Day 264 (Sept. 21): Israelites settle in Jerusalem, lists of returning priests and Levites, the returning exiles

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.

Nehemiah 11-12:26

1 Chronicles 9:1-34

Questions & Observations

Q. Rob, I don’t see anything to comment on.  How about you?

A. Nothing that we have not already covered elsewhere.  Moving on…

Day 262 (Sept. 19): Nehemiah calls for registration of exiles, list of exiled families with a count for each, Israelites settle in their towns, Ezra reads Law of Moses, Nehemiah tells them to celebrate for this sacred day

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.

Nehemiah 7:4-8:12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Nehemiah 7:65): We have talked about casting lots before as a way of asking God to identify or choose.  Can you explain the process in more detail?

A. We covered this way, way back in March (the 28th to be exact, day 87), but I am happy to reexamine the question.  The two stones: seen here: http://www.bibleandscience.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=29, would have basically served as the “yes” and “no” for questions that the High Priest asked.  In the Joshua story — as we were looking at when we first addressed the topic — we saw that the priest would basically put the question or names on paper, and then cast the two stones towards the question to determine the answer.  That’s basically all there is to it.  It was one of the responsibilities of the High Priest, but both Christians and Jews have moved away from the practice.

Q. (7:66-73a): At first, I thought 42,000 people in one city is a pretty large number.  (I still can’t imagine cities as big as they were back then.  I always imagine small because of the more physical lifestyle and it was just long ago.)  But, when you consider that this was all of the men (not women, children, servants, etc.?), then it’s not much when they scatter throughout all of Israel.

A. The nation was significantly smaller than the size under David or even Joshua, but keep in mind that’s only the people who returned: there were still people, including Jews, there: the king used them to grow crops on his land.

Q. (8:8): Here they say the Book of God.  It’s the same as Book of Moses or Moses’ Law, right?

A. Yes.  Many Jews would still use that title today.

Day 254 (Sept. 11) God says Temple will surpass former glory, God tells Zechariah to warn Israelites not to repeat sins of ancestors, God chooses Zerubbabel, Angel of the Lord and patrols of the earth bring messages of prosperity, four sinful nations and four overthrowers, Jerusalem will prosper again, exiles called home, God encourages Jeshua the high priest, lampstands and olive trees vision shows nothing can overcome God’s protection, flying scroll contains curse to go over land, vision of flying women carrying basket of sins to Babylonia

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.

Haggai 2:1-9

Zechariah 1:1-6

Haggai 2:10-19

Ezra 5:2 / 520 BC

Haggai 2:20-23

Zechariah 1:7-5:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (Haggai 2:1-9): Just to clarify, the Temple has not been rebuilt since the exiles returned, right?  We have just heard of the new Temple’s gloriousness through God’s visions to his messengers?

A. They have worked on it some, but no, it is not yet complete.

Q. Can you just tell us, in a nutshell, what the Temple means to God and why rebuilding it should be important to the Israelites?

A. It is the center of their place of worship, and the place where Israel can once again be in the very presence of God.  I would say that is pretty important.

Q. (2:19): Why would God decide to bless them because it doesn’t appear that they are looking toward God?  (I am confused about whether the message about disobedience is being addressed to the returning exiles or their ancestors.)

A. Generally, I would say that the message was “to” the dead exiles, but it is serving as a warning to the present generation.

Q. (2:20-23): Why is God going to “shake the heavens and earth”?  Just all the sinning in these other nations?

A. It is a message of judgment against the nations, yes.  With many of these powerful nations at war with each other (Persia, Greece, etc.), it was a very unstable time, where the size of the armies could make the very ground shake.  That might be what God has in mind.

Q. (Zechariah 1:8): Is there any significance to the colors of the horses?  Any idea what the duties are of the Angel of the Lord?  We have learned that the Angel speaks for God.  Could the Angel of the Lord be any angel or a specific one?

A. The colors (red, brown, and white) would be best understood as war (bloodshed), partial peace (conflict), and peace (white).  It appears for this passage that the Angel is given the task of “gathering” information for God: why that would be necessary for God is unknown to me.  We do not know which Angel is mentioned, so we cannot tell if it is Michael or another angel we have encountered before.

Q. (1:18-2:6): There are four horns, four blacksmiths and four winds.  Significance?

A. The four horns (they are probably metal or artificial horns) are probably Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Persia: symbolic of the nations that subdued Israel over the last several centuries.  Since there are four of them, they are dealt with by four different smiths, who might be angels of judgment, as we will see in Revelation.

