Day 296 (Oct 23): Woman praised by Jesus for anointing Him with perfume, Jesus enters jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus foretells His death, God speaks

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 14:3-9

Matthew 26:6-13

John 12:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Matthew 21:1-11

Luke 19:28-40

John 12:12-19

Luke 19:41-44

John 12:20-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-11): I understand what Jesus is saying that this woman is so honored to anoint Jesus with this wonderful perfume.  But, I understand the other’s response that it was using perfume that could have been sold to help the poor.  We have talked before about how different churches use their money to glorify God: some build ornate buildings and have huge choirs, others put their resources to mission work.  So, I think both responses to how the perfume is used are honorable.  I know you will likely say that this is Jesus and there is nothing more important.  I am not arguing about that!  I’m just saying I can understand why their knee-jerk response was that the perfume could have helped others.  And, they had no idea Jesus was about to be buried, thus the anointing was appropriate.  And, why did Jesus say, “there would always be poor among you”?

A. I think the disciples were put off by the lavishness of the gesture, and their reaction might also had something to do with jealousy — likely they could not afford to make such a gesture to their exalted Rabbi.  But Jesus sets things straight — you can hardly blame ME for just following what Jesus told them!: He will only be with them a bit longer, and He is surely right about the gesture being remembered — look what we’re doing here.  As to why Jesus statement about the poor, I honestly don’t know what to tell you here, except to say: Jesus is right, there has always been those who were poor or had need, in Jesus’ day and in ours.

Q. (Mark 11:11): Why did Jesus look at the temple and then leave?

A. I do not know, but He will return on Monday.

Q. (Mark 11:2, Matthew 21:2, Luke 19:30, John 12:14): Why a young donkey?  I guess that John tells us it was in a prophecy.  Where was the prophecy?

A. It’s from Zechariah 9:9: a humble King will come riding on a donkey.  The donkey was a symbol of peace and the simple life: It was a burden animal, not an animal of war like a stallion or a warhorse.  It cast an image of a humble king, one who came in peace, not in an image of impending war and conquest.

Q. (Luke 19:41-44): I guess you are going to make us wait to see the destruction come to Jerusalem that Jesus is talking about in v. 44?  This must be very upsetting for Jesus to know that the very town that holds the beautiful Temple and had all the potential to be God’s beacon, never happened.  This is a very heavy passage.  There is so much emotion here.  All of the ancestors who could have turned Israel’s fate around, failed.  All of the kings who should have ruled the people justly and taught them about the Lord’s laws are now at a juxtaposition with Jesus, the true King who is riding on a donkey to set Jerusalem straight.  And, remember that God never wanted Israel to have a King because He was supposed to serve as their Light, but they failed to keep their faith.  When they came to the Promised Land out of Egypt they failed to conquer all of the kingdoms.  And, thus, the idols that they worshipped infiltrated Israel and it never was the same.  This is a sad, sad culmination of centuries of discord.

A. Not only will I have more to say, but Jesus will too.  Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that will take place in 70 AD, which the Romans will level the city down to its foundations in most places during a war with the Jews (they will do so again in 135 AD as well).  You can pretty clearly see the bittersweet thoughts Jesus is having, and it must have been so difficult for Him, but the offer He was making was being ignored and will continue to be.  It’s just one more place where the free will that God gives us and wholly respects comes into play: Jesus had no desire for the residents of the city to perish, but they made their choices and God respects our decision making too much to interfere.

Q. (John 12:20-36): I noticed in this passage that Jesus never answered the request that the Greeks wanted to talk with Him, nor did he answer the crowd’s question of who He was.  Instead, he offered the best advice He could offer them which is to trust in Him.

A. You’re catching on.  I couldn’t have said it better.

Day 293 (Oct. 20): Jesus resurrects Lazarus, Caiaphas plots to kill Jesus, 10 healed but only one is grateful, Kingdom of God is coming, persistent prayers get answered

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.

