Day 360a (Dec. 26): Jude’s letter is similar to Peter’s second letter, beware of false teachers, remain strong in the faith as you did from the beginning, Jesus appears to John holding seven stars (angels of the seven churches) and standing amidst seven gold lampstands, church of Ephesus is told to return the strong faith they had in the beginning, church in Smyrna told of impending suffering but a reward comes afterward, Pergamum church is told to rid itself of evil teaching, and church of Thyatira is warned of Jezebel’s sexual promiscuity but tells others to hold true to their faith because they will get authority of the Father to rule

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

The letter from Jude addresses many of the same concerns as Peter’s second letter, which suggests that the two letters were written at about the same time and to the same churches.

Jude 1:1-25

We are here at the last book of the Bible.  You did it!  This is a book like no other book in the Bible which can be quite confusing, so Rob offered up an introduction to Revelations.  It’s the next blog dated Day 360b.  Thanks, Rob!

Revelation 1-2:29

John wrote Revelation from the Island of Patmos, where he was exiled “for preaching the word of God and for (his) testimony about Jesus” (1:9).  This occurred either during the mid-60s, during Nero’s reign and before the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jude 1:1): Jude was Jesus’s brother too, right?

A. Jesus had a brother named Jude (also known as Judas, but not the fallen apostle), and tradition holds that this is the writer of this brief epistle.

Q. (Revelations 1:4): What is “sevenfold Spirit”?  What is the significance of seven spirits, seven stars, seven lampstands, and seven churches?

A. The number seven represents completeness, so the usage of seven is used here to have a double meaning.  It represents the presence of the seven churches — which they would have considered to each have a lampstand, a symbol of the power of God and a guardian angel — that the letter is written to, but also the seven represents the ENTIRE eternal Church body.  John is cleverly using a well-known image of the seven days taken to complete Creation (there are many similar OT images in Revelation, as we shall see) for his own purposes.  The more OT you know, the easier it is to unravel many of the mysteries of Revelation.

Q. (1:20): So, we have seen quite a change in God’s people.  The Israelite’s started out with Abraham, grew and grew to a large nation, then salvation was shared with the Gentiles and now God addresses the churches.  The “church” seems like an establishment that God wants us to make.  It’s a model of how we can all work as one for a greater good.

A. The local community church is, to mince no words, the center of God’s plan for the salvation of the ENTIRE WORLD!  So it is not really shocking that the Spirit, through John, writes to both encourage and correct congregations of this day.

Q. (2:13): Can you explain Satan’s “throne” being in Pergamum?

A. We don’t exactly know, but there are a few theories.  The most common theory is that it refers to one of the many pagan temples located in the city — most likely the massive temple to the God Jupiter/Zeus.  It was also a major “hub” of that portion of the Roman Empire, and many important rulings were issued from there, making it a “throne” area of this enemy of the Church, the Empire itself.  A throne would be a place of comfort for a “king,” in this case Satan, so another theory is that John is referring to the city being a place of comfort for the enemy king, Satan himself.  Any of those, or some combination of all of them, is probably what John has in mind.  It is a symbolic image, like many we will see in this text.  Keep reading this section for more!

Q. (2:17): What’s the white stone?

A. In the ancient world, a white stone was often “issued” as a ticket for an important event, such as a festival or wedding.  Thus, Jesus giving a person a stone with a name (likely engraved) on it should be understood as that person being invited to the ultimate celebration: His wedding (more to come on this).

Q. (2:20): Didn’t we read about another Jezebel who was a king’s wife in the OT?  Any similarities between her and this one?

A. Yes we did.  Jezebel was a great enemy of the true people of God in the OT, and so John is using her name symbolically — a running theme here — to describe a woman in the congregation who is leading people away from the true path, as Jezebel did centuries ago.  One of the recurring themes here is in this type of cryptic literature — the genre is called apocalyptic — is that the author wants to keep the true meaning of what he is saying hidden from outsiders.  So by repeatedly using names and symbols of the OT, which Jews and Christians would have been familiar with but most Greeks and Romans would not have, he can convey clear imagery to those in the “know,” but outsiders are not clear on the meaning.  It’s the ultimate in “insider” writing.

