Day 346 (Dec. 12): James (Jesus’s brother) writes 12 tribes, get rid of human anger and accept the word in your heart, show no favoritism, faith without good deeds is dead, control your Christian tongue, true wisdom comes from God

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 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. Just some background info, if it’s available: Do any of Jesus’s other brothers speak out for Him?  What were the “12 tribes” that James was talking about?  How did this letter get to them?

A. There is tradition, but not certainty, that the Epistle of Jude (coming soon!) is written by another of Jesus’ brothers — it’s the same name as Judas, so they changed it for obvious reasons.  James, the half brother of Jesus and Bishop of the church of Jerusalem (which will soon be destroyed), appears to be writing to Jewish believers, though it is possible he is using metaphor and refers to both Jews and Gentiles as being part of the “12 tribes”.  Jews of this era were spread over various cities, and any letter like this one would have been sent by messenger.  We do not know who the original readers were.

O. (James 1:2-4): James speaks the truth.  I think this means that the more we endure, the more spiritual we grow until we won’t need to improve much more, if any.

O. (1:14): I think it’s so interesting to point out that evil desires come from ourselves.  We must listen to the Spirit to guide us away from these thoughts or actions.

O. (James 2:10): So, I guess if we have one or two super small sinful issues, then we are not pure.  Purity is the whole shebang.

Q. (James 2:20): Also the other way around, right?  Good deeds without faith has no value to God, right?

A. James is talking about works that are of benefit to mankind, and a faith that is visible to others as a way of spreading the Gospel.  Only God can see our true faith, so in that sense, it does no good to those around us if only God can see it.

Day 345 (Dec. 11): Complaining and arguing leads to others criticism, Paul advocates Timothy and Epaphroditus, knowing Christ is priceless, stay true to the Lord ignoring enemies to the cross, don’t worry, just pray, a little sin is as big as lots of sins, faith without good deeds is dead, guard your tongue for it is a powerful tool, true wisdom comes from God

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.

Philippians 2:12-4:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Philippians 2:13): I never knew that God could give us the desire to please Him.  I thought that was a human ability.

A. All good things ultimately come from God, and the desire to please Him is a good thing.

O. (2:14): A hard one to do, but solid advice from Paul.  Bite your tongue has more uses than preventing you from saying something that might hurt someone, which I guess, in turn, ends up hurting you.  But also, complaining and criticizing damages character and people’s opinion of you.  When I go away from someone complaining, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  And, likewise, if I complain, I feel shame afterward.

Q. (4:3): What is the Book of Life?

A. The concept goes all the way back to Exodus 32 during Moses’ discussion with God after the golden calf incident.  Moses tells God that if He does not forgive the people’s sin, then he wants no part in God’s plan, and that God should blot him out of the “book” that God is writing.  God replies that it is not up to Moses who is included or not included in His book.  This exchange could mean several things, but the primary meaning that has come to be accepted is that it is the book of those who have a place in God’s Kingdom — the Book of Life.  We will see more references to this again, especially in Revelation, where it is referred to as the Lamb’s Book of Life in reference to Jesus.

O. (4:6-7): I wish I would always remember to ask for God’s help instead of stewing about issues.  It’s so wonderful to know that He truly wants to care for me.

Q. (4:12-13): Although I feel like Paul is boasting here, he always gives the glory to God, so it’s null and void.

A. He’s bragging about the one thing that he told others to boast about (1 Cor 1:31- let him who boasts boast about the Lord): his relationship with God, and how it provides him contentment even in the most dire of circumstances.  Don’t forget where Paul is when he writes this — under house arrest and expecting to be executed.  This is probably my favorite letter of Paul’s, because it creates such a contrast to the way that the world reacts to suffering and the way that Paul does. Paul says to take joy in suffering and to do so over and over (4:4)!  That is amazing to me.

Day 329 (Nov. 25): Faith brings joy, God’s gift outweighs what Adam brought, Christ broke sin’s power, law is no longer trump, Jesus frees us from sin’s domination, Spirit can control you

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.

