Monday, December 25, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Deuteronomy 4-10

Readings for this week

Monday: Deuteronomy 4
Tuesday: Deuteronomy 5
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 6
Thursday: Deuteronomy 7
Friday: Deuteronomy 8
Saturday: Deuteronomy 9
Sunday: Deuteronomy 10

Introduction to Deuteronomy 4-10

Chapter 4

The words of Moses: Now, Israel, hear the commandments and obey them. You heard the LORD speak from the fire. Take care not to make idols. The LORD is God.

Chapter 5

The LORD made his covenant with us: Have no other gods; Keep the Sabbath; Honor your parents. You shall do all that he has commanded.

Chapter 6

The “Shema” contains one of the daily prayers of the Jews:

"Sh'ma Yisra'el. YHWH Eloheinu. YHWH Ehad."

“Shema” means “Hear!” or “Listen!”

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Or “Hear, O Israel! The LORD [is] our God, the LORD alone.”
Or “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God [is] the LORD alone.”

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

In the New Testament, Jesus said that this commandment was the greatest commandment of them all. If you keep this one law, you are keeping all of God’s laws. If you break this one law, you are breaking all of God’s laws.

Chapter 7

The words of Moses: Make no treaty with the nations of the land. You are a holy people, the LORD has chosen you. He will drive out the nations before you.

Chapter 8

The words of Moses: The LORD led you in the wilderness and tested you. He is bringing you into a good land. Do not forget the LORD or you shall perish.

Chapter 9

The words of Moses: It is not for your righteousness that you will occupy the land. You rebelled and made the calf so I broke the tablets of the covenant.

Chapter 10

The words of Moses: The LORD wrote on new tablets. What does the LORD ask? That you fear him, walk in his ways, love him, serve him and keep his commands.

Friday, December 22, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Deuteronomy 1-3

Introduction to Deuteronomy

The name Deuteronomy comes from a Greek mistranslation of the Hebrew name of the book. The Hebrew name means “A copy of this law.” The Greek “Deuteronomy” means “Second Law.”

In the New Testament, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy more than any other Old Testament book.

The Suzerain-Vassal Treaty

The structure of Deuteronomy as a whole is laid out in the way ancient peoples documented their legal agreements between one party and another. Deuteronomy fits neatly into the structure of what is known as a “Suzerain-Vassal Treaty.” In the Ancient Near East, the Suzerain was the greater ruling party and the vassal/vassals were the lesser party/parties who were subject to the Suzerain. Agreements between the two parties followed specific procedures.

Elements of a Vassal Treaty

1. Preamble: Identifies the parties of the treaty (Deut. 1:1)

2. Historical Prologue: Describes past relationship between the parties (Deut. 1:2-11:32)

3. Stipulations/Obligations: Assumed by both parties (Deut. 12:1-26:15)

4. Deposit and periodic Reading: (Deut. 10:1-5; 31:9-13, 24-26)

5. Witnesses: Usually gods, but heaven and earth here (Deut. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28), and oaths sworn before them (Deut. 26: 16-19; 29:10-29)

6. List of Blessings/Curses: For obedience or disobedience to stipulations (Deut. 27:1-28:68)

Chapter 1

The first major portion of Deuteronomy is made up of Moses retelling the history of Israel after they left Egypt. The words of Moses: We journeyed from Horeb. You would not go up to take the land, so the LORD said, "This generation will not see it."

Chapter 2

The words of Moses: We went into the wilderness. Thirty-eight years passed, then the LORD told us to cross by Moab. He delivered Sihon the Amorite to us.

Chapter 3

The words of Moses: The LORD delivered Og of Bashan to us. I gave Gilead to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. The LORD said that I would not cross into the land.

Monday, December 18, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 69-72

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 69
Tuesday: Psalm 70
Wednesday: Psalm 71
Thursday: Psalm 72
Friday: Deuteronomy 1
Saturday: Deuteronomy 2
Sunday: Deuteronomy 3

Introduction to Psalms 69-72

Psalm 69

This Davidic psalm begins with a note for “the director of music” that it is to be sung to the tune of a popular song at the time called “Lilies.” This is the same tune used by the Sons of Korah in their wedding song (Psalm 45).

David cries out:

“Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.”

And he says:

“But I pray to you, Lord,
    in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
    answer me with your sure salvation. Rescue me from the mire,
    do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
    from the deep waters.
 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
    or the depths swallow me up
    or the pit close its mouth over me.”

