Day 289 (Oct. 16): Jesus casts out demons, Jesus defeats devil accusations, sign of Jonah, receiving the light, Jesus confronts Pharisees, warning against hypocrisy, fear God, parable of bountiful farmer, Jesus says to not worry about everyday matters, store treasures in heaven

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.

Luke 11:14-12:34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 11:16): This verse makes me think of a question I’ve had.  It seems that somewhere I have read where you are not to test God.  I have a friend who is a strong Christian but believes that rules don’t have to be followed to the “T” — not really God’s rules, but just everyday rules that have little authority.  Her philosophy is to do first and ask forgiveness later.  I think that many rules are put there for a reason, usually involving some wisdom in making them.  On a bigger scale, I have read somewhere but don’t remember where, where we are not to put God to the test.  This is sort of what’s going on in this verse.

A. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 to the Devil in Matthew 4 — that’s the verse you’re thinking of.  As to being a rule follower, part of the choice we have thanks to the freedom offered to us in the Gospels is the freedom of choice when it comes to laws and rules that do not affect our relationship with God.  But the Bible has much to say about following the rules AND rulers, so watch for that in our NT letters.

Q. (11:21-23): I remember talking about how good rules over evil.  I like that discussion.  Rob, do you remember what day that was?  My husband was working on his Bible Study Fellowship homework and read where if you are not with God, then Satan rules over you.  Is Luke 11:23 a verse that supports that?

A. We addressed that question Oct. 5.  The only thing I would add to that discussion is the reason that good wins out over evil in the end is because good (that is God) is willing to do what evil will not, including make sacrifices on behalf of others in a way that evil does not.  Good conquers all because it is willing to go further than evil: evil tends to make us inwardly focused, but good makes us “others focused”.  That is why God, or Good, or Love, wins.

We do not know the extent that Satan is allowed to “rule” over anyone, but Satan is referred to ask the ruler of this world, so you can draw your own conclusions from there.  Certainly not being with Christ leaves one vulnerable to such attacks, as the poor person from the next section (24-26).  The moral of the parable, by the way, is don’t leave your “house” empty: fill your mind and heart with the Gospel, and the demon has nowhere to go!

Q. (11:24-26): We have seen this passage in another Gospel.  I don’t get it at all.  What is the message in it?

A. Yes, it was in Matthew 12.  The point of the parable is, as I shared in the last question, that you can’t just “cast out the demons” of your life and expect to be all right on your own.  You must FILL your mind and heart with something new in order for the process of change to take place.  That’s what He’s talking about: it’s a direct attack against the idea that He is “powered” by demonic forced, rather than God.

O. (11:33-36): Watching movies — video games too — is such a mainstream activity that I usually don’t feel bad for watching the ones I watch.  I am not into “guy” movies — no blood and guts, shooting scenes, all that stuff.  I like adventure and comedies.  But, of course, there are elements to many movies that don’t feel like I’m using my “light” very well.  Our daughter’s class is scheduled to see the play, “Jackie and Me” at the local children’s theater.  The theater notified the school that it has some racial language in it.  They sent us a couple pages of the script so we would be aware of what they were seeing and can opt out if we choose.  My husband and I read it and there was just so much hate and a scary scene that would have given me nightmares as a kid.  I think it’s very important that we teach the past so we won’t repeat and have knowledge of what people went through and how horribly rude and evil people can be.  But, I don’t think this play would be a “light” for a third grader.  Many parents feel different than we do.  I don’t know if there is a right and wrong to this subject or if we just chalk it up to difference of opinion and tolerance and celebrate that we are all different.

Q. (11:37-54): What a stressful dinner!  At first, I thought “all of this over not washing your hands.”  What is the big deal anyway?  It’s great idea to wash your hands before you eat.  But then, I realized that Jesus just used it to make a point.  They get so bent out of shape over the breaking of their “own” laws, like washing hands, yet they are so corrupt in so many ways — making up their own laws, not helping the needy, taking more than they should, etc — that Jesus chose this meal to make a point of it.

