Read THE Book 2019

Welcome to RTB 2019, a place to read through the Bible in the year 2019 and stay in contact with others who are doing the same thing and have a little hand-holding as you go. Want to jump right in? You can click on the “Read THE Book 2019” tab above to find the most current weekly notes.

Some of my local friends know that I’ve been teaching through the Bible chronologically for many years. My goal was to help you sort out all that confusing timeline stuff so that when you read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, you have an understanding of where you are, when you are, and what was going on in the world at that time.

In 2017 I decided to do a trial run of a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year discussion group that met every week to discuss what we read as we followed a reading schedule using the traditional book by book order. Have I mentioned that “book by book order” does not flow chronologically? Nope – the books are grouped into sections, but they don’t always flow in the order that the events happened. So to help us along, I wrote a weekly reading guide with three sections: What’s Going On? When and Where Are We? And Who’s Who? This was a one page handout that gave you just a little head’s up about things I thought you might want to know at the beginning of each week’s assigned reading to help you keep your bearings. The trial run turned out to be a success for those who finished.

I have decided to go ahead and make those weekly notes available here on the website so that anyone can read along at their own pace. If you missed the January 1st start date, the notes are designed so that you can start at week 1 any time of year and begin your own journey to Read THE Book. Feel free to contact me and let me know how I can help get you started. It doesn’t matter to me how you use this information as long as it does what I always imagined it might do. If it helps you to Read THE Book, then I’m happy to know I’ve made it a little easier.

Want to be part of the local discussion group? There are two groups to choose from. One will meet in Scottsboro, AL at the First Methodist Church on Sunday nights at 5:00 PM. Another group meets at Jamoka’s Coffee shop in Guntersville, AL Mondays at noon.

And of course, I’ll be having several workshops throughout the year that give the overview of the whole Bible, known as “THE Bible Story.” I encourage anyone local to try to come to this workshop as it will really help you get all the chronology sorted out. You’ll even make your own timeline showing the major people and events from Genesis to Revelation and that will come in handy as you are reading. If you want to host a workshop at your church, just let me know

It is my prayer that anyone who is thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution to read through the Bible in 2019 will join with me and let’s make a commitment to each other to do it together! It seems like everything is just a little easier when you have friends who can share the same experience with you. The reading schedule will begin on January 1, 2019 and I’ll have all the information you need well before that, so keep checking back as I post new information here.

Let’s Do This!

Daily Reading Schedule [Word][PDF]
One-Sheet Schedule Overview [Word][PDF]

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Group Guidelines & Reading Schedule

Daily Reading Schedule [Word] [PDF]
One-Sheet Schedule Overview [Word] [PDF]

