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

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

Hebrews 11-12

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 94 (April 4): Jepthah’s vow, Ephraim fights with Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon become judges, Samson is born, Samson’s riddle, Samson’s fury at Philistines

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.

Judges 11:29

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 11:29): I’m trying to figure out where Jephthah came from — the son of Gilead — but now that I’m looking at it I don’t know who Gilead is.  The new characters are coming and going so fast that it’s hard to remember the Gilead from Gideon and Jotham from Jephthah.  I’m just wondering where Gilead came from.  It seems that the lines between the different tribes are not as noteworthy now?

A. Gilead refers to a mountainous region in the east side of the Jordan where the three tribes settled.  It is not entirely clear whose territory it was in, so it was probably near a border area between Gad and Manasseh.  I suppose once the lines have been drawn as it were, then the territorial themselves would matter less.  The narrator is attempting to have his readers understand where this is all taking place.

Q. (Judges 11:30-31, 11:34-35): Times were so different then than now.  I don’t know if anyone would say, “If you give me victory, I will give you whatever — or whomever — comes out of my house first when I come home from a battle.”  We don’t need to do things like this since Jesus was crucified.  But, it’s hard to even read this.  And, the daughter is OK with it.  Was this a little punishment for Jephthah?  Maybe he was egotistical when he assumed he would come home victorious?  The picture I have in my head of this scripture is with Jephthah coming home taking in all the glory for himself and not giving it to God.

A. What I would take away from this story is the idea that God will not be used.  Even if Jephthah was a righteous man in his walk with God, this vow is very rash and costs him dearly.  One thing to note: it appears part of what he was trying to do was establish a name for himself in order to gain wealth and power, but in making this vow, the wealth and power he established died with him — the vow cost him his only heir.  I suspect this is what Jephthah realized that caused him to tear his clothes (11:35) in anguish.

Q. Maybe the previous question was foreshadowing this next passage: family (Israelites) killing one another.  The Israelites used to be united, but now it seems like they are becoming jealous, warring neighbors.

A. The book covers a significant period of time, and I suspect that this is just part of the nature of people: put them in close proximity long enough, and tensions will rise.  Someone will take offense to something foolish, as in this story, and blood will be shed to resolve it.  While they are defined by their relationship with their God, the people are still plainly very human.

Q. (11:7): One more question about Jephthah: He was the son of Gilead and a prostitute.  When Joshua and the Israelites defeated Jericho, with God’s leadership, a prostitute was saved.  Here we are seeing God welcoming those who have made poor choices, showing them there is salvation through Him.  I almost feel like this is a story more for readers now than then, because then, the people probably did not realize God’s grace toward those kind of sinners.  If you have been reading along, you would remember that when the Israelites were camping in the desert/wilderness for 40 years, anyone with an ailment or who had touched someone or something dead, would be deemed ceremonially unclean and most of the time have to live outside the camp until they were healed.  This seemed to me to be harsh treatment, but as Rob said, it was to keep the camp from being riddled with disease.  That made sense.  And now, that we have seen God choose those who would normally not be chosen to do heroic deeds, we see that God cares for all of his people.  I know we will see much more of this the closer we get to the NT and lots of it in the NT.  Right?

A. I think that’s a very keen observation.  Judges is full of all sorts of the “not chosen,” and this trend will continue — through King David, the prophets, and into the NT.

Q. (Judges 12:8-15): Any idea how these judges were chosen?

A. God is choosing them, that’s all we get.

Q. (13:5): These passages are so rich with messages, foreshadowing.  It’s like Christmas in the Bible.  1) Here God is giving someone a sign — long hair — of belonging to God.  2) We talked about Nazirites before.  Read Day 60, the first question.  3) The repetition.  I have always noted the repetition of the same story, like Moses retelling again and again, and then Joshua backing him up, about God’s deliverance of the Israelites.  But, I have not noted the foreshadowing of several stories, which does the same thing as repetition.  It pounds in God’s message to the reader.  Here we see, once again, God giving chosen children to those who have been barren — Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15), Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25), Jacob’s wife Rachel (Genesis 30), and now Manoah and his wife, and the coming of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1).

A. Not having children was a terrible social stigma in this society, even in NT times, so God delivering these families — the women in particular, who bore the brunt of the shame — is one of His greatest mercies.  We will see more examples of this, including Hannah and her son Samuel, who will lead the nation for many years and crown its first kings (1 Samuel- coming soon!)

Q. (13:11): Notice the angel of the Lord said “I am.”  For me, this is like code.  “I am” means God or Jesus or the Spirit.  Rob, we always talk about the trinity.  Is the angel of the Lord God himself?  Should there be four: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and his angels.

A. No!  While the OT in particular uses names of God to refer to angelic beings, these are messengers who should never be thought of as equal to God.  Remember that in this society and time, a messenger or emissary who came on behalf of a ruler or king was thought of as BEING the king or speaking as though they were king.  This is the image to bear in mind.  Angels are amazing beings — and this passage paints some really cool images — but we are off base at anytime we want to make angels God.  God is God alone, even revealed in His three person — a NT characteristic.

Q. (13:16): I just assumed that Manoah knew whom he was talking to, but it says he doesn’t.  So, are we to read this that Manoah was not a follower of God?

A. Not necessarily.  He may have assumed that this being was actually a human prophet of God, rather than an angelic being.  It is hard to tell exactly who Manoah thought this person was.

Q. (14:1): I just wondered if we have ever noted where the Philistines originated.  Rob, I thought maybe they came from Esau, since you said, way back in Genesis, that his descendants, the Edomites, would become enemies of the Israelites.

A. Nope.  The Edomites are not the Philistines.  The Edomites lived on the southeastern side of Israel (south of the Dead Sea), while the Philistines were probably descended from a seafaring people, and lived southwest of Israel near the Mediterranean.

Q. (14:12-16): Why were riddles so tormenting?  Can you explain it all?  Why would Samson tease them with a riddle?  Then, Samson was mad at his wife for giving up the answer to the young men who were to be Samson’s companions, a gift from his soon-to-be in-laws?  Why would the Spirit of the Lord cause Samson to kill 30 men?  I guess Samson was embarrassed that his wife gave the answer to the riddle away?

A. Samson was surely angry about losing the bet (that line about plowing with his heifer is a classic!), and it appears God used his anger to extract vengeance against the Philistines.  That is the implication of 14:4 — God used this marriage arrangement to confront the Philistines and conquer them.

Q. (15:18): This story confuses me because it seems like God picked a couple who was not necessarily a follower of Him and then gave them a son.  And, until this verse where he cries out for thirst, it doesn’t really say that Samson was doing Godly things.  It says the Spirit would fill him and he would go lashing out.  The puzzle I am putting together in my head is exactly what the angel told Manoah, that Samson would (13:5) “begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”  13:24 does say that God blessed Samson.  The blessings are what?  His strength?  Samson faces so much ridicule — embarrassment, his wife is killed, later he is blinded.

A. Samson’s blessing is surely his strength: They don’t call him the Biblical Hercules for nothing.  But Samson is also quite foolish, and he makes very ungodly decisions, ESPECIALLY as it comes to women.  Ironically, as you mention, his punishment for lusting after foreign women, a sin of the eyes, is being blinded by his enemies.  But even here, God will use Samson’s humiliation to bring victory.

That was a heavy reading today.  Please join us to see what lessons we can learn tomorrow.

Day 93 (April 3): Shechem faces Abimelech, Tola and Jair are judges, Ammonites oppress Israel, Israelites seek exiled Jephthah as new commander

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.

Judges 9:22-11:28

Questions & Observations

Q. (9:57): So the curse Jotham delivered was from God?  I’m just asking because I don’t think that the Bible states that God was with Jotham.  Also, for our purposes, we don’t know much about Jotham except that he was Gideon’s youngest son and the only one of 70 sons who escaped his half-brother, Abimelech’s, killing spree.  In a Bible study I was in a year ago, we talked about how God has a purpose for everyone.  One mom had a daughter who had a severe issue with her brain.  I think she had a tumor and her life was pretty fragile.  The mom also had a brother with a severe ailment and I believe he died.  She always wondered what her brother’s purpose in life was if he was born with a disease that cut his life on earth so short.  Then, after her daughter was born, she wondered if her brother’s purpose was to prepare her for her own daughter’s medical condition, which of course, seems like a selfish reason for her and a selfless reason for her brother.  Likewise, my oldest sister has Down’s Syndrome.  I have yet to see the purpose God has for her.  She is very loving and always showed a lot of love for everyone growing up.  She would go to church and hug anyone she could.  Anyway, I know it’s not for me to figure out and it’s not important.  I just enjoy seeing God’s work.  Here, it seems that Jotham’s sole purpose, for our purposes, was to complete a scripture, which reminded the people of his curse.  Jotham does acknowledge God in his parable, but he seems to give his loyalty to his father, Gideon, alone.  He says in 9:16: “Have you treated him (Gideon) with the honor he deserves for all he accomplished?  For he fought for you and risked his life when he rescued you from the Midianites.”

A. Regarding the story, it appears that God avenged Himself against Abimelech for his misuse of the things given to him by his father, Gideon.  Gideon was the very fulfillment of what God can do with someone who society, or even the person themselves, thinks is a nobody.  But his son is the exact opposite: he took the things that God had provided his father (note that the story told us that making the ephod that caused this mess was a bad idea) and used them to corruptly rule the nation, and even murder other potential heirs to the “kingdom” Gideon established, even if Gideon explicitly said he didn’t want to be king.  Abimelech sinned greatly against God, and was called to account for it by being killed in battle in a dishonorable way — by a woman, rather than in combat, even if he tried to “fake it” afterwards.

Regarding a person’s purpose in life, you’ve literally opened an entire world of theological questions that simply do not have answers this side of heaven.  I believe that God has some purpose for each and every human life, but these purposes are not always revealed to us, and God is under no obligation to do so (Isaiah 29:16, Romans 9:20).  But since God is good, he often does reveal to us the purpose of life, and sometimes it is only at the end of our lives that we see the purpose and redemption of our lives or the lives of others.  But I suspect that because God is not a human being, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), we may still not be satisfied — or frankly not understand — the purpose of some of the lives around us.  Until Christ returns, we live in a broken and sinful world, but even here, God has the power and desire to bring light even out of the apparent darkness of many human lives.  As with our discussion yesterday, we must ultimately decide whether we can and will trust God in these matters.  The final justice of life lies with Him alone.

Q. (10:4): I don’t think we have mentioned any importance of the number 30?

A. The number 30 is not one that is used frequently, and doesn’t appear to be a “symbolic” number.  The use of the number here is indicative of Jair’s wealth- only a wealthy man could have so much land, heirs, and livestock.

O. (10:6): This is the first time that I remember the Bible saying “again” when talking about the Israelites turning away from God.

O. (11:23-24): I like the way Jephthah turned the charge of the king of Ammon when Jephthah said the Lord gave the Israelites the land, so why should they give it back.  And for the icing on the cake, he said (11:24), “You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us.”