Q. (3:8-9): Who is the Branch?  Why seven facets to the stone?

A. It is a term of the Messiah.  The facets (symbolic of eyes) seem to represent the eyes of the infinite (7 being the number for God’s completeness).  We will see this image of seven eyes used again in Revelation, since Zechariah is an influential book on John the writer.

Q. (5:4): What does it mean to swear falsely?

A. To lie, usually under oath or after swearing that you are telling the truth in God’s name.

Q. (5:5-11): What does this story mean?  Is Babylonia the same as Babylon?

A. It is a summary of the process of the “purging” of the idolatry — personified as a woman named Wickedness — from the land of Israel.  The “woman” was taken from the good land to a land of idolatry (Babylonia — the region rather than the nation of Babylon), and things would not be made right back in Israel until this curse had been purged.

Day 252 (Sept. 9): Exiles who returned to Israel with Zerubbabel, altar is rebuilt, people begin to rebuild temple but face opposition, Zerubbabel’s descendants

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 2-4:5

1 Chronicles 3:19-24

Questions & Observations

O. If you are curious about who Ezra is, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra

Q. (Ezra 2:1-70): How did all of these exiles know to return?

A. As the first chapter of Ezra noted, the decree from Cyrus went out among his entire empire, so the Jews likely received notice either by messenger or by public posting of the decree.  It appears that the Jews in the story were quite prepared for this event, as they appear to have kept land records and family genealogies that helped them settle claims and redistribute the recovered land.

Q. (3:12): The ones who had seen the old Temple wept when they saw the new Temple because they were reminded of it’s grandeur and felt ashamed for not upholding the law to honor God?

A. Yes, and for all of the anguish the people had been through.  No doubt they were grateful for God’s provision and restoration, but they could not hold back the tears in crying aloud for their former glory.

Q. (4:4-5): Why did the local residents discourage the Judeans from building the Temple?

A. The area that had been the Jewish Promised Land was now controlled by a number of outside forces that centered in the region of Samaria (part of the Northern Kingdom that was destroyed by the Assyrians).  Having a Jewish state with any sort of clout (which the Temple would certainly provide) would be a threat to their rule, so they were opposed to this move.  We will see more about this in Nehemiah, which these same forces would oppose his efforts to rebuild the wall around the city.

Q. (1 Chronicles 3:19b-24): Is there anything in these family lines we need to make note of?

A. Other than them being lines of David’s distant descendants (via Jehoiachin), not really.

Day 251 (Sept. 8): Daniel earns honor among Darius’s court, other members of the court are jealous and form scheme, Daniel thrown in with lions, God closes mouths of lions, Darius has Daniel’s accusers arrested and thrown to lions, Daniel prays to God for mercy on the Israelites, King Cyrus of Persia proclaims for Israel’s exiles to return, Cyrus orders the plunder from Jerusalem be returned with the exiles, Jehoiachin’s descendants

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 6

Daniel 9

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1:1-11

1 Chronicles 3:17-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 6:1-28): We all probably know this story very well and admire Daniel for his loyalty to God.  Some may say that it would be ridiculous to apply this story to today.  If someone were thrown in a lion’s den, would God save him or her, if asked?  Should anyone be crazy enough to go into a lion’s den anyway?  This reminds me of a story in a sermon I heard several months ago where prayer was the subject.  Someone had just arrived in California (I don’t remember all the details) to speak or maybe he was a pastor at this church.  Anyway, he was being driven to his destination and was notified that there were wild fires all around this place he was going.  Instead of rushing off to the place of the fire, he had the driver pull over and he prayed for 20 minutes or so.  The fire burned everything around this building, but spared the building.

A. God may do as He pleases, as we have often discussed.  I sometimes wonder if we do not vastly UNDERESTIMATE the impact of prayer: too often we assume that circumstances are beyond our control (or even beyond God’s control) when we might find our situation different if we would but pray, as is the case in the story you mentioned.  Now having said that, let’s look at the story a bit more closely.

Daniel does NOT pray for God to rescue Him; he simply prays as he always has, and has faith that God will meet his dire need.  Daniel knew he was being punished unjustly, so he counted on God to be his avenger, and God obviously delivers him.

One of the central themes of Daniel is faithfulness through times of persecution, with this story and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from chapter 3 being the primary examples of this.  It appears that God was sending His people a message (and a message to future generations who would read it): don’t compromise your faith, even when it appears foolish to not do so.  And while most Americans do not face REAL persecution for our beliefs (unlike many parts of the world), the pressure to compromise what we hold most dear is real in our society.  The book of Daniel still has much to teach us, even if we are not at risk to be thrown to hungry lions anytime soon.  Keeping the faith is easy when times are good, but the true test of the power of our faith is what effect it has on us when the chips are down.  To those in difficult times Daniel reminds us: it is always worth it to keep the faith.

