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 299 (Oct. 26): Most important Commandments, Jesus questions religious leaders about Messiah, religious leaders known for pageantry not serving others, Jesus warns religious leaders, only one Father and one Teacher, Pharisees and teachers of religious law neglect justice, mercy and faith, widow’s offering is larger than that of the rich

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.

Mark 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:35-37

Matthew 22:41-46

Luke 20:41-44

Mark 12:38-40

Matthew 23:1-12

Luke 20:45-47

Matthew 23:13-39

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 21:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 12:31): I had always heard that loving God was the most important and then loving your neighbor was second.  Here it says they are equal.  Does the Bible say one is more important than the other anywhere?  It seems like they are almost one in the same.  If you love God you will likely love others.  If you love others, you probably have God in your heart.

A. No doubt Jesus desires us to love God first — we might call what He says 1 and 1a — but that, as you state, a true love for God will be manifest in a genuine love for others.

Q. (Matthew 22:34): Can you tell me again what the difference is between the Pharisees and Sadducees?

A. Sure.  First, members of BOTH of these parties made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so we might think of them as the two major “political” parties of the day.  The Sadducees were the more conservative of the two, and used the first five books of the OT (Genesis to Deuteronomy) as their primary guides for living.  They rejected much of the later OT writings (notably including writings about resurrection, which as we have discussed come from the later parts of the OT, hence their rejection of the doctrine).  The Sadducees were the primary members of the Priesthood, including Caiaphas who will be one of the central figures of the Passion story as High Priest.  Since they were the “official” leaders of the nation as the priests, the Sadducees worked with the Romans, which made them inferior in the eyes of others, including the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a different ruling party, and their primary concern was a noble one in theory: they desired for God to act on behalf of His people and cast off the Roman oppression (though they rejected overt action such as assassination that groups like the Zealots used).  They believed that if the people of the nation could become righteous enough by keeping the Law, they would “force God’s hand,” so to speak, and bring the Messiah into the world to conquer the Romans.  They were the teachers of the Law.  Since they did not see Jesus as being a leader capable of such a violent revolt, it is little surprise they rejected Him as the Messiah.  The Pharisees hoped to achieve this righteousness by means of legalism, including the use of many traditions that went well beyond the scope of the Law, as Jesus has been pointing out.  They would have been among the most powerful group in the nation, but in general, they would have been greatly disliked by the common Jews, who saw them as showy and flashy but ultimately not helpful.  The Pharisees would be the surviving party after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and their lineage carries on today in the writings of the Talmud, and the line of the Rabbis.

Q. (Mark 12:35-37, Matthew 22:41-46, Luke 20:41-44): I think I understand that Jesus is asking the “experts” on religious law how the Messiah can be the SON of David.  David would not refer to his son as “my lord.”  And that, tripped up the religious leaders?

A. Okay, so here’s what’s going on here: Jesus is mocking the religious leaders in what would have understood in a humorous way.  Jesus is using a quote from David in Psalm 110 (and assuming Davidic authorship, by the way) to say that David himself saw the Messiah as being more than a normal person.  David saw the Messiah as being divine, which is why he refers to Him as “his Lord.”  But everyone in that day knew that the Messiah was ALSO a son of David from his lineage.  So in posing the question in this way, unless the religious leaders of the day were willing to admit that the Messiah was indeed divine (something they rejected — they saw him as a chosen ruler by not divine), they COULD NOT answer His question.  If the person chosen as Messiah was merely a man, then the great King David would have no reason to call him Lord.  That, if you will, is the joke, but it was also a blistering critique by Jesus.

Q. (Mark 12:38-40): I am sure that many religious leaders are guilty of posturing today.  I remember my dad and some other elders of our church inviting our small-town preacher out to dinner.  They would get upset though, because the preacher never paid anything for the dinner.  We gave offering to the church and I guess my dad thought that that is the preacher’s wages and he should pay for his own dinner.  He and his family were extremely nice, but the preacher did have a slight attitude that he deserved to be taken care of.  So, they didn’t ask him to dinner every time.

A. As a person who has worked in ministry, I can honestly tell you that it is quite easy to let a sense of entitlement get a hold of you, and it is something you must make war against.  It is very difficult to remain humble in the midst of those circumstances, which to me makes it all the more important.

Q. (Matthew 23:8-9): Don’t Jews call their leaders “Rabbi” and Catholics call their priests “Father”?

A. Yes they do, though it’s worth mentioning that nothing Jesus says here would be recognized by Jews today — they wholly reject His teachings.  What Jesus is saying here is not to seek the title for the sake of pride (which was a major failing of the leadership), and I do not believe that Jesus is saying, “never have any titles”.  This is a verse about humility, and a reminder to keep in mind who is really in charge.

O. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4): I have read this or heard of this passage many times before.  But, now that I have read it after reading Matthew 23:12, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” this verse has a new meaning.  She was not only sacrificing more than the rich people, she will be exalted for it!  This verse sure is a game changer.

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 208 (July 27): Empty worship is false worship, sin separates from God, Justice comes from God not humans, evildoers will be dealt with, God’s words will give you words, all will see Jerusalem’s glory, tell everyone that the Savior is coming

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.

Isaiah 58-63

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 58:6-7): This fasting sounds much easier than not eating.  I don’t know if everyone who tries to fast goes cuckoo.  But, I do.  My blood sugar tanks and I can’t think straight until I get some good (healthy) food.  I know that’s not the point of these verses.  I’m just admiring them, because it would bring me much more happiness to help others than to be hungry.  And, more importantly it makes me happy to please God.  I think we have talked some about fasting.  But, I think we’ll talk more about it in the NT?  Speaking of helping others: I was helping a friend move tonight and it made me think about our movers.  Being in the Navy we have had three major moves.  So, we had some experience with movers.  They definitely work hard.  When we unpacked in Guam, the workers brought all of their lunch — and napped for 30 minutes afterward, I guess it’s a custom there, which actually makes a lot of sense.  The guys who unpacked our goods in Virginia asked for lunch.  We had never been told by the housing office to provide lunch.  We gave them a little leftover pizza we had, but we were kind of annoyed at the request.  Besides, we were busy with moving.  And, we know they were told to bring their own.  So, when we packed out the last time, I had inquired with other military families if they provided lunch for their movers.  They overwhelmingly said “yes.”  No, we weren’t expected to by the housing office, but these guys are working at lightening speed and trying to be careful and lifting a lot of very heavy stuff.  I think my friends said that if you treat them well, they’ll treat your stuff well.  So, that was my motivating thought.  But, then as we talked to them and asked them what they wanted to eat and drink, we joked and got to know them better.  We memorized their favorite drinks and got them at Sonic’s happy hour.  We had a great time with them over the three days it took to load the truck.  And, they truly did take care of our furniture.  But, that wasn’t the motivating feeling anymore.  It was that we were serving them.  And, they weren’t movers anymore, they were friends.  Besides, who is more important, the people or your stuff?  Can you imagine the people standing over them day after day scrutinizing their every move?  There are probably some who aren’t careful.  But, if you are kind to them, that’s showing them God’s love and it will reflect back.  My husband was sitting down with a couple of the packers over lunch and I think they were taken aback because they weren’t used to that.  But, when we found out their life stories, it was so rewarding.  They had been movers for a very long time, like 20 some years.  I can’t imagine working that hard for that long.  They drive across the country.  They hate working in the winter and unpacking when it’s freezing.  Talk about serving others!

A. What a fascinating story about the importance of fellowship and getting to know people.  It is easy to see why Jesus spent so much of His earthly ministry during service via meals.  You bring up a good point about fasting, and we will indeed talk about it in the NT, but Jesus makes a keen observation about fasting in the Gospels: the fasting is for afterwards.  We will learn what that means in due time.

Q. (58:10): When it says, “feed the hungry and help those in trouble.”  Besides the literal meaning, can the words have a loose meaning like use your talents to help others?  I have another thought on this too.  So many people think about climbing the ladder or checking off items on their bucket list.  But, what we should really do is know what the Bible says to know what God expects of us — that is the true road to happiness anyway — and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance on what His plan is for us.  Is that accurate?

A. Yes, I would say that’s accurate.  First of all, though, don’t ignore the legitimate need of feeding those around us: many people do not have enough food to be comfortable, and feel a great sense of shame in asking others, including their church, for assistance.  So oftentimes the issue goes unaddressed.  The Spirit can indeed be a useful guide in helping to “find” those who really do need food but do not desire to be found.  Beyond that, however, caring for the needs of a neighbor is a blank slate: you can do with it as you desire, or as you feel God leading you.

Q. (58:13): Is this just for the Israelites because of the NT’s New Covenant or should we, today, follow this advice?  Occasionally, I get “lazy” on a Sunday and “skip” church.  Of course, I feel the guilt, mostly because I worry about what my husband thinks of me playing hooky.  It’s mostly because I have been so swamped in the week and I just need a day or a morning to sleep in — and God happens to be the one that I choose to delete from my week.  Is that bad?  (Doesn’t happen often!)  Also, I feel guilty for daydreaming during songs or group prayer at church.  I feel bad to be in prayer and I’m not focused.  When I pray by myself, I am normally very focused.

