Psalms 76-100

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Psalms 76-100

 

 

At Least Know This

The Book of Psalms is the beautiful poetry of the Jews. Some psalms were sung in public services. Some psalms were sung for private edification. Some follow the rules of various kinds of Hebrew poetry. All Psalms proclaim the greatness of God.

 

Author and Date

The date of the psalms probably stretches the whole length of Jewish history. Some psalms are easy to date; for example, Psalm 137 dates from the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). Others are not easily dated.

Many of the psalms have a superscription (an explanatory note at the beginning of the psalm). Some of the superscriptions are “A Psalm of David.” This does not mean that David wrote the Psalm. It can also be translated “A Psalm about David,” or “A Psalm Dedicated to David.” Probably, many people wrote psalms that were dedicated to the king or describe events in David’s life.

There are also superscriptions such as “To the Choirmaster.” Sometimes there are musical terms, like “Selah”; it is unclear what these terms mean—possibly something like “Now there will be a musical interlude.”

 

Historical Situation

Many of the psalms are written about famous events in the history of the Jews. Some are more personal. Sometimes the psalms are called the “prayer book of the Bible.”

 

Important Passages

All the psalms are beautiful, and will speak to you differently depending on your life situation.

 

Some Psalms of note:

·         Psalm 88 is a song of lament—a raw anger at God for the circumstances of the author.

·         Psalm 89 is a post-exilic writing. The author wonders when God will restore the dynasty of David to rule the land.

·         Psalm 91 is a beautiful song testifying that God always rescues his people.

·         Psalm 96 is a joyous song of praise.

 

 

 

 

 

Faith Insights

It is tough to find a psalm that isn’t meaningful in one way or another. Although every psalm is different, and each are beautiful and insightful in their own way.

Life throws a lot of obstacles and challenges our way. Sometimes those challenges are small, and leave us annoyed or exasperated. Other times, those challenges are seismic, and leave us broken or devastated. Whatever our situation, there’s a psalm for that.

Psalm 86 is a good example of an author who calls to God when life is difficult. The psalmist’s confidence is remarkable… Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me… (86:6-7)

Life throws us a lot of curve balls. But the psalms are anchors of confidence and hope in God’s mercy and majesty.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.

Ezra and Nehemiah

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Ezra and Nehemiah

 

 

At Least Know This

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah recount what happened when the people came back from Babylon. They rebuilt the city, the temple, and they ignored what the prophets said.

 

Author and Date

The people return from the Babylonian Exile and rebuild. They return in a series of groups. 

·      The first group was under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, probably returning in 538 BC. 

·      The second group was under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, probably a year later, around 537 BC.

·      The third group, under the leadership of Nehemiah, came about 444 BC.

·      The fourth group came under the leadership of Ezra, about 397 BC.

 

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are intertwined, and should be thought of as a single book. The stories are out of chronological order. Below is the correct chronology.

·     Ezra 1:1–4:5… The King of Persia sends exiles home (538 BC), and they begin to rebuild the temple and the city.  

·     Ezra 4:24–6:22… There is a temporary Persian opposition to rebuilding.

·     Ezra 4:6–4:23… The King of Persia stops the rebuilding.

·     Nehemiah 1:1–7:3… Nehemiah returns, 444 BC, and the rebuilding begins again. But now the Samaritans and Ammonites oppose the rebuilding.

·     Nehemiah 11:1–13:31… They finish rebuilding the Temple and city wall.

·     Ezra 7:1–10:44… Ezra returns (397 BC) and enforces the Law. There is an exclusion of foreigners.

·     Nehemiah 8:1–10:39… The Law (the first five books of the Bible, and the priests’ interpretation of the law) becomes all-important.

 

 

Historical Situation 

Being in Babylon for five decades was a cultural trauma for the people. While they were not slaves, Babylon was not where they wanted to be. They longed to be back in the land that they believed God gave them, offering sacrifices at the temple, where they believed God dwelt. 

While they were in Babylon, they asked themselves, “Why did God let this happen?” The prophets responded that they were unfaithful, had chased idols, and they had played games with the covenant. The priests had a different answer. The priests said that they were exiled in Babylon because we didn’t follow the law enough, and didn’t worship in the temple enough.

The people listened to the priests, not the prophets. 

So, in 538 BC, the Babylonian Empire fell, and the Persians took over. King Cyrus of Persia said that the people could go home. 

And they decided that when they got back to Judah, they would follow the law to the letter. They would obey every law, follow every commandment, and follow everything the priests told them to do. They believed this would prevent another disaster like the Babylonian Exile.

So they came back, and under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, they followed this plan: Obey every law from the first five books of the Old Testament. 

They kicked out every foreigner. Only Jews could live in the city of Jerusalem—and you had to have your genealogy papers to prove you were a Jew, in order to live in the city. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel told them to welcome foreigners, but they didn’t listen.

They believed they had to rebuild and maintain the temple, even though Jeremiah said it was worthless. Jeremiah told them to forget the temple and take care of the fatherless and the widow.

They believed that their place as the chosen people meant that that they should stay separate from foreigners, despite what the prophets said. 

They worked hard to maintain the Sabbath, avoid foreigners, not intermarry, wear the right clothes, maintain the temple, and follow the religious festivals. This despite what the prophets Amos and Micah said, that the important thing was to “do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.”

 

 

 

 

Important Passages

Chapter 2:62. Priests who could not find their family records to prove they were Jewish, were fired because they were unclean. 

Chapter 4:1-3. The Samaritans offered to help them build the temple. But the Jews regarded them as impure. Zerubbabel says, “We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel,” and today we could add the line, “And never mind what Ezekiel said.” 

Nehemiah 1:11. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. This was a very trusted position. Cupbearers had to taste the wine to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. 

Nehemiah 2:19-20. The Ammonites, Arabs, and Horonites wanted to help build the city walls, but were rejected. Nehemiah tells them, “We, God’s servants, will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem.” And today we might add, “And never mind what Isaiah said.”

Nehemiah 10:1. “We will not neglect the house of our God.” And never mind what Jeremiah said.

 

Faith Insights 

Throughout the Old Testament, we see two voices: the voice of the priests, who cared about the temple, and wanted people to obey the law. And we also have the voice of the prophets, who exhorted people to take care of the most vulnerable, to be faithful to God, and to walk in justice and mercy.

Ezra and Nehemiah’s work closes off the prophetic movement. There were a few minor prophetic voices after this period, but no one like Amos, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah. The prophets were gone. From now on, they studied the law, discussed the law, and obeyed the law. They became singularly focused on the law for the next 500 years. 

And then Jesus came. 

Jesus walked into a culture that was singularly focused on the law. And Jesus ignored most of the laws, to the horror of the priests and Pharisees.

Jesus’s message was to take care of the most vulnerable, be faithful to God, and to walk in justice and mercy. But he also added another teaching: That the Kingdom of God is here. And with that came the forgiveness of sins and the relentless call of grace.

 

 

 

 

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If you have questions, feel free to email me.

Ezekiel 22-48

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Ezekiel 22-48

 

 

At Least Know This

Ezekiel spoke to the people sitting in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile. He told them that they would be in Babylon for a while, and he tried to help them understand why they were there. He also promised them that God would recreate them to be his people again.

 

Author and Date

Ezekiel was a priest (1:3), evidently living in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). 

The book of Ezekiel is an endlessly fascinating narrative. 

Sometimes he wrote in apocalyptic literature (such as chapter 47). Apocalyptic literature paints pictures with words, trying to evoke emotion (it’s not meant to be taken literally). The book of Revelation borrows heavily from Ezekiel. 

The false prophets tried to tell people that the exile would be over in a few months, and then they could go home. Ezekiel told the people they would be there for a while. 

Ezekiel often spoke in allegory. Chapter 23, 24, 34, and 37 are examples of allegories to describe God’s action..

The false prophets told the people that the exile was all a big mistake by God, who would rectify the situation quickly. In response, on the road between Jerusalem and Babylon, Ezekiel made a road sign that said, “This way to Jerusalem.” He wanted to make sure the Babylonian army didn’t get lost. That was his way to tell the people that this wasn’t God’s mistake.

 

 

Historical Situation 

The people in Babylon were not slaves. They were allowed to go to school, get jobs, go to the synagogue, and buy houses. In fact, the city of Babylon was the most modern city in the known world. But the people wanted to be back in their land. They believed God was back in Jerusalem, still sitting in the Temple. They were far away from where they wanted to be. 

