Day 256 (Sept. 13): Judgment against Israel’s enemies, Israel’s coming King, God will restore Israel, the responsibility of shepherds, deliverance for Jerusalem — her enemies will stagger, the people will be purified, scattering of sheep, the Lord will rule the Earth from Jerusalem, Jerusalem will be the destination for worship

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.

Zechariah 9-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zechariah 11:4-17): I guess God is just saying that those shepherds who only care about themselves and neglect their flock will be dealt a harsh blow?  I didn’t know why this scripture was placed here or how the broken staffs relate to the sheep, Judah and Israel.  To me, it’s a confusing passage.

A. The corrupt shepherds represent corrupt leaders who abandon the flock (the general population of the people) during times of trial, as the nation will suffer many times over for the next few hundred years, culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.  You can make the argument that since these corrupt shepherds follow after the rejection of the Good Shepherd (which the flock hates, verse 8-9), they represent the Jewish leaders who encouraged the people to reject Jesus as the Messiah and persecute the early Church.  These actions very likely led to Jerusalem’s destruction.  So overall this appears to be a prophecy about rejecting the Good Shepherd (a title Jesus uses in John 10) and the downfall that comes afterwards.

Q. (12:10-14): Why would they mourn for David who died long, long ago?  Why would they still be so connected to him?  And, why would men and women mourn separately?

A. David, as we have read many times, is an archetype for divinely led leadership that was best personified (to that point anyway) by David himself.  When Jews speak of the House of David that is what they mean: they desire a return to having a king who is selected by God and led by God.  Jesus Himself will be the fulfillment of this archetype.  As to why the people mourn in gender-separated groups, I don’t have a good answer.

Q. (12:2): Will we read when this “day” actually happens?

A. In one sense: part of what is described in many of these prophecies is the sacrifice of Christ (at least that’s what Christians believe) on the cross and the victory that He will win for us.  But no, the Day of the Lord’s final victory is still to come, at least as I understand it, even if the victory has already been won.

Q. (13:7-9): Today’s reading is a roller coaster.  It goes from God restoring people to shepherds staffs being broken and now purifying the people to just one-third of the crowd.  I am confused!

A. The staff breaking is symbolic of the people breaking the covenant with God (though God remains faithful).  As with the destruction of Jerusalem, many of these same things will happen: many will die, many people will break faith, but God’s will retain a remnant of His people, and He will begin to move outwards from the wreckage of Jerusalem with the spreading of the Gospel message.  To me, what is being described here is the movement of the Gospel to the forefront of God’s plan for the world, and the sacrifices that have to be made in order for that transition to take place.

Q. (14:6-7): These verses are amusing in a good sense.  Here, Zechariah says to not even try to figure out how it can still be light if there are no sources of light to shine.  He says only God knows.  To me, this says that we shouldn’t try to figure out the seven days of Creation scientifically.  If God said it happened, it happened and He’s the only one that knows how He did it.

A. Sounds fair to me.

Q. (14:1): We saw the Festival of Shelters way back.  Can you tell us again what it’s about and why people would come from all around to join it — other than God just made it a requirement if their nation wants rain.

A. It’s a reminder of the time the people spent in the wilderness during the Exodus.  It is one of the major Jewish holidays, but it came to be a more prominent celebration during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (i.e. our “present” time), so perhaps that is why it is selected to be the festival that gathers the nations.  It was and is a great time to celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people, something all the nations of the world can join in with.

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!

Day 130 (May 10): 35) Lord, fight those who oppose me. 36) The wicked delight in themselves. Lord, you provide love and light. 37) Do not get caught up in the achievements of evildoers, for they will wither. The righteous will inherit the earth. 38) O Lord, I have no power over the guilt I feel for my sins. I confess. Lord, please here my cry to you.

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.

Psalms 35-38

 

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 35): David pleads in his psalms.  He pleads for protection for himself and vengeance for those who are evil.  Today, I feel like we make requests to God more politely and reverently in our prayers.  I do ask God for things, but I ask knowing his answer may come now, later or never.  It’s up to Him.   Are we just more polite today? Or, do we know more about God to know he works on His time, not ours?

