Year 1 - Week 32 (April 11-17)

Day 1 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 2:1-37

Last time we read in Numbers 14 about God’s response to the rebellion of the Israelites, and their doubt and faithlessness when He brought them to the Promised Land. He sent them back into the wilderness, to wander there for 40 years until all the adults who had doubted Him had died there. The full account of their wandering is given in the rest of the book of Numbers, but this week we will read Moses’ summary of what happened next, from the second chapter of the last of the five Books of Moses, Deuteronomy (the Second Law, which is to say, the repetition and summary of the Law). Deuteronomy contains Moses’ final words to the people before his death, at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, and the first few chapters of the book are his summary of what had happened to them up to the point in time that he was speaking to them.

Back Into the Wilderness

2 We journeyed back into the wilderness, in the direction of the Red Sea, as the Lord had told me and skirted Mount Seir for many days. 2 Then the Lord said to me: 3 “You have been skirting this hill country long enough. Head north, 4 and charge the people as follows: You are about to pass through the territory of your kindred, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, so, be very careful 5 not to engage in battle with them, for I will not give you even so much as a foot’s length of their land, since I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6 You shall purchase food from them for money, so that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them for money, so that you may drink. 7 Surely the Lord your God has blessed you in all your undertakings; he knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.” 8 So we passed by our kin, the descendants of Esau who live in Seir, leaving behind the route of the Arabah, and leaving behind Elath and Ezion-geber.

When we had headed out along the route of the wilderness of Moab, 9 the Lord said to me: “Do not harass Moab or engage them in battle, for I will not give you any of its land as a possession, since I have given Ar as a possession to the descendants of Lot.” 10 (The Emim—a large and numerous people, as tall as the Anakim—had formerly inhabited it. 11 Like the Anakim, they are usually reckoned as Rephaim, though the Moabites call them Emim. 12 Moreover, the Horim had formerly inhabited Seir, but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them, destroying them and settling in their place, as Israel has done in the land that the Lord gave them as a possession.) 13 “Now then, proceed to cross over the Wadi Zered.”

So we crossed over the Wadi Zered. 14 And the length of time we had traveled from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the Wadi Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation of warriors had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn concerning them. 15 Indeed, the Lord’s own hand was against them, to root them out from the camp, until all had perished.

16 Just as soon as all the warriors had died off from among the people, 17 the Lord spoke to me, saying, 18 “Today you are going to cross the boundary of Moab at Ar. 19 When you approach the frontier of the Ammonites, do not harass them or engage them in battle, for I will not give the land of the Ammonites to you as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot.” 20 (It also is usually reckoned as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly inhabited it, though the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, 21 a strong and numerous people, as tall as the Anakim. But the Lord destroyed them from before the Ammonites so that they could dispossess them and settle in their place. 22 He did the same for the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, by destroying the Horim before them so that they could dispossess them and settle in their place even to this day. 23 As for the Avvim, who had lived in settlements in the vicinity of Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Crete, destroyed them and settled in their place.) 24 “Proceed on your journey and cross the Wadi Arnon. See, I have handed over to you King Sihon the Amorite of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession by engaging him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under heaven; when they hear report of you, they will tremble and be in anguish because of you.”

Defeat of King Sihon

26 So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to King Sihon of Heshbon with the following terms of peace: 27 “If you let me pass through your land, I will travel only along the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. 28 You shall sell me food for money, so that I may eat, and supply me water for money, so that I may drink. Only allow me to pass through on foot— 29 just as the descendants of Esau who live in Seir have done for me and likewise the Moabites who live in Ar—until I cross the Jordan into the land that the Lord our God is giving us.” 30 But King Sihon of Heshbon was not willing to let us pass through, for the Lord your God had hardened his spirit and made his heart defiant in order to hand him over to you, as he has now done.