As a shepherd, David would have spent much time in the wilderness and would have had experience with something called "wadis."

In the desert, it doesn't ran very much at all, so you might think that flooding wouldn't be an issue. However, fifty miles to the north of the desert it will rain quite a bit at times in the mountains. The ground in the mountains won't absorb all that water, so the water comes down the mountains and forms canyons in the desert called wadis.

It may be a beautiful sunny day in the desert, but if it's raining in the distant mountains and you're standing in a wadi, you only have minutes before the water will show up and overtake you.

More people die from flash flooding in the deserts of Israel every year than from heat, snakes, and scorpions combined.

David was familiar with the dangers of wadis and as a good shepherd he wouldn't have led his sheep to drink from the waters in the wadis.

It is this fearsome picture of being trapped in a wadi surrounded by flood waters with no way out that David compares with how he has been surrounded by his enemies on every side, and he cannot see a way of escape. In other words, he is absolutely scared to death, and the only hope he has left in the world is intervention from God himself.

Psalm 70

David cries out, “Make haste to help me, O God! May those who seek my life be put to shame. May all who seek you rejoice. O LORD, do not delay.”

Psalm 71

The anonymous author of this psalm writes, “In you, O LORD, I take refuge. Do not forsake me when my strength fails. I will tell of your righteousness. I will praise you, O God.”

Psalm 72

The psalmist says, “Give the king your justice, O God. May he defend the cause of the poor. May all kings fall down before him. Blessed be the LORD!”

Psalm 72 falls at the end of the section of Psalms attributed to David, yet this psalm is also attributed to his son Solomon, so this may mean that the writer is recalling the Davidic covenant and how Solomon started out faithful to the covenant but ended up being unfaithful.

If this is the case, then the writer of the Psalm may in fact be hoping for a future anointed one to rise up from David’s line in order to completely fulfill the requirements of the Davidic promise, which would include the link to the Abrahamic promise in which the Davidic ruler is understood as being the one from the line of Abraham who would cause all nations on earth to be blessed.

This desire for the ideal king who would come and reign as portrayed in the psalms is a significant contributor to the messianism that would later develop in Judaism. This desire arose from a consistent lack of faithful leadership by the Davidic rulers over time.

Another theory is that David wrote the psalm for Solomon for is coronation.

Monday, December 11, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 62-68

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 62
Tuesday: Psalm 63
Wednesday: Psalm 64
Thursday: Psalm 65
Friday: Psalm 66
Saturday: Psalm 67
Sunday: Psalm 68

Introduction to Psalms 62-68

Psalm 62

The note at the beginning of this Davidic psalm states that it is for “Jeduthun.” He was a Levite of the family of Merari, and one of the three masters of music appointed by David. His office was generally to preside over the music of the temple service.

David says, “My soul waits for God alone. He alone is my rock and my salvation. Trust in him at all times, O people. Power and love belong to God.”

Psalm 63

The introduction to Psalm 63 says that this is a psalm of David written when he was in the Desert of Judea.

He writes:

"You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water."


"Your love is better than life.... My lips will sing your praise.... Liars will be silenced."

This was a difficult time in David’s life. He was on the run from Saul who was out to kill him over his own jealousy of David’s success.

And so David fled to the desert for safety. But the desert is a dangerous place on its own. There’s snakes and scorpions… and of course, there’s no food or water.

So where did David go to survive?

The scripture says that David went to a place in the Desert of Judea called En Gedi.

The area of En Gedi is one of the most beautiful places in all of Palestine. It has many trees, and waterfalls, and pools, and caves… and hyraxes (Google them, they’re cute). And this is where King David and his men hid when they were being pursued by Saul.

En Gedi is an Oasis in the desert, fed my many springs the bubble up out of the ground. And the water from these springs is pure – it’s referred to as “living water.”

“Living water” is also the way in which God refers to himself. He tells his people to come to Him, the spring of living water, and he will also make springs of living water flow out of them. You see, he wants us to share the life and hope that he’s given to us with others.

And so when David wrote Psalm 63, he was in the desert, both figuratively as he was on the run from Saul, as well as literally. And David learns that in the desert, he has nothing. He has absolutely nothing going for him but God. And he learns to rely of God for everything. He learns to thirst for God in the painful desert of his life. Because without God, what else does he have?

