Day 300 (Oct. 27): Jesus foretells the future destruction and suffering, Jesus second coming will be obvious,

Can you believe it?  We have made it to the 300th day of this year-long journey.  And, the best is at the last.  We are seeing what Jesus was like and how He wants us to be to become the Kingdom of God.  If this is your first time, visiting this blog, welcome.  At BibleBum, 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. Enjoy!

Mark 13:1-23

Matthew 24:1-25

Luke 21:5-24

Mark 13:24-31

Matthew 24:26-35

Luke 21:25-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 13:14-23, Matthew 24:1-25, Luke 21:5-24): So, I think that the sacrilegious object in v. 14 is Satan?  Rob, I know you can explain what is going on here much better than I could?  It sounds like Satan comes to test us before Jesus gathers His followers.  The false messiahs and false prophets come from Satan?

After reading all of these versions of the same story, I have more questions.  These accounts are written like they are for Judea only, when the end of the earth would be who knows when and for all people, right?  And, how are we to know who is a false prophet if they can do great signs?

A. So there are several things going on here, and I will try to sort them out.  One of the most important things to understand is that when Jesus refers to the “last days,” He is not speaking strictly to the end of the earth.  To Him (as best we can interpret it, frankly these verses are not always clear), the Last Days began with His incarnation (or He might mean His resurrection), but either way, they refer to more than just the last few days of the planet as we would likely describe it.  Jesus means that the Last Days will continue UNTIL His Second Coming … to be discussed frequently in future readings.

Now one of the things that Jesus tells us will happen — and did in 70 AD — is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus (who would later become Emperor).  Note what Mark tells us in 13:30: this will take place within a generation, which as we have come to see in our readings, a “generation” means 40 years.  We are around 30 AD now (33 AD is the most commonly given date for Jesus’ passion), so that means Jesus is EXACTLY right about how long it will be before this sign is fulfilled.

Jesus speaks of other things as well, especially as it relates to the coming persecution of the early Church, which we will read about, and the way that the persecution will be used to spread the Gospel message.  Jesus begins to talk about the Second Coming, mostly by noting that it will not be like His “first coming”.  What He means is that in His Second Coming, everyone will know about it — in the same way we know that when we see vultures we know something is dead, there is no missing the sign).  Jesus will continue to discuss His Second Coming in the next sections of the reading, so let’s see how He tells us more about what is to come.

Q. (Mark 13:30-31) Rob, please explain these verses if you can.

A. Just as I mentioned in the last question, these verses are split among the two topics Jesus is discussing: the destruction of Jerusalem is coming within the generation, and that in the end, all things but Christ’s rule will pass away.  We just don’t know when!  As we keep reading, this will become clearer.

Day 226 (Aug. 14): Jeremiah praises God, Babylon’s destroying power will be punished, exiles told to flee Babylon before the fall, Babylon will be leveled, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away it’s treasures, Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 captives including King Jehoiachin, Zedekiah rules Jerusalem for 11 years, Egypt came to help Judah against Babylon but Babylon retreated, God said they will return and destroy

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.

Jeremiah 51:15-58

2 Kings 24:10-17

2 Chronicles 36:10

1 Chronicles 3:10-16

2 Chronicles 36:11-14

Jeremiah 52:1-3

2 Kings 24:18-20a

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 51:15-19): This is a lovely hymn of praise.  I do like to read them.  They usually paint a picture of what life is like living with God near.  However, I do start taking them for granted, just glossing over them because I get the gist of them.  I am guilty also of doing this with prayer and praise.  I get lazy.  For instance, for a while, I was praying before I did every blog.  Now, it’s rare.  I do talk to God throughout the day, but I wondered if you had any suggestions on how to keep praising God without it feeling redundant.  If you give praise from the heart, it helps.

A. There’s a natural ebb and flow to our prayer life and our walk with God, and what you are describing is perfectly natural.  Redundancy can be very difficult to combat, and the laziness it tends to breed in us can make you feel like a failure.  So, first, know that God still loves each of us, even when we fall short despite our best intentions not to.  Among my advice for you would be to determine, as we talked about recently, what your “pathway” is to God: if you know how you best connect with God, it will tend to be the way that is least vulnerable to the apathy you’re describing.  Keep trying new things as well: find different places to pray, or things to read (besides the Bible) to keep your intellect engaged.  Lastly, finding ways to “act out” what you are reading or praying about (aka service to others) will surely help to keep apathy from setting in.

