Day 355 (Dec. 21): Love all, respect marriage, God will never fail us, World is not our permanent home, Peter reminds believers that they were chosen, believers have hope for the priceless inheritance in heaven, trials make your faith genuine and strong, faith will earn you praise when Jesus returns, call to holy living for sake of salvation, love deeply, purify yourselves by getting rid of all evil behavior

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.

Hebrews 13:1-25

Peter wrote his first and second letter from Rome shortly before his death, which probably occurred in AD 64 during the persecution of Nero.

1 Peter 1-2:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 13:1): So the angels delight in humans when we are kind to strangers?

A. It would appear so.  That certainly reflects the joy in heaven that Jesus describes in Luke 15.

Q. (13:13-14): Wow.  I never thought about the fact that Jesus blood was shed outside the city, making him an outcast.  As Christians, we do feel as outsiders for a good portion of the time.  But, we can find respite in the community of believers.  Also, I know I have said this before and I don’t think it’s out of discontentment, but I have never really felt at home, like I was totally happy in a place.  I was close living in Hawaii, like 90 percent close.  It is so beautiful there, what I would picture heaven to be.  But, I remember growing up that I just didn’t feel like I belonged in Kansas (spare me the Dorothy jokes, please J).  And, we moved to Florida after my husband retired from the Navy, as it was closer to the likes of Hawaii, but it still doesn’t do it for me.  Then, if we did ever move back, I would be far away from family again.  So, I just think that no place is perfect and I’ll find my spot in heaven and be totally happy.

A. Peter is noting here the special role Jesus’ body had in the sacrifice he offered: the “scape goat” took the sin of the people outside of the camp (one image — Lev 16:8), and the carcasses of certain animals used in the sacrifices were burned outside of the camp because they were unclean (another image).  In short, the idea here is that since Jesus was taken outside of the “camp” (Jerusalem) to die, he symbolically took all of the sin with Him, which was God’s plan from the beginning.

Q. (13:21): To me, this is telling us to use those God-given talents we have and make them work for His glory and good!  Use the tools He gave you to grow God’s house.

A. That image of “producing” in us comes from John 15, where Jesus tells us about abiding in Him in order to thrive and produce good fruit.

Q. (1 Peter 1:1): Here is that word, “chosen,” again.  I am setting the meaning of the “chosen” matter that God knows our hearts before we are born.  He knows we will choose Him, and thus, He has chosen those people for His kingdom.  I can HOPE in this that I am correct.  But, this “chosen” issue I have been uncertain on, so I can hope that I will get my understanding resolved.

A. I will be no help to you in this instance, I am afraid.  Protestants have been arguing about what it means to be chosen for 500 years, so it’s pretty well worn ground.  The idea of being chosen is a dividing point between Calvinism and Arminianism — Calvinists assume election based upon nothing more than God’s free choice, while Armenians, as you suggest, see this as selection by foreknowledge.  I leave it to you to decide.

O. (1:7b): Another reason to have faith in Jesus!

Q. (1:12) Pretty cool that humans are going through something that even the angels don’t know until it’s happening.

A. It is indeed an intriguing thought that beings outside of time do not know our fate, and are in suspense of sorts.  No wonder there is rejoicing in heaven!

Q. (1:15): I have a ways to go to be holy in everything I do, but at least when I know that I mess up, I apologize a.s.a.p.

A. Forgiveness and grace are the main tools that God uses to drive us to be better disciples.

Q. (1:17): Judge according to what we do … I thought we were saved by faith alone.  Is it saved by faith, judged by works?

A. Yes, you’ve got it.

Q. (1:20): So God and Jesus have known all along that Jesus would die on the cross to save us from our sins.  God seemed so disappointed with Adam and Eve, but He knew they were going to sin?  Also, some places say that God chose Jesus to be our atonement and other places say Jesus gave up himself for our sins.  Will you explain this difference?

A. Coming back around to the free will question you asked earlier: the question you ask here is a big part of the reason I lean towards free will instead of predestination — the accounting for human choice.  God has known all ends since the beginning (no one doubts that), but God took the risk and created our race because, in my opinion, He values our choice to love Him above all other things.  We must CHOOSE to follow Him, though He certainly guides our steps.  But as soon as you, or even God, open the possibility of choosing love, you have given the person the possibility of also choosing to not love, to reject relationship.  God is not interested in robots, He desires children who want to love Him, but that must, by definition, involve a choice.  Nothing pleases me more as a father of a little girl than when she runs up to me coming through the front door and says, “daddy, daddy!”  I do not make her do that, she does it out of her limited understanding of what love is — and she chooses to love me.  Is that love always guaranteed?  Of course not (something surely God understands), but God appears willing to risk the rejection of relationship for the chance that His children will come to know and love Him.  That is Good News if ever there was any.

