Day 231 (Aug. 19): Ezekiel gives God’s message to those seeking advice but have “idols in their hearts,” God to punish false prophets, even righteous characters of old couldn’t save Israelites from their punishment, people of Jerusalem are but useless grapevines, God shows that Israelites are more sinful than prostitutes, Israelites allies that they have sinned with will witness Israelites’ punishment, God says sinners of Judah will be scorned by whole world

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 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 14:14): I love when the Bible repeats past stories or characters.  It just ties it all together!  I especially appreciate Job.  He kind of came out of nowhere, but was steadfast in God and is remembered.

Q. (14:12-23): I notice the four symbolism here too — war, famine, wild animals and disease.  Those sound like all the categories that I may fear.  Does this correlate at all with the four heads of the cherubim?  One things for sure.  I don’t want to be around evil like that.  I can’t stomach it.  The other night, hubby and I were watching the Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  I couldn’t handle Jim Carrey burning the words “Happy Birthday” on his arm with candles or drilling a hole in his head.  I literally feel like I’m going to get sick.  Hopefully, I would have escaped Jerusalem a long time before all of this craziness started.  It sounds like a horror movie.

A. There was great risk outside the cities, where there pretty much was no law, so there is no guarantee that leaving the city would have improved your fortunes any.  Part of the process of sieging the city would have been to surround and patrol the city itself, to look for those who were trying to escape, so trying to “get out” would have been a great risk in and of itself.

O. (16:1-34): This is an amazing comparison — Israelites and prostitutes.  I think the point we can apply to our lives is that God gives us blessings — sustenance, shelter, family, talents, God’s Word — and we need to make sure we glorify Him with them and know that they are from Him and for Him, not for our own pride and glory.

Q. (16:53-58): Shame is almost worse than the punishment itself.

A. Shame, and public shaming in particular, was a central concept in that society, and it still is to this day in the Middle East (including Jewish culture).  To shame someone in public was to disavow them, to show that you were washing your hands of this person, and basically turning them over to the mob, as this scene illustrates.  It was a powerful method of social control.  God is using this image of shaming to demonstrate to His people what their actions are doing, and how He will respond.

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 229 (Aug. 17): God walks Ezekiel through coming judgment, Ezekiel prophecies destruction from mountaintops, desolation of Israel, people will know God when they see devastation, idolatry in the temple, God spares the sorrowful and punishes the wicked

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 5-9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 5:1): Why does God call Ezekiel “Son of Man?”

A. I don’t have a great answer to this question since it is not a term God uses for people elsewhere, but we each understand God in our own personal ways, so this might be the way that God chose to speak to him.  The term is a reminder of Ezekiel’s humanity, in strong contrast to the transcendence of the Almighty.

Q. (5:1-4): Why use hairs?  We don’t know if this really happened, right?  Or, if God is saying this as a demonstration.

A. I see no reason to assume that it didn’t happen as God instructs Ezekiel — it is a demonstration of sorts — but I do not know why God instructs the use of hair.  It might be so that Ezekiel would stand out and be in a “state of mourning” for Jerusalem after he shaved his hair, as we have seen the use of shaving to signify grief in multiple OT locations.

Q. (8:1-18): This is a vision.  What is the purpose of the vision?  I am guessing it is to show Ezekiel why God is so mad at Judah’s leaders so he will be totally on board with God, especially given what God is asking him to do!

A. God is explaining to Ezekiel what exactly it is the people are guilty of, and how they will be punished for their sins as the vision continues in chapter 9.

Q. (9:1-11): This is a vision too?  Because I thought that armies from the north were going to destroy Jerusalem, not from six men with deadly weapons and a man dressed in linen.

A. This section is a vision, full of symbolism of things to come.  The Babylonian army destroys Jerusalem, but God is symbolizing judgment on the corrupt in Jerusalem via these angelic beings.  Note what God orders: that those who truly repent (the remnant) will be spared, and the rest are given the death sentence for their crimes.  It was surely a horrific scene for Ezekiel to watch unfold, but sadly the vision God paints is nothing compared to the famine within the besieged city that will lead many of Judeans to horrific acts such as cannibalism and other horrors.  God’s vision to Ezekiel is frankly more human than the real life story.

Day 228 (Aug. 16): God makes Ezekiel a messenger/watchman for Israel, Ezekiel only to speak when he has message from God, Ezekiel bears sins of Israel and Judah as he’s force to experience devastation of siege, Judah urged to submit to Babylon, Ignore false prophets, Jeremiah condemns Hananiah, Jeremiah prophecies that Babylon will be empty

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 3:16-4:17

Jeremiah 27-28

Jeremiah Wears an Ox Yoke

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 3:24, 4:4-7, 12): This isn’t a literal description right?  Ezekiel’s hands weren’t really tied so he couldn’t move?  It gets worse in Ch. 4.  Why such harsh treatment for someone who is to spread God’s messages?  And dung for fuel to bake his bread.  This is unbearable!

A. I believe that the being tied was symbolic.  It did not imply that he could not move, but should be understood as God restricting his movements metaphorically.  As to the rest of the requirements, it appears that God meant this literally as he made provision for Ezekiel’s needs, though scantily, of food and shelter.  The idea here is that Ezekiel will act out the siege that is befalling Jerusalem on various levels: being trapped within the “walls,” given meager rations, and forced to improvise fuel.  Dried manure was commonly used as fuel in this era, and is still used in parts of the world today.  I cannot imagine it is a pleasant fuel to use, but I believe that that was an intentional choice on God’s part: the unpleasantness was meant to be part of the symbolic penance.

Q. (4:5-6): What is the significance of the length of time Ezekiel was required to rest on his left and then right side?

A. Based upon the model he built, having Ezekiel lie on his left side would have meant he was on the “north” side of Jerusalem, which would have symbolized Israel.  Having him lay on his right side would have caused him to be on the south side, representing Judah and its sins.  The 390 years appears to be the length of time that has taken place since Solomon’s turning away from God, and all the Northern kings who followed down this path away from God.  The 40 years is a bit trickier, but is probably a reference to Manasseh’s long reign before his repentance.

Q. (Jeremiah 28:1-17): Why were there false prophets?  Were they appointed by the king to say what he wants them to say much like the king creates man-made idols to help him in the way he wants help?

A. That’s one possible explanation.  Another is that this man thought he was hearing from God but was simply mistaken as Jeremiah is told.  Telling people what they want to hear is surely a way to make oneself popular, so perhaps this man became a “prophet” because he liked being the center of attention for sharing positive messages that the king and others would have liked to hear.  Those are my guesses.

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.