 

Important Passages

Chapter 23 describes (in an allegory) why the people are in Babylon. It was because they were running after false gods, forsaking the love of God to run after idols. Ezekiel pulls no punches here.

In chapters 33-48, Ezekiel switches over to words of comfort. The fall of Jerusalem is behind them, and the people are sitting in Babylon wondering if God still loves them. Ezekiel tells them, in no uncertain terms, that God still has a plan for his people. 

In chapter 34, God tells them that the people are like a flock of sheep, and the shepherds (the kings and priests) have betrayed the people. Ezekiel says that God will be the Good Shepherd, not like the kings and priests who ripped the people off. In the Gospel of John (chapter 10), Jesus picks up on this language, calling himself the Good Shepherd.

In chapter 36, Ezekiel tells them that God will bring them home—but not just geographically. He will also bring them home spiritually—by creating in them a steadfast faith and heart for Himself. Ezekiel tells the people that they were not worthy—but God is!

The often misinterpreted chapters 38-39 have become a happy hunting ground for people who want to use the Bible to predict the future. The chapters talk about a battle between two entities, Gog and Magog. This is not written to predict the future, it’s not describing a future political battle. It’s words of comfort for a people who think they’re being oppressed by the forces of evil. It’s words of comfort!

 

 

Faith Insights 

In chapter 37, God shows him a valley of dry human bones. And as Ezekiel watches, God rattles those bones, and then puts human flesh on them. Soon, the old dry bones are humans again (this is where that old African American spiritual comes from “Them bones gonna rise again.”).

The point here is that the people of Judah are spiritually dead—but God can make them rise again! God will resurrect his people. 

Today, in the worst of times, when we feel spiritually dead, or we feel close to physical death, or we feel like we are going through an emotional death, God is there. God is always in the business of resurrecting his people. Just like Ezekiel watched God give life to dry bones, we can watch God give life to us again. Even when we don’t feel like it, we, like Jesus, can rise again. 

 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.

Ezekiel 1-21

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Ezekiel 1-21

 

 

At Least Know This

Ezekiel spoke to the people sitting in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile. He told them that they would be in Babylon for a while, and he tried to help them understand why they were there.  

 

Author and Date

Ezekiel was a priest (1:3), evidently living in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile (587-538). 

The book of Ezekiel is an endlessly fascinating narrative. 

Sometimes he wrote in apocalyptic literature (such as chapter 1:4-28). Apocalyptic literature paints pictures with words, trying to evoke emotion (it’s not meant to be taken literally). The book of Revelation borrows heavily from Ezekiel. 

The false prophets tried to tell people that the exile would be over in a few months, and then they could go home. Ezekiel told the people they would be there for a while. 

While most prophets just spoke their words, Ezekiel often acted them out. He ate a scroll (chapter 3), to symbolize the sweetness of God’s words. He tied himself up with ropes (chapter 4) to symbolize the people being held in Babylon.

The false prophets told the people that the exile was all a big mistake by God, who would rectify the situation quickly. In response, on the road between Jerusalem and Babylon, Ezekiel made a road sign that said, “This way to Jerusalem.” He wanted to make sure the Babylonian army didn’t get lost. That was his way to tell the people that this wasn’t God’s mistake.

The priests said that the people were in Babylon because they didn’t take the temple seriously enough—they should have worshipped in the temple more. Ezekiel, like the other prophets, said that they were in Babylon because they were unfaithful. In fact, in chapter 8 Ezekiel tells of his vision of what was going on way back in the temple of Jerusalem: there was idolatry of every shape and size.

 

Historical Situation 

The people in Babylon were not slaves. They were allowed to go to school, get jobs, go to the synagogue, and buy houses. In fact, the city of Babylon was the most modern city in the known world. But the people wanted to be back in their land. They believed God was back in Jerusalem, still sitting in the Temple. They were far away from where they wanted to be. 

 

Important Passages

Chapters 2-3 describes Ezekiel’s call. 

In chapters 4-5, Ezekiel acts out what has happened in Jerusalem.

In chapters 6-8, Ezekiel describes the fall of Jerusalem. Note chapter 8, where Ezekiel is shown a vision of what was going on back in Jerusalem (he was probably in Babylon here). The temple was full of idolatry. 

In chapter 16:46-50, Ezekiel tells the people that Sodom and Gomorrah were more faithful than they had been. There’s only one place in the Old Testament that tells us the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, in verse 49. It may not be what you expect. 

In chapter 20, Ezekiel gives an overview of their whole history. They’re whole history is an idolatrous mess. 

 

Faith Insights 

In chapters 10-11, Ezekiel gives a wonderful message of hope to the exiles. He sees the cloud and fire of God (symbolizing God’s presence) leave the temple in Jerusalem and travel eastward. The presence of God sets down in Babylon. God would be with his people, no matter where they were. 

In the book of Matthew, this is the first thing that said about Jesus (“you shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.”). In Matthew, this is also the last thing said about Jesus (“Lo, I am with you always”).

One of the themes running through the Bible is God’s insistence on being with his people, where ever they are and whatever they are going through. As you journey through life, you can rest assured the God is with you, step by step. He is always with his people. 

 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.

1-5; Obadiah 1; Psalm 137

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Lamentations 1-5; Obadiah 1; Psalm 137

 

 

At Least Know This

In the year 587 BC, the Babylonian army swept through Judah and destroyed the land. They took the leadership of Judah to live in Babylon. We call this the “Babylonian Exile.” Lamentations, Obadiah, and Psalm 137 were written during this time. 

 

Author and Date

Early tradition says that Lamentations was written by Jeremiah. There’s no reason to believe this or doubt it. 

Obadiah was written by the prophet of the same name. Little is known about him, except for a short passage in 1 Kings 18 (if indeed, this is the same Obadiah).

We don’t know who wrote Psalm 137. 

These were written during the Babylonian Exile, 587 to 538 BC.

 

Historical Situation 

The Babylonians swept through Judah and conquered it quickly; Jerusalem was reduced to ruins. The way the Babylonians prevented revolts was to deport the leadership back to Babylon. Probably somewhere between 8000 and 15,000 people were taken to Babylon. Further, the people who were left in the land were left without all the resources of Jerusalem. Many moved to Egypt or other parts of the world.

Life in Babylon was not slavery. They were allowed to set up residences, get jobs, and connect with other people. But while Babylon was one of the best and modern cities in which to live, it was not where the Jews wanted to be. They wanted to worship in their own temple, and live in their own land. The Babylonian Exile was a terrible time to be a Jew, because they were held in a place where they didn’t want to be, by a foreign enemy, far away from where they believed their God to be.

With their kids going to Babylonian schools, and the adults having Babylonian jobs, they felt the need to retain their own culture and not be assimilated into Babylonian culture. They began to write down the oral stories that became the much of the Old Testament. It is likely that during this time they created the synagogues, a place to gather and discuss their faith. They also began to dig deeply into the Law (the first five books of the Bible). The priests said they were in Babylon because they didn’t follow the law well enough. The prophets said it was because they were idolatrous.

 

 

Important Passages

Lamentations is essentially a funeral song to Jerusalem. The pain is evident in 1:2-3. Jerusalem was once teeming with people, but now Jerusalem weeps. The author puts the blame of the destruction on the people of Judah—who were idolatrous and rebellious toward their God.

Obadiah is a judgement against the Edomites, who teamed up with the Babylonians to destroy Judah. In verse 8 and 15, they talk about the “Day of the Lord,” which is a term they used when referring to the Messianic age. Basically, Obadiah wants the Edomites destroyed, and he’s waiting for the Messiah to come and make that happen. 

Psalm 137 is a poignant song that describes how the Babylonians have asked them to sing a joyful song from their land. But they reply, “How can we sing a song of joy when we are in a foreign land?”

 

Faith Insights 

Lamentations 3:25-26 is a profound promise in the midst of this terrible time. When everything around him is in ruins, the author announces “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Everything around the author is destroyed—he stands in the middle of smoking ruins. But he expresses a beautiful message of hope. It is powerful message for us today.

 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.

Psalms 51-75

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Psalms 51-75

At Least Know This

The Book of Psalms is the beautiful poetry of the Jews. Some psalms were sung in public services. Some psalms were sung for private edification. Some follow the rules of various kinds of Hebrew poetry. All Psalms proclaim the greatness of God.

