Reading #1 – Acts 6
Reading #2 – Psalms 119
Reading #3 – Proverbs 22
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 31
Reading #5 – Ezra 9
Ezra 9 – Mixed Marriages. During the years in bondage to Babylon and its territories, the people were unfaithful to the Lord by mixing with the nations around them. The problem is that by this point in time, it is too late but never too late for confessing the sin. Ezra’s prayer of confession and repentance acknowledges the acts of the people when compared to the Word of the Lord to Moses and Joshua (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). When we sin, it cannot be undone as the example of Judas Iscariot bears out (Matthew 27) but this does not imply that the person got away with the sin. By giving their daughters to the nations around to marry their sons and vice versa, the same result that Hezekiah would be responsible for the demise of Judah and his son and grandson (2 Kings 8:16-29). When Abraham sent Haggar and his child Ishmael away at the bequest of Sarai, the first problem would remain and many other problems would be incurred. Confessing your sin doesn’t make the problem magically go away no matter how sorry we are or how many problems we caused, it makes things right between you and the Lord. O LORD God of Israel, You are [uncompromisingly] just (righteous), for we have been left as survivors, as it is this day. Behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this (15).”
Psalms 119:1-24 – The Law of the Lord For Daily Meditation. This lengthy poem is an acrostic that helped the king study and memorizes the law of the Lord (2). While we are unable to read the original Torah because it was written in the original Hebrew language which was passed down from Moses (Joshua 1:8), we do have the Word of the Lord such as it is and by staying (diligent study) in the Word, we will know the truth and it will set us free (John 8:31). You have ordained Your precepts, That we should follow them with [careful] diligence (4). The problem with the written law is that we are human and prone to make mistakes in judgment; when we sin (make a mistake), it doesn’t mean we “blew it and G_d will never forgive us”, it means that we are human just like Ezra (Ezra 9) and that we will be picking up the pieces where are and moving forward in life with the results of our sin in mind. I will give thanks to You with an upright heart When I learn [through discipline] Your righteous judgments [for my transgressions] (7). We can learn from our mistakes and we become wiser for the better (8). What we pass onto our children needs to include our misgivings as terrible as they may very well be (9). With all my heart I have sought You, [inquiring of You and longing for You]; Do not let me wander from Your commandments [neither through ignorance nor by willful disobedience] (10). To “treasure, the word in our heart” means to look continually at what His Word commands and be obedient in the face of pressure (12-16). When our heart does not convict us, we will have peace with the Father and, even if it does, we have one who can and will forgive the things that we have done when we confess our sins before Him (1 John 3:20-22). We need an infusion of His Word for our life because, if we do not, we will be deceived (17-18). Even though princes sit and talk to one another against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors (23-24).
Proverbs 22 – On Life and Conduct. What we do in life and how we do it go hand-in-hand. Having a “good name” means to keep our lives clean before the Lord by making wise decisions and refusing to surrender our integrity for the sake of “convenience”. Having an over-inflated ego, like Nebuchadnezzar did (Daniel 3), causes us to look down on others and allow pride to speak for us when we know the truth (4). Thorns and snares are in the way of the obstinate [for their lack of honor and their wrong-doing traps them]; He who guards himself [with godly wisdom] will be far from them and avoid the consequences they suffer (5). Mankind’s story is rief with trouble and arrogant mankind has caused a lot of trouble for those who follow (8). The mocker (trouble maker) is a known cause of trouble in the body of Christ as well as in families and communities alike. When a mocker is confronted, the scapegoat is usually pushed off onto the innocent person like the case of Ahab and Elijah (1 Kings 18:17-18). Sin is a natural predator of mankind and it always comes across as “innocent” (12-17). By meditating on the Word of the Lord or the “law of the Lord” we can decern the right from the wrong path. For it will be pleasant if you keep them in mind [incorporating them as guiding principles]; Let them be ready on your lips [to guide and strengthen yourself and others] (18).
Jeremiah 31 – Israel’s Mourning Turned to Joy. This chapter or portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy was written in the Greek language or the Septuagint which dates to the time of the conquest of Greek or shortly before the exile was to end. Luthern Theologian Ernst Hengstenberg called chapters 30 and 31 “the Triumphal Hymn of Israel’s salvation. According to the New Jerusalem Bible, chapters 30 and 31 are called the “book of Consolation”. Israel and Judah were exiled to Babylon because of the actions of Israel and Judah’s leaders and priests. In Revelations, it talks about this “New Jerusalem coming from Heaven to Earth” (Revelations 3:12 and 21:2). What the prophecy is referring to was G_d redirecting the exiles to accomplish that which was ordained before the exile so that they would be healed. “Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel! You will again be adorned with your tambourines and timbrels And go out to the dances of those who celebrate (4). When we come back to our senses, like the young man in Luke 15:11, we do not get back what we foolishly gave away but we are afforded forgiveness and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). “Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt,
O Virgin Israel! You will again be adorned with your tambourines and timbrels And go out to the dances of those who celebrate (4). When are starting over again, the fields of life will be restored but not exactly like they were before the fall and maybe not “even better” just as Adam and Eve did not return to the Garden of Eden, so it is with us when we fall (5-9). When Israel was decimated by the Babylonians, 10 tribes disappeared which never returned at least not “physically” anyways (Revelations 7:4-8). “Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance, And the young men and old, together, For I will turn their mourning into joy And will comfort them and make them rejoice after their sorrow. “I will fully satisfy the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” says the LORD (13-14). “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be My people. And each man will no longer teach his neighbor and his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me [through personal experience], from the least of them to the greatest,” says the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness, and I will no longer remember their sin (33).”
Acts 6 – Choosing the Seven. So the ministry had grown to an unmanageable level which led to conflicts about “who was getting how much and who was receiving preferential treatment” (1). To solve this problem, the Apostles tasked the people with selecting seven men who had a strong moral compass full of the spirit and wisdom who could take over feeding the people so that the Apostles could continue their assignment of “prayer and fasting for the people” (2-4). While this was a great idea, the problem enters in with the people that were selected most notably Nikolaos the Prosleyite a recent convert to Judaism (5). This passage, like many others, would seem to be “non-sensical” after all, “everybody is welcome to the body of Christ.” Nikolaos was taught by the Greeks which were known for being syncretistic which is to mesh everything together to come up with a common belief. Because he was now an elder, he taught the people he served and this would cause problems for the church or the Nikolaotons (Revelations 2:6, 14-15). Compromise says, while it solves the temporary problem, it causes long term issues that lead to the breakdown of the family unit and, I think anyway, is the impetus behind Paul’s warning to Timothy “to not hire a recent convert to lead the people” (1 Timothy 3:1,6).