This week we continue our readings in Matthew (The Sermon on the Mount) and in 1 Corinthians.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Pentateuch and is written as Moses’ final speech before all of Israel. It is analogous to a President’s farewell speech as the office is past on the the successor. The body of Moses’ address is about remembrance of all that God has done for Israel and a reminder of the blessings that Israel will receive if they remain faithful or the curses they receive if they are faithless. The six verses we read this week are the end of that address and Moses sums everything up in terms of life and death: if you follow God you have life and prosperity; if not then you get death and adversity. He admonishes Israel to choose life. Do we choose life by following the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Or do we choose death? Following this reading Moses chooses Joshua to succeed him and commands the Levite priests to read the law out loud every 7 years (chapter 31); recited a song for Israel and God tells him of his coming death (32); gives his final blessing to Israel (33); and then heads to the mountains to die (34).
Psalm 119:1-8 – Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and I believe the longest chapter in the Bible. It is an acrostic Psalm in which every letter of the Hebrew alphabet, 22, is used. It is made up of 22 stanzas each having 8 verses. In each stanza every verse starts with the same letter and each stanza progresses through the Hebrew letters. The entire Psalm, all 176 verses, is in praise of God’s Law and reflect the call of Moses to be faithful.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 – Paul begins to dig down into the divisions that rock the church and there are many. He begins by saying that he came to them with words of grace that were easy to understand, baby food as opposed to adult food. He can’t yet give them complex answers because they are still not ready as shown by their division over who they follow: Paul or Apollos (or Peter? See chapter 1:12.) Paul says that what he has done and what Apollos has done is insignificant to what God has done. Here he moves from the baby food – adult food metaphor to a garden metaphor: Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave growth. “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” How has God given growth to your church? Or maybe we have forgotten to water the plants?
Matthew 5:21-37 – “You have heard it said . . . But I say to you . . .” The last half of Matthew 5 contains 6 of those statements. This week we read 4 of them and next week the last two. The 4 topics this week are Anger, Adultery, Divorce, and Oaths. Don’t get too bogged down in the specifics because I think Jesus is trying to get at the underlying attitudes that lead to relationship breaking actions: unresolved anger can lead to murder; lusting can lead to adultery; easy divorce (as in the days of Jesus) trivializes covenantal relationships, and swearing (giving oaths not saying bad words) often and easily can lead others to distrust. A word about divorce: I don’t think that Jesus is advocating that a woman stay in a violent relationship. God wants all our relationship to be loving, caring and respectful and when one (usually the man) is violent (physically, emotionally, sexually) to the other or their children then the marriage doesn’t exist except on a legal piece of paper. If you are in a violent relationship GET OUT NOW. There is no excuse for any kind of violence and God wants you safe.
May these words inspire you to read your Bible every day and grow in God’s love.