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bible reading july 15



Bible reading for July 14. 

Joshua 22

"The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, 'For,' they said, 'it is a witness between us that the LORD is God.'" (Joshua 22:34)

A MISUNDERSTANDING. As two-and-a-half tribes recross the Jordan to their inheritance on the east side, they build a large altar to the Lord at their border. Since the Lord had declared that there would be only one legitimate sacrificial site (first Shiloh, later Jerusalem), the tribes on the western side take this as a kind of declaration of independence. The centrality and unity of worship was important to the nation. It almost caused a civil war. Things are explained -- communication is good! -- and the altar becomes a monument that the Jordan River would not divide the nation and that they were all committed to the same God of Israel, the only true and living God.  One lesson: when we feel offended, we should always talk first and ask about intentions before assuming the worst from others. 

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Acts 2

"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) 

PROPHECY FULFILLED. Pentecost was a Jewish festival held fifty days after the Firstfruits (same time as Passover), which was the beginning of the grain harvest (Ex 23). Christ's resurrection was the Firstfruits of our salvation (1 Cor 15:20, 23), and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost launched the full harvest, that is, many people coming into Christ's kingdom. The OT feasts pointed ahead to the work of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit. When Peter preaches his message he quotes from the Old Testament, saying that these things had been prophesied in the Scriptures (cf 1 Cor 15:3, 4). Christ's death was both the foreordained plan of God and also the free act of sinful people (v 23). 

THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES. The greatest gift God gives is himself. The indwelling presence of the Lord is mediated through the Holy Spirit, who, like the pillar of cloud and fire in the OT, hovers over believers in the form of tongues of fire. We begin to see more clearly the work of our Triune God: God the Father ordaining and planning salvation; God the Son accomplishing salvation in his life, death, and resurrection; and the Holy Spirit applying the benefits of salvation to us. "The Holy Spirit is the one who takes what is of Christ and gives it to us." (Michael Horton)  He is the active agent, the Person who brings the power to renew our hearts, to see, to understand, to believe, to obey, to walk in newness of life, to witness with courage, to exercise gifts, and much more. He sanctifies believers and makes them "saints" (sanctified ones) by his presence and work within them. We will see much of the Spirit at work in the book of Acts. 

THE CHURCH IS BORN. Ethnic walls are broken down when God is praised in many different languages, here given miraculously. This was a reversal of the separation of languages (Gen 11:6-9) and a sign that a new age had begun. God's work among the one nation of Israel (the old covenant), has now expanded to include all nations (John 4:21-24). The preaching of Peter produces a remarkable response, with three thousand coming to faith and being baptized. This is the birth of the NT church. There was a congregation in the OT, primarily Israel, but now God's congregation is made up of Spirit-born believers from any and every background. The early church gathering, in all its joyful simplicity, is described in vv 42-47. One verse has been a motto for our church for over 50 years: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (2:42 NIV).  

TAKEAWAY. When you think of "the church", what do you think of? Why is the proclamation of the gospel, and the teaching of the Scriptures, so important in the local church? Why is the ministry of the Holy Spirit so vital to our lives as a believers? (And I'm thinking here not so much in terms of any particular gift, but in terms of his work to convict, call, renew, change hearts, sanctify, and empower for witness and service.)  


Image credit: the painting of Pentecost above was designed by Turvey Abbey, a Benedictine order of nuns in Bedfordshire, UK.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The NET Bible is a free, online resource, and a ministry of bible.org.

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