Author and Date

The date of the psalms probably stretches the whole length of Jewish history. Some psalms are easy to date; for example, Psalm 137 dates from the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). Others are not easily dated.

Many of the psalms have a superscription (an explanatory note at the beginning of the psalm). Some of the superscriptions are “A Psalm of David.” This does not mean that David wrote the Psalm. It can also be translated “A Psalm about David,” or “A Psalm Dedicated to David.” Probably, many people wrote psalms that were dedicated to the king or describe events in David’s life.

There are also superscriptions such as “To the Choirmaster.” Sometimes there are musical terms, like “Selah”; it is unclear what these terms mean—possibly something like “Now there will be a musical interlude.”

Historical Situation

Many of the psalms are written about famous events in the history of the Jews. Some are more personal. Sometimes the psalms are called the “prayer book of the Bible.”

Important Passages

All the psalms are beautiful, and will speak to you differently depending on your life situation.

Some of the more famous chapters are:

Psalm 51 is a beautiful psalm of repentance.

Psalm 62 is a song of resting in God.

Psalm 66 is a wonderful song of praise.

Watch for psalms (for example, Psalm 52) that reflect the Deuteronomic code: “Obey God’s law, and you’ll be rewarded; Disobey God’s law and you’ll be punished.” Some of those songs talk about “the wicked,” and how they’ll be punished.

You might recall that the prophets, and then Jesus in the gospels, rejected the Deuteronomic code.

Faith Insights

The Psalms reflect all kinds of situations. And the Psalms are typically songs to God. Some are thanksgiving, some are praise, some are comforting, some are pleas for help, some call curses down on enemies, some are laments (yelling at God).

Over and over, the psalms reflect the unabashed confidence of the authors that God will be with us in any situation. In the good times, in the lonely times, and in the life-threatening times—God is walking with us. Psalm 57 talks about being surrounded by enemies and being in despair, but then: But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice (57:16-17). The psalms are a constant reminder that God is always with us—regardless of whether we feel like he is close or not. Psalm 55:22 says it beautifully: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall.

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.

Jeremiah 1-21

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Jeremiah 1-21

 

 

At Least Know This

Jeremiah spoke to a people who thought they no longer needed God.  

 

Author and Date

According to the first verse of the book, Jeremiah prophesied between the years 626-587 BC. The book is a collection of his prophesies (the chapters are not in chronological order). 

Jeremiah pounded away against the people’s idolatry and their spiritual hollowness. Jeremiah never married, was lonely, constantly rejected, and he wondered why God had given him this lonely and heavy message. Peppered through the narrative are Jeremiah’s conversations with God, where he confesses to God that he is not the right person for the job. 

 

Historical Situation 

The Assyrian Empire, which had ruled the Near East for such a long time, was dying. There was a surge of national pride in Judah, facilitated by the reforms of King Josiah, who got rid of all the idols and foreign religions. However, Josiah’s reforms were too little, too late. In place of the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonians were rising. The people of Judah found themselves going from the oppression of the Assyrians right to the oppression of the Babylonians. Jeremiah warned that the Babylonians would come—but that a remnant would survive and return to God. 

 

 

 

Important Passages

Chapter 1 describes Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet.

 

In chapter 2, God (through Jeremiah) describes a people who were given everything. But instead of being thankful, they forgot God entirely. 

 

Jeremiah hated the temple, because it had become a giant good luck charm for the people. We see that in Jeremiah 3:14-18. He begs the people to return to God.

 

In chapter 5:26-31, Jeremiah tells the people what they have become: Instead of pleading the case of the fatherless and defending the rights of the poor, the prophets tell lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. And then comes the terrible punchline: But what will you do in the end?

 

Chapter 7:1-26 is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament. He tells the people that the temple is worthless. He calls it the temple that you trust in

 

 

 

Faith Insights 

Chapter 9:23-24, is a beautiful passage of what’s meaningful in life. In our culture today, we tend to boast about wealth or success, or strength. But Jeremiah tells us what’s really important. 

In Jeremiah 20:7-18, we see one of Jeremiah’s “confessions.” He tells God what he’s really feeling: God called him to speak these words, but no one listens, and he’s rejected at every turn. Jeremiah shouts that God deceived him. Jeremiah curses the day he was born. 

Frequently, our prayers are simply a pious rendition of our needs. But here, Jeremiah speaks with startling frankness. He lays himself bare before God—and is honest with God about all the complexities and twists and turns of life. That’s what trust is—when you can tell God what you really feel. Jeremiah suffers, and he tells God so. But he also clings to God. Perhaps prayer is simply clinging to God, no matter what happens in life. 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.

Week Seventeen: Psalms 26-50

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Psalms 26-50

 

 

At Least Know This

The Book of Psalms is the beautiful poetry of the Jews. Some psalms were sung in public services. Some psalms were sung for private edification. Some follow the rules of various kinds of Hebrew poetry. All Psalms proclaim the greatness of God.

 

Author and Date

The date of the psalms probably stretches the whole length of Jewish history. Some psalms are easy to date; for example, Psalm 137 dates from the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). Others are not easily dated. 

Many of the Psalms have a superscription (an explanatory note at the beginning of the psalm). Some of the superscriptions are “A Psalm of David.” This does not mean that David wrote the Psalm. It can also be translated “A Psalm about David,” or “A Psalm Dedicated to David.” Probably, many people wrote psalms that describe events in David’s life. 

There are also superscriptions such as “To the Choirmaster.” Sometimes there are musical terms, like “Selah”; it is unclear what these terms mean—possibly something like “Now there will be a musical interlude.” 

 

Historical Situation 

Many of the psalms are written about famous events in the history of the Jews. Some are more personal. 

Some psalms (for example, Psalm 1) reflect the Deuteronomic code: “Obey God’s law, and you’ll be rewarded; Disobey God’s law and you’ll be punished.” 

Many of the psalms are cited by Jesus (for example, Psalm 22). Many are cited in other parts of the New Testament, such as Psalm 2 is cited in Hebrews. 

 

Important Passages

All the psalms are beautiful, and will speak to you differently depending on your life situation.

 

Some of the more famous chapters are:

·     Psalm 27 is a bold confidence in God.

·     Psalm 34 is a song of praise and deliverance.

·     Psalm 40 is a thanksgiving for God’s rescue, and a commitment to His service.

·     Psalm 42 is a prayer extolling the deep, rich relationship with God.

·     Psalm 46 is a song of reliance on God. Martin Luther borrowed heavily from this psalm as he wrote his hymns.

·     Psalm 47 is a song of praise. 

 

Watch for psalms that use the Deuteronomic code (obey God and you’ll become rich and powerful; but if you disobey God, you’ll be punished and afflicted. Watch, too, for the psalms that go against the Deuteronomic code.

 

We also run into the concept of Sheol, sometimes translated as “the pit,” as in Psalm 30:9. At this point in their history, the people didn’t have a concept of heaven or hell. They only talked of a place where people (and animals!) go when they die. It sounds like it wasn’t a sad place or a happy place… just a place. It wasn’t until Daniel 12 that we get a clearer image of an everlasting life with God (Daniel was the last book of the Old Testament to be written, probably in about 165 BC).

 

 

Faith Insights 

The Psalms reflect all kinds of situations. And the Psalms are typically songs to God. Some are thanksgiving, some are praise, some are comforting, some are pleas for help, some call curses down on enemies, some are laments (yelling at God). 

God hears all kinds of prayers, whether they are calling down curses, or yelling at God, or whether they are thanks and praise. The psalms show us that we can go to God in any mood, with any tone, for any reason. God doesn’t get mad if we yell at him, and he doesn’t get sad if we call curses on someone else. He is simply glad that we have approached the throne of grace in our time of need.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.  If you plan to attend, please let me know on Wednesday by noon or before.Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Psalms 26-50

 

 

At Least Know This

The Book of Psalms is the beautiful poetry of the Jews. Some psalms were sung in public services. Some psalms were sung for private edification. Some follow the rules of various kinds of Hebrew poetry. All Psalms proclaim the greatness of God.

 

Author and Date

The date of the psalms probably stretches the whole length of Jewish history. Some psalms are easy to date; for example, Psalm 137 dates from the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). Others are not easily dated. 

Many of the Psalms have a superscription (an explanatory note at the beginning of the psalm). Some of the superscriptions are “A Psalm of David.” This does not mean that David wrote the Psalm. It can also be translated “A Psalm about David,” or “A Psalm Dedicated to David.” Probably, many people wrote psalms that describe events in David’s life. 

