Saturday, May 02, 2009

For Sunday May 3: 1 Sam 1-5, Acts 14-15

I Samuel 1-5

This is the story of the birth of Samuel (ch 1), in a sense both the last judge and the first prophet (see 3:20), the demise of the house of Eli, and the expansion of the Philistine problem for Israel. It is the period when the glory has departed (4:22). It is a difficult time for Israel, for they are being made to pay the piper for their disobedience and faithlessness. Samuel is one of the great men in the Scriptures, but he cannot fix Israel by himself. But in spite of all that bad news, God is at work behind the scenes, providing godly leadership for his people, and shaming the gods of the nations. A good way to read the Books of Samuel is to keep Hannah's Song (2:1-10) in mind as you read, seeing how God works out what is expressed in that song.

Acts 14-15

Chapter 14 is the account of the last part of Paul's first missionary journey, which began at the beginning of ch 13. It makes clear that the faithful preaching of the gospel will produce conflict. The gospel is the aroma of life to those who believe (2 Cor 2:16), but the aroma of death to those who do not. The latter resent the stink of death being waved in their faces. Any "gospel" proclamation that does not provoke opposition to the message preached is no gospel proclamation. Chapter 15 is the account of the Jerusalem council. For those of us who grew up in a largely Gentile church, the offense of the gospel to Jews may seem odd. But as most of the first believers were Jews, there quickly arose the questions: what are we to do with our Jewishness? and what about the Gentiles? Is this a Jewish sect that Gentiles must become Jews to join, or is it something new? Further, these questions have serious theological ramifications, therefore it was necessary for the council to decide the issues at once. However, once the council has spoken, the issues don't disappear overnight, and they must then be worked through in the course of the ministry of the church.

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