My Two-Minute Summary of Today's Bible Reading

  

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September 1 (1 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)

We read Biblical evidence that death does not end the consciousness of the human mind. Ezekiel was able to look into hell and see how Egypt's slain enemies greeted Pharaoh with mockery over his new helpless condition. His shame was only consoled (briefly to be sure) by the realization that his failure to avoid that dreaded place was not his alone. God warned Ezekiel that the responsibility to WARN sinners was his and that the responsibility to RESPOND was theirs. God reiterated that He did not enjoy the death of the wicked that enter eternal hopelessness (without any hope of redemption). Jeremiah numbered the Babylonian exiles at four thousand six hundred (MacArthur suggested that he may have counted only the males). Psalm 137 is a precatory lament that many uninformed readers find offensive. * Finally, a list of genealogies is begun here. It may seem that it would have made better sense to place them before the dispersion, but the writer may have been trying to prepare the record for the exiles' eventual reorganization when they returned to Judah (S).

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* The Lord had already pronounced severe bloody judgment on al the Edomites for gloating gleefully over and contributing to Jerusalem's destruction. So the writer's hope for the violent death of Edomite babies is not merely simple revenge taken on a human level. See Isaiah 21:11-12; Jeremiah 49:7-12; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35:1-15; and Obadiah 11-14. A similar precatory statement was prophesied against Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, and Samaria. See 2 Kings 8:12; Isaiah 13:16; Hosea 13:16; and Nahum 3:10.

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September 2 (1 Chronicles)

We read a collection of genealogical lists that seem to be out-of-place when considering that the distinctly identified Twelve Tribes of Israel have been all but wiped out, blended with other people groups, or at best, exiled to distant locations. The scribe apparently composed these lists after the destruction so that when the diaspora returned, there would be some hope of reorganizing them. In addition, Dr. John MacArthur suggests that the purpose for the repeated genealogy may be to point to the high priesthood of the descendants of Zadok in the Millennial kingdom. Although it may appear that the ten northern tribes were never reorganized, some of their people had previously defected to the southern kingdom many generations earlier when Jeroboam first rose to power in 931 B.C., long before the Babylonian conquest so that when the exiles returned from there, it would be possible for the bloodlines of the northern kingdom to still be represented. *

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* In 6/8's reading we learned that the priests, Levites and common people from the northern tribes who wanted to sincerely worship the Lord correctly abandoned their land to return to Judah. (2 Chronicles 11:13-17).

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September 3 (1 Chronicles, Ezekiel, Daniel)

We begin by reading the genealogical records of the Tribe of Benjamin. Then we read the account of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about a vigorous tree that was the well-populated habitat of many creatures and the source of produce for the world's sustenance. Then the tree was cut off at the lower trunk and neglected for a long time. God gave Daniel the dream's interpretation with some good advice on how to possibly cause the outcome to be altered in his favor. But the king did not heed the warning and his prideful thoughts of self-glorification became the catalyst that enacted the dream's fulfillment. In the end the pagan king acknowledged God's sovereignty and worthiness of praise.

Next we read the account where the Lord took Ezekiel in a vision to the future earthly Millennial Temple to measure out what belonged to God so that he could encourage the exiles of the promised future restoration, victory over enemies, and prosperity for Israel.

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September 4 (Ezekiel)

We read more Temple building specifications. The structure and the residing glory of God are designed to sham sinners to repentance (seeing how much joy they have forfeited by rejecting Him), so that He can make them holy. Out of all the Levites, only the descendants of Zadok are permitted to approach the Lord to minister to Him. * "... the basic law of the Temple: absolute holiness." Even the clothes that the priests wore were so holy that they had to change into ordinary clothing before leaving the sanctuary and a wall separated the holy from the common. Ezekiel saw a vision of the glory of God returning to the Temple. He heard the sound of "the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with His glory" (Ezekiel 43:2). Just as the former sacrifices before Jesus' crucifixion were prospective (looking forward to the actual even that secured the believers' salvation), these sacrifices will be retrospective (looking back at the same event). MacArthur, 2005, p939).

