Day 351 (Dec. 17): The son radiates God’s glory, Jesus earned place of honor when he cleansed us from sin, Jesus is greater than the angels, angels care for believers, stay with the truth, Jesus more glorious than Moses, Israelites faltering in the desert serves as a heed God’s instructions, promised rest for God’s people

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.

2 Timothy 4:19-22

The letter to the Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish Christians- and it was very likely given as a sermon since it contains no greeting.  Though Paul is the traditionally attributed writer, it is unlikely that Paul wrote it.  Instead, the author is unknown, lost to history.  The text was probably written before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, since the letter presupposes that sacrifices were still being performed there (for example, see 5:1-3, 8:3-5, 9:6-13).

Hebrews 1-4:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 1:2): Can you explain this verse?  It sounds like this promise of inheritance happened at creation, so then Jesus would have to know he would be crucified back then?  I really don’t know what God is saying Jesus is inheriting.

A. The writer is describing how Jesus will be ultimate ruler of all created things — that this was God’s plan from the beginning.  This is the “everything” that Jesus has inherited by going through the process of being crucified.  If you ask me, I suspect that God knew the way that all things would unfold in Creation, including the need for Jesus to be crucified.

Q. (1:4-14): Why is the author validating that Jesus is more glorious than angels?

A. Because angel worship was a problem then as it is now, maybe more so (google “angel sightings” or “angel shrine” to see what I’m talking about).  This was an especially big problem for early Jewish Christians, who would have greatly revered angels.  The author needs to convince his audience that Jesus is superior to all the things of the OT, including Moses, the angels/messengers, and the priesthood/temple (coming soon!).

Q. (1:14): To my knowledge, I haven’t been in the presence of an angel.  In what instances do angels help us?  I guess I am confused now about angels roles vs. the Holy Spirit.  I have definitely been in the presence of a heavenly spirit, but I don’t know if it was when the Spirit was particularly strong in me, or it was an angel.  I have heard God’s voice — in my head — and I have felt that glorious feeling many times.  But, are we supposed be able to identify if it’s angels, the Spirit, Jesus or God?

A. There’s not really a clear way to do it, since the Bible shrouds such things in mystery intentionally.  But the general rule I would give you is that if you hear the “internal” voice, you are hearing the Spirit of God, and any “external” voice is that of an angelic being, who is bringing a message from God.  That last one is exceptionally rare, occurring only a few times even within Scripture.

Q. (2:18): This verse is saying that if we think of Jesus suffering on the cross that can help us make wise decisions, i.e. Jesus went to these lengths for me so I can honor His suffering by making choices with righteousness and grace?

A. I think that’s part of it, but also remember the verses we have read indicating that Jesus now prays and acts on our behalf at the very throne of God the Father.  Jesus might also be able to literally help us during times of crisis, in addition to your suggestion that His help is figurative.

Q. (3:6): So, God is Lord over all, but Jesus has authority over us?  If we use the church analogy, He is the head pastor of us and God would be the bishop (with no one over Him, of course)?

A. Trying to draw lines like that is a really tricky exercise, since the Persons of the Trinity are distinct, but also unified in a way that we as humans simply cannot comprehend.  What the NT tells us is that Jesus is the ruler of all the things that He helped create, i.e. all of Creation.

Q. (3:13): In our small group, one member said that we are to love everyone, but have an elevated relationship with other Christians.  Could this verse be the source for that thought?  We should help other brothers and sisters in Christ by watching their moves and keeping them straight.  I would think this could be a little tricky because of people’s pride (a sin), but those who are wise will take heed to the guidance.  Also, those who are setting the others straight need to make sure both of their feet and their hearts are on the right path.

A. I would partially disagree with your friend, and my reason for doing so would be because I feel like there are different seasons in a Christians life in which they may be forced to focus on other Christians more, and other seasons where they focus on non-believers more, as the Spirit guides us.  I think it is inaccurate to make blanket statements such as “always watch over Christians more,” because I simply don’t think that that is always what God wants.  Having said all that, I do believe that what you’re describing is at the heart of accountability, the watching over the hearts of Christians close to you, which is a high priority in the NT, just not the only one.  The end point for all Christian discipleship is to reach those who are not yet members of the community.  The ultimate target is those who are far from God.

