Reading #1 – Acts 21
Reading #2 – Psalms 125
Reading #3 – Songs 5
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 45
Reading #5 – Nehemiah 13
Nehemiah 13 – Cleansing the Temple. When the people read the Torah or the 5 books of Moses, there was a command to exclude Ammonites and Moabites from the assembly. This sounds, and probably was meant to be, harsh, however, in the light of the events that happened in the days of Balak king of Moab, the command made sense and was logical (Numbers 22). Because the people wanted to honor G_d like it was in the days of Moses, they removed everyone who was of foreign descent (3). Because the people had spent 70 years on foreign soil, many took wives from the nations where they lived and they had offspring (23-26). By sending away the foreign-born wives and children, another problem was created and this is where the nation got into trouble. Once we have sinned, there is no going back to undo the sin, we can only go forward. For the foreign-born, it meant they had to convert and adhere to the religious practices of the Jews. While Nehemiah was in Babylon, the son in law to Tobiah the Horonite gave a room that was set aside for storing grain and tithes to Tobiah (4-6). Once Nehemiah returned, he threw Tobiah’s stuff out of the room and had it cleansed (7-8). The giving of Tithes is a special part of Religious worship because it is a tangible way of showing where the heart is (Matthew 6:21). The people were commanded to restore the tithes of grain, new wine, and oil into the storerooms (Malachi 3:9-10). While we cannot change the effects of sin on our lives, we can change the course for the future. Part of setting the course for the future is re-establishing respect for the Sabbath day. Because the Governor wasn’t around, the people had resorted back to doing the evil things they had done in Babylon, and part of the reason many Israelites did not return from captivity. Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing—profaning the Sabbath day? Did your fathers (ancestors) not do the same, and did our God not bring all this trouble on us and this city? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath (17-18).” When we do not honor the G_d we serve by adhering to His laws without having “man-made laws” and protesting because other people don’t respect our religion, we cannot and should not expect people on the outside to understand and respect our canon of worship.
Psalms 125 – The Lord Surrounds His People. When set our heart to steadfastly serve the Lord out of a genuine desire to honor Him, He will fill our heart (1-2). Without a doubt, one of the hardest things to do is to show that we truly love and serve the Lord by doing what He did (John14:30-31). One of the most crucial parts of our walk is needing to know when we are off the mark so that we can correct our course and press on (Philippians 3:13-14). Despite the little things that upset us and stop forward motion, we are still loved by G_d and He still cares for us (2). For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land of the righteous, so that the righteous will not reach out their hands to do wrong (3). People may turn to wicked paths and make the wickedness look so good that it becomes tantalizing, like the apple (5, Genesis 3:1-7).
Songs 5 – The Torment of Separation. Being separated from the one we love is the most agonizing thing to go through. The Bible does not give details as to why these two lovebirds were separated nor the situation surrounding them. According to the Talmud, though, Shimei the High Priest son of Gera prevented Solomon from marrying the Egyptian. What they left for each other as reminders of their pledge to marry, would carry them through until they were together again. Solomon read the wife’s words of love like eating treasured food and holy food. The wife heard Solomon knocking at the door of her heart probably because Solomon was praying for her and pouring his heart out before the Father. The Song of Solomon is used as a parallel to our relationship with the father. Sin separates us from G_d but the mediator between G_d and man Jesus the son of G_d, prays for us in our time of need and the bloodshed on calvary covers our offenses (1 Timothy 2:5-6). In the end, the two would be united and it was their love for one another that carried them through.
Jeremiah 45 – Message to Baruch. Baruch had been Jeremiah’s hands and feet to carry the word of the Lord to the nation. Traveling anywhere in Judah at this time was dangerous because of famine, and spreading the word of Jeremiah was a surefire way to be killed. Baruch, unlike the king, had listened to Jeremiah as he was dictating the letter and that should have been sufficient to counteract the fear of death but, it didn’t. When Jeremiah spoke about the judgment that would fall on Jerusalem, it would affect everybody including Jeremiah and Baruch. Say this to him, ‘The LORD speaks in this way, “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and that which I have planted I will uproot, that is, the whole land.” And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring disaster on all flesh,’ says the LORD, ‘but I will give your life to you [as your only reward and] as a prize of war wherever you go (4-5).'” Because of his age, Baruch would never see Jerusalem again (Jewish_encyclopedia).
Acts 21 – Paul Sails from Miletus. Miletus was a city in Turkey named after the Pre-Socratic sage (624BC). Paul had been on a missionary trip which concluded in Mellitus and was setting sail for Jerusalem with the hopes to make it by Passover (Acts 20:16). In Tyre, which is located on the shore of Lebanon, to offload cargo (3). The disciples tried telling Paul by prophecy thru the Holy Spirit “don’t set foot in Jerusalem” (4). Again in Cesarea, Agabus the Prophet warned the “person wearing this belt will be tied up hand and foot by the people in Jerusalem (10-11). Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart [like this]? For I am ready not only to be bound and imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be dissuaded, we stopped pleading and fell silent, saying, “The Lord’s will be done (13-14)!” This was parallel to Jesus’ word to Peter when Peter tried to tell Jesus that he should never be put to death (Matthew 16:22-23). The church in Jerusalem had heard all about the trumped-up charges of the Jews and had a plan to help curtail the riots by setting a time of purification which should have validated their claim that Paul was innocent (24-26). Unfortunately, the Jews saw Paul at the temple and quickly had him arrested and a riot ensued. Paul was carried by the Roman guard to the guard barracks (35-38).