Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

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.

Hebrews 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

Day 318 (Nov. 14): Faith in Jesus took the place of the old laws, baptism makes all equal through Christ, Paul is concerned with church in Galatia listening to false teachers, Abraham’s two children illustrate the old and new law, there is freedom in Christ, let the Holy Spirit guide you, help your friends but stay strong to their sinful temptations, circumcision is old law, debate over circumcision requirement

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.

Galatians 3:24-6:18

Acts 15:1-21

Questions & Observations

O. (Galatians 3:27): I like this verse saying that we are all equal in God’s eyes.  Those Christians who don’t treat each other equally have obviously not read this verse!

Q. (4:8-20): I guess the church of Galatia was holding on to the laws and not dropping them to follow Jesus’ teachings?

A. It appears that they were being influenced by some sort of Jewish group that was attempting to convert the Galatian Christians into becoming their disciples, and much of their religion consisted of legalistic following of the Law, which is why Paul takes such great pains to say, “we are under the Law no longer.”

Q. (4:21-31): I love how Jesus, Paul and the disciples use the Old Testament prophecies and stories to tie to the New Testament stories and characters.  It’s so wonderful how they are intertwined.  The NT supports the OT and makes it legit.  The Bible is undeniably irrefutable!

A. I am glad you are seeing how all of the “pieces” are coming together.  Paul is deeply versed in the OT, and will quote from it frequently in his letters.

O. (5:19-21): I’m guilty of a few of these categories.  But, I’m working on them.  Knowing that I believe in Jesus and that pleases Him gives me much comfort.  But, I’m with the group of people that are on the right path to freedom of shame through Christ.  I have dabbled in the darker side in my younger days, but I believe that because I proclaimed Jesus when I was in the 4th Grade and was baptized, that the Holy Spirit has been with me and steered me away from going too far into the “dark.”  I don’t think I realized the depths of baptism then, but I feel blessed to have had parents and grandparents who steered me in the right direction until the Holy Spirit took over.

O. (5:22-23): I first heard these “fruits” from volunteering for my daughters’ Sunday school class.  If you have kids, this is a good one to show them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDNvUOZRFxs

O. (5:26): Jealousy is a tough one for me to overcome, but I’ve made big gains.  I notice that jealousy can cause self-defeating behaviors.  My friends’ kids are doing all of these after-school activities.  We aren’t yet.  We are waiting for God to give us the signal (money, however one teacher wants to barter baby sitting with us!) or not.  But, instead of highlighting what we don’t do as a family, I am finding a lot of joy in what we do do together.  My kids play together and have so much fun discovering the outdoors together, creating books, making me a jewelry box full of necklaces, etc.  It makes me feel fulfilled just thinking of my girls.  When I get jealous and think of the things others are doing that we are not, I feel a weird, bad feeling of shame and darkness.  Let it go!  I also think of keeping up with the neighbors and the bucket list of things I would like to do.  But then, I think about how short our life here is compared to eternity.  Which is better, to make sure life on earth is the best it can be or make sure you are on the path to life everlasting.  I think the latter will take care of the former.

Q. (6:8-10): I hear Paul here saying that we need to watch our own work, but then, as Christians, we need be there for each other in community.

A. Yes, both are important.  We must be watchful of our brothers and sisters in Christ (something, frankly, we as individualistic Americans have a huge problem with).  But Paul’s advice comes with a warning: be careful that you do not fall into the same traps as the friend you are helping!

Q. (6:17): Is this is where Paul mentions that he has some battle wounds from being stoned, but he didn’t die?

A. I don’t know specifically, but if he did indeed survive a stoning, he surely had scars from it.  As I mentioned, it won’t be the last time he gets banged up.

