Friday, May 17, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 137

The scriptures read are 2 Kings 25, Psalm 114 and Romans 1.

2 Kings 25. The ignominious end of the temple in Jerusalem. Zedekiah revolts against Babylon only to be holed up as Nebuchadnezzar besieges the city. When Zedekiah and his army sneak out, they are caught. Zedekiah sons are killed before his eyes, which are then gouged out. A mere deputy is sent to loot the temple, break up its pillars, the bronze sea and all the things Solomon had crafted which we read described so lovingly in 1 Kings. Then he burns the temple, the palace and has the walls pulled down so she can never be properly defended. They take more people to Babylon--and kill them. A puppet is set up but he is assassinated. To this day, Jews remember the destruction of the temple on Tisha B'av. It also commemorates the Second Temple's destruction by the Romans. Observant Jews fast for 25 hours and read Lamentations.

Psalm 114. Nature reacts to God and the Exodus of his people from Egypt into the Promised Land.

Romans 1. We just read about Paul making it to Rome. Here's the letter he wrote, just before his trip to Jerusalem. Anticipating a more pleasant trip than he got, he wrote this to introduce himself and his theology to a thriving church he had never actually visited, though he has lots of friends from there. We'll meet them in the last chapter but 2 give us insight into the way this letter is written. Aquila and Pricilla were Jewish believers in Jesus from Rome. When the Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from the city, it probably split the church in Rome. Gentile believers worshiped apart from Jewish believers. Aquila and Pricilla (Acts 18:1-3) end up in Corinth where they meet Paul. (Corinth is also the probable location from which he wrote this letter.) We know from this letter they are back in Rome. (Claudius is dead and Jews are allowed to return.) The recombined church's natural tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians has become exacerbated. Paul probably knows this from Pricilla and Aquila. And he's dealt with such divisions before, because it is he who has been called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. So how is Paul to preach the gospel to 2 different audiences and at the same time encourage them to Christian unity, a major theme in all his letters? He shows that they are all in the same boat, all equally in need of salvation through Christ. So he will throughout the letter switch from addressing Jews to Gentiles and back.

The key verses, his topic sentence one might say, are Romans 1:16-17.

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