Q. (2:26): What is special about Thyatira?  Is it because those who are strong-willed enough to resist Jezebel deserve a reward?  I have thought a lot lately about how strong sexual desire is — I think probably more among men — and the reason for it.  Maybe a very hard test?  Manlihood, or to show one’s success, is a strong desire, so for men to give that up and submit to God would be a big obstacle to overcome and worth a reward?  (If you haven’t watched the movie Flywheel, it is a good movie about a man giving up his proudful manlihood and control and giving his life to God.)

A. The rewards that you see for each of the churches — there are four more to come — are speaking of the general “rewards” of being faithful to Christ, and I do not believe that there are particular rewards that will not be given to others.  It is simply a way to keep from repeating himself.

Day 355 (Dec. 21): Love all, respect marriage, God will never fail us, World is not our permanent home, Peter reminds believers that they were chosen, believers have hope for the priceless inheritance in heaven, trials make your faith genuine and strong, faith will earn you praise when Jesus returns, call to holy living for sake of salvation, love deeply, purify yourselves by getting rid of all evil behavior

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Hebrews 13:1-25

Peter wrote his first and second letter from Rome shortly before his death, which probably occurred in AD 64 during the persecution of Nero.

1 Peter 1-2:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 13:1): So the angels delight in humans when we are kind to strangers?

A. It would appear so.  That certainly reflects the joy in heaven that Jesus describes in Luke 15.

Q. (13:13-14): Wow.  I never thought about the fact that Jesus blood was shed outside the city, making him an outcast.  As Christians, we do feel as outsiders for a good portion of the time.  But, we can find respite in the community of believers.  Also, I know I have said this before and I don’t think it’s out of discontentment, but I have never really felt at home, like I was totally happy in a place.  I was close living in Hawaii, like 90 percent close.  It is so beautiful there, what I would picture heaven to be.  But, I remember growing up that I just didn’t feel like I belonged in Kansas (spare me the Dorothy jokes, please J).  And, we moved to Florida after my husband retired from the Navy, as it was closer to the likes of Hawaii, but it still doesn’t do it for me.  Then, if we did ever move back, I would be far away from family again.  So, I just think that no place is perfect and I’ll find my spot in heaven and be totally happy.

A. Peter is noting here the special role Jesus’ body had in the sacrifice he offered: the “scape goat” took the sin of the people outside of the camp (one image — Lev 16:8), and the carcasses of certain animals used in the sacrifices were burned outside of the camp because they were unclean (another image).  In short, the idea here is that since Jesus was taken outside of the “camp” (Jerusalem) to die, he symbolically took all of the sin with Him, which was God’s plan from the beginning.

Q. (13:21): To me, this is telling us to use those God-given talents we have and make them work for His glory and good!  Use the tools He gave you to grow God’s house.

A. That image of “producing” in us comes from John 15, where Jesus tells us about abiding in Him in order to thrive and produce good fruit.

Q. (1 Peter 1:1): Here is that word, “chosen,” again.  I am setting the meaning of the “chosen” matter that God knows our hearts before we are born.  He knows we will choose Him, and thus, He has chosen those people for His kingdom.  I can HOPE in this that I am correct.  But, this “chosen” issue I have been uncertain on, so I can hope that I will get my understanding resolved.

A. I will be no help to you in this instance, I am afraid.  Protestants have been arguing about what it means to be chosen for 500 years, so it’s pretty well worn ground.  The idea of being chosen is a dividing point between Calvinism and Arminianism — Calvinists assume election based upon nothing more than God’s free choice, while Armenians, as you suggest, see this as selection by foreknowledge.  I leave it to you to decide.

O. (1:7b): Another reason to have faith in Jesus!

Q. (1:12) Pretty cool that humans are going through something that even the angels don’t know until it’s happening.

A. It is indeed an intriguing thought that beings outside of time do not know our fate, and are in suspense of sorts.  No wonder there is rejoicing in heaven!

Q. (1:15): I have a ways to go to be holy in everything I do, but at least when I know that I mess up, I apologize a.s.a.p.

