Day 314 (Nov. 10): Believers spread after Stephen’s persecution, Philip preaches in Samaria, Philp and the eunuch, Saul’s converts to Christianity

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.

Acts 8b-9:43

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 9:10-18): God is so smart to use Saul, the very many persecuting Christians, to spread His message.  Just when I think I may understand the ins and outs of following and understanding God, I lose it.  He is so many steps in front of me that it’s crazy to try to figure out my future.  Yet, I struggle with it daily.  I thought I was in control of my life, pretty much, until I had kids.  I graduated from college, moved to Hawaii, worked super hard and found a great job, got married, had children, stopped working, moved around with military hubby, have two great kids, a house in a great neighborhood, but we are struggling financially.  I used to be able to control my own state of being by working hard.  I work hard and make good money.  Now, my skills are outdated and my attractiveness to employers is nil, as far as I know.  My point is that it’s hard to leave all of what you know behind, the control, and give it to God.  But, like we see with Ananias and Saul, you can never predict how God will orchestrate your situation to help you and others.  It’s so hard to let control go!

Q. (9:36-41): Did Jesus pretty much give the disciples all of the miraculous abilities that He had.  They must have proclaimed Jesus extensively for the people to look past the disciples’ miracles and give that credit to Jesus.  I wonder if the disciples’ ever struggled with any of them thinking that they were powerful themselves and not so much from Jesus — they were taking the glory instead of giving it to God?

A. The text implies that their power is coming by the leading of the Holy Spirit, but since He is part of the Godhead, it is the same “powers” that Jesus had during His time on earth.  One of the most important things to understand about Acts — and the writer Luke keeps reminding us — is that the Gospel is being proclaimed everywhere the Apostles and followers went.  This story contains numerous powerful stories of God using terrible circumstances to turn people to Him.  God used the death of Stephen and the persecution of the Church to force God’s people to move in all new directions, and as the text tells us, they proclaimed their message everywhere they went.  One in particular is the encounter between Philip and the eunuch.  A cool bit of history with one of the stories: the largest church in Ethiopia, called the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Orthodox_Tewahedo_Church), one of the oldest in the ENTIRE WORLD, traces its origins all the way back to this encounter between Philip and this ambassador, probably a Jewish convert.  Now imagine how many people have heard the Gospel proclaimed throughout the ages because of Philip’s faithfulness to the Spirit during that day.  That, I think, gives you a glimpse into the long game that God is playing, and we rarely receive more than a glimpse into how that plan is moving along.  Those glimpses are simply amazing to me!

Day 215 (Aug. 3): Moab and Ammon will be destroyed, joined by Ethiopia and Assyria, Jerusalem remains stubborn, Jerusalem will be redeemed, Josiah dies from enemy arrow, the Philistines and Moabites will see destruction

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.

Zephaniah 2:8-3:20

2 Chronicles 35:20-27

2 Kings 23:29-30

Jeremiah 47-48:47

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zephaniah 2:8-9): This is an off-the-wall observation.  I hadn’t really thought about people’s and animals’ protection of “their” borders.  Does God say anything about this instinct we have?  We watched “Chimpanzee” the other day and the chimp groups had distinct borders.  We also have personal space or borders that we don’t want people to cross.  This is a protective mechanism, a survival instinct, or what?  Does God address it anywhere?  Also, v. 9 says, “The remnant of my people will plunder them and take their land.” So, this means the Israelites have the land of Moab and Ammon in addition to Canaan?  Is this setting up for the greater nation of Israel that we have talked about where other nations join them?

A. As far as I can tell, God does not address the nature of humanity and animals to claim borders.  If anything, the Bible teaches that God Himself regularly uses and shapes borders (see Genesis 1 for example, and all the “separations” God includes).  The writer of Joshua and Judges would have us understand that God provided the borders for the 12 tribes in the new nation that they formed, so we would hardly expect Him to condemn it when animals or other nations do it.  If anything, the Bible tells us that this desire originates in God, and is reflected in His creation.

Q. (Zephaniah 2:12-15): Now Zephaniah 2:8-11 doesn’t necessarily say that these happenings are being told directly to Moab and Ammon.  I think it sounds like it is being told to the Israelites.  But, vs. 12-15 sound like they are being addressed to the Ethiopians and Assyrians.  I know it’s not that important.  I am just wondering if these happenings are warnings to the nations or if they are prophecies being told to the Israelites.

A. I believe that they are both: the prophecy against Moab and Ammon would have been powerful signs to the Israelites, who saw them as enemy nations deserving of God’s wrath.  But God clearly, as with Israel, takes no pleasure in their destruction (Jer 48:36), but apparently feels that they must pay for their mockery of Israel and their worship of the idol Chemosh.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:7): God struggles terribly with impressing His power upon the Israelites.  They just don’t listen.  Is part of their problem that God cannot be seen?

A. Sure, but that doesn’t excuse their behavior.  Part of the reason God mocks the various idols of the people so mercilessly, i.e. they are just wood or metal, is that the people seem to find security in something they can touch and see, rather than having complete faith in God Himself, which they unfortunately cannot.  I frankly see this as being a problem of human nature — we trust what we can see a lot more than what we can’t — and it is surely still a problem with the various idols in our society.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:11): I don’t understand who Zephaniah is talking about when he says “you will no longer need to be ashamed, for you will no longer be rebels against me.”

A. He’s talking about the restored Kingdom of God, when the people will be purified of their sin and live in harmony with their Creator.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:15): I remember waaaay back when the Israelites were demanding to have a king.  God said it wasn’t necessary because He was their leader, their king.  But, the people demanded one.  Now, here, the kings are gone, right?  And, God says He will live among them … just like he recommended.