John 11:38-57

Luke 17:11-18:8

Questions & Observations

O. (John 11: 46-48): It would have been much easier if the Pharisees had taken what they had seen for good instead of a threat.  I think they still saw Jesus as a Jew (meaning a “lesser” person) and he was a mere carpenter from Nazareth.  So, this undeserving weakling (to them) was a threat that they needed to squash.  I know I have this same kind of mentality toward some people and some toward me.  I have a friend who is going through all this nutritional cleansing and at first I thought it was just a hoax — but it held my interest because I am always interested in nutrition and have open ears for some of my own medical issues — and then she recently shared how she had woken up the last three days at 6 a.m. with her alarm and she felt bright and ready for the day.  My brain tells me to not believe it, but my heart can’t deny that she does look brighter and I would like to feel awake in the morning.  So, I can see how you can’t see the forest for the trees or whatever that saying is.  Also, I think I’ve said this before that when I told several of my family — even my mom — that I was doing this blog, they seemed to me to kind of shrug at it, like “we’ll see.”  I think dreams are often squashed — not intentionally — by those closest to us.  I don’t know why humans have made affirmation so important, but we need to rise above it, pay attention to our talents and what Jesus has commissioned us to do.  I know this is a little off to what this Scripture is about, but I think it’s an important point that we judge people because we think we know them.  Instead, we should lift them up whole-heartedly!

Q. (John 11:55-57): I can see the drama building.  Jesus is the talk of the crowd and they are wondering — probably wanting — Him to show up, either to see Him for themselves or to see the drama build between Him and the church leaders.

A. It’s not just that.  One of the expectations of the Messiah is that He would arrive in Jerusalem (as described in Zechariah 9) and from there, change everything.  Two things: Jesus will fulfill this prophecy on Palm Sunday, but the crowd will greatly misunderstand what Jesus has come to do.  They expected Him to lead a bloody, violent overthrow of the Roman oppressor, and establish God’s Kingdom that way.  Obviously, we know that Jesus had something else in mind.  But nonetheless, it is no surprise that the people were on tip-toe, so to speak, waiting for Him: they had great expectation that Jesus, if He was the true Messiah, would usher in a new age.  Hold this imagery in your mind for when we read the reactions to Jesus’ entry into the city on Palm Sunday.

O. (Luke 17:19b): I like the footnote version better, “Your faith has saved you.”

Q. (17:31-36): Is this scripture talking about the resurrection or Jesus coming again to judge? Leaving all your possessions — and your loved ones — behind would be very hard.  We have talked about this before.  Since my husband and I are both believers, we’d both be walking toward Jesus.  I think there would be some gathering of children — although, I know Jesus would take care of them.  I think this picture is more of what the end result will look like.  Families will be divided, coworkers staying behind, checkerboard neighborhoods with some gone and some staying behind, etc.

A. This passage and others like it are images of what we call the Rapture: people just disappearing in the midst of their daily lives.  To be honest, I am unsure how to interpret this passage in light of other stories of Christ’s return and the Final Judgment that will be ushered in by Jesus’ return.  It is a mystery of the faith, but it is one we will continue to explore.

Q. (18:1-8): Just believe that God will take care of us.  But, keep believing in Him by praying and praying persistently, which keeps your faith focused on him.

A. I think it serves as a reminder that there is great value in being a person who prays daily with faith in the idea that God is listening and desires to hear from us.  What an amazing thought: God DESIRES our input!

Day 273 (Sept. 30): Jesus fills fishing nets, Jesus heals leper and draws crowds, Jesus heals paralyzed man, Jesus calls Levi (Matthew) to follow Him, fasting appropriateness

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 5:1-11

Mark 1:40-45

Matthew 8:1-4

Luke 5:12-16

Mark 2:1-12

Matthew 9:1-8

Luke 5:17-26

Mark 2:13-17

Matthew 9:9-13

Luke 5:27-32

Mark 2:18-22

Matthew 9:14-17

Luke 5:33-39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 2:5): Why did Jesus say his sins were forgiven?  I do understand that by saying that He was using God’s authority, which is something Jesus was trying to “prove” to the people.  But, what sins did this man have that caused him to be paralyzed?  There is something that Jesus knows about the man that is not revealed in the Scripture?

A. Jesus is not saying that the man is paralyzed because of his sin (if he had, then forgiving the sin would have brought about the healing!)  It appears that having this man know he was forgiven for his sin (whatever it was, we have no idea) was what Jesus knew was best.  Jesus looked at this helpless man, and began with his heart!  What an amazing insight into Jesus’ character.

