Day 362 (Dec. 28): 144,000 Israelites get seal of God, a crowd comes who survived the great tribulation and serve God, breaking seventh seal causes earthquake, angels blowing trumpets set off destruction on earth, fifth trumpet brings stinging locusts for five months, sixth trumpet blown releases angels who kill one-third of all people, the mighty angel with small scroll says to keep a secret and ate it, scroll was sweet but became sour in stomach

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.

Revelation 7-10:11

Questions & Observations

Q. So, this is all still John’s vision?  Why is this so crazy compared to everything we have read before … except for some of those wild monsters we read about in the OT.

A. This is John’s vision, but it is written in a particular type of genre of writing called apocalyptic.  It would have been a commonly used form for writing in this era, but since the Bible does not contain much of this type of literature (though parts of Zechariah, as we read yesterday, and Daniel 7-12 are examples we do have from the OT.  Note how similar the visions in the second half of Daniel are to what we are reading).

Apocalyptic literature hit its “peak” in the intertestament period, when Jewish oppression drove writers to create visions of God avenging their deaths at the hands of cruel pagans.  John, a Jew, is very familiar with this type of literature.  The key characteristics of this type of writing are vivid use of symbols, animals, numbers, and colors; but it is also characterized by its contrast to what we would call prophetic writing.  In prophetic writing (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, etc.), the situation is dire, but it is not too late for the people to repent — the common call of the prophet.  But this is not the case in apocalyptic literature: it IS too late in this case to repent, God Himself must intervene to avenge what has been done to His faithful children, something we see over and over again.  The wrath that is being poured out in these visions is to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of the unjust — something Christians had heavily experienced during the era of the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian.

Q. (Revelation 7:1-8): Where does the 144,000 come from?  Are these Israelites alive or passed?

A. I’m going to assume you mean what is significant about it, because to me, the math is not in question (12 tribes, 12,000 sealed from each tribe).  There are numerous theories about it: some say it is a symbolic number.  One scholar I read noted that the number signifies completeness in two ways: by squaring the number of tribes (12×12) and multiplied by 1,000, which would have been understood to the original hearers as a sign of completeness.  Others view it as a literal number of Jews saved (Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that ONLY 144,000 PEOPLE will be saved in total!)  But there is not a lot of consensus.  I tend to see it as a symbolic number, since it is from a book that deals in symbolic numbers, not literal headcounts.  As to whether these Jews are alive or dead, that questions is impossible to answer, and is irrelevant anyway: they have completed their trial, so there is no longer a distinction between alive and dead- all are alive in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 7:14): Does the “crowd” refer to the rest of us — non-Israelites?  I thought Israelites were put on a level playing field with everyone else.  What is the great tribulation?

A. The common understanding is that the Jewish group is first seen by John as being a subsection of the great multitude, so that removes any notion of being the “special” section of the saved.  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and His plan of salvation for the entire world had its origins with them.  But salvation is now for everyone.  The crowd is the survivors of the great tribulation, which the rest of the book will be showing to us.  Symbolically, this does describe all Christians from every nation and people, who ALL must pass through some form of trial and tribulation, either great or small.  That’s the way that I read what John has written here: it is a victory celebration for those, Jew and Gentile throughout all time, have come to salvation in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 8:6-13): Why is the significance of the star’s name — Bitterness?  How about the eagle?

A. The star has a few interpretations.  Those who hold to a more literal, “this represents this” interpretation argue that the language of Rev. 8 represents events of great leaders who have fallen (a “falling star”) in the history of our world.  I, frankly, don’t buy that, because there is no indication that this is what John means, and it requires too much pure speculation about who this is.  I think that takes too much away from what John is doing — writing symbolically — in this work.  I believe that the name, which refers to a type of plant, represents the coming bitterness that will befall the inhabitants of the earth in the midst of the coming tribulation.  The eagle is sometimes seen as a symbol of pending destruction, as in Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:13, and Hosea 8:1 — note that in Jeremiah the warning is followed by a declaration of “woe to us” and in Hosea there are trumpets that precede the warning.

Q. (Revelation 9:1-12): Ouch.  I don’t want to be in that crowd.  Locusts are a popular pest in the Bible.  Who is the Destroyer?

A. Most likely a symbolic personification of destruction, though some think that there is a powerful demon, a fallen angel, who is lord of the Abyss.

