Day 331 (Nov. 27): Paul looks to Gentiles salvation to make Israelites jealous, God’s mercy is for everyone, treat everyone with the love of Christ, respect authority, clothe yourself in Jesus and resist evil desires, steer away from criticism, do not cause others to stumble in their faith, respect authority,

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.

Romans 11-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Romans 11:1-24): There are several questions I have in this passage.  Here are the questions:

1) Vs. 5-6.  I’m not sure what Paul is describing here.

A. Paul is saying that even among the remnant of His faithful people, they were saved by His grace, not their own actions.  That’s all.

2) V. 7: My understanding of this is that some Israelites remained faithful to God — they didn’t worship idols — and because of their loyalty, they are chosen.  And, God hardened the hearts of those that were not faithful to further divide the good from the bad, which would bring Him glory — just like he did with Pharaoh.  Those with hardened hearts take the role of the bad guys and kind of “push the envelope” of God’s plan a little farther into action so that his faithful will see His glory.

A. Yes, that sounds right, though I admit it sounds a little “off” to our modern ears.

3) V. 12, 15: Why would the world be better when the Israelites finally accept Jesus as their savior.  Is this still valid with Jews today?  And, v. 15 is the same idea?

A. That’s a mystery I don’t really have a good answer for, but yes, verse 15 reinforces the same idea.

4) V. 16b: So people can be saved just because they belong to a family whose leaders are faithful to God?

A. No.  They have the POTENTIAL to be saved because God is faithful to the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that does not ultimately help the individual.

O. (12:15): I have always taken notice of popularity contests: who people choose to attach themselves to based on the others’ status — popularity, wealth, personality, goodness, badness.  I had a friend where we used to live who I think has a great soul.  But, every time a situation came up where she had two groups of friends going to the same event — notably fireworks kicking off the Christmas season — she would choose one group over us and another family.  I don’t know why we couldn’t just all hang out together.  We all knew one another.  Anyway, it was awkward.  She kept us hanging saying that she may meet us there.  But, she would show up with the other group and barely give us the time of day if she saw us.  To her defense, it is hard to know whether to invite people from different branches of your life to the same function.  There can be that awkwardness.  But, I think it’s short-lived.  Like Paul says here: We all live in harmony and we are to enjoy everyone’s company.

Q. (13:1-7): I think we talked about this in the OT.  I understand this passage in the context of the times of the OT, but I have a hard time with accepting that authority shouldn’t be questioned in our government.  After all, that’s why the Pilgrims left England because they were not allowed to worship God the way they wanted.  So, I would say that they didn’t have respect for their leaders.

A. I think what you’ve done is provide the exception that proves the rule.  In many cases, Christians today (Americans in particular) have a “persecuted” mindset, and part of it has to do with the government.  Now there are some threats to religious liberty out there, but there is no active persecution of Christians today in this country that in any way compares to what was happening with the Puritans/Pilgrims (Happy Thanksgiving!) or, frankly, what is taking place in more than 50 countries around the world today including China and North Korea.  Unless we are under a TRUE threat, Paul desires that we submit to the authorities above us.  Don’t take that to mean, however, that we must AGREE with them, or that we cannot act in a peaceful manner to change the law.  I see nothing against these actions in what Paul is saying.

O. (14:1-23): Wow, there’s a lot said here.  1) Mind your own beeswax (look up the origins of this saying for some humorous theories).  2) God doesn’t care what we eat.  But, if one cares what he/she eats, then they need to stand firm on their convictions.  3) And, if one does not believe in the same way, they should not cause a rift and eat according to the other’s wishes.  V. 17 sums it up: For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Basically, love one another.  Another verse says to not act like you know everything, making others feel inferior or irritated.  We do not lift up God by lifting up ourselves and putting others down.  Together, we are all integral to completing the body of Christ, so we should treat each other with love.

O. (15:22b-23): Wow, this speaks to me.  My hubby can basically eat anything and not have any side effects.  Me, I’m another story.  I became a vegan in college because I had a VERY liberal Political Science professor who showed my class a movie about the meat industry in America.  I think a lot of it has been fixed now, but I’m sure a lot still goes on. Anyway, after I saw the film, I tried to eat a Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon on it.  I couldn’t do it, so I subconsciously became a vegan.  Now, though, I can no longer have all the soy I want.  I switched to almond milk because soy milk started tearing me up.  I started to notice that my brain felt heavy and cloudy after coffee, chocolate — basically, caffeine.  Now, I’m starting to give credit to that feeling I have.  Now I notice it after a lot of processed foods, which I’m an avid eater of protein bars for lunch.  But, whenever it’s brought up in conversation, there is this awkward feeling like me or whomever is telling their diet tales is trying to affect the others.  Long ago, I made a decision to try to not make others feel weird around me being a vegan and it’s worked well.  However, several of my friends have gone gluten free and say they feel more alive because of it.  I feel pressure to try it.  But, giving up bread is not something I want to do to solve my dietary issues.  But, now that I’m paying attention to what gives me that feeling, I can hopefully figure it out.  I give the Holy Spirit the credit for helping me realize what foods are good and bad for my body.