Q. (9:1-19): I am surprised that Daniel pleads with God since God said that the land lay fallow for 70 years.  As a follower of God, why would Daniel plead for God to change His heart?  I would think that would be disrespectful.

A. He’s not asking for God to change His mind, he’s asking God to keep His promise to restore His people by confessing on His people’s behalf.

Q. (9:20-27): I’m not really following what’s all going on here.  Can you clarify this passage?  I don’t know what a “set of seven” (didn’t we talk about this with another vision) is?

A. Daniel is being given a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One) along with the decree from Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem, which will be narrated in Ezra and Nehemiah.  A set of sevens is most likely 7 years.  What that means is that according to verse 26, the Messiah will appear (what “appear” means we don’t exactly know) approximately 483 years after the decree from Cyrus (7×7=49, 62×7= 434, giving a total of 483), though it is possible Gabriel means the actual restoration of the Temple, which will come a few decades later.  In other words, we don’t know exactly HOW to do the “math” on the coming of the Messiah, and obviously Jewish and Christian sources disagree on how it should be interpreted.  You can read about the various interpretations here, but I will warn you, it gets a bit technical, and frankly cumbersome to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_Seventy_Weeks.  A lot of Christians have gotten taken in by many attempts to “force” the math to show that Jesus is “proven” Messiah by these verses, but I am jut not convinced that you can make it “work” without stretching the numbers.  To me, Jesus is proven Messiah by what He does on the cross and His resurrection, not because some vague prophecy says that was coming at a set time.  But I would not stop anyone from looking into the math, I would only warn them that they will need to dig deep.  It is not an easy passage to interpret.

Q. (2 Chronicles 32:22-23): Is this the same Cyrus who was well, ugly?  He just seems to come out of nowhere.

A. I do not know exactly what you’re talking about, but Cyrus II was a major ruler of the Persian Empire who would have been well known to Jews of this era because of his role in restoring the Jews to their land.  We will see that process unfold over the next few weeks.

Q. (1 Chronicles 3:17-19a): I just assumed we were all done reading anything about Jehoiachin.  Do any of his descendants rise to be known?

A. His son Shenazzar might be the person that Ezra mentions as the “treasurer” of the people, but there’s not much here other than that.

Day 244 (Sept. 1): God sends a once-glorious Egypt to it’s grave alongside others destroyed by God’s sword, God charges Ezekiel to be Israel’s watchman, 4,700 captives in Babylon, descendants of Simeon, descendants of Reuben, descendants of Gad

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.

Ezekiel 32:17-33:20

Jeremiah 52:28-30

Psalm 137

1 Chronicles 4:24-43

1 Chronicles 5:1-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 32:18): The pit just means the grave?  I get more and more feelings like God is talking about hell.  As a child, I pictured heaven and hell so vividly that I keep looking for references to them.

A. Patience.  Visions of heaven and hell come from the NT, not the Old (a point of contention between Christians and Jews- many Jews do not believe in hell).  Terms like “pit” and “Sheol” refer to the realm of the dead.  Which leads me to…

Q. (32:27a): I have seen tons footnotes that say “Sheol” for grave or pit.  What does that mean?

A. In contrast to the more what we might call “familiar” versions of the afterlife — basically, heaven and hell — Jewish thought at this time would appear to point towards a lack of an afterlife as we would recognize it anyway.  The closest comparison I can give you is that realm of Hades from Greek mythos.  It was the realm of the dead, but it was not a place of punishment.  This goes a long way in examining the way that God has addressed judgment in the OT books we have read: the reward of righteous living at this point is long temporal life, and the punishment is an early death: eternal consequences are not yet coming into play.  But for reasons that are not entirely clear (there’s debate about the origins of afterlife thought in this era for Jews), in the later writings and especially among the Prophets, we see a thread of new awareness and emphasis on the afterlife and resurrection enter into Jewish thinking.  This is an ongoing issue, and it was not even settled by the time of the NT.  We will see this issue come up in the Gospels, for obvious reasons.  So the Jewish understanding of the afterlife at this time is that death is a place of rest where everyone is destined to go, this is what we call Sheol.  But that idea is changing, and will continue to evolve over the next few hundred years.