A. You’ve remembered correctly.  In this instance, God is speaking about His future Kingdom, where He will rule among the nations.

Q. (2 Chronicles 35:22): So, Josiah should have listened to King Neco?  This was a weakness of Josiah that he didn’t want to be told what to do?

A. It appears to be a pride moment for Josiah, and he pays a hefty price for ignoring Neco’s warning.  It is surely strange to the story, I admit, that God’s word comes via a pagan king.

Q. (Jeremiah 48:7): I don’t remember hearing about Chemosh before.  Anything special about that idol?

A. We have addressed it before, but I can’t seem to find the reference to the question.  Chemosh was the idol/god of the Moabites and occasionally Israel: Solomon built an altar to Chemosh in 1 Kings 11, and he is mentioned in Judges 11 and Numbers 21.

Q. (48:10): Does this mean that those who can’t bring themselves to kill someone else in the name of God will be cursed?

A.  No.  God has assigned an army (probably Babylon’s army under Nebuchadnezzar) to the “task” of wiping out Moab, and does not want to see them delay: He wants the task done.  It is in no way a license to kill indiscriminately.

Q. (48:35-39, 47): God is super sympathetic to Moab and acts as if it hurts Him to be doling out this destruction.  And, then in v. 47, God says He will restore Moab.  Why does God have a special connection to Moab?

A. I don’t know of anything specific, but as I mentioned above, it appears that God simply takes no pleasure in this slaughter and promises to restore the nation in some form.

Day 197 (July 16): Isaiah prophecies for Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Jerusalem, Shebna and Tyre

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 18:1-7

Isaiah 19:1-25

Isaiah 20:1-6

Isaiah 21:1-17

Isaiah 22:1-25

Isaiah 23:1-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 18:1-7): I’m not sure what is going on here.  Why was Ethiopia brought into the picture?

A. Back on June 30th, when we last looked at Isaiah, I mentioned that this is the “Jonah” section of Isaiah.  What I mean by that is it is the section where God commands Isaiah to prophecy to various nations in the area, and now the list includes the various nations and tribes we see here, Ethiopia (other translations call it Cush), Assyria, Tyre, Edom, etc.  God is calling these other nations to repentance just as He does with Israel.

Q. (19:1): Rob, I want to look back to your second answer on Day 195 about angels and demons.  You said that fallen angels may be some of the demonic influences in other nations.   Just to get this straight, can they be associated with some of the man-made gods that were created?  Or is it more like God, unseen, but a lesser power?  I’m just bringing this up because verse 1 says “The idols in Egypt tremble.”

A. The idols worshipped in these other nations are not God, but they may — we can’t be sure — be associated with other spiritual powers such as demons.  Certainly many of the actions required of these “gods” such as human sacrifice reflect a spirit that is certainly against what the true God desires.  So in that sense, these gods are acting in ways counter to what God desires.  But it remains a mystery how much influence these evil, demonic spirits have in the OT.  We only get glimpses: our focus is to be on God.  Regarding the “quaking idols,” I believe Isaiah is using metaphorical language.

Q. (19:3): Rob, can you comment about “spirits of the dead”?

A. It’s referring to a soul or other spirit of a person disconnected from a body by death.  The ancient world believed that consulting with such spirits was one way to control the future, so it is no surprise that we see this here.  Israel was strictly forbidden from doing it, but other nations were not.

Q. (19:23-25): God is just expanding His kingdom here?

A. Sort of.  This is once again a vision of life in the Kingdom of God after the great Day of Reckoning or Judgment.  In that day, Isaiah says, the former conflicts — like the rivalries between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria — will disappear and the people will be united in the worship of God.

Q. (20:1-6): What happened?  I thought Assyria and Egypt were allies.  It seems as the king of Assyria is always a thorn in someone’s side.  Poor Isaiah — naked and barefoot for three years!  That is some servant!  Now, the Philistines are thrown into the ring too.  I don’t know what’s going on here.

A. These various factions are constantly making and shifting alliances.  We see this in the story we are reading as well: sometimes Judah and Israel (before being destroyed) were allies, and sometimes they were bitter enemies.  Assyria and Egypt are the two most powerful nations of this era at this time, so it is no surprise that they both tried to gain the upper hand against each other, even if it meant betraying former alliances.

Q. (22:1-14): So, Jerusalem finally got hit.  Reading the account is strange.  It says they were destroyed by famine and disease.  Famine and disease usually occur over time.  This account sounds like it happened in one day.  Is there any reason to the order of destruction of these countries?  Israel was destroyed some time ago.

A.  Narratively speaking, this is a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction, not the “event” itself if that makes sense.  The city will be under siege for several years before it falls — which we will read about in Jeremiah and 2 Kings — with plenty of time for the famine and disease aspects Isaiah talks about to take place.

Q. (22:15-25): The palace administrator was obviously corrupt, but we haven’t heard much about him, right?

A. No, we do not know much of anything about him, other than the fact that his name implies that he was not an Israelite: he was most likely an Egyptian.

Q. (23:17-18): So even the most proud place will convert to God?  Why is Tyre likened to a prostitute?

A. Tyre was a sea-faring nation, and they hired their ships out to whoever gave them the most money.  They didn’t care where it came from or what it was for.  God is saying that they have sold their soul and are “whoring” themselves out in ways that do not please Him.  In the Day of the Lord, all nations will see God’s glory and turn to Him, even the most proud.