The Bible is not in chronological order. This sometimes makes it difficult to see how it all fits together. What we are going to do this month, is to give an outline of Bible history, picking out the key people and events. The readings from the Bible are longer than usual but my comments are shorter, so it should take the same amount of time each day.
Sunday 1st October
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3
To start at the beginning means to start with the creation. For the Christian, no explanation of our origins which does not clearly assert the action of God is insufficient and incomplete. The Bible does not attempt to describe ‘how’ creation took place in detail, but it is clear that ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’. As the writer to the Hebrews says (11:3) it is by faith that we believe in God as Creator, trusting in his revealed Word in the Scriptures.
Pray for the Girls’ Brigade dedication at the morning service today. Pray for the officers and girls and ask that this coming session might be a blessing to all of them.
Monday 2nd October
After the Creation, the next most important event is the story of the Fall. Without this chapter, we cannot understand the Gospel, or why we are born sinners, or why we need a Saviour. The tragedy of the Fall consists in the fact that mankind was perfect and wanted for nothing and yet refused to be subject to God. Adam, representing all humanity yet unborn, chose to disobey God and so the consequences of his sin fell on all those whom he represented before God, namely, all humanity. The decision to disobey God and his law is the basis of all sin today also.
Pray for the Church of Scotland. Pray that the National Day of Prayer, being arranged by the Church, will be effective in getting people to pray.
Tuesday 3rd October
Genesis 6:1 – 8:22
This is a long reading but it is the only way to capture the whole story. In these chapters, we have the famous story of the Flood. Its importance is to be found in an understanding of God’s judgement. In other words, things had deteriorated so quickly after the Fall that God could find only one family who lived as they ought to live. Thus, he destroyed the human race, apart from that family and began to rebuild. This new beginning involved a covenant with all living creatures, including human beings. (chapter 9). This story shows the potency of sin and how hateful it is to God.
Pray for the Women’s Bible study group which meets every Tuesday morning. Ask that God would bless their fellowship and guide their studies.
Wednesday 4th October
In order to construct a proper picture of biblical history, we must see the gap between Noah and Abraham. This genealogy fills the gap and gives the names of the ‘Patriarchs’ as they are called. It shows the descendants of Noah, on Shem’s side. So far, then, we have seen Creation, the Fall, the destruction at the Flood, the survivors (Noah’s family) and the line of descent from there to Abraham. From this vantage point, we can go on tomorrow to see the beginning of the people who would come to be known as the Jews.
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson as they work to complete everything that must be done in order to go to another missionary posting in South Africa. Pray for their son James who has just started at Glasgow university.
Thursday 5th October
With Abraham, we begin the story of Israel, because the nation of Israel came from this one man. In this chapter, we read of how God called Abram (his name would be change later) to leave his home and to set out on an unspecified journey. This was an amazing experience. Here God was intervening in the life of a man and testing to see if he would obey the voice of God. Abram obeyed God and set off on the journey. This act of faith was the first test of his obedience. Later he would be tested much more severely (chapter 22).
Pray for the Deacons’ Court meeting tonight, giving thanks for those who give their time and energy to care for the practical side of the life of the congregation.
Friday 6th October
Genesis 25:19 – 26:6
Isaac, the son of Abraham, continued the succession. He was a man of prayer (25:21) and the Lord was near him and spoke to him (26:1-2). God also confirmed to Isaac the promises which he had previously made to Abraham (26:3-6). We don’t know as much about Isaac as we do about Abraham, his father, or Jacob, his son but we do know that God chose him to be a child of the promise (Romans 9:8). Isaac was the son who was promised to Abraham and Sarah and all the future destiny of Israel hangs on that succession of father to son. Before long, this family would become a nation. This is only the beginning of the story.
Pray for the Highland Theological College. Pray that both staff and students might engage in their work with dedication and commitment, enjoying the privilege of studying God’s Word.
Saturday 7th October
Now we move on from Isaac to his son Jacob, the net in line of the family tree of Abraham. In many ways, the young Jacob is a bad and ruthless character. He cheated his brother out of his birth-right (25:29-34) and also out of the blessing due to him as firstborn (27). Nevertheless, God chose him, as this passage makes clear. The older Jacob is a different man, a man of God. The promises given to Abraham and Isaac are repeated to him, and God even calls him Israel (35:10).
Pray for all the children and young people in our congregation, asking that they would grow up to love and serve our Lord. Pray for all who teach them and encourage them to follow Christ.
Sunday 8th October
The Joseph stories are well known and they provide the connection for the next part of the story. Jacob had twelve children and, through various adventures, they ended up in Egypt. This began because Jacob spoiled Joseph and made it clear to the others that Joseph was his favourite. This led to the other brothers developing a hatred for Joseph. Ultimately, they sold him into slavery but, since God’s hand was upon him, he was raised by Pharaoh to high office in Egypt and, through his wisdom, saved the nation from starvation during years of famine. Joseph had a very tough time but at the end he was able to look back and see God’s hand in it all (50:20).
Pray for all the services today. Pray for the Minister as he takes the morning and evening services, for Donald MacVicar as he takes the Raigmore service and for the Rev. D.A. Maclennan as he takes the Gaelic service.
Monday 9th October
Jacob and his family settled in Egypt and grew from being a family into a nation. They were called the Hebrews (verse 7). Then things changed for the worse. The king who knew of Joseph’s action in saving Egypt died and a new king was appointed. This one saw the Hebrews as a threat and proceeded to take action against them. This consisted in making them slaves and in seeking to kill all the boys born into their families. God prevented the worst effects of this and blessed those who helped his people.
Pray for the World Reformed Fellowship which works with Christians from around the world, to enable those who have resources to assist those who have none.
Tuesday 10th October
Eventually, the cries of his people came up to God and he decided to send a man to lead them to freedom. The man was Moses. We would have to read the whole of Exodus to get a complete picture of this man. Today we have read only of his birth and early life. Moses was successful (under God) and after many encounters with Pharaoh and many plagues, the people of God went free. Unfortunately, they disobeyed God by refusing to cross into the land he had promised them and so they wandered for forty years in the wilderness.
Pray for the Trustees of Rutherford House as they meet in Edinburgh today and for the Minister as he chairs the meeting.
Wednesday 11th October
Joshua completed the work which Moses had started. In our passage, we read of God re-affirming his promises to his covenant people. He also encouraged Joshua by telling him that, as he had been with Moses, so he would also be with Joshua. God’s promise was fulfilled and God finally led the people, under Joshua, into the promised land, the land of Canaan. Joshua led the people into battle and defeated the nations who opposed them. He then divided the land among the twelve tribes. This great conquest of Canaan resulted in the children of Israel (Jacob) having a settled territory for the first time. They had gone into Egypt as an extended family but came out as a nation.
Pray for the two prayer meetings today (1pm and 7.30pm) and pray that many people will attend one or the other. Pray that greater commitment to prayer will be evident in our fellowship throughout this year.
Thursday 12th October
After the death of Joshua, for a long time, the land was ruled by Judges. Unfortunately, during this period we see the sins of the covenant people in clear display and their persistent refusal to learn lessons and to submit to their God. There was a ‘cyclical’ pattern: the people would disobey God; he would send a nation (such as the Philistines) to fight against them; they would cry out to God in repentance for help; he would send a ‘Judge’ who would deliver the people and rule over them for a time; a time of peace would follow; then they would disobey God and the whole cycle would begin again. To read the book of Judges right through is to see this pattern repeated over and over again.
Pray for the meeting of the Kirk Session this evening. Pray for wisdom and guidance as the elders oversee the spiritual life of the congregation.
Friday 13th October
1 Samuel 3
The last and most famous of the Judges was Samuel, who was also a prophet. The first 16 chapters of this book are particularly full of stories about Samuel and we build up quite a picture of a man of God. He was a godly and wise man who provided solid leadership to the whole nation. He was respected and even revered. In terms of the history of Israel, the importance of Samuel is that he provides the link between the period of the Judges and the period of the Kings. It was he who appointed the first king albeit with much reluctance (chapters 8 & 9) and later the second. During Samuel’s time the people were in no doubt as to what God required of them.
Pray for the Open Doors team today, led by Bob Matheson. Give thanks for the commitment of the team and pray that a good number of people may come in off the street. Pray for good conversations.
Saturday 14th October
1 Samuel 10
The people asked Samuel to appoint a king for them, so that they could be like all the other nations. Samuel was angry, believing that this was a mistake and that they should be ruled only by God. Nevertheless, God told him to go ahead and give the people what they wanted and so Samuel appointed Saul as the first king of Israel. He began well but it did not last. In verses 6 and 9 of our chapter, we see that God sent the Spirit upon him in power to enable him to do what was expected of him. By chapter 13, however, we find Samuel telling Saul that the kingdom would be taken from him (vv.13-14). This judgement was confirmed later (15:26-29). Saul’s behaviour against David and his pathetic end should serve as a warning to all who begin well.
Pray for EMMS and for the work they are doing in many countries, including Malawi. Pray for John and Tina Bruce as they help us to support EMMS and to be informed about their work.
Sunday 15th October
1 Samuel 24
David was the second king of Israel and a much more honourable man than Saul. As our passage shows, David recognised Saul as king and was not seeking to take his throne. God, however, had chosen David and so ultimately he became the king. The nation did well during his kingship and was strong in the face of its enemies. David had his faults, as the sinful episode with Bathsheba shows but his repentance afterwards (Psalm 51) was deep and sincere. He was the greatest of all the kings and even the messiah was seen as a successor of David.
Pray for the Minister as he takes morning and evening services today and Iain Macdonald as he takes the service at Raigmore.
Monday 16th October
1 Kings 2:1-12
Solomon was the third king of Israel and the wisest of the kings. There was a period of stability and relative peace during Solomon’s reign. As we read in verse 12, ‘Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established’. It was he who was responsible for the building of the Temple according to the specifications which God gave him. David had wanted to build a temple for the Lord but he was a man of war and he had blood on his hands so God told him that his son would build the temple and so he did. Solomon, like his father David, also had many failings. In chapter 11, some of them are described. Notice the close connection between adultery and idolatry. This is very apparent throughout the history of the kings.
Pray for the Minister as he takes part in a Council of Assembly meeting in Edinburgh today.
Tuesday 17th October
1 Kings 12:1-24
This is one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. It tells of the break-up of the people of Israel into two nations with two kings, and all because of the stupidity of Rehoboam. When the nation gathered before him, they asked him what kind of king he would be. He consulted but, instead of listening to the wise men of the palace and the royal court, he listened to the young men who were his friends and comrades. They urged him to be a hard king. As a result, ten tribes, under the leadership of Jeroboam, left to form another nation. From this time on, we have the northern kingdom (called Israel) with 10 tribes and the southern kingdom (called Judah) with 2 tribes. The northern kingdom never recovered from this.
Pray today for those who have been bereaved, asking that God would comfort them. Pray that the Gospel might give them hope and help them to trust completely in God.
Wednesday 18th October
1 Kings 12:25-33
Jeroboam set the standard for the kings of Israel, and what a terrible standard it was. Afraid that his people might still want to go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, he sinfully created an alternative. He began by making two golden calves for the people to worship, lest by going to Jerusalem they should turn again to Rehoboam. He instituted all kinds of shrines, festivals, sacrifices and priests, all of which were contrary to the law of God. All the kings of Israel went the same way. Cursed by the disadvantage of their history, they followed in the ways of Jeroboam. Some were better than others but the general trend was towards wickedness and sin.
Pray for Dougie, Joan and Jack Wolf in Barvas. Pray too for the Presbytery of Lewis.
Thursday 19th October
2 Kings 18:1-16
The family of David retained the throne in Judah, whose capital city was Jerusalem. The kings who followed Rehoboam were all descended from David. The kings of Judah included some wicked kings but there were also some real men of God. One such was Hezekiah, and high tribute is paid to him in our passage (verses 5-7). Even in Judah, however, the trend was bad and, despite God sending many prophets to warn them of the dangers of breaking his law, the trend continued. Ultimately, about a hundred years after God punished Israel, Judah (including Jerusalem) was also destroyed and many of the people taken into captivity in Babylon.
Pray for Sheila Murray and the work of the church office. Pray too for Marlene MacRae in her work as Clerk to the Deacons’ Court.
Friday 20th October
2 Kings 17:1-23
The kingdom of Israel (also called Samaria here) came to an end in 722BC. The Assyrians were the agents used by God to punish Israel but it was clearly his work (as we see from verses 22-23). The people of Israel were taken away into exile in Assyria. Thus from the proud nation led by king David only the remnant in Judah was left, and their time would come. In many ways, the story is amazing. After all that God had done for them in delivering them from Egypt and settling them in Canaan, they still went after other gods and worshipped them. When we consider our own hearts, however, and our tendency towards sin, it is perhaps not so amazing after all.
At the beginning of this communion week-end, pray for the elders meeting tonight and for the Preparatory Service which will follow.
Saturday 21st October
2 Chronicles 36:15-23
The Fall of the southern kingdom of Judah came in 587BC. The Babylonians were the agents used by God in his judgement. The words used in 2 Kings 24:20 are very expressive, when they tell us that God ‘thrust them from his presence’. Their worship of other gods, their refusal to obey the law, their neglect of the needy and so on, all of this became an abomination in the eyes of God. As a result, God withdrew from them and they entered a time of judgement. The temple was destroyed, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were broken down and King Nebuchadnezzar took into exile many of the people. Among them were Daniel and his friends. So ended the first part of the history of the Jews.
Pray for the services tomorrow and for the administration of the Lord’s Supper. Pray that God will pour out his Spirit upon us and that we will be spiritually enriched.
Sunday 22nd October
Ezra 1:1-5; Nehemiah 1:1 – 2:10
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell of the return of the exiles to their own land. This began about 538BC under the leadership of Zerubbabel. The promise made to Abraham about the ‘land’ was treasured in the heart of every Jew. Even those who were not prepared to make the effort personally to return, still believed that it was their land. In the same way, the crucial issue in the Middle East today is the ownership of the ‘land’. The Jews believe, on the basis of many of the passages we have been reading this month, that the land is theirs because it was given them by God. The return after the exile was the beginning of a new era in their history.
Pray for the Minister as he takes the morning service and the Raigmore service today and for Derek Morrison as he takes the evening service.
Monday 23rd October
After the Babylonians, came the Persians, then the Macedonians and then the Romans (in the time of Christ). There was always some great Empire forcing its will upon Palestine (Israel, Canaan, the Promised Land). Yet, throughout its history, the people of God, the chosen people, have had a real sense of destiny. Even in the darkest days they believed that a time of great blessing would come. The prophets spoke in these terms. Gradually this hope crystallised into talk of the coming ‘messiah’ or deliverer. At the very end of the Old Testament we have read today of the one who was to come before the messiah, Elijah. As we shall see tomorrow, Jesus later explained this promise.
Pray for the Minister as he begins his six weeks of Study Leave today. Pray that the conference he will attend later this week in Wittenberg, Germany will be a useful and productive time with people from around the world.
Tuesday 24th October
Matthew 17:1-13 & Mark 1:1-13
As we learn from Matthew 17:11-13, John the Baptist was the fulfilment of the prophesy in Malachi about Elijah. He was the forerunner, the one who prepared the way. John the Baptist provides us with the link between the old and the new, the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament. He was a strange yet striking figure, whose devotion to God and to his calling cost him his life. John’s mission was to call people to repentance before the coming of the messiah. He was a voice in the wilderness who baptised people as a sign of their turning back to God.
Pray for Covenant Fellowship Scotland as it seeks to highlight the needs of the Church of Scotland and as it tries to motivate people in the work of reformation.
Wednesday 25th October
The birth of Jesus is the climax of all the history we have read this month. Everything we have seen God doing was but a preparation for this. God chose a people, beginning with Abraham. He made a covenant with them, he gave them a land in which to live and he gave them his law. He gave them a system of worship and sacrifice which pointed forward to the one final sacrifice to be made on the Cross. When the people turned to other gods, he sent prophets to warn them of the danger they were in. All of these things pointed forward until the day they would be brought to fulfilment. The Old Testament consisted of some ‘temporary measures’ until Christ came.