Q. (4:8): What does it mean, “if Joshua had succeeded in giving them rest”?  I’m really not sure if this passage is talking about resting on the Sabbath or rest after we see Jesus come again and can enjoy the wonderment of Heaven, like a rest of struggling souls.  (I have never thought of this before: Imagine the rest your soul will enjoy after we get to heaven — rest from continuously battling with temptation and sin.  That’s a feeling we should strive for now.  If there is sin trying to influence us, toss it away so you can have that calmness where no one is trying to disturb your peace.

A. Ok, what’s going on here is the writer is comparing the rest God took on the seventh day of Creation to the “rest” that He offers those who are faithful to Him (Heaven, in other words).  The reference to Joshua relates to him being the person who led the people into the Promised Land after Moses’ death.  Entering the Promised Land has long been seen as a metaphor for dying and going to heaven to be with God, which the writer is obviously connecting with here.  But what he is saying is that entering the Promised Land for the Israelites did not bring them salvation or “rest,” but just presented them with a new set of challenges that they frequently failed.  The real rest of God, the writer is saying, won’t be like that.  It will be the true fulfillment of God’s rest for His children.

O. (4:13): Just a noteworthy verse: 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Day 326 (Nov. 22): Speaking in tongues and prophesying, worship should be orderly, resurrection review, resurrection of the dead, Christ will come again and defeat His enemies, physical bodies are seed for immortal being, work enthusiastically for God

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.

1 Corinthians 14-15

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 14:1-25): Rob, do you know if anyone today has the gift of speaking in tongues or prophesying?  To me, this passage speaks out for the gift of prophesying or preaching and not so much for speaking in tongues because the latter can only benefit the person speaking in a unique language.

A. That is a highly debated topic with no consensus.  Though I have not personally witnessed either speaking in tongues (or interpretation) or prophecy, I am surely open to the possibility that the Spirit can do as He pleases.

Q. (14:34-35): OK, Rob, talk about this one.  This is a hard one for me to swallow.  I feel like God is saying that women have no understanding of His word.  I had counseling when I was in high school because I had held my feelings in for so long because I didn’t think what I thought really mattered.  Now, God is telling me that I don’t matter because I’m a woman!  Besides, this says because the law says to be submissive.  The Law is no longer valid.

A. Ok, here goes.  The entire point of this passage is Paul’s instructions is NOT to keep women in their “place,” but rather to maintain an orderly worship.  Since in this society, it would have been improper for women to speak in public, Paul instructions are about preventing a “scene” in worship — the worship experience should present order, not disorder for non-believers.  There are other places (like Acts 11:5) where Paul would appear to go against his own instructions and expect women to pray and prophecy in church, so we’re clearly not talking about a universal, ironclad standard here.  If you examine 1 Cor 11:5, Paul himself indicates that there were times when women were permitted to speak at church.  So, I leave it to you to decide from there what he meant.

O. (15:8-11): I like what Paul says here about him being the least of the apostles.  He says he does not even deserve to be called an apostle.  Nevertheless, He has let God work through him and been more effective than the others.  But, it doesn’t matter because as long as people are preaching as God instructs them, their word is all solid.

A. God has the amazing ability to bring light out of the darkest places, even those in the human heart.  His ability to change lives, even of those closest to me, is a powerful testimony, and I believe it is the very best witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Q. (15:35-58): This is an amazing description of life after physical death that I’ve never read.  Our old bodies being a seed to our immortal spirits shows how God continues to use the same ways of life over again and again.

A. It is one of the least read and understood passages of scripture, and it does a lot of damage to the idea of the afterlife as being where disembodied souls play harps on clouds for all eternity.  That is certainly not the record of Scripture!  Wait until we wrap up with Revelation!

O. (15:58) Love this one!

Day 295 (Oct. 22): Kingdom of Heaven likened to vineyard workers, Jesus tells disciples of his impending suffering, Jesus teaches about serving others, Jesus heals blind men, Jesus seeks Zacchaeus, story of ten servants with talents

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.

