Week 19

1 - 7 October
Psalms 89 - 92, Ezekiel 1 - 20, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Proverbs 21

1 October
Ezek 1 - 41 Tim 1 - 2
2 October
Ezek 5 - 81 Tim 3 - 4
3 October
Ezek 9 - 12 1 Tim 5
4 October
Ezek 13 - 151 Tim 6
5 October
Ezek 16.1-522 Tim 1
2 Tim 2
6 October
Ps 91.14-16Ezek 16.53 - 18.322 Tim 3
2 Tim 4

7 October
Ezek 19 - 20Titus 1
Titus 2
Titus 3


Psalm 89 is a long psalm.  It begins with praise of God for his faithfulness to his covenant with David, and ends with a lament over the suffering and humiliation God has visited on his people: the chosen one becomes the rejected one.  It was probably originally a community lament, composed at a time when the Davidic kingship was under threat and the community as a whole was therefore also vulnerable.
Psalm 90 is sometimes used at funerals and often at Remembrance Day services, because it focuses on God, time, and the relationship between these and human beings.  With its theme of the limitations of human beings, and the reality of God's judgement on them, this psalm is a prayer for hope that there is something more lasting than this brief life.
Psalm 91 focuses on God as the place of shelter from all that may threaten.
Psalm 92 addresses God, commending him for his great works in creation and salvation, and upholding the right of those who are righteous to enjoy his favour.  It interprets Sabbath rest and restoration as a present taste of God's final victory over evil.


The Historical Background to the Old Testament prophets.

Israel's prophets were preachers.  They didn't start out writing books, but called the people back to God through their preaching.  At some point, what they said was collected and written down, perhaps by the prophet himself, more likely by a disciple.  Later they would be edited by others in the circle to which the prophet had belonged.
However Ezekiel was a priest, so we might guess that he was more highly educated than most people.  His book is written as an autobiographical narrative, containing sermons and oracles, although it is likely that there was some editing by others also.  His prophetic ministry lasted from the summer of 592BC to the spring of 573.  He was part of the deportation to Babylon in 598, the first Babylonian conquest of Judah, and lived in a Jewish settlement by the Chebar canal near Nippur.  He was married, but his wife died in 588.
He seems to have considerable knowledge of events in Judah, but it is thought that there was considerable traffic between Judah and Babylonia.  It is also possible that he paid occasional visits back home.
The book of Ezekiel is difficult, more so than Isaiah or Jeremiah.  The language sounds strange to our ears, full of images which are clearly highly symbolic, but where it is hard for us to get inside the symbolism.  He frequently experienced visions, loss of speech, and out of body sensations.
His ministry covered the year 586, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.  Chapter 24 announces the beginning of the siege, and chapter 33 the city's capture.  An important theme throughout the book is thus the absence of God and his return, of exile and restoration.  With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and its sacrificial system, there was serious concern that that was the end of Israel's relationship with God.  There was no guarantee that worship would now be possible: Ps 137 asks the question 'How can we worship God in a strange land?' and this question is part of the background to Ezekiel's preaching.
Ezekiel's vision of God by the Chebar canal provided an answer at least to the extent that God was still with them, and still revealing himself to them.

The Pastoral Epistles

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are known collectively as the Pastoral Epistles.  While other letters in the New Testament were written to churches, these were written to individual pastors, advising on how to care for their churches.
Timothy and Titus are in the third generation of faith: we are told that Timothy's grandmother, Lois was a believer, as was his mother, Eunice.  This is a time when many in the church are the children of believers, rather than new converts.
They concern the life of faith - prayer, public worship, care for the poor and needy, holy living, combating distortions of the faith.  They also provide a snapshot of early Christian worship: singing hymns, and baptising and teaching new believers.  Particular issues dealt with include the role of women in the church and in worship, the ministry of the church to the vulnerable, especially the elderly poor, slaves and bond servants, and the character of and requirements for bishops, elders/presbyters (priests), and deacons.
Traditionally, these three epistles are attributed to Paul, but most scholars now think that they were written later than the time of Paul's death in the late 60s.  There are other letters attributed to Paul, which are not in the New Testament, so letters written in his name but not by him, are known to exist.  It is difficult to fit the events referred to in the Pastoral Epistles into the framework of Paul's travels described in Acts, the language used is different in many respects from, say, Romans or Corinthians, and the content reflects a time when the church has settled down, after the death of the original apostles and disciples.
Regardless of authorship and date, these epistles are important for anyone concerned to be a good disciple, who takes their membership of Christ's church seriously.

Proverbs 21

The wicked and the liar are caught in their own snares.  Wisdom is mightier than brute strength. 

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