Q. (51:27): Where did Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz come from?

A. They are the names of other nations in this part of the ancient world, but we don’t know exactly where they refer to.

Q. (51:44): I haven’t heard of Bel.

A. We saw it yesterday and maybe a couple of quick references to it, but no, it’s not a term that we would be familiar with yet.  Bel refers to the chief deity of the Babylonians (it is a title, like lord, rather than a proper name), whose “proper” name is Marduk, the sun deity and patron god of Babylon.

Q. (37:3): I think it’s so amusing, crazy — I’m not sure of the word — when these kings do things that are wicked in God’s sight, but then somehow acknowledge Him like Zedekiah is doing here when he asks Jeremiah to pray for him and his people.

A. He wants the benefits of a relationship with God without having to make any sacrifices for it.  Sounds like human nature to me.

Day 223 (Aug. 11): God’s destruction of Ammon, terror in Edom, fear in Damascus, Nebuchadnezzar sets sites on Kedar and Hazor, Jehoiachin reigns after Jeoiakim dies, Reign of David’s descendants ends with Jehoiachin, God tells of righteous descendant coming, Lord gives warning against false prophets

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.

Jeremiah 49:1-33

2 Kings 24:5-7 / 597 BC

2 Chronicles 36:6-8

2 Kings 24:8-9

2 Chronicles 36:9

Jeremiah 22:24-23:32

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 49:1-33): What are we supposed to take from this scripture other than God is cleansing the earth?  I can see why he chose a flood the first time.  I think it would be easier and a lot less to orchestrate, but, probably harder to rebuild.  And, do we know why God chose Nebuchadnezzar to do a lot of the fighting?

A. God is not cleansing the whole earth, but all of the nations spoken of here (including Judah) are in the path of the Babylonian army, who is conquering this area on their way to Egypt, as the writing eludes to.  Why God chose Nebuchadnezzar specifically is something of a mystery, but perhaps some further readings from Daniel might help spell it out: the story of Nebuchadnezzar from Daniel 4 is one of my favorite OT scriptures.

Q. (22:30): Does God really halt the lineage of David as king?

A. Yes.  For their sins, David’s descendants will no longer serve as king — the nation has no king anyway, they will be in exile under a foreign ruler — but there is a loophole that we will come to much later.

O. (23:12): I really like when God says, “I, the Lord, have spoken!”  It feels like he is a judge and putting his stamp on it.

Q. (23:14): Why are Sodom and Gomorrah brought up fairly often?  I know what happened and that the townspeople were horribly wicked, but I wouldn’t have thought that this was a story that was handed down near as much as the Flood, Joseph and Pharaoh, and the Exodus.

A. Because they are (ok, were…) in this area of the Middle East and much closer than Egypt.  At least that would be my guess.

Q. (23:17): I find that the last two lines of this verse is a subject that has been on my mind.  Are all of our actions supposed to coincide with God’s desires?  I don’t know anyone who has that strong of a relationship with God that He will guide them through their every move.  But, let’s just talk about our important desires, mainly the thing that we do, like what work, volunteering, starting a new business, joining a new group, getting deeply involved in a hobby.  Are the things that we spend most of our time doing supposed to glorify God?  Here are some specific examples: training for a marathon, decorating our house, surfing or other water sports, watching sports, crafts, etc.  Basically, we can spend hours doing things we enjoy, but do they glorify God?  There are millions of people out there that need to be saved, so how can we justify spending hours on ourselves?  I question some big projects that I want to do.  This blog is the start of one.  I want to expand it.  I felt God’s guidance when the ideas popped into my head.  But, I haven’t heard that affirmation in a long time.  Does God just need to say it once, like the above observation says, “I, the Lord, have spoken,” and he doesn’t need to say anymore?  Then, there are all of those desires that God has not directed me on.  How am I supposed to view those?

A. The further we walk with God, and the closer we grow to Him, I think, we will find the answer to your questions, though probably not with 100% certainty.  Think of it as a relationship with a human friend: the more time you spend with that friend, the more you know that person’s desires, and at a certain point (say with a spouse), you can probably guess with a fair degree of accuracy what that person would do or would ask YOU to do in a certain situation.  It is the same with God: as we grow to be more like Him in the person of Jesus, we will come to know the ways that God is glorified by our actions.  I believe that God is most glorified by us being the people that He designed us to be.  If God has given you a head for business ventures, then He is glorified in you when you do so well, though only if you give Him the credit for what you accomplish.  God certainly desires us to be healthy, so training for a marathon or other event is surely God-honoring.  So part of our mission in our walk is to figure out what exactly God has given to us in terms of spiritual gifts (a NT topic we will walk through later) and natural abilities.  With this information, and the Spirit as our guide, I believe that we will be able to act in ways that give God glory, even if we never hear Him directly speak to us.  We do not necessarily need to hear from Him in order to know what He desires, that is one of the main functions of reading scripture.  I hope that helps.