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* After Phinehas stopped the plague of God's discipline (for the Israeli's sexual and idolatrous involvement with the Moabites) by executing Zimri and Cozbi, the Lord promised his descendants a permanent right to the priesthood (3/7's reading). For this act he was praised in Psalm 106 (7/9's reading). Samuel's first prophecy included a confirmation of the promise with a description of the priest's faithfulness (4/9's reading). This loyalty was proven to King David during Adonijah's attempt to assume the throne (5/5's reading). And now God is reserving an honored position to them in the Millennial Temple worship. "For his [Zadok] loyalty he retained his high and holy office till his death (1 Kings 2:26, 27)." Lockyer, 1958, p340.

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September 5 (Ezekiel)

We read the Lord's indictment against Israel for the priests' behavior within the Temple. It was the priests' and Levites' purpose to protect the Lord's worship. Yet they discounted God's holiness by hiring unapproved people to take charge of worship. Then again, God affirmed the descendants of Zadok for their demonstrated faithfulness while living among Israel's idolatrous apostasy.

We also learn more about the Millennial worship protocol in the Temple. The Sabbath observance, appointed annual feasts, and the "years of Jubilee" will be reinstated, the leaders will not oppress the people, the priests will only lead the people in holy worship, and the Lord's presence will never leave. And in contrast to the current corrupted earthly worship, the priests in the Millennial kingdom will enjoy the wealth of God's presence. However, sin will still exist as evidenced by the need for God to command that the leaders stop their corrupt behavior, demand honesty, and provide justice to the oppressed.

Finally, the "prince" mentioned is someone other than Jesus who will act as an administrator. He may be a descendant of David (MacArthur, 2005, pp940-943).

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September 6

We read descriptions of the geographical changes that will dramatically change the middle eastern landscape to enable the fulfillment of the prophesied abundant water teaming with fish, lush and fruitful vegetation, and the transformation of the Dead Sea during Christ's Millennial reign. The borders and the tribal divisions of the land was stipulated.  God reaffirmed Zadok's descendants as priests because of their demonstrated faithfulness to not go astray into idolatry with the rest of Israel.

Next, as prophesied, King Nebuchadnezzar's army worked for the Lord to wipe out the mainland city of Tyre yet they found no booty so they invaded Egypt and received all the wealth that he desired. Ezekiel prophesied a lament for the utter destruction of Egypt and her neighbors.

Finally, a new king took the Babylonian throne. He upgraded Judah's captive King Jehoiachin's living condition, from prison to the king's table. While this would certainly be a welcomed change he remained blind and childless (review 8/25's reading).

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September 7 (Daniel )

We read of some of the prophet Daniel's visions and the true account of "The Writing On The Wall." (I am always disappointed when adults (even Christian adults) relegate these accounts to just "nice children's stories." My opinion is that this reflects their low regard for the profoundness of all Scripture. These events were accurately recorded, from Genesis to The Revelation, primarily to glorify God by revealing His essence to humans in a practical manner that we can understand. Only true believers can worship Him and true believers that know Him most correctly will worship Him best. (See Hebrews 11:6.) Read these accounts with respect and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you through them. Do not put them on the same shelf as mythology, folklore, or farytales.

In the traditionally ordered Bible the historical events recorded in the book of Daniel are placed in chronological order (chapters 1-6) and the visions are in chronological order, but are separated from the historical narrative and placed in the second half of the book (chapters 7-12). However the visions actually occurred amongst the story time line. Vision 1 occurred during Belshazzar's first year of reign. Vision 2 occurred during his third year of reign. Vision 3 occurred during Darius' first year of reign. And vision 4 occurred during Cyrus' third year of reign. (See The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (A-D), 1962, P762.) *

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* 1. Daniel's vision of the four beasts corresponds with Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel chapter 2 (8/7's reading). The vision represented the rise and fall of Gentile nations until Christ's Millennial reign. (MacArthur, 2005, p957).

