2020 Bible Challenge: Weeks 26 & 27

Esther, Job 1-21, Acts 6-10

Friends,

We are officially approaching the half-way point in our reading plan. I would love to hear from you. Why do you still continue to read the Bible? What motivates you at this point? What would you say to someone who is considering reading the entire Bible?

The story of Esther is easy to follow. There is a lot of drama and intrigue. Notice, that even early on, young Esther (most probably in her teens) knows how to “read” people and has a great intuition (Esther 2:15). As much as I admire her character and wisdom, I also see many ugly manifestations of the ancient patriarchal culture.

We would be horrified today to consider sending a large group of young girls to a man, who “tests” them for one night, and then discards all of them, all but one. Even Esther’s life as a queen (and Vashti’s before her) is far from a princess, fairy tale. She has to negotiate with the men who have power over her – the king and Mordecai. It is also hard for us to celebrate the happy ending of the story because it describes violence against multitudes of people, that lasts not one day, but two. When this story is adapted for children’s Bibles, there are a lot of details that have to be obscured. If you have a children’s Bible laying around, I encourage you to check it out.

Today, we start reading the book of Job. It is quite long, 42 chapters, but it reads fast – trust me! Even people who have never read it, know about the main trait of Job’s character – the patience of Job. In the New Testament, the letter of James speaks about “the patience of Job” (James 5:11). Check out how your Bible translation names it. CEB chooses to speak about the “endurance” of Job, rather than “patience.” As you read through Job, consider how would you describe his character. Is he patient? Desperate? Defeated? Hopeless? Angry? Or all of the above? Let’s see what Job himself has to say about his patience (21:4).

As I work my way through the book, I mark on the margins of how Job describes God: “beyond reach” (9:32-33), “cruel” (16:12), as an “enemy” (Job 19:12). Job’s friends, in many words, tell him that God lets bad things happen, but only to bad people, while Job replies to them by pointing out that, in fact, bad things still happen to good people. The question is – what does it tell us about the character of God?

I also would like for you to notice the different descriptions of what existence after death looks like according to Job – for example 14:12, 17:13-16, 21:26. You will see that these beliefs are not similar to what we believe about life after death. It is a great example that even within the Bible we have many different threads of thought.

When you get to Job 7:17-21, remember to look at Psalm 8 (your Bible footnotes probably will tell you to do so). Job knew this Psalm, but had a very different perspective on life than the psalmist himself. There are many instances where Bible authors cite other parts of the Scripture, but this kind of sarcasm (and maybe even ridicule) is not common.

In the New Testament, the book of Acts is taking us through the early days of the Christian movement, when it was still part of Judaism, but started to take shape of its own. Acts 6:14 points out to these tensions. I wonder though, how many Christians today may in fact agree with the accusation thrown at the first Christian martyr, Stephen. What do you think? Notice that the following verse describes Stephen’s appearance in ways that remind us of Moses, after he spent time in the presence of God.

I encourage you to take note of what caused tension and conflict in these early Jesus-following communities (6:1, 10:15). Even in the beginning of the book of Acts, we see that God’s vision and direction for the church is to overcome these barriers as more and more unexpected people are brought to the church by the power of the Holy Spirit (8:36, 10:1-2).

I am looking forward to our meeting in the beginning of July! We will have only one meeting on Monday, July 6th at 1:00 pm.

God bless, 


Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez
Associate Pastor of Grace Groups & Discipleship

 

Bible Challenge Meetups:

Saturdays
July 11, August 1, September 5, October 3, November 7, December 26, 2020
9:00 – 10:00 am

Mondays
July 6, September 14, October 5, November 2, 2020
1:00 – 2:30 pm

Meeting ID: 817 336 7276
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