Q. (Matthew 9:4): So Jesus knows our true self … what our heart seeks?

A. Yes.

Q. (Matthew 9:6): The scripture says that Jesus has God’s authority on earth.  So, when we talk to God or Jesus, how do we know which one to pray to?  I always pray to God, but I say “in Your sons name, I pray.”  I don’t know who to appeal or turn to with different issues — God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  Can you help me understand this?

A. Hum, I do want to address this, but let’s wait, because Jesus will have a lot to say about prayer, including whom we should pray to.  Patience.

O. (Mark 2:14): I think we are up to 7 disciples now.  5 more to go.

Q. (Mark 2:22): What’s a wineskin?

A. A wineskin was a storage device that newly fermented wine was stored in during ancient times.  It was typically made of (sorry in advance, this is a big gross!) an animal bladder or stomach.  The idea here was to put the new wine into a new “skin”, because as the wine continued to age, it would produce air and expand in the “bag.”  But, as you might imagine, you could only do this once: if you already had a stretched wine “bag,” you couldn’t put new wine in it and start the process over — the “bag” was already stretched out and you risked losing both the bag and the wine if the “bag” burst.  Yuck!  Moving on…

Q. (Luke 5:39): Do you understand what Jesus is trying to say in this passage about the old wine skins being “just fine?”

A. He is criticizing those such as the Pharisees who are content to keep the legalistic ways of the past, rather then “try” the Gospel.

Day 167 (June 16): The healing of Naaman, Gehazi’s greed, a floating ax, Elisha traps Arameans, Ben-Hadad captures Samaria, lepers visit enemy camp, Israel plunders camp, Shunem woman is proof, Hazael murders Ben-Hadad

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 5-8:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 5:1): I am confused.  Aram was an enemy of Israel, right?  Why would God give the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, victory over Israel.  Is it because Naaman believed in God?

A. Aram and Israel were at war.  The story didn’t say that Naaman had victory over Israel, only that he was given victory by God.  I don’t think the reason for this had anything to do with Naaman’s belief in the God of his enemy Israel, but rather by God’s mercy.  Remember, God did not ordain this war between Israel and Aram.  The evil kings of both of these nations brought it about.  God is, in this case, not necessarily on one side exclusively.

Q. (5:2): Israel must not have been following God at this time because Israel has been pillaged.  Joram is the king of Israel at this time?

A. Yes, Ahab’s son.

Q. (5:7): Why would Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, think that Israel would help heal the commander of his army, after Aram had invaded Israel?

A. He believed it because Naaman told him so.  The whole reason Naaman even comes to Israel was because of his slave girl informing him about Elisha, who had the power, via God, to heal his leprosy.  I suspect your answer is that if that was good enough for Naaman, it was good enough for Ben-Hadad.

Q. (5:15): Why would Elisha not accept the gifts from Naaman?  Because of God’s grace, he does not require gifts?  But, he does like sacrifices, which include gifts.  I probably have this wrong?

A. God’s curing Naaman’s leprosy was a mercy, and did not require a gift.   I suspect it also had to do with the treasures were from Aram, and were probably acquired via pagan ritual.

Q. (5:18,19): So, since Elisha said, “Go in peace” to Naaman’s request of being pardoned when he, with his master King Ben-Hadad, bows to the god Rimmon?  I wouldn’t think God would appreciate this from someone who was just healed of leprosy.

A. Naaman is obligated to bow to Rimmon out of respect for his king; it was a requirement.  But what the text tells us is that Naaman understands who the true God is.

O. (5:20-27): Goes to show you what lies and greed will get you: not ahead like Gehazi thought, but behind with leprosy.

Q. (6:9): So you said that because the kings were not following God, Elisha and other prophets would step in to set them on the right path or give them a glimpse of what God can do if they remain loyal to him.

A. That is the purpose a prophet serves, yes.  In this case, Elisha is keeping Israel out of trouble with Aram.

Q. (6:21-22): Elisha had mercy on the soldiers who came to seize him.  I don’t know why he didn’t do this with the boys who were mocking him in 2 Kings 2:23-24?

A. Well, I don’t have a great answer to that, but part of the answer is the mocking itself: the soldiers were merely under orders to bring in Elisha, but were not disrespecting him.  By tricking the soldiers into basically coming into the capital, he was essentially making them prisoners of war.  Even in ancient society, there were rules about proper ways to treat POWs, and killing them wasn’t acceptable.

Q. (6:25): I read this verse to my husband.  His question is: Why would anyone want a donkey’s head and, especially, dove’s dung?

