Day 364 (Dec. 30): Seven angels standing at Temple hold bowls of seven plagues, those victorious over evil sang song of Moses, plagues caused flowing blood, darkness, earthquakes, hailstorms, prostitute rides beast, beast has fallen, Lamb of God victorious over beast and kings, voice warns to stay away from the wickedness of Babylon, believers rejoice over judgment of Babylon

Welcome to Bible Bum 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.

Revelation 15-18:24

Questions & Observations

Q.  Rob, this is still John’s vision, but we have no idea if this is how the end of days will actually be, right?  And, what about those who see a white light when they are passing, but then come back to earth?  The Bible doesn’t seem to address that.

A. The rest of Revelation after John is told to enter the door is his vision, so yes, this remains a record of what he is seeing.  There are many who see Revelation as some sort of code to be deciphered that would give Christians an “insider” knowledge about what will happen in the last days — which no one even knows when that will be, let alone how it will unfold — but I do not buy that.  People who make such claims don’t really understand the genre of the writing: it was written in code, not for people living centuries later, but for the original audience, persecuted Christians in the seven churches of the first few chapters and beyond.  That it has any benefit to us is, in my mind, incidental to John — though I freely offer that the Spirit desired this book to be for our benefit as well.  But I simply do not think you can “unravel” the code and be given special information: God simply does not work that way with any part of the Bible — the message is always clear and up front.  Hidden knowledge is not part of Christianity — all the “cards” are on the table.  The Bible does not address the near death experiences you are describing, probably because there was no such thing as “near death” in ancient times: you were either dead or alive.

Q. (15:7): There a lot of dishes used in the Bible that hold important things.  Here we have bowls holding plagues, cups that runneth over, and I remember the Tabernacle had some holy dishes, right?  Is that for a reason?

A. I don’t think there is anything special about the use of dishes or cups, they are simply delivery devices for liquids, and there’s just no other way to do that.  Though some of the dishes represent powerful images, such as wrath or healing, the dishes are not the important part of the image: it is what they contain that matters.

Q. (16:4): And here is the blood again.  Blood signifies cleansing of sins.  Here it is more of a payback?

A. The plague of blood serves two purposes: it harkens back to the first plague of Egypt, in which the Nile was turned to blood thanks to Moses’ staff.  But the other purpose for this punishment is described in verses 5 and 6: the blood is a “punishment fits the crime” plague for shedding the blood of those faithful to God.

Q. (16:11): After all of that wrath, the people still refuse to acknowledge God.  They don’t know God so they don’t know they’ve sinned?  And, they are still being called to repent to God and they are still refusing.  Would you say there hearts are hardened?  It doesn’t say anything about that here and why would God harden them because he did this in the past to magnify evil showing the Israelites His power.  These people sound so wicked that their hearts could not be softened ever.  Anyway, just curious.

A. This vision is black and white, like a lot of John’s writings: there is no one who crosses to the other side during this torment: no one repents, and confesses the evil of their ways.  For the Christians who suffered under persecution and likely lost their possessions, if not their lives to the whims of evil men who placed themselves as enemy’s of God’s church, however, this is a just punishment.  It is only a vision after all, but one with a clear purpose: to remind the faithful what they are fighting for and what happens if they are victorious.  Those who persevere through this tribulation — and do keep in mind that in more than 60 countries around the world RIGHT NOW, the tribulation goes on to this day! — they will be rewarded and see those who have punished them punished.

I won’t lie to you, there is an element of blood lust in this that I’m not completely comfortable with, but we must not forget that God does not wink at sin, and some of the greatest sins are to persecute and kill those who are on the side of God.  Personally, I would desire for God to extend grace, but in this vision at least, the time of grace has passed.  Victory is coming for those who remained faithful!

Q. (17:15-18): I don’t understand the dynamic between the beasts and the prostitute.  They are enemies here, but I thought they were on the same Team Evil.