  • You may use any Bible translation that you are comfortable with.
  • I have scheduled readings for Monday through Saturday with an average of about five chapters a day. Take Sunday off, use that day to catch up, or read some Psalms.
  • Each Sunday I will post notes about what you will be reading the next week. These notes will have three sections: What’s Going On, When and Where Are We, and Who’s Who. These notes are designed to guide you as you read through the Bible and my way of pointing out some things I wish someone had told me the first time I read through the Bible. For example, there are places the books don’t go in chronological order and there are times that when you begin a new book things have changed significantly in the world. I’ll try to help you keep it all straight.
  • You can Subscribe to the blog so that you will get an email notification when a new blog is posted by adding your email on the right side of the screen and hit “Subscribe”
  • I will be leading local discussion groups and encourage you to attend if you can. Or form your own discussion group with friends where you can share your a-ha moments, questions, and reflections with each other. If you are flying solo, please stay connected by following along on the website and use the comments section if you want to ask questions or share your own thoughts. One big advantage to this format is anyone can begin their reading journey at any point in the year and follow along at their own pace.
  • If you are part of the discussion group and you get behind or take time off for vacation, illness, or unexpected what-not, I suggest you rejoin the group when you are able and pick up with where the group is reading. You might miss stuff. That’s ok! Read the notes from the weeks you missed and don’t try to catch up. The goal is to stay with the group so that you can be current on discussions. You can read what you missed later.
  • I have decided not to include the Psalms in our reading schedule. Suggestions for how you might read through them:
    • Read one Psalm every day. There are 150 so you will read each one at least twice
    • Read 3-5 Psalms every Sunday
    • Wait until December (we finish our plan on Nov 30th) and then read all of the Psalms by reading five or six Psalms each day of December
    • Work your way through the book of Psalms any way that works for you
    • I don’t normally recommend the King James Version for daily reading. But the Psalms are at their most beautiful in the KJV. Consider reading them in several different translations
  • Consider keeping a journal as you read through the Bible for personal reflection. Everyone has their own style, but you might want to keep notes and random thoughts as you go along. I filled up a large 5 subject notebook in 2017 with my own a-ha moments and I’ve read through the Bible many, many times.
  • Some weeks will be lighter than others. I tried to keep the readings even throughout, but I want us to come to natural breaks in the story at the end of each week.
  • On the master schedule, there is a place to mark what you’ve read with an X. It feels good to mark things off as you accomplish them!
  • I’ve built in two breaks. One is halfway through the Old Testament and the other is between the Old and New Testaments. Use these weeks to catch up if you need to.
  • If you have never read all the way through the Bible before, your goal is just to keep up and finish! If you have read through the Bible before, I suggest that each time you read it through you find a different goal for that year. For example, you might read a different translation or use a study Bible with notes, or you might use the various maps to follow the story by location, learn the Names of God and see how they are used differently in different passages, etc. The last time I read through the Old Testament, I underlined all the words that God spoke in red. The words of Jesus are often in red in the New Testament and I thought it would be good to see the Words of the Lord in the OT the same way.
  • If at any time you read something that troubles you, ask Holy Spirit to guide you in your understanding. You may need to set something aside and trust that as the Lord wants you to learn something from that passage, He will bring it up at the right time. Don’t let it upset you if you struggle with some of the things you read. Bring it to the group and let’s talk about it. There are things that I struggle with, too. It’s ok. God knows our struggles and loves us anyway.

I suggest you begin each day with a prayer that might go something like this…..

Thank You, Father, for Your Word. Please guide me as I read today and help me understand what YOU would have me understand and absorb what YOU would have me absorb. Hide the words and the message in my heart so that I may carry it with me into everything I do. Open the eyes of my heart to what You would have me see, learn, know, and remember. Take me by the hand and walk with me on this journey. Send Holy Spirit to be my guide, my teacher, my helper, and my shield. In the Holy Name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

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Week 30: Jeremiah 40-52, Lamentations

“The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well.  All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is His Name.”    Jeremiah 50:33-34

What’s Going On?

Last week ended with a description of the Fall of Jerusalem and left Jeremiah in chains and in the care of a Babylonian guard. It’s interesting that the Hebrew people seemed to prefer the words of the false prophets over Jeremiahs, but this Babylonian starts off chapter 40 with a surprising statement that he knew that what was going on had been decreed by Jeremiah’s God and then sets him free. He stays for a while with Gedaliah just outside Jerusalem. When Gedeliah is killed, Jeremiah goes to Egypt with the other Jews where tradition holds that they turned against him and stoned him to death.

The word of the Lord as spoken through Jeremiah ends at chapter 51 and it’s fitting that it is filled with hope. I counted 42 phrases where the Lord promises “I will….” and it is clear that the story of His people is far from over. In chapter 52, as in chapter 39 and 2 Kings 24-25, the account of the Fall of Jerusalem is again given in heart wrenching detail as only someone who had experienced it first-hand could give. This week’s reading is not in chronological order but seems to be grouped in subtopics of similar form and structure. Zedekiah came before Gedaliah, but the two stories aren’t in order here.

While the book of Jeremiah consists mainly of the words of God, Lamentations is man’s response. The book of Lamentations is a book of “laments” which are just sad songs. In fact, most of the books in this section of The Prophets are all sad songs in a way. This book was probably written by Jeremiah which is why it is included here. Jeremiah would certainly have been sad about what he had seen and experienced and this book can be read as a book of poetry, not unlike the books in The Writings. There is a structure and a pattern to the way the book is written and although obvious in the English translation, it was even more so in Hebrew. In fact, in Hebrew the book is made up of a series of acrostics that correspond with the Hebrew alphabet. The theme of the book: Israel blew it and deserved what it got. Maybe it can serve as a reminder that God is at work and in this case, there is honest and earnest heartache for the actions that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the hope is that a lesson might be learned from it.

