Week 9

26 February - 4 March: Psalms 43 - 47, Judges 16 - end, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, 1 Corinthians 10 - end, Philippians, Proverbs 11

26 Feb
Judges 16 - end1 Corinthians 10.1 - 11.22
27 Feb
Ruth 1.1 - 2.13 *
Ruth 2.14 - 3.18 *
Ruth 4 *
1 Cor 11.23 - end 12
28 Feb
Ecclesiastes 1 - 3 *
Ecclesiastes 4 - 6 *
1 Cor 13.1 - 14.12
1 Mar
Ecclesiastes 7 - end1 Cor 14.13 - end 15
2 Mar
Song of Solomon 1 - 2 *
Song of Solomon 3 - 4 *
1 Cor 16
3 Mar
Ps 46Song of Solomon 5 - endPhilippians 1 *
Philippians 2 *

4 Mar
Lamentations 1 - 2 *
Lamentations 3 *
Lamentations 4 - 5 *
Philippians 3 - 4

This week, I have divided up the Old Testament readings by book, rather than by length of reading - but feel free to adapt it to whatever works best for you!  If you're feeling a bit bogged down in Joshua and Judges, look forward to the books of Ruth, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon which should provide a welcome contrast.  Lamentations on Tuesday will help us to prepare for Ash Wednesday, and for Lent.
* These readings are sub-divided because of copyright restrictions on the Oremus Bible Browser.


Psalm 43 is a continuation of the prayer of Ps 42.  The psalmist goes to the altar, longing for the presence of God, and finding a answer in the liturgical response 'O put your trust in God ...'.
Where Psalms 42 and 43 were an individual prayer for help, Psalm 44 is a corporate prayer for help.  God has saved his people in times past - his people are now recalling that help, and calling on God to do likewise for them, praying in the face of his apparent absence.
Psalm 45 was composed for a royal wedding.
Psalm 46 is a song of Zion, focusing on the importance of the city of Jerusalem to the relationship between God and his people Israel - the place where God is to be found, a guarantee of his presence.
Psalm 47 is a hymn of praise to the Lord as king over all.  The early Christian church used this psalm to celebrate Jesus' ascension.

Judges 16 - end

Judges 16 contains one of the most well-known stories of the Old Testament - the story of Samson and Delilah.  God has punished the Israelites for their lack of faithfulness, using the instrument of the Philistines.  Samson is a gift from God, a child born to save the people.  He is bound by the Nazirite oath, which among other things requires him not to cut his hair.  Delilah, on instructions from the leaders of the Philistines, has his head shaved while he is asleep.  Samson loses his strength until his hair grows again.  He uses his regained strength to pull down the pillars holding up the temple, killing many Philistines, as well as Samson himself.
The remaining chapters of Judges form an epilogue which does not feature any specific judge, but describes how the tribe of Dan conquered territory and a war between the tribe of Benjamin and the other tribes.
By the end of the period covered in Judges, the Israelites are in a pretty sorry state.  Their worship is corrupt, their priests are corrupt, tribes are making war on each other ...  The cycle of idolatry, oppression by a foreign power, crying to God for help and deliverance through a judge called by God, who is not always able to do the task given, has been repeated many times.
We also see that God doesn't always act in the way that might be expected, he retains ultimate freedom to act as he sees fit.


The short book of Ruth is a welcome relief!  It is a moving account of love and loyalty.  Key themes are faithfulness, kindness, honour and safekeeping.  Through her loving, upright nature and behaviour, Ruth finds salvation for herself and for her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Through her marriage to Boaz, Ruth becomes an ancestor of Jesus.


Like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes is part of the Wisdom Literature of the Bible.  It is an account of how one person, Qoheleth (sometimes translated 'the Preacher' or 'the Teacher'), tries to find meaning in the finiteness of human existence.  The theology of the book is very different from much else in the Old Testament.  Its pessimistic outlook has led some to wonder why it is in the Bible at all.  However, given that it is, we need to look a little deeper.
Qoheleth sees nothing beyond death, as did most people in the centuries before Christ.  The future is unknown and beyond our control.  Given the certainty of death, Qoheleth cares deeply that life is worth living.  He acknowledges that we cannot save ourselves through our own efforts, but sees life as more than gain - that it is a gift.
We see in Qoheleth a writer who sees clearly the human predicament.  It is in Jesus Christ that this predicament finds its answer.

