Day 138 (May 18): 75) God alone will judge us. The wicked will suffer. 76) Nothing compares to the glory and power of God. Pay tribute to God, the one who judges and rescues. 77) God, you have done so many miraculous things, But why are you now so far away? 78) Let us learn from our ancestors mistakes and teach the ways of God to our children.

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.

Psalms 75-78

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 75): We have talked about deterrents — punishments that happen to people who “misbehave.”  The thought of being judged for all the things I have done is a big deterrent for staying on the path to righteousness.  It also helps me cope with seeing someone making unholy choices, yet living a lifestyle I may be envious of.  I may not feel rewards now, but I will later.  On the flip side, it is easy to think, “na nanny boo boo, I know better than you do” that those who are acting out will get their punishment.  But then, a stronger feeling comes over to help them so they can also enjoy the afterlife.  Is there any scripture that gives advice on how to turn people toward God without turning them away because they perceive us as “preaching,” “crazy” or a “know-it-all?”

A. There are, and I would say that they primarily come from one of Solomon’s contributions to the OT: Proverbs, the book that imparts the wisdom of the ages.  Since that book is coming up soon on our little list, why don’t we hold on to this one and re-examine it down the road.

Q. (Psalm 76): The psalms have talked about God’s anger, like this one in verse 76:7.  Can you explain this when we usually think that God is loving?  Is it fair to compare God’s anger to a parent’s?  It seems like today’s society tries to foster peaceful relationships.  To children, we say use your gentle hands and nice words.  Lawyers try to settle disputes in mediation.  Yet — I’m not being sarcastic, just saying what I think the Bible says — our role model gets angry.  Personally, I would get angry too … if I were God.  Of course, I’m not and maybe that’s the answer.  God can be angry, but we should try to be more loving.  Maybe it’s the OT vs. the NT?  Doesn’t God’s anger calm down immensely in the NT?

A. It only appears that way if you focus on Scripture from a certain perspective.  Unfortunately, that perspective has become the dominant one in modern Western society: the view that God is ONLY love, and therefore would “never” be angry or judgmental about sin.  But this perspective tends to gloss over — at great expense frankly — the idea that God is holy — set apart — and just, and He is in charge of what goes on and what does not.  When you have a “God” who allows you to do whatever you want with the understanding that they will ALWAYS love you (how does that sound in the parent metaphor?), you can see how things can get pretty messed up pretty fast.  Much of our tolerance of sin in the public eye in society today is, frankly, due to our abandoning the idea that there is an external source of justice and right and wrong — God — and when we do that, anything becomes permissible.  It is certainly something that Christians should be aware of and speaking out against.

One other quick note: we all have our biases when it comes to reading Scripture: there is simply no way to avoid it.  We tend to read — and mentally focus on — our favorite stories at the expense of other Scriptures that are a bit harder to reconcile with our belief system.  So I am not simply attacking those who want to focus on God’s love at the expense of all else: many others can and do read scripture and see no evidence of love, but only of a wrathful God waiting to strike down sinners.  If that’s what you want to see, it’s there.  The trick, I think, is to not allow yourself to be closed-minded to the possibility that there is always more that God desires to teach us about Himself.  If we have that mentality, I believe that we will be much less likely to fall into the trap of Biblical “bias.”

Q. (77): I completely understand that I’m not supposed to understand all of God’s reasons.  It’s not my place, nor anyone else’s.  I think it’s hard for humans to have patience with God, especially when we have read about his great rescuing miracles, like the parting of the Red Sea as is stated here, and wonder why he can’t grant our one simple request.  I know … He has His reasons!

A. I suppose it would depend upon what the request was and why, deep down, you wanted it.  Keep in mind, the nation of Israel was chosen by God not only to be His people, but to bring about salvation to the entire world through the Jewish God/man Jesus.  So that, in my mind, creates a necessity for some of the places where God clearly intervenes in history: if there is no nation — because they’re wiped out by Pharaoh’s armies — then there is no salvation for the world.  I think always keeping the salvation of the entire world in the back of our minds as we read through the OT is a great way to see why certain events unfold the way that they do.  That certainly gives weight to some of the things God does, doesn’t it?  (From Leigh An: This makes me also weave in one of Jesus’ comments when he says things have to be a certain way for the Scripture to be true.)

Q. (78:2): Why does Asaph want to teach in parables and why did Jesus?

A. Parables are a way of presenting truth in story on levels that can reach very different people in different ways.  You can hear the “surface” truth and just get a good story, or if you desire, you can dig into the words and often discover greater “pearls” that the author intended to be found but not everyone will seek.  That, by the way, is probably why they make such great sermons — you can attack them at multiple levels and lay the “inner” parable out for everyone to share.  Jesus will address this issue in his earthly ministry in Matthew 13.

Having said that, what Asaph is doing here is using Israel’s history as instruction on what the people SHOULD be doing, and not truly disguising ideas within the words.  He is not really using the “parable” concept in the same way that Jesus does.  He is using it more like Stephen will do in Acts chapter 7: convict the people of their present sin by looking at sins of the past.

O. (78:40-55): This is an amazing image: God causing all of this terror to the stubborn pharaoh and his people with frogs, gnats, blood, locusts, hail, death, YET he peacefully walks the Israelites out of this plague-ridden land and protects them, like a shield.

Q. (78:65): I don’t think comparing God to a warrior waking from a drunken stupor is very respectful.

A. I agree, but it’s an interesting image, no?

Q. (78:67-68): Can you tell us again why God chose Judah’s descendants for the throne instead of Joseph, who appeared to be the chosen line?