2. Interesting note: Here is the first time an angel's name is used in Scripture, when Gabriel explained the vision to Daniel (Daniel 8:16).

3. I find it amazing that Daniel survived two separate invasions whose armies slaughtered all the nobles and leaders yet spared him (Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Judah and Cyrus' conquest of Babylon).

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September 8 (2 Chronicles, Ezra, Daniel)

We read the account of Daniel's administrative peers, obviously being envious of his favor with King Cyrus, concocted a diabolical plan to possibly expose and defrock him. * However, frustrated by his ethical and moral excellence in governmental matters, had to resort to tricking King Darius into enacting a temporary law (designed to identify potential insurrectionists within the borders of the new government) to be applied technically against Daniel's religious devotion. ** Daniel survived his planned execution, but his accusers and their families subsequently did not.

Daniel, sensing the nearing end of the seventy years of Israel's banishment from Jerusalem, as prophesied by Jeremiah, prayed a noble prayer of personal and national confession requesting that Jerusalem be pitied and rebuilt. The angel Gabriel revisited him and prophesied about Israel's near and distant future.

Finally, today's reading ends with a genealogical record of Jehoiachin's cursed descendants (Jeremiah 22:30).

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* With Daniel's help, Cyrus legalized the Jews' return to Jerusalem for the rebuilding of the Temple. God stirred the heart of King Cyrus to return all the articles of silver and gold that Nebuchadnezzar took when he ransacked Jerusalem. God also stirred the hearts of the priests, Levites, and civic leaders to return to their homeland.

** There was no specific Mede named Darius recorded in history. So this may have been a title for Cyrus who reigned after Nebuchadnezzar or one of his appointed rulers.

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One statement that continues to grab my attention every time I read this passage is, "... the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, ..." Jesus' crucifixion appears to non-believers to have been a tragic disappointment and a waste of great potential, but to those who adhere to the Biblical worldview, it is the pinnacle expression of divine potential to create the only bridge for souls to escape this temporary and corrupt earth to be transported to the glorious and eternally pure heaven.

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September 9 (1 Chronicles, Ezra)

We read a list of Jewish exiles that returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the second Temple. As soon as they arrived, the family leaders gave money to fund the construction. After the people settled in their respective towns they built an altar and the priests began sacrificing right away. Then in the second year the people began to lay the foundation on the original site. When it was finished the youth cheered exuberantly to see the progress, but the elderly wept bitterly because they remembered the grandeur of Solomon's design. The mixture of celebration and mourning was so loud that the noise was heard from afar. Displaced foreign survivors of Assyrian captivity that now lived there asked to be included in the construction crew. When the leaders responded to the contrary, they began a long campaign to stop the rebuilding project. In the physical realm it was probably out of fear that the true Israelites would use their racial and religious identity to eventually subjugate them to living as a lower social class status. In the spiritual realm it was certainly another one of Satan's attempt to thwart the fulfillment of God's prophetic plan.

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September 10 (Ezra, Daniel, Haggai)

We read of the angel's revelation to Daniel about the near and distant conflicts that will (did) occur. Dr. John MacArthur points out that "The details of this history is so minute and accurate, so confirmed by history, that unbelieving critics have, without evidence, insisted that it was actually written four hundred years later than Daniel; ..." * I am not an authority on the subject, but I would like to point out that:

1. Like the Apostle Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Daniel's companions did not see the vision, but did hide in fear,

2. The "wise" will be cleansed and refined through persecution and martyrdom,

3. At the time of history's greatest anguish God will rescue the saved,

4. Daniel was promised a glorious resurrection,

5. The people missed out on God's blessing because they were more interested in building their own homes than they were in building the Temple, and finally,

6. When the people began to obey, God enabled them with enthusiasm.

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* MacArthur, 2005, 964

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September 11 (Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah)

We read the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah about the reestablishment of the Temple in Jerusalem as the recognized location of the Lord's presence. God assured the people that He is for them and with them. They still have unconfessed sins and are in need of purging (especially of their newly acquired sin of loving luxury, that they developed while living in Babylon). Also they continued to struggle with syncretism (to act holy at the Temple, but act unholy everywhere else). The lamps represent the eyes of the Lord from which nothing can be hidden. Finally, the reading ended with God's curse on willful sinners, the foretelling of the setup of the final evil system of power and commerce (the Babylon of Revelation) that will be destroyed at Jesus' second coming (MacArthur, 2005, p1059-60).