Matthew 20:1-16

Mark 10:32-34

Matthew 20:17-19

Luke 18:31-34

Mark 10:35-45

Matthew 20:20-34

Mark 10:46-52

Luke 18:35-43

Luke 19:1-27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 20:1-16): I understood this until the last sentence.  To me, this is like welcoming people to the Kingdom of God: It doesn’t matter when they come in as long as they do their work and believe.  They will get the same reward.  But, why would the last be first and vice versa?  Just because the first workers complained?  I would think they would all be equal.

A. In the general sense, it is talking about the great reversal of the Kingdom: many who were first (first picked in this story) will be last (paid last in this story).  Jesus is pointing out that not only will there be a reversal, but there will be some surprises along the way.

Q. (Mark 10:32-34, Matthew 20:17-19, Luke 18:31-34): I just noticed, of these three, Luke’s account is more intimate.  I like how Luke 18:31-34 reminds the disciples that Jesus is just going through what the prophets foretold.  So, really, no one should be surprised — except that they did kind of talk in generalities.

A. Note what Luke 18:34 tells us: that the minds of the disciples and Jesus’ followers were kept from seeing what was going to happen clearly until after it was over.

O. (Mark 10:35-45): I bet if all the leaders and bosses realized that they should be humble to those whom they oversee, the world would be a better place.  So, when anyone of authority is chosen, their relationship abilities should be heavily factored in to their selection.  Also, I notice another difference between the OT and NT.  While most of the OT was trying to get the Kings to behave in a godly manner — remember that God never wanted them to have a King, because He was their King and their need not be any other — but they very rarely did (maybe David did a little, but I can’t recall a time).  He wanted them to serve the people, not their own desires.  And, here, Jesus doesn’t a complete 180° and reaches out to the sick, blind, crippled, prostitutes, children — the ones who are totally overlooked by the vast majority of leaders.  As a modern aside, there have been areas that take on welfare themselves by empowering people and it works.  Why not use this model and roll with it.  Perhaps it’s a threat: The powerful think they have to have people under them.

Q. (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52): Jesus way of being a leader is so far different than any other we have seen.  While those with Him are hushing — I guess out of supposed respect for Jesus — these two blind men who are shouting to Jesus for help, Jesus goes to the blind men.  He is really there to serve everyone, and the more humble the better.  Also, when someone calls to Him because they believe, He reaches out to them.  Many — I would say most — leaders just have this air about them that doesn’t consider the suffering of the lowly.

A. Perhaps in reading through the Gospels it becomes more apparent why people have followed after Him for more than 20 centuries.

Q. (Luke 19:1-10): A great story that I have heard since I was a child in Sunday school, and singing the familiar song, is Zacchaeus.  I have never paid attention to the last verse though.  What does Jesus mean by “lost”? Is it everyone who is not following Him or just those who haven’t realized the power of God?  How about those who are sinners, but not seeking change?

A. I rather doubt Zacchaeus was seeking change before he met Jesus, so that certainly could qualify as being “lost”.  Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector who had taken advantage of his position to exploit the people of Jericho.  He was driven by greed and not by compassion, and I suspect this is what Jesus has in mind when He said that Zacchaeus was lost.

Q. (Luke 19:11-27): The Bible says that Jesus used this story to explain to the people that the Kingdom of God will happen, but not for some time.  So, I gather Jesus was telling the people to use their time wisely and make a much larger yield to His harvest (rapture).

A. Honestly, I am not completely sure what He means, but I don’t put a ton of stock in the idea of the rapture, and I hope to be able to share with you why as we continue our readings.  But as to your suggestion of using your time wisely, I would say that this is profound Biblical truth.

Day 286 (Oct. 13): Jesus heals possessed boy, Jesus predicts His death, Jesus obediently pays temple tax, become humble as a child, Jesus OK with people healing in His name, parable of lost sheep, how to handle offenses, parable of unforgiving debtor

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 9:14-29

Matthew 17:14-20

Luke 9:37-43

Mark 9:30-32

Matthew 17:22-23

Luke 9:43b-45

Matthew 17:24-27

Mark 9:33-37

Matthew 18:1-6

Luke 9:46-48

Mark 9:38-41

Luke 9:49-50

Mark 9:42-50

Matthew 18:7-10

Matthew 18:12-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 9:19,29, Matthew 17:20): So the disciples couldn’t heal the boy.  I see conflicting reasons why in Mark and Matthew.  They both say, “You faithless and corrupt people!” making me rationalize that the disciples were not full of faith so they could not heal the boy.  But then, Mark 9:29 said that the evil spirit could have only been cast out by prayer.  Jesus said it like it’s a lesson that they hadn’t covered yet.  So, I don’t know which is correct — lack of faith or naiveté?  And, in both versions, why does Jesus address the disciples in a condescending tone?