A. The only thing I would add is that the Pharisees are not washing their hands out of sanitation practice (as we have established, there was no such thing then), but rather as a burdensome ritual.

Q. (12:1): Why does Jesus refer to the Pharisees corruption as “yeast”?

A. A little goes a long way.  It was Jewish ritual — then and now — to sweep the house for yeast around Passover before making the unleavened bread.  Why?  Because if there is even a tiny trace of yeast, it can ruin a batch of bread (if you want the bread without leavening).  That’s what Jesus is concerned about: the religious leaders’ “taint,” for lack of a better word, which can ruin people.

O. (12:11-12): I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of hours I have wasted worrying or thinking about what I was going to do or say.  It causes internal turmoil, depression and sleepless nights.  Now I know that Jesus is saying, “I’ll take it for you.  Go on, give it to me.”  I have handed Him a lot, so I’m considerably more mellow — internally and externally (my friends all say I’m mellow.  My mom knows better. J)  Now, I look back at things I stress over and wonder why on earth I didn’t give those cares to Jesus.  My best friend was wrestling with a subject with her husband.  She was stressing over it.  We don’t get the chance to talk very often, but I checked back in with her a few weeks later to see how it was going.  She said, “Jesus told me, ‘I got this one.’”  She had totally dismissed the subject.  It’s so cool what the Trinity can do for us!

Q. (12:13-21, 33-34): How about if you have some extra stuff or maybe lots of money, but have a great relationship with God?  There are many evangelists who I’m sure are very wealthy.  God has rewarded them with prosperity or should they be sharing with the less fortunate?  I’m thinking you will say that God would guide each person, if he or she were to ask Him, as to what He expects of them.  Hard to say, right?  Does v. 33 answer this for us?  Love v. 34.  That’s one to write down!

A. Don’t forget Jesus’ warning that you cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), but this does not mean they are mutually exclusive.  What really got the man in trouble was his greed and lack of consideration of others.  If you are granted money by God (however much), then God expects you to be generous with it — that’s a big way we can store up treasure in heaven as Jesus tells us.  It is also helpful to remember that all we have belongs to God in the end: these things belong to God because WE belong to God.  When we have that mentality, we are much more likely to be generous with what we have, and to be able to use our monetary earnings to bless others, rather than build comfort for ourselves.  (Leigh An: This reminds me of the song on the radio about not being from this earth, place or something like that.  Rob, really painted the “big picture” here.  Awesome answer!)

Day 278 (Oct 5): Women included in Jesus’s group, religious leaders accuse Jesus of being obsessed, Jesus tells importance of Jonah, Jesustrue family of believers, scattering seed parable, Jesus explains seed parable

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.

Luke 8:1-3

Mark 3:20-30

Matthew 12:22-45

Mark 3:31-35

Matthew 12:46-50

Luke 8:19-21

Mark 4:1-9

Matthew 13:1-9

Luke 8:4-8

Mark 4:10-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 8:1-3): I just wondered why women joining Jesus is important?  Maybe they prepared meals?  I like the fact that it is mentioned, letting us know now that Jesus valued everyone and everyone can serve Him.

A. This question cracks me up.  Luke is doing two things here, neither of which has to do with cooking: 1) he, as the writer of the outsider’s Gospel, is pointing out that women were a part of Jesus’ inner circle — something mentioned much less in the other Gospels — and 2) he is telling us that these women were the ones providing for the needs of Jesus’ little band.  There were His patronesses — a bit more important than being the cook, isn’t it?

Q. (Mark 3:27): Why does Satan (evil) fall to Jesus (good)?  I would just say that the goodness happens to be stronger than evil.

A. That’s sort of a complicated question, but here’s my take.  When we think about good and evil, we tend to think of them as two sides of the same coin, in a “yin and yang” kind of way.  They are eternal opposites.  But, as C.S. Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity, this picture is not reality.  The Bible points to the idea that the cosmic struggle between good and evil is a civil war, rather than one of eternal opposite powers.  Satan/Lucifer is a created being, and therefore, he is by definition a “lesser” being then God.  Satan led a rebellion against God, and was cast out for it (this will come up again in the NT).  What Satan represents in the Bible is corrupted goodness, not eternal evil.