Q. (6:11-18): I know a lot of folks still choose to circumcise their baby boys.  After reading this text, I don’t think God cares one way or another if they are circumcised.  Personally, I think it is a fairly brutal practice.  Even God sounds like he thinks it’s barbaric now.  Maybe he chose this to set Israel apart because no one else would want to copy it.  If God chose an easy way to set them apart, others could easily copy it.  I think the Jewish community still practice this as a religious custom because they think it is a still a sign of the Jewish community?  I wonder if God would get upset with this since in the New Testament he adamentally says that Jesus is the way to eternal life, not circumcision or any other Law of Moses.

A. While it is by no means a requirement, many Christians still use the ritual of circumcision (Jews call it a bris) to honor God and show that their child is set apart as Jewish children were.  One must be careful in reading too much into what Paul is saying- Paul is referring to ADULT believers, not babies, in his discussion of the ritual, and that certainly makes a big difference in how the ritual is considered, wouldn’t you agree?
Personally, I do not believe that many Christians are under the impression that their children MUST be circumcised to be saved, and that it is a decision that they make in an effort to honor God.  It is a decision that is made with the freedom that God has given us in Christ, and beyond that, it is a parental choice.  Many do see it as “barbaric”, but many others see it as doing their best to honor the best traditions handed down from generations of Jews AND Christians.

Q. (Acts 15:1-21): I see the apostles are gaining respect among the church.  You said in a recent reading that the old school leaders go to the wayside as the Christian leaders begin to gain respect.

A. Something like that.  What I meant was with Acts specifically: the Apostles (Peter in particular) were the central figures of the first half of the book, but that Paul and his companions (Luke, Barnabas, etc.) will become the central figures in this second half as we read on.  The center point of the growing church will no longer be Jerusalem (I don’t think it is even mentioned again after this meeting), but rather Antioch, which is at the center of the Jewish/Gentile crossroads leading into Asia Minor and Europe.  We’re going on a road trip!

Day 298 (Oct. 25): Two sons parable shows who belongs to God, farming parable highlights church leaders corrupt hearts, wedding feast parable shows the chosen, coin story shows importance of God, earthly relationships not important for resurrection

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.

Matthew 21:28-32

Mark 12:1-12

Matthew 21:33-46

Luke 20:9-19

Matthew 22:1-14

Mark 12:13-17

Matthew 22:15-22

Luke 20:20-26

Mark 12:18-27

Matthew 22:22-33

Luke 20:27-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 21:28-32): This is what I think is the “moral to this story”: So, Jesus is saying that, in their hearts, the tax collector and prostitutes believe in Him, but were not following yet.  And, the ones who followed God, were not committed in their hearts.  So, the ones who believe are better off with God than the ones who follow Him by sight alone.

A. I would call that is pretty close.  The younger son is the one paying lip service to obeying his Father, but ultimately does not do what the Father says — this is the way that Jesus has repeatedly described the religious leaders.  The older son represents those who are truly following the wishes of the Father, even if they aren’t on the “inside.”  They are doing what is right, which is what the Father ultimately desires.

Q. (Mark 12:1-12, Mathew 21:33-46, Luke 20:9-19): So, I got this one.  The farmers are obviously the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, the landowner is God, the servants are prophets and Jesus is His favored son.  The farmers don’t listen to the prophets, so God sends His son to see if they will obey Him.  They still don’t, they reject Him.  So, Jesus puts the question to the farmers, or church leaders, as to what will happen next.  You would think this would open the leaders eyes to their evil ways.  Then, Jesus gives them another example of them rejecting Him, but then He becomes the cornerstone.  I like Luke’s version where he says that anyone who stumbles over the stone — fails to see Jesus’s teachings — will be destroyed.  I also noted that those who have thought they were the heirs to the Kingdom of God lose their inheritance because of their assumptions that, by default, the kingdom is theirs.  But, they are not following God’s intentions.  They are following their own selfish ways.  So, the Kingdom of God will be granted to those who they have trampled on.