A. Forgiveness and grace are the main tools that God uses to drive us to be better disciples.

Q. (1:17): Judge according to what we do … I thought we were saved by faith alone.  Is it saved by faith, judged by works?

A. Yes, you’ve got it.

Q. (1:20): So God and Jesus have known all along that Jesus would die on the cross to save us from our sins.  God seemed so disappointed with Adam and Eve, but He knew they were going to sin?  Also, some places say that God chose Jesus to be our atonement and other places say Jesus gave up himself for our sins.  Will you explain this difference?

A. Coming back around to the free will question you asked earlier: the question you ask here is a big part of the reason I lean towards free will instead of predestination — the accounting for human choice.  God has known all ends since the beginning (no one doubts that), but God took the risk and created our race because, in my opinion, He values our choice to love Him above all other things.  We must CHOOSE to follow Him, though He certainly guides our steps.  But as soon as you, or even God, open the possibility of choosing love, you have given the person the possibility of also choosing to not love, to reject relationship.  God is not interested in robots, He desires children who want to love Him, but that must, by definition, involve a choice.  Nothing pleases me more as a father of a little girl than when she runs up to me coming through the front door and says, “daddy, daddy!”  I do not make her do that, she does it out of her limited understanding of what love is — and she chooses to love me.  Is that love always guaranteed?  Of course not (something surely God understands), but God appears willing to risk the rejection of relationship for the chance that His children will come to know and love Him.  That is Good News if ever there was any.

Q. (1:22): Does brothers and sisters mean those in Christ or everyone, believers or not?

A. He’s referring to believers — note the first half of the verse — but surely Peter would not disagree with loving those who are not.

Day 287 (Oct. 14): Jesus stays back from festival, cost of following Jesus, Jesus goes to festival and teaches, Pharisees are stirred by mystery of Jesus, Jesus promises living water, disbelief as to who Jesus is, adulterous woman provides lesson for all sinners, the Light of the world

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1

John 7:1-9

Luke 9:51-56

Matthew 8:18-22

Luke 9:57-62

John 7:10-53

 [The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11.]

John 8:1-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 7:3): Any idea if this is His biological brothers talking or His disciples?

A. His human half brothers.

Q. (Luke 9:57-62): So basically if you “sign on” to follow Jesus, but have any doubts, you aren’t worthy of being one of his disciples?

A. I would read it more like, “if you prioritize the things of this world before the Kingdom of God, you’ve missed the boat.”

Q. (John 7:10-24): Any idea why Jesus told his brothers that he wouldn’t go with them to Jerusalem but decided to go by himself?  Then, he goes secretly, but starts preaching.

A. Jesus did not attend the festival as a pilgrim (as His brothers did), but rather as a prophet who brought a message of God to the corrupt religious leaders who needed to hear of God’s judgment.

Q. (7:28): Jesus was sent to earth as a human.  I wonder why God chose this avenue.  Since the people know where he came from, it’s very difficult for them to believe in Him.  Did God purposely make Jesus hard for the people to believe?

A. We are still early in the story, so hang in there.  Things will really ramp up with who Jesus claims to be as we enter Holy Week.  Also note that it will be the mission of the Disciples to go to all of these villages (including Galilee) to proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The clarity is coming.

Q. (7:37-39): Is anyone who believes in God and Jesus supposed to be blessed with the Spirit?

A. Yes.  Acts 2 will lay out the details.

Q. (John 8:1-11): I love this “look in the mirror” story.  Why was Jesus writing in the dirt?  Was it just a way for Him to think by using some time up?

A. Since no one knows what Jesus was writing, it is impossible to know what His writing means.  I suspect He was doing so to demonstrate that the crowd was not going to rattle him, even in the midst of the trap.

Q. (8:4): I notice that the teachers of religious law and Pharisees addressed Jesus as “teacher.”  Why do they call Him teacher when they think He’s a fake?

A. Jesus is respected as a Rabbi, and Rabbis frequently had disagreements, so it isn’t that much of a stretch.  The leaders may also be doing so because Jesus followers in the crowd do so: they are doing it out of mock respect.

