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 6 (Jan. 6): Sarah and Abraham promised a child, Abraham pleads for Sodom, Sodom destroyed, Lot saved, Trick on Abimelech, Isaac is born

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.

Genesis 18-21:7

Questions & Observations

Q. (18:12-13): It’s interesting here how God new Sarah laughed quietly at the thought of having a child at her old age.  However, later in this chapter, He says He has to go to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if they are as wicked as He has heard.  So, I’m wondering if God hears, but doesn’t see?  I’m sure He can do anything He wants.  Or, is it that He wanted to see how His presence affected the people — if his appearance and power would frighten them and they would stop their evil ways?

A. Certainly I think the writer of Genesis wants us to know that God does see, as we discussed in the Hagar section yesterday (“you are the God who sees me”) as well as hear.  We should assume that God is using figurative language for His “coming down” to see a situation (this same language was used at the Tower of Babel as well).  God is using the language of being a human being, who would have to investigate Sodom or the Tower of Babel in order to verify its truth.  But we believe that the consistent nature of God is that He knows everything there is to know (what we call omniscience) and any passage that appears to contradict this concept (i.e. God didn’t REALLY know what was going on at Sodom) should be dismissed as figurative.  It appears that the angels God sent were a final “test” for the area, one that the men of the town fail miserably.

Q. (18:20-32): God is about to punish Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham pleads with Him to spare the righteous.  There are so many points here.  Abraham felt close enough to God to keep asking him to spare all of the people if just a small percentage were righteous.  What made Abraham feel he could keep haggling with God? Abraham did plead with respect.  And, is God showing mercy here by not destroying all, for the sake of the righteous?  Obviously, Abraham is trying to save Lot … again?

A. While I certainly think Abraham is concerned about Lot, he appears to be testing his understanding of who God is.  Is it in the nature of God to destroy a town full of evil people if there were 50 or 20 righteous ones?  And the answer appears to be no — though the story goes on to present an alternative situation: God removes the righteous ones—Lot and his relatives — and THEN destroys the city.

One other note on this back and forth between Abraham and God (as a minister in college once shared with me): the story tells us that Abraham stopped asking before God stopped granting.

Q. (19:5): Sodom and Gomorrah sound horrible.  I see why God wanted to flatten them.  I guess this is where the word sodomy originated?  How can these people forget the great power of the Lord after knowing what he did with the Great Flood?  Why did Lot want to live among so much evil?

A. I could not tell you the origins of the word, but I would imagine there is something to that.  Regarding the forgetfulness of people: we quickly forget the mercies of God, even when we have been directly saved by them.  This is going to be a major theme of the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness: despite God’s constant interventions and provision, the people still rebel and abandon their oaths to God (something to watch for).  I have no idea why Lot would choose to live in such a place, though it sounds to me like perhaps he was not a person of great moral character in his willingness to throw his own daughters “to the wolves” in this story.  Lot appears to benefit greatly from the righteousness of Abraham.

Q. (19:18): Why does Lot challenge the angels?  I would think their appearance would be enough authority that Lot would do exactly as they say without arguing.

A. He appears convinced that there is a better place for himself and his family. Perhaps he thinks a bit too highly of himself, doesn’t he?

Q. (19:29): Why does Abraham have so much family loyalty to Lot when Lot seems to prefer to live among the wicked?  The covenant God made with Abraham has obviously built trust between the two.  God goes to battle for Abraham even when what God is protecting — Lot — is very stubborn.

A. Clearly Abraham honors his family, which keep in mind was the only family that traveled with him when God called Abram to start his journey.  Abraham is faithful to a fault here.  Perhaps this is part of the way the author wants us to see the goodness and loyalty of both God AND Abraham.

Q. (19:30-38): Ok, another weird situation.  Why didn’t they just move back with Abraham and find husbands there?

A. It appears that the author is giving us the origins of two of the tribes that live in the surrounding area of Israel during the time of the Kingdom (beginning in the books of Joshua and Judges).  With the Moabites in particular, they appear in regular reference throughout the OT (Ruth was a Moabite), and Numbers 21:24 and 22:4 points to the loyalty that God had to Lot (on behalf of Abraham): God told Moses that the Israelites (Abraham’s descendants) would have no conquest in the land given to the descendants of Lot (the Ammonites and the Moabites)

Q. (20:2) Why didn’t Abraham learn his lesson the first time when he asked Sarah to say they were siblings (Gen. 12:10-20)?  It seems that God views intercourse between a man and wife as sacred, but Abraham and Sarah view breaking that bond as saving their lives.  Maybe it takes time and trials to put your fears aside and trust God?

A. This is a tough question, because neither time that Abraham and Sarah perform this little trick are they punished by God.  Quite the opposite — they benefit greatly both times (20:14 and 15) from their deception.  God appears to “allow” this deception to ensure Abraham (and Sarah’s) protection in hostile realms (which appears to be the true purpose).  And as Abraham points out: they really are half brother and sister.  God certainly does put a great deal of emphasis on honoring marriage (it actually becomes His symbolic way of describing the unfaithfulness of Israel to her Husband [God] in stories such as Hosea), so why Abraham and Sarah are not punished for this action is unknown to me.

O. (21-6-7): Now, the jokes on Sarah.  This is almost a comical twist of events.  Sarah laughed at the thought of God giving her a child at her old age.  Now, she is laughing at herself in disbelief that such a blessing did come to her and Abraham.