When and Where Are We?

Most of Jeremiah’s adult life was spent in and around Jerusalem. In this week’s reading we’ll see him imprisoned for a while when most of the Jews were taken away and dispersed throughout the Babylonian kingdom – or killed. There were three waves of deportations: 605, 597, and the final wave in 586 BC when Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians. Jeremiah and Baruch then go with many of the remaining Jews to Egypt where his story comes to an end. Again, the chapters are not in chronological order but clues can be found within the order of the kings of Judah. (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah – then Gedeliah rules before Jehoiachin is released and honored)

Who’s Who?

  • Zedekiah – the last of the kings in Judah but really a puppet to the king of Babylon. When he was captured trying to leave Jerusalem, he was forced to watch his children die, blinded, and carried away.
  • Gedaliah – a governor left behind in Judah to watch over those who stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is Your faithfulness.                                                                                                  
Lamentations 3:22-23

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Jeremiah 40-43
  • Tuesday: Jeremiah 44-46
  • Wednesday: Jeremiah 47-49
  • Thursday: Jeremiah 50-52
  • Friday: Lamentations 1-5
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Week 29: Jeremiah 20-39

“People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’  And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’” Jeremiah 22:8-9

What’s Going On?

As Nebuchadnezzar gets closer and closer to conquering Jerusalem, Jeremiah advises them all, including the king, to surrender and not fight because it is the Lord’s will that Judah fall to Babylon as punishment for turning away from Him and anyone who rebels will be killed in battle. The ones who surrender will be taken away into exile, but they will live. The Lord, through Jeremiah, tells them to settle in Babylon until He is ready to bring them out. God will begin to change their hearts and eventually God will restore them. Jeremiah is beaten, arrested, persecuted, imprisoned, thrown into a cistern/well, and repeatedly rejected. No wonder they call him the “weeping prophet.” And yet, this section also contains one of the most loved verses: “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. Chapter 39 gives the only eyewitness account of the Fall of Jerusalem, recorded by Jeremiah.

When and Where Are We?

Be ready for some more time jumps! Jeremiah will be a prophet during the reigns of Kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah and also during the early years of the Babylonian exile when there is no longer a king in Judah. Almost every chapter starts off by telling you who is king – and it’s all mixed up and not in chronological order. Just don’t let it throw you. The message is valid and consistent. While this part of the story is still mainly in Jerusalem, there are also some references to both Babylon (north) and Egypt (south) and both of these areas will be very important next week.

Who’s Who

We need to back up a little and look at the family of Josiah (the last good king in Judah). When he died his son Johoahaz ruled for only three months before he was put in chanins and taken to Egypt and his brother, Jehoiakim became king. Next, Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin followed him but he surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was carried away as a prisoner. So his uncle, Zedekiah – Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim’s brother – also the son of Josiah, became “king” over all the people who were left in Jerusalem after most were carried away into Babylonian exile. Just to make it a little more confusing, Jehoahaz is also known as Shallum; Jehoiakim’s name was Eliakim, changed by Pharoah Neco whom he served; Zedekiah is also called Mattinaiah and Jehoiachin is also called Jeconiah.

  • Pashhur – priest and chief officer in the Temple who was likely responsible for punishment of “criminals” (there may be more than one Pashhur or it may be a title)
  • Zephaniah the Priest – not the same as Zephaniah the prophet
  • Nebuchadnezzar – King of Babylon
  • Hananiah and Shemaiah – flase prophets
  • Hanamel – Jeremiah’s cousin, the son of Shallum/Jehoahaz
  • Baruch – Jeremiah’s secretary (and most likely to have written at least some of the book)
  • Racabites – a nomad group that DID obey the Lord making Judah look bad, not mentioned elsewhere
  • Gedaliah – son of Passhur – acts as governor of Jerusalem after Zedekiah is taken away

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NIV)

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Jeremiah 20-22
  • Tuesday: Jeremiah 23-25
  • Wednesday: Jeremiah 26-28
  • Thursday: Jeremiah 29-32
  • Friday: Jeremiah 33-36
  • Saturday: Jeremiah 37-39
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Week 28: Jeremiah 1-19

“We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, and the guilt of our ancestors; we have indeed sinned against You. For the sake of Your Name do not despise us; do not dishonor Your glorious throne. Remember Your covenant with us and do not break it.”