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 267 (Sept. 24): The Word is God who created and gave life to all things, John the Baptist to spread the news about Jesus, Jesus’s ancestors, John the Baptist foretold, Jesus foretold

We made it.  I hope you enjoy the NT!  I CERTAINLY did and that is just after the first day!  Enjoy!

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.

Four hundred years after the last Old Testament book was written, the story of the New Testament begins to unfold, around 6 BC.

Mark 1:1

Luke 1:1-4

John 1:1-18

Matthew 1:1-17

Luke 3:23-38

Luke 1:5-25

Luke 1:26-38

Questions & Observations

O.  The New Testament writings start about 400 years after the Old Testament.   This time period is referred to as the intertestamental period.  Google it to learn about the political forces.  The thing I read about and found most interesting in Ch. 4 of The True Story of the Whole World (a book Rob recommended to help me see the narrative at work in Scripture) is that the Israelites had separated into four main identity groups: 1) The Zealots separated themselves from pagan practices and used military action to show their faith in trying to defend Judaism (obviously not Biblical of course!), 2) the Essenes’ tactic was to withdraw from the primary culture altogether, and they lived in various locations outside of Jerusalem, including in caves near the Dead Sea.  Their withdrawal from society had to do with what they perceived as an impure ruler (Herod) who served Rome, and a corrupted priesthood that was in cahoots with him.  The Essenes do not play a role in the NT story, as they would have no place in mainline Jewish society.  But the Dead Sea Scrolls that we have found were a collection of their Scriptures and writings. 3) The Sadducees became the primary members of the priesthood of this era, and were one group of Jewish leaders, who argued that they should work with their Roman overlords (such as Herod) in order to maintain the Temple worship and keep the peace.  They were the “conservative” party of their day: they had the least open interpretation of the Torah (only the first five books of the OT were valid to them), and so they denied what they saw as “radical” doctrines such as resurrection.  The High Priest, Caiaphas, and many of the other priests involved in Jesus trial were Sadducees.  4) The other major Jewish political party of this day was the Pharisees.  These are generally who the Gospels mean when they speak of religious leaders in Jesus’ day.  They were powerful men, who felt that if the people could be properly purified and follow the Law (as previous generations had failed to do), then God would send His Messiah into the world, and the Messiah would free the people from the Roman rule, violently if necessary.  As such, this level of desire for spiritual perfection made them very legalistic, which is part of the reason that these leaders and Jesus often were in conflict.

Q.  There is information about what happened in the 400 years of intertestamental period, but the Christian Bible does not include it because they do not believe it was inspired by God?

A. As we have mentioned, early Christians would have been familiar with the writings of the Apocrypha (the writings you refer to), but neither Christians nor Jews considered them to say anything new about God, so they never had the same status as the other writings of the OT.

Q.  Rob, do you have a good source for readers who want to look up a nutshell summary about the gospel authors and their relationship to Jesus?

A. Alas, I can’t.  I will work on one, and if there’s a short day, I will include it then.

Q. (Luke 1:3): And, on to the NT!  We are talking about the four Gospels here.  Gospel means the “good news” that the Messiah is born, right?  And the men who wrote the gospels were followers of Jesus and God inspired them to write an account of Jesus’s life on earth?  And who is Theophilos in v. 3?  Given the strong Roman culture, writing these accounts must have been inspired, because what other reason would they have for writing about Jewish stories.

A. Hum, ok, several questions there.  The Good News that is referred to is not the birth of Christ, but rather His death and Resurrection.  It honestly may be hard to tell from the way our readings are set up, but each of the four Gospels spends considerable time in the Passion story from Palm Sunday to Easter.  Two of the Gospels (Mark and John), don’t tell of Jesus’ birth story AT ALL!