Q. (33:1-9): Why does God put such heavy responsibilities — burdens — on Ezekiel?

A. Honestly, this isn’t a new burden of Ezekiel.  We saw God put this burden on him back in chapter 3.  His call was to declare God’s word faithfully, and allow the people to decide if they would repent or not.  Now if you are asking why did God make this burden his to begin with, I don’t have a great answer to that.  God calls many people to many different paths, including many that are lined with suffering and difficulty.  But our job is not to decide if we are being treated “fairly,” but instead to decide if we are willing to submit to God’s desires, as we understand them, or not.

O. (33:10-20): This passage comes into play in two different stories, one personal.  My neighbor’s father died a year or so ago.  Her father got married not long before he died.  In fact, I think it was a known fact that he didn’t have long to live.  His new wife was a “black widow.”  She didn’t kill him, but my neighbor’s dad isn’t the first of her victims.  She finds men who are terminally ill and has them sign over wills, life insurance policies, etc. to them before they die.  My neighbor said that she hopes she will get what’s coming to her, but maybe it won’t be on earth. She said her stepmother has angels all over her house.  Whether she things she is holy or the angels will protect her.  It appears she lives in fear.  I can only pray that the smiling angelic statues may prompt her to seek a more peaceful life with the Lord.

My other story is from a little over a year ago.  We moved and I sold a really nice swingset to my good friend for about one-third of what it cost us.  My husband was in the process of staining it and cleaning it up.  There was a black growth, like mildew, on the rungs and slides.  I told her that we would work on it and it would look a lot better.  Well, if you have ever moved, you know how everything happens in the last 48 hours.  We didn’t get the swing set the way I thought it should be — not to mention it was going to an very upscale neighborhood — the playset movers came and it left with black-marked rungs and a slide and a little staining that was not finished.  I felt bad and told her I would try to get over there to finish cleaning it.  That didn’t happen, so we paid the playset movers to finish staining it (they did this for a living).  Needless to say, according to my friend, they didn’t do a good job and she wasn’t happy with them.  But, I’m sure she was upset with me to because it wasn’t how I promised it.  My husband said that I shouldn’t worry about it.  It’s a used set and she got a good deal.  So, I used that rationale to try to get rid of the guilt I had.  It momentarily worked, painting over the shame.  But, I figured out it was just a fog that settled.  Now that God has blessed my husband with more work, I want to take that money and start looking on Craig’s List for some furniture that we “need” and a used swingset.  But, then, I read this and think that I still owe my friend an apology — which I’ve done in writing — in the form of cash.  I won’t feel right until that happens.  As long as I have shame in my heart, that feels like sin and it doesn’t feel good.  I refer to this scripture because it says that if righteous people do what’s wrong, they will die.  I don’t think I’ll die from this, but it would be a sin to buy something for myself when I have not righted my friend.

Q. (1 Chronicles 4:24-43, 5:1-10): Anything we should take note of in these genealogical lists?  Why is Simeon listed first?

A. There is nothing particularly important as I read it.  Chronicles puts an emphasis on the tribe of Judah as its leader, and tells the history of Israel from their perspective (being the tribe of the kings).  Technically, we’ve already read that Judah is “first” in this listing — we read their lineage several months ago, but the exact date escapes me.  Simeon (the second of Jacob’s sons, Reuben was first, Judah third) is listed “first” in this section because his tribe settled within Judah’s land as part of their inheritance, and as such, the tribes apparently became fairly intertwined such that it became difficult to tell one’s story without the other.  After listing the group that was “closest” with Judah, the Chronicler moves back into birth order with Reuben.

Day 243 (Aug. 31): God revives valley of skeletons and tells them to return to Israel, God tells of Israel and Judah joined again, God mobilizes Gog to attack the flourishing, “confident” Israel, God will protect this wall-less city, Gog to be helpless before God, Israel gets cleansed, Ezekiel prophesies the fall of Pharaoh

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.

Ezekiel 37-39

Ezekiel 32:1-16

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 37:1-14): What an amazing scene.  This is something that we have not seen at all.  Did he really do this or is this something that Ezekiel is supposed to tell the living exiles?

A. Ezekiel is receiving a vision of resurrection, but it is an important image that will become a reference point for both Jews and Christians about God’s vision for an afterlife.  God is speaking here of restoring the dead, which foreshadows the action of the gospels.

Q. (37:15-28): Why is uniting Israel and Judah important?

A. God’s desire for Israel/Judah was that they be one. He had no desire to split the Kingdoms, so part of restoring Israel is “reuniting” His people.