A. Spot on.  Nothing to add here.

Q. (Matthew 22:1-14): God and Jesus use a lot of wedding imagery between them and their followers.  Can you talk about that?  Also, this is an easy story to understand.  But, how about explaining the last verse, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  I’m not sure what “chosen” means.  I would guess it means, “For many are called, but few are worthy.”

A. If you think weddings are a big event here, then you would REALLY be impressed by the wedding feast imagery Jesus is talking about.  Weddings in the ancient world were huge festivals, especially when a ruler such as the king in this story was throwing it.  As we mentioned a few days ago, the festival could go for days, and the exact “end” of the wedding was not entirely known.  One other note that we find humorous: after the actual ceremony, the new happy couple would leave the group and go to, uh…consummate the union.  The wedding party itself literally WOULD NOT BEGIN until they had returned.  Isn’t that something?

We need to compare the two sections of the story in order to understand what Jesus is telling us at the end.  First, the call: the call is one that, metaphorically, goes out to all humanity.  But many do not answer, mostly because like the people in this story, they are too busy with their own business and internally focused.  But the man who is in the midst of the party and not in a wedding outfit — you were expected to wear your best clothes to a wedding, just as today, and many times the host would prescribe or even provide an outfit — brings into focus the last section of the story.  It points back to Jesus’s message in Matthew 7:21-23: not everyone who comes to the party will be able to partake of it.  The image that I have seen used to help us understand the passage is the wedding clothes represent the work of Christ covering up our sins (the “dirty” clothes).  Those who arrive at the “party” without the proper garment (the blood of Jesus atoning for their sins) will, sadly, be cast out.  Without the proper attire, which can only come for the true King, we are lost on our own.  Without a proper outfit, you cannot be “chosen”.

Q. (Mark 12:13-17, Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26): What does Jesus mean by “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”

A. The clue is in what Jesus asks for: a Roman coin called a denarius (the equivalent of the pay for a day’s wages).  In Jesus’s day, this coin would have borne the stamped image of the Emperor Tiberius.  That is, the coin had the “image” of Caesar.  And if we go back all the way to Genesis 1, we note there that man and woman were made in the image of God.  So Jesus is basically making a simple and profound statement about our loyalties: give to Caesar, He says, the things that bear the image of Caesar (the coins), since they “belong to him.”  But, He also says, the things that bear the image of God (us) belong to God, and by extension…not to Caesar.  In summary, Jesus is saying it is right to give to earthly leaders what is owed to them (taxes), but that their leadership pales in comparison to He who made US in His image.

Q. (Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, Luke 20:27-40): Obviously, Jesus is much wiser than me because I don’t understand this one.  All I can guess is that He is saying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead.  He is the Living God.  And, if He lives in us, we are eternally alive.  But, we do die an earthly death and then, when Jesus comes, we will rise again to be alive.  Right?  So, we would be dead for a time.

A. Our bodies are mortal, and will die, but our souls are immortal, and can be given the gift of eternal life from faith in Christ.  We will talk more about what the NT says about our resurrection when we get into Paul’s letters, but that’s enough for now.

Day 15 (Jan. 15): Joseph interprets dreams, Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command of Egypt

Genesis 40

Genesis 35:28-29

Genesis 41

Questions & Observations

Q. (40:9): Does “3” symbolize anything in today’s reading?  It happened three times: cup-bearer’s vine, baker’s boxes, days to Pharoah’s birthday.

A. Things repeated three times are for emphasis.  The author really wants you to pay attention to the details of the story he is telling in order for you to see the confirmation that Joseph is right.  Events happening on the third day are symbolic of completion.

Q. (40:19): Why the two different outcomes for the cup-bearer and the baker?

A. The will of Pharaoh, who had the power to restore or execute anyone that he saw fit.  The story does not tell us why Pharaoh chose to restore one and (brutally) execute the other, only that they had angered him.  Another reason the story tells us this detail is to help the cup bearer (and the audience) see that Joseph has correctly interpreted BOTH dreams, and he did not sugar coat the baker’s fate.  Joseph would have no fear in telling Pharaoh the bad news of the upcoming famine and what to do about it.