As to the writers: ok, fine, I’ll include some stuff here.  (Hehe, just kidding)  Matthew is traditionally seen as one of the 12 Disciples (you can see his call story in Matthew 9, he is also called Levi), and he writes to primarily a Jewish audience — you will see more references to the OT in Matthew than any other Gospel.  Mark is traditionally seen as a companion of the Apostle Peter, and is referred to as John-Mark in the Book of Acts.  He is one of the 70 Disciples, a group of followers referred to in Luke 10.  Mark is viewed by most scholars to be the oldest Gospel (for reasons too complex to go into here), and he uses a central theme of what some call the “Secret Messiah”: Jesus’ repeated command for people to NOT tell others of His identity until after His resurrection.  Luke is a name referred to in the Book of Acts as well, as a companion of Paul.  He is traditionally known as a physician, and it appears from his writings (he is also credited with writing the Book of Acts) that a wealthy patron named Theophilos hired him to seek out information on the truth of the Gospel message by interviewing eyewitnesses.  For example, from this reading, it appears that he interviewed Jesus’ mother, Mary, for this is the only place where the Gospels recount her story.  Luke’s Gospel is the outsiders’ Gospel: it contains stories of Jesus’ interactions with women, Gentiles, and others outside of the Jewish mainstream, so it was probably written for a Gentile audience.  The writer of John is traditionally seen as another of the Apostles, along with his brother James, and one of the followers in Jesus’ inner circle with his brother and Peter.  John writes to tell the spiritual story of the Good News: he does not tell his story in necessarily the same order as the other three gospels (called the Synoptics), but rather tells his story around major themes such as light and darkness, and the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day.  John is also held to be the writer of the NT letters of 1, 2, and 3 John, and Revelation.

O. (John 1:1-5): This is gushing with simple words that encompass the beauty of God.  And some, like v. 3, reinforce the OT regarding creation.  These words really do sound like they are directly from God, not from a man.  If you have had a “God moment” (they are amazing and I strive for more and more of them), like God just puts a bright idea into your head or the right words just roll off your tongue but could in no way be from your brain, then you can understand how these words would come directly from God with Matthew as the voice to carry it.  And, “Word.”  If you think about that word and when people say, “I GIVE you my WORD,” they mean I am sharing it with you for our mutual benefit AND that it is the truth.  So, that would literally mean that God is handing us truth with His Word, the Bible.  And, LIGHT.  Just think about that word.  Not only does it mean wisdom, glory, like those who have it will shine to others.  But, for me, it also means how I can feel when I allow God to be present in me.  I feel light.  That lightness feels so amazing!  Looking at v. 4, I see that LIFE is another big small word.  I don’t think this means living and breathing here, I think LIFE means a reason for living.  LIFE, LIGHT, WORD.  And, I love v. 5.  If you carry the light with you, darkness can never take over!  I am putting that one in my memory verse bank!!!!

Q. (John 1:15): John the Baptist is telling everyone that the Savior is coming, but that he has been around for a long time, which we know that the Bible says he has always been with God, right?

A. John is a normal person, but called by God for a special purpose, just as all the Prophets were.  The message John is preaching is that God has always been with the world, but has now come INTO the world as a man.

Q. (1:18): The “unique one, who is himself God” is referring to Jesus?

A. Yes.  Jesus is the Word that the writer refers to.

Q. Is there anything you want to say about the ancestral lines?

A. One interesting note is there is variation at two different places between the two lines: who Joseph’s father is (Joseph being Jesus’ adopted father) and what son of David that line comes from.  In Matthew’s line, Jesus comes via David’s son Solomon, the two greatest kings in Israel’s history, and the whole list is of many of the great kings we studied.  Luke’s list is different: he has Jesus come from David’s son Nathan (not the same as the prophet who convicted David of his sin), and he lists a different father for Joseph.  How do we reconcile these two?  In my mind, Matthew is tracing the line to Joseph, and Luke is tracing the line to Mary, who was ALSO a member of David’s household in the tribe of Judah.  So while Luke refers to Joseph’s father in his line, what he most likely means is Joseph’s father-in-law, Mary’s father.  This is a unique way to explain how God could fulfill His promise to restore the throne to David’s family for all eternity, while at the same time promising that a son from Solomon’s line would NEVER again serve as king.  Jesus was born from David’s line, but via a brother of Solomon, Nathan, and adopted into Solomon’s line via His earthly father Joseph.  That makes Jesus the only person who could ever have both of those titles (son of David via Solomon’s line, and rule as Eternal King despite God’s promise that no son of Solomon would do so).  This is the type of stuff that is just amazing to me, and the ways that God reveals incredible truth in His prophecies: via God’s careful planning, David’s throne, via Solomon, is restored to its former greatness despite what God swore would never again happen.