Jeremiah 14:20-21 (NIV)

What’s Going On?

The book of Jeremiah, like the book of Isaiah, is about God speaking through a prophet to give His message to the people of Judah. Josiah is king of Judah at the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry. During the years between the two prophets Judah’s king was Manasseh, a really, really bad king who served for 55 years and led Judah away from God and reinstated the worship of the false idols of the foreign nations that Hezekiah had removed.  

As a young king, Josiah had begun seeking God’s will and ten years later a copy of the Law was found and read publicly, turning the nation of Judah toward a spiritual awakening (2 Chron 34-35). Unfortunately, the revival didn’t last long and the people once again fell away from God. Jeremiah is then called to deliver several messages warning about the devastation to come to Judah.

Jeremiah is often referred to as “The Weeping Prophet.” Coming from a family of priests, he was chosen by God even before he was born and commissioned as prophet as a young man, possibly even in the same age range as Josiah who also served as king at very young age. Jeremiah was hesitant to accept his calling. You can’t blame him, he had already seen how other prophets had been persecuted and he knew he would likely be treated badly as well. He was right, too. His life would be filled with opposition, rejection, and persecution. By this time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had already heard from Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea and had fallen to the Assyrians. Jonah and Nahum had also already spoken concerning the plans God had for Nineveh which will also fall to the Assyrians during Jeremiah’s lifetime. Judah had already heard from Isaiah and Micah; Habakkuk and Zephaniah will speak to Judah about the same time that Jeremiah begins his ministry. Remember that the order of the prophets in the Bible is not chronological. As we read through the section, I’ll do my best to help you see the order in which they happened.

In the book of Isaiah, when we read about Israel, it sometimes meant both Israel and Judah. This time, when we read about Israel, we ARE talking about the northern kingdom who has already been overtaken by the Assyrians and ceased to exist as a nation. God will condemn Israel for falling away from Him and use them as an example to the people of Judah, saying, “Don’t be like Israel! Turn to Me now before it is too late!” He is clear that it is because of their SIN that they will experience hardship and will fall to the nations of the north (Babylon).

When and Where Are We?

The story begins in 626 BC, about a hundred years after Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, and will tell about the last generation to live in the Kingdom of Judah before it falls to the Babylonians in 586 BC. In this week’s reading we will mostly be in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah. There is a grand battle for land as the Assyrians, the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Egyptians, and later the Persians are all fighting for control, not only of Israel and Judah, but for all of the areas in what we know as the Middle East lands of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Persia. Babylon is gaining power and will swallow up the Assyrian Empire in 605 BC when Nineveh is destroyed.  

Who’s Who?

  • Jeremiah – a young priest who is called to speak for the Lord to the people of Judah
  • Josiah – King of Judah.
  • Baruch – we learn at the end of the book that he was Jeremiah’s secretary who wrote as Jeremiah dictated to him. He was likely one of the few Jeremiah could call a friend.

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Jeremiah 1-3
  • Tuesday: Jeremiah 4-6
  • Wednesday: Jeremiah 7-9
  • Thursday: Jeremiah 10-12
  • Friday: Jeremiah 13-15
  • Saturday: Jeremiah 16-19
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Week 27: Isaiah 47-66

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn” Isaiah 60 1-2 and Luke 4:17-19

What’s Going On?