Q. (41:2): Does 7’s symbolism of completeness and fulfillment apply here?

A.  It does indeed, especially since the dream is a prophecy of sorts, a warning to Egypt of what God is going to do.

Q. (41:44) Is there significance in Joseph rising from the prison to be second in charge of Egypt?

A. God appears to be rewarding Joseph for his faithful “time served”.  God desired to have Joseph be in this position of power so that he could save many who would have otherwise starved, including Joseph’s own family as we shall see.  Note also that this is the way that God is going to bring true the dream Joseph had about his ruling over his family.

O. (41:56): I can’t help but also think of the times in the Bible where the Lord provides food, like He did here working through Joseph: He gives manna and pheasant to the Israelites as they followed God throughout the desert; Jesus feeds the 5,000 as we will see in the New Testament, He also turns water into wine at a wedding.  He provides what we need, when we need it, if we follow Him.

Day 9 (Jan. 9): Jacob tricks Esau out of birthright and blessing, Isaac tricks Abimelech, dispute over water rights, Isaac and Abimelech make peace, Jacob flees to uncle Laban

Genesis 25:27-28:5

Questions & Observations

Q. (26:7): Is there any significance of Isaac going through the same scenario as his father, saying that his wife was his sister for fear of being killed to get her?  Abraham and Isaac both seemed to not realize that the rulers they were scared of actually feared them because the rulers knew the Lord was with Abraham and Isaac.  Also, this seems to be setting up, “Thou shall not commit adultery?”

A. Outside the very likely scenario that Abraham TAUGHT Isaac this method of survival in a hostile environment, I am not aware of particular significance to it.  It is interesting to me that the rulers who are deceived by this ploy (twice with Abraham, once with Isaac) have a great deal of respect for married life, and clearly take great pains to avoid committing adultery.  They don’t seem to need a command not to, though it would appear “thou shall not bear false witness” should be in order for Abraham and Isaac.  Anyway, once again, for some reason, God rewards the behavior by having the king grant Isaac protection for himself and Rebekah.

Q. (26:18): To name a well, they must have been important.  It sounds like they are geographical markers, like a town.  Were they more than a hole in the ground?

A. Since much of the story to this point takes place in a desert, you can be that water locations and rights (note the number of disputes over water in just today’s text alone!) were absolutely crucial.  Wells and other watering holes would have been community-gathering points as well, so it is unsurprising that they would be given ceremonial “nicknames” to commemorate a major event that happened there.

O. (27:4): Eating seems to be a ceremonial occasion in the Bible thus far.  When the Lord appeared to Abraham, he prepared a feast of his best animals and harvest.  Here, Isaac asks Esau to prepare a meal before giving him his birthright blessing.  Today, we still practice feasts for important occasions and every day life.  I see it as a literal taking in and sharing God’s blessings, enjoying them and praising Him for them.

Q. (27:5-35): Why is such deception allowed in the story of Jacob tricking Isaac in giving him his blessing instead of Jacob?  It doesn’t sound like something God would approve. Was this planned by God, or He just knew what would happen?  I find it difficult to understand free will when God knows everything that will happen to us.  He creates us and says that He knew us before we were formed.  So, did He create us to succeed or fail according to His plans?  I feel like I may get struck down for asking this question, but I’m sure the answer is in the Bible.

A. It is important to note that not everything the Bible reports is something the Bible approves of.  Jacob will pay a price for his deception of his brother and father: he will be forced into exile, though God will bring blessing to Jacob in spite of Jacob’s actions.  As I mentioned yesterday, God certainly knew in advance what Jacob would do, but ultimately, this is the line that God has chosen (for better or worse, see it sounds like a marriage already!) to redeem the entire world.  I tend to fall into the free will camp myself, with the understanding that just because God knows what I am going to do does not make me less responsible for it.  And God is capable of working with us in the midst of those good and bad decisions to carry out His purposes.  And the real payoff in this story for the “good things coming out of really, really bad decisions” is still coming out of the story of Jacob’s 12 sons: the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  So, honestly, at this point, let’s let the story unfold and we can see the way that God will use Jacob’s deception to bring about the redemption that He desires.