Romans 5-8:17

Questions & Observations

O. (Romans 5:1-11): Paul is an awesome writer!  And, if I said that to him, he would give the glory to God because God has given him the words to speak and the talent to deliver the words eloquently.  I often think of giving and receiving compliments.  I feel weird getting them, because I did what I did because of who I am and the talents I have.  I should say something about that it’s just how God made me.  Then, giving them sometimes feels awkward too, maybe because of the same thing.  It shouldn’t be the people I’m praising, but God for giving them the talents or means that would elicit that compliment.

Q. (Romans 5:17): I just wondered if that’s how Satan became ruler of the earth: because he was triumphant in getting Adam and Eve to sin that he won a little battle over earth. I’m not saying that Satan is more powerful than God, just that this was the beginning of a battle of the two for the rights of the human race and eternity.  Yes, I’m just reaching for all of this.  I’m not saying it’s true.  I think it’s OK for our minds to wonder as long as we don’t pass it on as truth?  The important point being made here is that Adam may have ushered in sin, but the more important point is that Jesus triumphed over sin by making it null and void, as long as we believe in Him and live our lives accordingly.

A. I think that the creation of man and woman was merely a new front in a struggle that has taken place outside of time, so to think of it as having a “beginning” is a little bit tricky.  I believe that the struggle between God and Satan has been going on since before time began (which is not the same as saying they have battled for eternity — only God is eternal, Satan is created).  Satan’s attacks on mankind, from the Garden on down, can be thought of in the same way that a bully by definition attacks people smaller than himself or herself.  Satan can’t attack God directly, but he can harm those who are most dear to God, His children — us, and perhaps even separate some of these vulnerable children from their Father for all eternity.  Pretty brutal tactics if you ask me.

Q. (Romans 6:1-14): I’ve said before that I was baptized in the Fourth Grade and I don’t remember a lot about it except that where it was and about how old I was.  I remember that our church always sang the hymnal versions of Power in the Blood (listen to this blue-grassy version at  I intended to go to the baptism classes with my oldest daughter, who is 8, last time our church offered them.  I missed it.  It wasn’t on my radar loud enough.  She didn’t really say one way or the other if she wanted to do it.  However, one of their friends, who I think is 7, was baptized.  Now, my little one, 5, asked to be baptized.  I certainly didn’t tell her she couldn’t.  She said she wanted to because she loved Jesus.  I thought that was a pretty good reason.  But, I was always taught — by the church, I don’t know what the Bible says about it — that you have to be mature enough to understand the deep meaning of baptism.  Does the Bible address the timing of it?  Our church baptizes babies, right?  Or, is it a dedication or blessing?  They are sprinkled with water.  That’s another thing, I was always taught that true baptism required submersion.

A. Ah, we’re back to the baker’s dozen questions in a question.  Ok, let’s see: the Bible says nothing about the age of knowing, but there’s a good reason for that — the only accounts of baptisms are with adults (though some families are included).  So the only form of baptism presented in the Bible at all (whether by John the Baptist or by Jesus’ followers in Acts) is immersion.  This is where the tradition of immersion comes from to this day, and is the most common type of Baptism.  It’s worth pointing out, however, that really only the Baptist church (named that for a reason) says that the ONLY acceptable baptism is immersion.  Other churches have done just fine with pouring or sprinkling water onto the head of a candidate (I was baptized by sprinkling when I was 12).  Baptists are rather picky about this because of their denominational history, which is too lengthy to go into here.  Summit as a church will baptize (by sprinkling) or dedicate an infant, but they only OFFER (publicly anyway) immersion for adults, at our bi-annual beach ceremonies.  The ministers at Summit would not tell someone that their baptism “didn’t count” because they weren’t immersed, they respect all forms of baptism.