There are also superscriptions such as “To the Choirmaster.” Sometimes there are musical terms, like “Selah”; it is unclear what these terms mean—possibly something like “Now there will be a musical interlude.” 

 

Historical Situation 

Many of the psalms are written about famous events in the history of the Jews. Some are more personal. 

Some psalms (for example, Psalm 1) reflect the Deuteronomic code: “Obey God’s law, and you’ll be rewarded; Disobey God’s law and you’ll be punished.” 

Many of the psalms are cited by Jesus (for example, Psalm 22). Many are cited in other parts of the New Testament, such as Psalm 2 is cited in Hebrews. 

 

Important Passages

All the psalms are beautiful, and will speak to you differently depending on your life situation.

 

Some of the more famous chapters are:

·     Psalm 27 is a bold confidence in God.

·     Psalm 34 is a song of praise and deliverance.

·     Psalm 40 is a thanksgiving for God’s rescue, and a commitment to His service.

·     Psalm 42 is a prayer extolling the deep, rich relationship with God.

·     Psalm 46 is a song of reliance on God. Martin Luther borrowed heavily from this psalm as he wrote his hymns.

·     Psalm 47 is a song of praise. 

 

Watch for psalms that use the Deuteronomic code (obey God and you’ll become rich and powerful; but if you disobey God, you’ll be punished and afflicted. Watch, too, for the psalms that go against the Deuteronomic code.

 

We also run into the concept of Sheol, sometimes translated as “the pit,” as in Psalm 30:9. At this point in their history, the people didn’t have a concept of heaven or hell. They only talked of a place where people (and animals!) go when they die. It sounds like it wasn’t a sad place or a happy place… just a place. It wasn’t until Daniel 12 that we get a clearer image of an everlasting life with God (Daniel was the last book of the Old Testament to be written, probably in about 165 BC).

 

 

Faith Insights 

The Psalms reflect all kinds of situations. And the Psalms are typically songs to God. Some are thanksgiving, some are praise, some are comforting, some are pleas for help, some call curses down on enemies, some are laments (yelling at God). 

God hears all kinds of prayers, whether they are calling down curses, or yelling at God, or whether they are thanks and praise. The psalms show us that we can go to God in any mood, with any tone, for any reason. God doesn’t get mad if we yell at him, and he doesn’t get sad if we call curses on someone else. He is simply glad that we have approached the throne of grace in our time of need.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.  If you plan to attend, please let me know on Wednesday by noon or before.

Week Sixteen: Nahum 1-3; Zephaniah 1-3; Habakkuk 1-3; Joel 1-3

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Nahum 1-3; Zephaniah 1-3; Habakkuk 1-3; Joel 1-3

 

 

At Least Know This

The Minor Prophets (called “minor” because they are shorter in length) spoke boldly to a people who were behaving badly. 

 

Author and Date

Nahum prophesied around 612, just as the Assyrian empire was falling.

Zephaniah prophesied around 640 BC, after the reign of King Manasseh, the worst king of Judah.

Habakkuk prophesied around 600 BC, just as the Assyrian empire was falling.

Little is known about the date of Joel. He doesn’t mention a king who is reigning (how we date the other prophets). It may be that Joel prophesied about 500 BC, after the Babylonian exile.

Probably, their students collected the best of their prophecies, and this is what appears in the scriptures. 

 

Historical Situation 

Nahum addresses the Assyrian empire (its capital was Nineveh). Nahum prophesied that the Assyrian empire would fall. His point is that lasting kingdoms cannot be built on force. The Assyrian empire fell in 612 BC.

Zephaniahprophesied after the terrible reign of King Manasseh, who had opened the doors for all kinds of idolatry in Judah. King Manasseh’s grandson, King Josiah, took over in in 640 BC. Josiah was the best king ever in Judah, and he would eventually start a huge religious reform in Judah. It is possible Zephaniah prophesied right before King Josiah’s religious reforms began.

Habakkukprophesied as the terrible Assyrian Empire was falling, and the Babylonian empire was rising. Habakkuk asked God, “Why do you destroy the Assyrians only to give rise to the Babylonians?” He asked God why there is no justice. 

Joelmay have prophesied after the Babylonian Exile, when the people have returned to the land. They are trying to eke out a living, and the people are spiritually disillusioned. Worse, a huge locust swarm has covered the land, making their life even more difficult. Joel tells them that just as the locust swarm will go away, so the invading armies will go away. 

 

 

 

Important Passages

Nahum

Chapter 1:2-3. Nahum’s message was that lasting kingdoms cannot be built on force. The fall of the Assyrians (its capital was Nineveh) was God protecting his people. 

 

 

Zephaniah

Chapter 3:8-20. Zephaniah speaks God’s strong words of renewal and transformation. 

 

Habakkuk

Habakkuk takes the form of a conversation between God and Habakkuk. In chapter 1:2-4, Habakkuk asks “Why is there no justice?” God’s answer begins in 1:5, where he says, “Stand firm and trust me.” In 1:12-17, Habakkuk asks “Why do your people suffer?” God replies, beginning in 2:2, saying, “My plan is working. You don’t see it now, but you will.” Chapter 3 is Habakkuk’s prayer to trust God in adversity. 

 

Joel

Chapter 2:28-3:21. Joel prophesies about the Messianic time, when he will pour his Spirit on all people; when all nations will be invited into the fold; and the land will be fruitful.

 

 

Faith Insights 

The prophets spoke to a particular people at a particular time who were undergoing specific challenges. But in Scripture, there are always principles that are timeless. Throughout these four books, we see themes that God will always protect his people (although not always how we want to be protected!); God cares for his people; and God will always renew his people and transform them.

 

The next meeting will be Thursday, May 9, 6:30-8:45. Please let me know if you will be there.

Week Fifteen: Isaiah 1-39

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Isaiah 1-39

 

At Least Know This

Isaiah prophesied to a people who had essentially forgotten God (1:2-3). He spoke harsh words of judgment on a corrupt people, but also beautiful words of love and acceptance to all people—including non-Jews.

 

Author and Date

Isaiah 1-39 was written around 740 BC. Sometimes, chapters 1-39 are called First Isaiah, since chapters 40-66 were written about 200 years later, by someone else.

 

Historical Situation 

Isaiah 1-39 was written during a tumultuous time, called the Syro-Ephramitic War. Judah was being attacked on all sides from multiple nations. King Ahaz (not a good king) asked the Assyrians for help. The Assyrians said “yes” and then rolled over all Judah’s enemies. However, the Assyrians didn’t stop there, and they rolled over Judah, too.

 

Important Passages

Chapter 1:10-23. Isaiah tried to get the people to change their ways.

 

Chapter 2:1-5. Isaiah prophesies about the Messianic Age (compare the similar Micah 4:1-3).

 

Chapter 3:16-4:6. Harsh words of judgment, followed by the mercy and forgiveness present when the Messiah comes (4:2 uses the phrase “in that day,” a tell-tale sign that the prophet is talking about the coming Messiah). 

Chapter 9:6-7 and 11:1-10. Isaiah’s beautiful words of the coming king and Messiah. 

 

Chapter 14:1 talks about how God will rescue not just Jews, but the Gentiles as well (Isaiah uses the term “aliens.” For the rest of Isaiah, look for the constant concern about foreigners. The kingdom of God is available for everyone, not just the Jews. This was a hard pill to swallow for the people who thought that being “chosen” was for them and no one else. Check out 19:23-25. Blest be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage. I’m sure the priests and religious leaders thought Isaiah had lost his mind. 

 

 

 

 

Faith Insights 

One of Isaiah’s points in his judgements is written in 31:1. [Woe to] those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do no look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!The prophets constantly called the people to renew their faith in God—rather than all the other things they trusted in. We have to do that today too—to renew our trust in God every day, to see the loving, re-creating presence of God in all things.

Isaiah 35:5-10 talks about when the Messiah comes, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will leap. Why did Jesus heal all those people in the Gospels? He was trying to remind people what Isaiah said—that when these things happen, it means that the Messiah has come. Jesus acts out Isaiah’s vision of the Messianic Age. And we live in the Messianic age right now! It’s a time when all people need to hear the love of God—and to use Isaiah’s words—it’s a time when gladness and joy can overtake all of us. 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on May 9, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Fourteen: Psalms 1-25

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Psalms 1-25

 

 

At Least Know This

The Book of Psalms is the beautiful poetry of the Jews. Some psalms were sung in public services. Some psalms were sung for private edification. Some follow the rules of various kinds of Hebrew poetry. All Psalms proclaim the greatness of God.

