Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The One Year Bible: March 22, 2006

For many years I have retreated to the Psalms when things are tough. I also find myself in the Psalms when things are going well. The Psalms have been a source of strength and encouragement for me for quite some time. It started when I was in high school. I have never been an avid reader and Bible reading was no exception. But when some tough things happened in my life, I went to the Bible for some help. I started reading the Psalms and soon came to realize that many of the words have been put to music. This should no be a big surprise since the book of Psalms was the hymnbook for the people of Israel. It has been used in worship for thousands of years. The first time I heard the Psalms in a new setting was from the Irish rock band U2. They worked the words of Psalm 40 into a tune simply called “40”. When I first heard it I though it sounded familiar. I did some research and found out that three of the members of U2 were (and still are) strong Christians. This gave me some comfort that it was O.K. to be a follower of Christ. When all of my friends were doing other things I still went to church. Recently I have been listening to a Christian band called Third Day. They have a song titled “Your Love Oh Lord” based on Psalm 57. I was reminded of this song this week as we read this Psalm and I want to share part of this Psalm with you as we begin our study:

I will praise you O Lord among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let your glory be over all the earth.

I think this is a great way to begin our study today, remembering that we have a loving and faithful God who is worthy of our praise and worship.

Where We Have Been

The Old Testament
Numbers is a strange book. It combines the narrative with some rules and regulations and then the “numbers” of counting and census taking. It can be hard to keep track of the story. I found myself turning back the pages a few day to remember what we read (this is not such a bad idea to do once in a while). A few things stuck out for me this week. We have discussed the story of Baalam a bit but as I was studying the book of Revelation, this story comes up again. I don’t know how much you know about the book of Revelation (and we don’t have time here to discuss in detail) but at the beginning of the book, Jesus gives John a message for seven churches. One of the letters warns of holding to the teaching of Baalam. This is the only place in the New Testament that makes reference to this story. Remember that Baalam knew about Yahweh but he took money from king Balak to give a curse against the people of Israel. Baalam gave in to the money and compromised his faith for the sake of material gain. I think that many in our world have compromised their faith or their beliefs for monetary gain as well. We outwardly worship the Lord but our hearts lust after wealth. This is the main message of the story. This lesson is important enough for Jesus to mention it in the book of Revelation. Baalam ends up dying at the hands of the Israelites a few chapters later (31:8). Another amazing event takes place in chapter 31. As the Lord commands the people to take revenge on the Midianites, they completely destroy them with the Lord’s help. This is amazing in and of itself but what really got to me was the fact that when the generals and captains gave a report to Moses they said, “We, your servants, have accounted for all the men who went out to battle under our command; not one of us is missing!” (31:49 NLT) How amazing is that!!! They go to battle and no one is killed?? No friendly fire, no accidents, not even one lost battle. This should have been a sign to the people to trust in God, but as we shall see, the people will start to trust in themselves and not in God and things go wrong. As the people are on the edge of the Promised Land, they get a command from God, “When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molted images and demolish all their pagan shrines....But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live. And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.” We will see that this is one of the main problems for the Israelites in the Promised Land. God told them what to do and they didn’t quite get the job done.

The New Testament
Luke is a great storyteller. He weaves a wonderful story together. This week I was reminded of a few things that Luke tells us about. First of all the three “songs” in the beginning of the book; Mary’s song (from last weeks readings), Zechariah’s song and Simeon’s song. All three of them are wonderful examples of praising God. Mary gives glory to God for the gift she has been given, Zechariah praises God for his mercy, and Simeon thanks God for the fulfillment of his promises through the Christ Child. If you grew up in a Lutheran Church that used the old 1941 hymnal you probably know Simeon’s song by heart. I love that song. I will admit as a child I liked that song because that meant the service was almost over, but as I grew older that song and the words had an impact on me. Those of you who know the tune can sing along:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace
according to Thy word,
For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation:
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
A light to lighten the Gentiles
and the Glory of Thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be
world without end AMEN.

After his baptism and a list of his earthly ancestors, Jesus’ ministry begins in earnest. He first is tempted in the desert and rejected in Nazareth. I could just imagine the scene in the synagogue where Jesus gets up to read for the service and at the end hearing him say “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” I think that would be one of the most exciting times for those who believed that the Messiah was coming soon. Was this guy the one that was promised? Could he be the Messiah that we have been waiting for? Can we like Simeon, now die in peace? For some this guy was a blasphemer and a troublemaker. I hope I would know that this is the Christ the son of the living God.

Where We Are Going

The Old Testament
We will be starting the book of Deuteronomy this week. I will give you more details next week. It will seem like things are being repeated, and they are. This book was written just before Moses dies and Moses retells the story for all to hear and remember, but more about that next week. For now remember that Moses is talking to a group of people who do not remember Egypt or what happened there. Most of them were born in the wilderness and they need a bit of a history lesson before they go into the Promised Land.

The New Testament
Jesus begins to teach his disciples and gives them some tough lessons in the blessings and woes section of chapter 6. He has quite a lot to say to them to prepare them for the ministry they would soon have. We will also see some miracles of Jesus. As you read look for stories that are unique to Luke. We will talk about some of them in the coming weeks.

Key Verses
Psalm 61:1-2
Psalm 62:7-8
Luke 2:1-35

Have a wonderful week!! Let me know if you have questions.


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