Week 4

22-28 January: Psalms 25 - 29, Leviticus, Luke 22.39 - end, Acts 1 - 6, Proverbs 4 - 5

Wednesday22 Jan25.1-10Leviticus 1 - 5 Luke 22.39 - end
Thursday23 Jan25.11-21Leviticus 6 - 9Luke 23.1 - 23.43
Friday24 Jan26Leviticus 10 - 13.28Luke 23.44 - 24.12
Saturday25 Jan27.1-8Leviticus 13.29 - 16.28Luke 24.13 - end
Acts 1
Sunday26 Jan27.9-17Leviticus 16.29 - 21.24Acts 2 - 35
Monday27 Jan28Leviticus 22.1 - 25.28Acts 4.1 - 5.11
Tuesday28 Jan29Leviticus 25.29 - 27.34Acts 5.12 - 6.15


Psalm 25 is a prayer - 'To you, Lord, I lift up my soul.'  We offer all that we are to God.  In Hebrew, this psalm is an acrostic, with the lines starting with each letter of the alphabet in turn.
Psalm 26 describes someone whose whole life is devoted to God.  Believing requires behaving in a right way, and the writer asks God to vindicate his or her efforts to walk with integrity before God.
Psalm 27 is a favourite of many people, and well known.  We use lines from it in the Taize chant 'The Lord is my light and my salvation.'
Psalm 28 is an individual prayer for help.  Sheol, or the Pit, is the realm of death, a place of silence where God's word cannot be heard, and the writer talks of the silence of God which can feel like death. Yet it ends with the sure knowledge that he or she has been heard.
Psalm 29 is a hymn of praise to God, very probably used by the people in the temple.


You may be tempted to skip through this book.  An early Christian writer, Origen, described it as 'bizarre food' which would make the 'listener ... gag and push it away'!  But if we're going to read the Bible, all of it, we have to take seriously its inclusion in the canon - and we can find God in it, if we look.
It isn't meant to be entertainment, it isn't meant to be exciting, so don't be surprised if you find it hard, or a bit boring.  It isn't meant to be relevant to the 21st century Christian in any immediate sense - but it's not about us and what we find relevant.  It is the word of God.
You may find the emphasis on sacrifices, and the blood that involves, a bit distasteful - but the wine of the eucharist is the blood of Christ.  It is in Leviticus that we find the commandment to love our neighbour as ourself.  It forms the background to Hebrews, in which Christ's death on the cross is interpreted as a sacrifice.
Leviticus is not simply a manual for Jewish priests.  It is presented as the words of Moses addressed to the people of Israel, because they are to be holy.  So too are we to be holy: 'For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.' (Hebrews 10.10).
The key themes are: the presence of God, holiness, the role of sacrifice and the Sinai covenant.  Watch out for these as you read, so that you avoid getting bogged down in the detail of what can and can't be eaten, or what sexual conduct is or is not permissible.
In the narrative of Israel's journey through the wilderness, Leviticus is set in a period of one month in the second year after they left Egypt, after they had set up the Ark of the Covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai.  It consists of instructions given to the people through Moses by God for regulating their worship and sacrifices.
As you read this week's chapters, pray that God will give you insight into his word.  Even if you think there is none to be had, treat it as a discipline that you are doing for the glory of God in obedience to him.

From Luke to Acts

The final section of Luke's gospel, which we are reading this week, recounts the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord.  Don't let the familiarity of the story dull your senses.
It's good to move straight from the gospel into Acts, in which Luke continues the story.  It was written somewhere between 70 and 100 AD, like the gospel, to proclaim the mighty acts of God, the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles.  We should view Acts as an open-ended account, in which further chapters are being written today in our churches!
Acts opens with a small, discouraged community, who are waiting for something to happen.  And something surely did happen!  The church was born at that first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them accompanied by wind and fire.  Peter gives his first sermon, proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and demanding a response from those listening.
This early church devoted itself to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  The apostles then went out to heal and to teach, to witness to the power of Christ.  It isn't long before opposition starts to appear.  It isn't long either, before a leadership crisis arises.  These are brought together in the story of Stephen, the first martyr for Christ.

Proverbs 4 - 5

Chapter 4 starts by showing the search for wisdom as what a loving parent would do for their child.  Wisdom appears as a loving friend, to whom it is appropriate to offer devotion.  The second section is an urgent warning to get wisdom.
Chapter 5 is a warning against adultery, in which a life of fidelity is contrasted with its opposite.

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