Week 8

19 - 25 February: Psalms 38 - 42, Joshua 12 - Judges 15, Galatians and 1 Corinthians 1 - 9, Proverbs 9 - 10

Wednesday19 Feb Joshua 12 - 15Galatians 1 - 2
Thursday20 Feb Joshua 16 - 20Galatians 3 - 4
Friday21 Feb Joshua 21 - 23Galatians 5 - 6
Saturday22 Feb Joshua 24
Judges 1 - 4
1 Corinthians 1 - 3Ch 9
Sunday23 Feb Judges 5 - 7.141 Corinthians 4 - 6Ch 10
Monday24 FebPs 41.5-13Judges 7.15 - 101 Corinthians 7 - 8
Tuesday25 Feb Judges 11 - 15 1 Corinthians 9 - 10


Psalm 38 is a deep lament.  The psalmist is in considerable distress, and God seems far away.  Yet, he can still affirm that his trust is in God.
Psalm 39 is also a lament and again the psalmist, despite his distress, affirms that his hope is in God.
Psalm 40 begins with a thanksgiving hymn, which is followed with a lament, reversing the order normally found in the psalms.
Psalm 41 begins with a wisdom section (like Proverbs), and then turns into a lament.  It concludes with a doxology - Blessed be the Lord God of Israel - which is the conclusion to the first 'book' in which the psalms are arranged.
Psalm 42 is also a lament.  There are reasons for thinking that originally Psalms 42 and 43 were one poem, which are now split in our versions of the Bible.  The beginning of Psalm 42 inspired the hymn 'As pants the hart for cooling streams' and the newer worship song 'As the deer pants for the water ...  You alone are my heart's desire, and I long to worship you.'

Joshua 12 - end

Chapter 12 begins with a list of defeated kings - skim quickly through this!  Chapter 13 then begins a new section of the book concerned with the division of the land between the 12 tribes of Israel, and its continuing conquest.  We meet here the Philistines, whose name evolved into 'Palestine' by the time of the Roman occupation.  The final two chapters concern the death of Joshua.
As in Deuteronomy, the book of Joshua is not really about the history of Israel, as would be written now, but is about the people's faithfulness to the covenant made with them by God.  Joshua is portrayed as the ideal leader, who listens to God, and, with the people, obeys him.  God thus fulfils his promises and gives them the land.
The military campaign, led by Joshua under God's command, is difficult for modern readers, with its total destruction of peoples, including innocent parties.  Although we can perhaps understand that when these accounts were written down, people were concerned for the purity of Israel, and of her worship, it is hard to make any of this sound good for us now.
We cannot know how much of this is cultural - that this was the kind of God the people who wrote and edited this material wanted - how much is actually historical, and beneath all that what God was doing.  There are instances of mercy, thankfully.  We should also remember that boasts of killing everyone in the land may well be exaggerations, and that the armies of three thousand years ago lacked the weapons of mass destruction we build today, being reliant on spears, arrows, swords and catapults.
Perhaps, while acknowledging the real difficulty for us in reading this material, we should also be open to the revelation of God as faithful to his people, but requiring faithfulness in return.  We should also think of this in conjunction with what the New Testament says about judgement, for in the end God calls all humanity to himself - the judgement is in how we respond.  The call to faithful obedience is of life and death importance, something we easily forget.
For better or worse, the book of Joshua is part of sacred scripture.


Between the time of Moses, succeeded by Joshua, and the rise of the kings, comes the period of the Judges.  The book of Judges concerns how Israel fared in the absence of a single great leader of the stature of Moses and Joshua.  Issues that predominate are the relationships with its neighbours, and the continuing tension for Israel between on the one hand becoming like its neighbours and on the other remaining faithful to God.  There are also tensions between groups and individuals within Israel.
An important image to bear in mind is that of a threshold or boundary - Israel is on the boundary between being a nomadic people who enter into a lane and becoming a settled nation with a king and government and infrastructure.  This image of 'threshold' continues the image of Moses and the first generation who left Egypt on the verge of the Promised Land, but not allowed to enter, while Joshua and the new generation do so.
Individual judges take up the challenge of mediating between God and his people, and settle disputes between the people.  Notice particularly the account of Deborah - judge and prophet, and a woman.  The Song of Deborah in chapter 5 is generally accepted to be the most ancient part of the Old Testament - it may date back as far as the 12th century BC.  Translating it is very difficult because of its antiquity, with much that is obscure.


This letter of Paul is addressed to the churches of Galatia.  The location of these churches is not certain now, although it is generally thought to refer to an area of northern Turkey.  It is difficult to date the letter with any certainty, although it appears from 4.13 that it was written after Paul had made a second visit to the region.
It definitely dates from the period when Paul was struggling with those who thought that all new Christians should be subject to the Jewish law, including circumcision and the dietary rules.  It is likely that it preceded 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Romans, and is perhaps the next surviving letter after 1 Thessalonians, perhaps written in about 54AD.
Paul needed to defend himself against those who said he wasn't a 'proper apostle' because he wasn't one of the original disciples commissioned by the risen Christ.  In defending his interpretation of the gospel in this letter, he gives a strong account of what is known as 'justification by faith alone' - that our salvation is a gift from God, not something we can earn by anything we do.  

1 Corinthians

Corinth was a city-state, with harbours situated on a main trade route between Asia and western Europe.  Paul's first visit there lasted some two years, with many of his converts from the Greek population, but with a sizeable Jewish group as well.  Between them, they generated a wide range of issues which Paul dealt with in his letters to them.  Paul tells us that he wrote this letter from Ephesus (16.8), but it isn't so clear when he wrote it, but perhaps around 54AD or so.
The Corinthian Christians were also visited by Apollos (Acts 18.27) and perhaps by Peter (1 Cor 1.12) and other Jewish Christians who brought letters of commendation with them from Jerusalem (eg. 1 Cor 1.12).
The main issues Paul deals with in the early chapters of 1 Corinthians are the divisions between the people, their immorality, and difficulties with marriage, what Christian freedom should (not) allow, and their worship.

Proverbs 9-10

In chapter 9, Wisdom and Folly invite the 'simple' to a banquet.  Chapter 10 then expands on what the choice between them really means.  In between there are six proverbs (Prov 9.7-12) contrasting the wise with those who scoff, on the basis of how teachable they are.

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