Q. (6:12-14): I certainly get this, but I struggle with the structure of it.  I never remember feeling the gift of the Holy Spirit when I was baptized, but I always had a strong conscience, even before I was baptized.  So, can you get the gift of the Spirit without being baptized?  My girls seem to have a good sense of right and wrong, around others anyway.  The other thing is this Passage makes it sound simple, like sin is so easy to give up.  And, sometimes I don’t know if some things I do are sins or not.  I know some may roll their eyes to these, but hey, I’m married with two kids at home and not much money to sin with, so the little stuff is meaningful.  I can have a cup of coffee and know it wasn’t right for me to have.  Others can drink a whole pot of coffee and not feel bad, physically or guiltily (is that even a word, jk).  I am always monitoring my words.  Sometimes I speak out and wish I had kept my mouth shut.  But, I think many times I’m being overly worried.  But, it feels like sin because anything I say should be OK with God and whatever he allows me to say, I shouldn’t feel ashamed.  And, sometimes I am ashamed of what I say (not about God.)  Anyway, are these little white sins or am I getting caught up in areas that are not important to God?  In his eyes, a little coffee or chocolate is probably no big deal.  But … if I do eat some and feel bad, then my body is not working at full capacity which would keep me from being my best, which would make me feel as if I had sinned.

A. That was pretty hard to follow, but let’s see what we can get out of it.  The Bible tells us that those who believe in Christ receive the Holy Spirit — no Baptism required.  The two are frequently intertwined, however, because Baptism was for centuries the only place where you could profess your faith and become a Christian.  Now even before a person receives the Spirit, that person has some form of moral compass (what you describe in your daughters) that I believe comes from the mark of our Creator — it is what we would call a conscience.  We don’t lose that when the Spirit enters our lives, but I believe that if we are open to His guiding, the Spirit can supersede our moral compass and guide us in truly Godly living, but it takes years of practice.  Since you bring it up, one way we can know that the Spirit is at work is that we are CONVICTED of our little sins, and guided towards repentance.  As to whether chocolate or coffee is a sin to indulge in, well, I’ll let the Spirit guide you on that one.  J

Q. (Romans 7:15-17): This is so interesting.  I never thought of myself as two different parts.  I thought that the sinner and the person were one in the same.  But, here it is saying that a person can know and understand sin, but still do it.  So, to me, this means that the person is inherently good, it’s just the sin that is living inside them that they need to dispose of.

A. I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment — the trajectory of human kind since the fall has been down, not up; bad, not good.  There is still good in us, but it is negated and corrupted by our sins.  We are capable of great acts of kindness and mercy, but also perverse acts of brutality and cruelty, but without God’s help, our good deeds simply do not outweigh our evil ones.  That is why we need God’s help so badly, and that is why Jesus came to Earth.

Q. (7:21-25): Amen, Brother Paul.  I can’t believe that even Paul has little wars going inside of his head between choosing good in the midst of sinful temptations.  This makes me think that those folks who have an air about them that they are pompously holy are putting on a big show.  If Paul struggles with sin, so do they!  I feel like the end of the Bible is the grand finale.

A. Wait until we get to the end of 2 Corinthians, you’ll love what Paul has to say.

O. (8:1-2) Sweet relief.  Thank you for your knowledge, Paul.  These verses certainly calm some anxiety!

Q. (8:9b): To me, this statement in parentheses supports your idea, Rob, that God’s chosen ones are the ones who have the Spirit in their heart, which is something that they chose to do themselves.  It has nothing to do with God selecting certain people to go to heaven.  I always have to remember to give God a lot more credit than I do.  He’s always going to be fair.  He loves all of us, equally, if we let Him.

A. Jesus desires to draw all humankind to Himself.

Q. (8:17): I’m glad Paul remembered the suffering part.  He was making it sound all too easy.

A. Frankly, I find Paul’s ability to make it sound easy with all that he went through to be the amazing part.  He will give us a rundown of his “incidents” in Philippians I think.  But never fear, suffering was never very foreign to him — it never is to those who are closest to God.  Just don’t tell that to Joel Osteen.

Day 328 (Nov. 24): Everyone will be judged, Jews need to practice what they preach, God remains faithful, all are equal, all sin, through Christ we are saved, Abraham chosen for his faithfulness to be father of Jewish nation

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.

