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Posts Tagged ‘Bible in a year challenge’

Hope your readings are going well and you are learning more and more about this book we hold so dear. Our next discussion will be Sunday, July 6 immediately after worship, so bring your lunch and stay for some lively discussion. Below is some information about 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Acts and Romans – our reading for the months of June and July.

KINGS AND CHRONICLES AT A GLANCE With the summer we begin looking at looking at Israel’s history leading up to and beyond the Divided Kingdom. The Kings and Chronicles books cover roughly the same time periods, from two different sources. 1 Chronicles is a synopsis of Israel’s history leading up to and through the reign of King David. The writer of Chronicles has an even higher view of David than the writer of Samuel does – you may notice that Bathsheba (and most of David’s faults) are never mentioned. 1 Chronicles also covers an extensive genealogy in the first eight chapters. This can get a little cumbersome, so Shasta and I are evoking (perhaps for the last time) the “skim” rule we utilized in Leviticus! 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles cover primarily the reign of King Solomon, David’s son. This is marked as the pinnacle of Israel’s wealth and influence in the ancient world. That image was short-lived, though, and Solomon collapsed under his own success and excess. And from this point on, the unified monarchy was no more: the holy kingdom would be split into the North (Israel) and the South (Judah) – the south being the continuation of the Davidic lineage with the North as the “rebel” of the two. The writer of both books of Kings was from the South; thus the books are quite biased toward Judah and against Israel. 2 Kings continues to “chronicle” the many kings that rule in the south and north, some of whom rule for no more than a couple of days, one who began his rule at the age of seven, and another who was actually a woman king – all very interesting! With the Kings books we are introduced to the first major prophets of the Old Testament (specifically Elijah and Elisha). We will talk much more about prophets in the near future. One thing to mention now, though, is that prophets were not as much about “predicting the future” as we sometimes make them out to be. Elijah and Elisha were primarily prophets who confronted the kings of their day and exposed their tendency to fall away from the pure worship of Yahweh. It can be a little difficult keeping up with the “flow” of Israel’s history after David, so hang in there and keep reading!

ACTS AT A GLANCE

The Acts of the Apostles picks up the threads begun in the Gospel of Luke by chronicling the beginning od the Christian church. It places strong emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit and shows how God continues to fulfill the divine plan to save us. The preaching of the apostles, accompanied by miraculous signs and recorded at some length, showed how God’s covenant with the Hebrew people continued to be fulfilled in the life of the church through the Holy Spirit. Acts traces the development of the church from its inception at Pentecost and its expansion from a Jewish nucleus in Jerusalem to the Gentile world and ultimately throughout the entire Roman empire. It records the ministry of Peter and especially Paul, the early church’s chief evangelist, and contains one of the key debates of the early church: should Gentiles be allowed into the church without becoming Jews first.

Doubleday Pocket Bible Guide, p. 115

ROMANS AT A GLANCE

Paul uses this letter to introduce himself to the church in Rome, where he plans to visit, and explains his experiences and theology. This is not only Paul’s longest Epistle, it is the weightiest and most influential of all his correspondence. It was likely written between 54 and 58 CE. One of his key themes centers around the good news of Christ as God’s power for salvation to all who believe. Here he lays out in greatest detail his conviction that righteousness depends on faith as opposed to rigid adherence to law. As is the case with most of his Epistles, he closes the letter with ethical teaching and some personal remarks.

Doubleday Pocket Bible Guide, p. 116-117

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NUMBERS AT A GLANCE! Well congratulations, you made it through Leviticus! We did not hear of too much “wailing and gnashing of teeth,” so that’s a good sign. If you can make it through Leviticus, you’re in good shape for other challenges that await us!

Numbers is the book we take on next – the fourth book of the Torah. We’re still “lost in the desert,” as it were; wandering around with the Israelites for the 40 years between leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land. Numbers is concerned with events during the Israelite’s travels in the wilderness. The traditional name of the book is “In the Wilderness,” which makes more sense than “Numbers.” Our title comes from the Greek title of the book, “arithomoi” (Latin “numeri”), which highlights the censuses that occur at the beginning and end of the book.