A. In the midst of a famine, it was apparently all that was left that was edible.  This rather gross imagery is meant to show the extent of the famine.

Q. (6:31): Why is burlap significant?

A. It was a symbol of mourning.  The king was in a state of mourning, but he was unwilling to go all the way and be exclusively dressed in burlap, which was probably a pride thing.  He wanted to mourn the terrible situation, but was unwilling to give up his majestic robes.

Q. (6:31): Is this a “be careful what you wish for” question?

A. It was pretty unwise, yes.

Q. (7:1): Bad flour is punishment for the king for ordering Elisha’s death?

A. Um, not bad flour, cheap flour.  What Elisha means is that the famine will be over, and crops, including flour, will be readily available.

Q. (7:19-20): They couldn’t eat the cheap flour because: A) they were mourning their kings death and had no appetite, B) the soldiers were away plundering so no matter what the price, there was no one to buy it or eat it, C) the people left behind were distracted and had no interest in going to the market, D) it was trampled just like the king, E) none of the above?

A. NOTA.  There’s no “they”, the prophecy only refers to the king’s servant who scoffs at Elisha’s promise.  The king does not die in this story, only this man, who is trampled at the gate by the people rushing to get food.  So he lived to see the cheap flour, and the end of the famine, but he was not able to enjoy it because he was trampled to death.

Q. (8:7-15): I guess being a prophet isn’t all fun.  It obviously has its hardships and requires a stomach of steel.  Hazael seemed to be blindsided by the news that he would be the leader of such destruction — which he did call “great things.”  Why would God cause such horror?  Will we learn why?

A. Well, you already know part of the reason: Israel and Aram are at war, and Hazael has just made himself king by killing the previous king.  But, yes, I believe the full reason will become clear.

Day 51 (Feb. 20): Purifying after childbirth, skin disease decrees, suspicious spots (mildew, leprosy, etc.)

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.

Leviticus 12

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Leviticus 12:1-8): Lots of questions here.  What does it mean to be unclean?  Why are women unclean after childbirth, something that I would think be a blessing!  Maybe it has something to do with the blood, as we discussed before?  Why the difference in wait time between having a boy and having a girl before a mother can be ceremonially clean?

A. Remember that the sacrifice system only allowed for two options: you were either ceremonially clean or unclean.  If you were unclean, you could not fully participate in the religious life of the community — you couldn’t enter the courtyard of the Tabernacle, for example — and you would have been forced to live outside the safety of the community, as this text alludes to.  It was a powerful incentive for families to maintain clean dwellings and bodies.

While the kosher section is a bit tougher to pin down the “reason” for some animals and not others, the reasoning here is pretty simple: this is basically a system of public health.  Blood, mold, open wounds, and other such things could spread disease, which could spread disease among the whole camp (keep in mind that there is no basic sanitation at this point).  So for the childbirth, it is indeed the bleeding, not the birth itself, that caused the uncleanliness.  The menstrual blood from either monthly cycles or the after effects of giving birth was a great hazard for disease.  The reason for a shorter “quarantine” for baby boys than girls has been lost to history.

(From Leigh An: I found some interesting answers to the last sentence at http://www.stilltruth.com/blog/tcblack/leviticus-125-why-are-girls-different-boys.  They sound logical, but I don’t know what Rob would say to them.)

Q. (13:1-46): Rob, can you tell us the significance here?  In the NT, Jesus heals so many people.  Here, anyone with an affliction, must be examined to see if they are pass all of these tests to see if they are worthy of what?  What does it mean to be ceremonially unclean?  They can’t worship God?  In 12:44, those with serious skin diseases must live outside camp and holler “unclean, unclean” to passers-by.  Where is God’s love here?  Or, am I likely missing a big point?

A. I confess that this passage is difficult to understand, but we have to understand that it is God setting these rules, and we can trust that He had good reason to do so.  This is a legal system God is building here: it will have its imperfections — when in comes to individuals verses the group safety — and things that look unfair to us from a distance.   While there was a process involved, it is important, I think, to note that there were very few conditions — save leprosy — that would have made people PERMANENTLY separated from the tribe.  Most people with skin disorders or similar problems (we will see more of this coming, so hang in there!) would get over them eventually, and could regain full status in the tribe.