A. Personally, I’ve always connected with the version that says their lack of prayer was the error.  Imagine trying to deal with a real life demon without consulting God and perhaps you can get an idea of why Jesus was so frustrated.  Be careful about reading condescension into the text: we have no way of knowing HOW Jesus said these words, so what you’re actually doing is assuming Jesus was being condescending.  As to the lack of faith issue: I don’t really know what that has to do with the situation (that too, might have something to do with prayer or lack thereof), but it appears that the disciples felt they were ready for the big leagues and Jesus was surely frustrated that they failed.  Training ordinary people to change the world can be hard.

Q. (Matthew 17:20): Rob, I have to say that a lot of these readings today are tidbits of information.  It’s hard to absorb the enormity of these little pearls of info that are life-changing, if you can do them.  For example, I believe that prayer and talking to God is genuine.  But, it’s hard to believe that I could move a mountain at my command.  I believe that I can move more important things than a mountain.  Is that what this is referring to?  Something that may seem impossible like softening a hard-hearted person can happen if you believe God will do it for you.

A. Jesus here is unlikely to be referring to literal mountains (as you ascertain), but rather saying that the way to remove obstacles is to have the faith to ask God in prayer.  Quality, not quantity.

Q. (Luke 9:44): Why does Jesus call Himself “Son of Man?”

A. Jesus is using this title as a reference to the person referred to in Daniel 7:13 and 14 as the one who is chosen by the Ancient of Days (God the Father) to be an eternal ruler.  If you read these verses, you get a sense of the understanding Jesus had of Himself, but by using a title that had a more implicit claim to power (as opposed to referring to Himself as Messiah), we, I think, catch a glimpse of Jesus humility and desire to not be thought of publicly as the Messiah at this point.

Q. (Luke 9:45): Why would his disciples be afraid to talk to Jesus about anything?

A. I can’t help you there.  They weren’t able to overcome their fear yet, and it’s not the last time that fear will get them in trouble.

Q. (Matthew 17:24-27): I don’t understand what we are supposed to learn from this story.

A. Jesus is cleverly remarking that HE is the true King of the Temple, and that the religious leaders who control it are not the true rulers.  A king would never tax his own family, but rather his conquered subjects.  Jesus is basically saying that Peter — and presumably the other disciples as well — are not subject to such a tax because they belong to the household of the true King: God.  But, He basically agrees to pay the tax out of respect for those in authority and to not give offense.  There will be plenty of time to offend the rulers of the Temple later.

O. (Mark 9:36-37, Matthew 18:5-6): I am tested on this issue when I am driving my daughter and one other child to school.  I call a lot of people “dudes” whether they are dudes or dudettes telling them gently (not) to move along.  I have thought about the love I am not displaying when I do this and what I am teaching the little ears and eyes in the back seat.  So my “dudes” are more reigned in.  They need to be gone from my heart too.  I’m the “dude” for not leaving on time!

Q. (Mark 9:38-41): So, Jesus isn’t worried about imposters here?  I’m not sure what to take from this passage.

A. What we should take away from it is that Jesus appears to have a much bigger view of what makes someone His disciple then His disciples do.  Jesus tells us that the man could not do what he is doing without genuine faith in Him.

O. (Mark 9:48): If maggots and burning wouldn’t steer you away from evil, I don’t know what would.  I had never heard there are maggots there.

Q. (Mark 9:49-50): My daughter’s school had a “giving” day called SALT where each grade did a huge service project.  My younger child packed shoeboxes of fun stuff for Haiti orphans.  My older child packed meals for 10,000.  This is all wonderful.  But how does salt translate into living peacefully with one another.  It doesn’t say what the qualities of salt are.

