Reading #1 – Acts 15
Reading #2 – Psalms 120
Reading #3 – Proverbs 31
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 40
Reading #5 – Nehemiah 8
Nehemiah 8 – Ezra Reads the Book of the Law. The book of the law of Moses or the fifth book of Torah (Deuteronomy) was written in the original Hebrew language. Torah or five books of Moses, according to limited research, was written and compiled by Ezra the priest about 520BC. The “Sabbath Day” or day of rest was re-established by Nehemiah (9). It was a day of rejoicing because the law was read, the walls were built and the people returned to the Lord after 70 years. The feast of booths or, “the Feast of Tabernacles” (Sukkot), was held yearly during the time of harvest. The people would rejoice and celebrate because the Lord G_d had provided more than they needed. Every day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days; on the eighth day, there was a [closing] solemn assembly following the ordinance (18).
Psalm 120 – Song of Ascents. Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given to you, knock and the door will be opened”, and “seek ad you shall find” (Matthew 7:7-8). The writer was facing some sort of crisis and this Psalm refocused his mind on what the Lord says. The deceitful tongue stirs up trouble by modifying the truth to look like the truth or, a “half-truth” which, is a whole lie. The writer understood that following a lie would get into trouble that would be scorned by the world (2). Where we choose to live just like who we choose to hang around with will impact our hearts and minds (5-7).
Proverbs 31 – Oh Lemuel. King Lemuel is reflecting on the warning by his mother. Although we can receive perfect wisdom, our actions can undo the good that the parent did and vice versa sort of like the case of King Joash (2, 2 Chronicles 24:2,17). The choice to learn and apply the teachings of the Lord is incumbent on the student; if the student does not listen and falls into the traps that the teacher strove to impart, the student is to blame (Ezekiel 3:17-21). When the king ascended to the throne, his mother probably wasn’t present but the words penetrated his heart and mind so that he could effectively rule his kingdom. Parallel to this is the student pilot who would one day fly solo and once alone, would have to do what he/she learned or it would cost his or her life. The king is recounting these instructions (1-9) which would become the moral compass that would remain with the king long after the mother passed away. The king considered his mother to be worthy of honor because her moral compass helped the king to be successful.
Jeremiah 40 – Jeremiah Remains in Judah. The captain of the bodyguard offered to take Jeremiah wherever he wanted to go and he chose to remain in Jerusalem (5). Gedaliah had been made Governor of the land (6). The governor’s job was to take care of the people who remained in the land which was the poor people (7). At this juncture, the nation was in crisis because a large swath of the people had been exiled which included all of the people with artisan skills. Gedaliah was assigned his job by Nebuchadnezzar. Then Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans; stay in this land and serve the king of Babylon, that it may go well with you. As for me, I am going to stay at Mizpah to stand [for you] before the Chaldeans who come to us [ministering to them and looking after the king’s interests]; but as for you, gather in wine, summer fruit, and oil and store them in your utensils [designed for such purposes], and live in your cities that you have taken over (9-10).” After the governor was established, the Jews in Moab and the surrounding communities returned to Jerusalem to harvest the crops (11-12). The threat against Gedaliah, although not recorded in Jeremiah, can be due to several issues: Gedaliah was seen as a puppet of Babylon and jealousy over Nebuchadnezzar’s appointment and many others.
Acts 15 – Council at Jerusalem. During this time, the church was just getting its footing and understanding how the book of the law fit into the salvation of the gentiles. Just like any great movement, the Devil will send people in to throw a monkey wrench into the system; that “monkey wrench” was “circumcision” which is the removal of the foreskin of the male. The operation is painful especially during that time. The Apostle Peter alluded to the encounter with the Roman Centurian (Acts 10 and 11) how the Holy Spirit did not hold it against the Centurian that he was a gentile; so, why would the Holy Spirit hold it against the people because they had not circumcised the male (7-9)? Salvation and following Jesus should be easy. Now then, why are you testing God by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to endure? But we believe that we are saved through the [precious, undeserved] grace of the Lord Jesus [which makes us free of the guilt of sin and grants us eternal life], in just the same way as they are (10-11).” Paul’s second missionary journey almost didn’t occur because of a stark disagreement with Barnabus who wanted to bring John Marc who had abandoned Paul earlier. Paul and Barnabus split up to give time for healing (37-39). But Paul chose Silas [who was again in Antioch] and set out [on his second journey], commended by the brothers to the grace and favor of the Lord. And he traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (41).