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September 12 (Ezra, Zechariah)

We read about Zechariah's prophecies of how God will deal with the pagan nations before the arrival of the Messianic Kingdom. The crowning of the "Branch" is a symbol of the future kingship of Jesus. Persian governor Tattenai challenged the Jewish rebuilding of the Temple by "telling on them" to King Darius. He did some research and concluded that the work was indeed sanctioned by King Cyrus. Darius in an apparent attempt to appease all the "gods" of the nations that the Babylonians conquered, decreed that Tattenai not oppose building and in addition to use the taxes he collected to pay the full cost of the construction.

The question arose in Judah about whether or not the Jews should continue to fast and mourn over the destruction of the old Temple. God replied that He never called for that fast and that He would rather that the people obey His Laws of justice, mercy, love, and truth instead. Compare this message with Deuteronomy 10:12 (3/15's reading) and Micah 6:8 (7/20's reading).

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September 13 (Zechariah)

We read about God's judgment against Israel's enemies. The inhabitants of the Island city of Tyre (who had fled the destruction of their mainland city by Nebuchadnezzar) thought that their fortress was impenetrable because it was only accessible by boat and its walls were up to one hundred fifty feet tall in some places. Assyria besieged it for five years and Babylon tried for thirteen years, and both failed. But then Alexander the Great destroyed it in seven months by taking all the rubble of the mainland to create a half-mile long land-bridge out to it. In the path of all his destruction, Alexander the Great did not molest Israel because God promised to protect her.

Zechariah prophesied that God would separate the good and evil shepherds of His people. There are many detailed prophesies that Jesus fulfilled (including His crucifixion and the cheap price of His betrayal). God will alter the geography of the land so that His people will not be hindered by anything from coming to live in His Millennial Kingdom. An east to west valley will be formed by the mountains moving northward and southward, allowing for water to flow out of Jerusalem in two directions; one towards the Dead Sea and the other towards the Mediterranean sea.

Finally, there will be only one religion in the world during the Millennium.

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September 14 (Ezra, Esther)

We read that the Jews celebrated their first Passover in the new (second) Temple. Next, began the historical account of the Jewess Esther. For her beauty and grace, Esther was chosen to replace the disposed proud Queen Vashti. Because Mordecai stayed close to the harem out of his patriarchal love for Esther, he was able to learn of and thwart an assassination plot which was developing within the king's own guards. Meanwhile, the king promoted Haman as the most powerful official under himself, yet Mordecai refused to bow to him because of his Jewish faith. Haman's resentment is understandable, but his desire to wipe out all the Jews was more diabolical than just simple revenge on one man. Mordecai mourned and fasted, despite Esther's encouragements. He communicated to her that even she would not be spared from Haman's plan and that she should consider that she was given this unique position for a heroic reason for "such a time as this."

While the book makes no overt mention of God or His Law, there is an underlying understanding that God is in control of the affairs of all (especially the Jewish) people. Esther made a decision to approach the king without an invitation, a choice that could be her last if he does not hold out his scepter to her.