Day 275 (Oct. 2): Word spreads about Jesus’s miracles, Jesus draws crowds, Jesus prays and chooses 12 disciples, Sermon on the mount, Beatitudes, sorrow awaits the rich, teaching about salt and light, followers of God’s law will be rewarded, reconcile your anger, lessons on: adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, love for enemies, giving to needy

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Mark 3:7-19

Luke 6:12-16

Matthew 5:1-12

Luke 6:17-26

Matthew 5:13-48

Luke 6:27-36

Matthew 6:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 3:9): Jesus seems to use a boat often.  Is there any significance to that or is it just a way to speak to a crowd without getting trampled?

A. It would allow Him to be seen by the crowd as well.

Q. (Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16): Rob, I believe you mentioned the number “12” way back one of our tribes of Israel discussion because, of course, there were 12 tribes.  Now we have 12 apostles.  Any significance?  And, the words “apostles” and “disciples” mean the same thing, right?  From Luke 6:12-16, it sounds as if maybe God helped Jesus choose which men to pick for His followers since Jesus prayed all night.

A. Yes, there was definitely a political message here, and it would have been read as such by all the Jews Jesus encountered.  In selecting 12 close followers, Jesus was basically implying the creation of a new nation — he was selecting 12 new “patriarchs,” implying a renewal or radical movement within Judaism.  Overall, it would actually have been interpreted in a fairly similar manner to His discussion of new wineskins from our previous reading: the old way isn’t enough anymore; I’m doing something new.

O. (Matthew 5:3-10): I remember sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table learning the books of the Bible, the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  I learned the New International Version, which, to me, flows more smoothly.  Here it is:

Matthew 5:3-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

O. (Matthew 5:11-12, Luke 6:22-23): How funny this would be to have someone mocking someone and mockee starts giggling and jumping for joy.

O. (Luke 6:24-26): The subject of this verse must be the direct opposite of the Beatitudes.

Q. (Matthew 5:14-16): I would take it that this doesn’t mean showing off.  It means that your good deeds should be a reflection of God.  Your deeds should make others happy, thus spreading God’s light.  Is this an accurate interpretation?

A. I think a more accurate way to think of it would be to say your deeds should reflect God’s heart, regardless of how they make people feel.  If done in the right spirit this is a powerful witness to God’s ability to change and direct our lives.

Q. (Matthew 5:19): So, here is one of the verses I was looking for during the Old Testament readings.  There are heavenly rewards for obedience to the Laws of Moses.  Those who are doers of the Word and not just believers will earn extra credit in Heaven?  I think we’ve talked about this before.

A. It is hard to tell exactly what Jesus means here, but I think the implication is clear: the desire to follow God’s Law (not because we have to, but because we choose to) is a noble desire, one that God rewards in some way.

Q. (Matthew 5:22, 23-24): Just when I was feeling good about my performance on earth and who I am becoming, I find a verse that I’m guilty of.  I know I have called several people “idiots” in my life time, one in particular, which I’m sure I need to repent.  When we repent, are we to go to the person with whom we have a conflict and right it with them and then go to God?  I always just thought repenting means to go to God.  Is repenting from something 10 years ago still required?  Honestly, this guy at work was above me and not qualified for his job.  He was making tons of mistakes in newsprint.  And, I have never felt the need to tell him I was sorry for my attitude toward him.  I feel more like I should apologize to God.

A. The Sermon on the Mount (what the version from Matthew is called) is a guide to living for those who are in Christ.  It is not a list of requirements or things we must do in order to make God love us.  So remove any ideas of “requirement” from your mind: that’s not what this is about.  This is about the best way to live in God-honoring relationship with the people around us, and much of it starts with our desire to repent of our actions.  If you feel like you should seek out forgiveness from those you have wronged, it might be the Spirit compelling you to do so, even if it would be uncomfortable.  Seeking forgiveness and repenting (even if the other person doesn’t know about the wrong) is certainly good advice in how to maintain peace within your own soul.  How far you go and who you tell is between you and God.

