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Week 14 July 1, 2020

What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, July 1, 2020):

• Leviticus 2-8

• Jeremiah 26-32

• Acts 3-9

• Psalms 92-98

As of today, we are one-fourth of the way through already!

Notes on Leviticus

In the chapters this week, we will read about the grain offering (twice: chapters two and six), the fellowship offering (twice: chapters three and seven), the sin offering (twice: chapters four and six), the guilt offering, and the burnt offering.

These are instructions for the Levites (hence “Leviticus”) in the Temple worship. Notice the difference between the various sacrifices: animals (or food) that are required, how they are presented, what is done with them (eating vs destroying). Can you find symbolism unique to each one in regard to its purpose?

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For those sacrifices that were to be eaten, it was forbidden to eat the blood or the fat (7.22-27). This infraction would bring on excommunication from the people. As the people of Israel were a combined nation, faith community, and family, that would be a bad situation to face.

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The initiation of the very first priests takes place in chapter 8. Moses and Aaron were born into the tribe of Levi. God designated Aaron and all of his male descendants to be the priests; that is, they are the pastors to the other pastors (the other Levites), and well as serving before the Lord in the Temple for all of Israel.

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The priests begin their ministry in chapter nine. The Lord is pleased. He comes down in glory, appearing before all the people (9.23). Fire came out from his presence to consume the sacrifices (9.24). What a worship service!

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Notes on Jeremiah

The people want to kill Jeremiah because of his “fake news” (26.11). Nothing new under the sun.

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We back up a little bit chronologically in chapter 27. Jeremiah is in drama ministry mode again, this time with straps and crossbars. The decree from the Lord is that they are all assigned to go to Babylon. If they submit to the plan, they will be okay, and eventually return. If they try to buck the system, things will not go well for them.

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With all of the bad news coming out of Jeremiah’s mouth, other prophets rose up with a happier, although completely false message. Hananiah comes onto the scene at the beginning of chapter 28, and by the end of the chapter is dead because of his false message.

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In chapter 29, we jump ahead into the actual time of the exile. Jeremiah sends a letter to the exiles, a word of hope and encouragement, with the well-known words of verse 11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

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Shemaiah, another prophet-wanna-be, apparently didn’t pay much attention to what happened to Hananiah back in chapter 28. His judgement is pronounced in 29.31-32.

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In chapter 30, God promises eventual restoration of Israel and punishment upon the heads of her enemies.

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Chapter 31 is chock-full of interesting things.

One of my favorite verses: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (3).

The first fourteen verses read like a psalm. There is great encouragement and hope for the future for the people of God.

Then the tide turns in verse 15: “…Rachel weeping for her children.” This, of course, was the prophecy alluded to in Matthew 2, following the birth of Jesus when Herod had the babies killed. The tomb of Rachel is located on the north side of Bethlehem (a place that you can visit today), and this may have initially referred to her symbolically weeping as the exiles walked past her tomb on the way out of town to Babylon.

Toward the end of the chapter, there is an allusion to the New Covenant, compared with what was then the existing covenant, which we call the Old Covenant (Testament). See 31.31-14.

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Jeremiah is called on to perform his drama ministry yet again in chapter 32, as he is told to go buy a field (32.6-12). The rest of the chapter is an explanation and interpretation of what this meant.

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Notes on Acts

We see the Spirit-filled church lunge into ministry in chapter three. Peter and John heal a man “lame from birth” in front of the Temple in the sight of a large crowd. This will bring great interest, from both seekers of God and those who will oppose the church.

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Being called before the spiritual authorities to be scrutinized and threatened only gave them another platform to proclaim the gospel. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (4.12). they tell their persecutors.

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The community shared by the young church here should be the goal of the church today: they prayed until the tangible presence of God came down (4.31), and they lived together with one heart and one mind (4.32).

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Ananias and Sapphira become a terrible testimony to those who would be willing to lay down their integrity in the midst of a powerful move of God in a powerful church. See 5.1-11.

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In the second half of chapter five, we see the recurring theme: the church performs miracle, they are persecuted, and they use the perch of persecution to declare the gospel.

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In chapter six, we see for the first time a division of ministry in the church. Their leaders then, like ours should now, recognized that the prayer and ministry of the Word was paramount for them, and that other tasks and ministries could be delegated. The Spirit was at work throughout the church, so there was no need to expect a few to do it all.

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We find the account of Stephen beginning in 6.8. He had an amazing ministry of “God’s grace and power,” performing astounding miracles, great signs, and wonders. And he had supernatural wisdom to defend himself.

What does the enemy do in such a case? Stephen is falsely accused and stoned (chapter 7); but not until he gives us a detailed history of the Old Testament (see 7.2-53). The end point of his message was that his accusers were responsible for murdering the Messiah. That did not go over well.

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We are introduced to Saul (Paul) in 7.58 and 8.1.

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Jesus sits at the right hand of the throne of God. Stephen saw him standing as his time on earth expired. He was given a standing ovation for his faithfulness by Jesus himself! (7.55).

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This event launched a general persecution against the church, which—instead of slowing it down—caused it to spread everywhere as the disciples fled Jerusalem (8.1).

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In chapter eight, we read of Philip’s ministry, first to Simon the Sorcerer, and then the Ethiopian eunuch.

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After chapter eight, other than Peter we will see very little of the twelve apostles. Peter will remain for a few chapters, but the story arc will turn toward Saul/Paul.

Paul’s “Damascus Road Experience” is found in chapter nine. Then he tries to break into the leadership circle of the church. With such a terrible and fearful resume, most are wary and reluctant to have anything to do with him at all. We always need a Barnabus in the church!

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Peter raises the dead (Tabitha/Dorcas) at the end of chapter nine.

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Notes on Psalms

Psalm 93 is one of my favs. It is well worth the time to memorize.

“Worship him, all you gods!” (97.7b). What in the world does that mean??

“He sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake!” (99.1b)

All of our psalms this week are of unassigned authorship. They are very joyful and upbeat, so enjoy reading them and be encouraged in the Lord!

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