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Two Old Testament Leaders, One Message
In the month of May, we’ll read about the passing of two great leaders: Moses and Joshua. I love their final exhortations to the people they had led for so many years.

Moses speaks at the end of his life:

15“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between prosperity and disaster, between life and death. 16I have commanded you today to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, laws, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and become a great nation, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy. 17But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

19“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! 20Choose to love the LORD your God and to obey him and commit yourself to him, for he is your life. Then you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NLT)

The Book of Joshua picks up the story after Moses dies. With Joshua as their leader, the Lord gives the Israelites many victories over their enemies and they gain the land they had been promised. After the land was divided among them, they had peace. It is then Joshua’s turn to give a final message:

1The years passed, and the LORD had given the people of Israel rest from all their enemies. Joshua, who was now very old, 2called together all the elders, leaders, judges, and officers of Israel. He said to them, “I am an old man now. 3You have seen everything the LORD your God has done for you during my lifetime. The LORD your God has fought for you against your enemies. 4I have allotted to you as an inheritance all the land of the nations yet unconquered, as well as the land of those we have already conquered — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5This land will be yours, for the LORD your God will drive out all the people living there now. You will live there instead of them, just as the LORD your God promised you.

6“So be strong! Be very careful to follow all the instructions written in the Book of the Law of Moses. Do not deviate from them in any way.

14“So honor the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. 15But if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 23:1-6, 24:14-15 (NLT)

A Transition in the New Testament Readings
So far this year we have read two Gospels, the book of Acts and we’re half way through Romans. I placed Romans after Acts because it is such a foundational book — it appears “first in every list of the Apostle Paul’s writings [bearing] witness to the importance of the work both in its tehem and in its content.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament) Perhaps that why it always makes sense to me to read Romans immediately after reading the Gospels and Acts.

When we finish Romans, however, our reading plan transitions. I’m doing things a bit different this year in scheduling the remainder of the Epistles based on when they were written. In other words, you’ll read the books in the order they were actually written. Of course, they were written by different people and to different groups of people, but I think it will be interesting to see the themes that the writers addressed knowing that those themes would mirror the growing new Church.

So following Romans, we’ll read James. James is an interesting book and has caused some controversy over the years. Martin Luther called it a “right strawy epistle,” and the Bible Knowledge Commentary describes it like this:

“needles in this haystack to prick the conscience of every dull, defeated, and degenerated Christian in the world. Here is a ‘right stirring epistle’ designed to exhort and encourage, to challenge and convict, to rebuke and revive, to describe practical holiness and drive believers toward the goal of a faith that works. James is severely ethical and refreshingly practical.”

Hmmm. Seems like the first issues that needed to be addressed in the Church was faithful endurance and holy living.

The two letters to the Thessalonians followed much in the same theme. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul encouraged perseverance in the face of persecution and he addressed some more issues in which the church that had cropped up in the church.

2 Thessalonians was most likely written shortly after 1 Thessalonians. Some suppose the information came to him from the person who delivered Paul’s first letter. Paul commends the church for their faithfulness and exhorts them to continue in faithful living, not abandoning responsibilities because they expected the Lord to return soon.

Paul’s final exortation in 1 Thessalonians followed by his closing from 2 Thessalonians seem to be a fitting closing to this month’s Resting at the River’s Edge blog:

12Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. 13Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because of their work. And remember to live peaceably with each other.

14Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

15See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.

16Always be joyful. 17Keep on praying. 18No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

19Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20Do not scoff at prophecies, 21but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22Keep away from every kind of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (NLT)

May the Lord of peace himself always give you his peace no matter what happens. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NLT)

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of May’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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