April 8, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, April 5-9

April 5, Easter Sunday

Colossians 3:1-4, John. 20:1-10


Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that I as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good affect; through the same in Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

They condemned him to death. They beat him almost to death. They nailed him to a cross. They pierced His heart with a spear. They placed his dead body in a tomb and sealed it with a boulder. They posted guards around the grave.  But when the women and disciples arrived at the grave it was empty. He was gone.

At first they did not believe He was alive.  Mary thought someone had taken His body.  Peter appears to not understand yet “that He must rise again from the dead.”  John, alone seems to “believe” at the sight of the empty tomb.  Soon they all will.

April 6,  Monday in Easter Week

Acts 10:34-43,  Luke 24:13-35

Commentary, Luke 24:13-35

When Jesus died, everything the disciples hoped for died with Him. They hoped He would free Israel from Rome. That hope died with Him. They hoped they would sit on golden thrones and live in luxury and peace in a free and independent Jewish state. That hope died with Him. And now, after His resurrection, their despair is evident. Why the despair? Because they do not believe. Though He told them many times that He would suffer and die and rise again, they do not  understand His words, nor do they believe them, even when they see the empty tomb.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus are some of those who “went away again unto their own home.” The location of Emmaus is unknown today.  Luke says it was about threescore furlongs from Jerusalem.  A score is “twenty” and a furlong equals 220 yards.  So Emmaus was about 4,400 yards, or,  two and a half miles from Jerusalem.  Jesus’ words, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” indicate that they are not convinced of the truth of the resurrection. Only after He "opens their eyes" do they understand that He is truly risen from the dead. What a time they must have hearing the Lord open the meaning of the Bible to them. They leave for Jerusalem with far more than joy over the fact that Jesus is alive. They leave with an accurate understanding of the Person and Ministry of Christ.  They understand who He is, and why He suffered and rose again.  These disciples are not the eleven Apostles.  They are other followers of Christ.  We even know the name of one, Cleopas. They are among the very first to know and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament era.

April 7, Tuesday in Easter Week

Acts 13:26-41,  Lk. 25:36-48

Commentary, Luke 25:36-48

Cleopas and several other disciples are gathered with the Apostles in Upper Room in Jerusalem when Christ appears in the room.  He doesn’t enter through the door. He doesn’t climb in through a window.  He just appears.  Luke says He “stood in the midst of them.”  Closed doors and solid walls are no obstacles to Him.  Even the solid rock of the tomb could not keep Him in.  He passed through it more easily than we pass through air.  The stone was not rolled away to let Him out.  It was rolled away to let the disciples in, so they would see that He is not there. 

Now, as He had done for the others on the Emmaus road, the Lord opens “their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.”  He goes beyond what He said on the road, for here He says that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  The global scope of His Kingdom is clearly stated here.  It is not just for Israel.  It is for all who will believe.  The nature of His Kingdom is also stated.  It is not political.  It is spiritual.  It is comprised of all believers, wherever they may live, whatever their race, or gender, or age.  Finally, the means of its accomplishment is given.   It does not come through politics.  It does not come through military conquest, or violence. It comes by preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name.

April 8, Wednesday in Easter Week

Joshua 10:28-43,  Lk 19:23-48
Josh 22:1-20,  Hebrews 10


Joshua 10:28-43

After crossing the Jordan by a miracle as stunning as the parting of the Red Sea (see Joshua 4), Joshua and the children of Israel camp near the city of Jericho in an area called Gilgal (Josh, 4:20). The fall of Jericho is recorded in chapter 6.  About 7 miles north of the Dead Sea, and 4 miles west of the Jordan River, Jericho is a walled city. It is the first obstacle Israel encountered in the Promised Land, and its existence would be a continual threat to the security of the children of Israel. Thus, they can not simply bypass the city: they must conquer it. 10 miles north west of Jericho is the city of Ai. Here Israel suffers a crushing defeat, but, after discerning the cause, the Hebrews are enabled to conquer the city.

A coalition of armies from Jerusalem and four neighboring cities advances toward the city of Gibeon, which, along with four other cities, has made a treaty with Israel. The coalition intends to punish Gibeon, and probably hopes to convince other Canaanite tribes to unite with the coalition and defeat the advancing Israelite army. Receiving a desperate call for help from the Gibeonites, the army of Israel makes a forced night march from Gilgal to defeat the coalition at Gibeon. It is during this battle that the famous miracle occurs when “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Josh 10:13).

