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  Now, my skills are outdated and my attractiveness to employers is nil, as far as I know.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 257 (Sept. 14): Temple is finished and dedicated to God, Exiles celebrate Passover, King Xerxes big banquet, Queen Vashti prohibited from ever seeing Xerxes again, Xerxes is charmed by Esther and makes her queen, Mordecai tells Xerxes of plot to kill him, Haman’s plot to kill the Jews was debunked

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.

Ezra 6:14-22

Ezra 4:6

Esther 1-4

Questions & Observations

I have heard this story quite a lot, but never in the detail that the Bible is providing.  It’s such a thorough account that I don’t have any deep questions, just technical ones.

 

Q. (Esther 1:1): Xerxes has such a huge territory from India to Ethiopia.  I can’t imagine how they would rule that many people over a long distance.  They must have had quite an organized structure of assistants.

A. These kings set up puppet regimes throughout the empire.  We will see this again in the NT, when the leaders such as Herod ruled Israel, but served the Emperor of Rome.  This is also why the decrees were so important: they were used to proclaim the king’s orders throughout the vast empire.

Q. (1:3-4): How did Xerxes get so much authority so fast?  In his third year as ruler, he threw a banquet for royalty that lasted 180 days.  And just to imagine the accommodations — they didn’t have Holiday Inn back then.  I just wonder if there were inns or if Xerxes housed them all.

A. Xerxes is king of the Persian Empire, which took over the Babylonian Empire from Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants.  So he got his great authority by inheriting it from the king before him, but he also very likely had to demonstrate his authority as some sort of under ruler, usually a general.  Inns and such places would have been commonplace in major cities of this time, as they are today.  Many times people in this area would use caravans to move large amounts of people and goods, and set up camps in the areas outside (or sometimes inside) a city.

Q. (2:12): Twleve months of beauty treatments?  This would never go today, not in my home anyway.  Who has time for that?  In a whole year, they would look older.

A. I honestly have no idea how to respond to this.  I’m just going to move on.

Q. (2:21): I don’t remember this part of the story.  It’s great to know more about Mordecai.  The whole eunuch thing is hard to accept.  The way the Bible refers to them as eunuchs and not just by name makes it sound like they are a separate “breed.”

A. I realize you’ve had some trouble with this concept, but it would have been accepted practice in the day.  It’s quite clear from the story that even the eunuchs in Xerxes’ empire could become powerful men, as we see in the man who controlled the entire harem for the king.

Q. (3:10): Why did Xerxes hand over the signet ring to Haman?  I don’t understand what authority is given to whomever has the ring.

A. The signet ring had a raised design on it, which was the mark of the king.  In an era, as we have discussed, of great distances between king and country and vast empires, the power of the king’s seal must be understood as incredibly important.  Xerxes, by giving Haman the ring, is basically allowing him to write decrees as though he is the king, because he can use the ring to seal royal letters and decrees.  That’s the real power of signet ring: basically being able to sign the king’s “name” onto something.