Q. (Luke 1:5): OK, Herod was Roman, Greek, what?

A. Herod the Great was the Judean (not Jewish) king of the Roman province of Judea, which included Jerusalem.  So he was from the area, but was not authentically Jewish, which is why truly devout Jews never accepted his rule.

Q. (1:15): Here it says that John the Baptist was to abstain from alcohol, that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I know many Christians stay away from alcohol totally.  Does God speak out against alcohol?   Also, will there be a good spot to get into the Holy Spirit later?

A. We will save the Spirit for Pentecost in Acts 2, so that will probably be a few weeks away or more.  John is called in the spirit of the Nazirite, like the Judge Samson.  Numbers 6 provides a number of stipulations for being a Nazirite, and one of them is not consuming alcohol.  So it was not that God was incapable of working through people who drink alcohol, but rather that was John’s CALLING.  As to a more general rule on alcohol, we need look no further than Jesus to see God’s stance on alcohol.  Jesus was a Jewish man who kept Torah, and this involved participating in events in which wine was consumed (notably Passover), so it’s clear that he had no particular objection to its consumption.  In an era before basic sanitation, wine was much safer to drink than water, because the alcohol killed microbes.  Wine also had less alcohol content than today.  What the NT speaks out against is drunkenness: the intentional consumption of too much wine or whatever.  But outside of that and particular callings, the Bible does not come down as hard on alcohol as you might think.

Day 263 (Sept. 20): Israelites hear Law of God (Law of Moses), Israelite camped out on roofs for Festival of Shelters, Israelites confess their sins and that of their ancestors, Israelites agree to obey laws, Israelites promise to not marry outside their nation

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 8:13-10:39

Questions & Observations

O. (Nehemiah 8:13-18): Sounds like fun, a big campout!

Q. (9:1-38, 10:29): It’s amazing that after all this time, all the different rulers, all the destruction and moving around that these laws are still intact and are legible.  The priests and Levites do not sound like they are taking Israel’s offenses lightly.  What kind of curse would they put on themselves if they broke the laws?

A. I suspect that the curses they are thinking of/describing are similar to the ones in Deuteronomy 28, beginning around verse 15.  Among them are curses on the land, children, herds, and that God will cause disease, mildew, and pain upon the people, and that they will have no victory in battle.  Sounds pretty bad.

Q. (10:36): What does it mean when they give God their oldest sons?

A. They’re talking about the dedication of the firstborn son, which God required as part of the covenant relationship (i.e. what they sealed with each boy in his circumcision) as first described in Exodus 13.  God struck down the firstborn sons of Egypt in the final plague, but spared the firstborn sons of Israel with the lamb’s blood.  So in keeping with that tradition, God demanded of the nation that as long as they were His people, they must understand that the “firstborns” of each generation owe their life to Him.

Q. (10:35-37): All of these offerings go to the Temple, but what happens to them.  Most of them are burnt on the altar?  What about the fruit and grain?  Some of it goes to feed the priests and Levites?

A. Some of it was given to the priests and Levites, some of it was stored or given to the poor, and yes, some of it was consumed on the altar.

Day 259 (Sept. 16): Enemies of Judah notify King Artaxerxes of Jerusalem’s wall being rebuilt, Artaxerxes orders the building to stop, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem, Artaxerxes supports Ezra, Ezra praises God, list of exiles who go to Jerusalem with Ezra, Ezra inventories Israelites and requests Levites, Israelites fast for God’s favor for protection in their journeys, Israelites arrive and sacrifice burnt offerings

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

Ezra 4:7-23

Ezra 7-8:36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezra 4:7): Xerxes and Artaxerxes are two different kings, right?  But, they both ruled over Persia.  Was there anyone ruling over Jerusalem, like in Jerusalem, not from someone having power over them from afar?

A. They are different kings: Artaxerxes is the son of Xerxes (Artaxerxes’ name means “rule from Xerxes”).  There would have been a ruler (what we might call a governor) of the region of Samaria, who controlled the entire region on behalf of the king.  He will come into play in a larger role when we move to Nehemiah.