A. There’s no reason to assume that David ALWAYS pleaded for God to help him, only when he was in desperate situations, which sometimes got written down as poems.  Still, the Bible tells us that God declared David “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22), which tells me that he knew a lot about how to properly approach God.  I would be very cautious in assuming that we know more about God than he did.  Maybe we should all pray a bit more like David.

Q. (36): What is it in sinners that makes them not see evil is bad.  You get caught, bad things happen, like going to jail, hurting others, losing your job, etc.  Yet, knowing they will be punished in some manner is not enough of a deterrent to cause them to make wise choices.  Does the Bible address this issue?  And, as Christians, what is our job in helping this problem?

A. Sin, as I learned from a minister in high school, always pleases, but only for a season.  It is too simple for us to consider sin as “just the bad stuff that people should stop doing.”  Sin almost always carries some sort of short-term benefit, that’s what makes it a temptation in the first place.  And when we start doing the “math” on making a decision we know is poor, we’ve probably already lost that particular struggle.  Sin very rarely is about the big, monumental decisions, and is much more likely to be about small, easy choices to stray from God — the classic slippery slope.  Its amazing to me how we — myself included — can be blinded to the realities of sin for so long, and then in one moment, whether we are caught, or just realize our error, all the “joy” that the sin brought us is instantly gone.  That, ultimately, is how sin traps us: it offers us something that we desire — we are NEVER going to fall into things that do not tempt us — but ultimately, leaves us with nothing but pain and heartache.  If we could just say, “why am I doing this?  I should stop!” I suspect the world would be a better place.  But it simply isn’t in our nature.  That is one of the clearest things to me about why Jesus came into the world.  He came into this world because more than anything else, we needed a savior — we would be hopelessly chained in our sins without Him.  And the ultimate irony?  Without God’s light, we will never be able to see how the sins that we love so much do nothing but leave us enslaved to them (John 8:34).

Q. (37:5-6): What does this mean?  How do we commit work, chores, homework, etc. to God?  I guess we can never do too much for God.  But, we do need to sleep, eat, clean, etc.  Rob, is there anything in the Bible that describes how we should devote our time to God?

A. Paul calls us to devote our entire being to God in Romans 12:1-2.  Here he suggests that we are to offer our bodies as “living sacrifices,” that is, given wholly over to God, and doing everything for His glory.  That starts with our increased desire to see God as the ultimate center of all things anyway, and the more we can focus on God, the more of our lives that will be given over to Him — work, school, cleaning the house, etc.  Remember that God does not merely call us to serve Him, but each other: by serving others well, we reflect His love to more of His children.  If we commit to making more and more decisions that are clearly God honoring — choosing to work sacrificially rather than being lazy for example — I think we will grow to see what God desires for us to do with each moment of each day.

O. (37:8-9): Wow, Psalms covers so many topics.  I didn’t think I would have many questions or comments, but they are rolling out!  We were talking about anger in our small group (Andy Stanley DVD study series, Life Rules) and I was talking about how I get something in my head that someone does or does not do — usually my husband J — and I get so mad and can’t let it go.  But, from knowing that anger does no good for me, my family, those around me, and God, I try to shrug the anger.  Often, I don’t want to bring it up to my husband because I don’t want to start a confrontation and make a rift.  But, I cannot hide my anger, so by not talking I cause a rift and feel like a volcano about to explode!  And, moreover, I don’t want him to prove me wrong, right?  And, I don’t say anything because I usually don’t have all the facts straight and end up being sort-of wrong.  Anyway, the last time, I just said, “phooey, I don’t want to feel like this.”  I marched into his office and unconfrontationally asked him if I could talk to him to try to understand his reasoning for what I was mad about.  And, poof, the reasons came out and made crystal clear sense.  That short conversation lifted a many-week weight off of my shoulders.  Comments Rob?

A. Anger is a tricky thing.  In the right hands, it can allow us to use our passions to confront others about their wrongs — and hopefully have them do the same for us — but we must be careful that anger is used well.