Day 222 (Aug. 10): God tells Jeremiah to not marry or have kids, no mourning for the dead, Israelites will be forced to other lands because of their sins and their ancestors’ sins, God promises to bring them back to Canaan, God to hand over Judah’s treasures to enemy, cursed are those who put trust in humans and not God, Jeremiah asks God to follow through with his promises so he will avoid shame, God reminds Judeans to keep the Sabbath holy, Jeremiah tells God that enemies are plotting against him, Recabites escape to Judah, Recabites obey and Judah still refuses

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.

Jeremiah 16-18:23

Jeremiah 35:1-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 17:3): I can think of several reasons that God would hand over Judah’s possessions: they have been defiled, to give the people of God no rewards for their bad behavior, to leave Judah a ghost town with nothing to offer, and to allow the Israelites to start fresh when they return.

A. I like your list.  I would only add that they took pride in their possessions, and that likely added to their problems.

Q. (17:4b): Is their any long-term meaning to the last two lines of this verse, like alluding to hell?

A. I don’t believe so, God is alluding to temporal, not eternal, punishment.

O. (17:5-10): What a profound passage.  This pretty much says the main fall of humans, I believe.

Q. (35:19): First, what is the purpose of having the Recabites in this story?  Why have a group that does obey God come to Judah?  Does the last sentence mean that the Recabites will be royalty under God?

A. The Recabites are NOT obeying God in this example; they are obeying the command of their forefathers (there is some degree of debate as to whether this is a Jewish or non-Jewish group).  God is using them as an example to rebuke the people of Judah by saying, “look if these people can keep a human rule within a family, why can’t you citizens of Judah do the same for My laws?”  There is some Jewish tradition that states that the Recabites will have a role in the post-exile Temple, though there are no more specific scriptures that mention this role, so we can’t be certain.

Day 219 (Aug. 7): Nebuchadnezzar asks for ‘wise’ men to interpret his disturbing dream, ‘wise’ men said it was impossible and faced execution, Daniel interpreted dream from a vision from God, Daniel rewarded with position of ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow to gold statue, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and thrown into furnace, they were safe and accompanied by a mysterious fourth in furnace, Judeans cannot use temple to shelter them from destruction, God urges Jeremiah to stop praying for Israelites, time is coming for Jerusalem to be ‘Valley of Slaughter’

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.

Daniel 2-3:30

Jeremiah 7-8:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 2:12): I don’t understand why men were ordered to kill Daniel and his friends because wise men — not Daniel and his friends — told the king his dreams were impossible to interpret.

A. The previous chapter has established that Daniel and his friends are wise men/advisors to the king (1:20), and therefore subject to the penalty of the king’s decree.

Q. (2:30): Here Daniel is saying that dreams tell you what is in your heart.  Does God say that our dreams are supposed to mean anything?  Maybe just to some people?  I would think people would know if God was trying to speak to them through dreams.  Mine are either normal stuff, but sometimes I feel the devil enters them and makes me question my awake life.  I still have fears that I woke up late and missed a test or did a poor job at work like I totally slacked off.  That’s not me.  I studied hard in college, putting ice cubes on my eyelids to stay awake, not to mention the amount of caffeine I used to consume.

A. Dreams are a potential way for God to get our attention, but that doesn’t mean that all dreams are directly from God.  Part of the backdrop for this story is the story of Joseph and Pharaoh from way back in Genesis 41: the pattern is repeated — and perhaps God chose to use the same method to gain the attention and trust of a great king — the king has a dream about future events, which only a man of the true God can reveal.  The men (Joseph then, Daniel now) is handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

Q. (2:47, 3:1): Why on earth did King Nebuchadnezzar say that “your God is the greatest of gods” and then go make a 90-foot tall gold statue?

A. Probably because the statue was of himself.  He was seeking to be worshipped as a god — he was incredibly powerful, one of the most powerful kings in history — and probably had no idea why the Jews would have any objection to worshipping him.