A. However we interpret it — Jews maintain the Sabbath is Saturday, Christians Sunday — the Sabbath is a gift to mankind and needs to be respected.  Christians are not “required” to, in the legalistic sense of the word, but I know from personal experience that if I skip a day of rest (note the irony of that statement, and also the way you phrased your question: you described being “lazy” on the Sabbath and not going to church), I am the one who suffers.  Our lives were given to us by God to be in a certain rhythm: six days of work, and a day of rest.  We like to think of ourselves as being “better” than this requirement because we take “two” days off from work, but many times our weekends are no less busy than our weekdays.  We rarely take time to be relaxed and enjoy God and family, but I think we all would be better off if we carved out a full day (or as close as we can manage) to do so.  It is not a requirement: it is wisdom from God that few people ever see!

O. (59:9): I like this verse: There is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living.  That means we need to look to God for justice and the right ways to live.  We do not have it among ourselves.  Therefore, goodness comes from God.

Q. (59:21): “My Spirit will not leave them and neither will these words I have given you.  They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children …”  This verse is directed to Israel, but is it applicable for us?  I would think the verse means that He will give us the right words to say if we are walking with Him.  It’s like when you are thinking of something to say and you have: Option A) what your brain would think to say, and Option B) words that God puts on your lips — what I call my “God filter.”  Now that I understand more and more how I should walk with God, I don’t have to think as much about what the proper thing to say is, it’s just appears on my lips.  I think “why didn’t I think of that?”  I know the words are not my own, but I sound so much wiser.  Thank you, God!

A. Very interesting thoughts.  Though it will feel foreign to us — we tend to read the Bible as “insiders” — we as Christians should pay the closest attention to what Isaiah (and other prophets) are saying about God’s movement to OTHER NATIONS.  We are not of the tribe of Israel, so the verses about foreigners in the house of God is much more applicable to us than any verse about the word of God about Israel.  At this moment, the other nations of the world are on the “outside” looking in, but all that is about to change in the NT.

Q. (60:8-9): How does word get out about Jerusalem’s restoration?  I would think it would take awhile.

A. I think the answer to that will present itself, so let’s let the story unfold.

Q. (60): I am amazed that God is giving Israel all of this glory in light of all their disobedience and idol worship.  Vs. 19-22 sound like heaven, especially in the last line that says “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”  Or, is it just talking about the restored Jerusalem?

A. It is talking about the Eternal Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God.  It is a vision of the final restoration of all things that centers around a renewed Jerusalem that will be God’s personal dwelling.

Q. (62:8): The thought of God handing over Jerusalem, the city of the beloved David, to enemies seems ruthless.  But, with all of the disobedience and defiance, they had it coming.  I bet it was harder on God than on them.

A. I will bet you are right.

Q. (63:1-6): I’m not sure what Isaiah is describing here.

A. Isaiah is using the image of winepress — a place where grapes are trampled and crushed to cause fermentation and make wine — and a warrior, God, who has tread the winepress of His wrath.  Note the color imagery: when you worked a winepress of what we call “red” grapes — which are really purple — you end up covered in purple/bluish pigment from the grapes.  In this image, the Warrior is covered in red (blood) from having crushed the enemies of God in the winepress of wrath.  This is actually the inspiring image and scripture for the first few lines of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written during the U.S. Civil War.

Q. (63:7): This sounds like a proper prayer.  At Summit Orlando, we had a sermon on how to pray.  I still have the postcard that gives the directions, although I haven’t followed it even half-heartedly … yet.  But, I think it gives us a guide to build a prayer and enter God’s presence respectfully.  It’s in four parts.  But, the card doesn’t tell me if I read down or left to right, so I’m not sure of the order of the second and third part.  But, here it goes:

1) Adoration: God, I worship you because you are … (Psalm 8, 19, 23, 46, 95, 100, 148, Luke 1:46-55, 68-79.

2) Confession: I need Your forgiveness for … I need Your strength to overcome …  (Psalm 103:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

3) Thanksgiving: Thank You, God, for Your blessings.  I am so grateful for … (Psalm 103:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Luke 17:11-19)

4) Supplication: God, I know that no request is too big for You to handle or too small for you to care about.  I lift up these needs to You, trusting in Your plan … (Philippians 4:6, James 1:5, 4:2, 1 Peter 5:7).

So many times, I just jump to 4 if I need help.  That should be the last thing to include and know that You are asking, God is hearing and He does have a plan which will likely not be the same plan you have.  It will be better and like a surprise.  We seem to magically get money in the mail when we are wondering how we will pay insurance or something like that.  We look at it and just well up with tears.  It’s fun to see how God is going to surprise us.

A. You’ve got the order right: we begin with adoring who God is, confessing our sin, giving thanks for what He has done, and then asking Him to supply our needs.  This is hardly a “hard and fast” role, and our prayer lives should be conversational in nature, but I find that this method is useful for helping me keep “first things first”: God is the beginning of my prayer life, not my own needs.