Last week we saw several references to Babylon, even though at the time it was only a small part of the Assyrian empire. We start off this week with the prophecy about the fall of Babylon, who will eventually conquer both Assyria and the nation of Judah. Remember the story of the Tower of Babel back in Genesis? This area has been a part of Mesopotamia since then and has been in and out of times of great power. We also saw last week that Isaiah named Cyrus, king of Persia, specifically as God’s instrument in releasing the captive Jews from Babylonian captivity and allowing them to return to Jerusalem. We’ll continue to see references of this future time for the nation of Israel. Keep in mind, however, that during the time of the writing, this would not make any sense to the people of Judah and it would be over a hundred years before some of the prophecies would come to pass.

I have to point out that as we finish reading the book of Isaiah, we can’t help but wonder if all of this was actually written by the man Isaiah during the time it is said to have been written. Is it not possible that someone edited or added to what Isaiah had written after the time when these events actually took place making Isaiah look like he knew things he couldn’t have possibly known? This has been a hot topic of debate for centuries. If you spend any time researching this idea you will find many different explanations and theologies. The thing I think we must do as we read this, is to take to heart the focus of the message which seems to me to be summed up in this: “I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:9b-10.

The book of Isaiah, when taken all together, has one very strong message: The things you thought you could count on – your religion, your nation, your leaders – are all going to fail you. But God is not just a god, like the gods of the nations around you that seem to be very powerful indeed. He is not just a god of your generation and your family and your homeland. He promised to one day bless all the world through you, and you, His Chosen Ones, have failed to keep your faith in Him. Now you are going to be put in your place. But watch and see what the Lord will do! He will bring a new heaven and a new earth and Zion will not be just the restored version of the Jerusalem you once knew, but it will be God’s Light and Power and Salvation for all who accept Him as King, and Lord, and Savior.

When you get to chapter 53, you are going hear familiar words that are used throughout the Gospels as reference to Jesus. The book of Isaiah is one of the most quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament, along with the Psalms. You will also be reminded of several places in the book of Revelation that will also use the book of Isaiah as one of its greatest sources of prophecy.

When and Where Are We?

Isaiah’s life was spent close to Jerusalem after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. But his prophecies concern places and times that are far from his own. He talks of the Babylonian captivity, and then the return of the Jews back to Jerusalem under Cyrus king of Persia. He also speaks of the future when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Who’s Who?

The Servant – There are four places where we read the Song of the Servant (42, 49, 50, 52-3). Some believe it is Israel, or the Jews. Some believe it is Jesus. Apparently, the Servant had one goal: to proclaim salvation after the time of judgment. (See Matt 12:18-21)   

Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Isaiah 55:6

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Isaiah 47-50
  • Tuesday: Isaiah 51-54
  • Wednesday: Isaiah 55-57
  • Thursday: Isaiah 58-60
  • Friday: Isaiah 61-64
  • Saturday: Isaiah 65-66
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Week 26: Isaiah 24-46

“In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.” Isaiah 27:6 (NIV)

What’s Going On?

Poor Isaiah. We know very little about his life until the Lord comes to him and tells him to go talk to the King of Judah on His behalf. In the first section of Isaiah, that king was Ahaz who dies in chap 14 and you’d think Isaiah had completed the task given to him. But he still has work to do and so continues to speak for the Lord to the people of Judah and the new king, Hezekiah, who you will remember was a good king who was known for his reforms throughout Judah. He turned Judah back to the Lord and reinstated the customs and practices of worship and sacrifice.

Under king Ahaz, Judah had become subject to the Assyrians after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. You’ll see the word “vassal” used which means they were expected to pay the Assyrians to leave them alone and to do whatever Assyria asked, even though they were still considered separate (at this point) from Assyria. Judah is vulnerable to the people around them who are in constant battle over land and trade routes and Judah is located right in the middle of it all. This is partly why Isaiah keeps speaking these “oracles” or prophecies about all these foreign nations. Woe be unto whoever gets in the way of God’s People, Israel/Judah.