 

Author and Date

The date of the psalms probably stretches the whole length of Jewish history. Some psalms are easy to date; for example, Psalm 137 dates from the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). Others are not easily dated.

Many of the Psalms have a superscription (an explanatory note at the beginning of the psalm). Some of the superscriptions are “A Psalm of David.” This does not mean that David wrote the Psalm. It can also be translated “A Psalm about David,” or “A Psalm Dedicated to David.” Probably, many people wrote psalms that describe events in David’s life.

There are also superscriptions such as “To the Choirmaster.” Sometimes there are musical terms, like “Selah”; it is unclear what these terms mean—possibly something like “Now there will be a musical interlude.”

 

Historical Situation

Many of the psalms are written about famous events in the history of the Jews. Some are more personal.

Some psalms (for example, Psalm 1) reflect the Deuteronomic code: “Obey God’s law, and you’ll be rewarded; Disobey God’s law and you’ll be punished.”

Many of the psalms are cited by Jesus (for example, Psalm 22). Many are cited in other parts of the New Testament, such as Psalm 2 is cited in Hebrews.

 

Important Passages

All the psalms are beautiful, and will speak to you differently depending on your life situation.

 

 

 

 

Faith Insights

From the sublime Psalm 23, to the strong words of courage in Psalm 40, there is something for everyone in the psalms. Some are laments (yelling at God for their terrible situation). Some are cries for help. Some are thanksgiving psalms. Some plead with God during unjust situations. Some lift God up in praise. As we walk the journey of the Christian life, we can see God in every situation that we find ourselves in. The psalms can help us see the presence of God in all situations.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on May 9, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Thirteen: Amos 1-9; Hosea 1-14; Micah 1-7

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Amos 1-9; Hosea 1-14; Micah 1-7

 

 

At Least Know This

The Minor Prophets (called “minor” because they are shorter) spoke boldly to a people who were behaving badly. In Amos and Micah, the people were hypocritical—they were pretending to do the right religious things, but still not caring for the widows, the orphans, the homeless, or the foreigners. In Hosea, the people were hypocritical and were also worshipping false gods.

 

Author and Date

Amos spoke in 762 BC (Amos 1:1).

Hosea spoke during the years 783-746 BC (Hosea 1:1).

Micah spoke during the years 750-686 BC (Micah 1:1)

Probably, their students collected the best of their prophecies, and this is what appears in the scriptures.

 

Historical Situation

Amos spoke to the northern kingdom (the only literary prophet who did so). It was a time of great prosperity in the north—trade was good, the economy was great, and they were not threatened by enemies. So, naturally, they thought God was blessing them because they were so righteous! Amos had other ideas. He pointed out their shortcomings—how they treat the poor and the vulnerable.

Hosea spoke to Judah. Hosea, like a few of the prophets, acted out his message. He married a prostitute, in order to show how God feels (the people of Judah are like the prostitute—trusting in armies, alliances, idols—everything but God. Hosea has some of the harshest words of judgement (“You are no longer my people” 1:9), but also some of the deepest words of love from God. Chapter 11 shows God’s back-and-forth dialog.

Micah has words of judgement against a hypocritical people, for the first three chapters. Micah says, you are going to be destroyed. Then, he spends the rest of the book talking about the Messiah and the faithful remnant. The remnant were the people who truly lived for God—a small group, to be sure—but God would protect them and bring them back from destruction and build a great people from them.

 

Important Passages

Amos

In chapter 1 and the beginning of 2, Amos tries to get the people’s attention by prophesying against their enemies. Then, 2:6, he gets to what he really had been aiming for: prophesying against Israel. He rails against their wretched excess, and how the rich use their power to oppress the vulnerable.

 

In chapter 5:21-27, he attacks their religious practices. They were doing the correct practices, but they did the practices without transformed hearts. Verse 24 could be a summary of all the prophets.

 

Hosea

In chapter 1, Hosea marries a prostitute, and they have children, which he gives names of the messages God is sending. Chapter 2 describes all the things that the people love and trust in—and God does not crack the list. But God still loves them!

 

In the prophets—and Hosea does it frequently—they will talk about the “Day of the Lord.” When the prophets use the term “On that day” (depending on your translation), it means that the prophet is now talking about the messianic time—the day when the messiah comes.

 

Hosea 6:6 is a good summary of the prophets. The prophets were not too excited about sacrifices and burnt offerings. They extolled people toward mercy to others and a knowledge of God.

 

Chapter 11 is the epitome of Hosea. God loves his people, but they wander away from him.

 

Micah

Micah takes aim at the false prophets—often hired by the king to tell him what he wants to hear. In the first three chapters, Micah rails at the people who trust in everything but God. They despise justice, take bribes, and oppress the vulnerable, and simultaneously saying “Ah, isn’t it great that God is with us?”

 

In Micah 4, he begins to talk about the time when the Messiah comes. The remnant will return, and God will be their shepherds. In chapter 5:10-13, Micah says the Messiah will destroy all the things the people trust in.

Micah 6:8 is another good summary of what the prophets said. God doesn’t ask for burnt offerings—he asks for justice, mercy, and humility before God.

 

 

Faith Insights

The prophets were a powerful voice to bring the people’s attention back to God. People became focused on sacrifices and burnt offerings, on strong militaries, and alliances with other nations. And they forgot to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the vulnerable. 

Do we ever get so caught up in the myriad duties of life that we forget to acknowledge the presence of God in our lives? The prophets are a strong voice to remind us what is important in life: Mercy, justice, and walking humbly with God.

Perhaps the prophets are some of the most important reading for the church today.

 

 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

There will be NO MEETING on Thursday, April 11, due to the impending winter storm.

Week Twelve: 1 Kings 1-22

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: 1 Kings 1-22

At Least Know This

1 Kings describes the death of King David, the fight for the throne, and then King Solomon’s

brutal reign—and the civil war that broke out when King Solomon died. However, the real

interest of the author is not the kings. The real interest of the book is the Jerusalem temple.

The book should be titled, “The Jerusalem Temple During the Time of the Kings.”

Author and Date

There is no named author of the book of 1 and 2 Kings. It was most likely a number of authors

(or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that

it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC) (see the last verse of 2

Kings—the people are still in the Babylonian Exile. The book is not a literal history. It is a

reflective history, to describe the role of the Jerusalem temple.

The book of 1 kings describes the time during the years 970-580 BC.

Historical Situation

As 1 Kings opens, King David is on his deathbed. After a brief scam by Queen Bathsheba,

Solomon becomes King in about 970 BC. Solomon was a brutal king who enslaved his own

people. He became insanely wealthy, married foreign women and entered alliances with other

countries (prohibited in Deuteronomy), and fell into idolatry. The country split into two after

Solomon’s death—the southern kingdom, called Judah, and the northern kingdom, called Israel.

Since the authors of this part of scripture want to follow what happens to the temple, they lose

interest in Israel, because the temple was in Judah.

The book of 1-2 Kings was written during the Babylonian Exile, when the people were taken

from the land by the hostile Babylonians. They were forced to live in Babylon. The people asked

what we all ask during time of trials, “Why did God let this happen?” The answer the priests

gave was that “We didn’t worship only in the temple. We worshipped at other shrines and

places, and thus we weren’t faithful to the temple.” (The prophets, of course, told a different

story: “You are exiled because you were unfaithful—you didn’t take care of the widows,

orphans, and the homeless.”).

So, the narrative that you’re reading will make a lot more sense if you keep this in mind: The

priests wanted the people to believe that God punished them by sending them to Babylon. And

their terrible sin was that they didn’t worship only in the temple!

Important Passages

Chapter 1:1-5. In ancient middle eastern law, someone who was sexually impotent was not able

to be king. They provide a woman to sleep with David, as a test. When he has no intimate

relations with her, David’s son Adonijah announces that he will be king. In the next two

chapters, the characters fight (and take advantage of David’s dementia) to see who will be the

next king. By chapter 3, we see that Solomon will be the next King.

Chapter 3:2-3. This is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament, if you want to

understand what’s going on: The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because

no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD. Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the

statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places… The

priests who are writing 1 Kings believe that all non-temple worship is invalid. The people were

worshipping God at the “high places” (shrines on the hilltops), but because it wasn’t at the

temple, the worship was sinful!.