Day 7 (Jan. 7): Isaac is born, Hagar and Ishmael leave, Abraham told to sacrifice son, Sarah dies, Isaac marries Rebekah

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.

Genesis 21:8-23:20

Genesis 11:32

Genesis 11:32

Genesis 24

Questions & Observations

O. (21:12): God seems to be saying that both women are important, but Sarah is Abraham’s wife and he should please her.

O. (21:28): Abraham added 7 ewes to the covenant he made with Abimelech.  If you recall in Day 3’s answers, the number “7” signifies completeness.

Q. (22:9-11): It’s hard to imagine Abraham willingly ready to sacrifice his son and Isaac willingly lying on the altar ready to be killed.  Abraham’s trust in God has grown since he was afraid of the rulers killing him, a foreigner, and taking his beautiful wife.  Abraham willingly sacrificing Isaac foretells God sacrificing his own son?

A. This passage, above all else, demonstrates Abraham’s absolute trust in God’s goodness and direction, even when the direction itself did not make sense to him.  Since Abraham had such great trust in God, however, we should understand a few things.  Abraham understood that this was the child that God had promised him; all of Abraham’s descendants were going to come from Isaac.  So there had to be some way that this was going to be true — God had proven Himself faithful to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience I think reflects this in his decision making.  Abraham understood that God was going to provide for him in some way (see 22:8 and 13).  Note that when Abraham leaves his servant and he and Isaac continue on together, he uses the word “we” when talking about his return (22:5).  He fully expects to return with his son.  The writer of Hebrews also points to Abraham’s thinking: that even if he killed Isaac, God was capable of bringing him back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19) and restoring him to Abraham.  So there certainly was a great deal of trust in Abraham following God’s commands, but the text implies Abraham believed that the loss of his son would not be permanent.

Q. (22:11) The text says that an Angel of the Lord spoke to Isaac.  I always thought it was the Lord himself.  Angels seem to have a lot of authority with God.  Will we learn more about angels later?

A. The word “angel” means messenger, and it is tough for us to understand that cultural understanding of the ancient messenger.  Basically, an official messenger (sometimes called a herald) was seen and treated as though they were actually the king or ruler who sent them; the mindset was that they did not merely speak on behalf of the king, but AS the king (hopefully you can see the difference).  In this light, it is more clear what the OT writers want us to understand: a messenger or angel of God should be read as the actual presence of God being there.

This helps explain why sometimes the language gets a bit murky when describing an angel appearing, but God doing the talking (we will see several more examples of this, notably in Exodus 3 in the call of Moses).  This appears to be strictly an OT distinction: angels in the New Testament (such as Gabriel in Luke 1) speak on BEHALF of God, rather than as God.  Honestly, I am not sure the reasons for this, but it might have to do with a cultural shift in the understanding of the role of angels.

One other note: the concept of angels is not one scripture appears very interested in fleshing out (no pun intended) for us.  While scripture makes it clear that angels (and demons frankly) are real, it almost never provides detailed accounts of them.  This ultimately is because the focus of the reader should be on God, not on God’s messenger.

Q. (22:18): This is telling of Israel.  What is the significance of Israel?  Or, do we get into this later?  This verse says “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”  What does this say about predestination and the chosen that I have heard about?