Q. (Revelation 9:13-21): Horses are popular in Revelation.  And, colors are pointed out when they are mentioned — here, the riders.  Why all the mutations of animals?  These visions can’t be actual — like back with Joseph’s visions when the wheat symbolized his brothers.

A. Yes, they are visions.  Horses are powerful symbols in this story because at the time, a warhorse would have been the most powerful weapon of war in existence.  They symbolized power, control, and conquest, and to a certain degree, they still do today.  Other animals — including some non-real ones coming up — are used because they often carry with them double meanings, the same reason that various colors are used.  The images of wild beasts and vivid colors drive our imagination, exactly as John desires.

Q. (Revelation 10:1-11): Is the mighty angel Jesus?  Can you point us back to the scripture that v.7 talks about when God revealed His plan to the prophets?  And, what is being symbolized when John ate the small scroll and it tasted sweet and then bitter?

A. No, Jesus is NEVER referred to as an angel.  It most likely refers to an archangel, one of the “high” classes of angels.  There is no Scripture that tells the exact spot where God revealed His plan to the prophets: it simply didn’t work that way.  God revealed pieces of His vision to the various men and women who were faithful to Him in the OT, and those visions, put together, and viewed through the “lens” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us the vision for God’s plan.  The sweet/bitter of the scroll harkens back to Ezekiel, who was also ordered to consume a bitter message.  The sweetness is the inevitability of God’s victory, the good news.  The bitterness/sour is that this victory will involve the suffering of many or the bad news.  John must proclaim both messages, telling of Christ’s victory will be sweet, telling of suffering and persecution will be painful.

Day 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): 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. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 324 (Nov. 20): Set a good example for new believers, Paul is a slave to spreading the gospel, Israel’s idolatry is a lesson, do all for the glory of God

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.

1 Corinthians 8-11:1

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 8:1-13): I understand part of this, I think — eating food that has been sacrificed to an idol is no big deal because the idols are not real and thus, it is not a sin against God, right?  But, I don’t get the part where it can negatively influence other novice believers.  Does it mean that if they see a strong believer eating food sacrificed to an idol, that even though you know it’s false, they would think that you are acknowledging the idol by eating the food.  Then, that could influence them and turn them toward the idol and away from God?

A. I think Paul’s concern is that people will be setting a bad example for new “weaker” believers, and since they might be less sure about their faith, it might cause them to stumble, even though it was not done intentionally.  But you have the first part right.

O. (9:1-27): Paul’s story here sounds like a true description of what it means to be a soldier of God.  He changes to be whomever he needs to be to impress upon people the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Paul knows his mission and does whatever he needs to deliver God’s message.  He keeps his body ready to do what he needs for his missionary journeys.  I would think this means no boozing it up, no gorging because this would make him tired, lazy and less fit to do his work.

Q. (10:4): Looking back to the Israelites’ exodus, are there any references to Jesus living among them?

A. No, Paul is not speaking of the literal presence of Christ among the Israelites, but is rather symbolically saying that He was the ultimate source of their provision.  Paul is using a metaphor.

Q. (10:12-14): I would say that these verses support free will.  Here it says that God gives tests that we can handle and a choice to resist what we are being tempted with.

A. Dealing with temptation is certainly a big part of free will considerations.

Day 312 (Nov. 8): Peter heals lame beggar, Peter preaches about Jesus, council tries to hush Peter and John, disciples pray for courage, believers become a community sharing wealth and possessions, Ananias and Sapphira try to cheat eh church, disciples heal many, disciples imprisoned but escape, disciples flogged but continued to preach about Jesus!

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Acts 3-5:42

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 3:22): Why did Moses refer to Jesus as a Prophet instead of the Messiah?

A. Remember that Messiah is a title that means “anointed” or “chosen,” and one of the OT offices that was anointed was the office of Prophet (the others are King and Priest, more on those later).  So when Moses refers to the One who is coming as a Prophet, he is not referring to Jesus incorrectly, but merely describing a single aspect of His ministry- that of being THE Prophet who will bring His people back to God.

Q. (Acts 4:8-11): I love how the Holy Spirit takes over Peter’s speech here.  I have heard other people say how sometimes when talking to someone about God that they can’t believe what comes out of their mouth.  They felt the Holy Spirit control their speech.

A. That is certainly the implication of what Jesus advised His followers during the Last Supper — sometimes if we act in boldness to proclaim His truth, we never know the ways that God might show up via the Spirit.

