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June 12, 2022

Year 2 - Week 40 (June 12-18, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Joshua 6 (Jericho Taken & Destroyed)

Last time, we saw the people of God set up camp within the Promised Land at Gilgal, where Joshua circumcised all the adult males, who had not been circumcised during their time in the wilderness. After the circumcision, they celebrated the Passover, and the manna ceased at that point, and they ate the produce of the Promised Land for the first time. After this, the Lord Himself appeared to Joshua, and Joshua worshipped Him. This time, we will see them begin the conquest with the attack on the city of Jericho, where the spies had been sheltered by Rahab.

Jericho Taken and Destroyed

6 Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in. 2 The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers. 3 You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, 4 with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark.

On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.” 6 So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and have seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark of the Lord.” 7 To the people he said, “Go forward and march around the city; have the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”

8 As Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets; the rear guard came after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 To the people Joshua gave this command: “You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall you utter a word, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So the ark of the Lord went around the city, circling it once; and they came into the camp, and spent the night in the camp.

12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord passed on, blowing the trumpets continually. The armed men went before them, and the rear guard came after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 On the second day they marched around the city once and then returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

15 On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. 17 The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live because she hid the messengers we sent.

18 As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. 21 Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.

22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house, and bring the woman out of it and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought Rahab out, along with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all who belonged to her—they brought all her kindred out—and set them outside the camp of Israel. 24 They burned down the city, and everything in it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25 But Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared. Her family has lived in Israel ever since. For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

26 Joshua then pronounced this oath, saying,

“Cursed before the Lord be anyone who tries
to build this city—this Jericho!
At the cost of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates!”

27 So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out, in summary of this story, that the Israelites do nothing to defeat Jericho except obey the Lord’s commandments, and that they gain nothing from the sack of the city. All the things that cannot be destroyed (the metal vessels, effectively) belong to the Lord, and everything else is destroyed completely. This is because Jericho, despite the warnings given, and the clear power of God, nonetheless sets itself against Yahweh, as will most of the other cities and peoples in the Promised Land, and has come under God’s curse as a result of this, as they take completely the side of the demons in their war against Yahweh. This is to demonstrate to us what God had said to Abraham when He promised the land to Him hundreds of years before, that Abraham’s descendants would not receive the land until the people who lived there had given themselves over completely to evil; that time has arrived, and there is nothing left to redeem in Canaan. Only God’s justice remains, and Israel is the instrument of that justice, to abolish the evil that has become normal in Jericho and the other Amorite cities. What we should note, as well, is that the sign of this dedication of the city to God, and of this obedience to His commandments, is for the people of Israel to process around the city. There may be a connection between this procession, which entrusts the outcome of the battle to the Lord and commits the people to obedience to God, and the many processions that we still do in the annual life of the Orthodox Church. Finally, we should note how absolute the ban on taking any loot is, to show absolutely clearly that Israel is not taking this city for the sake of the plunder, but as the instrument of God’s justice. We would hate to see what would happen if someone violated this ban and took unlawful plunder…)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

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 2 (Wednesday)

First Apology of Justin Martyr - 6: 13-14

Last time we saw St. Justin explain that Christians are righteous and moral people not because they fear the penalties that earthly rulers can impose, but because they know and fear God, and argues that this makes them far more virtuous than any others, the best possible citizens. He further suggested that, if the emperors did not desire such citizens, it could only be because their own rule was unjust and unrighteous. This time, he will explain a little bit more of what Christians actually believe, including a brief summary of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and warn the emperors that they, and all their people who worship idols, are in fact slaves to evil demons.

Chapter 13

What sensible person will not admit that we are not atheists, since we worship the Creator of this world and assert, as we have been taught, that He has no need of bloody sacrifices, libations, and incense. But we praise Him to the best of our power by prayer and thanksgiving for all our nourishment. We have been instructed that the only worship worthy of Him is not to consume by fire those things that He created for our sustenance, but to employ them for the good of ourselves and the needy, and, with thankful voices, to offer Him solemn prayers and hymns for our own creation, for the preservation of our health, for the variety of things, and for the changes of the seasons, and to beseech Him in prayer that we may rise to life everlasting because of our faith in Him.