A. This is a complex analogy.  The woman/prostitute is Rome, not the actual city of Babylon, which has long been known as the city on seven hills.  The vision of the kings/crowns on the beast is clear enough, and the beast in this analogy is the Antichrist, the great enemy of God.  It appears that the beast will come to rule over the woman (that is, rule Rome, at least symbolically), and that is why there is animosity between them.  This makes the 8th king (verse 11) the ruler, but they will turn on the “woman” for reasons that I don’t really know.  It appears that even among “team evil,” there is division.  The ultimate point John is making is that Rome has become a prostitute of all kinds of things that are evil in God’s sight, and that many rulers, merchants, and sailors have “slept” with her in order to gain wealth.  Since the woman will die, it will be bad for all those who “sleep” with her.

Q. (18:10): The prostitute is the city of Babylon, right?  It sounds like the NT’s version   of Sodom and Gomorra.  I would think that Babylon is metaphorical for all who fall prey to the temptations of this world.

A. It’s Rome, as I discussed above, but the rest of what you write has it exactly.  Rome is powerful, which is why she is so tempting for those who desire power or control, but in the end, she will die (the Roman Empire will fall) and God still remains.

Day 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

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.

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

Day 301 (Oct. 28): Be ready for Jesus’s second coming at all times, parable of ten bridesmaids, parable of three servants, Jesus will separate the righteous from evil, helping others helps Jesus

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 13:32-37

Matthew 24:36-51

Luke 21:34-38

Matthew 25:1-46

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 24:36-51): We have heard this same story before, I guess from another one of the gospels.  Any idea why it wasn’t put with the other one since this is a chronological Bible?

A. While we’ve heard some version of the material, that doesn’t mean that it was presented at the same time as Jesus’ other sermons or that that material was never repeated (an assumption many skeptics of the Bible simply ignore — Jesus likely taught similar sermons over and over again).  Matthew records that these verses are part of a larger narrative on being prepared for the Final Judgment, which is unique, and has not been presented in the Gospels before now.  That is most likely why some of the material that kind of sounds familiar from other Gospels is presented here as part of a narrative about being prepared.

Q. (Luke 21:34-38): Does this mean we aren’t supposed to let our guard down by hanging out with friends and having a couple of drinks?  Or, is this talking about boozing it up at a bar?  I would say that as long as God is with you and on your mind, you’re OK.  But if you let your morals go, then you risk letting God go and your salvation?

A. The Bible does not prescribe a life completely free of alcohol consumption, but it DOES say clearly that drunkenness is a sin.  Since there are many people who cannot handle the distinction between a couple of drinks and being blackout drunk (i.e. alcoholics), it might be better for those people to avoid consuming alcohol at all, since it tends to dull your wits.  Bad decisions come after consuming too much alcohol.

Q. (Matthew 25:14-30): We’ve seen this one before too.  I can get two different morals from this story.  One is that the master is literally giving talents.  The servants who use their talents and either expand on them or profit from them are rewarded.  Or, the servants who use their talents to bring more people to God will be rewarded.

A. As mentioned, it is possible that Jesus is repeating a story He has already told in this instance to make a point about using the gifts and abilities God has given us (including being given riches).  Either of your proposed “morals” are fine, but they BOTH require a level of discernment: you must determine what you feel God is calling you to do, and then to act on it.

Q. (Matthew 25:31-46): Jesus is talking about when we help others, we honor Him.  If we don’t do that — his will and the new covenant — it’s eternal time in the fire pit.  When we lived on Guam, a neighbor who was a Seventh Day Adventist told me that the Bible says that the eternal fire is really not eternal.  I have always pictured people — I guess it would be there souls? — burning forever and ever.  Rob, what knowledge do you have?

A. First, one quick note: the story of the Sheep and Goats does not say that it is actions ALONE that will get us into heaven or send us to hell.  Our actions are generally a tangible representation of what we believe (i.e. we don’t generally act in contrast to what we believe).  So if we have faith in Christ, and have been changed by His life and teachings, then the result of such thinking will most likely being a radical change in our actions.  We are much less likely to be selfish if we have truly internalized what Jesus has taught us.  So if we have faith in Him, our actions will likely change, which is tangibly proven by our daily interactions with others.

