2 Chronicles 26: Amaziah’s son, Uzziah, takes over as king. As with the two kings before him, his reign started well in that he followed God and did what he was supposed to do. Eventually, he failed to do this just like his two predecessors. His sin was that he went into God’s sanctuary and burned incense. Only priests who were descended from Aaron were allowed to do this. God inflicted him with a skin disease and he lived alone until he died.
2 Chronicles 27: Uzziah’s son, Jotham, took over after his father died. The text makes it sound like nothing but good things happened during his reign. Yet, there’s this little tidbit in the notes: “Strategically, the Chronicler omits the notice that it was in Jotham’s reign that Aram’s King Rezin and Israel’s King Pekah began their offensive against Judah” (p. 704 OT). WHY?
2 Chronicles 28: Time for Jotham’s son, Ahaz, to take over after Jotham died at the end of the previous chapter. According to the notes in both the CEB study bible and the NRSV study bible, his reign was an “unmitigated disaster” (CEB study bible, p. 705 OT; NRSV study bible, p. 650). Just a few things he did: he followed Israel’s kings by making images of the Baals and burning incense in the wrong place, burned his sons alive, and sacrificed and burned incense pretty much everywhere he could. So, God gave him over to Aram’s king and then to another king and finally to a third king. He died after doing much damage to Judah and his people.
Introduction to Ephesians: I’ve really grown to enjoy reading the introductions to each book. This one is pretty interesting. First, it reminds the reader that according to Acts, Paul spent more time in Ephesus than anywhere else (Acts 19). Yet, according to the notes in the CEB study bible, “this letter is his least personal and most general” (p. 363 NT). While both the NRSV and CEB Study Bibles acknowledge there is disagreement over who wrote this book, the CEB Study Bible argues that “a great benefit of the letter’s general character is that it gives us a good summary of Paul’s basic understanding of Christian thought and Christian living” (p. 363 NT).
The intro in the NRSV study bible points out the numerous similarities between Ephesians and Colossians (see page 2052 for the chart). This leads to one of two possible conclusions: either Paul did write this letter at around the same time as he wrote Colossians or one of Paul’s followers wrote this letter and had access to the original Colossians letter. Here’s a summary from the NRSV Study Bible:
The text can be divided into two parts: theological teaching (chs 1–3), and ethical exhortation (chs 4–6). The first part focuses on the church as a new community in which Jews and Gentiles equally share in God’s blessings. The second part is an appeal for the church to maintain that new unity and press on toward complete maturity by rejecting former lifestyles and displaying Christian values of truth, love, forgiveness, and sexual purity. (p. 2053)
This last little bit from the NRSV Study Bible is really interesting: “Because Ephesians describes the church in such universal and glorious terms, it has been used by theologians (including Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin) throughout the centuries to establish their vision of the church and its mission” (p. 2053). I am a pretty big fan of Thomas Aquinas, so this is pleasant to hear. I especially like Thomas Aquinas because of his efforts to reconcile science and religion so long ago. I must read more about him.
Ephesians 1: As with all the other letters, Paul starts this letter with a brief greeting stating who he is. He then follows this with pretty much a list of all the blessings believers enjoy. He wants the people to think of themselves in these ways because they have accepted Christ into their lives. The emphasis is on the people’s redemption because they are now followers of Christ.
This is followed by a prayer which leads to the theme of this letter: “God has triumphed over the powers of darkness by raising Jesus from the dead and making him Lord over all creation” (p. 363 NT).