Song of Solomon (also known as the Song of Songs and the Canticle of Canticles)

If you wondered at the inclusion of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, you may be more surprised at the inclusion of the Song of Solomon!  It is a beautiful love poem, with dialogue between a woman, a man and the daughters of Jerusalem.  Almost uniquely in the Bible, the main speaker is a woman.
In both Jewish and Christian theological tradition, it is interpreted as the love of God or Christ for his people.  This sets a context for human love, that it comes from and provides us with experience of the love of God.    Although it is clear that it is in fact a love poem between human lovers, its position in the Bible helps us to understand the significance of human love to our relationship with God.


This short book is traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah.  Its immediate context is the sacking of Jerusalem, with the destruction of the temple, by the Babylonians in 587BC and the deportation of many of the inhabitants to Babylon.  It is possible that it originated as laments made by those who remained in the ruins of the temple.
Lamentations is a response to brokenness, suffering and death.  It is a cry of pain in response to events which seem unbearable.  God is questioned: "Why?", "How long ...?" - we do not understand, we cannot take any more.
Lamentations recognises, however, that the people are responsible, that God has not acted unjustly.  Israel has not kept her side of the covenant agreement, so bringing death rather than life upon her.  Yet in the end, God remains who he is - a God of mercy, a God of grace.  The way to him remains open.

1 Corinthians 10 - end

Paul continues several key themes of his teaching in 1 Corinthians.
Chapter 10 contains teaching by Paul on the Lord's Supper, set in the context of a warning against idolatry, anxious that the Corinthian Christians should not assume that casual participation in the rites of non-Christians was fine.  The particular issue was eating meat which had been sacrificed to pagan idols - Paul isn't worried about the meat as such, but is worried about the effect that eating it might have on other believers.  We have to be aware of the effect of our behaviour on others.
Eating here is set in the context of the Lord's Supper, and in Chapter 11, Paul expounds what he has received on this, in words still used in our eucharistic liturgies today.  Of course, when Paul was writing there were no separate church buildings, and it is very likely that the meal was a real meal, rather than the symbolic meal we celebrate.
Another major theme in the second half of this letter is what Christian love means.  Chapter 13, the hymn of love is well-known as a reading at weddings.
Then in Chapter 15, we have Paul's teaching on the resurrection, another key passage.  Given the time it was written, this is probably the earliest account of the resurrection in the New Testament, certainly preceding what is written in the gospels.  It may be that Paul is actually quoting a creed, a statement of belief already current in Christian circles.  It is clear that for Paul the reality of Jesus' crucifixion, resulting in his death, and his resurrection from the dead, is the cornerstone of our faith.
Chapter 16 closes the letter with appropriate greetings.


Philippi was a major city in the Roman province of Macedonia.  Paul is writing to the Christians there from prison, possibly house arrest in Ephesus.  The Philippians have sent him money with Epaphroditus, one of their number.  The letter may not have been written in one sitting, but appears to be in several sections, with some weeks between them.  Epaphroditus falls ill, but then recovers and is anxious to return to Philippi.  Some time later, Paul appears to be free from arrest, possibly following a visit by him to Philippi between the earlier correspondence and the later section, perhaps written from Corinth.  If this analysis is correct, then the earlier parts were written around 54-57AD, and the later parts around 57-58AD.  The letter as we have it is probably not in chronological order, but this does not affect the arguments Paul makes.
Phil 2.1-11 is well-known, and is the source of the hymn 'At the name of Jesus'.  Verses 6-11 are probably an early hymn, which Paul is using to make his point: that Jesus showed humility and selflessness, and these should transform the person who is in Christ.

Proverbs 11

This continues the contrast between the wise who are righteous and the fool who is wicked.  Being wise will lead to well being, being foolish will not.  The righteous behaviour required is detailed, including accurate weights, humility and integrity, and orderly and moral behaviour.

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