What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, September 16, 2022):
· Deuteronomy 16-22
· Ezekiel 46-48 ~ Daniel 1-4
· Ephesians 1-6 ~ Philippians 1
Notes on Deuteronomy
God’s original plan of using judges to lead his people instead of kings is laid out succinctly in 16.18. The Israelites would fail quite spectacularly harnessing this system. There is an entire book written about it (ironically called, Judges! Coming soon!)
In 17.16-17, there is an admonition that future kings they would eventually install were not to acquire many horses or wives. Obviously, David and Solomon failed this test badly. We will see in this book allowances God made for wrong choices that seemed to be embedded into his people.
New kings that would be installed into the nation of Israel were required to write a copy of the law for themselves, from a copy given to them by the Levites (17.18). There is no record of any king who followed through on this, though it certainly was a great idea. A Messianic prophecy is given in 18.18 that a prophet would be raised up from among them. The Jewish scholars apparently did not understand this to be the Messiah, thinking is could have been a separate individual. See John 1.19-21. Just one wrong prophecy would disqualify a prophet and expose him as a fraud (18.21-22). The Israelites were forbidden from cutting down fruit trees, even during war, for building siege works. See 20.20. Speaking of accommodating ingrown sin (AKA God’s “permissive” will), a rule regarding inheritance is given in 21.15 for a man with two wives. This does not endorse multiple wives, but simply accommodates bad behavior that had become ingrained. The original command “one man one woman” comes from the early part of the book of Genesis, and Jesus reaffirmed that this two-person arrangement (with male and female) was God’s original and best plan for us (Matthew 19.4-6). If a man falsely accuses his wife, one of the requirements/penalties was to remain married to her for life (22.19). This may seem to not take into consideration the wife’s feeling or desires. But it would require him to take care of her financially. If he has already accused her without merit, she would certainly be vulnerable to abandonment, and her welfare would definitely be on the line without this stipulation. Notes on Ezekiel
I find is fascinating that the New Moon festival is a part of this scenario (46.3), since it is a man-made celebration, and not a directive coming from The Law.
Though we still do not know the locale or the time of the third temple described here at the end of the book, a few laws from the Law of Moses are reiterated. One of them is that any foreigner could assimilate into Israel, at which point they were to be treated exactly as a native born. See 47.22.
Allusions to heaven as we read about it in Revelation 22.1-2 are found in 47.12. The prince’s sons are mentioned in verse 46.16-18, implying for us that this prince is not at all Jesus the Messiah. More measuring takes place in chapter 47, but this time, instead of the temple itself, it is the depth of the river and the boundaries of the land.
Territory for all of the original tribes is given in the closing chapter (48). The tribe of Joseph is divided into half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The Levites are also given territory.
Notes on Daniel
Daniel’s book is amazing, and his life is quite a story. Other than Jesus, he is the only major character in the Bible that we never read about sin in his life. Not that he had no sin, but he lived such a clean life, there are no major slip-ups by him to record. He was captured and taken from home as a youth when the Babylonians invaded Judah. He entered the king’s service and remained there through the violent transition to the Persian Empire. His faithfulness to God gained him a lot of enemies. I’m sure it didn’t help that, right from the bat, everyone’s choice food and wine were taken away and replaced with vegetables and water! The first half of his book is about the well-known stories: Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, the fiery furnace, the writing on the wall, the den of lions. The second half is full of some of the most mysterious, dark, and foreboding prophesies in the entire Bible. Many of these have to do with the antichrist and end times.
Some were so disturbing that the only comfort the angel could give Daniel is that he would not live to see these things transpire (see 7.28, 8.27, 10.15–19, 12.9–13). This is a most sobering warning to us as our world is crash-landing to its eventual demise.
We can find an exact start date for the events of the book of Daniel (1.1) and tie them into the demise of Judah at the end of 2 Kings and 1 Chronicles.
According to 1.3, all of these young men that served the king were from Israel. It is sad that out of all of these Jewish young men, all familiar with the requirements of the law, only Daniel and his friends objected to defilement and asked for a special diet.
There were actually three deportations of captives to Babylon. Daniel and his friends were taken in the first one. Unlike Joseph and Pharaoh, Daniel could not only interpret the dream, but remind the king of what was actually in the dream (2.5, 27-45).
