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16 Moses: During the month of Abib at the beginning of spring, celebrate Passover in honor of the Eternal, your True God. In that month, He brought you out of Egypt at night. 2 Take an animal from your herd or flock, go to the place He will choose for His name, and offer a Passover sacrifice to the Eternal your God. 3 Don’t eat any leavened bread with it. Eat unleavened bread during the seven days of this celebration because “suffering bread” is what you made when you quickly left your suffering in Egypt. If you eat it again each year, you’ll always remember the day you left Egypt. 4 For these seven days, no one in the whole country should have any yeast. And none of the meat from the sacrifice you offer on the first night of the celebration should be left over on the next day. 5 Don’t offer the Passover sacrifice in any of the other cities the Eternal your God is giving you. 6 Even if it’s some distance, make the journey to the place He will choose for His name. Offer the Passover sacrifice in that place, in the evening, at sunset—the time when you left Egypt. 7 Cook it, and eat it in the place He chooses. In the morning, you can return to your tents, 8 but you must still only eat unleavened bread for the next six days. On the seventh day, the last day of the celebration, soberly gather together to worship Him. Don’t do any work on that day.
There are a number of celebrations found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but only three great feasts are part of the Mosaic law. They retell the story of their covenant relationship with the Lord and provide occasions to share generously with those in need. They give the people the opportunity to acknowledge publicly that He is the source of their abundance, so they won’t be tempted to think they’ve prospered on their own and forget Him.
Each of the three great celebrations are reminders of the servitude in Egypt. Passover, followed by the week of unleavened bread, is a reminder of God redeeming His people from Egypt and falls within March or April each year. The Feast of Weeks, known as Pentecost to Christians, is 50 days after firstfruits or the beginning of the barley harvest and comes in May or June. They are told to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt. The last of the great celebrations, the Feast of Shelters, comes in September or October. It is a reminder of the provision of God when the nation lived in temporary shelters while wandering in the wilderness.
9-10 Another celebration the Eternal your God wants you to have is the Feast of Weeks. Hold this celebration seven weeks after you first begin to cut and harvest the barley in your fields. Each of you will choose something to contribute out of what He has blessed you with. 11 Go to the place He chooses for His name; and have a celebration there in His presence with your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your city. 12 Remember you were slaves in Egypt, and obey these regulations carefully.
13 Later in the year, at the end of the harvest after you’ve finished threshing all your grain and making all your wine, celebrate the Feast of Shelters for seven days.
The Israelites are to make temporary shelters and live in them for a week to remember how they lived in temporary shelters when they left Egypt.
14 Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your city. 15 Celebrate for seven days in honor of the Eternal your God, in the place the Eternal will choose. The Eternal your God will bless you with abundant produce; He will bless everything you do, and you’ll have a lot to celebrate! 16 Three times each year, every male Israelite must appear before Him in the place He chooses for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), for the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and for the Feast of Shelters (Tabernacles). Don’t come empty-handed! 17 Decide what amount you want to contribute voluntarily out of what He has blessed you with, and bring that as a gift.
This next group of laws describes the rights and responsibilities of community leaders in Israel: the judges who will settle disputes, a king who may be chosen to rule the nation, the Levites who will serve at the central sanctuary, and the prophets who will bring the Lord’s word to the people. All of these offices create a balance of power in Israel.
Moses: 18 In each of the cities the Eternal your God is giving you, appoint tribal judges and representatives who will decide cases for the people honestly and fairly.
(to these future judges) 19 Don’t bend the rules for anyone. Don’t favor the rich and powerful, and never take a bribe! A bribe makes people who would decide cases wisely overlook injustice, and it makes people who would be honest give false testimony. 20 Justice! Justice! That’s what you’re after. Then you’ll keep living in the land He is giving you.
21 When you build an altar to the Eternal your God, don’t ever put any kind of sacred wooden pole[a] next to it, 22 and don’t ever set up a monolith or stone pillar. He hates these things!
17 Moses: Don’t sacrifice an ox or a sheep to the Eternal your God if it has any defect or problem. He would be deeply offended by such an offering!