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September 15 (Esther)

We read "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would say, about the turn of events that were planned for the destruction of the Jews. Haman's pride led him to his own destruction and that of his ten sons. Certainly, he was unaware of the powerful result of the Jews' petitioning God with "prayer and fasting." On the third day of the fast, Esther arranged a lunch date with the king and Haman. After the exhilarating event Haman who should have been elated rather went home sulking because one poor old man would not bow in trembling fear of him as he walked by. His family suggested that Haman impale Mordecai on a tall pole. Then Haman returned to the palace for another lunch date with the royal couple, but this time Queen Esther proved her persuasive effectiveness by exposing Haman's evil plot against her innocent people. The king in his rage ordered Haman's execution on the very poles he erected for Mordecai. Then King Xerxes added a new law allowing the Jews to defend themselves against Haman's planned genocide. Mordecai was exalted to prime minister and the Jews were able to destroy their attacking enemies. The victory is celebrated annually through the festival of Purim. *

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* It is "The first and last Biblically revealed, non-Mosaic festival with perpetual significance." (MacArthur, 2005, p561).

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September 16 (Ezra) 

We read that a renewed attack on the rebuilding of Jerusalem was initiated by three enemies who wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes of Persia to remind him that the Jews had a history of rebellion against all their oppressors with the intent on forcing them to stop working. He investigated the report, agreed, and wrote that the work should cease forever, until he changed his mind.

Then many years later Ezra came on the scene with King Artaxerxes' approval, financial support, and legal authority to finish the work. He even said that anyone who refused to obey the Laws of "the God of heaven" would suffer death, banishment, or loss of property. Ezra was a gifted administrator and organizer. He gathered the priests and found that there were no Levites. He asked the leaders to send some and so they did. With God's protection Ezra's entourage of workers and all their money arrived safely from Babylon to Jerusalem to resume the rebuilding of the city. Ezra was careful to give God the credit for His hand of protection.

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September 17 (coming soon)

We read the account of Ezra's priestly prayer of confession and grief over the marital apostasy of Israel's leaders in particular and common people in general. Although he was righteous, he identified himself with the sins of the nation. The purging of pagan wives took three or four months to investigate each Israelite husband. Each man had to choose either to divorce his pagan wife and send them away with their children or be ostracized from the blessings of Israeli membership. *

Provisions had long been in the Law for Gentiles to convert to Judaism. However, there was always a stricter code of ethics imposed on the priests and Levites who served in the Lord's Temple. In the list of the guilty, I found it interestingly humorous that it states, "This is the [Levite] singer who was guilty; Eliashib."

Nehemiah then petitioned the Babylonian king for permission to travel to Jerusalem to supervise the rebuilding of the wall. His wish was granted along with a generous support of resources from the king. Upon arrival, Nehemiah secretly inspected the wall. The next day when he revealed his intention to rebuild the wall, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab opposed him. Nehemiah retorted in condemnation that they had no share, legal right, or historic claim to Jerusalem.

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* The problem with interracial relationships was primarily about religion, not race. Even in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote that believers should not marry non-believers. These verses do not reinforce contemporary condemnation of interracial marriages. (See: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp?file=39914))

"The presence of children in some families made the separations more complicated. For the moment the nation was purified, though the sin returned 12 years later (Neh. 10:30), and again 30 years later (Neh. 13:23). (Ryrie, 1978, p709).

"Ezra 10:44 An appropriate provision was doubtless made for the divorced wives and the children." (MacArthur, 2005, p532).

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September 18 (Nehemiah)

We read about Nehemiah's leadership in the rebuilding of the walls in the face of the surrounding non-Israelite enemies, Noadiah (a Jewish false prophetess), and the rich traitors of Israelite nobility from within the city that swore an allegiance to these opposers and who also oppressed their own people with high interest loans and slavery. Nehemiah stationed soldiers around the construction site, but this diminished their progress because in addition to carrying the wall-building tools, and doing the work, the men and women also had to carry around a weapon. Yes ladies built too - (Nehemiah 3:12). However, the resistance, threats, gossip, and mocking quickly fostered a united enthusiasm for completing the work. Despite all the antagonism, they completed the wall in a record fifty-two days, which attests to the blessing of God's provision.

Finally, there is a translation mistake in the NLT: verse three should read, "Only have the gates open during the heat of the day." The reasoning for closing the gates from dusk to dawn was to keep the enemies from coming in at a time when the people were not in the best position to defend the city. Nehemiah also had to correct the oppression of the poor by the rich. He shook his robe as an example of how God was going to shake them from their homes and land if they did not comply with God's Law concerning the treatment of fellow Israelites.