Two things that the Bible clearly says about anger: 1) in your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4:26, quoting Psalm 4): that is, there is nothing inherently sinful about being angry, but if we lose control of our anger, and it leads to us sinning by improperly using that anger (say by hurting someone or even killing them), then we have violated this ideal.  The other advice scripture has is 2) don’t let the sun go down on your anger (also from Eph 4:26).  That is, don’t hold onto anger, for doing so leads to bitterness and all kinds of other problems.  That advice might be best for your situations with your husband.  Be very careful about holding onto anger, so that you can avoid the “volcano” scenarios you describe.  You and your husband will have to work out what constitutes the “sun going down” for you.  My wife and I determined that we never went to bed without resolving an issue we could resolve that evening — obviously this doesn’t work in all situations.  By doing this, we generally prevent small areas of anger of disagreement from becoming big ones.  Anger is compounded with time, so working it out “before the sun goes down” is certainly sage advice to me.

Q. (Psalm 37:12-13): These verses paint an interesting picture, but we don’t know if it’s accurate because it comes from David, not God.  I have come up with some of my own ideas of what God is thinking.  I don’t know if that’s OK or we should just take the Bible word for word.  Or, does it matter?  Just that you think about it gives glory to God?

A. I would say that we should do our best to take the Word of God SERIOUSLY is the best way to look at it.  Expecting perfection in every word is simply not a standard that the Bible applies to itself, but that does not mean to me that the Bible is any less inspired by God.  We don’t know exactly what “inspired” means (there’s a lot of guesses though), but it is clear that scripture tells us that all of itself, including verses about God laughing at people’s foolishness as here, ultimately comes from Him (2 Tim 3:16).

Q. (37:32-33): Why is there such an attraction for some people to overthrow godly people.  Why do people want to be bad?  I really don’t get that.  Is Satan so powerful that God cannot pull these folks away from sin?  Is God relying on Christians to save these sinners?

A. Scripture clearly tells us that God is more powerful than Satan (1 John 4:4), but I believe that neither God nor Satan can do anything but influence us: we must ultimately make the decisions to renounce sin ourselves.  Why does God not pull us away from sin, because WE ARE UNWILLING to give it up!  We are lost in the seduction of sin and its temporary benefits, and so are unwilling to hear God’s call (through the Spirit) to give it up.  We don’t want to hear that in the midst of our poor decision-making.  David is writing about a very black and white world where he is right, and his enemies are wrong, but the reality for us is we are all wrong!  We all go astray, and chose ourselves over God.  It was that way for Adam and Eve, Cain, and every human being who has followed since.  Honestly, that to me is part of the answer to the question: we like to see the godly fall because that makes US feel better about our own personal failings.  Then we can say things like, “…and they were such a good person” and condescendingly think that we are better than people who we hold up as godly, even if the people in question never wanted themselves to be held up as godly themselves.  When given the choice, far too many of us will chose the path of sin and evil, not the path of God.

Q. (37:37-38): And is this to say that when people are on trial, if they are found innocent, they are godly and if they are convicted they really are guilty, because God did not rescue them?

A. I think that that’s a bit too simple a way to look at it.  God can do as He pleases (from the human perspective) with our understanding of guilt and innocence.  I would be very cautious about drawing too many conclusions about guilt and innocence just from these verses.

Q. (38): For someone who has followed God most of his life, David seems to have so much darkness surrounding him and knocking on the door to his heart.  As a follower of God, I would think that his heart would be much lighter.  Did his sins cause the depressing thoughts?

A. We can certainly see the ways that David’s poor decisions in the latter half of his life haunted him.  It cost him his son and countless lives in war and plague.  I think I would be haunted by that.

Day 127 (May 7): 12) The godly are gone. God will shelter the weak. 13) Trust in God, even when he seems far away. 14) Evildoers never learn that God is with the righteous. 15) Who may dwell with the Lord? 16) The Lord fills me with goodness. 17) Take care of me Lord, for I follow you. 18) The LORD is my rock. I called and he thundered from heaven. He rescued me from my enemy. I will praise you among the nations, O LORD! 19) God is perfect. May our words be pleasing to Him. 20) The Lord will not forget those who have followed Him. 21) The King will support Him who has put him in the throne.

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.

Psalms 12-17, 19-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 12): In our readings of David so far, I only remember him talking about enemies lurking and also about praising God.  But here, David talks of how the people are succumbing to evil.  In a recent reading, I do remember when given three choices of punishment to choose, he chose the one with the smallest duration.  So, that shows his compassion to others — that others are on his mind.  But, it seems that David’s biggest concern has been gaining and keeping the throne.