2 What if, in one of the towns the Eternal your God is giving you, a man or a woman does what He considers wrong and breaks His covenant 3 by going and worshiping other gods, bowing down to them or the sun or moon or stars (which I’ve never commanded you to do)? 4 If you discover this, if someone tells you about it, or if you hear about it; then conduct a careful investigation. If you establish conclusively that the report is true, that such a horrible thing has been done within Israel, 5 then bring the man or woman who has done this evil thing out to the gates of your town, and stone that man or woman to death. 6 But for someone to be executed on a charge such as this, there must be testimony from at least two or three witnesses. No one is to be executed on the testimony of just one witness. 7 The witnesses must throw the first deadly stones, and then everyone else must join in. Expel the wicked from your own community.[b]
8 If one person in your town brings a complaint against another to be judged at the city gate, and it’s just too difficult for you to decide what a fair resolution would be—if you can’t determine whether a killing was premeditated, or if you can’t decide who in a dispute makes the best argument, or if you can’t tell whether someone was injured accidentally or intentionally—then adjourn your proceedings and go to the place the Eternal your God will choose. 9 Bring your case to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is serving at the time, and they will give you a verdict. 10 You must carry out their verdict exactly as they stated it because it was delivered in the place the Eternal chose, and it has His authority behind it. 11 Follow each word of the law as they interpret it for you; do everything they’ve told you to do, as they’ve explained it, without deviating from it at all. 12 If anyone is so arrogant that he won’t listen to the priest who serves right there in the presence of the Eternal your God or to the judge of the tribunal, that person must be executed to expel this kind of wickedness from Israel. 13 Everyone will hear about it, and no one will dare to be so arrogant, for they will be afraid.
Having a king is part of God’s plan for Israel. This king is supposed to be someone who depends faithfully on the Lord, not on wealth or power, and who would study God’s laws and follow them. A king like that will be a blessing to everyone in the country. But when the people ask for this king around 1000 b.c., their motives are wrong. They want to depend on this king instead of on God (1 Samuel 8:7). In the years that follow, many ungodly kings bring trouble to the nation and oppress the people. Their political maneuvering and policies of appeasement even lead them to set up altars to foreign gods. The people are ultimately punished for deserting the Lord by being taken into exile away from the promised land.
Moses: 14 Once you’ve gotten into the land the Eternal your God is giving you, and you’ve conquered it and settled there, you may say to yourselves, “Let’s appoint a king to rule our country, just as all the nations around us have!” 15 If you do have a king, remember you must enthrone the king He chooses. It must be a fellow Israelite whom you enthrone; you must not enthrone a foreigner who is not a fellow Israelite. 16 Although an Israelite, he must not try to build a strong army by collecting large herds of horses for his cavalry troops and a chariot corps. The king must certainly not send people back to Egypt to get large herds of horses, because the Lord has commanded you, “Don’t ever go back that way again!” 17 This king must not have many wives. If he takes foreign wives in marriage alliances, they could turn his heart away from the Lord and lead him to worship foreign gods. And the king must not accumulate great quantities of silver and gold for himself.
18 As soon as this king takes the royal throne, he must write out a copy of this law for himself on a scroll with the Levitical priests looking on. 19 He must keep this copy with him and read it every day, so that he will learn to fear the Eternal his God and to obey everything in the law and remember all these regulations very carefully in order to do them. 20 That way he won’t think he’s privileged and oppress and exploit his fellow Israelites. He won’t deviate at all from what the Eternal has commanded, and he and his descendants will rule over Israel in a long dynasty.
7-8 Their mission didn’t go unnoticed. The local official installed by Rome, Herod, was especially anxious about the news because rumors were flying. Some people said that Elijah or one of the other ancient prophets had been resurrected, while others said that John, famous for his ritual cleansing, was alive and preaching again.
Herod: 9 I am the one who beheaded John. So who is this man who is causing such a stir?
Herod was curious about Jesus and wanted to see Him.
10 The emissaries[a] whom Jesus had sent out returned, and Jesus took them away from the crowds for a time of retreat in a city called Bethsaida. They gave Jesus a full report of their accomplishments and experiences. 11 But soon the crowds discovered where they were and pursued Him. Jesus didn’t turn them away; He welcomed them, spoke of the kingdom of God to them, and brought health to those who needed healing.
12 Picture what happened while in Bethsaida, where Jesus and His disciples were spending time with the crowds:
The sun is low in the sky, and soon it will be dusk. The twelve come to Jesus with advice.
Disciples: Send the crowd away so they can find lodging and food in the nearby villages and countryside. We’re out here in the middle of nowhere.
Jesus: 13-14 No. You give them something to eat.
Disciples: Are You kidding? There are at least 5,000 men here, not to mention women and children. All we have are five loaves and two fish. The only way we could provide for them would be to go to a nearby city and buy cartloads of food. That would cost a small fortune.