As to the reality of what hell is “like,” we only have bits and pieces to go on.  There are some contrasting images that appear contradictory at first look: we are told that hell is a place of darkness, but also of fire for example.  In Revelation, it will be described as a lake of fire — burning sulfur, which used to be known as brimstone, to be exact.  As we discussed at some point — I forget exactly where — when Jesus discussed what we call hell, He used images of a place called Gehenna, a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem that was once used for pagan child sacrifice.  So there are various ways that the reality of hell is described.  Personally, I agree with one part of what your neighbor has said, but it’s not the part you might think.  I believe that there will be an eternal separation of souls from God, and that while there will be no LITERAL fire there, the agony and anguish of regret at having missed out on God will be undeniable.  Note carefully: all the metaphors that Jesus used to speak about hell — and don’t miss that it is Jesus HIMSELF who teaches much of what we understand about hell! — have a literal point: they represent regret, suffering, and misery.  Hell is real, and it is a real danger to those who willfully turn from God — no one goes to hell by accident — it is willful action on our part to end up there.  We all know or have heard about people who say they want no part of God at all — that He is cruel, or unjust, or whatever.  And as a person who believes strongly in free will, I believe that God is willing to say, “I will not force you to be with me if that is what you desire.”  But surely those who make up their mind to act in defiance of God and choose their sin and selfishness will regret what they have done.  Such defiance often makes us blind to a way out, even if the lifeline is still offered.  C.S. Lewis once cleverly remarked that if hell is “locked,” then it is locked from the inside.  Something to think about…

Day 257 (Sept. 14): Temple is finished and dedicated to God, Exiles celebrate Passover, King Xerxes big banquet, Queen Vashti prohibited from ever seeing Xerxes again, Xerxes is charmed by Esther and makes her queen, Mordecai tells Xerxes of plot to kill him, Haman’s plot to kill the Jews was debunked

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.

Ezra 6:14-22

Ezra 4:6

Esther 1-4

Questions & Observations

I have heard this story quite a lot, but never in the detail that the Bible is providing.  It’s such a thorough account that I don’t have any deep questions, just technical ones.

 

Q. (Esther 1:1): Xerxes has such a huge territory from India to Ethiopia.  I can’t imagine how they would rule that many people over a long distance.  They must have had quite an organized structure of assistants.

A. These kings set up puppet regimes throughout the empire.  We will see this again in the NT, when the leaders such as Herod ruled Israel, but served the Emperor of Rome.  This is also why the decrees were so important: they were used to proclaim the king’s orders throughout the vast empire.

Q. (1:3-4): How did Xerxes get so much authority so fast?  In his third year as ruler, he threw a banquet for royalty that lasted 180 days.  And just to imagine the accommodations — they didn’t have Holiday Inn back then.  I just wonder if there were inns or if Xerxes housed them all.

A. Xerxes is king of the Persian Empire, which took over the Babylonian Empire from Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants.  So he got his great authority by inheriting it from the king before him, but he also very likely had to demonstrate his authority as some sort of under ruler, usually a general.  Inns and such places would have been commonplace in major cities of this time, as they are today.  Many times people in this area would use caravans to move large amounts of people and goods, and set up camps in the areas outside (or sometimes inside) a city.

Q. (2:12): Twleve months of beauty treatments?  This would never go today, not in my home anyway.  Who has time for that?  In a whole year, they would look older.

A. I honestly have no idea how to respond to this.  I’m just going to move on.

Q. (2:21): I don’t remember this part of the story.  It’s great to know more about Mordecai.  The whole eunuch thing is hard to accept.  The way the Bible refers to them as eunuchs and not just by name makes it sound like they are a separate “breed.”

A. I realize you’ve had some trouble with this concept, but it would have been accepted practice in the day.  It’s quite clear from the story that even the eunuchs in Xerxes’ empire could become powerful men, as we see in the man who controlled the entire harem for the king.

Q. (3:10): Why did Xerxes hand over the signet ring to Haman?  I don’t understand what authority is given to whomever has the ring.

A. The signet ring had a raised design on it, which was the mark of the king.  In an era, as we have discussed, of great distances between king and country and vast empires, the power of the king’s seal must be understood as incredibly important.  Xerxes, by giving Haman the ring, is basically allowing him to write decrees as though he is the king, because he can use the ring to seal royal letters and decrees.  That’s the real power of signet ring: basically being able to sign the king’s “name” onto something.

