Monday, January 13, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to Nehemiah 7-13


Readings for this week


Monday: Nehemiah 7
Tuesday: Nehemiah 8
Wednesday: Nehemiah 9
Thursday: Nehemiah 10
Friday: Nehemiah 11
Saturday: Nehemiah 12
Sunday: Nehemiah 13



Introduction to Nehemiah 7-13

Tobiah keeps threatening Nehemiah after the walls are built, so Nehemiah organizes soldiers to defend Jerusalem and he puts his brother Hanani in charge. 

Later on, the poor people of Jerusalem cry out Nehemiah for help, and Nehemiah rebukes the officials who had oppressed them. And Nehemiah ends up being appointed governor. 

At this point, the character of Ezra is reintroduced, and he reads the Law to the people. And all of the people listen attentively to the whole thing. 

Ezra presents a summary of God’s faithfulness throughout history: 

He brought Abraham up out of Ur. 
He performed signs and wonders in Egypt and rescued His people from Pharaoh.
He came down on Mount Sinai.
He gave them bread from heaven and water from the rock.
He guided them with cloud and fire in the wilderness even though they worshiped the golden calf.
He led them to the Promised Land.
He sent judges to rescue them from enemies.
He sent prophets to lead them on the right path.
He did not abandon them even when they were exiled by the Babylonians for their sin. 

After this, all the people sign a contract promising to be faithful to the Covenant.

The work concludes with Nehemiah’s final reforms. 

The Book of Moses was read to the people, and they heard the story about Balaam, and they decided they had better send away all the foreigners living in the land. 

At some point, Nehemiah went back to serve Artaxerxes for awhile, and when he returned he found out that Tobiah – an enemy – was working in the Temple, so he sent him away. 

He also discovered that the Levites and Temple musicians had not been adequately paid in his absence, so he compensated them. And he rebuked the officials for neglecting the Temple. 

He also yelled at and “pulled out the hair” of the men who had married pagan women and whose children knew nothing of their Jewish heritage. 

Nehemiah warned the people not to follow in the ways of Solomon, and the book concludes with him asking God to remember him with favor.







Monday, January 6, 2020

READ IT! - Introduction to Nehemiah 1-6


Readings for this week

Monday: Ezra 10
Tuesday: Nehemiah 1
Wednesday: Nehemiah 2
Thursday: Nehemiah 3
Friday: Nehemiah 4
Saturday: Nehemiah 5
Sunday: Nehemiah 6



Introduction to Nehemiah 1-6

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one united work written during Persian dominance over the world.

Structure

Ezra 1:1–6:22 – Rebuilding the Temple
Ezra 7:1–10:44 – Reforming the Community
Nehemiah 1:1–7:73 – Rebuilding the city wall
Nehemiah 8:1–10:39 – Hearing and doing the Law
Nehemiah 11:1–13:31 – Further reforms by Nehemiah

Chapters 1-6

In the second half of this unified work, we see the character of Nehemiah introduced. He was a contemporary of Ezra and was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia.

At this point, Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt, and so the Book of Nehemiah focuses mainly on the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, and King Artaxerxes grants Nehemiah special permission to return to Jerusalem with another wave of exiles to rebuild the walls.

But unfortunately, some opposition arises to this work as well. Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite and Gesham the Arab are the chief opposition. Sanballat and Tobiah mock and threaten the builders, and so Nehemiah posts guards and tells the people to carry a shovel in one hand and in the other hand a spear.

Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gesham invite Nehemiah over for a meal, but Nehemiah knows it’s a trap.

They also write a letter to Nehemiah, saying that pretty soon the people of Jerusalem will proclaim someone king and Artaxerxes will be jealous. But Nehemiah says, “…you are just making it up out of your head.”

They also hire a false prophet to tell Nehemiah to run away and hide, but Nehemiah doesn’t fall for it.

The wall was amazingly completed in only 52 days.







Monday, December 30, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezra 3-10


Readings for this week

Monday: Ezra 3
Tuesday: Ezra 4
Wednesday: Ezra 5
Thursday: Ezra 6
Friday: Ezra 7
Saturday: Ezra 8
Sunday: Ezra 9


Introduction to Ezra 3-10

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah tell the people to rebuild God’s House. And so Joshua and Zerubbabel restart reconstruction. 

But Governor Tattenai of Trans-Euphrates tattles on them to Darius the Great. And so Darius the Great looks into the law records of Cyrus, seeing his former decree to rebuild the Temple, and he decides to give his blessing to the Jews as well. 

The Jerusalem Temple is rebuilt over next four years, and once completed the people celebrate Passover again. 