Q. (1:22): Does brothers and sisters mean those in Christ or everyone, believers or not?

A. He’s referring to believers — note the first half of the verse — but surely Peter would not disagree with loving those who are not.

Day 323 (Nov. 19): Paul tells church not to judge others, God’s apostles are not showy, Paul condemns spiritual pride, Christians should settle their own disputes, avoid sexual immorality, marriage instructions

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.

1 Corinthians 4-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 4:9): I was almost going to say that God continues to use humble people to spread His word and now He has allowed them to be tattered, according to Paul’s letter.  However, it wasn’t really God who made them dirty, hungry, thirsty, tired, weak, bruised, etc., it was the people treating them that way.

A. That doesn’t make the people like Paul spreading the message of the Gospel less humble; if anything, through humility they are able to withstand the mistreatment of others.  I certainly think the things that Paul and his companions experienced — and will experience, including martyrdom — will only increase the power of their witness.

Q. (4:15): I don’t understand Paul saying that He became the church’s spiritual father.

A. He’s the one who founded the church at Corinth, so that makes him their spiritual father.  He’s not really bragging about this, but is rather attempting to get the Corinthians to follow his example the way that a child often tries to imitate their earthly father.

Q. (5:3-5): I don’t understand v. 5.  I think what Paul is trying to say here is that we want to save this man who is disrupting the church.

A. Paul’s order is to expel the man from the church — a form of church justice, something that is sadly rarely practiced today due to our “winking” attitude to sin.  So if the man is kicked out of “God’s” territory (the church), then he is given over to the realm that is not of God, or Satan.  This isn’t a literal punishment: Paul is not saying a demon will get him, but rather he is hoping that being expelled from the community by his friends will cause him such anguish that he will repent of his sin and return to the community a new man.

Q. (6:2): What does Paul mean by the believers will judge the world and the angels?

A. As those who will rule with Christ as heirs, we have the implication that we will have some role in judging (the Greek can also mean “rule” or “command”) the world and angels.  It is a unique passage, frankly, and Paul does not expand on what he means here, so we do not exactly know.  It is possible that Paul is sharing something that he assumes his audience will already be familiar with — i.e. something they understood in their culture that has been lost to history.  Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what he means, but I think it is safe to assume that our role in the next world will be as some sort of ruler or leader of some sort.  Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Q. (6:1-8): I think many people use the justice system to resolve disputes because it is easier than facing each other and figuring it out among themselves.  But, if believers are coming together to form the body of a church, they should be able to settle their own disputes, which I think would actually make them closer.

A. I couldn’t agree more, and I suspect that is what Paul has in mind.

Q. (6:9-11): One of my best friends growing up became gay after a couple years of college.  He has an awesome, but struggling, heart and considering what he has been through — a dad that beat and threatened him on a regular basis, a mom who also suffered physical and verbal abuse and dealt with her husband’s cheating, and had been molested by many men close to him.  With attention from these men, it’s no wonder that he leaned toward homosexuality.  I do wonder how his judgment will fair, but I know that God is God and He is the judge.  I just wish he could get pulled out of that lifestyle.  Pray, right?  I need to call him more often too.

A. There is nothing sinful about being attracted to people of the same gender, but I feel the Bible is pretty clear about sexual relationships among people of the same gender (though I am aware that not everyone feels that way).  We all have our temptations that we must face, and that honestly makes it hard for me to want to pass judgment on homosexuals as a person who has never experienced a sexual attraction to a man.  God knows our hearts, and also knows our past and difficulties, and will judge us accordingly.

Q. (7:8): By Paul saying that it’s better to stay single than married, it sounds so against the way God designed humans and the world.  He made man and woman so they could come together and create more humans.  If everyone were single, the world would die off, well … if they abstained from sex unless they were married.

A. It is interesting to me that Paul brings such a different mindset to the situation then we are used to, and that God — and the Bible — are big enough to handle multiple ideas in tension.  As you well say, without marriage and children, there is no future.  But Paul is probably looking at the situation as a man who wanted to fully devote himself to doing God’s will (as Jesus, who was also never married, did before him).  So it is certainly fascinating that the two men most responsible for the Christian faith were unmarried and celibate — a tradition that is carried to this day by priests, nuns, and monks all over the world.  God can make either way for us work, but I think that Paul at least makes it clear that there are pros and cons to being single or married.  And in a society that is literally OBSESSED with weddings (less so marriages, but anyway…), I bet there are some interesting insights about celibacy in the reading.

Q. (7:10): This verse just makes me think of the spiritual parallel that God created between man and woman should be like the relationship between God and believers, only even more devoted.

A. Yes, I would agree with that.

Q. (7:25-28): What is Paul talking about here?  Why is he advising everyone to stay single?  And, honestly, I feel that some of these letters sound like personal problems of the church way back then that isn’t really our business.  Maybe this is an example of how our secret desires and motivations will be revealed on judgment day?