Day 4 (Jan. 4): Babel, Abram and Sarai, Lot

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.

Genesis 11-14

1 Chronicles 1:24-27

Genesis 12

Questions & Observations

Q. (11:9): So this was the start of nations spread far apart?  This is a science question, but I have to ask, weren’t people in other parts of the world before the tower of Babel fell?

A. The science as I understand it, tells me that there were humans outside of this region before this story takes place.  This is one of the places where, to me, it is dangerous to try to read too much science into the story the author is telling us about the descent of humanity into sin and the tribe of people that God will begin to work with in chapter 12.

There’s a few things that can be helpful to understand here.  First, when we use the word “world”, we mean all seven continents and billions of people.  But the author of this text would have thought of the whole world as basically the Middle East and North Africa.  So put in that perspective, we can see a more appropriate understanding of the distribution of people (if that makes sense).

The other thing to bear in mind is the regression we have made in the first 11 chapters.  The whole point of building the tower (according to 11 v.4) is to generate fame and power for the creators.  In other words, they are attempting to create a place where the creators are worshipped, rather than God.  So if you follow from Adam and Eve on down, we have moved from disobedience to murder to pride in oneself and the things one has made.  And while to us pride sounds a lot better than murder, we see in pride the ultimate culmination of sin: we desire to have the throne that rightly belongs only to God: all other sins come from this starting point- when we decide that we should be “running the show” instead of God.  This is why the first commandment (Exodus 20) is a warning against worshipping other gods, and the first god that we must remove is the one within each of our hearts.

I honestly could not tell you what the original writer thought he was producing in terms of “how true is this history of the world as I know it?”  But what I can tell you is that Tower story represents the depths of humanity’s fall before God acts in the person of Abram to begin to “right the ship.”

Q. (12:1): Any idea on how God talked to Abram?

A. Well, since the Bible (James 2:23 specifically) talks about Abraham as being God’s friend, it is in my mind reasonable to assume that God spoke to Abram/Abraham in conversation as you would speak to any of your friends.  God is perfectly capable of speaking to us in any manner He chooses, though in my opinion He most commonly chooses to speak to a person’s mind, conscience, and sense of right and wrong.  The text tells us that God appeared to Abraham in various instances (see the dialogue in Gen 18 for example), but does not share exactly how God spoke.  I see nothing wrong with assuming that God spoke to Abraham in an audible voice.

Q. (12:12) I am surprised that Abram did not trust God to protect him?

A. Like all of the people God will use throughout the Bible (except Jesus of course), Abram is a deeply flawed person who is capable of sin and deception.  This is actually testimony in my mind to the power of God at work.  God does not look for perfect people, but instead uses those who will be faithful to what He has called them to do.  Just a few examples: Noah (as we read recently) got drunk and wandered around naked, Moses lost his temper repeatedly and was adamant that God didn’t really want him to speak.  Aaron, while the first high priest, also created the golden calf while Moses was gone.  David got a married woman pregnant and then tried to cover it up before having her husband murdered.  Peter denied Jesus, Judas betrayed Him, and all but one of Jesus’ handpicked men fled in terror when He was arrested.  I am certain that God is still using flawed people today.

If this piques your interest, Max Lucado (one of my favorite Christian writers) has a great book on the subject of the imperfect people God has used throughout the ages called Cast of Characters.

O. (13:15): It’s interesting that God “gave” Abram the land of Canaan.  Times are so much different now.  God is nowhere in land negotiations, unless you ask Him to be.

Q. (13:18): Building altars and sacrifices have come up several times already.  What is the meaning of sacrifices to the Lord?  The aroma is pleasing to Him?  Sacrifices are no longer needed after Jesus died on the cross?

A. Before the formal giving of the Law to the Israelites (found in the next few books), we see several instances of altars and sacrifices, though as you observe, they are often recorded without explanation.  I think part of the reason for this was because the first audience for this story (i.e. the original readers/hearers of Genesis) already knew what an altar was and about sacrifices, so the author does not feel compelled to explain.

Basically, at this point, an altar is a collection of stones (sometimes wood is used) assembled and put together as a way of remembering an event, especially as it relates to interactions with God.  Abram seems to be using altars as a way of marking important interactions between himself and God.

Regarding the sacrifices, basically what we are taking about is burnt offering (see Leviticus 1 for a description. Warning, this can get graphic if you have a sensitive stomach!).  Basically, an animal is killed (usually by slitting the throat) and the blood is drained.  The animal is split into pieces and put on a fire to be fully consumed by it.  It is the smoke from this ritual that generates the pleasing aroma.

The Old Testament describes a number of types of sacrifices (not all of which involve animals) and the reasons for their use.  In the formal sense of the Law, there were three purposes for sacrifice: to honor God (as Noah did), to create a covenant as God does with Abram (coming up in chapter 15 of Genesis), and to make atonement for sin.  We’ll talk more about each of those as they come up in subsequent chapters.

O. (14:1-16): This sounds like an extreme Cliffs Notes version of this account.  Reading it, I just imagine all the spies that must have been sent ahead to assess their enemies, the attack strategies used, Abram training his army, etc.

O. (14:23): I had to read the account of how Abram rescues Lot a couple times to sift out Abram’s part in it.  My understanding is that Abram took no sides in this battle.  His mission was to save Lot.  I like how he refused to take battle spoils from the King of Sodom because he did not want his fortune tied to a King who reigned over wickedness.

See you tomorrow!