Q. (Acts 5:1-11): Would it have been a big deal for Ananias and Sapphira to keep some of the money anyway?  I take it that it’s just because they lied about giving the full amount to the apostles when they didn’t?

A. I think the deceit is certainly the big deal — they were attempting to show off to the community, while keeping some of the money to themselves.  And this is exactly what Peter says: you could have kept some of the money, but you chose to lie about it.

Q. (Acts 5:15): How could Peter’s shadow heal people?  Peter seems to be taking a lead position with the disciples.

A. I have no idea.  And yes, Peter will be the primary focus of Acts for the first half of the story, and then someone else will take over.

Q. (Acts 5:31): How do the people know that God put Jesus at His right hand?  Through the apostles teaching?

A. Peter is not necessarily referring to an ACTUAL throne, but rather that Jesus is in the place of honor, as we have discussed.  The right hand was a trusted advisor who had the “ear” of the King.

Q. (Acts 5:33-41): If the Jewish leaders accepted Gamaliel’s advice, why did they flog the disciples?  I guess flogging is OK, but death is not?

A. I think they were looking for a way to take out their jealous feelings, and perhaps make one more attempt to push the disciples into silence.  Fat chance.

Day 311 (Nov. 7): Jesus ascends to heaven, Matthias named new disciple, Holy Spirit comes to disciples, Peter preaches to crowd, believers form a community

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.

Mark 16:19-20

Luke 24:50-53

Acts 1-2:47

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 24:52): So, this is the joy that you were talking about when I said how could happiness come from Jesus being crucified?  Especially since they saw Him die on the cross, resurrected and now ascending to heaven, they are sure He is the Messiah.  It would be hard to believe that the prince of heaven was right before my eyes.

A. I was referring to seeing Jesus alive at Easter and in the days that followed.  Jesus being resurrected changed everything for His followers, who are beginning to be transformed from the weak fearful men that we saw run from Jesus’ side into the men who will — with the Spirit’s help — change the world.

Q. (Acts 1:18): Here, Luke, the writer of Acts says that Judas bought a field with the 30 pieces of silver.  But, earlier, Matthew said Judas threw the coins down at the priests who then used the money to buy a field and then killed himself.  So, maybe something got lost in translation or one of them — Luke or Matthew — had their story a little mixed up.

A. Actually, it is possible to reconcile the two versions.  Church tradition holds that Judas hung himself on a tree at the top of a hill, and that either when his body decayed or when he was cut down, his body fell and broke open.  I believe that Luke, the writer, is aware that Judas didn’t DIRECTLY buy the field, but it was bought with the money that was returned to him.  Anyway, I think it is possible to reconcile the two versions of his death, but it is by no means absolutely necessary to do so.

Q. (Acts 2:1): I don’t remember talking about the day of Pentecost before.  What’s it about?

A. We have, it just wasn’t referred to by that name (since “Pentecost” is Greek).  It refers to the Feast or Festival of Weeks, which follows exactly 50 days (seven weeks and a Sabbath) after Passover.  It is described in Exodus 23 and 34, and commemorates the receiving of the Law by the Jews at Sinai, which you will remember occurred after the first Passover.  It is also in the midst of the Jewish grain harvest (the story of Ruth is frequently associated with it), which makes it a holiday that celebrates the ways in which God has provided for His people, both in their daily bread and spiritual needs.  Cool huh?

Anyway, it doesn’t take a big leap of logic to see why God would use THAT date to do a new thing with early Church — God is once again providing for the needs of His new “project,” and providing them with the very Spirit that will give them life.  One other note: it was the High Priest who was the one who declared the beginning of the festival by symbolically waving a strand of grain as the “first fruits” of the harvest.  Two of the central images of the NT theology we will explore is Jesus as our new High Priest (and an eternal one) and that He is the first fruits of the resurrection (more on what that means later).  So, the Jews who would have participated in this event would have clearly understood the significance of the date that God chose to move in a new way.

Q. (Acts: 2:3): Is this where some churches get the “speaking in tongues” part of their worship?  I have never been in a worship service where this happens, but I bet it would be interesting.  I would think though, that the Spirit allowing the disciples to speak in many languages was so they could preach the same message far and wide without language barriers.  I would think that this gift would be for the disciples only, not for talk that doesn’t make any sense and no one else can understand it.  That wasn’t the purpose of the gift, right?