A. In Jesus’ ministry, salt appears to imply the presence of a genuine faith in Him, and that this faith should be the basis of a loving relationship with those around you.  Salt, in the ancient world, was used for all kinds of things, including being the one of the only ways to preserve food.  It was very valuable stuff, such that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with it — it’s where our word “salary” comes from, and also where the expression “worth his salt” comes from.  The only problem: it wasn’t pure, like the table salt we use today (they had no way to make it that way in the ancient world).  So what they called “salt” was usually a mix of various ingredients (often harvested from near the Dead or Salt Sea), and over time, this mixture would lose its salty flavor.  Jesus is thus telling us that faith in Him is what gives the “flavor” to our walk with God (an uncommon metaphor, but you get the idea), and if the flavor is lost, then the rest is worthless.

Q. (Matthew 18:7-10): Is this literal?  Or would it be more like if I am reading inappropriate stuff that I should throw it away?

A. Jesus is definitely using hyperbole here (though some throughout the history of the Church have taken His commands literally) in order to help us understand the severity of our sin and the effect that it can have on others.

O. (Matthew 18:18): It seems like I’ve seen this subject already, but don’t remember the answer.   : )

Q. (Matthew 18:19-20): Is this because God wants us to live in community, thus if two or more people were working on a job, it brings others together.  Good times to share about how God is working in your life.

A. In ways that are difficult to understand, Jesus appears to be saying that His spirit will be with those who gather in His name.  I confess I have long wondered about the meaning of this verse, but it’s an intriguing promise.

O. (Matthew 18:34-35): Good incentive to follow Jesus!

Day 285 (Oct. 12): Jesus heals blind man, Jesus asks who people think He is, Jesus foretells His death, three disciples see Jesus glowing alongside Elijah and Moses

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 8:22-30

Matthew 16:13-20

Luke 9:18-20

Mark 8:31-9:1

Matthew 16:21-28

Luke 9:21-27

Mark 9:2-13

Matthew 17:1-13

Luke 9:28-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 8:26): Why did Jesus tell the healed man to not go back to the village on his way home?

A. It is most likely because it would not have been possible for him to keep his healing a secret, which keeps with our secret Messiah theme of Mark.  Symbolically (something I’m sure not lost on the writer), it can be interpreted as saying, “there is no going back the way you came.”

Q. (Mark 8:27): Why does Jesus keep asking his disciples who others believe He is?

A. Keep?  As far as I know, He only did it once, but it is simply recorded three times.  As to why He is asking, my suspicion is His desire to help His disciples see a crucial issue: it does not matter what the crowd sees and believes, what matters is what YOU believe.

Q. (Matthew 16:15-20): Why is Jesus calling Peter the “Rock” and what is Jesus talking about when He says that the church will be built on him?

A. Well, the most obvious answer is that Peter (Petros in Greek) means “rock” —  it was a new name or nickname Jesus gave to Simon when He called Peter into service.  Peter/Simon will be the true leader of the Apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection, so it will truly be upon the rock — Peter himself — that the foundations of the new church will be laid.

Roman Catholics go a step further, and make the argument that what Jesus is telling Peter is that he is to be the head of the church for all time, and that he is to pass his power down via succession to men after him.  Since Peter ends up in Rome — more on that later — he is known as the first Bishop of Rome.  Today, that same position goes by a different title, but it is still the same office: Papas or Pope, the single leader of the one billion Catholics worldwide.  The Papal office makes the claim that there is unbroken succession between the man sitting in the Bishop’s seat now, Francis I, and Peter himself, 2000 years ago.  Other branches of Christianity — notably the Orthodox church — reject this position, and the role of the Bishop of Rome has literally divided the Church for more than a thousand years.  Protestants, of course, have their own reasons for rejecting the Papal office, and generally acknowledge Peter as being gifted with only the first, not eternal, leadership of the Church on Earth.