Q. (7:6): Who is the king that gave Ezra everything he asked for.  Artaxerxes, right?

A. Yes.  Xerxes is dead at this point.

Q. (7:11-26): I’m trying to figure out what is going on here.  Is Artaxerxes is two-faced?  In Ezra 4:18-22, Artaxerxes orders Jerusalem to stop the building of their wall.  But, in 7:11-26, he is telling Ezra to take anything he needs for the temple and worshipping God.  Another point I would like to talk about is that Artaxerxes respects God’s authority, yet he does not choose to worship God.  Why don’t these other nations who recognize God’s power choose Him as their god?

A. The real threat here, as best I understand the story, is the walls.  That appears to be the focus of the king and Israel’s enemies: if Jerusalem has a rebuilt wall, it will become powerful again, which could be dangerous.  So when Ezra is given his marching orders to bring people back, note that no provision is made for rebuilding the walls, but instead to make worship at the temple.  It will not be until Nehemiah joins the party that we see the king truly change his mind and order it to be rebuilt.  It appears Artaxerxes’ real concern is offending the Jews’ God.  As to why he (and other foreign kings) do not worship God while showing Him respect (of sorts), it most likely has to do with their understanding of gods controlling particular cities or regions.  The idea of one God ruling everything does not appear to be on their radar.  So while they pay lip service to God’s power, they still don’t really think of Him as THEIR God.

Q. (8:15): Any idea why there weren’t any Levites?

A. No idea I’m afraid.

Q. (8:18-19): Why was it so important to keep Temple tasks in line with family origins?  For example, why couldn’t a non-Levite become a priest?  There are other examples, like the tribe that protected the Temple at the gates.  And, why is it important to say someone’s name with who their descendant was?  Was it a reference of character, just to note “for the record,” or what?

A. Since God was the one who ordained that only Levites could serve in the temple (and only a subset of them could be priests), He’s the one you can “blame” for the lack of non-Levite priests.  Don’t forget, that’s what got the people of the Northern Kingdom in a lot of trouble: they were using unauthorized priests because the true Levites wouldn’t participate and went to Judah.  As to the family lines: heritage was EVERYTHING to these people: your only value in such a society at this time was because of who your family was, whether good or bad.  A family name was paramount, as it still is in places in the world today.

Q. (8:21-23): This scripture is great for me.  I was just pondering and doubting my resolve with this very issue.  Here, Ezra and crew were worried about traveling a long way without soldiers and horses for fear of being attacked.  It’s great to see how “human” this scripture is.  I think of so many Bible heroes, Ezra appears that he is one this far, and how humble they are before the Lord.  They have fears and doubts like we do today, but they have courage and stick to God.  At BCL — a weekly live performance at our church (where kids and parents learn about God together) — they were talking about courage.  Courage to let God take over the life that I have known for 40-plus years and letting go of it is hard.  Our interests, traits, the way we do things, etc. are learned or develop over time out of habit.  And mine were not all born from God.  I, and my “family” (meaning family, friends, co-workers, really my whole world down to the teachers I had and the tv shows I watch) created my life.  Luckily, God was in it too.  But, my point is, I created who I am, without referring to God’s word or asking Him.  So, I need to repent myself and erase those things from my blackboard that are not Godly.  I’m going to bring in some shame here.  I snack while I’m doing these blogs many times as a nervous habit, to stay awake, just something to do.  In the last 3 years I have gained 10 pounds which really bugs me.  But, munching while blogging hardly seems a sin, but it is.  I need to ask God for help with that.  I also have a problem with thinking people are against me, unfriendly or spiteful without giving them a chance.  That is at my core for some reason.  Must come from my childhood.  But, I am combatting that bad personality trait fairly fast.  Rather, God is helping me combat that.  I also have doubts, like Ezra, that God will take care of me.  Yesterday, we had a full day at a theme park.  So, I thought we should go to the later church service today to let my daughter get enough rest.  But, she is shy and her friends are at the first service.  I just blurted out in my head, “I’m not going to worry about it, God’s got it.”  To my surprise, another one of her friends showed up with her twin little sisters so both my girls had friends they knew in church today.  What a surprise.  And then, there was a bonus.  We talked to them later and figured out some other families we can invite into our small group.  My point is, there is darkness and doubt in our everyday lives — be that it may seem small — that can overtake our day.  If we just let God handle it, it really feels like a big weight off of your shoulders and you get lifted up!  So these ill feelings that these bad habits cause is a huge hint that they are not godly.  And, I should repent and turn them over to God.  They seem so innocent that it shouldn’t matter, but they really do interfere with my happiness.

