What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, November 18, 2020):
• Judges 21 ~ Ruth 1-4 ~ 1 Samuel 1-2
• Haggai 2 ~ Zechariah 1-6
• 1 John 1-5 ~ 2 John ~ 3 John
We are reading some short books this week, so we are going to visit a bunch of them this week.
Things have really run off the rails spiritually as we close this miserable book. The ending is most unusual. Promises were made to not allow anyone’s daughters to marry into the Benjamite tribe for their terrible behavior that we saw in the last few chapters.
However, there was an awareness of the need for Israel itself to maintain each of the twelve tribes. After Benjamin was nearly annihilated by their brothers—including the slaughter of women and children—they faced a difficult task in rebuilding their numbers.
The way they worked this out—giving them women, but without “permission” from the others—makes for a bizarre end to a tragic era of Israel’s history, the time of the judges where “in those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (21.25).
This is another book, like Jonah, that I like to read in one sitting. Ruth is significant, for she will be a part of the lineage of the Messiah. Her future husband’s grandmother was Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho (see Matthew 1.5).
Ruth was not a Jew, but was from Moab (1.4), yet she was given the honor of being a grandmother of Jesus (with a number of “greats” preceding).
Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, who was Jewish, and followed her back to a foreign land (Israel) as a widow. It was bad enough for Jewish widows, but Ruth’s prospects were extremely low for any life above abject poverty. Her love for Naomi was remarkable.
I’ll leave the rest of the story for you to read. The closing words are the most significant:
“Boaz the father of Obed (her baby), Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David” (4.22). The specific target of David as the progenitor of the Messiah is a key Old Testament prophecy, and this book sets it up.
Notes on 1 Samuel
The books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings are actually one long book in four sections.
In chapter one, we find the miraculous birth of Samuel, who would be the last of the judges, but the first of the prophets to serve the kings of Israel. His life would be a turning point for Israel, as she transitioned from being ruled by a patchwork of judges to the establishment of a nation king. However, we will see Samuel struggle with God over the kingship. He never approved of the idea (even though God wasn’t really keen on it, either).
The interaction in the first two chapters between the sweet and innocent Hannah with Eli, the spiritually messed up priest, is interesting. Eli’s sons, wicked priests, were what you would probably expect in the “clergy” by this point, after what we read about in Judges.
However, God was about to step in. The blatant wickedness of the sons (e.g. see 2.12, 17, 22) was about to be addressed (2.34), and the way will be prepared for Samuel to redirect God’s people spiritually (2.35).
Notes on Haggai
The prophecies in the second chapter point to the coming of the Messiah. When the Lord told Haggai that “the glory of the present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” (2.9), it must have sounded almost humorous. The present Temple was simple, wooden, not much to look at. The former had been adorned with gold beyond measure.
But the second Temple would receive the Messiah. And just to add emphasis, God would later actually motivate Herod the Great, hater of the Jews, to procure millions of Roman tax dollars to restore the building to its former glory.
The most important difference between the two Temples, however, would be the presence of Jesus in the second.
Notes on Zechariah
Zechariah prophesied to the exiles after they had returned, two years into Darius’ tenure as king of Persia (1.1). This takes place before the rebuilding of the Temple (before the book of Haggai, that we just read). A theme will be encouraging the people to rebuild it.
In this anti-climactic setting following the loss of everything, a seventy-year stint in Babylon, and now returning to a somewhat desolate place, the Lord sends strong words of encouragement. See 2.8-13.
Messianic symbolism is found at its finest in chapter 3. We met Joshua, the godly high priest of that time back in Haggai (even though it took place later). Here, he is a symbol of the people of God and of the coming Messiah.
He is instructed to change out of dirty clothes into clean in order to symbolize forgiveness of sin (3.3-4).
But in verse 8, he is representing the Messiah (the Branch), and is addressed at the High Priest Joshua (Y’shua, Hebrew for Jesus).
The increased presence and power of the Holy Spirit is alluded to in 4.6.
In chapters five and six, Zechariah will now be given a series of visions, living illustrations: a flying scroll, a woman in a basket, four chariots.
The symbolism of Joshua as Messiah is completed at the end of chapter six, where he wears a crown, is called the Branch, is to be clothed with majesty to sit and rule on this throne (see 6.11-23).
Notes on 1 John
I somehow jumped ahead one chapter last week. So we will begin our notes in chapter two.
John’s thoughts almost seem to be scattered. In chapter two, he transitions from one thing to another. Jesus, the atoning sacrifice; love and hatred, encouragement, avoiding the world, false teachers, an admonition to remain faithful. Yet he gives us clear instruction on each. His life was an amazing testimony, so his words are the kind we need to study carefully and hang onto.
There is a lot of emphasis on the metaphor of the family of God throughout the book. But he even goes beyond metaphor, when after describing us as the children of God, he says, “And that is what we are!” (3.1).
He emphasizes the love that God has for us, then challenges us to respond to that love, to reject all competition for our hearts and souls. The spiritual warfare dynamic is clearly laid out in 3.8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
Our love for God is validated through our love for one another (4.20), and through our obedience (5.2).
Notes on 2 John
This very short book is virtually a summary of 1 John. The “lady” is the church itself.
Notes on 3 John
Another quite short book, this one is directed to a man named Gaius. A troublemaker in the church is identified by name. The early church did not mess around with those who brought division.
I love verse 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” I find this encouraging not only for my biological children, but also for those whose lives I ministered to in the past.