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bible reading jan 1



Bible reading for weekend Jan 1-3. 

Jan 1 -- Ezra 1 and Acts 1

Jan 2 -- Ezra 2 and Acts 2

Jan 3 -- Ezra 3 and Acts 3

================   

NEW BEGINNINGS. In both of our readings this weekend we see new construction taking place: in Ezra the people of Israel are being rebuilt as a nation after the humiliation of their exile, and in Acts the church is being built up with believers from all nations. God is dealing largely with Israel in the OT, and with believers of all ethnicities in the NT, in fulfillment of Genesis 12:3 and other passages. In Ezra we see the rebuilding of the altar and temple, and in Acts we see the Lord fulfilling his word, "I will build my church" (Matt 16:18). God's divine plan for history, what we call redemptive history, can be viewed as a chiasm (or chiasmus), with Jesus Christ at the center. [See my chart below.]  

NAMES AND NUMBERS. There are three waves of Jews returning from exile: those with Zerubbabel (538 BC), those with Ezra (458), and those with Nehemiah (445).  The book of Ezra covers the first two returns. In chapter one, the Persian king Cyrus sets the exiles free, in fulfillment of Isaiah 44:28, reminding us that God is sovereign over history (even pagan rulers), and brings his word to pass. Chapter two, with many names and numbers, reminds us that God is the God of generations, who preserves the remnant of his people, who knows individuals (real people in real history), and keeps count, whether of stars, people, sheep, or sparrows. In chapter three the returnees build the altar and lay the foundation for a new, albeit more humble, temple. This teaches us that worship always takes priority. We must give God first place.  

BY WORD AND SPIRIT. In both Ezra and Acts we will see that God's building process takes place through his Word and his Spirit. God told Zerubbabel that the temple reconstruction would take place "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit" (Zech 4:6). This is echoed throughout the Acts of the Apostles: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses..." (Acts 1:8).  Likewise, Ezra's success came because he was committed to God's word: "... the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel" (Ezra 7:9-10).  This too is echoed in Acts, "...the word of God increased and multiplied..." (Acts 12:24; cf 2:42; 6:7). In the first chapters of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the church, Peter preached the Word (resulting in three thousand new believers), and miracles followed. Christians today should live their lives before God, both by trusting his word and by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. 

AN OUTLINE OF ACTS, along with comments from last year, can be found here



Image credit: photo by Getty Images. 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. One recommended resource is NETBible.org, a ministry of bible.org. 


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