A. The Bible is quite frank about the shortcomings of many of its characters, and I think that provides a good model for us.  When we see how human many of these people really are (they act in cowardly manners, they fail repeatedly, etc.), we can see the ways that God works with them and through them — sometimes using their very faults in the process — to redeem their lives and the lives of others.  The Bible is quite clear on who is ultimately good, and it is not us.  We will see lots of examples of this in the NT.

Q. (8:33): I don’t ever remember the weight of the offerings as being important.

A. They were making sure that nothing was stolen on the long journey to the Holy Land.

O. (8:35): How wonderful it must have been for the Israelites to be together again and starting anew by worshipping God.

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

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

Daniel 6

Daniel 9

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1:1-11

1 Chronicles 3:17-19

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 242 (Aug. 30): God to shame shepherds (leaders) for helping themselves and not their flock (Israelites), God to gather scattered sheep, Canaan will be restored, Edom to suffer for treating Israel mercilessly, the land of Israel has been beaten and mocked but God will restore it and punish those who spoke and acted against it, God is especially angry at Edom, God promises a more beautiful Israel than before and one that will not be mocked, God to cleanse the Israelites and their land

It’s hard to believe that today, we are two-thirds through the Bible.  We will start reading the New Testament on Sept. 24.  Yipee!

If you are joining BibleBum for the first time, welcome! This blog is 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.  As you journey through the Bible, think about all the blessings that surround you.  As you read further and further, they will multiply.

Ezekiel 34-36

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 34:1-10): We have talked about God’s use of shepherds and flocks, which is richly used in this passage!

Q. (34:23): Does “David” here refer to David’s line down to Jesus?

A. It refers to a ruler from his line that will serve God as David did.  We will be hard pressed to find such a person until Jesus.

Q. (34:25-31): Here God says that the Israelites will return to their land, not threatened by neighboring kings nor wild animals and they will be known for their plentiful harvests.  However, historically, the Israelites have had it good and they eventually ruin it.  We know that this will happen again since Jesus, the Messiah has to come and save them.

A. There’s a lot that will take place between “then” and when Jesus comes on the scene, but Jerusalem will be Israel’s home and capital for around 500 years before the events of the Passion.  Jerusalem will be destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman army, so I would say God let things run for a pretty good amount of time, wouldn’t you?

Q. (36:25-27): Has this passage been used to create sprinklings in churches?  Or, is that in the NT?

A. Ritual sprinkling of water was part of the ritual of the priesthood, which is what God is referring to here.  The NT tradition of baptism is something else, but the notions of purification that underlie it are fairly similar.  Though I don’t know all the details, it would not surprise me if this verse is cited in the theology of Christian “sprinkling” (rather than immersion) baptisms.

Q. (36:37): God says he is ready to restore Jerusalem.  Has it been 70 years yet?

A. Not yet.  Patience, there is still much to do before they will be ready.

Day 240 (Aug. 28): Jeremiah cries out the woes of Jerusalem, Jeremiah asks God if He is still angry, Obadiah prophesies that Edom will be condemned for celebrating Judah’s fall, Jerusalem to become a refuge for those who escape, Israelites to take over defeated nations, Ishmael revolts at Gedaliah’s appointment to govern Judah

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.

Lamentations 5:1-22

Obadiah 1:1-21

2 Kings 25:22-26

Jeremiah 40:7-16

Jeremiah 41:1-18

Questions & Observations

O. (Lamentations 5:7): Jeremiah, who wrote this (Jeremiah does not identify himself, but tradition holds that he is the writer- Rob), is obviously suffering, but we see that he still has his wits about him because after his complaints in v. 5:1-18, he praises the Lord … briefly.  I wanted to point out that in v. 7, Jeremiah is blaming the Israelites ancestors for all of their present suffering.  My first thought was, “Excuse me, God has been warning you over and over again — through you, no less — that the idol worship had to stop or Judah would see doom.  And, it didn’t stop.  But, in reality, their ancestors are the ones who set the precedent.  Of course, they could change their ways, but as we have discussed before, change is hard and what your ancestors taught you is engrained.  So, in all fairness, the ancestors deserve their fair share of blame.  (I’m not trying to approve or disapprove of God’s actions here.  I know better!)  The subject of being so engrained in your world that you can’t leave it all to follow Christ came up in a speech that the headmaster of my daughters’ school, Rev. Bob Ingram, gave at their convocation chapel this past week.  He discussed having a hardened heart.  Check it out at:

