Prayer Psalm: 62
Prayer Point: Before you start your day and enter this broken world full of problems, center yourself on God. Meditate on the opening words of Psalm 62, “My soul finds rest in God alone … he is my fortress and I will never be shaken.” Pray that these words will stay with you throughout the day, so that you will be able to stand when trouble comes.
In yesterday’s post (Matthew 27:24-31) drawing on material from Shane Claiborne’s book, Jesus for President, we saw that the Roman soldiers’ patterned the execution of Jesus after the coronations of the Caesars to humiliate the one who claimed to be King. These parallels continue in today’s reading.
After the Caesar had been arrayed with a crown, a scepter and a purple robe, he took part in a procession through the city followed by a bull that was to be sacrificed and a slave carrying an ax, the instrument of the sacrifice. The procession wound it way to the Capitoline Hill, the highest hill in Rome.
Jesus, “the Caesar,” is paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. There is no bull in this procession, so who or what is the sacrifice? What is the instrument of the sacrament? Notice who carries the cross.
Upon reaching the Capitoline Hill, the priest offered the Caesar wine mixed with myrrh. Following tradition he initially accepted it only to refuse it and hand it back to the priest. The priest then poured the wine on the bull and sacrificed it.
Notice what Jesus does with the wine mixed with myrrh. Who gets sacrificed? Notice how the Romans sarcastically proclaim him. The prophet Isaiah wrote about this centuries before:
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
What Rome did not understand was that they were sacrificing the Great King, who was dying for the sins of his people. Unlike the Caesar, it was not a bull that died, but God himself. In our world, kings become king by killing the old king. But Jesus declared that his kingdom is not of this world. He becomes the exalted king by laying down his life.
The Caesar ascended the throne with his second in command on his right and his third in command on his left as the final act of his coronation. Who are the 2nd and 3rd in command during Jesus’ crucifixion?
The insults come not only from the Romans, but from the Jews as well. In what ways do the chief priests mock Jesus? Compare what they say to Psalm 22:6-8, a psalm that speaks prophetically of the death of Jesus.
What sorts of people does Paul want the Roman Christians to watch out for and why?
What hope does Paul offer to the church despite the opposition they will face?
What do you notice about the way the letter was constructed as the writer signs off? Does Paul work alone? What do you notice about the network of people around Paul?
Paul’s letter to the Romans closes with praise. What is about God the Father that causes Paul to worship him and have full confidence that he will preserve his brothers and sisters living in Rome?
Joshua 2:1-23 – “Then Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord”
Unfortunately doing evil in the eyes of the LORD will be a recurring theme throughout this book. Forewarned is forearmed. The sad truth is that things are not all that much better today if at all. Today we are doing evil in the eyes of the LORD and I don’t think we believe God is watching.
What happened to the generation that had succeeded Joshua and his bunch? (Once Joshua had died and all those of his generation, the next generation “grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10 NIV))
How was it that the generation after Joshua neither knew the LORD nor what he had done? (The problem then is the same one we have today. The law was not taught nor impressed upon the young people. We will encounter this condition from this point onward. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV) This admonition will continue to prove itself true even long after the resurrection of Jesus. How would you rate yourself in transmitting the gospel to your children or to those who are committed to your charge? I will quote these verses every time this forgetfulness shows itself.)
How does this ignorance of the LORD manifest itself among the people? (“They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the people around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.)
What does the LORD do as a result of this apostasy? (“In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around whom they were no longer able to resist.” (Judges 2:14 NIV))
How does the LORD save them out of the hands of these raiders? (“Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” (Judges 2:16 NIV))
And the response of Israel was? (“Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands.” (Judges 2:17 NIV) And this was just the beginning…)
Why would the Lord raise up judges for Israel? (“… for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” (Judges 2:18) Sound familiar? This was the same thing the people had done in Egypt as they groaned under their taskmasters.)
Remember: when the cat’s away the mice will play. How does this description figure in this passage? (“But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” (Judges 2:19 NIV) All too often we today think we have come so far. I don’t think the demands made on the ancient Israelites are any less than those we should aspire to today. (Holiness) How are we different than the ancient Israelites? How are we the same?)
What does the LORD resolve to do for Israel because of their stubbornness? (“Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” (Judges 2:20b-22 NIV) I get the impression that the people thought that the LORD “didn’t mean it!” I wonder if we don’t think the same thing at times.)
So the LORD had allowed those nations to remain.