A. That is not the way I would read this Psalm.  David here appears to express concern that the people of his generation are becoming increasingly corrupt and falling away from God.  We will see how this plays out horribly when we return to Kings. (From Leigh An: I changed my question a bit to clarify it.  So, I think we are on the same page.  I’m talking about David’s main objective has been gaining and retaining the throne.  But, in this Psalm, we see another side of him.)

Q. (13): Is it correct to say that God may not answer some of our prayers right away as a test to see if we will continue to be faithful when God seems far away?  But then, when he hears us cry out in anguish, he will honor the loyalty by answering the prayer?

A. I once heard a pastor say that there were three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait.  Ultimately, if we trust that God knows what is best for us even better than we do, we can hopefully accept that sometimes we do not know which answer God is giving us.

Q. (14): This reminds me of Noah and the Ark — everyone is evil again except one family.  We don’t know at what time in David’s life that he wrote this song, right?  So, we don’t know what he was going through at this time.  Can you explain verse 7?  Who is David referring to when he says someone will come from Mt. Zion?  And, why bring Jacob into the picture?

A. We do not have dates for any of the Psalms, no.  I don’t think verse 7 refers to a particular person, but rather a request for God to provide deliverance personally.  While the title of “Jacob” is not commonly used, it is the same name as Israel, so that likely is the significance.  It’s probably there to make a particular rhyme in the Hebrew.

Q. This is a sideline question that I just thought of when I was writing the previous question.  Can we draw any correlation between Noah’s “Ark” and the “Ark” of the Covenant?

A. Sure.  Both represent God’s provision for His people at different times: the Ark (boat) made a way for Noah in Genesis, and the Ark of the Covenant made continuous provision for God’s people throughout its existence.

Q. (15): This psalm mentions something I have issues with — talking about others.  I do not like to gossip.  And, what I’m talking about, I don’t consider gossip.  But, maybe it is.  Like when you see a kid’s lunch and it is filled with snack crackers, cookies and maybe a sandwich.  When there is no fresh fruit or veggies — gummies and fruit roll-ups don’t count — and no good source of protein, I just think the kid is being deprived of a proper diet.  Or, when I find myself talking about someone not treating their spouse respectfully, I get upset and want to fix it.  I normally just try to find something I could say or do to help the situation.  (Call me a meddler.  I’m really not.  It’s mostly in my head.)  Most of the time, I just end up praying about it, asking God to solve the problem and to guide me if he wants me to have a part in it.

A. The usual line I take on gossip is: anytime you are discussing a less than stellar aspect of another person without their knowledge just for the purpose of sharing, you are flirting with gossip.  If you are talking to someone for your benefit at the expense of someone else’s reputation, you’re in danger.  And obviously it is not gossip if you are talking to the person about the issue you have with them, as Jesus directed us (Matthew 18:15-18).

Q. (16:11): It sounds like David knows something of the afterlife here.

A. I think David has great faith in God’s ability to preserve him forever.  David is one of the first writers to speak of this concept clearly in the OT.

O. (17:13-15): I don’t have anything to say about this except that I love the words and thoughts that David uses to praise God here.

Q. (19:12-13): I relate to these verses.  I often see things that I think are glaring faults in someone — things that God would like to change, i.e. that I would like to change (but after reading the Bible, I wonder if they are a part of someone’s talents, planted by God).  So, I wonder what faults I have in myself that I don’t see.  Maybe I see them, but discount them as that’s the way God made me.  I fight them sometimes, but since they are so hard to change, I think that maybe they are supposed to be that way.  If God wanted me to change, he would tell me.  It’s mostly that I want these “faults” to change.  So, when do we know what to change and what should be left alone, both in ourselves and in others?

A. By praying.  I know ministers who use these verses and Psalm 139:23 as a part of their walk with God.  They say, “God, I am open to anything that you desire to reveal in me and want me to be working on, and I desire for the Spirit to be working on my heart” or something like that.  Do that for a while, and I think you will find that God is eager to reveal in us what He desires for us to change.

O. (19:14): Our pastor says this verse every Sunday before he preaches.  I love it!  (Note from Rob: this is one of the most well known prayers of pastors, and it has been used for centuries.  Jim, our pastor, keeps very good company when he prays this prayer.)

