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!

Day 206 (July 25): Cyrus commissioned to return Israel to God, exiles will return, Jerusalem will be full of Israelites, Godless nations will bow to Israel, those who trust in God will never be put to shame, salvation continues from generation to generation, why live in fear of enemies when you have the power of God, the Creator?

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 48:12-52:12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 48:12): When Israel is referred to here, God is addressing Israel, including Judah?  Judeans are still called Israelites even though they have been separated for a long time?

A. As long as Israel (Jacob) is the patriarch of the 12 tribes, along with Abraham, the people shall be called Israelites.  The people continue to “wrestle” with God, do they not?

O. (49:23, 50:6-7): This is a message for those who are scared to claim their belief in God: “Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will.  And, I know that I will not be put to shame.”

O. (50:2-3): I like this scripture.  God has His reasons for doing things the way He does.  He has the power to make decisions however He wants.  And, we will likely not understand it.

O. (50:10-11): Verse 10 is a great verse, but v. 11 is always knocking on the door.  I was talking to my girls today about how the Bible says it’s hard for the rich to get into heaven.  They said they would definitely give the money to those who need it.  Good kids!

Q. (51:1): Rob, can you elaborate on the significance of God using a rock and quarry for examples?

A. The OT has in several previous places referred to God as the Rock of Israel (Genesis 49:24, several times in Deuteronomy 32, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 22:47, Psalm 28:1, etc.).  All Isaiah is doing here is extending the metaphor of God being the Rock for Israel: if He is the Rock, the nation of Israel is cut from it.  Rocks then, and now of course, come from quarries, and it would have required skilled craftsmen to select and cut huge slabs of rock for building purposes, notably walls.  So all Isaiah is doing here is cleverly extending an existing metaphor to make a point about knowing where Israel comes from.

O. (51:13b): This verse really puts fears of enemies into place.  Why should you fear them when you’ve got the power of God, the Creator, on your side?

Q. (52:1-12): God is protecting them just like when the Israelites escaped from Egypt.  This is a prophecy after the fall of Jerusalem, right?

A. Yes, once we are passed Isaiah 40 (and we are well past it), the writer is talking about the RESTORATION of Israel and Jerusalem specifically, not its destruction.   Verse 9 is the dead giveaway.