Day 317 (Nov. 13): Paul and Barnabus strengthen churches in several cities, Paul and Barnabus return to start of their trip, Paul’s letter is a pep talk to Christians, Paul proclaims his words come from above, Paul says his role is to preach to Gentiles, Paul confronts Peter for finding favor with Jews by following law of Moses, Holy Spirit is with believers not obeyers of the law, belief in Jesus Christ gives us freedom

48 days to go!

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.

Acts 14:21-28

Galatians 1-3:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 14:21-28): The disciples knew they had to go to the synagogues to straighten out the mindset of those worshippers from the ways of the priests and some of the ways of the OT that Jesus’ crucifixion had abolished?  Also, to me this passage reminds me of modern-day missionaries.  They travel and then come back to a home church or supporting church and report their work.

A. Paul and his companions are no longer preaching in the synagogues, but to communities of Christians throughout this region.  This is especially true if you consider that Paul is transitioning from preaching to the Jews to preaching to the Gentiles.  But, yes, you have the idea for what Paul and his men are doing: they are entering an area that has a “foot hold” community, and working to strengthen it by whatever means are needed.

O. (Galatians 1:4): I am understanding more about our time on earth.  It was hard for me grasp that Satan was ruler of the earth.  But, now that I know that, I understand so much more.  I understand why there is a constant struggle to proclaim God/Jesus/Holy Spirit to this world that is flooded with evil.  I understand why evil is a constant temptation.  We are surrounded by it.  There is really no temptation to be good.  Good is good.  And then, there’s the feeling of not belonging to this evil world.  So many people just seem to go with the flow.  They don’t really seem overly happy, but that’s their world.  As a believer, I never really feel like this is it.  My family is awesome, but my home is nothing that I would say I’m completely comfortable in.  And, maybe that’s good because, ultimately, I don’t belong in this world.  I love the song by Building 429, that sum’s up this feeling http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=KPK7ZPNX  I encourage you to listen to it, if you haven’t already.  I’m not home yet!

Q. (Galatians 1:23-24): In his early life, Paul persecuted Christians.  But, God used Paul as a vehicle to show that even the worst offender of Christianity now believes and is a teacher to spread the Good News.  So, I have a modern question about the former co-founder and minister of the church Rob and I attend.  Our former teaching pastor had been raised in the church, the son of a prominent mega church pastor.  He was an amazing speaker.  But, he fell to sin.  The papers reported all kinds of things and we didn’t know if they were truth or lies.  But, I myself, prayed for the goodness with in him to come out and return to his family and hopefully the public. He was such a leader and had been the vehicle for so many to attend our church.  (I know God had a hand in this.  Our church has lost about a 1,000, but maybe it needed to regroup.  I, myself, was watching the pastor’s performance more than taking the message in.  Now I remember more of the sermons with the two new pastors.)  I had been praying for him to just be OK and find his path in faith for God.  My prayers were answered when I saw him in church several weeks in a row, 10-11 months or so after he resigned.  What bravery that would have taken for him!  It was just nice to see that he was ok.  My question is, biblically, could he come back to have a role in the church?

A. Forgiveness and reconciliation are cornerstones of any church, including ours, so I think there is always an opportunity for that to occur, and I think it should.  As to whether this minister can again lead, well, that is (mercifully) a decision that I do not have to make, and I would not envy anyone who does.  That, I think, will be up to God.

Q. (Galatians 2:6): Here, Paul says that God has no favorites among leaders.  In choosing a church, my husband and I have always listened to the sermon as a first base for choosing one.  We tried several churches.  I love so many things about our church, which has an attendance of about 3,500.  But, I grew up in a small-town church where everyone knew each other.  There were quarterly potlucks where we all knew who made what.  Most everyone chipped in on every mission of the church, which was a much smaller scope than the church I belong to now.  I love the beliefs of Summit and the missions.  I do long for that church body where it’s easy to know everyone.  However, when I have attended smaller churches, I feel like the quality of the message is missing.  Thus, the bigger churches bring in bigger crowds because the pastors are better deliverers.  But, I struggle with wanting that sense of community and having an awesome sermon.  I have heard that no church is perfect.  I have talked with others who say the same thing: that they miss the community aspect of the church they grew up in.  I don’t know if you want to address that subject, Rob.  But, back to the verse: what Paul is saying here is that God doesn’t care who the more popular leaders are, just that they are doing their job of spreading God’s Word?