Last week we read a lot of “Warnings” that involved some really depressing prophecies. There was a little bit of hope sprinkled in, but this week we see a huge shift in the hope department and I must say, it is nice to finally hear some good news. We start off the week reading about the devastation of the Earth, but then quickly turn to another Song of Praise. There is some apocalyptic reference here not just about the time after Israel’s destruction but also about a future time when there will finally be peace on ALL the Earth. There is plenty more talk of judgment, destruction, death, exile and slavery in store for the people of Judah. But then – chapter 40 happens. Ahhhhhh. For those of you who know my love of Handel’s Messiah, the words of Isaiah 40:1-2 are the opening lyrics that set the tone for the rest of the work, “Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people.” In chapter 41 we read of a Helper and there is the promise that Israel will not be forgotten or left alone. God’s mercy will rain down on His People after all. We finish this week with a brief reminder that God’s judgment will involve Babylon even before we see the rise of the Babylonian empire. But next week we continue the theme of hope for the future, not just of Israel and Judah, but for all the world, including the gentiles.

When and Where Are We?

You’ll notice that there are lots of places where “Israel” is used to describe God’s People, even though the two nations are divided and Israel has already fallen to the Assyrians, these events are actually taking place in the southern kingdom of Judah. You’ll also notice that Babylon is referred to often, even though the Babylonians are not the ruling empire yet. But the city of Babylon is HUGE and powerful, and awful, and pagan, and represents everything detestable to the Lord. You’ll see this reference again later. Whenever you see Ephraim – this is a reference to the northern kingdom Israel.

Who’s Who?

  • Isaiah – prophet to Judah
  • Hezekiah – King of Judah
  • Eliakim – palace administrator; Shebna – palace secretary
  • Sennacherib – King of Assyria (Bel, Nebo, and Marduk – their gods)
  • Pharaoh Neco – King of Egypt

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”        Isaiah 43:18-19

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Isaiah 24-27
  • Tuesday: Isaiah 28-31
  • Wednesday: Isaiah 32-35
  • Thursday: Isaiah 36-39
  • Friday: Isaiah 40-43
  • Saturday: Isaiah 44-46
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Week 25: Isaiah 1-23

“Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken”                                               Isaiah 1:2a

What’s Going On?

This week we begin the last section of the Old Testament, the Prophets. This section will cover 17 books and they will parallel the time periods of the divided kingdom, the exile, and the return. Remember all those kings we read about in 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles? They will play an important part of this next section because they will help up figure out where we are on the timeline. Unfortunately, the books of the Prophets won’t fall in chronological order so we’ll need to use the Kings as references.

God began speaking to His people through messengers, known as the Prophets. He was calling His people to stop turning to the false gods of the nations around them and keep their focus on Him, the One, True God. Unfortunately, the people rarely listened and the prophets rarely lived happily ever after. We begin our reading this week in the book of Isaiah, the first of the books known as the Major Prophets. It will take us nine weeks to get through the first five books, or the Major Prophets, and only two and a half weeks to read through the twelve Minor Prophets.

We first met Isaiah in 2 Kings 19-20 when he reassures the kingdom of Judah that Assyria will fall before destroying Jerusalem. Isaiah’s ministry actually began twenty years earlier, the year that King Uzziah died, which we read about in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26. Our reading this week will parallel this part of the story and will begin with the warning that the Lord’s wrath is imminent. Isaiah speaks of the judgment that is coming because the people of God have rejected Him and broken their sacred covenant with Him. God called both Israel and Judah to repent of their sins. Israel did not heed the warning and fell to the Assyrians, but under King Hezekiah, Judah did in fact turn to the Lord, thanks in part to the ministry of Isaiah.

Throughout the seventeen books of The Prophets, there are going to be three different types of prophecies. The first type will be prophecies that will come about relatively soon after the prophecy is given. For example – the Babylonian captivity. Also, there are prophecies concerning the Messiah that would be fulfilled through Jesus seven hundred years later. But there are also prophecies concerning the end times that are yet to be fulfilled (or are currently being fulfilled – depending on how you see things). There is a repeated reference to the “Great and Terrible Day of the Lord”, which most scholars agree, references the return of Christ and the end of this current age. More on that subject later.

When and Where Are We?