http://www.genevaschool.org/wp-content/uploads/08.22.13-Opening-Convocation.Ingram.pdf.  When I think of a hardened heart, I think of pharaoh not letting the Egyptians go because God hardened his heart, which pretty much means he was stubborn and prideful.  In another example, in his speech, Rev. Ingram brings up the wealthy man in the NT who followed Jesus and obeyed all of the laws.  He asked Jesus what more he could do.  Jesus told him that there was one thing left: to sell his possessions, give it to the poor and follow Me.  He couldn’t do it.  That is how our hearts are hardened today.  We can be good Christians and do everything that society tells us to do, but can we give our entire lives over to Jesus?  There is a family in one of my daughter’s classes that are interviewing to be missionary directors or something like that in South America.  Here they are, both have great jobs, their daughters are in an awesome school, they have family close by, but they listened to God’s calling.  The husband had heard God call him to mission work.  He finally told his wife and she said, “OK.”  I’m not saying that we all need to do mission work, just that we need to listen to God and give ourselves to Him.  I always put myself in other people’s shoes and compare myself — a self-defeating habit I’m trying to squash — and think that maybe I should take in a foster child or go on a mission trip.  Well … not that it’s a bad thing, but God hasn’t called me to do that.  He did call me to do this blog and I think that I have mission work in my future.   You?

O. For a quick look at Obadiah, go to: http://biblesummary.org/obadiah/1.htm

Q. (Obadiah 1:19-21): I guess this is why God has scattered the remaining Israelites — so they will inhabit all of the surrounding nations?

A. It appears to be part of the way that God has ensured the survival of His people throughout the ages.

Q. (2 Kings 25:25): Why did Ishmael kill Gedaliah and all of those with him?

A. There could be a number of factors at play here.  First, he might have been loyal to Zedekiah and avenging his capture.  He also might have been an ally of Ammon, which was mentioned, whose people may have pushed him to kill the ruler.  A third possibility is that he was angry at Gedaliah for encouraging the people to submit to Babylon and killed him in a desire to continue the revolt against Babylon.

Q. (Jeremiah 41:1-18): Is there any importance to Ishmael killing Gedaliah?

A. Not especially.  I’m not aware of any particular way that this affects the “downstream” action.  From here, we will focus on the captivity in Babylon through Ezekiel, Daniel, and Ester, and begin the restoration of the nation via our other writings.

Day 238 (Aug. 26): Nebuchadnezzar frees Jeremiah, Jeremiah returns to Jerulsalem, Babylonian Captain of the Guard Nebuzaradan, oversees the destruction of Jerusalem, Babylonians strip Jerusalem of temple’s bronze, 70 years of rest for the land of Judah, Jeremiah mourns for Jerusalem in Lamentations

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 39:11-18

Jeremiah 40:1-6

2 Kings 25:8-21

Jeremiah 52:12-27

2 Chronicles 36:15-21

Lamentations 1:1-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 39:11-40:6): So, Nebuchadnezzar understands that Babylon’s taking of Jerusalem is all of God’s doing, just as Jeremiah had prophesied.  And, thus, he releases Jeremiah because he is God’s messenger.

A. It does appear that way, yes.  God has clearly intervened in the mind of the king on Jeremiah’s behalf.

Q. (39:16): We have seen Ebed-melech the Ethiopian a couple of times now.  Is this connection to him or Ethiopia of significance?

A. He was a palace official of some sort, and apparently not a Jew, but his loyalty to Jeremiah (he’s the man who rescued him from the cistern in chapter 38) caused God to spare his life.  We don’t really know anything else about him, as these are the only two references to the name (38 and 39).

Q. (2 Kings 25:8-21): Now what happened?  I thought King Nebuchadnezzar and his followers were now respecting God after His messages came true.  But here, they are ravishing Jerusalem.  Then, in v. 18, I thought Zedekiah and all of the leaders fled Jerusalem the night that the Babylonian soldiers stormed the city.  Maybe the priests stayed behind.  The priests that were taken were not godly, right?

A. Nope, bad priests, just like the bad fruit God said would be left behind.  Jerusalem was destroyed because of Zedekiah’s revolt, and Nebuchadnezzar showed no mercy, as God intended.  God, as the reading indicates, desired for the land of Judah to be “fallow” and renewed in time.

Q. (2 Kings 25:13-17): There is a lot of bronze here!

A. It was the most accessible material for making shapes and metallic objects.  Iron ore was very expensive, as were silver and gold, obviously.

