John, chapters 13 & 14

“Now because he knew before the festival of the Passover that his hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father, Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end.”
~John 13:1

Few times in the history of literature has there been such a comparably beautiful phrase that encompasses so much meaning.
The Apostle John knew Jesus quite possibly his entire life, being a younger relative of his and then becoming one of his closer disciples. (John 13:23-25)
But Jesus’ disciples still resisted the idea that he was about to die. (John 13:36,37; 14:5)
I wonder what it was like, sixty-five years later, for the elderly John to reflect on Christ’s love during the last day of his life on earth, as he began to relate this part of his story.
The phrase reflects a great depth of tenderness, courage, unity and gratitude.
It is an example of man at his ultimate best: loyal, kind, spiritual, up building and self-sacrificing.
The love Jehovah and Jesus showed us long before we were even born is the closest thing there is to unconditional love. (Rom. 5:8)
We can glorify God by trying to follow Christ’s sublime example of love towards the congregation. (1 John 3:16)

Luke, chapter 1

“Your supplication has been favorably heard […].”
~Luke 1:13

Who knows how many years into his old age Zechariah had continued to pray to Jehovah for a child.
Despite having strong faith, even he was surprised when his prayers were finally answered (Luke 1:6, 18)
He could have left his wife Elizabeth for a healthier woman, but they opted to remain loyal to each other and to their God.
That loyalty did not go unnoticed by Jehovah, who blessed them with “joy and great gladness.” (Luke 1:14)

Matthew, chapters 20 & 21

“He said to them: ‘You will indeed drink my cup […].'”
~Matthew 20:23

When James and John asked their mother to ask Jesus if they could sit on either side of him in his kingdom, Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (Matt. 20:22)
To this, they resolutely replied, “We can.”
Jesus’ companions had already left behind a successful fishing business to follow him, and he trusted them. (Mark 1:19,20)
He affectionately called them “the Sons of Thunder” perhaps because of their impetuous zeal. (Mark 3:17)
About eleven years later, James proved he could “drink the cup” of martyrdom when Herod Agrippa executed him. (Acts 12:1,2)
Despite outliving the other apostles, John also followed Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice when he was exiled to the island of Patmos for bearing witness. (Re. 1:9)
Jesus trusted they would remain loyal, and they did not disappoint.
They learned to slave for their brothers instead of seeking prominence. (Matt. 20:25-27)
Like Jesus, we should trust our brothers in the congregation will remain loyal despite their imperfections as we strive to do the same.

Song of Songs 

“Hurry, my dear one,
And be swift like a gazelle
Or a young stag
Upon the mountains of spices.”
~Song of Songs 8:14

The Song of Songs is a love story written by an unrequited king infatuated with an engaged country girl.
It was obviously intended to be performed.
This is my conclusion due to the complexity of reading the verses straight from the page.
It is a true story involving several people.
Here I will relate the story in simplest of terms in chronological order:
The country girl from Shunem meets a handsome shepherd boy.
He visits her at home and calls at her through the lattices, inviting her to come explore the spring valley with him.
Her brothers have asked her to guard the vineyards and she has been negligent.
They worry about her chastity and whether she will become a woman who is marriage material.
Now she is not given permission to go with the shepherd boy, but sent to scatter foxes
(Ca. 1:6; 2:9-15; 8:8,9)
This evidently throws her into the proximity of King Solomon’s camp.
At the time, he has 60 queens, 80 concubines and many young women.
The Shulammite girl is beautiful and is involuntarily taken into his camp.
She tells the other women there that she wishes to run away to her shepherd.
They tell her to follow his tracks.
The King promises to give her fine jewelry, but the Shulammite girl keeps the shepherd boy close to her heart. (Ca. 1:13)
The shepherd boy sneaks into the camp and showers her in compliments.
The girl confesses she’d rather be lying down in the forest with him. (Ca. Chapter 1)
She tells the other women what their courtship is like, that she is lovesick, and insists they not push her to like King Solomon. (Ca. 2:5,7)
Meanwhile, the shepherd boy is working “among the lilies.”
She wishes he would quickly return to her at day’s end. (Ca. Chapter 2).
At night, she dreams that she is roaming the city looking for him.
She finds him and takes him into her mother’s bedroom.
The next day, the women of Jerusalem see the Shulammite girl being brought into Jerusalem with the King’s procession. (Ca. Chapter 3)
The shepherd boy has followed the procession into the city.
He finds her and again flatters her.
The Shulammite asks him to take her back to her mountain in the evening, when it has grown breezy and shadows cannot follow them. (Ca. 4:6)
He tells her he will take her to several beautiful mountains.
At this point, he calls her his bride and compares her to a locked garden.
He beckons the wind as if to hurry the night on.
She consents to his proposal by inviting him into her “garden.” (Ca. 4:12,16).
The couple engages in public displays of affection which are witnessed by some of the women in Jerusalem.
Back in the rooms by the King’s palace, she tells the girls about her nightmares.
She dreams she looks for the shepherd boy on the streets and is struck by the guards.
They ask her how he is any better than other guys.
She replies: “His mouth is sweetness itself, And everything about him is desirable.” (Ca. Chapter 5)
The girls say they’ll help her find him, but she says he is out shepherding.
The king tries to hit on her again and says that she is the favorite (in Hebrew, literally “the pure one”) of her mother and that she is as pure as sunlight. (Ca. 6:9,10)
Instead of procuring the king during the day, she wanders down to one of his gardens and before she knows it, starts leaving the premises.
The king orders her to return.
She asks what he sees in her.
He seizes the opportunity to hit on her again, this time more explicitly. (Ca. 7:8)
The Shulammite girl, who has developed into a woman, can only think of her shepherd.
She imagines herself with him in a garden, pleasure just at their doors.
In her mind, she tells him, “The new as well as the old […] I have kept in store for you.” (Ca. 7:13).
She tells the girls in the king’s court that if the shepherd were like her brother, she could be seen with him publicly or bring him into her mother’s bedroom, like in her first dream.
Again, she insists they not try to arouse feelings in her toward King Solomon. (Ca. 8:1-4).
Finally, the king releases her,
She is seen by her brothers walking back into town, as she leans on her beloved.
Talking to him, she makes reference to having met him under an apple tree and she poetically describes her conclusions on the enduring love she has for him.
She assures her brothers that she is chaste and at peace. (Ca. 8:10)
Unswayed, she has flat out rejected King Solomon’s monetary gifts and will content herself with her own vineyard.
The song ends by alluding to a prior scene in which the shepherd sought to hear the girl’s voice in the garden.
Except this time, instead of asking him to wait til nightfall, she urges him to hurry to her.
The Song teaches us to reflect on the value of enduring love between a man and a woman, as well as the qualities that make a person merit such love.