The book of Isaiah covers the time period of 740 BC during King Hezekiah’s reign over Judah to approximately 690 BC. During this time, Israel falls to Assyria in 722 BC, leaving Judah to defend for herself as Assyria continues to expand and conquer the lands all around her. During Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria attempted to invade Jerusalem, but thanks to Isaiah and Hezekiah’s prayers, the angel of death fell on the Assyrian army and later, its king, freeing Judah from imminent captivity. Isaiah probably spent most of his life in and around Jerusalem.

Who’s Who?

  • Isaiah, son of Amoz (not the same as Amos). His name means “The Lord Saves”
  • Hezekiah, King of Judah who led great reforms and turned Judah toward the Lord

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great Light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Isaiah 1-4
  • Tuesday: Isaiah 5-8
  • Wednesday: Isaiah 9-12
  • Thursday: Isaiah 13-16
  • Friday: Isaiah 17-20
  • Saturday: Isaiah 21-23
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Week 24: Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”         Ecclesiastes 3:1

What’s Going On?

The two books we’ll be reading this week will finish up the group of books known as The Writings, or the literature books. Like Proverbs, both are attributed to King Solomon. While we can’t say with certainty that Solomon authored any of these books, his wisdom is definitely collected in the passages. You can almost hear old King Solomon reflecting at the end of his life in the book of Ecclesiastes. He had lived a life of wealth, fame, splendor, and had opportunities few others ever would. His father, the Great King David, had left him the throne of Israel and, like his father, he was able to lead the nation with few obstacles for forty years. His wisdom was known the world over and ambassadors from other nations would visit and send gifts that will be the subject of much folklore. But at the end of his life, he recognizes that human pursuit of wisdom is nothing more than chasing after the wind. True wisdom can only belong to the One who is Creator and Author of all things, even life itself. But, while man may not be able to grasp true wisdom, faith teaches him that he is in good hands. Our role, as created beings, is to simply trust the One who watches over us, keep His commands, and live a life that honors and pleases Him. Where Proverbs gave us catchy sayings, Ecclesiastes is the epitome of philosophy and the meaning of life. As far as I can tell, the word Ecclesiastes actually means “philosopher, preacher, speaker, or teacher.”

Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, is also included in the wisdom books but focuses the subject more on love than on wisdom. It is called a song because of its structure and use of recurring refrains. There is a love theme that runs through the whole book that at first sight seems odd that it would be included with the other books of the Bible. But, when you recognize that God IS love, you can see why the love of God can so easily be understood in the comparison to the closest thing we humans can appreciate, the love shared between a man and a woman. Human love, like wisdom, is a gift from God and reflect Him in the sharing of that gift. Some have painted the picture of the love song as the reflection of love between God and man, of God and Israel, of Christ and the church. A case can be made for that. But there is also room to just call it love poetry and leave it at that. Remember, Solomon was the guy with three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. I think his understanding of love might be hard for some of us to appreciate. In fact, in many places, the poetry is written from the woman’s perspective! While it might seem odd for us to find nature so sensuous, this was a pretty common form of poetry back in the day. So, light some candles, open the wine, and enjoy the romantic moment.  

While I can’t say this about all of the books of the Bible, the wisdom books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon just seem to sound better in the King James version. Read them any way you like, but for me, only King James will do.

When and Where Are We?

The era of King Solomon was about 900 BC. Remember, when we started this section of books, we did a time jump backwards to the era of the United Kingdom of Israel. Solomon ruled from the newly constructed Temple in Jerusalem. Although it is likely that the words were likely compiled during the time of the Exile or the Return when all of Israel is reflecting back on a time when Israel was in a much better state and lessons of old were treasured and appreciated in a whole new way.

Who’s Who?

Solomon (the teacher), a bridegroom, and his beloved are the only people named in these two books. Although, a case could be made that both Wisdom and Love take on human characteristics through the use of personification so they could technically be listed here in the Who’s Who section.

 “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it”                                    Song of Solomon 8:7a

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Ecclesiastes 1-3
  • Tuesday: Ecclesiastes 4-6
  • Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 7-10
  • Thursday: Ecclesiastes 11-12
  • Friday: Song of Solomon 1-4
  • Saturday: Song of Solomon 5-8
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment