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 249 (Sept. 6): The ‘man’ shows Ezekiel the life in the river that flows from the Temple to the Dead Sea, land boundaries for tribes, tribes’ division of land, special allotment for Temple, public use are for gardens, homes and pastures, new city’s name is “The Lord is There,” God to reward Nebuchadnezzar and his army for their hard work defeating Tyre, proud Egypt and her allies will be destroyed, new Babylonian King Evilmerodach is kind to exiled King Jehoichin

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 47-48:35

Ezekiel 29:17-21

Ezekiel 30:1-19

2 Kings 25:27-30

Jeremiah 52:31-34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 47:1-12): I assume that the river symbolizes God and from Him, comes life?

A. You got it.  Even the Dead Sea, a symbol of death if ever there was one, comes alive by God’s power.  I see this as another instance of resurrection imagery in this story: God can even bring dead seas back to life.

Q. (Ezekiel 47:21-23): Aren’t the Israelites still in Canaan?  Why don’t they just use the same distribution of territory that they had before the destruction of Israel and Judah?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer for that, but it probably comes from God’s desire to do something new.

Q. (2 Kings 25:27): What happened to Nebuchadnezzar?

A. As we read in Daniel (Babylonian historians don’t mention the years in question for Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, which could imply the loss of his sanity as the Bible suggests), he loses his mind, but is restored according to the story.  He is not mentioned in the Bible again.

Day 234 (Aug. 23): Death of Ezekiel’s wife a picture of what’s to come, Ammonites and Moabites will be overrun by desert nomads because they disrespected Judah, God gets revenge on Edom and Philistia, Zedekiah told of Babylon’s immediate invasion and his capture, punishment handed out for enslaving Hebrews, God refuses Zedekiah’s request to save Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar, God charges Judah’s royalty to use justice, Egypt punished because pharaoh claimed the Nile for himself, Egypt compared to fallen Assyria

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 24:15-25:17

Jeremiah 34:1-22

Jeremiah 21:1-14

Ezekiel 29:1-16

Ezekiel 30:20-26

Ezekiel 31:1-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 24:15-17): Reading that God killed Ezekiel’s wife as a demonstration to the people on what their lives will be like seems cruel.  Ezekiel is putting up with a lot from God.  The lack of fairness comes to mind, but being fair is not something God has promised.  After going past my initial shock of his wife dying and Ezekiel not being allowed to mourn for her, I think how desperate these times are that God had to kill his messenger’s wife to try to get through to the people and how hard it must have been for God to make such harsh demonstrations and punishments.  These people are so obstinate.

A. It is a poignant scene, no doubt.  The wife’s death appears to coincide with the destruction of the temple, which surely caused Ezekiel a great amount of anguish as a priest.  God called upon him to mourn for his wife in a way that would be an example for his people: to carry on despite the crushing loss.

Q. (25:1-17): Has Ezekiel already lain on his side for over a year to take the sins of the Israelites and Judeans?  Here he has to travel to give messages to these other kingdoms, so I guess his time bound to bed is finished?

A. The story doesn’t tell us about when he completed the action, but no, I don’t believe that he is traveling to these lands as he’s a captive in Babylon.  He’s not allowed to leave.  God instructs him to symbolically “face” these nations and issue the statements.  He is not delivering these oracles in person.

O From Rob: If there’s any movie buffs out there who are fans of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (and I can’t say I am, just passing this along), Ezekiel 25:17 is the verse that Samuel L. Jackson’s hit-man character, Jules, uses when he is about to execute his targets.  If you watch the film, however, you will quickly note that the writers, including Tarantino, MADE UP most of the “verse” that Jules “quotes”, though the ending is similar to the King James Version.  I’m not linking to the scene, because it is extremely violent, but you might get a laugh out of how exaggerated the verse Jules uses is, and the way that it is played up to “sound” like a wrathful Bible verse.  Hollywood is certainly fond of treating the Bible in such a manner, so it is certainly wise of Christians to know what the Bible ACTUALLY says.

Q. (Jeremiah 34:1-7): Zedekiah is captured here, but I thought he was going to suffer for a while.  Here, it says he will die peacefully.

A. He will suffer by being sent into exile, rather than dying in the midst of battle.  The fall of Jerusalem is the conclusion of Babylon’s war against Judah; after this, “peace” is established by virtue of Judah’s people no longer resisting.

Q. (34:8-22): Is this passage out of order?  Zedekiah has been captured.  How could he make a ruling when he’s in exile?  Did he make it a while ago and now the people are not releasing the slaves?  I don’t know who is being addressed.  Who is doing the enslaving of Hebrews?

A. It’s not out of order.  Jeremiah is saying that Zedekiah’s capture is “about” to happen, and the city will be destroyed.  Jerusalem and its surrounding cities were under a long siege, which is about to come to an end.  So Zedekiah is not YET in exile.  Babylon is the only one enslaving the Judeans, but they are doing it slowly over the course of several years.

O. (Ezekiel 29:16): It’s so interesting to see all the countries at play here to make God’s messages come true, like here when He says that Egypt will be a minor kingdom so Israel will not be tempted to trust it and see how foolish they were to ever have trusted it.

Q. (30:20-26): We see that God is strengthening Babylon and weakening most other countries, like Egypt here.  Were there reasons (weather yielding good crops, politics, uprisings, etc.) other than God planned it this way — well, really the peoples’ sinning caused the suffering — that caused all of this turmoil.  What I am asking is “is it God’s pure wrath at hand or does He use forces of nature to show His wrath?”  I may have mentioned this before that I saw a program on the History Channel or somewhere like that that told about how the plagues could actually be explained through geography.

A. God can do as He pleases with such efforts, and He is certainly capable of using a nation like Babylon to humble His people and the surrounding nations including Egypt. Like His use of messengers, God is capable of using third parties to His own ends, but He can also speak for Himself as He does in His messages to Jeremiah or Ezekiel as we read about in these chapters.

Q. (31:14): Just wondered if the “pit” here is referring to hell?

A. No, just the grave.  We won’t see much reference to hell until the NT, which certainly doesn’t jive with the common trope that God is purely wrathful in the OT and peaceful in the NT.  The NT, frankly, has MUCH more to say about eternal damnation then the OT does — something to watch for.

Day 227 (Aug. 15): Jeremiah is imprisoned, Jeremiah tells Zedekiah of upcoming defeat, Jeremiah thrown into cistern and then rescued, Ezekiel’s visions begin with four-headed beings with wings, the Spirit appears to Ezekiel, God calls Ezekiel to give people His messages

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

Jeremiah 37:11-38:28

Ezekiel 1-3:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 38:2): Why would God want the Judeans to surrender to Babylon?

A. So that they will live.  God appears to be offering them way out, but we don’t know how many took the opportunity Jeremiah promised.

Q. (Ezekiel 1:4-12): This is a very strange scene!  What is going on?  What are we supposed to take from it?

A. Ezekiel is seeing a vision of God’s power and glory.  The vision comes in four parts: the storm, the creatures, the wheels, and the glory of God directly.  The storm — represented by wind, lightening, and thunder — symbolized God’s active power at work.  As for the creatures themselves, they have been the subject of various interpretations over the centuries, but they share some characteristics of the angelic characters described in Isaiah’s vision back in Isaiah 6 — which was Isaiah’s call story, as this is Ezekiel’s.  The use of four here, repeatedly in this book, represents completeness — i.e. four corners of the earth, four winds, four seasons in a year, etc. — and the creatures themselves represent the pinnacles of Creation.  The man is the “overseer” of God’s world, the lion was considered to be the most powerful wild animal (untamed nature), the ox represented the power of domesticated nature, and the eagle represents the strongest of the birds.  These images/symbols/creatures/whatever they are will be used again in Revelation 4 in a vision of the heavenly throne.

Q. (1:15-21): What is the significance of the wheels?

A. Continuing the vision, Ezekiel next sees a vision of the “wheels in the sky,” which symbolizes God’s movement toward His captured people.  One of the major questions that the captives such as Ezekiel were asking themselves during this time is “how will we connect with God apart from the Temple?”  The only way they had known to connect with God for centuries was via the Tabernacle/Temple, and now it was gone for them —and would be destroyed by Babylon.  This wheel vision is God’s answer: God’s power — seen in the storm and creatures — moves to the people via this vision of wheels.  God has not abandoned His people, but is in fact “moving” towards them with His all-powerful presence.

Q. (2:1-3:15): I am a little confused as to what is going on here too.

A. This is a call ceremony.  God is giving Ezekiel a vision of “putting His word” into the prophet, which is what they scroll consumption symbolizes — and it is very unlikely a literal consumption, simply a vision of one, and it won’t be the last thing he “eats”.  God commissions Ezekiel to “consume” and disperse God’s word to the people in captivity, despite the hardships that will arise (symbolized by the scorpions and brambles in 2:6).  The central theme of the call is that Ezekiel is to “listen” (3:10) and to proclaim boldly despite persecution and setbacks in his mission.  The listening will be a central theme of the book, and in that regard, will make Ezekiel a marked contrast to the other people of Israel, who, as God points out, do NOT listen to Him.  The book of Ezekiel is filled with visions of a man many assume to be crazy, but which nonetheless express powerful visions of God at work with His people, even in a foreign land.  I’m looking forward to walking through these strange, highly symbolic, visions with you.

Day 226 (Aug. 14): Jeremiah praises God, Babylon’s destroying power will be punished, exiles told to flee Babylon before the fall, Babylon will be leveled, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away it’s treasures, Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 captives including King Jehoiachin, Zedekiah rules Jerusalem for 11 years, Egypt came to help Judah against Babylon but Babylon retreated, God said they will return and destroy

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 51:15-58

2 Kings 24:10-17

2 Chronicles 36:10

1 Chronicles 3:10-16

2 Chronicles 36:11-14

Jeremiah 52:1-3

2 Kings 24:18-20a

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 51:15-19): This is a lovely hymn of praise.  I do like to read them.  They usually paint a picture of what life is like living with God near.  However, I do start taking them for granted, just glossing over them because I get the gist of them.  I am guilty also of doing this with prayer and praise.  I get lazy.  For instance, for a while, I was praying before I did every blog.  Now, it’s rare.  I do talk to God throughout the day, but I wondered if you had any suggestions on how to keep praising God without it feeling redundant.  If you give praise from the heart, it helps.

A. There’s a natural ebb and flow to our prayer life and our walk with God, and what you are describing is perfectly natural.  Redundancy can be very difficult to combat, and the laziness it tends to breed in us can make you feel like a failure.  So, first, know that God still loves each of us, even when we fall short despite our best intentions not to.  Among my advice for you would be to determine, as we talked about recently, what your “pathway” is to God: if you know how you best connect with God, it will tend to be the way that is least vulnerable to the apathy you’re describing.  Keep trying new things as well: find different places to pray, or things to read (besides the Bible) to keep your intellect engaged.  Lastly, finding ways to “act out” what you are reading or praying about (aka service to others) will surely help to keep apathy from setting in.

Q. (51:27): Where did Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz come from?

A. They are the names of other nations in this part of the ancient world, but we don’t know exactly where they refer to.

Q. (51:44): I haven’t heard of Bel.

A. We saw it yesterday and maybe a couple of quick references to it, but no, it’s not a term that we would be familiar with yet.  Bel refers to the chief deity of the Babylonians (it is a title, like lord, rather than a proper name), whose “proper” name is Marduk, the sun deity and patron god of Babylon.

Q. (37:3): I think it’s so amusing, crazy — I’m not sure of the word — when these kings do things that are wicked in God’s sight, but then somehow acknowledge Him like Zedekiah is doing here when he asks Jeremiah to pray for him and his people.

A. He wants the benefits of a relationship with God without having to make any sacrifices for it.  Sounds like human nature to me.

Day 224 (Aug. 12): False prophets will be punished, Zedekiah and and people left in Judah will be object of horror and a symbol of evil, Lord charges Judean exiles to prosper in Babylon, Shemaiah and his family will be punished for false prophecy, God promises to return and restore Judah and Israel

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 23:33-24:10

Jeremiah 29-31:14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 24:1-10): Just checking on the status of David’s lineage.  Is King Zedekiah, “a bad fig,” of David’s descent?  Maybe Daniel who was exiled to Babylon?  I have lost track.

A. Yes he is (he’s Josiah’s son, who was the last of the “good” kings), and he will be the last to sit on the throne of David as we currently understand it.  Daniel is of the same tribe as David (Judah), but he is not directly related to him.  After Zedekiah, there will no longer be a need to keep track of David’s ancestry until Jesus and the NT.

Q. (Jeremiah 29:3): I just want to make a note of the community of families that we come across.  I have just blown over a lot of the names because they are strange and too many to remember, except the major characters.  However, Hilkiah stood out to me.  Hilkiah is the one who discovered the scrolls in the temple and, when the scrolls were read to the king, he had one prophet killed and had Jeremiah in hiding, right?  Anyway, here, we see Hilkiah’s grandson delivering a letter for Jeremiah.  I just wanted to note the similarities we have now in knowing families for generations.

A. You’ve got it right.  See my answer to the next question to see why family is so important to God.

Q. (29:5-9): I find it interesting that God tells the exiled Israelites to work hard and prosper in the land where they are captives.  What is the purpose of this?  Can we apply it to our lives today?

A. I heard a great sermon on this back in college pointing to the idea of God’s multigenerational approach to His people.  In this chapter, He speaks (via Jeremiah) of “you” being restored after 70 years.  But note clearly: everyone who would have heard this message as it was first written would have been dead by the time 70 years had passed.  So how does this have anything to do with “you”?  Simple, God is speaking to His people over multiple generations.  If you consider the message from this perspective, it is easy to see, I think, why God says settle down, plant gardens, have families, and marry off your children: He is telling the people how He will redeem them- by their children and grandchildren, who will be the ones to receive the restored Promised Land, which is coming in a few weeks.

So how might this apply to us?  Well, certainly, I believe that it says that God places INCREDIBLE value on family and children, in a way that our society seems to have lost.  Children are too often seen as a burden today, or as a social appendage to be “in”.  But, God sees great value in Christians raising their own children to know their faith and pass it along to the next generation, so that the Word of God carries on even after many generations are dead.  One what we might call “unintended” benefit of this type of multi-generational thinking is that it removes much of the pride and self-centeredness that too often plagues us.  If we think of children and the next generation as being more important than ourselves, then we can find it easier to love them and make sacrifices on their behalf.  This type of thinking puts an entirely new spin on being “pro-family,” doesn’t it?

O. (29:24-32): God’s “gotcha” message.

Q. (30:1-24): In reading this, I just think of how our lives today compare to back then.  I know we haven’t got to Jesus dying on the cross and it changing the requirements and discipline of believers, but I do wonder how much some of God’s requirements are alive today.  Obviously, the leaders and many people of Jerusalem were worshiping idols and doing things that are wicked in the eyes of the Lord.  There aren’t many man-made idols that the people reading this blog are worshiping today.  However, I question how close we are to God.  How much time do we spend with God?  I definitely talk to God fairly often.  But, I still let my brain swim in some problems where I should give it up.  And, whenever God has spoken to me, He has shouted, which is probably because I am doing all the talking.  I don’t sit and just wait for Him to talk to me.  I just started reading “Jesus Calling” where the author has done the same thing, not given God some quiet time.  As busy moms, we hardly have some quiet time without laundry and dishes piling up and kids being ignored and wrecking the house.  But, like exercise, I just let my time with God go.  So, I am trying to make time for Him … and exercise.  I try to talk to Him when I exercise, but I have to admit that it does not come naturally.  It feels awkward.  It’s so hard to sit quietly.  But, like exercise, I’m trying to make time for it.  And I am looking forward to seeing the results … of becoming closer to God.

The other thing I wonder about myself is how much have I given up of myself to God.  I have asked for a lot of things and not received them.  He has given me a lot of things also, some that I have asked for strongly.  But, I look at my life and think I still have things around that I am stubbornly hanging onto that I know He wants me to give up.

A. There are any number of important ways that we can grow closer to God, but one point that I want to make up front about the “requirement” that we do so.  I want to try and distinguish between requirement or obligation and desire.  I believe that God does not want us to see steps towards growing towards Him as something we are obligated to do, but rather something that we desire to do, and I hope you can see the difference.  When we are in love with someone, we often change little things about ourselves to suit them, and some of these changes can be painful and difficult, but we do these things out of love, not obligation.  We choose to love, and to make changes, on behalf of a spouse, or a partner.

One of the biggest paradigm shifts of early Christianity was the movement away from legalism and requirement that so dominated the OT covenant.  In the New Covenant, made in the blood of Jesus, God shifted the relationship from our requirement to His.  We can do nothing to earn the love and status we have with God, but are only required to believe through faith.  We do not bring anything, and in that since, we are, mercifully, not REQUIRED to do anything.  It cannot be earned, it can only be accepted.  So here again, the steps that we take after our believing faith are steps taken out of LOVE for God and praise for His works.  They are not requirements.  We cannot ADD anything to what God has done in Christ, we can only respond in the way that He desires.

Some of those ways are things we have already talked about: discerning what God has done in our lives and how He desires us to use our gifts and talents.  Practicing good habits when it comes to reading scripture (like, say a daily Bible reading), prayer, and other classical disciplines of the long tradition of the Church.  Now responding to some of your specific questions in a way that I hope will help all our dear readers (thanks as always, for reading this by the way!)  I’m a book person, so most of my advice tends to revolve around reading suggestions, and I won’t deviate from that here.  But the books themselves I hope will spur us toward finding our unique path with God.  Gary Thomas wrote a wonderful book called Sacred Pathways (http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pathways-Discover-Your-Souls/dp/0310329884) in which he talks about the many ways that people connect with God: some do so in nature, others via silence, still others via discussion with others (that’s mine!).  One of the main ideas of the book is that there is not merely one way to connect with God.  If quiet time just doesn’t work for you — it often doesn’t for me, but I can talk about God for hours — then try something different.  The book is super helpful in finding the “pathway” that best helps you connect with God.  If you are interested in learning more about the classical disciplines themselves, then I would recommend two works of our modern spiritual giants: Richard Foster and Dallas Willard.  I would recommend any of Foster’s books, who generally writes about classical disciplines such as prayer, but if you want a good summary, read his book Celebration of Discipline (http://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Discipline-Path-Spiritual-Growth/dp/0060628391/), which I have plugged on this blog before.  It is very approachable, and easy to read.  Willard, who recently passed away, sadly, wrote a more technical book called The Spirit of the Disciplines (http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Disciplines-Understanding-Changes-Lives/dp/0060694424/) which is also an excellent read on how Christians can connect with 2,000+ years of Church tradition on their walk with God.

Let’s try to re-examine some of this matter as we enter the NT, especially Paul’s letters, since he will be among the most important figures in discerning how God has truly changed things in Christ, and how we should properly respond.  May your walk be blessed!