Day 256 (Sept. 13): Judgment against Israel’s enemies, Israel’s coming King, God will restore Israel, the responsibility of shepherds, deliverance for Jerusalem — her enemies will stagger, the people will be purified, scattering of sheep, the Lord will rule the Earth from Jerusalem, Jerusalem will be the destination for worship

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.

Zechariah 9-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zechariah 11:4-17): I guess God is just saying that those shepherds who only care about themselves and neglect their flock will be dealt a harsh blow?  I didn’t know why this scripture was placed here or how the broken staffs relate to the sheep, Judah and Israel.  To me, it’s a confusing passage.

A. The corrupt shepherds represent corrupt leaders who abandon the flock (the general population of the people) during times of trial, as the nation will suffer many times over for the next few hundred years, culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.  You can make the argument that since these corrupt shepherds follow after the rejection of the Good Shepherd (which the flock hates, verse 8-9), they represent the Jewish leaders who encouraged the people to reject Jesus as the Messiah and persecute the early Church.  These actions very likely led to Jerusalem’s destruction.  So overall this appears to be a prophecy about rejecting the Good Shepherd (a title Jesus uses in John 10) and the downfall that comes afterwards.

Q. (12:10-14): Why would they mourn for David who died long, long ago?  Why would they still be so connected to him?  And, why would men and women mourn separately?

A. David, as we have read many times, is an archetype for divinely led leadership that was best personified (to that point anyway) by David himself.  When Jews speak of the House of David that is what they mean: they desire a return to having a king who is selected by God and led by God.  Jesus Himself will be the fulfillment of this archetype.  As to why the people mourn in gender-separated groups, I don’t have a good answer.

Q. (12:2): Will we read when this “day” actually happens?

A. In one sense: part of what is described in many of these prophecies is the sacrifice of Christ (at least that’s what Christians believe) on the cross and the victory that He will win for us.  But no, the Day of the Lord’s final victory is still to come, at least as I understand it, even if the victory has already been won.

Q. (13:7-9): Today’s reading is a roller coaster.  It goes from God restoring people to shepherds staffs being broken and now purifying the people to just one-third of the crowd.  I am confused!

A. The staff breaking is symbolic of the people breaking the covenant with God (though God remains faithful).  As with the destruction of Jerusalem, many of these same things will happen: many will die, many people will break faith, but God’s will retain a remnant of His people, and He will begin to move outwards from the wreckage of Jerusalem with the spreading of the Gospel message.  To me, what is being described here is the movement of the Gospel to the forefront of God’s plan for the world, and the sacrifices that have to be made in order for that transition to take place.

Q. (14:6-7): These verses are amusing in a good sense.  Here, Zechariah says to not even try to figure out how it can still be light if there are no sources of light to shine.  He says only God knows.  To me, this says that we shouldn’t try to figure out the seven days of Creation scientifically.  If God said it happened, it happened and He’s the only one that knows how He did it.

A. Sounds fair to me.

Q. (14:1): We saw the Festival of Shelters way back.  Can you tell us again what it’s about and why people would come from all around to join it — other than God just made it a requirement if their nation wants rain.

A. It’s a reminder of the time the people spent in the wilderness during the Exodus.  It is one of the major Jewish holidays, but it came to be a more prominent celebration during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (i.e. our “present” time), so perhaps that is why it is selected to be the festival that gathers the nations.  It was and is a great time to celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people, something all the nations of the world can join in with.

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 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 219 (Aug. 7): Nebuchadnezzar asks for ‘wise’ men to interpret his disturbing dream, ‘wise’ men said it was impossible and faced execution, Daniel interpreted dream from a vision from God, Daniel rewarded with position of ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow to gold statue, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and thrown into furnace, they were safe and accompanied by a mysterious fourth in furnace, Judeans cannot use temple to shelter them from destruction, God urges Jeremiah to stop praying for Israelites, time is coming for Jerusalem to be ‘Valley of Slaughter’

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 2-3:30

Jeremiah 7-8:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 2:12): I don’t understand why men were ordered to kill Daniel and his friends because wise men — not Daniel and his friends — told the king his dreams were impossible to interpret.