Q. (38:2): Gog had not been friendly to Israel? This is the first that I have heard of him … I think.  Why was God mad at Gog?

A. It is difficult to say.  These chapters appear to point to a massive confrontation between God’s restored kingdom of Israel and a great army of the nations, led by a king or ruler named Gog.  We don’t really know much about this ruler, and it is very possible that God left it intentionally vague in this vision for Ezekiel, pointing to some shadowy enemy as yet unrevealed.  There are references to Genesis 10 here, with Magog (which probably means ‘land of Gog’) being listed as part of the lineage of one of Noah’s sons, Japheth (Abraham and his descendants coming from the line of one of Noah’s other sons- Shem).  According to my notes there had been a long period of hostility, which apparently is not recorded in scripture, between Israel and other tribes from the lineage described above (other Semitic people, in other words), so it is probably not a surprise that the “great enemy” of Israel would be a ruler from this lineage.  Ultimately, these verses are shrouded in mystery, but you will note in December that the writer of Revelation pulls from these verses in casting a vision for the final confrontation between good and evil.

O. (39:12): Remember that “7” represents completeness and fulfillment, traced back to the seven days of creation.  For more symbolic numbers to take not of, see Day 3 of our readings.

Q. (39:17-20): I hope this wasn’t a real feast.  I hope it’s just a metaphor.

A. It is a vision of the great defeat and humiliation of these enemy people, and not a “real” event.

Q. (39:27-29): This reminds me of God’s promise in the rainbow.  He never again flooded the earth.  So, in this instance, we know that God will never cause such devastation and abandonment as he did here.  He says he will “pour out my Spirit upon the people of Israel.”  Sounds comforting!

A. Israel’s tribulation is done, and God is beginning the process of restoring her, for it is through Israel that God will restore all humanity to right relationship with Himself via Christ.  The role of the Spirit in that process will be more clearly defined in Acts.

Day 230 (Aug. 18): The Lord’s glory left temple, God judges Jerusalem’s leaders for injustice, God promises exiles will return to Israel, Spirit leaves Jerusalem for Babylon, signs of coming exile, God says the time to destroy Jerusalem is here, God rebukes false, lying prophets, victims will be rescued from deceptive women with magic charms

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.

Ezekiel 10-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (10:15): We have talked about cherubim before.  I believe it was in the altar discussions way back in the building of the Tabernacle.  What is the significance of the four heads and the four sets of wings?  And, it says that the cherubim are “living beings” This is just a vision, right?

A. While we can’t be exactly sure what it is Ezekiel is seeing, cherubim are generally accepted to be angelic beings of some sort.  The four heads/wings symbolize completeness, as the angels are reflections of God’s perfect power.

Q. (12:3-11): I sound like a broken record.  The hole in the wall story was a “message.”  Does that mean these acts happened or is it a vision?

A. In chapter 12, I would say that God told Ezekiel to actually do these actions, including digging the hole in his wall.  I would say Ezekiel expects us to believe that he really did this.

Q. (13:1): God is telling Ezekiel to give the people messages.  Why did God use prophets?  Why didn’t he just tell the people directly?

A. I suppose you can argue that He tried, but nobody listened.  As the people became increasingly corrupt and greedy, they turned away from God, so God selected certain men (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) in this era to bring them back.  Based upon how well we see many of these events tie together, you can see why the era of these men’s ministries is known as the Age of the Prophets.  Ultimately, I see two factors at work here: first, as both Jeremiah and Ezekiel point out, there were a number of men (and apparently women) who were making claims about what God was telling the people to do, but that were false — God was not speaking through them.  God surely might have felt concern that His people were going astray, and needed to respond via faithful members of the community.  The other factor is the fact that we tend to simply “tune out” the still, small voice of God that He uses to reach His faithful people.  When the “small” voice fails, it often requires someone with a bit more volume.

