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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice
of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a
prophetic, life-changing power for you.
"When He had cleansed us from our sins, He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, as far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs." Hebrews 1:3-4
The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution (13:22). The encouragement given in this book is not superficial but based on the ultimate realities. We have reason to be encouraged because the Son of God has become man, saved us, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. He is exalted above all angels and principalities. He is Savior, Lord, and God. There's no problem Jesus can't handle. "He is always able to save those who approach God through Him" (7:25).
Prayer: Jesus, I adore You and lay my life before You.
Promise: "In times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, He has spoken to us through His Son, Whom He has made Heir of all things and through Whom He first created the universe." 1:1-2
"He Who consecrates and those who are consecrated have one and the same Father. Therefore He is not ashamed to call them brothers." Hebrews 2:11
Only God had the power to give fallen humanity a new life. Only a man could make atonement for the sins of the human race. Therefore, "since the children are men of blood and flesh, Jesus likewise had a full share in ours, that by His death He might rob the devil, the prince of death, of his power, and free those who through fear of death had been slaves their whole life long" (2:14-15). "He had to become like His brothers in every way, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest before God on their behalf, to expiate the sins of the people. Since He was Himself tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are tempted" (2:17-18).
Prayer: Jesus, God and Brother, I decide to live for You.
Promise: "We do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death." 2:9
"Today, if you should hear His voice, harden not your hearts as at the revolt in the day of testing in the desert, when your fathers tested and tried Me." Hebrews 3:7-9
Jesus has saved us, but we can "have an evil and unfaithful spirit and fall away from the living God" (3:12). Therefore, we should "encourage one another daily while it is still 'today,' so that no one grows hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ only if we maintain to the end that confidence with which we began" (3:13-14).
Prayer: Jesus, when I die, may I be more in love with You than ever before.
Promise: "Therefore, holy brothers who share a heavenly calling, fix your eyes on Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest Whom we acknowledge in faith." 3:1
"A sabbath rest still remains for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9
We should be encouraged no matter what sufferings we endure for Jesus, because "the promise of entrance into His rest still holds" (4:1). This rest will be an eternal peace and harmony, which begins on earth and is fulfilled in heaven. "Let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall" (4:11).
Prayer: Father, may I begin to experience heaven on earth and joyfully look forward to life after death.
Promise: "Indeed, God's word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates and divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the reflections and thoughts of the heart." 4:12
"Even Christ did not glorify Himself with the office of high priest; He received it from the One Who said to Him, 'You are My Son; today I have begotten You'; just as He says in another place, 'You are a Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.' " Hebrews 5:5-6
The encouragement given by the book of Hebrews is not superficial well-wishing; rather, it is based on the fact that Jesus is the great High Priest Who is able "to sympathize with our weakness" for He "was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned" (4:15). "Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the Source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, designated by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (5:8-10).
Prayer: Jesus, eternal High Priest, overshadow my life. May I see all things at the foot of Your throne.
Promise: "In the days when He was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God, Who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence." 5:7
"And, God permitting, we shall advance!" Hebrews 6:3
The writer of Hebrews interrupts his teaching about Jesus' priesthood with an exhortation to spiritual growth. The Hebrews are still baby-Christians, although they should be grown up by now. "Let us, then, go beyond the initial teaching about Christ and advance to maturity" (6:1).
Prayer: Father, may my spiritual maturity be appropriate to or go beyond the length in years of my Christian life.
Promise: "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him by your service, past and present, to His holy people. Our desire is that each of you show the same zeal till the end, fully assured of that for which you hope." 6:10-11
"Scripture testifies: 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.' " Hebrews 7:17
Did you ever read a part of the Bible which meant so much to you, but your Christian friends didn't share your enthusiasm? The writer of Hebrews and other Christians of the first century really got excited about Melchizedek. He was considered a prefigurement of Christ. "His name means 'king of justice'; he was also king of Salem, that is, 'king of peace.' Without father, mother or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever" (7:2-3). Most of us are not so excited about Melchizedek. Maybe the first-century Christians knew something we don't know.
