Reading 1 - 2Ki 5:13,14
"Naaman's servants went to him and said, 'My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, "Wash and be cleansed"!' So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy" (2Ki 5:13,14).
"It may seem strange and incredible that God would connect such a momentous change [covenant relationship, and forgiveness of sins] with a trivial and (as some regard it) ridiculous observance [baptism]. An earnest mind, however, will not stop to reason on the matter when once satisfied that it is the will of God, especially when he remembers that it is one of the characteristics of God's dealings with men that He selects 'weak things, things despised, yea, and things that are not' (1Co 1:27,28), by which to accomplish important results -- that it may be seen that the power is of God, and not in the means, and that true obedience may be secured in His servants. It was not the eating of the fruit in itself -- apart from the divine prohibition -- that constituted Adam's offence. It was not the mere looking at the brazen serpent in the wilderness that cured the serpent bitten Israelites. It was not Naaman's mere immersion in Jordan in itself that cured him of his leprosy. It was the principle involved in each case that developed the results -- the principle of obedience to the divine law, which is one prominent feature in all God's dealings with man. Obedience is the great thing required at our hands: 'Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams' (1Sa 15:22).
"It matters not what the act may be; the more unlikely the thing required, the more severe the test, and the more conspicuous the obedience, even if it be the offering up of an only son, or the slaughtering of a whole nation. In any case, and at all hazards, obedience must be yielded. God is not less exacting in this respect under the Christian dispensation than He was under the law; but, if possible, more so" (Robert Roberts, "Christendom Astray").
Reading 2 - Lam 1:1
"How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people" (Lam 1:1; cp Isa 3:8).
Well-known among students of ancient history is a medal struck by a Greek artist of the Roman Court to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and Vespasian in 70 AD. It is called "Judea Capta" ("Judah Subjected"), and it depicts a powerful soldier standing triumphantly over a helpless woman, who sits destitute upon the ground. How did this come about? Let us ask ourselves and learn the answer well. It came about because Judah neglected its true strength -- the Lord their God.
What do we naturally think of when we hear the words "many people"? Ideas that come to mind are a party, or a market place -- people milling around, laughing, joking and empty of serious thoughts. This is how Isaiah pictured this same city, Jerusalem -- "full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city" (Isa 22:2); a city, in fact, thoroughly opposed to the Divine will, and heedless of her impending punishment: "And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold (instead) joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die" (Isa 22:12,13).
To those who thought in their hearts, "Peace and safety", came instead sudden destruction (1Th 5:3) by the wrath of God: "I will make your cities waste... desolation", He had threatened through His prophet Moses (Lev 26:14-16, 31-35). But the people had continued to delight themselves in every imaginable form of wickedness until it was too late (Note the summary of Nebuchadnezzar's destructions in Jer 52:12-23 -- and remember that he was merely God's "servant" -- Jer 25:9 -- to perform this).
''As a widow": The city of Jerusalem had lost her husband, her lord and her protector (Jer 2:2). All of the pains associated with widowhood were hers -- an absence of her "husband's" favor and protection; sorrow and grief; a pitiful feeling of helplessness (Isa 54:6; Hos 3:3, 4).
Let us remember why such things came upon Jerusalem: "Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves (ie, into slavery), and for your transgressions is your mother put away" (Isa 50:1). "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you" (Isa 59:2).
"She that was great among the nations": Israel, in its beginning as a kingdom, was lavishly praised by Hiram of Tyre ("this great people" -- 1Ki 5:7) and the queen of Sheba, who saw Solomon's wealth (1Ki 10). The united kingdom of Solomon's time must have been very nearly unsurpassed in commerce and power. And the kingdom of Judah continued to prosper at times in the years following the division of the kingdom.
"How is she become tributary": We are perhaps too accustomed to viewing Judah, during the period of the kings, as having much less majesty and authority than she actually had. Only when we realize what a magnificent position she once occupied, can such a phrase as this have its proper effect upon us. Just as God brought the splendor of Egypt and Babylon to the dust, so was He able to humble Judah. The word "tributary" refers to personal servitude (the same word as in Josh 16:10; 17:13). Compare Lam 5:8,13,16. The princess had become a "slave" (NIV), a "vassal" (RSV).
Reading 3 - 1Co 14:40
"But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (1Co 14:40).
"The brother or sister who sincerely loves God will endeavour always to be punctual in the observance of His requirements and appointments. (Unavoidable lateness is exceptional, and need not here be considered.) To be late at the meetings when we could have been early is indicative of indifference and carelessness in regard to the things of God. The meetings are of God's appointment for the benefit of His children. The latecomer not only himself loses much of this benefit, but hinders those who are punctual in receiving the good. Usually the meetings commence with collective thanksgiving to God; is it not manifestly irreverent, and consequently displeasing to Him, that the privilege should be disturbed by latecomers, who with a little thought and care could have been present to unite in prayer and thanksgiving? Christ is our example in all things, and there is more than a suggestion of punctuality in the record that 'when the hour was come he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him' (to eat the Passover) (Luk 22:14)" (WJ White).