A. Yes, this is the origin — but not the last occurrence — of Speaking in Tongues, one of the Spiritual Gifts.  Now later in the text, we will see instances where the Spirit moves in a person and they speak a language that no one around them understands (which was not the case here — the miracle was that the people around them DID know what they were saying!)  When no one understands what has been said, it is the NT expectation that the Spirit will gift someone with the ability to interpret what has been said, and it is always to edify the Church body.  This will lead to some issues that Paul will be discussing down the road, but we will get to that.

The true miracle of Pentecost  (one that will not be repeated in the NT) is that the Spirit spoke to people from all over the earth who were gathered in Jerusalem IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE.  That was surely an amazing event to bear witness to.

O. (Acts 2:25-28): Beautiful!  I love it!  Our church’s kids’ ministry gave out a set of key tags with Bible verses on them that show God is there always to help pull us through anything.  They are awesome verses!

Fear of rejection, Isaiah 41:10

Fear of failure, Joshua 1:9

Fear of physical danger, Psalm 56:3-4

Fear of being cared for, Luke 12:22-24

Fear of being alone, Psalm 23:4

Fear of uncertainty, Philippians 4:6-7

Day 265 (Sept. 22): Dedication of Jerusalem’s wall, offerings for temple, Nehemiah leaves and evil waltzes in, Nehemiah returns and restores Jerusalem, unworthy sacrifices, warning to the priests

100 Days to go!  And, just 2 days until we hit the NT!

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 12:27-13:6

Nehemiah 5:14-19

Nehemiah 13:7-31

Malachi 1-2:9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Nehemiah 12:27-43): The wall is so incredibly important to Jerusalem because it protects them (and notably the temple and treasures from enemies), makes it easier to break away from ruling kingdoms and not pay their “taxes” or whatever they are called and it would better control who comes into their city — keeping those out who may defile them.  Is this right?  Are there any other reasons that a wall is so important?

A. I don’t get the impression that Judah wanted a wall so they could revolt against the king: that was certainly not Nehemiah’s plan, but other than that you have it right.  In the ancient world, a city wasn’t really considered a city without a wall: the “regulation” that came with the wall (what goes in, what goes out) was central to this idea of a city.

Q. (13:15-18): Keeping the Sabbath holy and a day of rest is obviously a very important law for God.  If it’s so important, why is it deflated in the NT?

A. Oh, let’s not spoil that when we’re so close.  Patience.

Q. (13:19): I have heard that the Sabbath back then was actually on Saturday.  Is this right?  If so, how has it ended up on Sunday?

A. You are correct, it is Saturday.  Here’s what I responded when asked this very question in our section on the 10 Commandments way back Exodus 20 (Day 38, Feb 7th):

Observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday [Day 37], there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

Q. (13:19-21): Back then, religion, at times, had control of the government.  There is irrefutable evidence that the U.S. forefathers’ heavily put their religion into laws and forming this country.  That has pretty much been completely replaced by a politically-correct, religious-free attitude or equality for all religions.  I wonder if it would ever change back.  Do you know of any research to compare the well-being of society during times when Christianity has controlled a society?

A. First, the separation of Church and State (i.e. religion and government) is a modern, Enlightenment concept that would have baffled people from prior centuries, but it is standard practice now.  I will leave it up to you to decide if we are better off with these two “camps” divided (I personally think the barrier is silly and artificial, but anyway…).  As to your question, I rather doubt there would be any way to empirically test it, simply because there have been so many stripes of Christianity throughout the centuries.  I would point out, however, that I do not think that it is in the best interest of our society to keep pushing for less and less religious influence.  The natural state of man is slavery (i.e. control by someone or something else), but it is only in the Gospel that man can find true freedom.  That is why the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western Society were so crucial to the establishment of the freedoms we enjo — we moved away from our natural state by God’s grace, and the flourishing of the entire Western world was the result.  But what happens when we remove the foundation?  The building collapses, and we return to our natural state: control of the many by the few in power (i.e. slavery).  I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like the direction we’re headed.

Q. (13:25): I am surprised that Nehemiah beat and pulled the hair of offenders.  I wonder what kept them people from fighting back?  Maybe he had other palace officials with him.  Why would people want to submit to someone who is so oppressing?