A. Something I didn’t mention in my above responses was that the early church went through varying degrees of persecution, and that would certainly shade his thinking about being married and having a spouse depend on you.  Imagine the heartache of dying for your faith (or being thrown in jail or sold into slavery) with a wife, or husband, women were martyrs too, you can read about some 3rd Century women martyrs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetua_and_Felicity)- or even children at home.  I could see why Paul would say, “that’s not a great idea.”

I would also point out, that as a married person, it would naturally be harder for you to see the benefits of being able to give every waking moment over to God as Paul was able to do — and I’m sure his being single shaded his thinking as well.  But note that even in the midst of his thoughts on staying single, he argues that there is no sin in being married (which I realize is a “duh” to us, but anyway).  As I mentioned above, I appreciate that the Bible presents a perspective so radically different than my own.

Q. (7:31b): There are several references we have seen that alludes me to the conclusion that judgment day should have been during these times.  Paul makes the end of days sound imminent.  Yet, we have also read where Jesus isn’t coming until the most evil person rises up.

A. It hasn’t happened yet is all I can tell you.  Paul goes back and forth on the matter- some places he makes it sound immenent, other places not so much, you’ll see.

Q. (7:40): Paul doesn’t sound 100 percent sure that his advice is coming from the Holy Spirit here … or God (not sure who he is referring to).

A. Same difference.  I think he is clearly stating that God has not told him explicitly either way, which is just fine with me.  If God desires to leave the matter open, and clearly He did, then Paul is willing to say so.  That sounds about right to me.

Day 294 (Oct. 21): Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus explains God’s intentions on marriage, Jesus welcomes the children, rich man has difficulty letting go of possessions

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 18:9-14

Mark 10:1-31

Matthew 19:16-30

Luke 18:18-30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 18:9-14): I take it from this scripture, that none of us are better than the other.  As soon as you think you are doing well by yourself because of yourself, you become less dependent upon God, which pulls you farther away from Him.

A. The issue here is not the being “better” or worse (and you’ve got that right, by the way).  The issue is pride and contempt: the Pharisee holds those around him in contempt, and sees himself as superior.

Q. (Mark 10:5-12, Matthew 19:9): I don’t understand what “a concession to your hard hearts” means.  Also, here the Bible says that couples should not get divorced.  It’s a sin.  But, I take it’s a forgivable sin? Divorcees can still be saved, right?  Isn’t it Catholics who deny divorcees from some customs?  I didn’t think they will marry anyone who is divorced.  Also, Matthew says it’s OK to divorce if a spouse has an affair?

A. There’s a line between what God desires for us, and what God permits, and this is a clear case of a line given.  God allows divorce under certain circumstances, but His IDEAL is that there would not be divorce.  As we have mentioned, any sin can be forgiven, and this one is certainly included.  It is not the policy of some churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, to permit divorce routinely, because they see it as a separating of what God Himself joined, for better or worse, I guess.

Day 155 (June 4): A woman and man write of their intimate love for one another

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.

Song of Solomon 1-8

Questions & Observations

Q.  I can’t help asking what the purpose of this song is?  One footnote said something about the man and woman’s relationship being an allegory to God and the church.  But, why use such intimate or sexual language?

A. That’s life.  Despite our modern Puritan almost obsession with not talking about sexuality in healthy terms — we discuss it plenty in unhealthy terms — the Bible does not shy away from talking about healthy sexuality between a (married) man and woman.  Song of Solomon presents sexuality as God desires it.  This offends our modern sensibilities that say you don’t talk about such things — there was some of this in Jewish culture as well: Jewish children weren’t allowed to read/hear this book until they had reached a certain age — but there is no reason that the love between this man and woman cannot be shared for our benefit.  No doubt it is a unique book in the canon, but I for one think the Bible is better for having it than not.  Regarding the idea that it’s not talking about human sexuality (i.e. its really about God and church), that idea is usually presented from people who don’t really want the Bible to discuss sexuality, frankly, in positive terms.  The idea that the explicit descriptions of sexual adventures are somehow metaphor is a bit ridiculous to me.

Q. Then, let’s talk about the characters.  The man is Solomon?  And, the woman strongly desires Solomon and he desires her?  What role do the Women of Jerusalem have?  Just to elevate his attractiveness by them talking about him?

A. The text appears to discuss Solomon and one of his (many) wives — there might be portions of the text that discuss their courtship before they are married — but the general consensus is that it is talking about their married romantic relationship.  The women appear to fill the role of “chorus” in Greek drama- as some sort of narrator who “responds” to the story.

Q. (Song of Songs 1:5): Why mention her dark skin?  It sounds like that it’s something he desires and that he may like the fact that she works the fields?

