week’s readings have been filled with many of the most theologically
significant passages in all of scripture.
I hope you have found that seeing some familiar passages in context
helps in the understanding of them. We
have a lot to get to so let’s get on to the study...
The Old Testament:
This weeks readings begin with the most revered event in Jewish history—The
Exodus. After the plagues, Pharaoh finally relents and lets the people leave.
As the people are leaving, God blesses the people by having the Egyptians give
the people of Israel gifts of gold, jewelry and other valuables. These “gifts”
will come in handy a bit later in the story. We begin to see what will become a
pattern for the people. They start complaining.
We will read about their complaints over and over in the upcoming chapters.
This pattern continues once they get into the Promised Land as well and
eventually explodes into open rebellion from God. God continues to show the
people mercy even though he does not have to. He would have every right to get
rid of them all but in His love He doesn’t. While they are in the desert God
gives the people instructions on how to live, how to worship, how to conduct
business etc. This is really a time of learning for the people. God is
preparing them to be a Nation. One of the most significant things that God
gives them is found in Exodus 20. Here we have what many have called “The 10
Commandments”. In Jewish tradition they were never called “commandments”. They
were always referred to as “The 10 Words” or “The 10 Sayings”. They are as
1. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.
2. You shall have no other Gods but me.
3. Do not misuse my name.
4. Remember the Sabbath day.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t give false testimony.
10. Don’t covet.
Christians disagree about the numbering of the commandments because of a
misunderstanding of what “The 10 Words” were all about. Many see the Ten
Commandments as a list of laws and rules that the people had to obey. They are
seen as only a message of the law. When we look at these from a Jewish point of
view we see that all the “words” flow out of a message of the Gospel, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out
of Egypt”. Because of what God has done first then we are able to do the
other 9 things. It is like saying; “Because God led us out of Egypt, is
merciful to us, remembered us and loves us we would never think of having any
other gods, or misusing his name etc.” The numbering of the commandments
differs between Christians as well. Some make two commandments out of “You
shall have no other Gods” and “You shall not make any idols”. In the Lutheran
tradition, we have divided “Do not covet” into two commandments. So what is the
point of all of this? Are we doing something wrong? Not really. The numbering
of the commandments is a side matter. The big idea here is that the
commandments are really our response to what God has done for us (this is a
very Lutheran way of thinking anyway). Because God loves us our response is to
follow his law. Some get it turned around and think that because I follow God’s
law then God loves me. This was the thought of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
In our readings this past week God gave instructions for the tabernacle and all
of the furnishing that will go into it. This was to be a forerunner of the
Temple that would be built by Solomon in Jerusalem many years later. It was a
visible sign of God’s presence with His people. It was a place for sacrifice
and a reminder of God’s law as well as his promises.
Another tidbit of foreshadowing comes in a warning that God delivers to
Moses. God said not to have any
interaction with the people who possess the land they will be inheriting. He said, “Do not make a covenant with them
or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you
to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare
to you” (Exodus 23:32-33 NIV).
Eventually as the people enter the Promised Land they will not heed this
warning and their involvement with the local people will cause problems for
them for their entire history. Remember
this passage and see how this plays out in the weeks to come.
The New Testament
In our readings we see a few encounters that Jesus has with the Pharisees. As
Jesus speaks the truth to them he only makes them more upset and fuels the fire
to arrest and kill him. One of the more interesting things I have seen in our
readings came on February 3rd & 4th. On the 3rd we see Jesus restating the
Law of Moses. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is he replies, “Love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is
like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). In a few
short sentences, Jesus states the entire message of “The 10 words”. To love God
with all your heart, soul, and mind is to have no other Gods, to not misuse the
name of God, and to worship the LORD alone. To love your neighbor as yourself
is to follow all the others. I find it fascinating that the very next day we
see “The 10 words” in our Old Testament reading. I think the Spirit had
something to do with this. Jesus also teaches quite a bit about signs of the
end of the age. His main point is that we must be ready. Don’t worry about when
it will happen or how it will happen, just know that it will happen and
we must be ready. He makes his point clear with the story of the sheep and the
just started the story of the Passion this week and it will be good for us as
Lent begins soon to read the whole story in preparation. Take some time this week as you read the Passion
account to ready your heart and mind for Lent this year.
Bits and Pieces
will be starting two new books this week.
First off we will move into the book of Leviticus in the Old
Testament. A word of caution here, many
people do well getting through Genesis and Exodus but Leviticus is a different
story, it can be a brick wall for some people.
The narrative story takes a break for God to give some needed
instructions to the people. The book of
Leviticus is not the easiest reading, but remember it is still God’s Word. Be patient and remember that this is all part
of the old covenant that has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It may take you a bit longer to get through
the readings but hang in there. We will
run into this again in a few of the prophets.
But for now, remember that we are not
the primary audience of this book. Put
yourself in the context of the hearers and it will make some more sense to
you. Here are the vital stats for the
To teach Israel how God shares His holiness with them and how they should live
in His holiness.
SETTING: At the foot of Mt. Sinai. God is teaching the Israelites how to live
as a holy people.
KEY VERSE: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God am holy” 19:2
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Aaron, Eleazar (Aaron’s son)
KEY PLACE: Mt. Sinai
SPECIAL FEATURE: Holiness is mentioned more times (152) than in any other book
of the Bible
THEMES: Cleansing; atonement; redemption; consecration; rest.
THEMES: Uncleanness; sin requires a blood sacrifice; diseases resulting from
sin; walking in God’s statues and commands.
also starting the Gospel of Mark this week.
I love the book of Mark and I suggest that this is a good book to start
reading with a new Christian. Marks favorite word is “immediately”. He uses it
often. Mark has been called the action Gospel or the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Mark is believed to be the writer of Peter’s story. Many scholars see the fingerprints of Peter
throughout the book. Here are the vital
PURPOSE: To proclaim Jesus the Son of God, who calls disciples to repent, to
believe the Gospel, and to bear the cross.
John Mark. He was not one of the 12 disciples but he accompanied Paul on his
first missionary journey (Acts 13:13)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel
DATE WRITTEN: Between A.D. 55 & 65
SETTING: The Roman Empire under Tiberius Caesar. The empire with its common
language and excellent transportation and communication system was ripe to hear
Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.
KEY VERSE: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)
KEY PEOPLE: Jesus, the 12 disciples, Pilate, the Jewish leaders
KEY PLACES: Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, Bethany, Mount of
Olives, Jerusalem, Golgotha
SPECIAL FEATURES: Mark was probably the first Gospel written. The other Gospels
quote all but 31 verses of Mark. Mark records more miracles than any other
THEMES: Repentance; political and religious opposition; uncleanness;
authoritative teaching; heard-heartedness
THEMES: The Good news; baptism; compassion; mercy; cleansing; authoritative
teaching; ransom; Lord’s Supper