A. I think that this question has multiple answers that will unfold over the remaining course of the Biblical story.  On one level, we see in Exodus that God describes the Israelites (you’ll see where the name comes from shortly) as a chosen people to show what right relationship with God should look like- this is part of how the Ten Commandments will come into play (more on that later).  The problem is that (he he, spoiler alert) the Israelites fail to live up to the promises that they make to God, despite Him remaining faithful.  But where Israel fails, God sends the Messiah into the world to succeed where ordinary human fell short.  A central theme of Jesus’ ministry is continuing this quest to reunite God and man: Jesus speaks of the ways that people can walk in right relationship with God, and that He himself is at the heart of this message.  And since Jesus (the Messiah or Christ) is Jewish or an Israelite, Christians often assume that the promise to Abraham that the entire world would be blessed by his offspring refer to Jesus himself.

Q. (23:5): The Hittites respect Abraham calling him “my lord” and an “honored prince.”  Is this because he had favor with God?

A. I think so.  Abraham had clearly proven himself a force to be reckoned with (because of God, not because of anything Abraham had done), so that even the elders of other clans and tribes show their reverence for him.

O.  (24:26-27): There is a strong respect between the Lord and Abraham.  They both serve one another.  Abraham’s servants carry the same trust in God as Abraham.  Abraham must have been a successful champion for the Lord to his people.  I like to see the strong relationship that God makes with his followers and how much He will work for them.

Q. (24:40): Abraham must be in God’s presence a lot if he can say that an angel will be with his servant on his trip to find Isaac a wife?  How can Abraham order God’s angels?

A. Perhaps God informed Abraham of the way He would help Abraham’s servant.  I don’t think Abraham is bossing any angels around.

Q. (24:48): Why was marrying relatives OK in Bible times?

A. Family relationships (which frankly border on what we would understand to be incest- the married relationship between close relatives) were more common in the ancient world than today.  Though I would point out that even in the fairly recent modern world, we see things like closely interrelated monarchies of various countries who intermarry, so perhaps we are not as distant from this situation as we would like.

OK, here’s the bigger picture response: the big problem was not Abraham seeking a close relative for his son to marry; the big problem was intermarrying with the local tribes, which is clear Abraham does NOT want to do.  Thus, when presented with the choices of either marrying close kin or intermarrying with other tribes, the choice is clear: Abraham and the generations of Israelites that follow him will choose to “preserve” their ethnic heritage.  This will actually become part of the Law: there will be particular commands against intermarrying, again for the purpose of being a nation set apart for God’s purposes.

O. (24:54): Serving meals and washing feet have been shown to be proper ways to serve guests.  I like to see the love for the Lord and love of one another displayed throughout Abraham’s extended family.

Day 6 (Jan. 6): Sarah and Abraham promised a child, Abraham pleads for Sodom, Sodom destroyed, Lot saved, Trick on Abimelech, Isaac is born

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.

Genesis 18-21:7

Questions & Observations

Q. (18:12-13): It’s interesting here how God new Sarah laughed quietly at the thought of having a child at her old age.  However, later in this chapter, He says He has to go to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if they are as wicked as He has heard.  So, I’m wondering if God hears, but doesn’t see?  I’m sure He can do anything He wants.  Or, is it that He wanted to see how His presence affected the people — if his appearance and power would frighten them and they would stop their evil ways?

A. Certainly I think the writer of Genesis wants us to know that God does see, as we discussed in the Hagar section yesterday (“you are the God who sees me”) as well as hear.  We should assume that God is using figurative language for His “coming down” to see a situation (this same language was used at the Tower of Babel as well).  God is using the language of being a human being, who would have to investigate Sodom or the Tower of Babel in order to verify its truth.  But we believe that the consistent nature of God is that He knows everything there is to know (what we call omniscience) and any passage that appears to contradict this concept (i.e. God didn’t REALLY know what was going on at Sodom) should be dismissed as figurative.  It appears that the angels God sent were a final “test” for the area, one that the men of the town fail miserably.

Q. (18:20-32): God is about to punish Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham pleads with Him to spare the righteous.  There are so many points here.  Abraham felt close enough to God to keep asking him to spare all of the people if just a small percentage were righteous.  What made Abraham feel he could keep haggling with God? Abraham did plead with respect.  And, is God showing mercy here by not destroying all, for the sake of the righteous?  Obviously, Abraham is trying to save Lot … again?