A. The previous chapter has established that Daniel and his friends are wise men/advisors to the king (1:20), and therefore subject to the penalty of the king’s decree.

Q. (2:30): Here Daniel is saying that dreams tell you what is in your heart.  Does God say that our dreams are supposed to mean anything?  Maybe just to some people?  I would think people would know if God was trying to speak to them through dreams.  Mine are either normal stuff, but sometimes I feel the devil enters them and makes me question my awake life.  I still have fears that I woke up late and missed a test or did a poor job at work like I totally slacked off.  That’s not me.  I studied hard in college, putting ice cubes on my eyelids to stay awake, not to mention the amount of caffeine I used to consume.

A. Dreams are a potential way for God to get our attention, but that doesn’t mean that all dreams are directly from God.  Part of the backdrop for this story is the story of Joseph and Pharaoh from way back in Genesis 41: the pattern is repeated — and perhaps God chose to use the same method to gain the attention and trust of a great king — the king has a dream about future events, which only a man of the true God can reveal.  The men (Joseph then, Daniel now) is handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

Q. (2:47, 3:1): Why on earth did King Nebuchadnezzar say that “your God is the greatest of gods” and then go make a 90-foot tall gold statue?

A. Probably because the statue was of himself.  He was seeking to be worshipped as a god — he was incredibly powerful, one of the most powerful kings in history — and probably had no idea why the Jews would have any objection to worshipping him.

Q. (3:18): This verse brings up a subject that I feel “gray” on.  Here Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the subjects of this wonderful story of faith.  They have faith in God that He will save them from the blazing hot furnace.  Yet, they put a disclaimer in there that if God does not save them, they still believe in Him and will not worship any idol.  This mirrors thoughts I have.  I trust God, but when I proclaim Him, I’m not sure He’s going to come through at that moment when I am asking for His help.  It’s like when I ask Him to heal a sick person or help me through a rough time, I don’t know if he’ll answer the situation, so you always have to put in the “God willing” tagline.  Then, those critics can say that we have to say He will come through when He wants to.  Then, we have to say that it’s all part of His plan and we have to trust in Him that He knows what’s best for us.  That’s a hard sell to non-Christians.  I would love to do an apologetics study.  Do you know of any good, easy-to-follow ones?

A. There’s an old saying that goes “faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” that I think addresses the sentiment you are describing.  It is that type of faith that these three men powerfully display in the midst of their trials: they have nothing left to trust in but God’s deliverance, but they even say “it doesn’t matter if God saves us or not, we’re not worshipping your idol.”  Their powerful faith has served as an example throughout the ages to both Christians and Jews who have gone through times of persecution, and especially in times what God did not deliver the people from suffering and death (as God did not spare Jesus).

Apologetics can be a very helpful resource for bolstering the faith that we already have, though I would caution against using it too strongly to try to CONVERT non-Christians.  It is useful to help us answer the tough questions about faith — and I believe that they are good answers to those questions — but be careful about using them as a bludgeon against others who do not share your faith.  Conversion of the sort you are describing comes much more from relationship and love than argument.  Very few people are “argued” into the Kingdom of God.  Three resources I would recommend are the Case for Christ and Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, and Mere Christianity (which is British and can be a bit hard to read, so you’ve been warned) by C.S. Lewis.

Q. (Jeremiah 7:3-7): Before we have read where God said good deeds at this point would not erase the evil that has been done, thus the destruction of Jerusalem is unavoidable.  Here, God says He will give them another chance if they abandon their evil ways.  Isn’t this contradicting or am I missing something?

A. I think God is talking about repentance that comes from the heart of the people.  He is saying that if they truly change their hearts, not just their actions, He will relent.  The problem?  They won’t change their hearts.

Q. (7:8-11): Here God is saying that just because the temple is in their city, the citizens of Jerusalem cannot think that they get a pass from punishment if they sin.  Right?

A. Yes.  It appears Jeremiah is telling us that the false prophets of his day trusted\ the building itself rather than the God who it represented.  This will be costly.

Q. (7:3-15): So, in this scripture, Jeremiah says God will excuse the Israelites if they shape up, then He says that being a citizen of Jerusalem does not shade them from being punished for sins and in the last paragraph God is talking about exiling them.  I’m just commenting that God goes through a big change in His attitude of the Israelites.