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September 19 (Nehemiah)

We read how Nehemiah registered the people that returned from Babylon and found that there were some that had lost their genealogical records and so were forbidden from serving in the Temple. He recorded that a total of 42, 360 exiles from Babylon had returned to Jerusalem. This number did not include their servants and singers (or animals). A collection was also taken for the construction projects. After the people had settled down in their respective towns they asked Ezra to read the Book of the Law. He willingly complied and added explanations and interpretations. The people stood in respect when Ezra opened the Book of the Law. He read it for the entire morning. The people responded with repentant weeping. Nehemiah reminded them that "yes" they should be mournful for their sins, but that now they should celebrate because they have been forgiven and blessed by God. A popularly quoted verse is found in today's reading: "... for the joy of the Lord is your strength!" (Nehemiah 8:10 -NLT).

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September 20 (Nehemiah)

We learn the event of the people's ignorance of the Law that they were supposed to be teaching to the rest of the people in the world. They read it closely and learned that they were supposed to be celebrating the "Feast of Shelters" annually. Nehemiah stated that, "The Israelites had not celebrated like this since the days of Joshua..." ( I do not doubt that, but I wonder how he knew it.)

The people stood for three hours while Ezra read the Law aloud. Then they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord for another three hours. Then a prayer was recorded that surveyed the historical evidence of the goodness of God to the Israelites. There was another purging of those who married pagan wives. The people swore a curse on themselves if they disobeyed the Law and promised to maintain the Temple. Dr. John MacArthur pointed out the interesting fact that Ezra's name was missing on the ratification of the promise. (Maybe he figured, "Why should I sign it? I have been faithful to the first one." It is probably not significant, but it is interesting.)

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September 21 (1 Chronicles, Nehemiah)

We read a list of the people who were chosen or volunteered to relocate to occupy Jerusalem from the surrounding areas. The priests, Levites, gatekeepers, and Temple guards were assigned their duties. According to God's plan there was to be twenty-four sets of priests and Levites that were to rotate in their duties every two weeks for a month biannually, but now the numbers were too low and two family sets appear to have been lost. An interesting note: "The musicians, all prominent Levites, lived at the Temple. They were exempt from other responsibilities since they were on duty at all hours." (1 Chronicles 9:33 -NLT). There is a description of antiphonal singing (where the choir is divided and placed on opposite sides of any given room where they sing in a "call-and-response" manner).

Phinehas, who became famous (in 3/7's reading) when he stopped the plague by executing two rebels that shamelessly sinned right in front of Moses, was mentioned again today because as God had promised, his descendants would have a permanent right to serve Him forever.

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September 22 (Nehemiah, Malachi)

We read how Nehemiah and Ezra led the people to celebrate over the completion of the Jerusalem wall. They invited choirs of Levites from all across the land to bring their cymbals, harps, and lyres to play and sing loudly. A priest also played a trumpet. Most likely the sound would not be one to which contemporary westerners would enjoy. The indigenous music of every culture is derived from the sound of their spoken language. The Hebrew language is not categorized as one of the "romance" languages for a good reason, (English is not, as well) and the instrumentation is not one that composers in the western culture would typically find attractive. However, in Scripture only the lyrics and (occasionally) the instrumentation was recorded. It is my opinion that the reason is that God is not particularly interested in the sound. Rather, His desire is that the lyrical content reflects a heart of authentic worship.

Nehemiah then went back to Babylon for many years. When he returned to Jerusalem he was disappointed to find that the Temple had again been neglected and again the people had been marrying pagan wives. Nehemiah worked hard again to purge the culture. Malachi's prophesies work in tandem with Nehemiah's confrontation with the corrupt worship that had been allowed to return to the Temple.

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Dr. John MacArthur says that Nehemiah chapter 13 was the last of the Old Testament Scriptures to be written. (MacArthur, 2005, p551).