O. I had an epiphany earlier today.  It’s one of those that I should have realized a long time ago.  Sometimes, I’m a little slow!  Here God raised up Israel to be His model nation, to show the world what God can do for His people.  I had always thought of the other nations as Israel’s enemy, but God loved them too.  He wanted them to look to Israel and learn and love.  But, Israel failed Him time and time again.  So, not only was Israel failing God and themselves, they were failing the whole world because they were not a good ambassador for God.  Also, a destruction ordered by His own authority, how hard it must have been for God to see the beautiful city that Solomon built and God blessed be destroyed.  I guess He did it to let the land lay fallow and heal from all of the wickedness.

Q. (Lamentations 1:1-2): How beautiful Jerusalem is personified here — literally, not spiritually.  Jeremiah writes this as if there is a female beholder of Jerusalem and now her wickedness is crushed and she no longer has anyone to partner with.

A. It is a powerful lament for the city — note that it is an acrostic with the Hebrew alphabet like several of the Psalms we read — by the man that has been known throughout the ages as the “weeping” prophet.

Q. There sure are a lot of Babylonian names that begin with an “N”.

A. The Babylonian deity of wisdom — and the son of one of their primary god Marduk — was known as Nabu or Nebo.  Nebuchadnezzar means, “god Nabu, defend my firstborn son,” and many of these other names also relate to the deity Nabu.  It is a similar reason to why many names in Hebrew (when translated into English) begin with “J” (Joshua, Joseph, Jabez, Jacob, Jeremiah etc.)- the Hebrew name from God is transliterated in Egnlish as Jehovah (Yahweh).

 

Day 234 (Aug. 22): Remaining Israelites will feel God’s anger, God compares Jerusalem and Samaria as adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah committed sin by worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to their idols, Nebuchadnezzar beseized Jerusalem for two years, God says the people will burn in their filth, God gives no pity to Jerusalem

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 22:17-23:49

2 Kings 24:20b-25:2

Jeremiah 52:3b-5

Jeremiah 39:1

Ezekiel 24:1-14

Questions & Observations

Q. Is there significance to the names of the “sisters” in this reading?

A. Yes.  The older sister, Onolah, which represent Israel/Samaria, means “her tent.”  This is most likely a reference to the unauthorized places of worship set up in the Northern Kingdoms where the “spiritual prostitution” that Ezekiel is describing in graphic detail took place.  Judah is represented by Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her,” which refers to the place of worship in the Temple, and the pagan worship that took hold there under the corrupt kings.

Q. (Ezekiel 23:22-23): Why are all of these countries interested in attacking Jerusalem anyway?  For their treasures?  Or are we just supposed to know that God made it happen so the Israelites would be destroyed?

A. There’s a few reasons: first, as our readings have described over these last few months, the land in Judah/Israel was very desirable and good for growing crops such as olives and grapes.  Jerusalem itself was set in very high country relative to the surround area, so that also made it desirable.  But ultimately what we are talking about here is trade routes: Judah was set along a major trade road that many nations, including Egypt, used to import and export goods.  Since Babylon is a major enemy of Egypt at this point, controlling this route is a great way to weaken its great enemy.  Those, I think, provide three good reasons why Judah and Jerusalem were targeted.  But do note what got the place ultimately leveled was Zedekiah’s betrayal of his loyalty oath to Nebuchadnezzar when he tried to join Egypt against Babylon.

Q. (23:27): Is God saying that the Israelites wickedness came from Egypt back when they were enslaved or more recently?  I didn’t remember the Israelites worshiping idols until they started traveling in the desert.

A. If you remember the Golden Calf incident back in the dessert, the calf itself was an Egyptian deity — though it is possible there were other influences as well; several local cultures revered a deity represented by a bull, a common ancient symbol of strength.  You could certainly make the argument, as God is doing here, that Israel “learned” these terrible worship practices while slaves in Egypt.  Note what happened in Exodus: at the first sign of trouble with this “new God” who has rescued them (when Moses was gone for forty days), they reverted to some form of pagan worship with the calf image.  I think it is quite fair to say that they picked up this bad “habit” in Egypt.

Q. (23:46): God is asking Ezekiel to bring an army against the sisters — Samaria and Jerusalem?  How could Ezekiel do that?

A. God is pronouncing judgment on them, and not asking Ezekiel to bring this army, as we see in the last sections of this reading, the army was already there.

Q. (2 Kings 24:20b-25:2): So, it finally happens.  So, they are surrounded for two years and get no food or water from the outside?

A. Only what they could smuggle in, which surely wasn’t much.  It was surely hell for the people inside.