A. There are always tradeoffs made between community and effectiveness of the message.  A church with only 100 members — which, is actually the average size of an American church, and has been for decades — can provide many services and has a sense of community that is frankly lost among larger churches like ours.  Mega churches are capable of having a bigger impact on the community and world at large, and I believe that there are many “pros” to this type of model.  One of the things I learned about in seminary, however, is that a church that is determined to reach “mega” status must be willing to make sacrifices, especially when it comes to pastoral role in the worshipping community.  It is not a coincidence that our church has no pastor of visitation (something that has frankly never pleased me): the leadership has the expectation that the body itself will do visitation.  The pastoral role is reserved for casting vision, leading outreach, and running the “business” side of a church.  That is THE only way for a church to reach mega status — if its leadership is consumed with caring for the congregation, it simply will not happen.  I will leave it to you to decide what type of community you value.

As to what Paul is talking about, he is basically saying that God does not play favorites, and that He calls many people with many gifts to be His hands and feet in the world.  So it has nothing to do with how people view the “popularity contest,” and everything to do with how the Spirit guides and provides gifts for His workers in the Church.

Q. (Galatians 2:11-21): So, remember when I said that I wondered if the disciples could keep on the right path, given they have the Great Commission amongst all of the dissent in the world?  At first, I was going to say, “ha ha, told you so.”  But, that doesn’t give me a good feeling.  That’s not very Christian.  I am not surprised that one of them has tripped up.  But, I think what is more important to point out is that Paul was there to point it out and hopefully (we’ll have to wait and see) set Peter straight.  A lot of churches push accountability partners among their leaders and even among all Christian men.  Women could use it to keep those rambling pessimistic mindsets at bay.

A. No doubt that the early Church had its problems, but as Paul mentions, these men and women of God spoke up to address many of these issues.  Paul will have much more to say about the various problems of the early community in his various letters.

Q. (Galatians 3:15-23): This is confusing to ponder, but makes sense after you untangle it in your head.  Pretty amazing!

A. Paul will use this type of rhetorical style throughout his letters, so I would recommend getting used to it.  His letter to the Romans is full of discourses like this that run for several chapters.  But I agree, his point is pretty clear (and amazing) as long as you read the passage a few times.

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

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

Luke 11:14-12:34

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 77 (March 18): Marrying captive women, rights of firstborn, rebellious sons, rules on living, sexual purity, worship laws, Edomites and Egyptians may worship, lots of other regulations

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17): I’m confused.  I didn’t think God cared about birth order.  We saw that with the story of Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers, among others.  Can you explain if “firstborn rights” are truly handed from God?  If so, why the contradiction with the earlier stories?

A. There’s not a contradiction in my mind.  What I have said on previous occasions is that God does not make considerations of birth order when selecting people for HIS purposes.  The people he selected and chose to bless (Jacob, Joseph, Isaac, etc.) were not the firstborn sons, but this does not mean that God makes no consideration for the way that society ran at that time: the firstborn son was to be given the largest share of the inheritance in order to maintain the family heritage from generation to generation.  This is very much in keeping with what God is doing here: setting up a society that will prosper, and be able to keep the land that God gives them.  In this time period, the best way to ensure land was passed from generation to generation fairly was that the firstborn son got the “lion’s share”.  But when it comes to who God desires to use for His purposes, birth order does not, and will not, matter.  Wait until we see how He picks King David.

O. (22:8): This sounds like modern-day legal issues.  How funny they are relevant today.  Luckily, not that many people have to get on roofs.

O. (22:20-21): I have just now realized another way of preventative measures the Israelites had in place: discouragement.  If they don’t obey, they get stoned.

Q. (23:1): Do I dare ask, how this could happen?

A. Well, I suppose it could have been the result of an attack or accident, but basically, this is talking about eunuchs: male slaves who had their genitals removed (usually as boys) as part of their entry into a life of slavery.  This could be because of the work they were assigned, such as with women, but also because by removing the man’s genitals, it would, in theory, prevent him from focusing on his own plans for family or personal gain.  Eunuchs were therefore considered good and desirable workers who would be loyal to their masters.  I am unclear what it is about being castrated that got them excluded from the assembly — I’ll research it, because it will come up again — but I can tell you that one of the first Christian converts is a Ethiopian eunuch.  This is just one more place where the work of Jesus Christ brings salvation to ALL people, even those who had been previously excluded.

O. (24:5): If only this was valid today.  A one-year honeymoon would be wonderful!

Q. (25:5-6): Didn’t the NT revoke this law?  The law was just for the Israelites to protect the family lines?

A. Be careful with the terminology.  Nothing about the NT revoked the ways of the OT, it simply replaced them with a different system, that was not dependent upon human effort.  But the answer to your question is yes, this was all about protecting family lines.  This is actually the way that Ruth will be able to claim a new husband in her story coming up.

Q. (25:7-10) What?  More comedy?  Was having a sandal pulled off disgraceful?

A. I’m not sure.  It appears that this is an attempt at public shaming, in order to, once again, maintain family lines.  These verses will also come into play in Ruth.