Our Teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who was born for this end, and who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius Caesar. We shall prove that we worship Him with reason, since we have learned that He is the Son of the living God Himself, and believe Him to be in the second place, and the Prophetic Spirit in the third. For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchanging and eternal God, the Creator of all things, but they are ignorant of the mystery which lies herein. To this mystery we entreat you to give your attention, while we explain it to you.

Chapter 14

Indeed, we warn you to be careful lest the demons, previously accused by us, should mislead you and turn you from reading and understanding thoroughly what we have said. They strive to make you their slaves and servants. They ensnare, now by apparitions in dreams, now by tricks of magic, all those who do not labor with all their strength for their own salvation—even as we, also, after our conversion by the Word have separated ourselves from those demons and have attached ourselves to the only unbegotten God, through His Son.

We who once reveled in impurities now cling to purity; we who devoted ourselves to the arts of magic now consecrate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who loved above all else the ways of acquiring riches and possessions now hand over to a community fund what we possess, and share it with every needy person; we who hated and killed one another and would not share our hearth with those of another tribe because of their [different] customs, now, after the coming of Christ, live together with them, and pray for our enemies, and try to convince those who hate us unjustly, so that they who live according to the good commands of Christ may have a firm hope of receiving the same reward as ourselves from God who governs all.

But, lest we seem to quibble, we think it fitting to recall a few of the teachings of Christ, before giving our proofs; it is up to you, as mighty emperors, to consider whether we have been taught and do teach the truth. His sayings were brief and concise, for He was not a sophist, but His word was the power of God.

Thomas B. Falls with Justin Martyr, The First Apology, The Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Exhortation to the Greeks, Discourse to the Greeks, The Monarchy or The Rule of God, vol. 6, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948), 43–47.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that, in the first chapter, St. Justin is “spinning” the practices of the Christians to exhibit what good citizens they actually are, in not wasting anything, and using everything they possess for the good of those around them. We may see hidden here, as well, a more authentic expression of the inner life of Christian people, in the offering of thanksgiving to God as the primary reality of worship. Thanksgiving, of course, is Eucharist, and we will see Justin describe this more clearly toward the end of the Apology. For now, it is good to compare Justin’s description of what God wants from His people with the words of Psalm 116, which is also used as a Communion hymn in the Church: “What shall I give to the Lord (Yahweh) for all that He has given to me? I shall take the cup of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord (Yahweh). I will fulfill my vows to the Lord (Yahweh) now in the presence of all His people.” This passage may well be what Justin has in mind as he writes this.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

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)

Mark 12:13-27 (Paying Taxes, Question about the Resurrection)

Last time we saw Jesus tell the parable of the wicked tenants, as an explanation of His relationship with the Temple authorities, and His condemnation of them as faithless shepherds of His people. This time, we will see Him continue to preach in the Temple, as the Pharisees take a turn to try to trap Him.

The Question about Paying Taxes

13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

The Question about the Resurrection

18 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man[b] shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; 21 and the second married the widow and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22 none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23 In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

24 Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that the Lord’s statement about how we should give Caesar what has his image on it, and to God what has His image on it, would have reminded everyone hearing of the creation of man in Genesis, “in the image and likeness” of God. Thus, while avoiding the trap they had tried to set (by not telling them to stop paying Roman taxes, which would have given them a pretext to have Him arrested), He also makes clear that everyone (even Caesar himself) truly belongs to God, and that all our being is owed to God. For the second passage, we need to understand that Jesus’ answer to this corrects two mistakes. The first is the Sadducees’ denial of the Resurrection, by quoting two portions of Scripture, one of which affirms that God is the God of the living, not the dead (Psalm 38 and 115), and the other which constantly affirms throughout the Old Testament that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The second mistake is the idea they have of marriage, which is the premise for their story to disprove the Resurrection of the dead. In their understanding, the entire point of marriage is the sexual submission of the wife to the husband for the sake of bearing children, which would make for an absurd situation in the case of this woman with seven husbands. Jesus corrects them by indicating that this fixation on sexual power and perpetuating the race is not going to be the point of existence in the Resurrection, and indeed, we see this already changed immediately in the Church from the very beginning. Christian marriage is not reducible to sexual fulfillment or pleasure or power or desire, nor is it exclusively dedicated to the bearing of children, but is rather a shared journey of repentance and transformation in oneness with one another and with the Lord on the path toward salvation.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

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?