Chapters 1-10 focus on preparations for the travel into he wilderness, including the first census and camp arrangements. Chapters 11-25 focus on the travel stories in the wilderness. We’ve already come upon some of these in Exodus; and like Exodus the theme of complaining and “murmuring” is prevalent. One of the interesting things is where the stories between Exodus and Numbers don’t quite line up – compare Numbers 20:2-13 with Exodus 17: 1-7 and note the differences. Another great story is Balaam and the donkey in Numbers 22, providing us (among other things) with the second instance in the Bible of a talking animal.

Chapters 26-36 mimic the first 10 chapters in that it includes preparations for ending their time in the wilderness and entering the Promised Land, as well as a second census. In both censuses and the allocation of land, note how they are all done through the twelve tribes of Israel, Jacob’s sons (actually 10 plus two of Joseph’s sons). These tribes will play an important role in the rest of Israel’s history.

Keep up the good work. Our next lunch discussion will be on Sunday March 30 in the Fellowship Hall.

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Hard to believe that we’ve finished the first month of our Bible in a Year Challenge. We’ve finished Genesis and are now watching the Hebrews leave Egypt in the book of Exodus and we are well on our way through Psalms and Proverbs.

As we begin month number two here are a couple of things for you to know and ponder.

  1. Our first discussion lunch will be Sunday, February 16. Bring your lunch or dash over to McDonald’s and grab something right after worship, and meet in the Fellowship Hall. We’ll eat lunch and discuss what we’ve read thus far.
  2. Think about the following questions before our lunch. Which passage(s) stood out for you? Which passage(s) were the most difficult for you to understand? What passage(s) was important for you? How has the reading, so far, been for you?
  3. Below you’ll find a blurb about Exodus and the book of Psalm.

EXODUS AT A GLANCE

Among other things, this book covers the flight of the Hebrews out of Egyptian bondage and to freedom – what is appropriately referred to as “exodus.”  It has been said that the Exodus event resembles our American Independence Day, kind of a “hallmark” event for the Jewish people as July 4 is for us.  But this may not be a good parallel, as Exodus is much more than a single event, going on for around 40 years.  It is more of a mindset for the Hebrew people; an incredibly important cornerstone of their faith and the way they understood God.  The fact that God came to God’s people in their bondage and misery and led them to the Promised Land reminded the Israelites for thousands of years – and us today – that God does not abandon God’s chosen people.

Exodus picks up where Genesis left off, except two things have changed.  First, Joseph has died.  Second, a new pharaoh comes to power who “did not know Joseph” – meaning he felt no ties to him or his people.  In fact, this pharaoh was fearful of the sheer number of Hebrews – and also saw an opportunity.  So he enacted a forced labor program targeting only the Jews, to build the infrastructure of his empire.  It was utterly miserable.  This leads us to the rise of Moses and the saga surrounding him; and his calling to implore Pharaoh to “let God’s people go.”

As punishment for the Pharaoh’s stubbornness, God enacts ten plagues upon the Egyptians.  Recent scholarship has shown how these miraculous events do in fact have a scientific rationale to them, centered around a severe drought and its aftermath.  If this were the case, it’s neat how the Hebrew people saw these natural events as God in action, working toward their freedom.

When the Hebrews finally acquire their freedom there is immediate rejoicing – but it doesn’t last for long.  God’s people embark on a grueling 40 year journey through what is now the modern-day Sinai Peninsula.  The people often complain for lack of food or water (can we blame them??), but God continues to provide for them.  About halfway in this journey we find the Israelites parking themselves at the foot of Mt. Sinai for what probably amounted to a couple of years; and it is here where Moses receives the Ten Commandments (and a number of other laws, as we’ll find in our reading).  These laws, the Torah, would form the center of the Israelite faith for many generations.  At the end of Exodus, the Israelites finally arrive on the doorstep of the Promised Land.

PSALMS AT A GLANCE

The Psalms are unique to the Bible for a couple of reasons.  One, it is comprised entirely of poetry with no historical/narrative literature.  While there are a few other books that share this quality (Song of Songs being one of them), Psalms is definitely the longest.  The other thing I love about the psalms is that they are the voice of the people to God – not vice versa, which is what we find in most of the rest of the OT.  And the real beautiful thing is that there are many voices – voices of praise and joy and thankfulness, but also voices of anger and revenge and loss.  It’s this second category that I find particularly intriguing.  It’s one thing to come to God when everything’s great and letting the praise fly, but it’s another to come to God when life is falling apart and you are angry at God about it, censoring nothing of your ill feelings.  I imagine it was comforting for the Jewish people to know they could share their voice to God, even when it wasn’t a pretty one.