Q. (Mark 8:34): The Israelites wouldn’t know what “take up your cross” means.  Can you explain this?

A. Oh yes they would.  There are several reasons for that.  First, crucifixion was not originally a Roman punishment: it had its origins in the Middle East around the time the Jews were in exile.  The Persians and Medians both practiced a form of crucifixion, and it is likely many Jews died this way.  But it was the Romans who PERFECTED the art of the slow and torturous death upon a cross in the manner we see Jesus crucified in.  But, very sadly, the Romans crucified Jews for centuries before Jesus came onto the scene.  Very often — as Jesus will — the victims were forced to carry their cross as part of a shaming ceremony to the place of their execution.  Around 88 BC (so we’re in the vicinity of Jesus’ lifetime), more than 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Romans.  The execution line stretched for hundreds of yards, and it was surely a gruesome display.  The reason?  A powerful warning to any who would undermine Rome: this can happen to you.  In Jesus’ day, it was a common place punishment for criminals and those who chose to undermine the state.  Know about “taking up a cross”?  It was probably a weekly occurrence.

Q. (Mark 8:36): Name that tune!  V. 36 is a popular song right now on the radio.  Anyone want to find the song and then we’ll see what we can do.  Do the people have any concept of soul?

A. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coHKdhAZ9hU

Here’s the song, good one.  Most Jews in Jesus’ day believed in some sort of state of immortality, and that God would raise them to new life on the last day.

Q. (Matthew 16:27-28): I thought Jesus was our savior and God was our creator.

A. Jesus is our savior, but He is also going to be the Judge of all humanity.  This is one of the most common refrains of the NT: Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Q. (Luke 9:26): So, we are not to be ashamed of God.  That can be a tough one until you understand the importance of life.  There are a lot of people out there who go to church, but won’t pray.

A. Prayer is certainly important, but ultimately Jesus desires us to be changed by His efforts, and prayer is only one avenue of it (albeit an important one).  The question we have to ask ourselves is “are others capable of seeing the work God is doing in my life, or not?”  If we are making an intentional effort to conceal our faith, well, then I’d say Jesus’ warning is a stern one.

Q. (Mark 9:2-13): Is it important who Jesus revealed His secret too?

A. If you mean is there something significant about Peter, James, and John, then yes.  They are Jesus’ inner inner circle, if that makes sense.  They are the three men, even among His apostles, that are closest to Him, and will most closely share His journey.

O: (Matthew 17:5-6): This is an incredible time.  God has known all along that He was going to sacrifice His son and now after hundreds or thousands of years, he finally has to go through with it.

Q. (Matthew 17:12): Have we read anything about Elijah returning?

A. Yes.  We read about his parents and his birth in Luke 1, John talks about him in John 1, and Jesus is talking about him here.  We addressed who Elijah is — not a reincarnation of the man himself, but the voice of a Prophet — a few days ago, but I can’t remember the reference.

Day 158 (June 7): Solomon on: wisdom for life, few choose God’s wisdom, wicked vs. righteous, both face death, wisdom and folly, Murphy’s law, undercertainties of God and his actions

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.

Ecclesiastes 7-11:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 7:4): Does this mean that wise people think about where they go after death?  And, a fool doesn’t, thus he/she lives the life of folly and will be judged harshly?

A. Not necessarily.  It may just mean that the wise man/woman thinks of the long term (including death) while the fool is only thinking about the here and now.

O. (7:10): I often think of how much “me” time I had before I had children.  Sometimes, I dream of it, but only briefly.  But, I remember being lonely.  And that, I am definitely not anymore!  I’m not sure what Solomon is talking about here in “the good old days,” but I agree.  I wouldn’t tinker with that.  It does seem like that as much as you may want to return to a previous time period, it’s not possible.  My husband was in the Navy and we were stationed on Guam for a couple years.  There were several families we knew who absolutely loved it there and had requested to stay or return.  But, most of them say that it’s never the same the second time around.

Q. (7:13): This does seem true.  No matter how much something hurts, you can’t change it, so you may as well accept it and look forward to where it’s taking you and what lesson you learned.

A. I would say there’s some good wisdom there.

O. (7:14): If no one ever prospered, we would never see or desire any goal to work toward.

Q. (7:15): We discussed earlier that this kind of talk, like Solomon saying life is “meaningless,” is probably not offending God.  Why did Solomon get so depressed in his last years?  I can’t tell if he truly acknowledges that his actions caused his downfall or if he is down on God.  Or, both?