Q. (Matthew 5:27-30): There are tons of people guilty of this.  Not only do you have the ones that have had a divorce and knowingly cheated on their spouses, but here you have all of those folks that raise an eyebrow to anyone they find attractive.  These are those thoughts that you can hide from most everyone except God.

A. Admiring a woman’s (or man’s — women are not excluded) beauty is not the sin.  It is what you might call “lingering” on it, or envisioning yourself in ways that are inappropriate, and you certainly wouldn’t be willing to share with the person.  If you would be completely uncomfortable telling the person the thoughts you were having (i.e. the difference between “you are so beautiful” and “I’m thinking about you and I making out”), then I would say you’re on dangerous ground.

As to the divorce and adultery, I have two thoughts.  One: the mainline church has done a frankly TERRIBLE job discussing the theological implications on divorce, even as our society has come to see it as really no big deal.  But it is not that way to God, and it never will be: divorce wrecks lives and families, and those most affected are the innocent who have no say in the matter at all or are even used as leverage.  This is one place where too many clergy have toed the line that society has been pushing about divorce: if you’re not happy for ANY reason, get a divorce and start again.  I am not saying there are no grounds for divorce (Jesus just mentioned one), but we have let the pendulum swing too far the other way, where divorce is achieved for literally ANY reason at all.  Two: Jesus is pointing out a high standard in this reading, the standard of the conduct God EXPECTS of His people.  And far too often, we fall short all over the place.  That is where the grace that so permeates the ministry of Jesus comes into play: it covers a multitude of our sins.  So what Jesus is doing here is not holding anything back, not watering anything down, but just laying out God’s word among His people.  And if those people fail (which they will), there is God’s love and mercy to fall back on.

Q. (Matthew 5:33-37): Ten years ago or so, I cried out to God for forgiveness on something I was ashamed of.  He forgave me.  I told Him that I would make a book about it to help right my wrong.  I guess from reading this Scripture that I should not have made the deal.  Jesus has already paid the price.  I would still like to write the book, if I get around to it.  I feel that that project has taken a back burner to this blog.

A. One of the coolest things that learning the truth of the Gospel teaches us is that we don’t have to bargain with God, and it is often a waste of time to do so!  God’s great love helps us to move beyond making foolish promises, even if God, in His mercy, allows us to work on our own path (something Paul will discuss).  Who knows, God may desire for you to write the book, just understand that it has nothing to do with His MAKING you do it.

Q. (Matthew 5:41): What’s the deal with this?  It seems oddly specific.

A. In a Roman province (as Israel was), it was the law that a Roman soldier could force any non-Roman citizen (i.e. almost anyone in Israel) to carry his gear or other equipment for up to one mile.  Since the soldiers were surely seen as enemies in Israel (they were seen as foreign occupiers who killed many Jews), the implication is clear: don’t just do the minimum standard when your enemy has control over you- take the power back by serving him as you would a friend, and go beyond what you are required to do.

One interesting note about this information: we will see this law used in part of the Passion story, so watch for that down the road.

Q. (Matthew 5:43-48): I wouldn’t say that “loving your neighbor” was the consensus among the Israelites in the OT.

A. They don’t call it the New Testament for nothing.  Once again, this is about conduct among God’s people who have been redeemed by Christ, not steps taken to get there.  There is a natural tension in the two sides: hold up God’s standard, even if it means going to war (as Israel often did), but also be aware that God loves your enemy as well, and we should act like it.  Different churches have lived in this tension throughout the centuries, and I think it is one of the great freedoms we have in Christ that this is not only one way, but many ways in which we can honor God in our moral decision making.

Q. (Matthew 6:1-4): Matthew 5:16 says the opposite of this.  Can you explain that?

A. What Jesus is criticizing here is the public act of drawing attention to yourself, rather than God, in the midst of your service.  If you are making a big deal about yourself (rather then the Lord who saved you) as the source of your giving, I would say that Jesus is right: you’ve got your reward already, but you’ve done the Kingdom a great disservice.  I would say the difference between Matthew 5:16 and 6:1-4 comes down to humility.  If you don’t have a humble heart in your service, you are ultimately not shining the light on God, or reflecting His love.  Remember this question when we get to 1 Corinthians 13.