31 The Lord said to me, “See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin now to take possession of his land.” 32 So when Sihon came out against us, he and all his people for battle at Jahaz, 33 the Lord our God gave him over to us; and we struck him down, along with his offspring and all his people. 34 At that time we captured all his towns, and in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor. 35 Only the livestock we kept as spoil for ourselves, as well as the plunder of the towns that we had captured. 36 From Aroer on the edge of the Wadi Arnon (including the town that is in the wadi itself) as far as Gilead, there was no citadel too high for us. The Lord our God gave everything to us. 37 You did not encroach, however, on the land of the Ammonites, avoiding the whole upper region of the Wadi Jabbok as well as the towns of the hill country, just as the Lord our God had charged.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should note two points. First, that the Israelites were forbidden from taking anything from the other nations that God had given an inheritance to, their distant relatives descended from Esau or from Lot. Second, we should note that all the enemies that God disinherited, giving their land to the Israelites and these other nations, are identified as giants, called variously Rephaim, Anakim, or Amorites. Identifying them as giants is Scriptural shorthand for connecting them to intensely and pervasively evil worship of and cooperation with demons, such that their entire society was utterly corrupt. This is why the Israelites were commanded to destroy them completely, to utterly root out those practices and to destroy the power of these demons in the world. We should note, as well, that this passage also gives us the first appearance of Greeks in the Bible, the Caphtorim from Crete, who had also been given an inheritance where giants had been before.)

2) What do we learn about God in this reading?

3) What do we learn about human beings in this reading?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. It is, however, important to deal with the question of why God commands them to completely destroy these giant clans. The basic point is what is being destroyed is not a nation or people or culture, but the domination of demonic powers over these clans, and their foothold in the world through these clans. This is an exorcism, on a giant scale. For more information on this, I urge you all to read the following blog post from Fr. Stephen DeYoung: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/wholecounsel/2018/10/09/here-there-be-giants/)

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) -5

Last time we read what the Didache says about life in the Church, and how important it is to remain in communion with the community of the Faithful, with a reminder of the importance of giving generously, of not thinking that what God has given us to belongs to us. This time we will talk more about how we live in our family life, and what our life in the Church should look like.

Family Life & Church Life

You shall not withhold your hand from your son or your daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them the fear of God. You shall not give orders to your male slave or female servant (who hope in the same God as you) when you are angry, lest they cease to fear the God who is over you both. For he comes to call not with regard to reputation but those whom the Spirit has prepared. And you slaves shall be submissive to your masters in respect and fear, as to a symbol of God.

You shall hate all hypocrisy and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord. You must not forsake the Lord’s commandments but must guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything. In church you shall confess your transgressions, and you shall not approach your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should note these references to the discipline of children and the treatment of slaves. There are two important points here - the reference to “withholding your hand” should not be thought to refer to a physical striking of the children, but a teaching and and moral discipline of children. We might gloss it in the modern day as: “do not let your children run riot, but teach them to fear and honor the Lord in the same way as you do yourself, in obedience to all that we have said before.” As for the treatment of slaves, this should not be taken as a Christian “approval” of slavery as an institution, but rather as instructions for how Christians should approach a normal reality of life in the 1st/2nd centuries. In telling masters to treat their slaves with a consciousness that they are fellow Christians, servants of the same God, the seeds of the ultimate abolition of slavery are laid. This is the normal Christian approach to brokenness in the world; like Christ going to the Cross, evil is not opposed with violence or political action, but with a bearing of the burden one’s self, and a transformation of the brokenness from within.)

2) What do we learn about God in this reading?

3) What do we learn about human beings in this reading?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

Luke 23:1-25

Last time we saw Jesus betrayed and brought to trial by the high priests and the elders of the people, and we saw Peter deny the Lord while he was waiting to see what would happen. Having gotten Jesus to “admit” that He claimed to be the Son of God, the assembly will now bring Him to Pilate, seeking the death penalty for Him.

Jesus before Pilate

23 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”

Jesus before Herod

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Jesus Sentenced to Death

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

Discussion Questions

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should point out that the basic accusation against Jesus is that He was claiming to be the Messiah, which was understood by both the Jewish people and by the Romans as a political statement, an act of rebellion and sedition against Roman rule, and cause for death by crucifixion.)

2) What do we learn about God in this story? 

3) What do we learn about human beings in this story?

4) What do you find difficult about this story? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always.)

5) Does this story make you think that you need to change anything in your life?