A. While I certainly think Abraham is concerned about Lot, he appears to be testing his understanding of who God is.  Is it in the nature of God to destroy a town full of evil people if there were 50 or 20 righteous ones?  And the answer appears to be no — though the story goes on to present an alternative situation: God removes the righteous ones—Lot and his relatives — and THEN destroys the city.

One other note on this back and forth between Abraham and God (as a minister in college once shared with me): the story tells us that Abraham stopped asking before God stopped granting.

Q. (19:5): Sodom and Gomorrah sound horrible.  I see why God wanted to flatten them.  I guess this is where the word sodomy originated?  How can these people forget the great power of the Lord after knowing what he did with the Great Flood?  Why did Lot want to live among so much evil?

A. I could not tell you the origins of the word, but I would imagine there is something to that.  Regarding the forgetfulness of people: we quickly forget the mercies of God, even when we have been directly saved by them.  This is going to be a major theme of the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness: despite God’s constant interventions and provision, the people still rebel and abandon their oaths to God (something to watch for).  I have no idea why Lot would choose to live in such a place, though it sounds to me like perhaps he was not a person of great moral character in his willingness to throw his own daughters “to the wolves” in this story.  Lot appears to benefit greatly from the righteousness of Abraham.

Q. (19:18): Why does Lot challenge the angels?  I would think their appearance would be enough authority that Lot would do exactly as they say without arguing.

A. He appears convinced that there is a better place for himself and his family. Perhaps he thinks a bit too highly of himself, doesn’t he?

Q. (19:29): Why does Abraham have so much family loyalty to Lot when Lot seems to prefer to live among the wicked?  The covenant God made with Abraham has obviously built trust between the two.  God goes to battle for Abraham even when what God is protecting — Lot — is very stubborn.

A. Clearly Abraham honors his family, which keep in mind was the only family that traveled with him when God called Abram to start his journey.  Abraham is faithful to a fault here.  Perhaps this is part of the way the author wants us to see the goodness and loyalty of both God AND Abraham.

Q. (19:30-38): Ok, another weird situation.  Why didn’t they just move back with Abraham and find husbands there?

A. It appears that the author is giving us the origins of two of the tribes that live in the surrounding area of Israel during the time of the Kingdom (beginning in the books of Joshua and Judges).  With the Moabites in particular, they appear in regular reference throughout the OT (Ruth was a Moabite), and Numbers 21:24 and 22:4 points to the loyalty that God had to Lot (on behalf of Abraham): God told Moses that the Israelites (Abraham’s descendants) would have no conquest in the land given to the descendants of Lot (the Ammonites and the Moabites)

Q. (20:2) Why didn’t Abraham learn his lesson the first time when he asked Sarah to say they were siblings (Gen. 12:10-20)?  It seems that God views intercourse between a man and wife as sacred, but Abraham and Sarah view breaking that bond as saving their lives.  Maybe it takes time and trials to put your fears aside and trust God?

A. This is a tough question, because neither time that Abraham and Sarah perform this little trick are they punished by God.  Quite the opposite — they benefit greatly both times (20:14 and 15) from their deception.  God appears to “allow” this deception to ensure Abraham (and Sarah’s) protection in hostile realms (which appears to be the true purpose).  And as Abraham points out: they really are half brother and sister.  God certainly does put a great deal of emphasis on honoring marriage (it actually becomes His symbolic way of describing the unfaithfulness of Israel to her Husband [God] in stories such as Hosea), so why Abraham and Sarah are not punished for this action is unknown to me.

O. (21-6-7): Now, the jokes on Sarah.  This is almost a comical twist of events.  Sarah laughed at the thought of God giving her a child at her old age.  Now, she is laughing at herself in disbelief that such a blessing did come to her and Abraham.