October Bible Reading Plan
Authorship and Purpose:
The book of Deuteronomy is traditionally held to be written by Moses, though it does mention Moses’ death, and is addressed to the people of Israel as they are preparing to finally enter the promised land. The authorship of the entirety of Deuteronomy is debated. Did Moses predict his death? Was the book completed by someone else? Or was the whole thing written by someone else later in Israel’s history? Regardless, Deuteronomy functions as the close to the first major section in the Bible and sets up the rest of the narrative to come.
After wandering the wilderness for forty years, Moses is preparing the next generation for what is to come. The covenant is being renewed with this generation and Moses is setting before them what they must do to remain faithful to God. If Israel remains faithful, God will bless them in the land, but if they turn from Him, there would be curses and ultimately exile from the land.
As the last book of the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah or “Instruction” in the Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy wraps up the storyline thus far and leads directly into the next major section. To recap the story up to this point, God created humanity to be with Him as co-rulers over creation, but humanity rebelled and sin separated us from God. God then puts in place a plan, starting in Gen. 3:15, to reconcile humanity back to Himself and dwell with them once more. He calls forth Abraham, promising to make his descendants a great nation (Gen. 12), and His promise becomes true in Exodus, when God calls forth the Hebrew people to become His people. After the previous generation failed, God is renewing the covenant with this generation. Even though we know, along with Moses, that they will ultimately fail (Deut. 28:45-51), the choice set before them is the same choice we all face, between life and death, good and evil (Deut. 30:15).
Deuteronomy contains multiple literary elements. The book consists of speeches given by Moses, legal literature, and even has similarities with ancient covenant documents. When reading the legal sections, there are a few things to keep in mind. Foremost, it is important to remember that to those who received it, the Torah was grace. In a polytheistic world, when calamity strikes, no one knew which god was offended or how to make amends (search “Sumerian prayer to every god” for an example). In this context, God Himself speaks, proclaiming His identity as the one true God who delivered Israel, and instructs them on how to be His people, even telling them specifically what to do when they mess up. Furthermore, the laws of the Torah reflect the character of God, the lawgiver. These laws tell us something about God, namely His justice, mercy, compassion, and holiness, and can even be applicable to our lives (see how Paul uses Deut. 25:4 in 1 Cor. 9:9). Lastly, as followers of Christ and members of the new covenant, we are free from the law (Rom. 7-8, Gal. 5). While the Old Testament law still has the same value as authoritative and inspired text, Christians relate to it in a fundamentally different way as a result of Jesus.
Faithfulness to YHWH leads to life — If Israel remains faithful to the covenant, God will bless them and they will prosper in the land promised to them, but if they turn from Him, God will curse them and they will be exiled.
Even if exile comes, God remains faithful to His people — Moses’ knows Israel will fail, but even when they turn from God, God will still be with them. Those who are faithful to Him and who repent will still find life in God.
- Moses’ opening speech — 1-11
- Laws — 12-26
- Moses’ final speech — 27-33
- Moses’ death — 34
Authorship and Purpose:
The book of Philemon was written by Paul to Philemon, a church leader in Colossae, during one of Paul’s imprisonments. In it, Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus, a former slave of Philemon who may have wronged him in some way, back into his church as a brother. Despite its small size, the book of Philemon puts on display what the Gospel means for our church communities.
Philemon is a letter, referred to as an epistle, and is the shortest of Paul’s letters in the New Testament. Though this letter is clearly addressed to a specific person and his specific situation, Paul’s handling of the situation demonstrates how the Gospel radically changes how Christians are to relate to each other in the church. In Onesimus and Philemon’s case, though outside the church they have a slave/master relationship and Philemon was likely legally safe to punish Onesimus, the Gospel fundamentally changes that relationship to that of brothers in Christ. As brothers, Philemon was to accept Onesimus back, embracing him as he would Paul (v. 17).
Though slavery is now abolished, the message is no less radical in our context. In Christ, we all are to relate to each other as brothers and sisters. Regardless of societal class, race, or gender, we are equal in Christ before God, sharing in the same life, death, and resurrection which changed all of history.
A brief note on slavery as it sometimes comes up when discussing this book: Paul nowhere explicitly condemns slavery, though that does not mean that slavery is condoned by the Gospel. As mentioned above, taken as a whole, the Bible radically changes how we are to relate to each other, especially compared to the context in which it was originally written. When read as intended by the biblical authors, we find that God is calling to Himself a unified people from all nations and social classes who will stand before Him in praise by the blood of Christ.
In Christ, we are brought into familial relationship with each other and God — As a result of the Gospel, we are to love each other as equals and our communities should therefore reflect that love, regardless of what are relationship was before meeting Jesus.
Structure of Jeremiah:
- Greeting — v. 1-3
- Thanksgiving — v. 4-7
- Appeal to Philemon — v. 8-22
- Final greetings — v. 23-25