Q. (13:5b-7): This reminds me of something I have been doing lately — assuming God will make true want I want Him to because I’m a faithful servant.  My husband asked me if I felt closer to God since we moved to Florida last year.  I said, “sometimes.”  I realize much more how amazing God is.  But, I feel like I’m going through a cleansing where I get one thing worked out about God and then I need to work on another thing.  I said that I don’t know if I feel closer to God, but I’m understanding my relationship with Him more.  It’s very frustrating.  I’m struggling to get rid of my desires.  I have taken note of all of the prayer requests I’ve had and I get frustrated when they aren’t answered.  I’m doing work for God, stuff that I believe He wants me to do and there’s more for Him that I want to do.  I very much believe that He gave me the ideas.  So, why can’t He make my husband’s business take off — he started about 10 months ago — so we could have the money to start my ventures and pay for some needed house repairs.  Besides, we would give more to the church and charities too.  Then, I realize that I’m asking, but He doesn’t have to answer.  Hopefully he will eventually.  But, like Job, I still have faith.  My husband and I recently signed up to start working in the prison ministry that our church is involved with.  We got on the program’s e-mailing list right away, where my husband received this one: Our church’s pastor for the prison got an e-mail from an atheist saying, in a nutshell, that he wanted to be removed from the church’s e-mail list.  He had no idea how he got on it, being an atheist.  The pastor replied that he would be happy too.  He respects the atheist’s view.  He said he has talked with a lot of atheists in the prison (that was the punch line, in a nutshell).  He had a lot of convincing words.  And, he told the man that he would love to sit down over a drink and discuss their views.  Atheists trip me out.  How could they read the Bible and not make all the connections to see that it HAS to be true?  This made me think of a thought that popped into my mind the other day too that solidifies my belief even more.  There are a lot of religions with their “gods,” there are idols, but how many of them have said in their book that they created the heavens and the earth?  God is the only one who has made the claim that I know of.  He was the only one who was there and had someone write it down.  All the other hypotheses of how the world came to be are just that, guesses.  The Bible is historical and dates way, way, way back.  So, that’s something to put your trust and faith in!

A. Many remain unconvinced in the claims of the Bible, and see is as a collection of legends and human words that has no bearing on their lives.  They see religion as a enemy of progress (not understanding that all of Western society is founded upon Christianity/Judaism), and therefore couldn’t care less what it has to say about what this “God” has done.  Just as there are ministry resources for Christians on the Internet, there are also many websites for skeptics and outright atheists that can do a fine job undermining everything you’ve written in this question about your views on the Bible.  Belief and faith are ultimately an act of will — though faith is sustained by the Spirit of God at work — and people must choose to believe in God or not.  It is the job of Christians such as the minister you’ve discussed above to reach out and say, “don’t believe the nonsense you’ve read on the Internet, there IS a God, and you need His son Jesus Christ.”

Q. (13:15): We read a lot that God gets angry.  You can’t blame Him with everything He puts up with when He simply just says to follow Him and you’ll be blessed.  We also have read lately at his anger being satisfied, seeking revenge.  I think people would say that revenge is a human characteristic.  But, if we are created in God’s image and He obviously has been angry and sought revenge, then maybe it’s a quality from God.  I just enjoy seeing the emotional side of God because I am a highly emotional person.  It’s annoying!

A. God is permitted (by virtue of being God) to do as He pleases in terms of showing emotion and taking revenge.  But as we will see, one of the turning points of the NT is Jesus asking God the Father to not take revenge for His is suffering on the cross, but to forgive (Luke 23:34).  God’s choosing to forgive via the atoning actions of Jesus Christ is central to our understanding of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed.  Those who are in Christ do not have to fear God’s wrath, they have passed from being people who are dying to living for the Word itself.

Day 227 (Aug. 15): Jeremiah is imprisoned, Jeremiah tells Zedekiah of upcoming defeat, Jeremiah thrown into cistern and then rescued, Ezekiel’s visions begin with four-headed beings with wings, the Spirit appears to Ezekiel, God calls Ezekiel to give people His messages

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 37:11-38:28

Ezekiel 1-3:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 38:2): Why would God want the Judeans to surrender to Babylon?

A. So that they will live.  God appears to be offering them way out, but we don’t know how many took the opportunity Jeremiah promised.

Q. (Ezekiel 1:4-12): This is a very strange scene!  What is going on?  What are we supposed to take from it?

A. Ezekiel is seeing a vision of God’s power and glory.  The vision comes in four parts: the storm, the creatures, the wheels, and the glory of God directly.  The storm — represented by wind, lightening, and thunder — symbolized God’s active power at work.  As for the creatures themselves, they have been the subject of various interpretations over the centuries, but they share some characteristics of the angelic characters described in Isaiah’s vision back in Isaiah 6 — which was Isaiah’s call story, as this is Ezekiel’s.  The use of four here, repeatedly in this book, represents completeness — i.e. four corners of the earth, four winds, four seasons in a year, etc. — and the creatures themselves represent the pinnacles of Creation.  The man is the “overseer” of God’s world, the lion was considered to be the most powerful wild animal (untamed nature), the ox represented the power of domesticated nature, and the eagle represents the strongest of the birds.  These images/symbols/creatures/whatever they are will be used again in Revelation 4 in a vision of the heavenly throne.