Day 234 (Aug. 22): Remaining Israelites will feel God’s anger, God compares Jerusalem and Samaria as adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah committed sin by worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to their idols, Nebuchadnezzar beseized Jerusalem for two years, God says the people will burn in their filth, God gives no pity to Jerusalem

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ezekiel 22:17-23:49

2 Kings 24:20b-25:2

Jeremiah 52:3b-5

Jeremiah 39:1

Ezekiel 24:1-14

Questions & Observations

Q. Is there significance to the names of the “sisters” in this reading?

A. Yes.  The older sister, Onolah, which represent Israel/Samaria, means “her tent.”  This is most likely a reference to the unauthorized places of worship set up in the Northern Kingdoms where the “spiritual prostitution” that Ezekiel is describing in graphic detail took place.  Judah is represented by Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her,” which refers to the place of worship in the Temple, and the pagan worship that took hold there under the corrupt kings.

Q. (Ezekiel 23:22-23): Why are all of these countries interested in attacking Jerusalem anyway?  For their treasures?  Or are we just supposed to know that God made it happen so the Israelites would be destroyed?

A. There’s a few reasons: first, as our readings have described over these last few months, the land in Judah/Israel was very desirable and good for growing crops such as olives and grapes.  Jerusalem itself was set in very high country relative to the surround area, so that also made it desirable.  But ultimately what we are talking about here is trade routes: Judah was set along a major trade road that many nations, including Egypt, used to import and export goods.  Since Babylon is a major enemy of Egypt at this point, controlling this route is a great way to weaken its great enemy.  Those, I think, provide three good reasons why Judah and Jerusalem were targeted.  But do note what got the place ultimately leveled was Zedekiah’s betrayal of his loyalty oath to Nebuchadnezzar when he tried to join Egypt against Babylon.

Q. (23:27): Is God saying that the Israelites wickedness came from Egypt back when they were enslaved or more recently?  I didn’t remember the Israelites worshiping idols until they started traveling in the desert.

A. If you remember the Golden Calf incident back in the dessert, the calf itself was an Egyptian deity — though it is possible there were other influences as well; several local cultures revered a deity represented by a bull, a common ancient symbol of strength.  You could certainly make the argument, as God is doing here, that Israel “learned” these terrible worship practices while slaves in Egypt.  Note what happened in Exodus: at the first sign of trouble with this “new God” who has rescued them (when Moses was gone for forty days), they reverted to some form of pagan worship with the calf image.  I think it is quite fair to say that they picked up this bad “habit” in Egypt.

Q. (23:46): God is asking Ezekiel to bring an army against the sisters — Samaria and Jerusalem?  How could Ezekiel do that?

A. God is pronouncing judgment on them, and not asking Ezekiel to bring this army, as we see in the last sections of this reading, the army was already there.

Q. (2 Kings 24:20b-25:2): So, it finally happens.  So, they are surrounded for two years and get no food or water from the outside?

A. Only what they could smuggle in, which surely wasn’t much.  It was surely hell for the people inside.

Day 231 (Aug. 19): Ezekiel gives God’s message to those seeking advice but have “idols in their hearts,” God to punish false prophets, even righteous characters of old couldn’t save Israelites from their punishment, people of Jerusalem are but useless grapevines, God shows that Israelites are more sinful than prostitutes, Israelites allies that they have sinned with will witness Israelites’ punishment, God says sinners of Judah will be scorned by whole world

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ezekiel 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 14:14): I love when the Bible repeats past stories or characters.  It just ties it all together!  I especially appreciate Job.  He kind of came out of nowhere, but was steadfast in God and is remembered.

Q. (14:12-23): I notice the four symbolism here too — war, famine, wild animals and disease.  Those sound like all the categories that I may fear.  Does this correlate at all with the four heads of the cherubim?  One things for sure.  I don’t want to be around evil like that.  I can’t stomach it.  The other night, hubby and I were watching the Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  I couldn’t handle Jim Carrey burning the words “Happy Birthday” on his arm with candles or drilling a hole in his head.  I literally feel like I’m going to get sick.  Hopefully, I would have escaped Jerusalem a long time before all of this craziness started.  It sounds like a horror movie.