A. I wouldn’t agree.  I think this is a continuation of the sentiment I described in the previous question, God is after a change of heart, and the people will not yield their hearts to Him.  So He is warning them that just because they have this incredible building, they will not be spared what is to come.  The only thing that will spare them is repentance.  If they don’t repent, being in God’s city will not save them, and exile is coming.

Day 213 (Aug. 1): Josiah renews covenant with God, Josiah rids region of pagan worship, Josiah reenstates Passover, Nahum speaks of God’s anger toward Ninevah, the fall of Ninevah, judgment of Ninevah

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 23:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:29-33

2 Kings 23:21-28

2 Chronicles 35:1-19

Nahum 1-3:19

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 23:18): Who was the “old prophet” from Samaria?

A. He was unnamed, but he was the man of God described in 1 Kings 13 who warned King Jereboam about Josiah’s actions.  He was also the man who foolishly ate the meal with the other “old prophet” when God had told him to take no food in Samaria and he was killed by a lion on the road the next day.  The story there describes the man’s burial marking the spot that Josiah recognized and asked about.

Q. (2 Kings 23:19-20): Wow, don’t mess with Josiah!  I don’t like the idea of burning any human.  I know he was trying to erase any signs of idol worship.  I would have thought that Josiah could have tried to convince the priests to lay down their beliefs and turn to God.  But, maybe Josiah didn’t want any trace left, giving the priests a chance to start up the pagan worship in hiding.  Would God be pleased with Josiah burning these priests?

A. He’s not burning the priests.  He is killing them (bad enough I know, but this is righteous vengeance against pagan worship that was destroying Judah), and once they are buried, he is burning other human remains (bones) over their graves to desecrate them.

Q. (2 Chronicles 34:29-33): Sounds great, but we know it won’t last long because of all the prophecies that Judah will be destroyed.  You’re going to say wait and see, right?

A. Eventually.  There’s still a lot to happen, which we will see unfold in Jeremiah.

Q. (2 Kings 23:25): As far as Bible characters or heroes — I hate to use those words because it makes the Bible sound like fiction — we don’t here about Josiah much at all.  We hear mostly about David and Solomon.  Is this because Josiah doesn’t have a lot written about him?  David and Solomon were in a lot more stories and authored text.

A. Honestly I don’t have a great answer for that.  It is possible that Josiah doesn’t get much “press” because his kingdom is so much smaller than David or Solomon’s (i.e. just little Judah), or also because he is “sandwiched” between such evil men, that his good efforts become less noticed.  Part of the issue is probably that his reforms won’t last.

Q. (2 Kings 23:26-27): Why isn’t God seeing Josiah seriously trying to turn the Israelites back to Him?

A. Good question, probably because they won’t last.  Remember yesterday what God promised: you (Josiah) will be spared seeing this happen, but the city will not; it is too late.

Q. (2 Chronicles 35:7): I’ve commented on this before.  It’s still hard to imagine this many animals being sacrificed.  Was the number to allow for the number of people that needed to be fed, or was the number for the sacrifice of giving up livestock?

A. It should be based upon the number of livestock, but there is no way to know exactly.

Q. (Nahum 2:1-2): I am so confused.  I didn’t see where Judah had definitely been destroyed.  Was it in Jeremiah 6:22-30?  It’s hard to tell where the prophets are prophesying the future and narrating actual events.  I didn’t think it had happened yet because Josiah was turning to God.  I guess Hilkiah found the scrolls after the destruction of Judah?

A. You are right, but the things we read about in Jeremiah come later (i.e. they haven’t happened yet in our reading timeline).  What this refers to is Assyria’s encroachment into Judah that we read about in 2 Kings 18, where we saw the messenger of the king come and threaten the people.  But the conquest was not completed: Jerusalem withstood the threat, though other cities in Judah did not.  That is what the destruction of Judah refers to: Assyria’s efforts to conquer the nation of Judah (including Jerusalem, its capital) that were turned away by God’s intervention on Judah’s behalf.

