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June 26, 2022

Year 2 - Week 42 (June 26 - July 2, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Joshua 8 (Ai Captured, Covenant Renewed)

Last time we saw what happened when one of the Israelites desired the fruit of the life lived in Jericho, and took some precious things from the city and hid them. We saw how this choice of the fruits of evil and rebellion corrupted the entire camp, and brought evil and defeat upon them, and how they removed the wickedness from their midst. This time, we will see them go up to attack the city of Ai once again, but this time with the guidance of the Lord.

Ai Captured by a Stratagem and Destroyed

8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and go up now to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai with his people, his city, and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its livestock you may take as booty for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city, behind it.”

3 So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to go up against Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand warriors and sent them out by night 4 with the command, “You shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it; do not go very far from the city, but all of you stay alert. 5 I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. When they come out against us, as before, we shall flee from them. 6 They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, as before.’ While we flee from them, 7 you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city; for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 And when you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire, doing as the Lord has ordered; see, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them out; and they went to the place of ambush, and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai; but Joshua spent that night in the camp.

10 In the morning Joshua rose early and mustered the people, and went up, with the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 All the fighting men who were with him went up, and drew near before the city, and camped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12 Taking about five thousand men, he set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley.

14 When the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the inhabitants of the city, hurried out early in the morning to the meeting place facing the Arabah to meet Israel in battle; but he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel made a pretense of being beaten before them, and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the sword that is in your hand toward Ai; for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the sword that was in his hand toward the city. 19 As soon as he stretched out his hand, the troops in ambush rose quickly out of their place and rushed forward. They entered the city, took it, and at once set the city on fire. 20 So when the men of Ai looked back, the smoke of the city was rising to the sky. They had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers.

21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. 23 But the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. 25 The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.

27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the Lord that he had issued to Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai, and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

Joshua Renews the Covenant

30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, “an altar of unhewn stones, on which no iron tool has been used”; and they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed offerings of well-being. 32 And there, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.

33 All Israel, alien as well as citizen, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark in front of the levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.

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 people of Israel have to work much harder for this victory than they did at Jericho. It is also worth noting that, while normally they were required to destroy everything, even the animals and the precious things, in the cities of the Amorites, in this specific case Yahweh gives them the spoils. We aren’t told why this is the case, but it is worth noticing and considering why it might be. One possibility is that Ai and Bethel are the spot where Jacob had received the promise that God would give him the land he was sleeping on in Genesis 28, so perhaps God is giving the people the spoils of the city in this place as a sign of that promise’s fulfillment. We can be assured, however, that the cities of Ai and Bethel were participating fully in the sins of the Amorites for which God was destroying them. The Leader should also note that what Joshua does at the end of this chapter, in reading the entirety of the Law to the people, was commanded explicitly to be done at this place by the Lord through Moses in Deuteronomy 27. In proclaiming God’s Law to the people as they come into their inheritance, and actually possess land that was promised to them, Joshua and the people proclaim that they are not an independent people, but are precisely dependent upon and faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel.)

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 - 2: 16-17

Last time we saw Justin begin to quote from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to the emperors, to show what kind of teaching He had given to His people. This time, we will see him continue in this vein; it is worth noting what teachings of the Lord he chooses to highlight as most important and distinctive to the emperors.

Chapter 16

With the following words He taught us that we should be patient, and be willing to submit to everyone, and never give way to anger: ‘To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also; and hinder not him who takes away your cloak or coat. Whoever is given to anger is subject to the fire of hell. And everyone who forces you to go with him a mile, go with him two. Let your good deeds shine before men, that they, seeing them, may glorify your Heavenly Father.’

We should not be contentious, nor does He want us to imitate the wicked, but He rather urges us to draw all men from dishonor and desire of evil by our own patience and mildness. We can show that this has happened in the case of many of those who were of your side and turned from a life of violence and tyranny, because they were conquered either by the constancy of their neighbors’ lives, or by the strange patience they noticed in their injured associates, or by experiencing their honesty in business matters.

With these words He commanded us never to swear, but always to tell the truth: ‘Do not swear at all, but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; for whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one.’ He convinced us that only God is to be worshipped, when He said: ‘The greatest commandment is this: “Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve, with all thy heart, and with all thy strength, the Lord God who made thee,” ’6 and when a certain man came to Him and said: ‘Good Master,’ He replied: ‘There is none good but God alone who made all things.’

May they who are not found living according to His teachings know that they are not Christians, even though they profess with their tongues the teaching of Christ, for He said that not those who only profess His doctrines, but those who put them into practice, shall be saved. Indeed, He said: ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven. For whosoever hears Me and does what I say, hears Him who sent Me. And many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk, and done wonders in your name?” And then will I say to them: “Depart from Me, you workers of evil.” Then there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when the just shall shine as the sun, and the wicked are sent into everlasting fire. For many shall come in My name, dressed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but who inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their works you shall know them. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire.’ And we ask that you also punish all those who call themselves Christians, but are not living according to His teachings.

Chapter 17

As we have been instructed by Him, we, before all others, try everywhere to pay your appointed officials the ordinary and special taxes. For in His time some people came to Him and asked if it were necessary to pay tribute to Caesar, and He replied: ‘Tell Me, whose likeness does this coin bear?’ They said: ‘Caesar’s.’ And He again replied: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.’

Wherefore, only God do we worship, but in other things we joyfully obey you, acknowledging you as the kings and rulers of men, and praying that you may be found to have, besides royal power, sound judgment. If you do not heed us, though we beseech you and clearly explain our position, it will by no means harm us, for we believe (rather, we are absolutely sure) that every man will pay the penalty of his misdeeds in the everlasting fire, and that every one will give an account in proportion to the powers he received from God, as Christ made known to us when He said: ‘To whom God has given more, of him more shall be required.’

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), 50–52.

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 teachings Justin presents here are precisely those that the emperors would have seen exhibited by the Christians in the course of their persecutions, with the mild and gentle demeanor, the turning of the cheek, the refusal of anger, the refusal to swear oaths, etc. He points out further that there are so-called Christians who DO do these things, and by so doing escape punishment, and suggests that they are the ones who should be punished still more, because they are in truth faithful neither to Christ NOR to the emperors, to whom they feign obedience only out of fear. He therefore concludes by pointing out that the Christians are the most obedient and faithful of subjects to the emperors in all things except that they cannot give them worship. Thus all of these virtues are connected to the way Christians face persecution, and Justin is explaining to the emperors the cause of what otherwise might look like insanity of insolence.)

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 13:1-13

For the last couple weeks, we have seen Jesus preaching inside the Temple, and fielding challenges from the priests, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the scribes. This week we will see Him leave the Temple with His disciples and explain to them that He is NOT, in fact, establishing an earthly empire based in Jerusalem at that time, even though they REALLY want Him to do so.

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Persecution Foretold

9 “As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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 Jesus is explaining to His disciples that, while He is indeed coming to establish His Kingdom over all, it is not going to happen in the way that they think. As He says, “this is only the beginning of the birth pangs” of the Kingdom. He explains further to all of them that their part in this is NOT going to be to be officers and governors and warriors, but rather that they are going to be beaten and humiliated and killed, in precisely the same way that He has told them He is going to be, and that it will be in THIS way that His Kingdom will be established.)

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?