Romans 2-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Romans 2:5-11): Back in the Old Testament, I felt like all the prophecies were talking solely to the Israelites, which I think they were.  But, here, I feel like Paul is staring me in the eye and telling me this prophecy.  As to what this Scripture addresses: I feel that I’m doing some of what God wants, I just never know if it’s enough.  There are definite areas I can work on.  One is my dependence on God — emotionally, financially, socially.  I still see my weaknesses, but when I let God take over, they are no longer weaknesses.  My strength — when I ask for it — comes from God.

A. You’ve got the right idea.  What Paul is really doing here is making a very long-winded case that we just can’t make it on our own.  We all sin, and fall short of the standard, even the Gentiles who were unaware of the formal standard given to the Jews.  Paul wants to tell everyone, Jew, Gentile, us today, that we are lost without the work of God in Jesus Christ.  In the end, it is faith in God, and seeking His help, that is the foundation of our relationship with Him.

Q. (2:12-16): Why would the Gentiles be destroyed if they didn’t know anything about God’s written law?  I like v. 15.  It is similar to a thought I had this morning about sin.  My sin indicator is not written down, it’s in my heart (soul).  When something feels good in my head — showing off a bit, eating chocolate, complaining, gossiping (which I don’t do anymore, chocolate is my vice) — it doesn’t feel good in my heart.  That is my conscience, which I say is the Holy Spirit guiding me.

A. Paul is saying that your “sin indicator” is universal, everyone has one, even if it has grown “dull” over time.  That is why he can say that Gentiles will be destroyed for their sins.

O. (3:5-8): Talk about spinning the truth to fit someone’s needs.

Q. (4:1-25): I enjoy hearing about Abraham again … about how he was faithful and that was what made him righteous, and God, in turn, gives him salvation.   I like how he is used as an example that obeying the law does not win God’s love and/or earn salvation.  Circumcision, something that lots of folks get hung up on whether or not to have their boys circumcised, no longer signifies if you are set apart as God’s chosen.  Faith alone does that.

A. Glad Paul’s writings can help clear that up.  There is a reason that this book has been instrumental in bringing people to God through Christ for centuries.  It has a very powerful message.

Day 275 (Oct. 2): Word spreads about Jesus’s miracles, Jesus draws crowds, Jesus prays and chooses 12 disciples, Sermon on the mount, Beatitudes, sorrow awaits the rich, teaching about salt and light, followers of God’s law will be rewarded, reconcile your anger, lessons on: adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, love for enemies, giving to needy

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 3:7-19

Luke 6:12-16

Matthew 5:1-12

Luke 6:17-26

Matthew 5:13-48

Luke 6:27-36

Matthew 6:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 3:9): Jesus seems to use a boat often.  Is there any significance to that or is it just a way to speak to a crowd without getting trampled?

A. It would allow Him to be seen by the crowd as well.

Q. (Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16): Rob, I believe you mentioned the number “12” way back one of our tribes of Israel discussion because, of course, there were 12 tribes.  Now we have 12 apostles.  Any significance?  And, the words “apostles” and “disciples” mean the same thing, right?  From Luke 6:12-16, it sounds as if maybe God helped Jesus choose which men to pick for His followers since Jesus prayed all night.

A. Yes, there was definitely a political message here, and it would have been read as such by all the Jews Jesus encountered.  In selecting 12 close followers, Jesus was basically implying the creation of a new nation — he was selecting 12 new “patriarchs,” implying a renewal or radical movement within Judaism.  Overall, it would actually have been interpreted in a fairly similar manner to His discussion of new wineskins from our previous reading: the old way isn’t enough anymore; I’m doing something new.

O. (Matthew 5:3-10): I remember sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table learning the books of the Bible, the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  I learned the New International Version, which, to me, flows more smoothly.  Here it is:

Matthew 5:3-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

O. (Matthew 5:11-12, Luke 6:22-23): How funny this would be to have someone mocking someone and mockee starts giggling and jumping for joy.

