Friday, October 18, 2013

Job -- an introduction

Job was written by a gifted poet and theologian. The book was written to explore the problem of how a just God could allow the innocent to suffer. This is a modern as well as an ancient issue. Modern people also ask: Why are there innocent casualties in war, why do children get cancer, why is there AIDS? The author of Job, using great skill, artistry, and magnificent poetry, uses the older story of Job’s misfortunes and restoration as the framework for this extended discussion. The book of Job challenges the assumption that goodness is always rewarded with material prosperity while wickedness is punished with temporal suffering. Job maintains his integrity in the face of social pressure and cultural convention to eventually win an audience with God. The date of this book is uncertain but is generally dated in the 5th or 6th century BC. The author is unknown. The book of Job explores the question of why bad things happen to good people but leaves that question largely unanswered. Job reveals his anger and frustration in what he believes to be unjust punishment at the hand of God, and when he finally gets his audience with God, finds his question remains largely unanswered. 

Job can be outlined as follows:

·         Job 1 and 2      Introduction
·         Job 3-31          Poetic dialogue: these are three cycles of speeches between Job and his comforters
·         Job 28, 32-37  Speeches of Elihu reflecting an orthodox understanding
·         Job 38-42:6     Divine resolution
·         Job 42:7-17     Epilogue

Job teaches that the answer to life’s more difficult questions is not as important as making the effort to struggle with these questions. Some questions have no answers but the questioning is often part of the growth process.

Malachi -- Introduction

Malachi means “my messenger”, which may have been the prophet’s name or a pseudonym. The book is dated around 450 BC, just before or after Nehemiah became governor of Jerusalem and roughly 60 years after Haggai and Zechariah pushed for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Malachi writes during a time of Persian dominance and when the nation had little or no political defense or other national identifiers. He argues that Judah must live by the Law to keep the people’s purity and devotion to God. This devotion to the Law will lead to national stability and prosperity for all. The Day of the Lord will separate the good from the bad.

Malachi can be outlined as follows:

·         Malachi 1:1-3:12         Religious decline and hope for recovery
·         Malachi 3:13-18          How and when the good will triumph over the bad
·         Malachi 4:1-6              The day of the Lord

 Malachi predicts that Elijah will return and “prepare the way” for the coming Messiah. (Jesus will refer to John the Baptist as “the Elijah who was to come”.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nehemiah -- an introduction

Nehemiah was probably written by the same hand as Ezra and, even though in the Canon it follows Ezra, it was likely written before Ezra and contains events that precede Ezra’s mission. Nehemiah’s personal memoirs provide reflections on the events of the time, prayers, and accounts of his determination to ease the suffering of the Judeans. The book also contains worship material: a psalm of confession and repentance and a record of the re-dedication service of the Temple of God.

Nehemiah can be outlined as follows:

·         Nehemiah 1:1-2:10      Nehemiah’s commission
·         Nehemiah 2:11-3:32    Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem
·         Nehemiah 4:1-23         Attempts to block the rebuilding project
·         Nehemiah 5:1-13         Internal troubles and the plight of the poor
·         Nehemiah 5:14-19       Nehemiah defends his governorship
·         Nehemiah 6:1-19         The plot of the enemy
·         Nehemiah 7:1-73         Guards and patrols
·         Nehemiah 7:73-8:12    The reading of the law and renewal of the covenant
·         Nehemiah 8:13-18       Renewal of the celebration of the festival of the booths
·         Nehemiah 9:1-5           A day of fasting
·         Nehemiah 9:6-37         Confession and prayer
·         Nehemiah 9:38-10:39  Renewal of the Covenant and its obligations
·         Nehemiah 11:1-24       Re-population of Jerusalem
·         Nehemiah 11:25-36     Re-population of Judea
·         Nehemiah 12:1-26       List of priests and Levites
·         Nehemiah 12:27-47     Dedication of the walls
·         Nehemiah 13:1-31       Nehemiah’s reforms

            Vital lesson: One man, Nehemiah, is moved to repentance when he learns of the state of Jerusalem and the Lord’s temple. Out of this repentance comes a series of actions and decisions that lead to the restoration of the city and the rebuilding of the place of worship.