“For love is as strong as death is, And exclusive devotion is as unyielding as the Grave. Its flames are a blazing fire, the flame of Jah. Surging waters cannot extinguish love, Nor can rivers wash it away. If a man would offer all the wealth of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.”
~Ca. 8:6,7

Psalms 11-18

“You wrongdoers try to frustrate the plans of the lowly one,
But Jehovah is his refuge.”

~Psalm 14:6

Should we find that we will not be able to reach the goals we have set for ourselves in God’s service, we should not become discouraged.
Circumstances change and no one has full control over their own situation.
Not only are we susceptible to our own sinful inclinations, but we may find ourselves to be victims of the wrongdoings of others (Rom. 3:23).
While these factors may have a negative impact in our service to God, they do not impede our being loyal to Him.
Therefore we should continue serving God zealously alongside His congregation to our fullest capacity, because He will continue being our Protector, giving us all we need to be happy (Ps. 37:28; Ps. 145:16; Heb. 6:10-12).

Job, chapters 16-20

“My adversary pierces me with his eyes.”
~Job 16:9

In his struggle to keep faithful, Job erroneously reasoned that Jehovah was the one testing his faith, and that God had made him a living target (Job 16:12).
The Bible clearly states, however, that “the eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him,” (2 Chron. 16:9).
So if we ever feel like God is ‘piercing us with His eyes’ because of a bitter situation we are living through, let us remember that God actually looks at us through the eyes of love (Rom. 5:8).
Amidst all his anguish, Job continued to put all his faith in his heavenly Father:

Even now, my witness is in the heavens; The one who can testify for me is in the heights, (Job 16:19).

Whatever trial we may be undergoing, let us face it with the confidence that ‘God is not unrighteous so as to forget our work and the love we show for his name,’ (Heb. 6:10; Gal. 6:9).

2 Chronicles, chapters 33-36

“[The king of the Chaldeans]
carried off captive to Babylon those who escaped the sword, […] to fulfill Jehovah’s word spoken by Jeremiah […].”

~2 Chronicles 36:20, 21

In chapter 36 we witness the rapid declive of Judah’s dynasty.
After King Josiah died in 629 b.C.E. there were no more good kings (2 Chron. 35:23-25).
Jeremiah, the prophet, was gradually subjected to worse and worse treatment as the kingdom became less and less reverent of Jehovah God (Jer. 36:26; 38:7-13).
Yet he never gave in.
He never stopped preaching the dire future that awaited those who did not repent (Jer 35:13-17).
He survived the destruction of the Holy City in 607 b.C.E. and kept serving as a prophet to his people (Jer. 40:5,6).
His determination to carry out his calling in such deteriorated circumstances serves as an inspiration to all of us struggling to actively take part in the kingdom witnessing work in a morally disintegrating world.

Learn more about Jeremiah through this free audio book.