O. (20:7): I like this underscore about boasting.  I never feel comfortable puffing out my chest — boasting.  And, I actually cringe when others do.  I think the no-boasting lesson was drilled into me when I was a kid.  It’s another way to stay humble (I am not perfect on this virtue).  I do like that we can boast about our Lord, who provides all we need, as David says here.  Boasting of ourselves has no place in this world.

Q. (21:7): I like this.  At times, when I am feeling troubled or challenged, I remember that as long as I trust in God, I will not falter.  It sounds pretty easy.  But, as we know, it’s easy to falter.  We know Jesus was the only perfect man.  Would you say it’s impossible to be perfect?  And that one reason sin surrounds us is to check our faithfulness to God to see if we turn to him to keep us out of sin or redeem us if we have already sinned?

A. One of the goals that the Bible describes in our walk with God is called sanctification.  That it, the process, day by day, that the Spirit is at work in our hearts, if we let Him, to make us more and more like Christ.  There is some degree of debate as to whether it is possible to be perfect, but ultimately, perfection for the sake of perfection is not the goal.  The goal is to be more like Jesus, and let God take care of the rest.  As you said, if we put our faith in God, and act out of the best desires of our hearts, we will be in good shape.  Now having said that, let me hasten to add that it should be the goal of all Christians, not to be perfect — tricky indeed — but rather to be MORE perfect today than yesterday.  If our goal is to truly follow after God, then we can see how taking steps of obedience to what He desires will be something we desire.

If you’d like to read more on being holy, Christian perfection, and sanctification, I recommend a book entitled, “Called to be Holy” by John Oswald.  It’s a great look at how holiness is attained in both the Old and New Testaments.  Happy reading!

Day 73 (March 14): Moses calls Israelites to fully commit to God, loyalty comes with rewards, remember God’s blessings, God to drive out the wicked from Canaan, Moses lays out sin of golden calf again

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

Deuteronomy 6-9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 6:2): What is God referring to here when he says “you will enjoy a long life?”  Is he referring to eternal life or just that they will live a long, healthy life on earth?

A. There is not much discussion of eternal life in the first five books of the Bible.  It is a concept that is introduced later, notably in the New Testament.  Moses is speaking only of a prosperous, healthy temporal life on earth.

O. (6:4): What a simple, great verse, but so hard to wholeheartedly get my mind and heart around.  I find it extremely hard to forget about “myself” and replace it with God — God’s will.  I often wonder when I will get to this point in my life and how I can let myself go and welcome God in.  I have definitely taken baby steps in this endeavor and it feels great when I do, but then I need to take even bigger steps to get that same feeling.  I am looking forward to a complete turnover.  That’s the major reason I am reading the Bible in a Year.  Not to do it fast like a race, but to commit myself to studying all of it so I can know God better and what he wants me to do with my life that will help others and help Him.  And, I hope to find the time when I can fully give up my own wishes for God’s.  It’s just so hard to fathom!

Anyone else want to chime in?

O. (6:6-9): This sounds like what our schools want us to do.  We put posters up and try hard to teach our kids everything the standardized tests want them to learn, but how many people post God’s rules all over their house and recite them regularly to their children? Where do our world’s priorities lay?

Q.  (7:7): It is pretty amazing that God chose Abraham, who had no children, to be the father of all nations.  Then, he finally gave him one child Isaac.  These were both good men who followed God, thus God’s love for them and promises to them.  But, there is nothing special about this nation, other than the fathers of it were loyal to God.  So, it is interesting that God chose the Israelites.  Rob, can we talk about this a little?  Like, why God chose anyone?  What is the purpose of God having his own people?  I assume it’s for God to have a model nation to show his power through them, that he is the one, true God.  Are there any other reasons for choosing them?

A. I think that the relationship between God and Abraham is special, as Genesis indicates, and the Bible writers go out of their way to point out that when God makes a promise, He is faithful to it — unlike us.  So, part of the reason that God is so faithful to this particular nation, that there is nothing else especially interesting about, is that He is keeping His word to Abraham.

 

In the Old Testament, God is painting an image of a nation that will be a shining light to the rest of the world: a symbol of what right relationship between God and man looks like.  At this stage, it looks like this: God sets the terms of the relationship in exchange for the great provisions that He will pour out on His people, as long as they are faithful to the covenant.  We will see Israel’s unfaithfulness explored a lot more in the coming texts, but we will also see the way that the Prophets of God (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, among others) will powerfully describe the way that God has remained faithful not only to His promises, but also His vision for the nation of Israel — as unfaithful as she is — to be a light to the Gentile world.