Seeing Nebuchadnezzar, the “king of kings” (2.37), the most powerful man in the world, bowing down prostrate to Daniel after he interpreted the king’s dream, as not only a young man but a captured foreigner to boot, is simply astounding (2.46-47).
The image that Nebuchadnezzar had created in 3.1 is undoubtedly based on image he saw in the dream that he had, which Daniel had interpreted for him (2.31-33). This image was directly connected to the fiery furnace episode, and all of this is found in chapter 3. This king (like so many others throughout history) was rash and impulsive. His opinion of his subjects could turn on a dime. See 2.49, 3.13 and 3.29. We find another theophany in 3.25, where Jesus joins Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Daniel had enormous favor with Nebuchadnezzar, able to confront him with his sin (4.27), reminiscent of Nathan and David—even though David was a godly man. For a young captured foreigner to confront a powerful head of state in this way and not lose his head is astonishing. Notice that his rebuke of the king was done in love and virtually with tears (4.19). This is a great example to us of how our hearts should be tuned before confronting others about their own sin.
Nebuchadnezzar goes from riches to rags and back to riches in chapter four. However, the time span was over seven years.
The terms “Chaldean” and “Babylonian” are used synonymously. You will only find the use of the word “Chaldean” in the Bible about ten times in newer translations, but some translations (e.g. ESV and KJV) will use the word many times (at least eighty times in the Old Testament). Daniel outlasted kings and the kingdoms. He began his tenure in exile under Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, as well as Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar; and then served under the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius.
Nebuchadnezzar was the one who captured Daniel and his friends, and took them from Israel to Babylon. His the one who had Daniel’s three friends thrown into the fiery furnace. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the writing on the wall. Darius is the one who sent him to the den of lions. Daniel would be 93 years old when Darius would throw him into the den.
Notes on Ephesians
In 2.14, we read: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” The two groups are Jews and Gentiles. Once again, these were very radical words to first century Jews. See also 3.6.
This book is so rich in theology, it’s quite a difficult task to even think about summarizing. Chapter one paints a glorious picture of what our salvation means actually in the heavenlies, followed by a splendid and detailed thanksgiving and praise to God for such privilege.
Two of the most important verses in the entire Bible are found in chapter two: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (8-9).
And then Paul goes on to show that salvation is a gift for both Jew and Gentile, and that this salvation has even brought the two together (2.14). Again, this concept was radical to the point of putting one’s life at risk and on the line to even utter such words.
Paul expounds on the Gospel for the Gentiles in chapter three.
Good words to memorize from 3.17b-19: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Chapter four gives us the clearest description of and purposes for the gifts of the Spirit that we will find in the New Testament (verses 12 and 13). Many consider the five gifts of verse 11 to be all-inclusive for all believers (i.e., everyone has at least one of these): Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd (Pastor), Teacher. The acronym commonly used is APEST.
However, as these gifts are then identified to build up the church, many theologians believe that these are primarily the gifts given to leaders in the church.
The word “pastor” makes its only appearance in the New Testament in 4.11, without any definition or explanation. We sure have hung a lot onto that word!
As Paul’s normal style, he turns to very practical application in the second part of this letter. In chapter five, he discusses sexual immorality and instructions for the believer’s household.
Not only the guidelines, but the theology of marriage found here, comparing the husband and wife to Christ and the church, are unique in the Bible, and critical to our understanding of both sets of relationships.
After instructions for children and fathers (we don’t find commands specifically for mothers anywhere in the Bible), Paul concludes with the amazing armor of God treatise in chapter six.
The “word” of God mentioned in verse 17 as the sword of the Spirit is the Greek word rhema, and not logos. Logos refers to the written word of God, rhema refers to God’s spoken word. Just a thought as you navigate this very familiar territory once again.
Notes on Philippians
Philippians is a very passionate and personal letter. Paul begins by telling his readers about his chains, and how God has used them for his glory. He also contemplates his end a number of times in this book, all with great expectation: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1.21).
This short book is so very powerful. It would be well worth your time to memorize 2.5-11, some of the most compelling words in the entire Book. I’m giving you a one-week head start on this!