Week 27

26 November - 2 December

Psalms 123 - 131, Nehemiah,  1, 2 and 3 John, Proverbs 29

26 November
Nehemiah 1 - 31 John 1
27 November
Nehemiah 4 - 51 John 2
28 November
Nehemiah 6 - 71 John 3
29 November
Nehemiah 8 - 91 John 429.1-14
30 November
Nehemiah 10 - 111 John 529.15-end
1 December
Ps 130 - 131Nehemiah 122 John
2 December
Nehemiah 133 John


These are all songs of ascent, sung by pilgrims ascending to the temple.
Psalm 123 is the fourth in the sequence.  In this psalm, the pilgrim speaks directly to God, affirming trust in him and praying for help in a time of trouble.
Psalm 124 remembers times past when God has come to the aid of the pilgrims, and without that help, they would not have survived.
Psalm 125 speaks of Jerusalem, both the physical end-point of the pilgrims' journey and a symbol for God's way.
Psalm 126 provides words for the pilgrims to remember the restoration of Zion, and to seek renewal as God's people.
Psalm 127 is a collection of sayings to teach the pilgrims how dependent they (and we) are on God, a good reason to give thanks.
Psalm 128 follows on, focusing on the blessing of fruitful work and family.
Psalm 129 reminds the pilgrims of past perils through which God has kept them, and ends with a prayer for victory for his reign.
Psalm 130 is one of the most beautiful and well known in the psalter.  It is often known from the Latin version of the opening words - De Profundis, meaning 'out of the depths'.  It has been used as a penitential psalm by the church throughout the centuries, and is a short but profound commentary on our situation in relation to God.  Believing that God is only interested in catching us out in our sins is completely wrong, for he is a God of steadfast love, whose work is to redeem his creation.
Psalm 131 is a song of confidence in God, following on from Psalm 130.
Psalm 132 is different from the other songs of ascent, both by being longer, and by its focus on David as well as Jerusalem/Zion.  It balances what David did for the Lord against what the Lord did and will do for David.


Nehemiah is a continuation of the book of Ezra.  Together they tell the story of Zerubbabel, who led the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1 - 6), Ezra, who reinstituted the law (Ezra 7 - 10), and Nehemiah, who organised the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh 1.1-7.3).  There was opposition to all of them, but they successfully completed their projects, which was marked by a great assembly of all the people.
The major theme of Ezra through to Nehemiah 7.3 is of return and reconstruction, emphasising continuity with the past, and in particular the exodus.  The major theme of the rest of Nehemiah is renewal and reform, both most necessary if the community is to flourish in the future.  But the final chapters emphasise the need for continuing commitment to God in a life of faith.
The narrative in these two books shows how Israel used its stories to address current problems, and to continue to understand the exile.  Were they still the chosen people, or had God abandoned them?  Were Babylon's gods stronger than the God of Israel?  Would God deliver them in the future?  Would he remember the promises to Abraham and David?  There is hope that God will be there for them in the future, that he will remember his promises, even though the exile was fully merited.

1, 2 and 3 John

These three short books are known as the Johannine epistles.  They deal with specific problems in the emerging church of the late 1st century.  Theologically, they share much with John's gospel, particularly the themes of life and light, and Christ's saving work, with the central doctrines of sin, faith, forgiveness and love standing out in these letters.  The author also emphasises the reality of Jesus' humanity, the incarnation which we shall soon celebrate again.
They come from the same circle of Christians as the gospel, and share similarities with the Revelation.  It is debated whether the same person wrote the gospel and the three letters, but it is as certain as we can be that the Revelation was written by someone else.
Reading these letters is a bit like hearing one side of a long phone conversation - we don't know what the problems or who the opponents were that they deal with.  We can deduce that the opponents were considered to be wrong in their doctrine, and that their moral stance was deficient.  They are identified with the Antichrist(s), who will appear in the last days, possibly because the community found itself totally divided.

Proverbs 29

Many themes from earlier chapters reappear in chapter 29, especially justice and mercy, which are the basis of wisdom, as is discipline and wise training.  The only proper fear is the fear of the Lord.

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