The big idea here is that since the presence of God is set in the camp, the camp itself must be a place of ceremonial cleanliness: this is ultimately why all of the restrictions, rules, and procedures that sound harsh and ridiculous to us were put into place.  The presence of God will not stand the presence of things that are unclean (including people) in the midst of Himself, which is central to our understanding of how God relates to sin (which of course makes us ritually unclean).  One other note: many of these rules will be shifted a bit when the camp moves into the Promised Land and the Temple specifically, so there is something to monitor.

Perhaps something else to think about is that by the power of God through Jesus Christ, no one ever has to be unclean again — that certainly puts a different spin on His healing of lepers, doesn’t it?

(From Leigh An: I would think that the sanitation aspect would have something to do with this also as Rob said in the previous answer.  Another thought:  This must be the source for the saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  Funny that I have had a strong Spring Cleaning bug lately.  All our stuff takes up so much time.  But, I know I will feel better when it is cleaned, organized and hopefully a lot of gone!

Q. That brings me to another question.  Only the priests and Levites were allowed inside the Tabernacle, right?  Where were the Israelites — non-priests and non-Levites — supposed to worship?

A. The Tabernacle was not a place of worship for the general population, and it wasn’t really a place of worship for the Levites either: it was the meeting place with God where the Law was upheld and sin atoned for.  As to where the people did worship, I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  It does not appear that there were other locations for worship, so my assumption would be that the people would worship near the Tabernacle — which was at the center of camp remember — but I see no reason that the people could not worship from their own tent homes.

Q. (13:47): My footnotes say that “mildew” actually means “leprosy.”  Why would the NLT version change it to mildew?

A. OK, this is a tricky answer.  So let’s try to thread the needle.  Basically, the Hebrew word used in these passages, sara’at, is a word with a much broader definition than either mildew or leprosy alone.  The word refers to various skin diseases of which leprosy is only one (we actually run into this same problem in the Greek of the NT), but the word ALSO is used to refer to spots on clothing, what we would call mildew or fungal growth. The mold/mildew/fungal growth that takes place in a house — think of dirty bath tub mildew/mold — or other dwelling, which comes up in our next section.  So basically, I disagree with the footnotes assessment that the word used “means” leprosy.  It is actually a broad word with many different definitions, some of which we probably do not even know, and the NLT translators — it’s the same with NIV — have done their best to use the context clues to give our “best guess” as to what the rules have in mind in each instance.

O. (14:14): The blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb and the right big toe is explained in Day 41 (Feb. 10) questions.  You can find it by clicking on the index tab.

Q. (14:1-7): Why the two birds, cedar stick, scarlet yarn and hyssop branch?  Why was one bird released?

A. Certain rituals — including the Day of Atonement from chapter 16 — involved two animals: one was killed, symbolizing the penalty for the sin, and one was released, symbolizing the removal of the sin/purification of the person or people in question.  All three of the other items were used in cleansing and washing rituals, so that the entire procedure involved both sacrifice and cleansing elements.

Q. (Leviticus 14:1-32): In this law, why would someone with a cured skin disease have to make a sin sacrifice?

A. There is probably a mentality that those who have caught a skin disease were being punished for their sin (Job anyone?), and therefore they needed to make a sacrifice for their presumed sin.  When it came to being ritually pure and getting your life back, better safe than sorry!

Q. How did the priests keep all of these rules straight?  There are so many.  Maybe, because of the culture of the times then, they were able to make more sense of all the steps to make offerings and be pure?

A. I don’t have an exact answer for you here, but I’ve read about the process of becoming a priest in Jesus’ day (NT), and these men began learning about the Law almost from birth, so that by the time a person was actually a “career” worker for God, he would have known the Law inside and out.  It was their very life!  We tend to see this as “so many commands,” how could they remember it all.  But most of us know someone who can tell you entire lines from movies, or practically entire chapters from their favorite books.  It is remarkable what the human brain can fully remember when we are driven to learn or remember something because it has such an impact on us.

Quite frankly, we don’t know nearly as much about the Bible (any part really) as the first Christians because there was LITERALLY nothing more important to them to knowing God’s word.  We choose not to spend vast amounts of time learning the scriptures, so perhaps we — and I include myself here — should be very careful about judging the memories or intent of a people who were so literally close to God.

Q. (14:21-32): This doesn’t really sound like a cheaper offering to me?

A. It’s less if you double check and do the math.