A. We don’t have any information on when this was written within Solomon’s life, so we can only speculate.  Don’t forget, this is a contemplation about finding meaning in life outside of God, so I would say God is pretty “safe” from being offended.

Q. (7:27-29): I believe we have talked about why man falls short of following God’s laws, but it’s been a ways back and now would be a good time to bring it up again.  Did we say that human’s downfall has to do with free will?  It gives God more glory if people choose him willingly not under force?

A. Yes and yes, at least in the Armenian tradition.  Since true love (our genuine choice to follow and love God) involves a choice, the possibility must be open for people to say “no” to God (and each other).  This “no” to God is one of the ways that the Bible defines sin: it is to go our own way, without consideration of God.  God appears to want genuine followers, not puppets, and the only way that can happen is to allow some degree of free choice in life.

O. (7:14): I don’t think we do this today where the wicked are considered good in society and conversely, that the good are made out to be victims.  That does happen occasionally. On a similar note, I would say that, the media gives way too much attention to bad guys.  With bad guys getting so much press, one would think that they are celebrities, which may attract others who want attention.  Also, the media plays up Hollywood too much.  I have never understood why actors are put on a pedestal in our country.  If they spread more news and made more movies about positive stories and people who help others, this world would likely be a more moral place!

Q. (7:17): Solomon certainly seemed like he was trying to learn everything under the sun.  This was part of his downfall?

A. If doing so took away his focus on God (and it appears that it did), then yes.

Q. (9:1): We have to consider the source here.  Solomon is down on God.  Solomon acts like he has no idea who God is.  He is pouting from his punishment?

A. We don’t know.  It is certainly cynical thinking, but as verse 2 of this chapter points out (again), the fate of the faithful and the blasphemous is the same: death.  If we carry that argument out a little farther, we can see something interesting.  If Solomon is convinced that there is no life after death, or perhaps he is making the argument, then there is no benefit to being righteous.  We see this quite often to this day: the evil often get away with it, and justice is not done.  But belief in an afterlife allows for a much more acceptable notion of justice: that there are eternal — not just temporal — consequences to the decisions that we make.  It becomes easy to see how the atheist slips into moral uncertainty: without God and His eternal justice, everything is permissible.

Q. (9:12): Maybe so, but God has told us that He won’t give us anything we can’t handle — though it may seem like doom is near — and it can be part of the plan.  Just look at Job.  He was stripped of everything, but he kept his faith and God restored him.

A. What you are beginning to touch on here is the examination of certain passages of the OT in light of others: that was a big part of developing a theology (beliefs about God and His relationship with humanity in general and Israel specifically).  This theology is always in flux (at least the details are), and new generations come to see God in different ways.  I think that such discussions honor God, because we use the very intellect He blessed us with to make up our own minds about how we will react to hard times: will we be cynical and give up on God, or will we be faithful like Job?

O. (9:16): This reminds me of elections.  If you have money, then the people will hear you (because you can afford advertising) you will be listened to.  If you are poor, you can’t afford to spread your word, so you are snuffed out.

O. (10:4): So, if you made a mistake, you work harder so you can gain back respect.  I think this is true in every relationship.  I think it needs to also come with an apology.  And, I believe, that everyone has messed up at work, especially when they are young.  I used to work at a newspaper.  My first mistake, probably my first or second week of work, was that I input the wrong weather page.  Yes, someone else is there to catch mistakes like that, but it was ultimately my responsibility.  I also put on the wrong answers to crosswords and other stuff like that.  But, I worked hard and was designing front pages in no time.  I have messed up with this blog several times — I know it’s not perfect, but it’s getting God’s Word out and it will be made into even more great things — but no one reamed me about it.  Don’t think that anyone has not made some major mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes at a very young age.  Mistakes breed success.

Q. (10:10): I love this saying, but coming from Solomon at this point, who would take his advice?  He is so contradicting.  Here he is saying gather more wisdom, other places he says wisdom is meaningless.  What are we supposed to take from Ecclesiastes?

A. That everything is meaningless without God.  Hang on until the next chapter, and see who gets the “final word”.

O. (11:2): Here is some sound advice from Solomon that holds true to today.