A. Nehemiah was in charge: that’s why.  If they turned on him, they would be out.

Q. (Malachi 1:2-5): This does not sound like a loving God.  Why would He make an entire nation a forever enemy?  I hope you can explain this because I am bummed about it and confused.

A. I agree it sounds harsh, but like all nations, Edom can take solace in the light of the Gospel: all nations are redeemed by God’s work in Christ, even the enemies of God’s chosen people (whether in ancient times or today).  Praise God for His great mercy!

O. (1:8-9): I love this!  I have been thinking about giving my best lately.  My Kindergartner came home from school all excited about finding things for a charity drive to give to Haiti orphans.  She was looking for toys that she didn’t want.  I explained to her that that was fine.  If they are in good shape and she doesn’t want them, then giving them away is a great idea.  But, I also told her that God expects us to give our best.  I asked her about some pop beads that she enjoys playing with from time to time.  I told her that I could just imagine a group of girls sitting in a circle playing with them.  I think she got the picture.  She put them in her school bag to donate.  Giving to the orphans is giving to God.

Day 256 (Sept. 13): Judgment against Israel’s enemies, Israel’s coming King, God will restore Israel, the responsibility of shepherds, deliverance for Jerusalem — her enemies will stagger, the people will be purified, scattering of sheep, the Lord will rule the Earth from Jerusalem, Jerusalem will be the destination for worship

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.

Zechariah 9-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zechariah 11:4-17): I guess God is just saying that those shepherds who only care about themselves and neglect their flock will be dealt a harsh blow?  I didn’t know why this scripture was placed here or how the broken staffs relate to the sheep, Judah and Israel.  To me, it’s a confusing passage.

A. The corrupt shepherds represent corrupt leaders who abandon the flock (the general population of the people) during times of trial, as the nation will suffer many times over for the next few hundred years, culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.  You can make the argument that since these corrupt shepherds follow after the rejection of the Good Shepherd (which the flock hates, verse 8-9), they represent the Jewish leaders who encouraged the people to reject Jesus as the Messiah and persecute the early Church.  These actions very likely led to Jerusalem’s destruction.  So overall this appears to be a prophecy about rejecting the Good Shepherd (a title Jesus uses in John 10) and the downfall that comes afterwards.

Q. (12:10-14): Why would they mourn for David who died long, long ago?  Why would they still be so connected to him?  And, why would men and women mourn separately?

A. David, as we have read many times, is an archetype for divinely led leadership that was best personified (to that point anyway) by David himself.  When Jews speak of the House of David that is what they mean: they desire a return to having a king who is selected by God and led by God.  Jesus Himself will be the fulfillment of this archetype.  As to why the people mourn in gender-separated groups, I don’t have a good answer.

Q. (12:2): Will we read when this “day” actually happens?

A. In one sense: part of what is described in many of these prophecies is the sacrifice of Christ (at least that’s what Christians believe) on the cross and the victory that He will win for us.  But no, the Day of the Lord’s final victory is still to come, at least as I understand it, even if the victory has already been won.

Q. (13:7-9): Today’s reading is a roller coaster.  It goes from God restoring people to shepherds staffs being broken and now purifying the people to just one-third of the crowd.  I am confused!

A. The staff breaking is symbolic of the people breaking the covenant with God (though God remains faithful).  As with the destruction of Jerusalem, many of these same things will happen: many will die, many people will break faith, but God’s will retain a remnant of His people, and He will begin to move outwards from the wreckage of Jerusalem with the spreading of the Gospel message.  To me, what is being described here is the movement of the Gospel to the forefront of God’s plan for the world, and the sacrifices that have to be made in order for that transition to take place.

Q. (14:6-7): These verses are amusing in a good sense.  Here, Zechariah says to not even try to figure out how it can still be light if there are no sources of light to shine.  He says only God knows.  To me, this says that we shouldn’t try to figure out the seven days of Creation scientifically.  If God said it happened, it happened and He’s the only one that knows how He did it.

A. Sounds fair to me.

Q. (14:1): We saw the Festival of Shelters way back.  Can you tell us again what it’s about and why people would come from all around to join it — other than God just made it a requirement if their nation wants rain.

A. It’s a reminder of the time the people spent in the wilderness during the Exodus.  It is one of the major Jewish holidays, but it came to be a more prominent celebration during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (i.e. our “present” time), so perhaps that is why it is selected to be the festival that gathers the nations.  It was and is a great time to celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people, something all the nations of the world can join in with.