O. (Luke 6:24-26): The subject of this verse must be the direct opposite of the Beatitudes.

Q. (Matthew 5:14-16): I would take it that this doesn’t mean showing off.  It means that your good deeds should be a reflection of God.  Your deeds should make others happy, thus spreading God’s light.  Is this an accurate interpretation?

A. I think a more accurate way to think of it would be to say your deeds should reflect God’s heart, regardless of how they make people feel.  If done in the right spirit this is a powerful witness to God’s ability to change and direct our lives.

Q. (Matthew 5:19): So, here is one of the verses I was looking for during the Old Testament readings.  There are heavenly rewards for obedience to the Laws of Moses.  Those who are doers of the Word and not just believers will earn extra credit in Heaven?  I think we’ve talked about this before.

A. It is hard to tell exactly what Jesus means here, but I think the implication is clear: the desire to follow God’s Law (not because we have to, but because we choose to) is a noble desire, one that God rewards in some way.

Q. (Matthew 5:22, 23-24): Just when I was feeling good about my performance on earth and who I am becoming, I find a verse that I’m guilty of.  I know I have called several people “idiots” in my life time, one in particular, which I’m sure I need to repent.  When we repent, are we to go to the person with whom we have a conflict and right it with them and then go to God?  I always just thought repenting means to go to God.  Is repenting from something 10 years ago still required?  Honestly, this guy at work was above me and not qualified for his job.  He was making tons of mistakes in newsprint.  And, I have never felt the need to tell him I was sorry for my attitude toward him.  I feel more like I should apologize to God.

A. The Sermon on the Mount (what the version from Matthew is called) is a guide to living for those who are in Christ.  It is not a list of requirements or things we must do in order to make God love us.  So remove any ideas of “requirement” from your mind: that’s not what this is about.  This is about the best way to live in God-honoring relationship with the people around us, and much of it starts with our desire to repent of our actions.  If you feel like you should seek out forgiveness from those you have wronged, it might be the Spirit compelling you to do so, even if it would be uncomfortable.  Seeking forgiveness and repenting (even if the other person doesn’t know about the wrong) is certainly good advice in how to maintain peace within your own soul.  How far you go and who you tell is between you and God.

Q. (Matthew 5:27-30): There are tons of people guilty of this.  Not only do you have the ones that have had a divorce and knowingly cheated on their spouses, but here you have all of those folks that raise an eyebrow to anyone they find attractive.  These are those thoughts that you can hide from most everyone except God.

A. Admiring a woman’s (or man’s — women are not excluded) beauty is not the sin.  It is what you might call “lingering” on it, or envisioning yourself in ways that are inappropriate, and you certainly wouldn’t be willing to share with the person.  If you would be completely uncomfortable telling the person the thoughts you were having (i.e. the difference between “you are so beautiful” and “I’m thinking about you and I making out”), then I would say you’re on dangerous ground.

As to the divorce and adultery, I have two thoughts.  One: the mainline church has done a frankly TERRIBLE job discussing the theological implications on divorce, even as our society has come to see it as really no big deal.  But it is not that way to God, and it never will be: divorce wrecks lives and families, and those most affected are the innocent who have no say in the matter at all or are even used as leverage.  This is one place where too many clergy have toed the line that society has been pushing about divorce: if you’re not happy for ANY reason, get a divorce and start again.  I am not saying there are no grounds for divorce (Jesus just mentioned one), but we have let the pendulum swing too far the other way, where divorce is achieved for literally ANY reason at all.  Two: Jesus is pointing out a high standard in this reading, the standard of the conduct God EXPECTS of His people.  And far too often, we fall short all over the place.  That is where the grace that so permeates the ministry of Jesus comes into play: it covers a multitude of our sins.  So what Jesus is doing here is not holding anything back, not watering anything down, but just laying out God’s word among His people.  And if those people fail (which they will), there is God’s love and mercy to fall back on.

Q. (Matthew 5:33-37): Ten years ago or so, I cried out to God for forgiveness on something I was ashamed of.  He forgave me.  I told Him that I would make a book about it to help right my wrong.  I guess from reading this Scripture that I should not have made the deal.  Jesus has already paid the price.  I would still like to write the book, if I get around to it.  I feel that that project has taken a back burner to this blog.