This can be applied to our lives as well: when we think of evil, people like Mao, Hitler, and Stalin, for example, we find that as much as we despise these men, the goals that they sought after were not inherently evil in the abstract sense.  These men desired power, control, wealth, etc.  None of those things are evil in and of themselves, in fact they are often thought of as good things.  But what we see the evil in is the WAY in which these good things are pursued.  If you have to kill millions of people — as all three of these men did — to get your power, then you are evil.  As Lewis roughly puts it, you can be good just for the sake of goodness, you CANNOT be evil just for the sake of badness.  No one is evil just to be evil: they desire things that one can abstractly call good.  Being good is virtuous in and of itself; evil is ALWAYS a good desire that has been corrupted.  I hope that idea makes sense.  So in that regard, that’s my take on why good wins against evil, because the “good” is the real and true thing.  The “evil” is a hollow, corrupted shell.

Q. (Mark 3:28, Matthew 12:31-32): So, no one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will go to heaven?   What if they have a change of heart?  If you hear someone do this, you should just walk away and not try to tell them about God?  You shouldn’t give them any “pearls”?  And, in Matthew 12:31-32, the scripture says that blaspheming Jesus IS a forgivable sin.  Why the difference between Jesus and the Spirit?

A.  This is not as complicated as you are making it out to be: there’s a semi-simple explanation.  There is an underlying assumption in Christian theology that it is the Holy Spirit that works to restore the heart and mind and desires of each and every human being, even those who are not Christians.  So in that sense, it is the Spirit that allows us to understand the forgiveness of our sins.  But if we declare that the Spirit is NOT the source of these good things (which is blasphemy), it is not so much that these words are SO unforgiveable, but rather that we are cutting ourselves off FROM THE SOURCE of forgiveness.  We have turned away from the One who helps to change our hearts, including those changes of hearts you mentioned in your question.  So it is not that Jesus is saying that speaking these words somehow puts you beyond God’s reach and you’re out of luck, what He is saying is that if you repeatedly deny the power of the Spirit (by, for example, accusing the Spirit of being a demon as the Pharisees are doing here- that’s the connection), you reach a point where without a radical change in your heart, you have PUT YOURSELF out of God’s reach.

Q. (Matthew 12:23): My husband is studying Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship.  He had the question about Jesus being a descendant of David.  He was having a little trouble with Joseph’s line.  I think Mary’s is established in one of the gospels that we have read.  I read somewhere on the Internet that Joseph was a descendant of David, but since Jesus was born from the Holy Spirit, Joseph was a more adoptive role.  And, because He is not biologically related to Joseph, that would allow Jesus to not be under the curse of Solomon (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_exactly_is_Solomon%27s_curse).

A. Interesting article.  I addressed this in the genealogy section (basically word for word, he he) of our reading on Day 267 (Sept 24th).  Perhaps you didn’t make it that far into my answers? (J/K)

Q. (Matthew 12:33-37): I assume Jesus is talking about the Pharisees here.  Let’s discuss again what the Pharisees were doing that was so bad.  They were teaching God’s law.  That seems pretty obedient.  And, now there is a new law.  I could understand how they would get hung up on the way things have been for hundreds of years.

A. The Pharisees were legalists, and as many Christians (my wife included — she grew up in a very rigid house and church community) can tell you, legalism KILLS love for God.  These leaders knew the Bible — OT of course — inside and out, and literally had studied it since their birth, but they failed to properly apply what they read with compassion and love.  That is the major breaking point between Jesus and these leaders: the burden that they gave was a legalistic “heavy” burden, Jesus gave a burden that was light and founded in love and grace.  Legalism knows nothing of grace — by definition, it can’t.

Q. (Matthew 12:38-40): It’s awesome how he brings Jonah from long ago back in to the picture.  Do we know what Jesus is talking about when He says He’ll be “in the heart of the earth”?