A. I do not have a good answer to that question.  From Jacob’s deathbed blessing (Genesis 48), we have seen the power of Judah grow the further we have come.  The best reason I can see for the move is that Joseph’s descendants (Ephraim) were not very good leaders (they were the ones responsible for losing the Ark when it was in Shiloh), so God rejected them as the prominent tribe and selected Judah instead out of His own purposes.  This will continue with Jesus, whom Revelation will call the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5).

Join us tomorrow for more Bible wisdom.  We hope you have an awesome day!

Day 132 (May 12): Psalms 61) I cry out to you oh God. Take me to safety where I can live in your sanctuary. You have honored my vows and added years to my life as the king. May God protect me as I fulfill those vows every day. 62) God alone is my salvation. Trust in Him and wait for Him. 64) Lord, shelter me from the wicked’s schemes. May the godly see the wicked in ruin. 65) Praise to you, O God, who answers our prayers. You care for the earth and it sings out in joy. 66) Sing of God’s glory for his deeds are awesome. He performs miracles for his people. I make sacrifices to you for your help when I was in deep trouble. He answers our prayers. 67) May God grace us with his blessings. Let the whole world sing because you govern with justice and lead us on your path.

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.

Psalms 61-62, 64-67

 

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 62:1,12): I have been thinking about this first verse for a while now.  I think about how this whole earth is interconnected.  We ask God for something, but all the pieces have to be in place before the event you requested can be granted.  Have you thought about how all of our lives are a wonderful web that affect one another?  Also the last verse of this psalm brings up another question.  My brother-in-law once said that if you believe Jesus is God’s son you’ll get into heaven.  I heard the other day from someone that that is in fact true, but there are various treasures in heaven that are granted to those who have done God’s will.  Is this true or do we need to wait for this nice bit of info?

A. Almost by the definition of our limited perceptions, we are incapable of seeing the “full picture” of what God is doing over the whole earth via His wonderful “web” as you put it.  But sometimes, God graces us with the ability to see clearly the ways that He has been at work in the lives of various people, and I can tell you that those are some of the most precious memories of my time in ministry.  To say the joy is doubled when that moment of clarity is shared with someone else doesn’t even begin to describe it.

One of my favorite Christian writers, Dallas Willard (who, unfortunately passed away just this week) wrote and entire book about the life changes that happen in the life of a Christian called The Divine Conspiracy.  It’s a very long but wonderful examination of the process of sanctification (the process of becoming more and more like Jesus).  He basically states that your brother-in-law’s argument misses the ENTIRE POINT of the gospel message itself: the power of God is available to you right now, not just when you die, and to just coast through life hoping to “get into heaven” when you die is, frankly, an insult to the true gospel.  It is not that your brother-in-law’s argument is technically wrong — I want that to be clear, especially if he’s a reader! — but rather that it misses the point.  God desires us to not just go to Heaven when we die, but to BRING HEAVEN TO EARTH TODAY!  We are called to proclaim what God has done, bring others to Christ and set them on the road of discipleship, mend a broken world in whatever ways we can, and grow to be more like Him.  It is our right and, frankly, responsibility as Christians.  Will there be a “reward” for doing so outside of “getting heaven” (I think you can already see how odd that sounds in light of what we’ve discussed)?  There are some hints of it that we will get to in Paul’s letters (so file that away for the end of the year), but to me, the ultimate reward is doing so for the sake of the King Himself.

Q. (64:5): This does seem true today that evildoers can get a following much easier than those who do good works.  Does it just seem that way because evil chatter is much more talked about than the good news?

A. What you’re describing is just one more example of the way that our fallen nature seeps into our everyday decisions: in many cases, we have a “bent” towards doing the wrong thing, following the wrong crowd, etc.  Is it easier?  Most likely.  But that is all the more reason to see the evil in such things and do our best to flee them.

Q. (64:7-10): It seems like this is a circling theme in the Bible that won’t stop: People sin, God comes down on them, the sinners see how mighty God is and turn to him for a short time, then are lured back to sin.  You really have to keep your nose in the Bible or doing God’s work to fight the urge to go to the dark side.

A. I’m pleased to see that you’ve been able to track this as a major theme of scripture, and I promise you that it will never change, in the Bible or in us.

Q. (65:4): What temple is David talking of?  If it’s heaven, it’s a wonderful thing to think about.  Or, is it that if you follow God, you will enjoy more of God’s blessings on earth?

A. God does not withhold His favor from those who do not follow Him (Matthew 5:45), so the main “benefit” that we can see of following Him is relationship with the Trinity itself.  This can be, in and of itself, an amazing blessing.

Q. (66): This psalm opens with praising God.  We praise God out of respect, reverence and the fact that it makes you feel good to be backing someone so awesome who created and cares for all things.  But, does God desire praise?

A. In looking for a good way to answer this question, I came across this website that gives a great answer, check it out: http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/praise-and-worship/why-god-desires-praise.html

Q. (67:7): Do you believe that the United States is blessed by God?  And, other nations see it and fear God?

A. One of the worse mistakes we can make as American Christians is to believe that we as a nation are UNIQUELY blessed by God TO THE EXCLUSION of other nations.  (Does that make sense?)  As the world’s most powerful and richest nation, we are clearly blessed by God, but this does not mean that we are in a unique relationship with Him as Israel was at this time — neither, for the matter, is the modern state of Israel.  All of the covenant promises that are made by God up to this point, apply ONLY to the ancient nation of Israel and its people.  We must be very careful about misapplying promises made to a particular people at a particular time, even if these promises give us great assurance and we do benefit from them.  I personally greatly dislike those who claim that the U.S. is uniquely blessed by God, because such people rarely see that God has made no such promises to us via a covenant.  Our covenant, sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ, is quite different.  Want to know what it says?  Note the words that are spoken to you the next time you are offered Communion or Eucharist.  It’s one of the best summaries around.