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Week 17 July 22, 2020

What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, July 22, 2020):

• Leviticus 23-27 - Numbers 1-2

• Jeremiah 47-52 - Lamentations 1

• Acts 24-28 - Romans 1-2

• Psalms 113-119

We are deep into summer. Keep reading! If you fall behind, catch back up if you can. But if you get so far behind to be discouraged at re-entry, just jump ahead to where we are now. If you fail to read every single chapter, there will be no punishments to be doled out later.

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Notes on Leviticus


The seven festivals of Israel are given in chapter 23 after yet another reference to the Sabbath. Notice that the New Moon Festival is not mentioned. This one was man-made, yet apparently accepted and incorporated into the flow as legitimate by God. See, e.g., Numbers 10:10.


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Chapter 24 begins with instruction about the oil for lamps and bread for the priests to be set out daily at the Tabernacle. But then there is a “hands on” lesson (literally) about dealing with an issue of blasphemy that arose in the community.


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In chapter 25, the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee (after seven rounds of the Sabbath year) are outlined. I don’t know of any time that this was actually observed by the Israelites, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. When God has promised to bless the nation so much that everyone could take a year off for a party, who wouldn’t jump all over that?


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We find rewards for obedience and punishments for disobedience in chapter 26. The latter is a much longer list. Like a parent trying every conceivable way to scare their children into obedience, God lays it out in detail. But alas, it would fall on deaf ears.


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Instructions on how to dedicate things to the Lord (a person, house, animal, or land) are given in chapter 27. Tithing is mentioned toward the end of the chapter. Notice that there is a 20% fee for late tithing! (27.31). I think I will do the Biblical thing and institute this policy in our church (JK!).


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Notes on Numbers


The first of two censuses (censi??) is taken in chapter one. Twelve capable leaders are chosen for a variety of tasks to be performed on behalf of their respective tribes throughout this book. They will not be the ones who will spy out the land and bring a bad report.


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The arrangement of the camp is given in chapter 2. As they travel, when they set up camp, the tabernacle will be laid out as a center for the community, along with the tents of the Levites (2.1, 17). There was a prescribed order for the others surrounding this, with three tribes each at the four sides of the center (north, south, east, and west).


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Notes on Jeremiah


The next rebuke is to the Philistines, Israel’s neighbor and perennial enemy to the west. We have heard very little about them since the days of David. Their message is somewhat short, especially compared to the others.


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Next up for judgment , in chapter 48, are the Moabites, descendants of Lot’s elder daughter, and also perennial enemies of Israel. The following chapter is God’s assignment against Ammon, the descendants of Lot’s younger daughter, and also on the list of ongoing enemies of the Chosen People.


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Even though Babylon is God’s sovereign choice to bring down the curtain on the Kingdom of Judah (Habakkuk 1.5-6), they will fall hard under God’s judgment. The long chapters 50-51 give all of the gory details.


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The final chapter, 52, is simply an historical account of the last days of Judah.


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Notes on Lamentations


These notes are written by the sorrowful Jeremiah as he observed the fall of Judah and the exile of the people of God. The chapters are written like psalms, and are acrostics: each verse begins with the succeeding letter of the 22-character Hebrew alphabet. Each chapter therefore has 22 verses, except for chapter three. In this chapter, there are three verses for each letter, for a total of 66 verses.


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Notes on Acts


The remainder of the book will be Paul’s ordeal in going through the Roman justice system on the way to his martyrdom (though it ends before he dies).


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I have come to wonder why there is so much detail about the legal proceedings against Paul in this book. But there a few things to consider. For one, it gives us an amazing glimpse inside of the Roman judicial system. To Rome’s credit, there is a strong desire on hearing people out on both sides of a conflict and trying to determine truth.


Also, we see Paul doing a great job defending himself. And he also throws a monkey wrench into so much I heard as a child growing up in a Mennonite church (that was at one time called the Defenseless Mennonite). We were taught basically to refrain from defending ourselves. Turning the other cheek was our basic tenet of faith.


We also see how Paul was almost insanely passionate to share the gospel anywhere, anytime, with anyone. He shared it with crowds and with individuals. No matter how far up the food chain he went in the Roman legal system, he opened up about his faith with each esteemed ruler.


And he knew that this would eventually cost him his life. But he kept right at it. He went to the grave “in full vigor” (Job 5.26). May I share that kind of intense passion in my own life.


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The story of the shipwreck in chapter 27 is really cool. And of course, with seasoned sailors overwhelmed with fatigue and fear, Paul takes the lead, and takes control of the situation. A true leader.


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The story of Acts closes in chapter 28 with a great story on Malta, and then Paul’s initial reception at Rome by the believers there. The Romans treat him better than the Jews, just like we saw last week Jeremiah treated better by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians than by his own people.


Acts is the only history book in the Bible where the people of God do well and the story ends on a positive note of faithfulness on behalf of the believers.


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Notes on Romans


After reading the end of Acts, remember that it is this last group of believers Paul met with in chapter 28 who will receive this letter.


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This book is often called the Gospel of Paul. Theologians generally love this book more than any other. Like most of his writings, Paul will begin the book with theology, and then closes it off with directives on practical Christian living based on those theological principles.


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What I believe to be the central verse of the entire Bible is quoted by Paul making it (IMHO) the central verse of the New Testament: “The righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2.4 and 1.17).


It is very hard to find any reconciliation with an acceptance of the practice of homosexuality with 1.26-27. Those that do must downplay or outright reject Paul’s writing as legitimate canon.


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Verses 28-32 in chapter one seem to describe well our world today.


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Paul will begin in chapter two to build the case for the need for salvation, since we will all be inadequate in our attempt to satisfy the righteousness of God by our own works.


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Notes on Psalms


Psalm 113 is a wonderful psalm of praise.


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Psalm 114 uses history as a basis for a song of praise. This is a great illustration on how to construct our own psalm/song of praise as we look back on what God has done for us personally.


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Psalm 117 is very, very short, and 119 is very, very long! I started a number of years ago to take two or three days to read through 119. If I simply power-read it, I will miss much, because on one level it all looks so much the same.


But these words are worthy of the time and attention of all of the other psalms. In addition to 117, the following psalms are very, very short. So if you decide to take more than one day to read Psalm 119, it is easy to read ahead a little or catch up after, or both.

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