Q. (3:18): This verse brings up a subject that I feel “gray” on.  Here Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the subjects of this wonderful story of faith.  They have faith in God that He will save them from the blazing hot furnace.  Yet, they put a disclaimer in there that if God does not save them, they still believe in Him and will not worship any idol.  This mirrors thoughts I have.  I trust God, but when I proclaim Him, I’m not sure He’s going to come through at that moment when I am asking for His help.  It’s like when I ask Him to heal a sick person or help me through a rough time, I don’t know if he’ll answer the situation, so you always have to put in the “God willing” tagline.  Then, those critics can say that we have to say He will come through when He wants to.  Then, we have to say that it’s all part of His plan and we have to trust in Him that He knows what’s best for us.  That’s a hard sell to non-Christians.  I would love to do an apologetics study.  Do you know of any good, easy-to-follow ones?

A. There’s an old saying that goes “faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” that I think addresses the sentiment you are describing.  It is that type of faith that these three men powerfully display in the midst of their trials: they have nothing left to trust in but God’s deliverance, but they even say “it doesn’t matter if God saves us or not, we’re not worshipping your idol.”  Their powerful faith has served as an example throughout the ages to both Christians and Jews who have gone through times of persecution, and especially in times what God did not deliver the people from suffering and death (as God did not spare Jesus).

Apologetics can be a very helpful resource for bolstering the faith that we already have, though I would caution against using it too strongly to try to CONVERT non-Christians.  It is useful to help us answer the tough questions about faith — and I believe that they are good answers to those questions — but be careful about using them as a bludgeon against others who do not share your faith.  Conversion of the sort you are describing comes much more from relationship and love than argument.  Very few people are “argued” into the Kingdom of God.  Three resources I would recommend are the Case for Christ and Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, and Mere Christianity (which is British and can be a bit hard to read, so you’ve been warned) by C.S. Lewis.

Q. (Jeremiah 7:3-7): Before we have read where God said good deeds at this point would not erase the evil that has been done, thus the destruction of Jerusalem is unavoidable.  Here, God says He will give them another chance if they abandon their evil ways.  Isn’t this contradicting or am I missing something?

A. I think God is talking about repentance that comes from the heart of the people.  He is saying that if they truly change their hearts, not just their actions, He will relent.  The problem?  They won’t change their hearts.

Q. (7:8-11): Here God is saying that just because the temple is in their city, the citizens of Jerusalem cannot think that they get a pass from punishment if they sin.  Right?

A. Yes.  It appears Jeremiah is telling us that the false prophets of his day trusted\ the building itself rather than the God who it represented.  This will be costly.

Q. (7:3-15): So, in this scripture, Jeremiah says God will excuse the Israelites if they shape up, then He says that being a citizen of Jerusalem does not shade them from being punished for sins and in the last paragraph God is talking about exiling them.  I’m just commenting that God goes through a big change in His attitude of the Israelites.

A. I wouldn’t agree.  I think this is a continuation of the sentiment I described in the previous question, God is after a change of heart, and the people will not yield their hearts to Him.  So He is warning them that just because they have this incredible building, they will not be spared what is to come.  The only thing that will spare them is repentance.  If they don’t repent, being in God’s city will not save them, and exile is coming.

Day 198 (July 17): Destruction covers the earth but a few are left to shout and sing, proud rulers will be imprisoned, God is a refuge for the poor and needy, pain and sorrow will be buried, Moab will be flattened, Judah stays strong, Judgment day will show the right ways, Israel will be restored, Jerusalem’s enemies will vanish, Israel will see God’s holiness through the blessings of their children

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.

Isaiah 24:1-23

Isaiah 25:1-12

Isaiah 26-27:13

Questions & Observations

Q.  I read this collection without reading the one-sentence introduction about these prophecies of Isaiah not being tied to any event.  That clears up a lot, because I was really confused about what was going on.  Is the key word here “yet?”  They still could come true?

A. This entire section is prophecy about Judah’s impending punishment, and in the larger sense, of God restoring the world to the way it should be, with Jerusalem as its center point.  The writers of both the Old and New Testaments believed that the return of God to the world (for Christians its the return of Christ) would be the end of the world, and the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

Q. (Isaiah 24:14-16a): This stanza stands out as a joyous time among the destruction.  I didn’t understand that.

A. 14-16 are the aftermath of this great destruction.  Those who survive (by God’s grace) will gather from all nations to celebrate what God has done.