Q. (25:11-12): The testicles hold the seed of the family lines?  So, harming them is a huge offense?

A. I think that’s part of it.  But also, since this law is set up based upon rules of retaliation (eye for an eye), and since the woman would, obviously, not have the parts in question, the hand is selected for the reprisal.  Isn’t that fun!

That last batch of rules was definitely miscellaneous!  Good for keeping me awake at the end of a long day.  Hope yours was grand!  See you tomorrow!

Day 39 (Feb. 8): More laws, annual festivals, God promises to be with Israelites, Israel accepts Covenant

Exodus 22:16-24:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 22:16): There are obviously more laws here than the 10 Commandments.  Do these other laws have an official name?  Do you know how many there are total?  My husband knew once, but has forgotten.

A. It is usually referred to as the Law or Torah.  Jews call the individual laws Mitzvah.  There appear to be 613 commands contained in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Have a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/613_commandments.  The page lists all of them at the bottom.

Q. (22:18): Sorceress?

A. Sure.  We would probably use the word witch: those women in particular who used the forces of the occult — or appeared to — in order to manipulate events.  This would include fortune telling, séances and speaking with the dead — we will actually see this in 1 Samuel — and other occult practices.  Sorcery is strictly forbidden in scripture, since it relies on other, likely demonic, powers not of God.  It is always an attempt to gain inside information on the future, thereby demonstrating lack of faith in God.  We will see more commands like this one.

Q. (22:28): I’m going through these thinking that I’m OK.  But to not dishonor any of our rulers?  That can’t possibly apply today?  Politics would be no fun!

A. Ha!  Respect for authorizes put in place by God IS a Biblical concept, even when those authorizes do not serve God (however you define that).  Paul speaks very similarly in Romans 13:1-7.  We must be very careful in not submitting ourselves to the authorities in place, and it is important to see the necessity of humility in doing so; something a lot of Christians could use more of.

Q. (22:29-30): We covered the “give the firstborn sons and livestock” thing, but remind us again in a nutshell.  Thanks!

A. God spared them through the Passover, so they belonged to Him.  Thus, they had to be “bought back” in a ceremony where the participants would be reminded of the centrality of God’s power in their lives.  It was a way of remembering what God did at Passover.

O. (23:2-3): I like it when we can easily understand many rules such as these and they are relevant today.

Q. (23:20): Is this angel referring to Moses?

A. No.  Moses was the human representative, but 14:19 has already established an angel, or messenger, of God who has been moving with the company.  We will see some references to this when the Israelites enter the Promised Land in Joshua.

Q. (23:25-26): Is this law just for the Israelites or for all, including us now?  I know Christians who have had these misfortunes.

A. God is making particular promises to these people at this time, and we get to be on shaky ground when we try to adopt promises He makes to them for us.  Having said that, we are certainly commanded to live in good relationship with God, which includes the understanding that God will provide for our needs.  But I definitely say that the Bible does not tell US today that if we live in good relationship with God, only good things will happen to us.  As Jesus reminded his followers: If you follow me, in this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33).  God does not say we will never have difficulty, even with the bare necessities at times, but only that He will never leave us alone.

Day 38 (Feb. 7): Ten Commandments and more, altar rules, treat slaves fairly, personal injury disputes, property laws

Exodus 20-22:15

Questions & Observations

Q. Here are the 10 Commandments.  We all view them as sinning against God when we break them.  But, are they still to be enforced?  Didn’t Jesus give us a new one that covers it all, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do unto others as they you would have them do unto you.”

A. Love your neighbor as yourself covers the last six (i.e. if you love your neighbor, you won’t kill them).  Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment, replied, “love God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Then He said, “all the law and the prophets hang on these two” (Matthew 22: 37-40).  Basically, if we keep these two things in mind and do them (which I freely admit is sometimes very difficult), we will have successfully kept all the Ten Commandments.

Q. (Exodus 20:5): When God says he is a jealous God, is that the same common meaning we know of jealousy now — that of envy?

A. I think God is using an emotion that we as humans understand, being jealous, in order to point out that we must be loyal ONLY to Him.  God is not petty, but the charge that we are worshipping other gods is certainly looked at harshly in the OT.

Q. (20:6): This means that those who follow God will be blessed for many generations, but those who deny God, struggle for generation after generation, right?  But, that is no longer in affect since the crucifixion?

A. Part of what we can learn from the Old Testament is that God takes a multigenerational view of His people (which can be hard for us to grasp in our individualistic society).  If we are truly keeping these commands (and the many to follow), it will be very natural for us to teach them to our children.  And in doing so, we pass the blessings of God on to the next generation, and we entrust them to do so for the next generation.  I think that this is at least partly what God is speaking about here.