A. There was great risk outside the cities, where there pretty much was no law, so there is no guarantee that leaving the city would have improved your fortunes any.  Part of the process of sieging the city would have been to surround and patrol the city itself, to look for those who were trying to escape, so trying to “get out” would have been a great risk in and of itself.

O. (16:1-34): This is an amazing comparison — Israelites and prostitutes.  I think the point we can apply to our lives is that God gives us blessings — sustenance, shelter, family, talents, God’s Word — and we need to make sure we glorify Him with them and know that they are from Him and for Him, not for our own pride and glory.

Q. (16:53-58): Shame is almost worse than the punishment itself.

A. Shame, and public shaming in particular, was a central concept in that society, and it still is to this day in the Middle East (including Jewish culture).  To shame someone in public was to disavow them, to show that you were washing your hands of this person, and basically turning them over to the mob, as this scene illustrates.  It was a powerful method of social control.  God is using this image of shaming to demonstrate to His people what their actions are doing, and how He will respond.

Day 148 (May 28): Avoid immoral women, daily life lessons

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Proverbs 5-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 5): When I read this passage, I think of the ultimate temptress in Revelation that I have heard about in sermons.  I know temptation for sex is very strong, especially for men (I only know that because of all the self-help books I have seen).  We may have talked about this before in our readings, but I don’t recall.  Did we talk about if sexual temptation is one of God’s ways to test believers?  And, why is it stronger with men?

A. I do not personally fall into the camp that says God puts “tests” directly into our paths.  But in a fallen world, the temptations are there if you desire to see them.  For men (who are generally more wired to be “turned on” by the sight of women than women are for men), one of these temptations is to seek sexual conquest with women who are not their wives.  This can also include a man (whether married or not) sleeping with another man’s wife, which, as the writer points out, is extremely dangerous.  Note that the passage is talking about a particular temptation: a women who DESIRES to sleep with a married man for her own gain.  So in addition to being a warning about the temptations and dangers of adultery, it is also a warning TO AVOID such seductive women all together! A woman who does not honor a man’s wife and married relationship is dangerous and poisonous to that marriage.

As to why women are not tempted in this way, I think the answer is related to what I wrote above.  Women tend to be tempted, in relationships anyway, by power and wealth- which would go a long way in explaining why the woman who attempts to seduce a married man in the first place.  She would see the man’s influence, or great wealth, and desire to have it, by having HIM.  The seduction by power or wealth certainly explains the women’s side of many affairs (Summit’s included, I’m sad to say): where a man sees sexual fulfillment in the arms of another woman (especially if he is not fulfilled at home, though I don’t want to make that sound like it excuses the affair, it doesn’t!), a woman sees security in the arms of the man, and is willing to violate the sacred marriage to get it.

Q. (Proverbs 6): God certainly pounds in the virtue of staying loyal to your wife.  I guess it’s the whole trust issue.  Breaking wedding vows — trust — hurts so many people.  The damage is almost irreparable.  How hard is it to be saved after committing adultery?

A. God can redeem any sin, including adultery, but I would be very understanding of a man or woman who had no desire to continue the relationship after an affair.  The reason?  The trust is gone, and there is no simple way to get it back.  It must be rebuilt over a long period of time, and I can see why a person who had been wounded in such a way would have no desire to invest the time required to rebuild that trust.  So it really comes down to whether the participants in the marriage desire to rebuild the relationship, which would just be speculation on my part.

Now having said that, I feel that scripture is clear that God desires for marriages to honor Him, and God ALWAYS desires the path of reconciliation, even when it is difficult.  God is clear when He says that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16): it destroys lives, especially the lives of children involved.  So as we tend to come back around too often, we find some real distance between human desire (to gain closure through divorce) and Godly desire (that the participants honor their vows by staying together).  If you want a great read on how to honor God in marriage (it also has the great reminder that marriage is about God—not you), check out Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  The chapter on divorce is worth the cost of the book just by itself.