A. She is concerned about it because in those days, many with dark skin got it from working out in the sun, which she thinks makes her less desirable.  Generally, only the wealthy, who didn’t have to work, were pail, which made pail skin more desirable in that society.  Little does she know that he apparently likes her that way.

Q. (1:7): It seems that the woman is doing most of the chasing here.

A. She’s looking for him, no doubt.

Q. (1:17): There are a lot of references to scents and vegetation.  Why?

A. Most of the pleasant smells and scents came from natural extracts came from flowers, plants, or other vegetation.  In a society without regular bathing or deodorant, it makes sense that such good smells would be highly desirable.

Q. (2:7, 3:5): This is a refrain?  I do like the reference to not awakening love until it’s ready.  I don’t know if “the time is right” means age-wise or just couples spending enough time together until they are sure of their love?  Of course, waiting for the right person to come along is so hard for many because of loneliness, sexual desires, self-esteem, etc.  So, this is a wise verse to wait for the right person to come along to marry.  If not, it can give you loads of heartache and disappointment.  I can wait a very long time to see my kids go through that!

A. The idea of when “the time was right” would have been very different in that society than in ours.  Women got married in their late teens in ancient society, and women today average 29 years old for their first marriage.  That’s a 10-year difference.

But regardless of the “drawbacks” of waiting, the advice is sound: this entire book points to the passion found in true love.  If the man and woman didn’t really love each other, most of the emotional effect would have been lost.

Q. (3:1-4): It seems the woman is doing most of the chasing.  This indicates how desirable Solomon was?
A. Sure, he was the king, and apparently handsome.

Q. (6:11-12): I don’t understand this, do you?

A. Nope.  This is the most obscure set of verses in the text, and no one really knows what it means.

Q. (7:10-13): Is checking the vegetation a symbol used to describe if the lovers are ready to bloom and be together?

A. Nope.  It’s a bit more explicit than that.  It’s a double entendre that is used by the woman both to describe both their meeting place — in a garden — and her, um, personal garden.  Aren’t you glad you know that now?

Q. (8:12): What is the woman saying here about caring for its vines?

A. We don’t really know.  There are a number of verses of this text where the meanings are simply lost to history.

Day 59 (Feb. 28): God assigns Levite clans various duties for carrying the Tabernacle and it’s sacred objects, Clans counted, keeping the camp pure, marital faithfulness

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.

Numbers 4-5

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 4:4-13): God instructed them to cover everything in a blue cloth except for the altar, which was to be wrapped in purple.  Why blue and purple?

A. Blue and purple were the colors of royalty, and such materials would have been extremely precious for the people to sacrifice.

Q. (4:17-20): Just hearing the sacred objects described sounds like no big deal at face value.  I think, why can’t others see them?  Then, I realize that I am belittling the wishes of the Creator of the Universe.

A. I don’t think it had anything to do with the sight of the objects, and is instead a desire to protect the men who were responsible for carrying the sacred objects, which were wrapped up.  The text specifically says that if they touched the objects they died, so Aaron’s family had to make sure the sacred items were wrapped up to protect the carriers.

Q. (4:29-33): I’m picturing the men carrying all of these poles and structure parts.  Do they have to carry them themselves or can they load them on an animal?  Why is God so specific on who carries what?

A. I believe that the intention was that these objects, including the ark itself which went first when the nation moved, be carried by people and not by burden animals.  God is dividing up the responsibly for the various parts among the major families of the Levites, and providing a role for each of them.

Q. (4:47-48): Was carrying the Tabernacle and its contents the only job of these men?  I would think that 8,580 men could do the job with a lot to spare.  Do we have any idea how Israelite civilization was set up?  With that many people, I would think it would be like a big downtown with people selling things and offering services.  We were told which sides of the Tabernacle the cities would reside.  The Tabernacle doesn’t look that big compared to the size of Israelite’s population.  I picture each side being like a subdivision.  And then finding your tent …  I picture the scene in Fools Rush In where Matthew Perry counts the houses on his Las Vegas street to see which one is his.

A. There is a lot of speculation about what the tent camp must have looked like, and I don’t really have any good answers for you.  Basically, what I know about the camp is that the Ark/Tabernacle was set up at the center of camp, and then the other tents were setup in concentric circles: the Levites formed the first ring (actually more like the first square, four sides are assigned to the various tribes), and then the rest of the tribes — 12 of them with Joseph’s two sons — formed the outer ring in the divisions that we saw in the previous reading.

When the camp moved, which is coming up, the Ark — carried on poles by the Levites- no one touched the Ark! — came to the front to lead, and the various objects for the Tabernacle (sacred objects, tent cloths, poles, etc.) were carried at various points among the other tribes in the order they were assigned to march.

As I said, there’s a lot of speculation about what this all looked like, but not a ton for us to go on about whether or not this looked like all the matching houses in Vegas.