A. Yes, the grave.  Jesus was literally dead from the end of Good Friday until Sunday morning: three days in the earth.

Q. (Matthew 12:43): Jesus is casting out a lot of evil spirits.   Where do they come from?  What are they?  What causes them to enter a body?  Do they still exist today?
A. Demons are fallen angels, like Satan, who appear to have the ability to enter into people and control them — we will see more violent versions soon.  As to whether it still happens and why, I don’t have an answer for either.  Sorry, there’s too much speculation, and the Bible does not seem to think it is important enough to tell us.

Q. (Mark 3:31-25): To me this interaction is a bit strange.  If my mom and siblings came calling on me, I think I would come out quickly because they must be concerned about me.  Instead, Jesus turns it into a teaching tool to say we are all God’s children and should love one another, as we have a common cares, beliefs, motivations and goals.  I’m not sure why this sounds a bit awkward.  It’s almost as if our family ties don’t matter.

A. It appears that at this stage of His ministry, Jesus’ family thought He was insane, and were basically coming to get Him to avoid further embarrassment from their peers.  But Jesus is clear about His mission, and He will not be deterred by His family when His task is not yet done.  Jesus will have more to say about family ties, so let’s revisit this when He does.

Q. (Mark 4:1-9): Any idea why Jesus is often by a lake?

A. Sure, that’s where the people were.

Q. (Mark 4:11-12): Several questions here: 1) What “secret?” 2) How does teaching through parables make the scripture true and how does it help others understand?  3) Can you explain the lines in v. 12?

A. In Mark’s Gospel (this is a unique feature), the secret appears to be the coming of the Messiah in the midst of the people of Israel.  Jesus is not yet ready to fully identify Himself as Messiah in this way, because He will be misunderstood.  Please note, literally the only person who He has explicitly told that He is the Messiah is the woman at the well back in John 4.  So the “secret” is something of a way of presenting a humble Messiah who is hiding in plain sight, and only those who have faith in Him can see it.

As to the parables themselves, they are Jesus’ way of bringing to light the truths of the Bible in ways that people can understand at multiple levels.  Again, only those on the “inside” (for now) understand.  In comparing His ministry and use of parables to that of Isaiah (whom He quotes from), Jesus is saying that He desires to expose the hardheartedness of many of the leaders of this day, just as was Isaiah’s call centuries ago.

Q. (Mark 4:20): The “harvest” here is referring to believers produced?

A. You got it.

Day 171 (June 20): Amaziah rules in Judah, end of Jehoash’s reign in Israel, Jeroboam II takes over Israel, Amaziah ends reign in Judah, Uzziah sits on Judah’s throne, Uzziah’s pride leads to downfall, Jonah runs from God, Jonah prayed for salvation, Jonah treks to Ninevah, Jonah angered at God’s mercy

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.

2 Kings 14:1-14

2 Chronicles 25:1-24

2 Kings 13:12-13

2 Kings 14:15-16

2 Kings 14:23-27

2 Chronicles 25:25-28

2 Kings 14:17-22

2 Kings 15:1-5

2 Chronicles 26:1-21

Jonah 1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 14:1-4): Why did the Judeans (is that what we call them now) kill one king just to put his son on the throne?

A. I don’t know exactly, perhaps they thought the son would be better than his father.

Q. (14:5-6): But, this law does not apply to the kings because we have read many times where God’s punishment for a king’s sins will follow his descendants for many generations.

A. You’ve already noted the distinction.  To have mercy or not on the next generation is God’s decision, and He may do as He pleases, but that doesn’t mean that we as people should seek to make the same judgment.

Q. (14:11-14): I am interested to know what the purpose behind this battle was and how it shapes the future of Israel.  Neither king was fully loyal to the Lord.  Joash of Israel plundered Jerusalem and raided the Temple.

A. The version from Chronicles makes the meaning a bit more clear: Joash’s victory is the result of Amaziah’s ambition and bragging as king.  God uses the Israelites to put Amaziah in his place.

Q. (14:15): I was going to ask the same question, “Why would a king adopt the gods of a kingdom that he just defeated?”

A. Not very smart, is it?

Q. (2 Kings 13:12-13, 14:15-16): This is the same information two places in 2 Kings. Is this a typo or different authors or what?  I know, it’s no big deal.  It just stands out.

