus? Or was he seeking to transfer the loyalty of his disciples from himself to someone greater than himself? John simply asked them to look at the evidence that the blind could see and the lame walk, et cetera. Here is the Kingdom of God in the sure evidence of a new power to heal.
December 5 1 Corinthians 4:14–21
Paul uses the present tense as though the Kingdom was an established reality rather than a pious hope. He also speaks of it being more than words, but power. We can be sure that the memories of Paul’s own conversation on the Damascus Road was never far from him. Here was one example of Divine power operating in the life of an individual.
December 6 Acts 2:1–13
Many claim that they mark the real beginning of the Christian Church when the ordinary men and women who were followers of Jesus were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and went on to do deeds and wonders impossible to them in their own strength. Jesus had promised that the Kingdom of God would come with power within the lifetime of some who listened to him. Was this what he meant? Certainly there was now a new power in the Church, and it had come in the lifetime of his hearers.
The Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
December 7 Psalm 40:1–11
In a sense there is little difference between ‘Thy kingdom come’ and ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. There is acceptance that God’s will is done in heaven, and the desire that the conditions which prevail in heaven should be extended to earth. Do we genuinely desire this? What difference would it make to my life if God’s will was done here on earth? Do I really share the psalmist’s claim that, I love to do your will, my God?
December 8 Matthew 12:46–50
Note the sense of individual responsibility, ‘Whoever’. If God’s will is truly to be done on earth then it will happen, not because some government or Church assembly decides that it should happen, but because each individual is truly obedient to God. In other words, God’s will can be done in my life if I really obey him. But note what happens next. If I truly obey him then I become a kinsman of Christ’s, ‘Whoever does what my Father wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.’ To be a brother or sister of Christ! That is one consequence of doing the will of God on earth just as it is done in heaven.
December 9 Luke 22:39–46
Doing God’s will can also exact a terrible price. These verses show us Christ in the Garden just minutes before his arrest and a few hours before crucifixion. He was under no illusions about what the next few hours held for him or the terrible agony which crucifixion entailed. He genuinely prayed that this ordeal, his cup of suffering, might somehow be taken away. But with that prayer came the realisation that it was God’s will that the ordeal be faced, and so Christ submitted to that will.
December 10 Romans 11:33–12.2
How can we know the will of God? Paul says, ‘Then you will be able to know the will of God’. We therefore have to study what goes before these words. What rigorous conditions we must fulfil?
(a) offer ourselves as living sacrifices
(b) dedicate ourselves to God’s service
(c) do what is pleasing to God and not what pleases ourselves
(d) turn away from the standards of this world
(e) allow God to transform us by a complete change of our inner being.
‘Then you will be able to know the will of God’.
December 11 Ephesians 6:1–9
Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to, ‘do with all your heart what God wants’. Doing the will of God must be done with enthusiasm; ‘with all your heart’. Doing the will of God comes in the context of children obeying their parents, parents instructing their children, slaves obeying their human masters, and masters treating their slaves fairly. In other words, doing the will of God involves Christ-like relationships with others around me, even when they have no interest in doing the will of God towards me.
The Lord’s Prayer: Give us today our daily bread
December 12 Genesis 1:26–31
How strange that, in a prayer dealing with such divine topics as hallowing God’s name and seeking his Kingdom, we should now pray for daily bread! Jesus tells his followers to stop worrying about food and clothes. This was not because food and clothes are unimportant, but because, ‘Your Father in heaven knows that you need all those things’. God is fully aware of our physical needs and has provided for them. Even in creation when the sun, stars, mountains and oceans were created, God still provided food for his people. Famines today are not caused by a forgetful or incompetent Creator but by greedy and foolish humans, though those who cause famines are not necessarily those who suffer from them. God provides sufficient for daily needs.
December 13 Psalm 104:1–15
There is no limit to what God has created. In the midst of this long list the Psalmist says, ‘You make grass grow for the cattle and plants for man to use’. It also means that what God has provided ought to be received with gratitude and humility. Was the practice of saying grace before meals merely an ancient custom, or does it have a real place in modern spiritual life?
The Lord’s Prayer: And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors
December 14 Psalm 116:1–14
The psalmist acknowledges that he is indebted to God. He had been in some kind of trouble and called to the Lord for help. God, being merciful, good and compassionate heard his prayers and delivered him from his troubles. Each of us is indebted to God for the very act of creation and the gift of life.
December 15 Philippians 2:1–11
When Christ came to earth to complete his great work of redemption he had, temporarily, to leave the glory of heaven and ‘walk the path of obedience all the way to death, even death on a cross’. What can I offer the Lord for all his goodness to me?