Check 4:6. It identifies the official in charge of slavery (see also 5:13).

Read 4:7-19. Solomon got rid of the old tribal league, and made up 12 districts, each that had to

supply Solomon, his thousand wives, and his government with a month’s worth of kingly

expenses. Ten of those districts are in the north. In other words, the north is getting ripped off

to support Solomon’s extravagant living.

Chapter 5 begins the process of building the temple. You may recall that in 2 Samuel 7, God

says he doesn’t want a temple. But here we go, Solomon is going to build it anyway. In 6:38, it

says it took 7 years to build the temple—a pretty extravagant building. In 7:1, though, it tells us

that it took 13 years to build Solomon’s palace. In chapter 8, the Ark of the Covenant is brought

to the temple.

In chapter 12, Solomon has died, and Solomon’s son Rehoboam takes over the throne. The

north begs King Rehoboam to lessen the taxes. But King Rehoboam says he’s going to make it

worse, so the north rebels. This is the origin of the two countries: Israel in the north, and Judah

in the south.

In chapter 12, beginning at verse 25, the new northern kingdom installs King Jeroboam to the

throne, and he knows he has to set up new temples in the northern kingdom. Look at 12:28: So

the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, "You have gone up to

Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of

Egypt. I don’t think these are idols. Remember what is sitting on top of the Ark of the Covenant

in the Jerusalem temple? Two golden calves! They are called cherubim. It seems that King

Jeroboam (the northern king), is attempting to replicate the temple in Jerusalem. Read v. 30-31.

What really angers the priests who wrote the book of 1 Kings is:

  1. King Jeroboam sets up a worship center in the cities of Bethel and Dan.

  2. He build shrines at the hilltops (“high places”).

  3. Anyone who wanted to become a priest could become one, even though they weren’t Levites.

  4. He set up his own worship calendar.

As I’ve mentioned, the prophets had a different idea. The prophet Amos, who spoke about this

time, didn’t mention idolatry. He said the sin was that they didn’t help the homeless, widows,

and orphans. The rich treated the poor like dirt, even while they maintained the façade of

worshipping God.

In the next chapters of 1 Kings, we see other kings of Israel and Judah. But, as you’ll notice, the

only thing were told about is what they thought of the temple. If the kings worshipped in the

temple, they were considered good. If they worshipped God elsewhere, they were considered

bad. For example, look at 14:25-28. It describes an attack on the temple by the Egyptian King

Shishak. We can read about this event in Egyptian archeological records. Shishak defeated the

armies of Israel and Judah, then leveled and plundered 150 cities. But in 1 Kings, the only thing

we’re told is what happens to the temple.

Another example is 16:21-28, describing the reign of King Omri of Israel. We know from the

archeology of other nations that Omri was an extremely influential and powerful king. The

Assyrians referred to Israel as “The land of Omri” for the next 200 years. But, the author of 1

Kings doesn’t care about him, because he didn’t worship in the temple.

Starting in chapter 17, we have an interlude, that lasts until 2 Kings 8. We leave a discussion of

the kings and the temple, and we read about two prophets, Elijah and Elisha. This is the first in-

depth discussion of the prophets in Scripture. In two weeks, we’ll start reading the prophets,

beginning with Amos.

Faith Insights

The discussion of the temple is important to understand the culture of the Old Testament—the

culture that Jesus walked into. In the Old Testament, they believed God lived in the temple. It’s

like God was locked up in there. The temple became a big lucky charm for the people. They

thought, “We don’t have to take care of the poor, or widows, or orphans, because we have God

in the temple.” Things got so bad that the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 7), shouts a blistering

attack on the temple, referring to it as “the temple that you trust in.” In other words, they

weren’t trusting God; they were trusting the temple.

And this attitude was even more fervent when Jesus began his ministry. The Jews believed that

the temple was the holiest place on earth. And then Jesus comes along and throws the priests

out of the temple and declares that he will tear the temple down and rebuild it in 3 days. That

was about the worst blasphemy a person could utter, as far as the priests and pharisees were

concerned.

Jesus declared that God was not in a building. He lives in hearts. He lives in your heart, and in

my heart. As the prophet Isaiah says (chapter 43), God has redeemed us. He has called us by

name. We are his.

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or

insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on

the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on April 11, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Eleven: 2 Samuel 1-24

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: 2 Samuel 1-24

 

 

At Least Know This

1 Samuel is the origin story of King David. In 2 Samuel, we see the rise and fall of King David.

 

Author and Date

There is no named author of the book of Samuel. It was most likely a number of authors (or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC), as a reflective history to describe how God led them during their early years in the land. 

The book of 2 Samuel describes the time during the years 1000-980 BC.

 

Historical Situation 

King Saul has died, so David takes the opportunity to set himself up as king. David becomes King over the southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin) in chapter 2. The northern tribes are in some chaos without a king. David’s right-hand man, General Joab, goes on a killing spree to eliminate David’s “competition.” In chapter 5, David becomes king over the northern tribes as well. 

The first thing David does is to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites (chapter 5). He brings the Ark of the Covenant there. It’s a shrewd political move, since Jerusalem was a border city between the northern and southern tribes. The Ark represents the unity of the tribes.

David spends much of the book warring on neighboring nations. And it isn’t long before he loses the support of the people.

Future generations loved David’s kingship because he solved three problems:

·     How will we unify the tribes? David’s answer: Make me King, and I’ll use the Ark of the Covenant to unify the tribes.

·     Will we have an orderly kingly line? David’s answer: My son will be king, the first of a dynasty of kings.

·     Where will we worship? David’s (and Solomon’s) answer: Jerusalem.

David solved all these problems, and so future generations regarded him as a hero. In the New Testament, the people want the Messiah to be just like King David—make war on our enemies, expand our territory, and make Israel an independent nation again. As you know, those things were not on Jesus’ agenda. 

 

 

Important Passages

In chapter 7, you’ll see that David tells God he wants to build a temple. But God says he doesn’t really want a temple. God says he values moving among his people, and doesn’t want to get locked up inside a temple. God uses the opportunity to tell David that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants. Of course, the first thing Solomon does when he becomes King is to build a temple.

In chapter 11, we see the familiar story of David and Bathsheba. Usually, this is turned into a morality story about the dangers of adultery. However, adultery really isn’t the issue here (you may recall that King Solomon, David’s son, had 700 wives and 300 concubines). This issue here is the rules of Holy War. During the time of war, Kings led the charge. As you’ll see in 11:1, In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab… During a war, soldiers were not allowed to sleep with their wives. Bathsheba’s husband was a Hittite (not an Israelite). And this foreigner obeys the rules of Holy War better than the king (2 Samuel 11:6-13). In chapter 12, David repents (after he was caught).

In chapter 14 and following, David’s son Absalom makes a play for his father’s throne. The people choose Absalom (15:13), and David makes a run for it. In 15:18, it identifies David’s bodyguards—they are all Philistine mercenaries. Apparently David didn’t trust his own people. Finally, in chapter 18, General Joab kills Absalom, and David comes back to the throne. At the end of 2 Samuel, David is on his deathbed, and we see David’s sons fight for the throne in 1 Kings.

 

Faith Insights 

In 2 Samuel 5:6-10, David lays siege to the city of Jerusalem, where the Jebusites live. The city had pretty impressive walls, so when David’s army surrounded Jerusalem, the confident Jebusites laughed. They shouted, “Our defenses are so good, even our blind and lame people could keep you out!” Well, David’s army found a way into the city through a water duct. And the first thing David did when he got into the city? He killed all the blind and lame people. What’s the first thing Jesus did when he came into Jerusalem? He healed the blind and lame people. 

Jesus didn’t just heal the blind and lame to be compassionate. He was trying to make a statement. He was trying to say, “I’m a different kind of king than David was.” David ruled a land. Jesus wanted to rule people’s hearts. David ruled with a sword. Jesus wanted to rule with a life of servanthood. David had little compunction about killing people who were in his way. Jesus saved the people who hated him. Jesus loved and forgave the people who killed him. Jesus loved the unlovable, the foreigners, the prostitutes, the diseased, the vulnerable, and the tax collectors. That’s still our call today—to love people into the kingdom.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on April 11, 2019 at 6:30-7:45. 