Jesus: Just do this: organize them in little communities of about 50 people each and have them sit down.
15 They do what Jesus says, and soon groups of 50 are scattered across the landscape.
16 Then Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish, and He looks up to heaven. He praises God for the food, takes each item, and breaks it into fragments. Then He gives fragments to the twelve disciples and tells them to distribute the food to the crowd.
17 Everyone eats. Everyone is satisfied. Nobody goes away hungry. In fact, when the disciples recover the leftovers, they have 12 baskets full of broken pieces.
18 Once Jesus was praying in solitude. The disciples were nearby, and He came to them with a question.
Jesus: What are the people saying about Me?
Disciples: 19 Some people think You’re John the Baptist. Others say You’re the prophet Elijah, or else one of the other ancient prophets who has come back from the dead.
Jesus: 20 Ah, but what about you? Who do you say that I am?
Peter: God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.
Jesus (sternly): 21 Don’t tell anyone this. 22 The Son of Man must suffer intensely. He must be rejected by the religious establishment—the elders, the chief priests, the religious scholars. Then He will be killed. And then, on the third day He will be raised.
23 If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me. 24 If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. 25 Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?
26 If you’re ashamed of who I am and what I teach, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when He comes in all His glory, the glory of the Father, and the glory of the holy messengers. 27 Are you ready for this? I’m telling you the truth: some of you will not taste death until your eyes see the kingdom of God.
1 True God, bestow Your honest judgments upon the king
and anoint the king’s son with Your righteousness.
2 May he be honest and fair in his judgments over Your people
and offer justice to the burdened and suffering.
3 Under his reign, may this land of mountains and hills know peace
and experience justice for all the people.
4 May the king offer justice to the burdened and suffering,
rescue the poor and needy,
and demolish the oppressor!
5 [May the people fear You][a] for as long as the sun shines,
as long as the moon rises in the night sky, throughout the generations.
6 May the king be like the refreshing rains, which fall upon fields of freshly mown grass—
like showers that cool and nourish the earth.
7 May good and honest people flourish for as long as he reigns,
and may peace fill the land until the moon no longer rises.
8 May the king rule from one sea to the next,
and may his rule extend from the Euphrates River to the far reaches of the earth.
9 Let the desert wanderers bow down before him
and his enemies lay prostrate and taste the dirt.
10 Let the kings of Tarshish and the island kings
shower him with gifts
And the kings of Sheba and Seba bring him presents as well.
11 Let every king on earth bow down before him
and every nation be in his service.
12 For he will rescue the needy when they ask for help!
He will save the burdened and come to the aid of those who have no other help.
13 He offers compassion to the weak and the poor;
he will help and protect the lives of the needy!
14 He will liberate them from the fierce sting of persecution and violence;
in his eyes, their blood is precious.
15 May he live a long, long time
and the gold of Sheba be given to him.
May the people constantly lift up prayers for him,
and may they call upon God to bless him always.
16 Let grain grow plentifully in this land of promise,
let it sway in the breeze on the hilltops,
let it grow strong as do the cedars of Lebanon,
Woven throughout the psalms are songs describing and praising those anointed as kings over God’s people. Psalm 2, one of the introductory psalms, describes the king as the son of God, the ruler of nations, and the anointed one. During the monarchical period in Israel, psalms like these were tied to the kings themselves, idealizing them as perfectly just and righteous and victorious. But during the exile, God’s exiled people longed for freedom and the implications of these songs began to change. Many Jews began to interpret these psalms as referring to a coming ruler, a Davidic king who would usher in an eternal kingdom and perfect peace. This hope was realized in Jesus. So this is why the earliest followers of Jesus went back to the psalms again and again. They found within many of the psalms, the story of Jesus anticipated and celebrated.
And may those who live in the city bloom and flourish
just as the grass of the fields and meadows.
17 May his name live on forever
and his reputation grow for as long as the sun gives light.
May people from all nations find in him a blessing;
may all peoples declare him blessed.
18 May the Eternal God, the God of Israel, be blessed,
for He alone works miracles and wonders!
19 May His glorious name be blessed forever
and the whole earth be filled with His eternal glory!
20 The prayers of King David, Jesse’s son, are ended.
8 A person is commended for expressing insight,
but a perverted heart is despised.
9 It is better to be overlooked and have a servant
than to be pretentious and have nothing to eat.