A. It does stand out, but I don’t have any particular understanding as to why it is in there twice.

Q. (14:23): I guess although Jeroboam did not follow the Lord, he must have been a renowned king in the people’s eyes because so many kings followed his direction and here this king, Jeroboam II, is named after him?

A. Yes.  He brought freedom (as the people saw it) to Israel, and allowed them to break the yoke of the “cruel” rule of David and his descendents.

Q. (14:24, 27): Verse 24 says that Jeroboam was evil.  Then, v. 27 says that God will use him to save Israel.  Just wait, right?

A. Yep.

O. (15:3): This sounds like a broken record that the kings did good in the eyes of the Lord but did not destroy all of the false gods/idols.  I wanna say, someone just do it.  But, when you see the size of the armies (2 Chronicles 26:3) that they can muster, it must be a huge community.  And, to govern such a huge place would be very difficult.  Some of these shrines may have been hidden.  Still, it sounds like God expected them to be destroyed, no matter what.  If God is trying to establish a nation that follows Him and is like no other, then He would not want any other gods in his territory.  He has and would give them anything, if they would just follow Him.  Which, like us, is the best thing to do and will make us the happiest.  But, all of the distractions and temptations really make us question the security we have built up for ourselves.  So, those temptations make it hard to completely convert to God.  But, it’s what we are called to do and it is the right choice — really, the only choice, the way I see it.

O. (2 Chronicles 26:18-20): Don’t mess with God!

Q. (Jonah 1:17): Like many of the stories in the Bible, this one seems a little far-fetched.  But, we know it’s true.  We know from reading God’s word, that what He says is true.  So, for Jonah, what a ride!  Any idea where Jonah came from?  He just pops out of nowhere.

A. Well, as we’ve mentioned, the Bible doesn’t feel the need to fill in all of the details that we would want.  This story stands alone as one of 12 Minor Prophets (so named for the length of their story, not because they weren’t important).  But, we do get some information on Jonah, including where he came from, you just have to be able to decipher it from the text.  Our reading from 2 Kings 14:25 notes that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, which was in Zebulun, part of the Northern Kingdom.  This means that Jonah was most likely a member of that tribe.

Q. (Jonah 3:5): Why burlap?  I think of itchy feed sacks.

A. Just like when the Israelites do it, when the citizens of Nineveh put on burlap, they are making a public display of their mourning and repentence.

Q. (Jonah 3:10-4-11): So, tell me if I have this right.  The people of Ninevah changed their ways and God was feeling sympathetic to them.  Thus, Jonah was concerned that God would change his mind and not bring destruction to Ninevah.  And, Jonah was worried about looking like a fool after proclaiming such destruction and then it doesn’t happen?  Will we learn the outcome of this?

A. Well, you’re partly right.  Jonah considered the citizens of Ninevah to be his enemies, and he did not want to proclaim a call to repentance, but not because he thought that he would look bad; it was because he was afraid that God might actually grant it!  Jonah had no interest in sharing God’s mercy with this other nation.  He wanted them destroyed!

One of the themes that the writer of Jonah (possibly Jonah himself, we can’t be sure) brings to our attention is the fact that the non-Jews in this story (the sailors, the Ninevites) act in a much more respectable way than the only Jew — Jonah!  Jonah acts in a petty and childish way, while the other characters are much more responsive to the Word of God than Jonah is.  This is a powerful conviction by the writer: the Jews are failing to be the light to the Gentiles that God has always expected them to be.  Part of their problem, as 2 Kings has told us over and over and over, is that they worship other gods while ignoring the one who gave them their Promised Land.  The Jews are counting on God’s mercy for them, but, as Jonah is doing here, they fail to see that God’s mercy extends to all people, not just to the ones He chose.  His mercy actually angers them!  Think about the great irony of that statement in light of everything we have been reading about Israel and Judah’s unfaithfulness.  Jonah is, in my opinion, one of the greatest writings of the OT for its biting commentary on the way that the Jews were abusing the very love and mercy of God that they were constantly dependent upon.