Q. (20:7): How do you misuse God’s name?  I was always thought that you do not say things like “For the love of God (in a negative way),” “For God’s sake,” “For Jesus sake,” and especially, “Oh, my God!” or “Jesus!”  The latter two, I can see using them if you are crying out to them, personally, in praise or for help.  But, I hear people, even Christians saying, “Oh, my God!” all the time.  Can you give us the verdict on this?

A. The best way I ever heard this commandment phrased was, “Don’t take the name of God lightly.”  Treat the name of God with the reverence and respect it deserves.  If the names are used for the purpose of speaking to God — for whatever reason, including asking for help — we are on safe ground.  But when — and this is the crucial step — we are using the name of God absent-mindedly (i.e. we’re using the name but not thinking of God), or to use it as a way to curse others, then we are not treating the name of God with the proper respect it deserves.  Then we are taking the name of God in vain.

Q. (20:8-11): So God is saying that the Sabbath is there for us to get rest after 6 days of hard work.  And, we use it to remember that God created us and all the earth.  Most church services are still held on Sunday.  Some are not.  Some say that it doesn’t matter what day of the week you rest, as long as it’s the seventh day.  Some say that going to church isn’t really rest because of the hustling to make it there on time and then there are those who are working to provide the church service.  Is this law still supposed to be observed today?  Can you shed some light on this Commandment?

A. As we mentioned, observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday, there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

Q. (20:12): As a grown child and now a parent, I totally respect my parents.  As a teenager, of course, there were times when I thought they knew nothing and didn’t understand me.  I am now thinking about how to instill love for me and my husband in my almost 8-year-old.  She is sweet, but she is definitely testing the waters on challenging us.  Do you have any wise words or know of any books that can help parents prepare for phase of a child’s life?

A. While I’m sure there are particular psychological techniques that can work, I think you can already see the answer to your question: we teach respect to our children by BEING respectful to our parents.  Where it is possible — obviously, not everyone has parents to model this with — I think we should embrace the idea of multigenerational teaching for our children.  We should teach them about respect for their parents — and I think adults in general, especially the elderly — and talk about how when we do this, we honor God.

O. (20:20): I love this verse.  It is the perfect, short description of what to fear God means: “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

Q. (21:1): Is God telling all of these laws to Moses and then Moses has to retell them to the Israelites, or is God speaking directly to the people?

A. It appears He is speaking to Moses.

Q. (21:1-11): Is there anything to explain about God addressing the process of owning slaves?

A. Slaves were a part of life in this world, and the Bible addresses that reality.  We shall see over the course of the Biblical text the way that God moves along the idea of the dignity and equal worth of all human beings, especially through Christ, but the people in this era weren’t there yet.  God worked with the people where they were, and required them to treat slaves and others with respect.  There was a process for bring required to free slaves (the men, anyway), and providing some level of protection for them — like 21:20, you couldn’t kill your slaves).  This seems barbaric to us today, but was a great leap forward in the treatment of human beings in this era.

O. I’m really starting to get the message that everyone is important to God.  Every one has different positions in the world, which can cause confusion in self-esteem.  But, in God’s eyes, we all are equally important, if we follow Him.

Q. (21:21) Oops!  Just when I thought I was understanding God’s treatment of people, this verse pops up.  How is that fair treatment?  I just don’t understand!  From what I’ve read in the Bible, it sounds like God has chosen certain ones to be His people and others are just extras.

A. Looks like we look at 21:21 in different ways!  I see it as a way to protect slaves from being murdered.  It is certainly true that God does see everyone as having value, but that does not mean that WE do.  So basically, God provided this command because He does see value in slaves, rather than the culture in which the Israelites lived, which saw no value in them at all.  Only free men had value in the eyes of this culture.

Q. Rob, since you are a cultural history guru, when did stoning lose favor?

A. That is hard to say.  We don’t really have much in the way of evidence that the orders to stone were routinely enforced, even in this era (though we will see some particular examples of sinners who are stoned).  But the era of the New Testament, as I understand it, there was simply no stomach among the Jewish religious leaders for being responsible for the deaths of people.

Q. (21:32): There has to be some significance to the 30 pieces of silver, since in the New Testament, Judas accepts 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A. Thirty pieces of silver was the legal price of a slave in Biblical times.  The silver that Judas is offered by the religious leaders is an intentional choice designed to belittle Jesus: they are equating Jesus with a slave to be bought and sold.

Q. (22:8): Many of these verses say that the person must appear before God for judgment.  I thought God kept his distance from the people.  Isn’t Moses the liaison between God and the Israelites?

A. You’ve got it right.  Moses, as God’s representative, was the one whom people would come to for God’s judgment.