O. (7:9-11): “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.”

These verses are a wonderful summary of the awards and consequences of following God’s rules.  Loving God is for the Israelite’s benefit.  These are verses that you can take either with a “half-empty” or “half-full” approach.  Half empty, you can either read it that if the Israelites don’t obey God, they will be punished.  Or, half full, read it if they love God, they will give them his unfailing love.

Q. (7:12-14): These verses suggest that if the Israelites obey God they will be fruitful — I would think that would translate into “rich” — but the Bible also says that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Is this contradicting?

A. I don’t see a contradiction, and I think that part of the passage we just read helps us understand the distinction.  The camel/needle idea comes from Matthew 19:24, in which Jesus is warning against the way that wealth tends to blind us to our own need for God.  A rich person is not necessarily dependent upon God in order to prosper or succeed.  But that is the danger: it is not the money in and of itself, but what the money does to our spiritual priorities.  In this passage (6:12), we see Moses give a careful warning: you are about to enter a realm, he says, where you and your families will prosper.  Be careful, therefore, that when you have all this stuff, that you DON’T FORGET GOD!  That, I think, is the real danger of wealth and riches in that it insulates us to our own need for God.  Such insulation can truly make it easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to properly understand their own need for God who has greatly blessed them.  I hope that makes it clear.

Q. (7:15): To me this also has a contradiction in it to the NT.  Here God says he will protect his followers from sickness, but doesn’t the NT say that sickness can come to Christians?  We have seen it come to Job in the OT.  That was a different circumstance.  And, it doesn’t seem that this necessarily applies to today, right.  This “sickness-free” decree was meant for the Israelites?

A. I’m not even sure if I would say that Moses is doing anything but making a rhetorical argument about how good the Israelites will have it in the Promised Land if they are faithful to God.  I would say that much of what he is promising here is hyperbole: you will NEVER get sick, your animals will ALWAYS have offspring, etc.  I would not take such promises completely literally: Moses is saying that you will have it good in this country.  And honestly, part of the problem with the entire scenario is that we never get to find out how much of it was what God truly promised: the people will be unfaithful to the covenant, so they lose out on the promises anyway.

In general, it is a good idea to consider that any promise, rhetorical or not, made in scripture is only applicable for the people that it is written to, unless the promise specifically says it can be applied to different circumstances.  It’s a good rule of thumb for such sections of scripture.  We will see more examples of this, and I will try to highlight instances where either scenario is appropriate.

O. (7:16-20): The Israelites are reminded again and again about God bringing them out of Egypt.  After they failed God, I can understand the constant reminders.  I, too, need constant reminders of everything God has done for me and that nothing is impossible and everything is possible.

O. (8:5): I never thought of this analogy before, that we are to God what our children are to us.  That puts some perspective on our relationship to God: that we are devoid of power and not comparable to Him.

Q. (9:1-6): I am struggling with the question of why God tries so hard to make the Israelites realize that He is all powerful?  Why does He care so much?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are long gone.  If He were human, he would have likely given up on them, after all of their failings, a long time ago.

A. I would actually answer this the same way I answered our question from 7:7: God has made a covenant with Abraham, and He is faithful to keep it, even in light of the failings of each generation.  One other thing to remember: the nation of Israel will give birth to the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus is the one who will set not just Israel, but the entire world to rights with God.  So certainly part of God’s plan is to use this nation, in spite of its failings, to bring about a restored relationship for all humanity — past, present, and future.  Why God chose these people is beyond our full comprehension, but as Christians, we can see the way that God is laying the foundations so that one day, God Himself will walk the earth as one of us to save us from our sins and teach us the right way to be in relationship with Himself and one another.

One other reaction I had to the way you phrased your question: be careful about assuming that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are “long gone” as you put it.  When Jesus was confronted about the afterlife, He clearly pointed to the idea that these men were still alive with God.  He quotes God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 3 when God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.  God, Jesus tells us, is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living!  (Matthew 22:32)  What an amazing verse!  So, perhaps we would be careful about assuming that God is any less faithful in the afterlife to these men, and those who faithfully follow Him, as He was when they were living.

See you tomorrow!