But there’s some opposition to the rebuilding. Their enemies send threats and attempt sabotage, and even petition King Xerxes I. They later petition Artaxerxes, who orders the construction to halt. 

Eventually, in another wave of resettlement, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem. Ezra is a scribe and a teacher and is sent by Darius the Great in order to instruct the people in God’s laws. He is entrusted with silver and gold for the Temple, and he returns some of the Holy Items to the Temple that had been plundered by Nebuchadnezzar. He also recruits Levites to serve in the Temple. 

And, strangely enough, Darius the Great threatens the Jews with death, banishment, or confiscation of property if they do not follow the laws of their God. 

At the end of Ezra’s book we see an intermarriage dilemma take place. Ezra sees that many Jews married pagan wives, and their children knew nothing of God, and so Ezra accuses the people of their sin. The people confess, and the men end up divorcing their wives. Interestingly, the book of Ruth, a story about King David’s great grandmother, a Moabite, began to become a popular book among the people at this time.





Saturday, December 28, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezra 1-2


Introduction to Ezra 1-2


The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one united work written during Persian dominance over the world.

Structure

Ezra 1:1–6:22 – Rebuilding the Temple
Ezra 7:1–10:44 – Reforming the Community
Nehemiah 1:1–7:73 – Rebuilding the city wall
Nehemiah 8:1–10:39 – Hearing and doing the Law
Nehemiah 11:1–13:31 – Further reforms by Nehemiah

Chapters 1-2 

The book of Ezra begins with the decree of Cyrus king of Persia proclaiming freedom for the exiles to return to their homeland. 

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 

‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them.'” 

Then comes the reign of Darius the Great. 

And so in the first wave of return led by Zerubbabel the people began to rebuild an altar, and Zerubbabel, who becomes governor, as well as the High Priest Joshua begin reconstruction.









Friday, December 27, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Paul’s Letter to Philemon


Paul’s Letter to Philemon 


Context of Philemon 

Author: 

Paul 

Audience: 

Philemon’s house church, probably at Colossae in western Asia Minor 

Date and place of composition: 

About A.D. 55-56 if from Ephesus, 61-63 if from Rome, or 58-60 if from Caesarea (dating depends on the location of Paul’s imprisonment). 

Occasion or purpose: 

To reconcile Philemon with one of his slaves, Onesimus, and perhaps to secure Onesimus’s services for himself. 


Themes of Philemon 

Slavery

Contemporary readers are typically shocked that Paul, who had proclaimed the essential equality of all believers united in Christ (Gal. 3:28), does not use this occasion to denounce the institution of slavery as totally incompatible with Christian faith. Although Paul does not condemn the practice of buying and selling human beings – probably because he believes that the Greco-Roman world order will soon end – he does argue persuasively for a new relationship between master and slave. He asks the slave-owner, Philemon, to accept his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a “beloved brother,” thereby establishing a new bond of kinship humanely linking Christian owners and their slaves. 


Chapter 1 

The letter begins with a salutation and claims to be written by Paul and Timothy. They present greetings to their friend Philemon, sister Apphia, Archippus the soldier, and the church that meets in their home. A blessing of grace and peace is given. 

Paul says he thanks God because he’s heard about their love for God’s people and their faith in Jesus. He says he prays that their partnership will be effective and that their understanding of the good they share in Christ will be deepened. He says their love has given him great joy and encouragement and they have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

Paul then appeals to Philemon in love even though he feels he has the right to order Philemon what to do here. Paul refers to himself as an old man and as a prisoner for Christ. He appeals on behalf of Onesimus who had become Paul’s helper while he was in chains. He admits that he was formerly useless to Philemon, but now he has become useful both to Philemon and to me Paul.

Paul says he is sending Onesimus back to Philemon and he calls Onesimus his “very heart.” Paul says he would have liked to have kept Onesimus around as he had been very helpful to Paul in Philemon’s absence. But he wanted to make sure he wasn’t forcing Philemon into doing anything that wasn’t voluntary. Paul says that maybe the reason Philemon and Onesimus were separated for a time was so that they might be reunited again – but not as master and slave, but as brothers in Christ.

Paul says, “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

Paul writes out an agreement saying he will repay anything Onesimus may owe to Philemon, but points out that Philemon already owes Paul “his very life.” Paul tells Philemon he is confident he will be obedient and do even more than what he is asking of him.

Paul also asks Philemon to prepare a room for him so that he may have a place to stay when he visits the church as he hoped to do

Paul then gives his final greetings, and also gives greetings from Epaphras (whom he refers to as his fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus), Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.

And he blesses them, saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”