August - Reading 23

Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2016' started by Clint Kritzer, Aug 23, 2002.

  1. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Good evening –

    Any of you who have been reading along are probably quite intrigued by now by the story unfolding in Esther. Today we see the string of seemingly insignificant coincidences leading up to the elevation of Mordecia’s status brought about by the temporary insomnia of King Xerxes. It has even been suggested by some that it was the noise of Haman building the gallows for Mordecea that caused the restlessness of the king, though, of course, this is strictly conjecture.
    What is not conjecture, however, is the theme of God’s Sovereignty in the nature of men’s affairs found in this story. The obvious moral of this smooth flowing plot is how God brings about His Purpose in this world. The story of Esther is not unique by any means. I for one am no stranger to this particular aspect of God. The older I get, the more apparent it becomes.

    The questioning of Christ’s authority by the Pharisees is paralleled in both Matthew and Mark. Going by these cross references we can see that this account occurs on the third day of Passion Week, or Tuesday. The Triumphal entry occurs on Sunday, the Cleansing of the Temple on Monday. The question of the Pharisees is likely rooted in the events of the preceding day. The act of Christ expelling the moneychangers not only superseded the authority claimed by the Pharisees but also affected their monetary gains. The Pharisees had also questioned John the Baptist in the same way according to John 1:19-25 and of Christ early in His ministry in John 2:18-22.

    We end the final Pastoral Letter of Titus today. Paul’s final remarks to Titus in verse 3:9-10 take us back to the purpose of the Letter in 1:10-16. These uphill battles against the divisive still occur in the modern churches of today and the instructions of these Letters are often passed over. The modern pastor often has his hands tied in these matters. His livelihood, retirement, reputation and future are put at risk if he tries to implement these Pauline instructions. It’s easy to blame the pastor in these cases, but there is a responsibility held by us regular pew sitters as well. In my experience, most insurrections within a church fall when held in the light of Scripture.

    May God bless you

    - Clint
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Sunday School lecture - 5/30/04 Part II

    Titus 3:9-11 Avoid Harmful Disputes

    As Paul begins his conclusion, he takes one last shot at the Judaizing troublemakers. His purpose in writing this Letter has been so that "those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds." It was through good and proper behavior by the Christian community that the Gospel would advance through the world. Good works (deeds) are "excellent and profitable" to men. These deeds are set in contrast to the actions of the Cretan Judaists.

    Paul makes further commentary upon the actions of the Judaizers by saying that their "stupid controversies (KJV - foolish questions), genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the Law" are "unprofitable and vain" as opposed to "profitable" acts done by those who know God. As Paul has contrasted the behavior of those who know God against those who profess to know God but do not since verse 1:16, he has completed the picture showing the futility of even attempting justification through the means professed by the Judaizers. Their behavior and false, "unhealthy" teachings were causing factions among the church on Crete. Paul instructs Timothy to warn them twice and then have nothing more to do with them.

    The concept of admonishing an errorists twice originates in Judaism but was also the model Christ gave us for conflict resolution in Matthew 18:15-17. If a factious person refuses two attempts at reconciliation, one need not have any qualms with shunning him. The sin rests upon him for his refusal to reform, not the one seeking resolution.

    Titus 3:12-14 Some Final Instructions

    Apparently, Zenas and Apollos were the carriers of this Letter for Paul. He had not yet decided whether to send Tychicus or Artemas to replace Timothy at the Cretan mission. Artemas is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament. Tychicus, on the other hand, we see referenced 5 times in the New Testament. In both Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7 he is referred to as "a beloved brother and faithful minister."

    Paul asks that Titus "do [his] best" to join him in Nicopolis where he intended to winter. As discussed in the introduction of this Book, there are several possibilities as to which town this was specifically, but the most likely candidate by modern scholarly reckoning is Nicopolis in Epirus.

    Zenas, one of the letter bearers, is not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. The term "lawyer" attached to his name, probably to distinguish him from some other Zenas, in other Passages designates an expert in Jewish Law. However, the term here may carry the wider secular connotation.

    Apollos, assuming this is the same man spoken of in Acts, is quite often mentioned in the Scriptures. He was an Alexandrian Jew who worked in Corinth. He is also a likely candidate to be the author of Hebrews.

    Paul urges Titus to speed Zenas and Apollos on their way provided for amply. Traveling missionaries typically carried letters of recommendation such as Paul includes here. From what we know of early church history, these emissaries would usually stay no more than two days before traveling on.

    The mention of Christian aid to the two men prompts Paul to make one last appeal towards the central purpose of the Letter. The term "let ours" or "let our people" refers to the Christian community at large or more specifically those in Crete who thought as Titus did. The final exhortation is that they learn to apply themselves to good deeds, just as he sated in verse 8. The clause "to help cases of urgent need (KJV- maintain good works for necessary uses)" literally translates "the things necessary for life," a technical term employed by the Stoics. "Charity goes with Christianity like heat goes with the sun." - 1971 Broadman Bible Commentary

    Titus 3:15 - Concluding Salutation and Benediction

    The final words present a much happier scene than the end of 2Timothy. Paul still has a good company about him. "Those who love us in the faith" refers to all true Christians. The lack of an article before "faith" in the original allows for a translation of "loyally." The final benediction uses the plural "you" indicating that Paul fully expected this letter to be shared with the church.
     
  4. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Ezra

    Ezra 4-6


    Today’s lesson likely reaches all of us on some personal level and it is one of the reasons this commentator truly loves this section of the Bible. We too often take the view that if something is God’s will it will come easy for us. Nowhere in the Scriptures is such a thing implied. In fact, it is more safe to say that almost all meaningful works take effort.

    Under the direction of Sheshbazaar, the foundation for the Temple had been laid. Now the Jews were ready to begin work in earnest on the structure itself. As the story opens, we find the Jewish community under scrutiny from their neighbors and the local government.