Q. (24:21): What is meant by “in that day”?

A. All references to “that day” are referring to the Day of Judgment and the end of history as we know it.  Both Christian and Jew (and I presume Muslim as well) believe in history ending by Divine intervention.

Q. (24:23b): This is for God to establish that He is in charge and to show them how and why He is in charge … in Isaiah’s prophecy?

A. No, this is an image of the Kingdom of God (one that Revelation will follow down the line): the natural sources of light, specifically the moon as the light in the dark, will pass away, and God Himself will be our light.  The heavenly bodies will no longer be necessary.

Q. (25:1): Isaiah seems to have quite a complete vision of God — past, present and future.  I do wonder if it’s hard for God to execute plans given that He may have emotional ties to things He sets to destroy.

A. He certainly does, but these ties are not like the ties you and I have.  God reminds us that His ways and thoughts are NOT His, and I suspect the “emotional” consideration must take a backseat, if you will, to other considerations such as His holiness.  Ezekiel 33:11 reminds us, however, that God takes no joy in the destruction of the evil, so perhaps there is some consideration to be had here.

Q. (25:7, 26:3): Here it says, “He will remove the cloud of gloom.”  In several other places in today’s reading, Isaiah mentions how the despair will be forgotten through God.  I would think it would be pretty hard for people to look past all of the destruction, unless it’s a vision where the evil is uprooted and there is nothing but good to rebuild from.  Maybe 26:3 is Isaiah’s answer to being able to forget the despair: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

A. Ultimately, our vision for following God must have its origins in faith.  We must trust in Him to bring us through; there is simply no other way.

Q. (26:7): I would say that this is not necessarily true after reading your answer about prayer and pain.  Paul suffered, but God answered his prayers saying that His grace was bigger than Paul’s pain.  So, this smooth path is not an accurate prophecy of Isaiah?

A. Be careful with tossing around phrases like that last one!  First of all, Isaiah is casting a much larger vision for our world than any suffering Paul went through.  It is REALLY important to note here: we must be aware of context at all times.  If we go back to verse 1 of this chapter, we see that phrase you’ve picked up on, “in that day.”  That means Isaiah is NOT talking about present circumstances at all.  He is casting a vision for how wonderful life will be when we are given a world free of peril, pain, and difficulty (i.e. the “smooth” path).  So to argue that Paul’s difficulty somehow invalidates Isaiah’s vision is to miss the point of what Isaiah is talking about.

Q. (26:19): I interpret this to mean that those who give up themselves and turn their lives over to God will rise again?  Again, I’m confused as to what Isaiah is talking about.

A. He is talking about the resurrection of the dead, which is and will continue to be part of the vision that both Testaments cast as being a part of the Day of Judgment.  This is a theme we will bump into repeatedly among “later” Jewish works such as Ezekiel and Daniel, so keep a look out, and don’t worry if there is confusion: all will be worked out in time.

Q. (27:4-5): So there is salvation for the prickliest of people, no matter what their sins, as soon as they turn to God for help … and stay turned?

A. All we have to do is confess and call to Him for help.  That’s the heart of the gospel message.  The problem we often run into is that we lack the desire to confess our sin, or to even admit that we are sinners.  If we can clear that hurdle, we are most of the way towards understanding what God did for us in the person of Christ.

Q. (29:22): Again, this verse is calling on believers to have faith.  If we stay true to God no matter the circumstances, we will be rewarded.

A. That’s the Good News!

Day 172 (June 21): Amos tells Israel’s neighbors of their judgment, Amos prophecies to Israel and Judah about upcoming destruction, God forewarns of rath and tells that they may change their ways to avoid, Israel fails to heed warnings and change her ways

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.

Amos 1-6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Amos 1:4): Didn’t God raise up these kingdoms to punish Israel?  Now they are being punished for doing what God made them do?  But, if I have my thoughts correct, God was just using them.  They were evil anyway.  He wouldn’t do that to His followers.

A. God is using these nations to punish Israel, but that does not make them any less responsible for their sins.  Like we read in Jonah, God sees the need for repentance in every nation.  And there is a great wave coming: Israelite and Gentile alike in this area are going to be swept away.

O. (1:3-2:3): Now, God is showing all nations, not just Israel, His authority.  He is the God of Israel and He is destroying these other nations for bringing harm and suffering to His people.  Now all can see that God takes care of His people.

Q. (2:16): On what day?

A. The day when His wrath is poured out.  Verse 13 points to a day in the future when the people will groan and suffer for their sins.

