Bible reading for weekend Aug 6 -- 8
Aug 6 -- Jeremiah 34 and Psalms 5-6
Aug 7 -- Jeremiah 35 and Psalms 7-8
Aug 8 -- Jeremiah 36 and Psalm 9
"And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the LORD in the LORD's house." (Jeremiah 36:8)
FREEING THE SLAVES (ch 34). In keeping with the theme of covenant (ch 31-33) we learn here that the Jews in Jerusalem (in the time of the last king, Zedekiah) have not fulfilled their covenant vows to release their slaves (vv 8-9). The mention of the "parts of the calf" (vv 18-19) is a reference to the sacrificial animal divided in the covenant ceremony (see Gen 15, for example). The Jews' unwillingness to release their slaves was contrary to what the Law taught, and contrary to what Messiah would be like: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..." (Isa 61:1).
THE RECHABITES (ch 35). The next two chapters are a flashback to the reign of Jehoiakim about ten years earlier. (Sometimes historical material in the Bible is not arranged in strict chronological sequence.) There's a contrast between the Rechabites, who faithfully followed their forefather's direction to live a nomadic tent-dwelling life with no vine cultivation or agriculture. And so they were not to drink wine. This was not a biblical commandment, but rather a family tradition intended to keep them free from the excesses of affluence. Their faithfulness to their forefather was far greater than the Jews' faithfulness to God's own commandments. This glaring contrast is seen in the next chapter in King Jehoiakim's response to the word of God from Jeremiah.
THE KING WHO BURNED GOD'S WORD (ch 36). What a bizarre picture this is -- the king of Judah calmly hearing, cutting up, and burning the scroll of Jeremiah's prophecy. God's word divides people. Some of the officials believed and grew fearful. Others dismissed it and sought to destroy it, as Jehoiakim did. This is God's desire, that we hear his word with trembling: "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isa 66:2; cf 1 Thess 2:13). How important it is that we have leaders -- whether pastors, teachers, law-makers, judges, politicians, parents -- who are God-fearing people! Another principle we learn from this chapter is that God's word is given and guarded from beginning to end. It is given by inspiration to the prophet, recorded faithfully, read aloud, experienced (positively and negatively), and though apparently destroyed, was yet preserved. As it says, "Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens" (Ps 119:89). And, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mark 13:31). I once preached a sermon on this chapter, "The King Who Cut Up the Bible" (2006).
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4)
LAMENT PSALMS (Ps 5-6). The next two psalms are examples of lament psalms. Typical lament psalms begin with a complaint brought before God (such as illness or oppression by enemies) and conclude with a statement of confidence in the Lord. Such psalms will often include petition, description of circumstances, truths about God (which are being appealed to), and at the end, vows of future praise. They are written in Hebrew poetic form with its couplets (parallel statements), contrasts, images, and other figures of speech.
RIGHTEOUSNESS. In both of these Psalms we should recognize that David's concern is for the advancement of God's righteousness in his kingdom. David does not merely pray these psalms as a grieved individual. The enemies he faces ("my foes") are those who oppose the righteous rule of God in Israel ("workers of evil", Ps 6:8), both within and without. In his own community there were contenders to, and opponents of, the throne that God had given him. And beyond the borders there were idolatrous nations who would happily destroy Israel as a nation if they could. So David's concerns were not with his own individual trials but rather in fulfilling his role as the "shepherd" (protective ruler) of Israel (Ps 78:72). In this, as fallible as he was, King David foreshadows his greater descendant, the Son of David, our Lord Jesus (Ezek 37:24; John 10:1-15). Read more about these Psalms, 5 and 6.
A LITTLE LOWER THAN ANGELS (Ps 8). Psalm 8 is a hymn exalting the majesty of God in creating mankind. Being human is a gift from God. Our dominion over earth comes about not by our will to power but as a stewardship given by God. Our Lord Jesus cited this psalm (8:2), regarding the children who cried out "Hosanna to the Son of David" at Christ's triumphal entry (Matt 21:15-16). When we look at ourselves -- if we're really honest -- we see that we are hybrid Jekyll-and-Hyde creatures. Sometimes we accomplish amazing, thoughtful, creative, intelligent, and altruistic things. And sometimes we're just plain beastly, selfish, uncaring, and self-destructive. The Bible teaches both the dignity and the depravity of human nature ever since the fall of Adam. We are indeed "glorious ruins", as Francis Schaeffer wrote, “We are glorious because we were created by God for the noble purpose of being His image bearers; yet we are ruins because sin has marred the divine image we were designed to display, at times seemingly beyond recognition.” Psalm 8 focuses on the glory of man created in the image of God. For a little while we are lower than angels, but yet will be crowned with glory and honor. The fulfillment of this psalm is seen in our Lord Jesus, who restores the image of God upon man, and who is himself the image of God (Jn 1:18; 14:9; 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). And we who believe are being transformed into his likeness (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). By God's grace, that which is ruined will be rebuilt! Read more here on Psalms 7, 8, and 9.
Image credit: photo of Hebrew Torah scroll by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. 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. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.