I want to focus on six categories of Psalms that might help you in your reading. Of course, it’s not that the Psalmist (David and others – contrary to popular belief, David was probably not their only author) tried to write in these six specific categories.  They are a later creation that helps us to know and understand them better.

Here are six possible categories for Psalms:

    * Hymns of Praise – typically the English word “hallelujah” is found in these.  Usually praising God for something God has done or is in the process of doing.

    * Communal Laments – prayers of petition to God for community’s deliverance in times of disasters as in war, famine, epidemic, etc.

    * Individual Laments – basically the same type of thing as a communal lament, but focused on the lament of the individual.

    * Individual Song of Thanksgiving – used by individuals to praise God for deliverance from trouble.

    * Royal Psalms – used for special occasions in religious services for the king.

    * Psalms of Vengeance – used to express extreme anger/wrath/vengeance at enemies and even at God.

As you read through the Psalms, I encourage you to consider what category they may fit in.  In some instances it may be more than just one!

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Tomorrow we begin our journey through the Bible together. Here are just a few things to keep in mind.

1 – Here is the link to the reading guide:

http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/readingplan/oneyearbiblereadingplan.pdf

2 – We’ll begin with Genesis, Matthew, Psalms and Proverbs. Here is a quick overview of Genesis, watch for overviews of the other books in coming days.

GENESIS AT A GLANCE

More than simply being the first book in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Genesis is truly the foundation of the Jewish faith.  The first eleven chapters contain four significant stories: The Creation (there are actually two creation stories – did you notice?), The Fall, Noah & the Flood, and the Tower of Babel.  More than just being historical synopses, these stories play a very important role in informing the people of some of the foundational elements of their faith and how they as Hebrews see the world in which they live.  The creation stories gave the Hebrews some context as to how the world as they knew it came to be (the main point here being that God created it, taking chaos and giving order to it).  The Fall story helped “explain” why there was evil in the world.  While it’s easy to view the Noah & the Flood story as punishment for what happens when you fail to follow God’s will, the Hebrews actually saw this story as a sign of great promise when one (like Noah) was faithful (the rainbow!)  Finally, the Tower of Babel story not only emphasized the importance of aligning one’s self with God’s plan, but served to explain the existence of differing nationalities and languages in the greater world.

The second half of Genesis chronicles the four primary matriarchs and patriarchs of the Hebrew faith.  God called Abraham to be the father of God’s people, promising him descendants that would number “as many as the stars in the sky.”  Abraham married Sarah, and after Abraham had Ishmael with Hagar (supposedly the great-grandfather of the Muslim prophet Mohammed), Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the second patriarch.  Not much is known about Isaac, other than he married Rebekah and had Jacob.  The sibling rivalry between Jacob and his older brother Esau is legendary, with Jacob coming out on top with the family blessing.  He would go on to marry Rachel (after being tricked to marry her older sister Leah), and would many sons that would go on to become the 12 tribes of Israel.  Another son was the famous Joseph.  Sold into slavery by jealous brothers, Joseph wound up saving his people from death at the hands of a horrible famine that devastated the ancient world, bringing them to Egypt and setting the stage for what would follow in Exodus.

Genesis covers a lot of history for sure!  But a foundational history it certainly is. Enjoy soaking it up over the next few weeks!

3 – If you are planning to be a part of this exciting adventure please let Shasta know and send her your email so you can get discussion questions, updates and more.

4 – Beginning in February we will gather once a month to talk about what we are reading. After worship we’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall to talk, share and encounter God’s word. We hope you’ll pack a lunch, or run get something and make this a part of this journey. Meetings will be the 2nd Sunday of the month at Noon: February 9, March 9, April 13, May 11, June 8, July 13, August 10, September 14, October 12, November 9, December 14 2014.

This is going to be a blast. See you tomorrow!

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