Q. (3:3-7): I don’t understand the point these verses are trying to make.  To some of the questions I answer “no,” to others “yes” and some are “maybe.”  To 6b I would say “no” to this answer remembering that the answer would be for that date in time in the OT.  And, verse 7 says He tells of disasters before they happen.  This is so the people know that God’s predictions do come true, so He had to have planned them.

A. Yes, you’ve got it right.  Amos is using metaphorical language; so don’t worry so much about the “content” of the question.  They are basically saying, as you suggest, God will not bring this judgment without warning the people, as He has done over and over again, and as Amos is doing here.

Q. (3:10-11): Do we know who the enemy is that is going to impart this destruction?  Is it unimportant who the enemy is?

A. It won’t really matter in the narrative of the story, but sure, the nation is the Assyrians, who originate from what is today Iraq.  Around 730 BC, they moved into what is now Jordan with a huge army and conquer/destroy everything in their path, including the entire nation of Israel, which is also being called Samaria.  They will not conquer Judah, Jerusalem in particular, for reasons that we will see.  Feel free to read more about the Assyrians from this era here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Assyrian_Empire

Q. (3:12, 4:1): So, for those living high on the hog, God will strip them of their luxurious life and leave them with little?  4:1 cracks me up!

A. It’s a pretty well known line from the OT.

Q. (4:6-10): This answers the question in 6b if God brings disasters … at this time in history.

A. Remember, the punishment is always predicted beforehand.  That’s what bothers me about folks like Pat Robertson making judgments about natural disasters: he only does it afterward.  The Bible, and the OT in particular, is clear that if God brings disaster, His reasons for doing so are spoken loud and clear through His prophets.  Nearly all the prophets — with the possible exception of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, for reasons that will become clear — proclaim a message of repentance.  They say, “It’s not too late!  Turn from this, or God will bring disaster upon you!”  That is a central theme of most of these prophecies and the genre of these books: turn back now, for it’s not too late to avoid disaster.  But if you keep going, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

Q. (4:12-13): Amos is talking about the disasters God announces in 3:12-15?

A. Yes.

Q. (5:2): This sounds like a permanent death sentence for Israel, but they get an out in v. 4?

A. Nope.  It’s the same thing I’ve answered in the questions above, Amos is saying its not too late to turn, but if you don’t it will be a death sentence.

O. (5:21): I don’t know if this applies to today, but I think we can link it.  There are people who go to church just because they are “supposed to.”  I don’t know if this will get them into heaven, but like you said in a reading a while back, God doesn’t want us to just skate by.  He wants us to take Jesus example and love others the way He loves us.  So, merely showing face at church is an injustice to God.

I admit I used to be like this.  In a way, though, I’m glad that I felt I had to go to church because it helped me to remember to stay connected to God.  Now, that I am more into my faith — and try to live it, rather than be exposed to it — I have a greater appreciation for church.  I would encourage everyone to make sure they have a church that fits them.  Once you do that, reach out to get involved.  I think it’s a two-way relationship.

The church should reach out to you, but you have to reach to.  Use your talents to get involved.  I confess, that I have always battled to stay awake for church.  The monotone of most of the preachers I had would put me to sleep — that and actually sitting with no activity for an hour will do it.  But, since I have attended Summit (Orlando, FL), the sermons have been so captivating, that I’m wide awake and I take the message with me.  So, I encourage everyone to find a church that is engaging so you will want to go every week.

O. (6:6): It sounds like there were selfish people that thought as long as the disaster isn’t affecting them, they will not be alarmed and change their actions.  And, it’s this kind of attitude that infuriates the Lord and causes him to cast the punishments.

Q. (6:8): God’s frustration was started by Solomon who built his own palace larger than the Temple of the Lord?

A. No, that’s not what Amos is referring to here.  Solomon built his palace in Jerusalem, which is part of Judah, and this judgment is against Israel.  God is saying He is greatly displeased with the arrogance of the people’s trusting in stone walls and fortresses rather than God.  They are trusting their own might and power, rather than God’s.  We can clearly see here how far Israel — and to a lesser extent Judah — has fallen from being a people who trusted God with their whole heart, as when they first entered the Promised Land.  And, just as Moses predicted back in Deuteronomy, if the people reach that point, then they will suffer the judgment of God and be removed from the land.  We are at the precipice of that day.  Bad things are coming for the nation who have forsaken their God.

O. (6:14): God has had it with Israel!