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September 23 (Joel, Malachi)

We continue reading Malachi's charge against the Jewish worshipers that only offered God what was left over or useless. God's intention was to bless His people, but they dishonored Him by their lack of reverence for His Law. He hates divorce. He loves families that rear up godly children. God said, "I am the Lord, and I do not change." God charged them with lies, greed, oppression, misrepresenting His character, and cheating Him out of His tithes and offerings. The people called for "The God of Justice," but they did not know for what they were asking. God replied that a "Messenger" is coming (whom contemporary Christians recognize as Jesus), who will purge hearts and His worship like a refiner of precious metals. God has written down the names of those who spoke reverently of Him in the everyday conversations and will reward them accordingly. Next, we read the prophecy of Joel who declared that the "day of the Lord" is coming ad that it will be a dreadful event for all but the most obedient. He called for al to return with broken hearts because He is eager to forgive. This is from where the phrase about God "... restoring what the locusts have eaten... " came (Joel 2:25). And "Everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved." (Joel 2:32).

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September 24 (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

Yesterday's reading ended with God saying, "I will pardon My people's crimes, which I have not yet pardoned; and I, the Lord will make My home in Jerusalem with My people." Today's reading picks up after four hundred years of silence. This period between the Old Testament and the New Testament is called the Intertestamental Period. This is where the apocryphal books are placed in the Catholic Bible. Mainstream Christianity reject that the apocryphal are trustworthy so they were not included in the cannon of Scripture.

Today we read the beginning of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus' birth. Matthew, whose target audience was the Jews that were looking for the prophesied king from the line of David, listed Jesus' royal lineage. Luke, an educated physician whose target audience was the Gentiles, used Jesus' lineage through Mary, although he substituted all the women's names with their husband's name.

An angel foretold John the Baptizer's birth to his elderly parents. (The father doubted and was made mute until the boy's birth. Then the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear God's Son, Jesus. She was curious, but believing. Finally, the angel announced to Mary that, "... nothing is impossible with God."

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September 25 (Matthew, Luke)

We read the account of Mary visiting her elderly relative Elizabeth who had recently become pregnant. She was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary greeter her, and the baby in her womb jumped. Mary let out a song of praise that is chock full of solid theology. Then when the baby was born Elizabeth's husband, Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, regained his speech after naming the baby, "John" on a tablet. All who heard about it wondered about the child's future. Zechariah made an interesting statement when he said, "... He has sent us a mighty Savior... [and] ... the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us. (Luke 1:69, 78b). Since Jesus was conceived, but not yet born Zechariah's faith must have improved during his wife's pregnancy. In addition, Dr. John MacArthur noted that everyone in the book of Luke who was "filled with the Holy Spirit" responded in "Spirit-directed worship." An angel encouraged Joseph in a dream to marry Mary. The very night that Jesus was born, shepherds showed up announcing that an angel sent them. Eight days later Simon and Anna prophesied over Jesus and Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Mary was a deep thinker.

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September 26 (Matthew, Mark, Luke)

We read the account of the visitation of the toddler-king Jesus by the "Wise Men" that had followed a star that led them westward. After visiting the Edomite descendant, King Herod the star moved south, proving that it was no ordinary star. King Herod's extreme paranoia motivated him to order the deaths of all the children in and around Bethlehem that were around two years old and younger, in a failed attempt to thwart the prophesy even though it was no threat to his throne.

Joseph and Mary immediately  fled in time to Egypt (obviously without having the opportunity to warn their neighbors). Then when the threat was gone they returned later to Judah to live in Nazareth. Jesus' parents accidentally abandoned Him in the Temple, who found Him on the third day of searching. He seemed surprised that they did not expect that He would be there the whole time.

John the Baptizer began his ministry of preaching the need for sinners to repent and be baptized to demonstrate their trust in God's forgiveness. He also called for an expression of their faith by exercising righteous living.