Week Ten: Samuel 1-31

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: 1 Samuel 1-31

 

At Least Know This

1 Samuel is the origin story of King David. In 1 Samuel, we see the origins of kingship, and how King Saul ruled the northern tribes. At the end of the book, King Saul dies, and David is poised to take over.

 

Author and Date

There is no named author of the book of Samuel. It was most likely a number of authors (or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC), as a reflective history to describe how God led them during their early years in the land. 

The book of 1 Samuel describes the time during the years 1050-1000 BC.

 

Historical Situation 

The twelve tribes were living independently, but not always peacefully. The time of the judges is over, and now there seems to be a judge named Samuel who seems to be respected by all the tribes. Sometimes we call him a super-judge, because unlike the examples in the book of Judges, Samuel seems to be a judge over multiple tribes. 

The people want a king (chapter 8), which is a pretty clear rejection of God as king. But the people wanted to be like all the other nations. 

Samuel elects Saul to be king. Saul ruled over the northern tribes, but not the southern tribes. Late in the book, Saul fires Saul. David, at that time is well-liked by the populace (later, he is hated by the people), and so is getting ready to take over the throne.

 

 

 

Important Passages

In chapter 4, the Philistines are winning all the battles against the Israelites. So the Israelites decide to carry the Ark of the Covenant in front of them. It’s become a good luck charm for the Israelites. The Philistines promptly steal the Ark, although it doesn’t go well for them. Later, in the book of Kings, we’ll see that the people think the temple is a good luck charm. 

Remember in the book of Judges, it kept saying, “in those days Israel had no king. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That sounds like a pretty positive view of kingship. We get a different view of kingship in chapter 8. Samuel tells the people what the king will do; in verses 10-18, count how many times it says “He will take…” These verses sound like the reign of Solomon.

In chapter 13, Samuel fires Saul, but he doesn’t leave the kingship. In chapter 16, Samuel anoints David to be king, but it will take a while before he manages to actually take the throne of both the southern and northern tribes.

In chapter 17, we see the famous story of David killing Goliath. Lesser known is in 2 Samuel 21:19, where Goliath is killed by someone else. It may be that the editors of the 1 & 2 Samuel wanted a story to show that David was brave, and so borrowed the story of Goliath to use for David.

David is sometimes praised as a great king, a moral leader. However, the narrative tells a different story. Look for his battles where he wipes out whole communities. Look for how he surrounds himself with a bunch of thugs (chapter 22). Look for David’s oath to Saul that he won’t kill all of Saul’s descendants when he becomes king, although later David kills or imprisons them all. Read about his protection racket (chapter 25). Read how David gets a job with the Philistines (chapter 27). Look for his sending of plunder to the northern tribes (chapter 30), since it’s an election year.

 

Faith Insights 

One of the things that you should be seeing is that none of these Old Testament “heroes” are all that great. They are not fine, upstanding individuals who revere and worship God. In fact, God chooses these people to carry out his mission—but he chooses them beforethey do anything good. God chooses people because He is good, not because the people are good. God choose them—all of us—before we have the inclination to love God back. God has always chosen the broken, the unrighteous, and the unlovely to accomplish his will. We don’t have to be superheroes to carry out God’s will. We have to be simply who we are—broken and weak people who sometimes feel like we have nothing to offer. That’s who God uses to carry out his mission.  People like us. 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on March 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45. Please let me know by noon on Wednesday, May 13, if you plan to attend.

Week Nine: Judges 1-21

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Judges 1-21

 

At Least Know This

Last week, in the book of Joshua, they enter the land of Canaan. Judges tells the stories of what happened for the next couple hundred years. The twelve tribes of Israel were each ruled by tribal leaders, called judges.

 

Author and Date

There is no named author of the book of Judges. It was most likely a number of authors (or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC), as a reflective history to describe how God led them during their early years in the land. 

The book of Judges describes the time during the years 1250-1049 BC.

 

Historical Situation 

The twelve tribes were living independently (although at times, such as Judges 19-20, they could coalesce and become unified. The pattern that repeats through the book is:

1.     They start worshipping the Canaanite gods.

2.     They get oppressed by an enemy.

3.     They call on God to rescue them.

4.     God raises up a judge, who rescues them.

5.     And they go back to worshipping Canaanite gods.

6.     Repeat.

 

 

Important Passages

The book of Joshua was filled with stories of great courage. The book of Judge is different. The narrative in Judges is filled with horrific stories of violence, murder, cowardice, and idolatry. It can be a painful read. But its important to see the overall purpose of the narrative. We see an oft-repeated phrase in the book of Judges: 

·     Chapter 17:6. In those days Israel had no king: everyone did as he saw fit

·     Or after a story (17:1-18:1) of family who got a priest to live with them because they thought the priest would protect them from poverty, illness, or bloodshed, the story ends with In those days Israel had no king.

·     Or, after a horrific story of the murder of a concubine (18:2-19:1), the story ends with In those days Israel had no king.

The people believe that things would be great if we only had a king. But God was their king! We’ll see in 1 Samuel how they finally asked for a king, and God considered that as a rejection of Him.

Chapter 19-21 tells the story (a rather unpleasant story) of how the women of the city of Jabesh-Gilead got husbands from the tribe of Benjamin (Jabesh-Gilead was a very long way from the lands of the tribe of Benjamin). The story might seem as a pretty random story, unconnected to anything else. However, in the book of 1 Samuel the reason for the story becomes clear: The first king of Israel, Saul, was from the tribe of Benjamin, and he led a military force to rescue the town of Jabesh-Gilead. It is likely that Saul’s wife or mother was from Jabesh-Gilead.

 

Faith Insights 

The book of Judges always shows how God rescues his people—often right before they go back to idolatry. God continues to rescue us today, although usually in a way that we don’t expect. 

The narrative in the book of Judges shows how easily people can fall away and get distracted by the idols of Canaan. Today, we don’t have to worry about following the idols of Canaan, but we sure get distracted easily. It is sometimes difficult to see the presence of God when we are so busy, when our lives are full of jobs, errands, events, and commitments. But God waits patiently for us. God’s commitment to us is not dependent on whether we notice him or not. Our God always loves us and always stays active in our lives.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on March 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Eight: Joshua 1-24

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Joshua 1-24

 

At Least Know This

After 40 years of desert wanderings, the book of Joshua describes the people finally entering the land of Canaan. Under the leadership of Joshua, the people move into the land and then they divide themselves up into their tribes.

 

Author and Date

There is no named author of the book of Joshua. It was most likely a number of authors (or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC), as a reflective history to describe how God led them in the taking of the land. 

 

Historical Situation 

The people living in Canaan at that time were not unified. There was a collection of city-states, villages, and rural farmers all living independently. The first half of Joshua (see Joshua 10:29 to 11:21) seems like there were huge, quick battles, where the Israelites decisively defeated the indigenous tribes and took the land. 

However, the second half of Joshua tells a different story (see 13:1; 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12; 17:16). From these chapters, it seems that the Israelites moved in to live with the Canaanites, in a more peaceful way.

Archeology supports this idea. There are very few destroyed cities in Canaan at this time. It seems that the Israelites moved in and lived among the Canaanites. This would also explain how easily the Israelites got into the worship of the Canaanite gods (known as Baal and Ashtoreth).

 

 

Important Passages

Remember the Deuteronomic Code? It said, “Obey God’s law and you’ll become wealthy and successful. Disobey God and you’ll be severely punished.” Read Joshua 1:8. The idea of the Deuteronomic Code is very prevalent in Joshua. Watch for it! When we get to the prophets, you’ll read that they rejected the Deuteronomic Code as foolish and misleading. Unfortunately, the people didn’t listen to the prophets very much. 

There are some well-known stories in this section of the Bible. Rahab and the spies (chapter 2), the fall of Jericho (chapter 6), the sun standing still (chapter 10). To modern eyes, there is a lot of warfare, too. People often ask the question, “Did God order them to go to war with all those people?” My answer is that this is reflective history. They are looking backwards, several hundred years later, and trying to give rationalizations why they acted the way they did. And, as noted above, the entrance into Canaan may have been more peaceful than the first half of Joshua suggests.

In chapter 22, we see a brewing civil war between the tribes of Israel. This is largely because of the argument over where to worship. Remember Deuteronomy 12, and the one place of worship? The tension is beginning to build here.