A. One of the coolest things that learning the truth of the Gospel teaches us is that we don’t have to bargain with God, and it is often a waste of time to do so!  God’s great love helps us to move beyond making foolish promises, even if God, in His mercy, allows us to work on our own path (something Paul will discuss).  Who knows, God may desire for you to write the book, just understand that it has nothing to do with His MAKING you do it.

Q. (Matthew 5:41): What’s the deal with this?  It seems oddly specific.

A. In a Roman province (as Israel was), it was the law that a Roman soldier could force any non-Roman citizen (i.e. almost anyone in Israel) to carry his gear or other equipment for up to one mile.  Since the soldiers were surely seen as enemies in Israel (they were seen as foreign occupiers who killed many Jews), the implication is clear: don’t just do the minimum standard when your enemy has control over you- take the power back by serving him as you would a friend, and go beyond what you are required to do.

One interesting note about this information: we will see this law used in part of the Passion story, so watch for that down the road.

Q. (Matthew 5:43-48): I wouldn’t say that “loving your neighbor” was the consensus among the Israelites in the OT.

A. They don’t call it the New Testament for nothing.  Once again, this is about conduct among God’s people who have been redeemed by Christ, not steps taken to get there.  There is a natural tension in the two sides: hold up God’s standard, even if it means going to war (as Israel often did), but also be aware that God loves your enemy as well, and we should act like it.  Different churches have lived in this tension throughout the centuries, and I think it is one of the great freedoms we have in Christ that this is not only one way, but many ways in which we can honor God in our moral decision making.

Q. (Matthew 6:1-4): Matthew 5:16 says the opposite of this.  Can you explain that?

A. What Jesus is criticizing here is the public act of drawing attention to yourself, rather than God, in the midst of your service.  If you are making a big deal about yourself (rather then the Lord who saved you) as the source of your giving, I would say that Jesus is right: you’ve got your reward already, but you’ve done the Kingdom a great disservice.  I would say the difference between Matthew 5:16 and 6:1-4 comes down to humility.  If you don’t have a humble heart in your service, you are ultimately not shining the light on God, or reflecting His love.  Remember this question when we get to 1 Corinthians 13.

Day 266 (Sept. 23): Malachi tells of unworthy sacrifices, God rebukes divorce, coming day of judgment, Lord says he will bless Israel again if they tithe, those who keep the will rejoice on judgment day

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.

Malachi 2:10-4:6

Joel 1-3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Malachi 2:15-16): God definitely speaks out against divorce because of the hurt it causes.  I am curious if this changes in the NT.

A. You are asking if God will change His mind about divorce? I wouldn’t count on it.

Q. (Malachi 4:5): Elijah is returning from heaven?

A. Yes, since most Bibles have Malachi as the last book of the OT, the “parting thought” of this story is the return of Elijah, who represents the prophets.  The traditional thinking of the NT is that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of this prophecy, as he is a prophetic voice (i.e. a prototype of Elijah, not the person reborn) calling the nation to prepare the way for God’s chosen one, Jesus.  John denies being Elijah (John 1:21), but if you read Matthew 17, Jesus Himself explicitly tells His followers that this refers to John the Baptist.

O. (Joel 1:1): Wikipedia just says that Joel was one of the 12 minor prophets.  “Minor” refers to the amount of text that is attributed to them in the Bible.

Q. (Joel 1:2-Joel 2:11): Just to clarify.  Joel speaks of a locust invasion only, right?  This isn’t a metaphor for an invading army of soldiers?  V. 2:20 speaks of armies from the north.  Who is Joel referring to?  I’m just confused if Joel is referring to an army of soldiers as locusts or vice versa.

A. The “army” that Joel refers to is a plague of locusts.  The reference in 2:20 is to a human army, and takes place after this prophetic plague has “passed” if you follow me.  Since there is very little in the way of dating for Joel, there are many ideas about what this can mean (was there an actual plague, or it is a metaphor for Jerusalem’s destruction), but no one is really certain.