Finally, John baptized Jesus reluctantly. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in a physical form. In this historical event the people observed the Holy Trinity. Jesus was obviously in the river, the bodily form of the Holy Spirit settled on Him, and God audibly affirmed Jesus.

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September 9/27 (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

We read how after He was baptized Jesus was led into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. In each challenge He won the victory by effectively quoting Scripture that corrected the devil's trickery.

Meanwhile, John the Baptizer had curious religious leaders challenge him to identify his intentions, since he was acting so peculiarly and so many people were flocking to him. He testified that he was only the announcer of a greater man to be revealed. Then two of his disciples defected to Jesus when John identified Him as the Savior of the world.

Andrew invited Peter and Philip invited Nathaniel to join the group. Jesus identified Himself as "... the One who is the stairway between heaven and earth" (John 1:51). Jesus performed His first public miracle at the wedding in Cana by turning the water into wine.

Finally, Jesus was perturbed at the condition of the Temple with so many there to make a profit over the need and convenience of the people who were trying to worship God as prescribed, with animal sacrifices. He turned the whole place into a whirlwind of confusion and disturbance as He spilled the merchant's money and released the animals. The leaders demanded an explanation and His response was a prophecy about His resurrection. They did not understand His answer.

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September 28 (Luke, John)

We read of Jesus' conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. This interaction produced for us (probably) the most famous New Testament verse: John 3:16. In addition, I believe it gave us a verse to stop the nonproductive argument between the Calvinists and the Armenians, (the sovereignty of God in tension with the freewill of man) See: John 3:8, "... so you can not explain how people are born of the Spirit." Also, Jesus made another claim, such as the one where he said, "No man comes to the Father, but by Me" in John 3:13. "No one has ever gone to heaven and returned, but the Son of Man has come down from heaven." No other religion can make such a claim. John the Baptizer exalted Jesus by admitting that Jesus' fame must grow and John's must diminish. Following this, Jesus had an encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well where He revealed that He was the Messiah, and that the Father was searching for worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. Finally, John was imprisoned for criticizing Herod's adulterous marriage.

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September 29 (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

We read about the beginning of Jesus' ministry at the age  of about thirty, right after John the Baptizer was arrested. Jesus healed the official's son even though the boy was miles away. He read the Scriptures in a Nazareth synagogue. At first the people were amazed out how well He spoke, but instead of basking in the peoples admiration, He chose instead to prick their hearts for salvation. Following this, their admiration turned into nationalistic anger to the extent of trying to kill Him.

Next, Jesus began gathering disciples from the fishing community and He cast out many demons. He healed many sick people including Peter's mother-in-law. Jesus got up before sunrise to pray and to preach in many other towns. The crowds had a hard time keeping up with Him. Obviously, He was more concerned with fulfilling His mission than in relishing in all His popularity.

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September 30 (Matthew, Mark, Luke)

We read that the crowds pressed in on Jesus so overwhelmingly that He could only hold them back by going off shore in Peter's boat. After He finished, He told Peter to fish. Peter resisted, but was amazed when he caught so many fish that they nearly sank the boat. He probably recalled that Jesus had said earlier, "I will make you a fisher of men." Peter mourned his sinful condition. Jesus healed the leprous man, but instead of going quietly to the priests as Jesus had instructed him, he announced his healing to everyone and attracted more people to Jesus.

Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray. Jesus healed the paralyzed man that was lowered through the roof of the home where he was staying.

The Pharisees were offended that Jesus assumed the position of God by forgiving the man's sins. Jesus mocked their lazy and unmerciful attitudes and proved that He had the authority to do so  by healing the man. Jesus called Levi (Matthew ) the tax collector and ate at his home. The Pharisees called tax collectors, "scum." Jesus said that it was these types of people that God came to save. Jesus' disciples were challenged for not fasting. Jesus implied that the New Covenant could not be mixed with Mosaic Laws and rituals, but that a time would come (persecution and martyrdom) when they would fast, but not for the same reason.

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"It's not the amount of Bible you read, it's the amount of Bible you believe." -Carlos A. Rodriguez

September