Psalm 64

David says, “Hear me, O God! Hide me from the plots of the wicked, who ambush the blameless. God will bring them to ruin. Let the upright be glad!”

Psalm 65

David says, “Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion. By awesome deeds you answer us. You silence the roaring seas. You crown the year with abundance.”

God stilling the turmoil of the nations is compared to his taming of the turbulence of the primeval waters of chaos.

Psalm 66

The anonymous author of this psalm says, “Shout for joy to God! Come and see what he has done. He has not let our feet slip. I will make an offering. God has heard my prayer.”

Psalm 67

The note at the beginning of this anonymous psalm states that it is to be played with “stringed instruments.” The language of this psalm is similar to that found in the priestly blessing from the Book of Numbers.

The writer says, “May God be gracious to us, and make his face to shine upon us. Let the peoples praise you, O God! The earth has yielded its increase.”

Psalm 68

David says, “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered! Kings and armies flee. Our God is a God who saves. Sing to him, O kingdoms of the earth!”

Canaanite literature describes Baal (the Canaanite weather god) as riding on the clouds. Here the point is made that the Lord (Yahweh, not Baal) is the exalted One who truly makes the storm clouds his chariot.

Monday, December 4, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 55-61

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 55
Tuesday: Psalm 56
Wednesday: Psalm 57
Thursday: Psalm 58
Friday: Psalm 59
Saturday: Psalm 60
Sunday: Psalm 61

Introduction to Psalms 55-61

Psalm 55

David says, “Give ear to my prayer, O God. My heart is in anguish. It is my equal, my friend who rises against me! Cast your burden on the LORD.” We don’t know what friend David is referring to here.

Psalm 56

This Davidic psalm begins with a note for “the director of music” that it is to be sung to the tune of a popular song at the time called “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” The context of the psalm is also given – that it’s from or about that time when David was on the run from Saul and the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

David says, “Be gracious to me, O God, for my enemies trample on me. Are my tears not in your wineskin? In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust.”

This image seems to reflect the practice in the arid climate of Israel of preserving precious liquids in a leak-proof leather bag. The image of saving tears is powerful; David’s tears of lament were precious to God.

Psalm 57

This Davidic psalm begins with a note for “the director of music” that it is to be sung to the tune of a popular song at the time called “Do Not Destroy.” The context of the psalm is also given – that it’s from or about that time when David had fled from Saul into the cave.

David says, “Be merciful to me, O God. I am in the midst of lions. My heart is steadfast, for great is your love. Be exalted above the heavens!”

Psalm 58

This Davidic psalm begins with a note for “the director of music” that it is to be sung to the tune of a popular song at the time called “Do Not Destroy.” This is just like the previous song, but unlike the previous song, the context is not provided.

David says, “Do you rulers judge justly? No, you mete out violence. O God, break their teeth! The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance.”

The picture of splashing joyfully about in an enemy’s blood is a traditional Biblical image – borrowed from ancient Near Eastern literature – for victory over an enemy.

Psalm 59

Just like the last two psalms, this Davidic psalm begins with a note for “the director of music” that it is to be sung to the tune of a popular song at the time called “Do Not Destroy.” The context of the psalm is also given – that it’s from or about that time when Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

David says, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God. Each evening they return, howling like dogs. Destroy them in wrath! You, O God, are my fortress.”

Psalm 60

This Davidic psalm begins with a note for “the director of music” that it is a “teaching” psalm that was to be sung to the tune of a popular song at the time called “The Lily of the Covenant.” The context of the psalm is also given – that it’s from or about that time when David fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.

David says, “O God, you have rejected us, broken us. Now restore us! God has promised: ‘Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.’ O grant us help against the enemy!”

Half of Manasseh was established in Gilead, east of the Jordan, and half of it west of the Jordan, just north of Ephraim. This once again evidenced that the Lord’s kingdom included territory on both sides of the river. Ephraim and Judah were the two leading tribes of Israel, the one representative of the Rachel tribes (Ephraim) in the north and the other of the Leah tribes in the south. Together they represented all Israel.

Psalm 61

The note at the beginning of this Davidic psalm states that it is to be played with “stringed instruments.”

David says, “From the ends of the earth I call to you. Hear my cry, O God! Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Prolong the life of the king. So I will ever sing praise to your name.”

The phrase “ends of the earth” as used here may refer to the brink of the netherworld – the grave.