Q. (Nahum 2:1-13): Do we know who destroyed Ninevah?  God said he would destroy their family lines.  We see this in v. 13 where the young men are killed in battle?

A. Yes, Ninevah, as capital of Assyria, is conquered in 612 BC by a combined force of Babylon and another nation called Medes, both of which will play a large role in the next phase of Israel’s history: the captivity.

Q. (Nahum 3:5): I don’t know if this was funny then, but it is now.

A. This would have been the most common method of publicly shaming a prostitute or adulteress, but I can see how the humor might be seen.

Q. The difference between the destruction of Judah and Ninevah is that God is Israel’s leader and redeemer.  He will bring them back.  Ninevah doesn’t have God.

A. Yes, but it will be a very painful process, that will take nearly a hundred years to walk through.

Day 199 (July 18): Judah’s worthless treaty with Egypt, a warning for Judah, those who choose God will be blessed, sorrow for those why rely on Egypt, Israel’s ultimate deliverance, the downfall of 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.

Isaiah 30-31:9

Isaiah 32:1-20

Isaiah 33:1-24

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 30:1-7): Now this is really happening, right?  It’s not a prophecy?  Why would Judah ally with Egypt when they are so far away and across a desert?

A. Judah was seeking an ally against Assyria and the nations that would follow her, such as Babylon, the nation that will bring about Judah’s destruction.  In desperation, Judah reaches out to Egypt for protection (Egypt had great influence in this area for most of Israel’s history and used the area as a trade route).  But Isaiah is still prophesying: those who ally with Egypt will be humiliated for doing so.

O. (30:15b): I like these words “resting in me!”  Among our stresses, or Judah’s, we can rest, having faith in Him and knowing He will take care of us.

Q. (30:19b): I know that this charge is directed at Judah.  I think we can apply to our lives.  My husband always says he feels bad asking God for help.  If someone asks him if they can pray for him, he has a hard time coming up with something.  He says he feels blessed and doesn’t feel like he needs to ask for anything.  I think he gets this to, or at least I do, from the fact that we are to humble ourselves toward God.  And, asking for help would mean that God isn’t providing enough, when, in fact, He provides plenty.  I, on the other hand, differ.  I think of God as a parent.  He wants to help us.  If we don’t ask for help, then we are taking on our problems by ourselves and that’s not what He wants.  He wants us to seek Him, right?  And, acknowledging that we need help shows that we know God is in charge?

A. God does indeed desire for us to seek Him (Jeremiah 29:12-14), but there is no need to ask for help if there is no help needed.  We are not required to ask simply for the sake of asking.  But it sure is nice to know that there is help out there, just a “prayer away” as it were, when the help is needed.

Q. (30:21-22): Are these verses talking about the Holy Spirit here?  To me, it’s saying that if you ask for God’s help, He will surround you and you will know that God’s hand is in your life.

A. The Spirit of God is clearly at work in these verses, and I would say you have judged them correctly.

O. (30:26): Here is the number 7 again which signifies completeness.  See Day 3’s reading for more on the significance of several numbers used repeatedly in the Bible.

Q. (31:8): Judah and Israel are constantly at odds with the Assyrians.  What is it about Assyria?  Why are they so strong?  Why are they enemies?

A. Assyria is a powerful nation that is, frankly, much more interested in Egypt then Judah.  That’s because Egypt represents the other major power in this area.  So, basically, Judah is stuck in the middle between these two rivaling superpowers.  It’s not so much that Judah is the “enemy.”  Judah is a meaningless spec of dirt to Assyria, but it is a spec of dirt that is right in the path they desire to go in order to move against Egypt.

Q. (32:1-3): Is this a prophecy?  Who is coming?  Before I started BibleBum, I didn’t know much Old Testament past the Exodus except for a few stories here and there.  And then, I know more of the NT, well about Jesus’ birth and resurrection.  So, anytime I read scripture about a king coming, I think the author is referring to Jesus.

A. One of the “signs” of the restored kingdom is a righteous king from David’s line who will rule.  And Judah/Israel (once restored) will see this King in the incarnation of Jesus, but He will be a king like they have never seen before.  As Jesus Himself said, His kingdom is not of this world at all (John 18:36)!