December 16 Romans 3:21–26
Such sin is not accidental but deliberate, and we therefore stand under the judgement of God. Note that this applies to ‘everyone’. We are not dealing here with notorious sinners but with ordinary folk who, because of moral weakness, cannot but sin against a righteous God. When we pray to God to ‘Forgive us our debts’ we are acknowledging that we do have debts which require to be forgiven.
December 17 Psalm 130
The psalmist cries to God ‘from the depths of my despair’. What his particular problem was we do not know, but the whole psalm vibrates with confidence that God can forgive and will help.
The Lord’s Servant
December 18 Isaiah 2:1–5
Like Abraham before him, Isaiah had a vision of a day in the future when the Temple where God was worshipped would stand on the highest mountain; a day when all peoples would come flocking to that Temple to worship the God who dwelt there; a day when all international disputes would be settled; a day when weapons of warfare would be absolutely redundant because of the universal peace. That is the kind of disarmament we should all pray and work for.
December 19 Isaiah 9:2–7
The vision reveals that this will not only be a time of peace, but rejoicing as well. Isaiah also sees the emergence of a leader – a child! His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace; he will rule based on his power of right and justice; from now until the end of time. In our war-torn world this seems utterly impossible until we remember the ‘impossible’ promises God made to Abraham. The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this. Do you really believe that this great vision will ever be fulfilled?
December 20 Isaiah 11:1–9
The details of this vision become clearer. The new ruler will be filled with divine wisdom and will seek to honour God in all things. He will rule with justice and integrity. But the more remarkable feature of the new rule will be the way in which even natural enemies are joined together in harmony: wolves and sheep will live in peace.
December 21 Luke 1: 26–38
The angel Gabriel arrives in Nazareth to visit Mary with a message of peace and to tell her ‘that there is nothing that God cannot do’. The whole of the Christmas story is about God achieving the seemingly impossible. The virgin birth, wise men, shepherds visited by angels and the Son of God born in a stable. We need faith to understand this and we need to believe that our God is the God who achieves the impossible!
December 22 Luke 1:46–56
In this song of Mary we can begin to understand why she of all women was chosen by God. Mary would only have been a teenager and yet in this song we have the word of one who was spiritually mature who demonstrates a love for God and a way of life that was humble but obedient.
December 23 Luke 1: 57–66
The birth of John was unusual in itself. John’s parents were in their old age, not unlike Abraham and Sarah. He was the forerunner to a new dynasty and new beginning. Just as the Old Testament was announcing God’s promise to God’s people, here we see the New Testament heralding a new promise from God, not just to Mary and Elizabeth, but to all people everywhere.
December 24 Luke 2: 1–7
It was in the midst of winter in a dark, cold and smelly back shed in the Middle East that something was about to happen that was to change the world forever. Many expected the Messiah to be born in a royal palace and be of wealthy parents. God chose that his Son should be born to humble poor folk. The world was to reject him in his adult life and even at his birth there was no room at the inn.
December 25 Luke 2:8–20
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND PEACE ON EARTH TO THOSE WITH WHOM HE IS PLEASED.
December 26 Matthew 2:1–12
After the shepherds come the Magi. The men bring their gifts of gold for a king, frankincense for a holy man and myrrh for someone about to die. Strange gifts but each telling of what was about to happen. Myrrh is also associated with healing in the Middle East. Jesus was not only to heal people’s physical ailments but he was to be the greatest spiritual healer the world has ever known.
December 27 Matthew 2:13–15
Jesus was taken to Egypt to the land of his ancestors, Joseph and Jacob. The family was fleeing from the mad King Herod. Not only was this child not appreciated and rejected, he was to be actively pursued and killed. Such are the forces of evil in the world. This was precisely why God sent his only Son into the world. It was to defeat the whole of that which evil could muster. And God shares that victory with us.
December 28 John 1:1–5
These verses are a good reminder of the meaning of Christmas. That little light that shone in the stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago is the same light that shines in the world today and the darkness, although it has tried, has never put it out. In spite of Herod and of Roman crucifixion, much of the church has endured even until today. That light continues to shine in the hearts of men and women who have found God in their lives and want others to share in their new-found peace.
December 29 John 1:10–13
The world did not recognise the Son of God then and still today much of the world does not recognise him. When we enter the High Street, we find much of the glitter and tinsel and commercialisation of Christmas but little of the real reason for the celebration. It is the duty of all who believe to share the real joy of Christmas with all who we encounter.
December 30 John 1:16–18
But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
December 31 John 3:16
A new year always affords us a new beginning. Let this coming new year be your opportunity for a new and fresh start to be having a way of life that is every closer to God’s ways and ever closer to walking with Jesus, being led by God’s Holy Spirit.
Have a Happy New Year and God’s blessing be upon you and yours.