    Ezra 4:1-5 Building of the Temple Interrupted

    The “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” spoken of in verse 1 are a group that would be later identified as the Samaritans. There is really no reason to think that their offer of help was not sincere. These were the half-breed descendants of the Israelites who had remained in the area after the collapse of the nations and the various groups of immigrants that the Assyrians and Babylonians had brought into the area to populate it. It was indeed the God of Abraham they worshipped and the return of the pure seed of that nation may have been viewed initially as a fortuitous event.

    However, the goal of the returning Jewish leaders had no place for these half-breeds. These people claim to have continued the sacrificial system but for the Jews these sacrifices were blasphemous as there had been no Temple in which to offer them. It is more likely that they used the sites in Northern Israel established at Bethel and Dan established by Jeroboam. Even worse, they may have used the “high places” of the pagan infiltrators from Canaan. Though they worshipped Yahweh, it is also likely that their religion had become adulterated with the practices of foreign and pagan religions from the non-Jewish heritage of their lineages. The Samaritans represented to the Jewish theologians the very essence of why the exile had occurred in the first place. To allow them to touch the stones consecrated for the purpose of building a holy temple was unthinkable. The curt reply by Zerubbabel was the only one he could make.

    The hostilities that had worried the Jews in chapter 1 and had prompted the building of the altar even on a holy day intensified after this encounter. We are not told specifically what efforts were made against the Jews but a campaign of harassment and intimidation began that thwarted the efforts of the recently refounded nation.

    Ezra 4:6-24 Continuing Conflicts

    Once again the student is reminded that the chronology of Ezra and Nehemiah is unquestionably skewed and we are left with having to make certain assumptions regarding the order of events as relayed to us. There were three kings of Persia who went by the name Artaxerxes but the one in question here is almost undoubtedly Artexerxes the First.

    The authors of the letter to that king was composed by a man with a Persian name, Mithredath, and another with an Aramaic name, Tabeel. Many scholars surmise that the former was a Persian representative and the latter a local chieftain of some sort. The letter they composed was in Aramaic the official language for correspondences between nations. It was translated, according to the chronicler, into either Hebrew for the benefit of the Jews or Persian for the benefit of the king.

    The contents of the letter are hard to dispute. The Jews did have a history of rebelling against those to whom they were paying tribute. In verse 14 the idiom of “eating salt” means that they were loyal to and in service of the Persian monarchy. Once again, there is little reason to doubt the honesty of their claims. The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem which would occur later would make a defendable military bastion of the city that stood between Persia and the furthest reaches of its western conquests.

    Artaxerxes replies that his research confirmed the claims of the letter and it appears that mention is made of the golden age of Jerusalem when David expanded the empire and Solomon made it an ancient superpower. He orders that work cease immediately and with the backing of the king, the adversaries force the Jews to stop. The implication is that this was done by force and this incidence may reflect the message that was given to Nehemiah in verse 1:3 of the Book that bears his name: The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.

    Ezra 5:1-2 The Work Resumes

    It is easy to see the human element of the story at this point when two leaders of the people step forward to get things back on track. Artexerxes had given a stop work order but Cyrus had made a decree. Just because some politicians with ruffled feathers had made some trouble, there was no reason to stop the work that had been willed by God and decreed by a king. It had been 16 years and no efforts had been made to begin anew the rebuilding of God’s house. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah made it clear that it had been long enough. The Jews once again began placing stone upon stone.

    Ezra 5:3-6:13 The Tattenai Episode

    The resumption of the work raised the curiosity and suspicion of new governor of the region and he went to investigate. It is likely that he was urged to do so by the locals as the Persian policy of religious tolerance is well documented. The previously discussed letters between Artaxerxes and the former leaders was likely reported to him. He questions the work and asks for names of those in charge. The text indicates that the Jews were not intimidated this time and they continued their work. God had fortified the resolve of the elders and they told the governor about Cyrus’ decree so many years before.

    Tattenai decides to pursue the matter through official channels and writes another letter to Persia to the new king, Darius, to inquire about the validity of the Jewish elders’ claim. He recounts the incident and the recollection of the Jew’s history and waits for the king’s reply.

    Darius obviously took the matter quite seriously as the decree of Cyrus was not found in Babylon the current capitol, but rather in the archives in Ecbatana, the former Persian capitol. The written decree recorded on the scroll recounted the instructions of Cyrus in regards to the emancipation of the Jews from Babylon.

    Darius honors the decree made by Cyrus and orders his governor to let the Jews continue their work. Anyone who tried to interfere is threatened with execution by impaling upon a beam from their own home, the eviction of their family and that the structure be turned into a public latrine.

    Aside from this, monetary provisions were to be given from the treasury to supply the work and animals necessary for the completion of the task. The Biblical motivation for Darius was so that the priest in Jerusalem could pray for the king and his sons. We must also consider that Darius may have been motivated by political reasons. Jerusalem would be an important ally in his campaigns against Egypt as the city stood so near the border of that nation. Darius indicates that he fully expects God to intervene as well should anyone have the nerve to ignore his decree.

    Ezra 6:14-18 The Completion of the Work

    With the backing of Darius the work proceeded swiftly and was completed in the early Spring of 515 BC. Though neither the work of Haggai nor Zechariah indicate the completion of the Temple, the chronicler places them in the forefront of activity in the final years of construction.

    The description of the offerings made at the dedication of the Temple pale when compared to those made by Solomon in 1Kings. Nonetheless, this was a proud time for the Jews and an awakening of a nationalism not known for centuries.
     
  5. AF Guy N Paradise

    AF Guy N Paradise
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    Hey Clint, the main Bible index link has stopped working again...
     
  6. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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