Now Joshua marches southwest for about 23 miles to the city of Libnah, conquering Makkeda on the way. After subduing Libnah, he travels south about 6 miles to conquer Lachish. The army of Horam, king of Gezer, who has come to help Lachish is also defeated.  Eglon is a few miles southwest of Lachish, on a main road that leads to Gaza.

Hebron is about 20 miles due east of Lachish. But Joshua probably took the road northeast to Maresha and went south east from there to Hebron, a journey of about 23 miles.  Now he turns south west again to conquer Debir.  As chapter 10 closes, Israel is in control of southern Canaan.  It has not conquered every city or area.  Gath, future home of the famous warrior, Goliath,  still remains a Cannanitie stronghold, and will become a continuous threat to Israel.  But it is no exageration for verse 41 to claim Hebrew ownership of the land from Kadesh barnea south of the Dead Sea, to Gibeon, north of Jerusalem, to the Gaza coast on the west.

Joshua 22:1-20

The conquest of the Promised Land is almost complete.  Small enclaves of Canaanites still exist, and they will become major problems for Israel in the future.  But the military/economic power in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranan belongs to the people of Israel. The entire nation is gathered at Shiloh, about 20 miles north of Jerusalem.  Here plans are laid for the settlement of Canaan by the Hebrews, and the tribes who were granted land east of the Jordan are blessed by Joshua and released to their own lands.  

On the way they build and altar.  Modern readers are often confused at the reaction to this altar.  They are accustomed to people starting and closing churches at will, or changing churches at will, with no theological justification or ecclesiastical oversight.  But God has never intended such a system to exist, not in the Old Testament Israel; not in the New Testament Church.  The opposition to this altar is based on Deuteronomy 12:1-14.  It is very similar to the one in the Tabernacle, and the other tribes fear it means the builders plan to establish their own Tabernacle and worship system apart from the one God has established.  Such a system would be worse than counterfeit.  It would be heresy and idolatry, even if its people worship God and keep every other law of the Tabernacle.

The eastern tribes assert that they have no intention of doing such evil.  The altar is a memorial and a testimony that, though they dwell on the eastern side of the Jordan, they are one people and one faith with those on the western side.

April 9, Thursday in Easter Week

Josh. 22:21- 34 ,  Lk. 20
Josh. 23,  Heb. 11


Joshua 23

Chapters 23 and 24 comprise Joshua’s farewell address.   23 is primarily an encouragement to continue to conquer Canaan, and to refrain from joining the evil and idolatry of the remaining Canaanites.  Though Joshua is one hundred and ten years old now, and Israel has had rest from all their enemies for a “long time” (23:1), there are still Canaanites in the land, and the Israelites seem content to allow them to stay.  They are slow to learn.  They do not remember BaalPeor.  They do not think the remaining Canaanites pose any threat or problem to them.  Nor do they believe their lack of total obedience to God will carry any major consequences.

We are very much like them, aren’t we?  We think we can offer partial obedience to God without consequences.  We think the little bit of disobedience we allow to live within us is harmless, and we will never pay for it.  After all, Christ died to forgive us from all sin.

Let Israel serve as our example.  We will see in the book of Judges that the Canaanites became snares and traps to the Hebrews.  Their wanton indulgence of the flesh, their sexual idolatry, and spiritual adultery enticed Israel like flame draws moths.  A little compromise here, led to a bigger compromise there, until there was hardly any Godliness left in Israel.

Thus, Joshua says to Israel, “keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left.” That's the first point. That's the most important thing. He puts it a different way in verse 8. He says, “cleave unto the Lord.” When our Lord was asked what is the great Commandment, He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” God is first. If we ever get that right everything else will naturally fall into place. If we love God first, we will not follow false gods or false doctrines. If we love God first, we will live in perfect peace and harmony with all people and with God. We will make no idols. We will not take His name in vain. We will remember the Sabbath. We will honor our fathers and our mothers. We will not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not bear false witness, not covet. It is only because we do not love God first, that we covet and steal and murder. It is because we have made idols of our own will and our own desires that we do these things.

The second point is stated well in verse 16.  “When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.” This point contains two to sub points. First, it assumes that Israel will not complete the conquest of Canaan. Rather than driving the Canaanites out of the land, Israel will allow them to remain. Second, it assumes the Hebrew people will adopt Canaanite habits, dress, and even religion. Thus, Israel will be drawn into the sins of the Canaanites. As we know, this is exactly what happened to Israel. And as we also know, Israel paid dearly for it.

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