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 65 (March 6): Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel, God is with Balaam and ensures he is prepared, angel and donkey episode, Balaam blesses Israel, Balak furious, Balaam shares Israel’s future

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 22-24

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 22:4): Has Balaam been mentioned in the Bible until now?  From reading today’s reading, he sounds like he is really close to God.  How come he has not been mentioned thus far, or did I miss something?

A. You did not miss anything.  This is the first time we have met Balaam, because he is not an Israelite.  This three-chapter interval in the story appears to have its origins in the fear of the Moabite king and a pagan prophet.

Q. (Numbers 22:22): I don’t understand why God was upset with Balaam for going to see Balak when God told him to go the night before.

A. Yes, this is tricky.  I would suspect that God’s anger with Balaam has to do with his motives.  God gives Balaam permission to go, but not to curse Israel, so perhaps that is what Balaam was planning to do that offended God, even after He had granted permission to go see the king.  I can see why a face value reading of the text would cause confusion, however.  There is quite possibly some sort of error in the text that presents itself as God contradicting His own order.

Q. (22:23-34): The understanding I have of this verse is that Balaam is in his own world.  He’s not looking up to see the angel of the Lord, so God knows that Balaam isn’t tuned in to him.  He sent the angel to give Balaam a wakeup call to make sure he is speaking God’s words?  Also, when Balaam is whipping the donkey, God makes the donkey talk, which made me think that God was trying to teach him a lesson that he needs to pay attention to others and not just himself.

A. I think that is very insightful.  Your suggestion could be another reason God was not pleased with Balaam and forbid him to go: he was only focusing on himself, and needed a “wake up call”.

Q. (23:1-6, 23:14) Rob, you have told us that when we see the number 7 in the Bible, it signifies completeness, how does this the seven altars signify completeness here?

A. You have correctly noticed another incident of 7.  The number apparently was significant in the minds of Israel’s neighbors as well, for they also see it as a significant number.  According to my commentary, Balaam is using a pagan technique of prophecy called liver divination, and this many animals sacrificed would surely have given Balaam plenty of organs to examine (a lovely image, isn’t it?).  This type of divination would have been specifically forbidden to the Israelites, but was commonplace for professional pagan prophets (say that 5 times fast) like Balaam.

O. (23:7-12) I can imagine how totally ticked off King Balak would be.  I guess this is God’s version of humor.  It works for me!

Q. I just wonder if Balak, after hearing the blessings prophecies, changed his mind if God would change his fate?  Or, is it already predetermined?

A. That’s a tricky question.  In the short term, Moab is NOT one of the nations that will be conquered by Israel: they are not in in the Promised Land, but are rather outside of it.  The vision that Balaam has about a specter rising to crush Moab is probably that of King David, who will conquer many of the surrounding nations.  As we keep reading, however, I think you will see the Moabite reaction to Israel.

Come back tomorrow for more Bible knowledge!