Prayer: Lord, get me excited about Melchizedek because I'm excited about Jesus. May I realize what priesthood has to do with Your plan of salvation.
Promise: "Jesus, because He remains forever, has a priesthood which does not pass away. Therefore He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He forever lives to make intercession for them." 7:24-25
"The main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, Who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 8:1
The writer of Hebrews bases our hope on Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest. Because there is a new priesthood in Jesus, there is a new covenant and a new ministry. "Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry now, just as He is Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises" (8:6). The least born into the kingdom of Jesus is greater than the greatest people of the old covenant (Mt 11:11). We have good reason to be encouraged.
Prayer: Father, I thank You that because of Jesus I'm greater than Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.
Promise: "Days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." 8:8
"This is the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined upon you." Hebrews 9:20
Priesthood, covenant, sacrifice, and blood are central to God's plan of salvation. In this chapter, the writer of Hebrews helps us appreciate the precious blood of Jesus. "According to the law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (9:22). "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself up unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!" (9:13-14) Christ entered the sanctuary "not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, and achieved eternal redemption" (9:12).
Prayer: Precious blood of Jesus, cover, cleanse, and save me.
Promise: "Christ was offered up once to take away the sins of many; He will appear a second time not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him." 9:28
"Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins and took His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are placed beneath His feet. By one offering He has forever perfected those who are being sanctified." Hebrews 10:12-14
After the writer of Hebrews concludes four chapters of teaching on Jesus' priesthood and the new covenant in His blood, he has reason to call us to "utter sincerity and absolute confidence" (10:22). We should "hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope, for He Who made the promise deserves our trust" (10:23). We must not surrender our "confidence; it will have great reward" (10:35). "We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and live. Faith is confident assurance" (10:3911:1).
Prayer: Father, give me unshakable confidence so as to win the "great contest of suffering" (10:32).
Promise: "We must consider how to rouse each other to love and good deeds. We should not absent ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but encourage one another; and this all the more because you see that the Day draws near." 10:24-25
"By faith" they "conquered kingdoms, did what was just, obtained the promises; they broke the jaws of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; though weak they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection." Hebrews 11:33-35
To claim Jesus' victory, we must have faith. "Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Because of faith the men of old were approved by God" (11:1-2). "Without faith, it is impossible to please" God (11:6).
Prayer: Father, I believe, but help my lack of faith (Mk 9:24).
Promise: "God had made a better plan, a plan which included us." 11:40
"So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight the paths you walk on, that your halting limbs may not be dislocated but healed." Hebrews 12:12-13
The writer of Hebrews continues to encourage us to "lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead" (12:1). We see Jesus on His throne before us, a cloud of witnesses around us, and the Holy Spirit within us. We should "make a run for it." In this race, we need to resist sin "to the point of shedding blood" (12:4) and "not disdain the discipline of the Lord" (12:5). We "run so as to win!" (1 Cor 9:24)
Prayer: Father, put a smile on my face, a spring in my step, and joy in my heart. Life is worth living because I'm living for Jesus.
Promise: "Now He has promised, 'I will once more shake not only earth but heaven!' " 12:26
"The Lord is my Helper, I will not be afraid; What can man do to me?" Hebrews 13:6
When we're suffering persecution, we should stick together more closely than ever. We must love one another by offering hospitality and visiting prisoners. We must guard against the breakdown of relationships, sexual sin, and love of money. These are crucial battles in our spiritual war against the devil. Especially in war and persecution, we must obey our leaders and pray for each other. In this way, we will be "more than conquerors because of Him Who has loved us" (Rm 8:37).
Prayer: "May the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do His will. Through Jesus Christ may He carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him. To Christ be glory forever! Amen!" (13:20-21)
Promise: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." 13:8
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 25, 1997
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 28, 1997
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
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