Lesson: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
1 When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, 5 you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7 we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. 11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.
Deuteronomy is the fifth (and last) book of the Torah and is presented as Moses’ final speech to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land. “Deuteronomy” comes from Greek words that mean “Second Law” and is structured as a “restatement” of the laws found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Parts of it were revised as late as 450 BCE, but the bulk of the book is generally dated to the reign of King Josiah of Judea (640-609 BCE).
It is also the first book of the didactic “Deuteronomic History” which consists of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. This “History” teaches that when the people and kings of Israel and Judea worshiped YHWH properly, they prospered, but when they worshiped false gods, other nations (the Assyrians in 722 BCE and Babylonians in 587) conquered them.
The Deuteronomic History emphasized the need for worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple is described in today’s passage as “the place the LORD God [YHWH] will choose as a dwelling for his name” (v.2).
Today’s reading prescribed actions at the Temple for the Festival of Weeks, a celebration of the Spring harvest. After the Babylonian Exile, the Festival also came to be associated with the giving of the Law at Sinai and was later called Pentecost (50 days after Passover) in First Century Judaism (Acts 2:1). Today’s passage gave a theological and historical basis for two laws that were already in Deuteronomy 14:22-29.
The Festival of Weeks was one of the three festivals in which Jews were expected to go the Temple in Jerusalem to make offerings. The other two were Passover and the celebration of the Fall harvest, called the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles (remembering the flimsy dwellings inhabited during the time in the Wilderness). Verses 3 and 4 are seen as a later insert to emphasize the role of the priests at the Temple.
Today’s reading also contains an early synopsis of the story of the Exodus and the entry into Israel (vv.5b-9). This synopsis does not contain the giving of the Law at Sinai or many of the details in Genesis and Exodus. It can be compared with the synopsis of Jewish History from Abraham to the Destruction of Jerusalem contained in Nehemiah 9:7-31.
The Book of Nehemiah was written around 400 BCE, after the Exile and more than 200 years after most of Deuteronomy was written. When Nehemiah was written, the stories in Genesis and Exodus had been more fully developed and were included in the Torah read by Ezra to the people in 443 BCE (Neh.8).
Epistle: Romans 10:8b-13
8b “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last, and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among other messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.
The “backstory” is that in 49 CE, Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome, including Jewish Jesus Followers. The next Emperor was Nero who reigned from 54 to 68 CE. Nero reversed his predecessor’s decree and allowed Jews to return to Rome. This return caused tensions within the Jesus Follower Community in which Gentiles had become prominent.
In today’s reading, Paul paraphrased Isaiah 28:16 in saying that “no one who believes in Jesus as Lord will be put to shame” (v.11). He emphasized that “there is no distinction among the Jesus Followers between Jew and Greek (Gentiles); the same Lord is Lord of all” (v.12). As support for this assertion, Paul interpreted Deuteronomy 30:14 as establishing that the “word of faith” is on each believer’s lips and in their hearts (v.8b). In Deuteronomy, the “word” was the Commandments.
Paul took the phrase “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v.13) from the prophet Joel, who wrote about the “terrible Day of the LORD [YHWH]” in which only those who call upon the LORD would be saved (Joel 2:32). Paul’s used this phrase as part of his over-all message that “belief in your heart that God raised [the Christ] from the dead” (v.9) is transformative and causes the true believer to be “justified” – in a right relationship with God and others and doing right for the right reasons (v.10).
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
1 After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading is the “Temptation in the Wilderness.” An abbreviated version appears in Mark 1:12-13 in which the Spirit “drove” Jesus to the Wilderness. Matthew 4:1-11 presented the same three temptations (showing that the source is “Q”), but in a different order.
The period of 40 days is reminiscent of the 40 years the Israelites were said to have been in the Wilderness during the Exodus, The word “forty” is a translation of a word that means “a long time” just as “three days” is a euphemism for “a short time.” We use the same metaphors when we say: “I’ll be there in a second” or “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
The quotations from the Hebrew Bible that were reportedly used by the Satan and Jesus are paraphrases of verses from the Septuagint and are different from the Masoretic Texts.
In First Century Jewish thought, the Satan was not considered the embodiment of evil (as Satan
later became) but rather was a part of the heavenly court whose role was to test the righteous.
Luke uses the word “diaboulou” which is generally translated as “the devil” and reflects movement towards seeing the tempter as evil. Verses 5 and 6 presupposed that the devil possessed the “glory and authority” over all the kingdoms of the world and that the devil had the power to give this glory and authority to anyone the devil chose.
The departure of the devil “until an opportune time” (v.13) foreshadowed the devil’s reappearance in Luke 22:3 when “Satan (in Greek satanas) entered into Judas called Iscariot.”