We are on day 15 of blogging through the Bible using the Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan
Lots of people were being exploited and charged usury which made Nehemiah hugely angry. He dealt with it by demanding that people walk in the fear of God and give back property, people and usury.
What is usury? It used to mean charging interest – now it has been changed to charging excessive interest. Challenging – in effect our whole econonmy is based on the sinful practice of charging interest! Ouch. No wonder we are in trouble.
Nehemiah doesn’t eat the food allotted to the governor – so he is no gravy train fat cat either! He devoted himself to the task at hand
Sarai tries to force the heir issue by getting Abram to sleep with her servant – disaster and jealousy all round. Sarai forces her away and the servant Hagar runs away. An angel visits Hagar and promises a nation will come from her – Ishmael and there will be hostility.
Hagar trusts God and calls God “The One who sees me”
In this chapter Jesus tells the Pharisees that the traditions and food laws don’t make people unclean – it’s their hearts that are unclean.
The Jews considered Gentiles to be dogs, so v21-28 is a somewhat strange encounter where Jesus seems quite rude to a Canaanite woman, but actually is testing her great faith which results in her daughter being healed.
The Judaisers who Paul will battle in almost all his letters emerge in Jerusalem, trying to get Gentile converts to come under the law. Paul argues it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that both Gentiles and Jews are saved and the Jerusalem apostles agree.
There are some strange prohibitions food wise given what we have just read in Matthew 15! The rule established in Acts 15:20 for new converts does not contradict the truth that no food is unclean in itself, even blood! as established by Acts 10:15, Romans 14:14, 1 Corinthians 8, etc. In Acts we simply find instructions being given to Gentiles to bring a noble death to specific matters that would enflame, outrage, shock their prejudices and cause discord among Jewish converts.
Paul adopts the same ‘love principle’ in advising believers to abstain from eating meats sacrificed to idols, if in so doing it harms a brother’s faith. There is really nothing special here in Acts that contradicts Paul. What might make this decision in Acts appear strange is that real sins are joined up with neutral matters. The similarity is not in that they are all sins but that they all especially would bring discord, inflammatory reaction, provocation to anger and general destruction to the gospel taking shape within synagogues around the region. In addition, in all these things the Romans and Greeks had no moral objection to and all had some role within their idolatries, especially those that had temple prostitutes. This rule maintained a peaceful atmosphere for the true liberty of the gospel to grow and allowed a natural and noble death of some of the harmless shadows and ceremonial symbols of the Old Testament in brotherly love.