Q. (1:15-21): What is the significance of the wheels?

A. Continuing the vision, Ezekiel next sees a vision of the “wheels in the sky,” which symbolizes God’s movement toward His captured people.  One of the major questions that the captives such as Ezekiel were asking themselves during this time is “how will we connect with God apart from the Temple?”  The only way they had known to connect with God for centuries was via the Tabernacle/Temple, and now it was gone for them —and would be destroyed by Babylon.  This wheel vision is God’s answer: God’s power — seen in the storm and creatures — moves to the people via this vision of wheels.  God has not abandoned His people, but is in fact “moving” towards them with His all-powerful presence.

Q. (2:1-3:15): I am a little confused as to what is going on here too.

A. This is a call ceremony.  God is giving Ezekiel a vision of “putting His word” into the prophet, which is what they scroll consumption symbolizes — and it is very unlikely a literal consumption, simply a vision of one, and it won’t be the last thing he “eats”.  God commissions Ezekiel to “consume” and disperse God’s word to the people in captivity, despite the hardships that will arise (symbolized by the scorpions and brambles in 2:6).  The central theme of the call is that Ezekiel is to “listen” (3:10) and to proclaim boldly despite persecution and setbacks in his mission.  The listening will be a central theme of the book, and in that regard, will make Ezekiel a marked contrast to the other people of Israel, who, as God points out, do NOT listen to Him.  The book of Ezekiel is filled with visions of a man many assume to be crazy, but which nonetheless express powerful visions of God at work with His people, even in a foreign land.  I’m looking forward to walking through these strange, highly symbolic, visions with you.

Day 224 (Aug. 12): False prophets will be punished, Zedekiah and and people left in Judah will be object of horror and a symbol of evil, Lord charges Judean exiles to prosper in Babylon, Shemaiah and his family will be punished for false prophecy, God promises to return and restore Judah and Israel

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 23:33-24:10

Jeremiah 29-31:14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 24:1-10): Just checking on the status of David’s lineage.  Is King Zedekiah, “a bad fig,” of David’s descent?  Maybe Daniel who was exiled to Babylon?  I have lost track.

A. Yes he is (he’s Josiah’s son, who was the last of the “good” kings), and he will be the last to sit on the throne of David as we currently understand it.  Daniel is of the same tribe as David (Judah), but he is not directly related to him.  After Zedekiah, there will no longer be a need to keep track of David’s ancestry until Jesus and the NT.

Q. (Jeremiah 29:3): I just want to make a note of the community of families that we come across.  I have just blown over a lot of the names because they are strange and too many to remember, except the major characters.  However, Hilkiah stood out to me.  Hilkiah is the one who discovered the scrolls in the temple and, when the scrolls were read to the king, he had one prophet killed and had Jeremiah in hiding, right?  Anyway, here, we see Hilkiah’s grandson delivering a letter for Jeremiah.  I just wanted to note the similarities we have now in knowing families for generations.

A. You’ve got it right.  See my answer to the next question to see why family is so important to God.

Q. (29:5-9): I find it interesting that God tells the exiled Israelites to work hard and prosper in the land where they are captives.  What is the purpose of this?  Can we apply it to our lives today?

A. I heard a great sermon on this back in college pointing to the idea of God’s multigenerational approach to His people.  In this chapter, He speaks (via Jeremiah) of “you” being restored after 70 years.  But note clearly: everyone who would have heard this message as it was first written would have been dead by the time 70 years had passed.  So how does this have anything to do with “you”?  Simple, God is speaking to His people over multiple generations.  If you consider the message from this perspective, it is easy to see, I think, why God says settle down, plant gardens, have families, and marry off your children: He is telling the people how He will redeem them- by their children and grandchildren, who will be the ones to receive the restored Promised Land, which is coming in a few weeks.

So how might this apply to us?  Well, certainly, I believe that it says that God places INCREDIBLE value on family and children, in a way that our society seems to have lost.  Children are too often seen as a burden today, or as a social appendage to be “in”.  But, God sees great value in Christians raising their own children to know their faith and pass it along to the next generation, so that the Word of God carries on even after many generations are dead.  One what we might call “unintended” benefit of this type of multi-generational thinking is that it removes much of the pride and self-centeredness that too often plagues us.  If we think of children and the next generation as being more important than ourselves, then we can find it easier to love them and make sacrifices on their behalf.  This type of thinking puts an entirely new spin on being “pro-family,” doesn’t it?