Pray for former Probationers Ross Macaskill and family in Harris and Scott McRoberts and family, in St Columba’s in Inverness
Thursday 26th October
The death and burial of Jesus seemed to his disciples to be the end but it was only a new and more glorious beginning. A great deal was accomplished by his life and death. He took upon himself the sins of God’s people in every age. (Read Hebrews 10:1-18). That is to say, Christ became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the Cross, he offered a payment for sins, which he was able to do, being both God and man. He lived a life of perfect obedience to God and so was a righteous man. God imputed that righteousness to believers.
Pray for the MacDonalds in Lusaka, Zambia. Pray for their health and for the boys they have adopted. Pray that God would keep them safe from all harm and danger and would bless their work.
Friday 27th October
His death was not the end of Jesus. He rose again from the dead. This resurrection from the dead was the next link in the chain of events which brings salvation (his incarnation, birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension). That resurrection is also vital for the resurrection of all believers. If we are ‘in Christ’ then we shall share in tht resurrection. In other words, because Christ was raised from the dead, so shall we be. Without the resurrection, there is no Gospel (Read 1 Corinthians 15). Not only was he raised, but he then ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God. (Read Philippians 2:9-11).
Pray for the church multimedia team, both in the church and at the Raigmore services. Give thanks for the way in which the members of the team use their technical skills to enhance our worship.
Saturday 28th October
The Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father and God the Son, came down upon the disciples of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. By this means, they were re-born and empowered for service. On that same day, Peter preached the Gospel and 3,000 were saved. The whole biblical story now passes into a new era, the era of the church. Jesus has gone but he continues his work, by the Holy Spirit, through his church. The Holy Spirit points us to Christ. He is also the one who takes the death of Christ and applies it to the lives of those who, by faith, come to him. The coming of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost was dramatic and supernatural. Now the Holy Spirit indwells every believer when they come to Christ.
Pray for Jack Macdonald in his work as Pastoral Assistant at Palmerston Place Church.
Sunday 29th October
The conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus and his becoming Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, is a most significant landmark in the history of the Bible. Until this point the Gospel was only at work among the Jews. Whether or not the Gospel should be taken to the Gentiles was the crucial debate in the early days of the church. Now the Gospel (as Jesus had promised) goes to every person without exception. All the arguments about Jews and Gentiles, about circumcision and the law, were settled at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Paul was then able to get on with his missionary work. This meant that the Gospel was taken all over the known world, to Jew and Gentile alike and this led to a huge explosion in the number of believers in the young but growing church.
Pray for Seoras Mackenzie as he takes the morning service, Derek Morrison as he takes the Raigmore service and Fraser Turner as he takes the evening service.
Monday 30th October
2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:12-21
We today live in the time between the times. How are we to live? What are we to believe? On what basis do we make judgements? How do we know if something is of God or not? The answer is found in these passages. We are to live according to the Scriptures. They are our only guide. Paul says they were ‘breathed out by God’. This surely means that have full authority. What we are to believe about God, what is required of us by God, all of this is contained in the pages of the Bible. The Bible came to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter says that ‘men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Spirit’. That same Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Scriptures and empowers the preaching of the Scriptures.
Pray for the Ministers of the Church of Scotland. With over 200 vacancies, many are carrying a heavy burden. Pray too for those who are ill, those who are suffering from stress-related illness and those who have lost heart in the midst of difficult days.
Tuesday 31st October
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11
History will come to its conclusion (as we know it) when Christ returns. He will not return as a baby in a manger, rather he will appear in power and glory to judge the world. His return will bring the Day of Judgement and the final separation of human beings between Heaven and Hell (as in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25). Then God will have completed his plan of salvation which began when he made that first promise of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15. Everything that we have seen this month was intended to lead to this final conclusion, when all God’s people, saved by the blood of Christ, will be gathered around the throne of God in heaven. May his name be praised!
Pray for the Word at One service today and for Fraser Turner as he takes the service.