 

 

Faith Insights 

In Joshua, the story is that people entered the land of Canaan and took the land for themselves. While it was clearly not that simple, the story persisted. The Old Testament is written so that we have a better understanding of Jesus. When Jesus began his ministry, people were ready for another Joshua—someone who would take the land back from the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to be like the leader here in the book of Joshua—to lead an army and take the land back for themselves. But Jesus was not interested in land… He was interested in human hearts—and still is interested in human hearts to this day! 

Remember back in Genesis 12? Remember when God chose Abraham? If you ask 10 people why God chose Abraham, they will say “because Abraham was a righteous man.” But they would be wrong. Check out Joshua 24:1-2. Abraham was worshiping idols when God called him. God didn’t call Abraham because Abraham was good; God called Abraham because God is good. God treats us the same today. God doesn’t care what we’ve done, how we’ve acted, or what mistakes we’ve made. He loves us right now, he calls us right now, and offers us new life. The staggering truth of the gospel is that God loves us right now—not as we should be, not as we ought to be, but he loves us right now, as we are. 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on March 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Seven: Deuteronomy 15-34

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Deuteronomy 15-34

 

 

At Least Know This

The book of Deuteronomy controls the thinking of the rest of the Old Testament. It identifies the “Deuteronomic Code,” which means when you obey God you get wealthy and healthy, but if you disobey God, you get swatted. The prophets disagreed with this idea, but people didn’t listen to the prophets much. 

 

Author and Date

Jesus once referred to the first five books of the Bible as the “Books of Moses” (Mark 12:26). So, through most of church history, people assumed that Moses wrote those books. Modern analysis of the ancient Hebrew text shows that there were many people (or many groups) that edited the book. 

Deuteronomy was probably put in its final form during the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). 

 

Historical Situation 

Moses and his people have spent forty years in the desert, and are now ready to go into Canaan, the Promised Land. The book of Deuteronomy reflects on where they have been and what they need to do in the future.

 

Important Passages

Deuteronomy 24:17-22. Take a look at some of the passages like this, where there is a wholly, holy concern for the disadvantaged. Even if you take a shear to some of your crops, and you miss something, you shouldn’t go back and cut it again—leave it for the fatherless and widowed. 

Deuteronomy 27-28. Here is a list of those who are cursed (those who disobey the law) and the blessed (those who obey the law). Again, those who obey get rewarded. Those who disobey are punished. This idea flows into the Gospels in the New Testament—it’s the culture that Jesus walks into. The prophets said this idea was silly. Jesus puts down the idea once and for all when he dies and rises for all. 

 

 

 

Faith Insights 

In the Old Testament, the priests really believed this idea of the Deuteronomic Code: Obey the law and you are blessed—you hit the lottery. Disobey the law, and you are cursed—you are punished. So, in the Old Testament, being blessed is material gain. Being cursed is being poor and sick.

Jesus changes the definition of being blessed. Check out Matthew 5:1-12. In Matthew, being blessed is being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. In other words, being blessed is no longer about material gain. In the New Testament, being blessed is to reflect the qualities of Jesus. 

 

 

 

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on March 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Six: Numbers

This week, read: Numbers

At Least Know This

Numbers identifies instructions on offerings, duties of priests and Levites, and other laws. It is interspersed with stories of the children of Israel in the wilderness.

 

Author and Date

Jesus once referred to the first five books of the Bible as the “Books of Moses” (Mark 12:26). So, through most of church history, people assumed that Moses wrote those books. Modern analysis of the ancient Hebrew text shows that there were many people (or many groups) that edited the book. 

Numbers was probably put in its final form during the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). 

 

Historical Situation 

Moses leads the people away from Mount Sinai, into the desert toward Canaan, the Promised Land.

 

Important Passages

Numbers 1:47-53. The duties of the Levites. This will become important to understand passages later in the Old and New Testament.

Numbers 13: They get to Canaan, which was the land God had promised to them. They sent twelve spies into the land to do reconnaissance. Ten of the spies said the land is filled with armies, and we couldn’t possibly win if we invaded (notice their exaggerations of the armies of Canaan). Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, said, “Yes, the armies are big, but our God is bigger.” But by chapter 14, the people had worked themselves into a frenzy and decided not to go to Canaan. You can read what happens.

Chapter 22-24: We see an interesting story of Balaam. In those days, before two armies fought, the kings would send out prophets to shout out curses on the opposing army, and call their gods to fight the opposing gods. So, the king of Moab hears the Israelites are coming, and sends his prophet Balaam out to curse the Israelites. Balaam rides his donkey out to do the cursing, but the donkey starts talking to Balaam, and they have a conversation. As the chapters unfold, you’ll probably get the feeling that it’s one donkey talking to another. This story is referenced in the Old and New Testaments. 

Chapter 25: For the first time, the Israelites are seduced into the Baal worship. Baal was a prominent god among the Canaanites. When the Israelites interact with the Canaanites, they quickly get into the Baal worship. 

 

Faith Insights 

In Numbers 9:15-23. God was present in the cloud that led them—and a pillar of fire at night. This is the visible sign of the presence of God, called the theophany. We see this frequently in the Old Testament—and even into the New Testament. In the book of Acts 2, at Pentecost, “tongues of fire” appeared on the disciples’ heads. This is to show the presence of God—that God was with them and would guide them, just like he guided the children of Israel in the wilderness. Today, most of us don’t have tongues of fire on our heads, but we still have the promise—that God is here and will walk with us always.

Numbers 11: The children of Israel, now having left Mount Sinai, are being fed with manna… but they soon get tired of it, and demand something more. God provided, but the people seem to be rebelling at every opportunity. In chapter 12, even Miriam and Aaron temporarily turn against Moses. God wanted to use the time in the wilderness to teach them to rely on him… but they didn’t seem to want to learn the lesson. I wonder how often we turn our nose up at the lessons God is trying to teach us?

God wanted to teach the Israelites to rely on him. I’m not sure that the people learned the lesson very well, but the idea was to completely rely on God. In the desert, there are no supermarkets or hotels… they had to rely on God for everything. Maybe we, too, are a desert people, called to consistently, persistently, and wholly rely on God for everything.

 

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If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on February 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.

Week Five: Leviticus

Read the Bible in a Year

This week, read: Leviticus

At Least Know This

Leviticus is primarily devoted to instructions on offerings, sacrifices, and other laws.

Author and Date

Jesus once referred to the first five books of the Bible as the “Books of Moses” (Mark 12:26).

So, through most of church history, people assumed that Moses wrote those books. Modern

analysis of the ancient Hebrew text shows that there were many people (or many groups) that

edited the book.

Leviticus was probably put in its final form during the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC).

Historical Situation

Moses had marched the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and the people are now at or

near Mount Sinai.

Important Passages

Hundreds of laws are given in this section of Scripture. They mostly focus on the different types

of sacrifices and offerings.

However, not all the laws are about priestly duties. Check out some of these laws:

Leviticus 19:9. They were told to reap their harvest, but to leave the edges of the fields so that

poor people and foreigners could have something to eat.

Leviticus 20:22-24. I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. The people

were to be different—set apart and chosen to be a people who would draw all people back to

God. As time went on, they began to interpret their “chosenness” to mean they didn’t have to

interact with anyone else.

Leviticus 25:1-7. Read what they were to do every 7 years (the sabbath year), as a way to

practice relying on God.

Leviticus 25:8-55. If you think that the sabbath year was radical, read this section about the

Year of Jubilee. Every 49 years, all debts are cancelled, and everyone goes back to their own

land. Imagine what this does to the economy! It prevents the rich from getting richer and the

poor from getting poorer. And it reminds everyone that (verse 23) that the land and its

resources are not theirs. Everything is God’s, and he’s letting you use it for now.

Faith Insights

Leviticus has a few passages that cast shadows which show up in the New Testament.

Leviticus 5:7. If a family is too poor to own a lamb, they can sacrifice two doves or pigeons.

That’s what Mary and Joseph bring in Luke 2:23.

Leviticus 16. The day of Atonement was practiced once a year, where a lamb was sacrificed for

the sins of the people. Jesus was often called the Lamb of God.

Leviticus 21:1-4. In Luke 10, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. He describes a priest

and Levite who pass by. In Leviticus, it tells why—they were not allowed to touch a dead body.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is not a story where the moral is, “we should be nice to

people.” This is Jesus’ dramatic attack on the Levitical law. Jesus threw out all these laws,

because he was replacing everything. He alone is all we need.

If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or

insights that you have received from the Bible reading), comment below! You can also feel free to email the question to me.

Our next face-to-face meeting is on February 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45.