O. (29:24-32): God’s “gotcha” message.

Q. (30:1-24): In reading this, I just think of how our lives today compare to back then.  I know we haven’t got to Jesus dying on the cross and it changing the requirements and discipline of believers, but I do wonder how much some of God’s requirements are alive today.  Obviously, the leaders and many people of Jerusalem were worshiping idols and doing things that are wicked in the eyes of the Lord.  There aren’t many man-made idols that the people reading this blog are worshiping today.  However, I question how close we are to God.  How much time do we spend with God?  I definitely talk to God fairly often.  But, I still let my brain swim in some problems where I should give it up.  And, whenever God has spoken to me, He has shouted, which is probably because I am doing all the talking.  I don’t sit and just wait for Him to talk to me.  I just started reading “Jesus Calling” where the author has done the same thing, not given God some quiet time.  As busy moms, we hardly have some quiet time without laundry and dishes piling up and kids being ignored and wrecking the house.  But, like exercise, I just let my time with God go.  So, I am trying to make time for Him … and exercise.  I try to talk to Him when I exercise, but I have to admit that it does not come naturally.  It feels awkward.  It’s so hard to sit quietly.  But, like exercise, I’m trying to make time for it.  And I am looking forward to seeing the results … of becoming closer to God.

The other thing I wonder about myself is how much have I given up of myself to God.  I have asked for a lot of things and not received them.  He has given me a lot of things also, some that I have asked for strongly.  But, I look at my life and think I still have things around that I am stubbornly hanging onto that I know He wants me to give up.

A. There are any number of important ways that we can grow closer to God, but one point that I want to make up front about the “requirement” that we do so.  I want to try and distinguish between requirement or obligation and desire.  I believe that God does not want us to see steps towards growing towards Him as something we are obligated to do, but rather something that we desire to do, and I hope you can see the difference.  When we are in love with someone, we often change little things about ourselves to suit them, and some of these changes can be painful and difficult, but we do these things out of love, not obligation.  We choose to love, and to make changes, on behalf of a spouse, or a partner.

One of the biggest paradigm shifts of early Christianity was the movement away from legalism and requirement that so dominated the OT covenant.  In the New Covenant, made in the blood of Jesus, God shifted the relationship from our requirement to His.  We can do nothing to earn the love and status we have with God, but are only required to believe through faith.  We do not bring anything, and in that since, we are, mercifully, not REQUIRED to do anything.  It cannot be earned, it can only be accepted.  So here again, the steps that we take after our believing faith are steps taken out of LOVE for God and praise for His works.  They are not requirements.  We cannot ADD anything to what God has done in Christ, we can only respond in the way that He desires.

Some of those ways are things we have already talked about: discerning what God has done in our lives and how He desires us to use our gifts and talents.  Practicing good habits when it comes to reading scripture (like, say a daily Bible reading), prayer, and other classical disciplines of the long tradition of the Church.  Now responding to some of your specific questions in a way that I hope will help all our dear readers (thanks as always, for reading this by the way!)  I’m a book person, so most of my advice tends to revolve around reading suggestions, and I won’t deviate from that here.  But the books themselves I hope will spur us toward finding our unique path with God.  Gary Thomas wrote a wonderful book called Sacred Pathways (http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pathways-Discover-Your-Souls/dp/0310329884) in which he talks about the many ways that people connect with God: some do so in nature, others via silence, still others via discussion with others (that’s mine!).  One of the main ideas of the book is that there is not merely one way to connect with God.  If quiet time just doesn’t work for you — it often doesn’t for me, but I can talk about God for hours — then try something different.  The book is super helpful in finding the “pathway” that best helps you connect with God.  If you are interested in learning more about the classical disciplines themselves, then I would recommend two works of our modern spiritual giants: Richard Foster and Dallas Willard.  I would recommend any of Foster’s books, who generally writes about classical disciplines such as prayer, but if you want a good summary, read his book Celebration of Discipline (http://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Discipline-Path-Spiritual-Growth/dp/0060628391/), which I have plugged on this blog before.  It is very approachable, and easy to read.  Willard, who recently passed away, sadly, wrote a more technical book called The Spirit of the Disciplines (http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Disciplines-Understanding-Changes-Lives/dp/0060694424/) which is also an excellent read on how Christians can connect with 2,000+ years of Church tradition on their walk with God.

Let’s try to re-examine some of this matter as we enter the NT, especially Paul’s letters, since he will be among the most important figures in discerning how God has truly changed things in Christ, and how we should properly respond.  May your walk be blessed!