Day 223 (Aug. 11): God’s destruction of Ammon, terror in Edom, fear in Damascus, Nebuchadnezzar sets sites on Kedar and Hazor, Jehoiachin reigns after Jeoiakim dies, Reign of David’s descendants ends with Jehoiachin, God tells of righteous descendant coming, Lord gives warning against false prophets

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 49:1-33

2 Kings 24:5-7 / 597 BC

2 Chronicles 36:6-8

2 Kings 24:8-9

2 Chronicles 36:9

Jeremiah 22:24-23:32

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 49:1-33): What are we supposed to take from this scripture other than God is cleansing the earth?  I can see why he chose a flood the first time.  I think it would be easier and a lot less to orchestrate, but, probably harder to rebuild.  And, do we know why God chose Nebuchadnezzar to do a lot of the fighting?

A. God is not cleansing the whole earth, but all of the nations spoken of here (including Judah) are in the path of the Babylonian army, who is conquering this area on their way to Egypt, as the writing eludes to.  Why God chose Nebuchadnezzar specifically is something of a mystery, but perhaps some further readings from Daniel might help spell it out: the story of Nebuchadnezzar from Daniel 4 is one of my favorite OT scriptures.

Q. (22:30): Does God really halt the lineage of David as king?

A. Yes.  For their sins, David’s descendants will no longer serve as king — the nation has no king anyway, they will be in exile under a foreign ruler — but there is a loophole that we will come to much later.

O. (23:12): I really like when God says, “I, the Lord, have spoken!”  It feels like he is a judge and putting his stamp on it.

Q. (23:14): Why are Sodom and Gomorrah brought up fairly often?  I know what happened and that the townspeople were horribly wicked, but I wouldn’t have thought that this was a story that was handed down near as much as the Flood, Joseph and Pharaoh, and the Exodus.

A. Because they are (ok, were…) in this area of the Middle East and much closer than Egypt.  At least that would be my guess.

Q. (23:17): I find that the last two lines of this verse is a subject that has been on my mind.  Are all of our actions supposed to coincide with God’s desires?  I don’t know anyone who has that strong of a relationship with God that He will guide them through their every move.  But, let’s just talk about our important desires, mainly the thing that we do, like what work, volunteering, starting a new business, joining a new group, getting deeply involved in a hobby.  Are the things that we spend most of our time doing supposed to glorify God?  Here are some specific examples: training for a marathon, decorating our house, surfing or other water sports, watching sports, crafts, etc.  Basically, we can spend hours doing things we enjoy, but do they glorify God?  There are millions of people out there that need to be saved, so how can we justify spending hours on ourselves?  I question some big projects that I want to do.  This blog is the start of one.  I want to expand it.  I felt God’s guidance when the ideas popped into my head.  But, I haven’t heard that affirmation in a long time.  Does God just need to say it once, like the above observation says, “I, the Lord, have spoken,” and he doesn’t need to say anymore?  Then, there are all of those desires that God has not directed me on.  How am I supposed to view those?

A. The further we walk with God, and the closer we grow to Him, I think, we will find the answer to your questions, though probably not with 100% certainty.  Think of it as a relationship with a human friend: the more time you spend with that friend, the more you know that person’s desires, and at a certain point (say with a spouse), you can probably guess with a fair degree of accuracy what that person would do or would ask YOU to do in a certain situation.  It is the same with God: as we grow to be more like Him in the person of Jesus, we will come to know the ways that God is glorified by our actions.  I believe that God is most glorified by us being the people that He designed us to be.  If God has given you a head for business ventures, then He is glorified in you when you do so well, though only if you give Him the credit for what you accomplish.  God certainly desires us to be healthy, so training for a marathon or other event is surely God-honoring.  So part of our mission in our walk is to figure out what exactly God has given to us in terms of spiritual gifts (a NT topic we will walk through later) and natural abilities.  With this information, and the Spirit as our guide, I believe that we will be able to act in ways that give God glory, even if we never hear Him directly speak to us.  We do not necessarily need to hear from Him in order to know what He desires, that is one of the main functions of reading scripture.  I hope that helps.