Day 359 (Dec. 25): John encourages us to love one another as God commanded, everyone who believes Jesus is God’s son will be children of God also, Jesus proved He was God’s son by being baptized with water and shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus protects believers from the devil, avoid anything that can take God’s place in your heart, be leary of deceivers, welcome the traveling teachers

Merry Merry Christmas!  The king is born!  Or, was He born on this day?  Read to the end for a discussion.

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.

3 John 1:1-15

1 John 4:7-5:21

2 John 1:1-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 11-12): This verse reminds me of those people I meet that are just radiating with kindness.  I want to ask them if they are a Christian because I am very curious about that.  Is that OK to ask, or should I just assume they are Christian?

A. I can’t really see someone taking offense to the question, but I personally confess that I rarely ask people when I am similar circumstances.  Someone who is a true, confessing Christian should frankly be eager to tell you so.

Q. (5:6b): I am still foggy on what this means: “And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.”  Does that just mean that we know that Jesus is God’s Son and, when we are baptized we get the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said we would.  Therefore, His promise came true.  And the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus’ teaching because the Spirit shows us the right way to live, the same as Jesus did.  Thus, the spirit of Jesus (who taught us to be godly) still resides in us.

A. One of the things we established in Ephesians 1 is that the presence of the Spirit is the “mark” of our salvation, so in a sense, it is His presence that serves as a “testimony” about our faith in Christ.  He would not be present within us if we did not believe in God’s work in Christ, so His very presence testifies about what we believe.

Q. (5:16b): The sin that leads to death is denying that Jesus is the Son of God?  And, talking about praying for sinners, my daughter has started praying for Satan.  What do you say to that?  It actually stemmed from me because God says we are to love our enemies.

A. John tends to describe things in very strong black and white terms: you are either with God, or an antichrist — that sort of thing.  So it is little surprise that he would say that denying Jesus was the Son of God is a sin that leads to death.  As to your daughter’s action, I love her vision for praying for her enemies!

Q. (2 John 1:1): Is John singling out women believers?

A. Not really.  There is some speculation that 2 John is written to a particular woman, but the scholarly consensus is that the “women” represents a congregation or a particular church.  Revelation will repeatedly refer to congregations using feminine imagery, so it is hardly an uncommon thing for the NT (watch for the bride of Christ imagery).

O. (3 John 1:1-4): Growing up, I remember taking care of visiting evangelists and musicians that came to our church for a revival.  I think they stayed with us some, we fed them, had church dinners.  But now that I belong to a megachurch, there isn’t that sense of close-knit community.  I miss it!  But, as my life has changed from going to a small community to a big metropolis, we can still carve out ways to help others.  And, our church definitely supports missionaries who must travel abroad.

Q. Rob, since this is Christmas Day, can you explain if Christmas was the actual day Jesus was born?  I have heard studies where He was born in January.  Regardless, it’s a very important event to celebrate!  I think it’s interesting to hear how dates get set or rearranged in history.

A. The word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass,” or Christ’s coming or arrival.  In the old days, the celebrations were known as liturgical feasts or feast days, as they still are in the “high” churches.  The first indication of the Christ Mass in the Western Church dates to around 354 AD, but the Eastern Church (what we today call the big “o” Orthodox) had already tied the birth of Christ into one combined feast day known as Epiphany, which takes place on Jan 6th of each year.  The Western Church also recognizes Epiphany as the date of the Magi’s arrival (Matthew 2), obviously have a different date for Christmas.  (In passing reference, you get 12 days if you add the dates from Christmas, Dec 25th, to Epiphany, Jan 6th, which would be the 12 days of Christmas, in case you ever wondered).

Okay, now about that date.  Well, as you can clearly see from what we have already discussed, there was no consensus about the ACTUAL date of Jesus’ birth, because the Gospels do not tell us.  The OBSERVANCE of the birth is what takes place on Dec. 25, so it should not be understood that the liturgical churches have been saying Jesus was born on Dec. 25 for 1700 years … it hasn’t.  As to WHY Dec. 25 was selected, well, now we’re in deeper water.  There is some close proximity to what is called the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a major holiday for pagan culture, the dominant force in the world both Jesus and Christianity were “born” into.  So there is frequently discussed and “known” pseudo-knowledge that the 25th was selected to “replace” the feast of the Solstice, but I do not think this is actually what happened.  What caused it then?  Since that’s a long answer, I’m going to recommend you read an essay from a Catholic writer named Mark Shea (he’s a great writer and normally blogs here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/) on that very topic here: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2006/12/is-christmas-really-just-warmed-over.html

Hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.  Merry Christmas!

Day 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

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

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

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

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

James 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 299 (Oct. 26): Most important Commandments, Jesus questions religious leaders about Messiah, religious leaders known for pageantry not serving others, Jesus warns religious leaders, only one Father and one Teacher, Pharisees and teachers of religious law neglect justice, mercy and faith, widow’s offering is larger than that of the rich

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 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:35-37

Matthew 22:41-46

Luke 20:41-44

Mark 12:38-40

Matthew 23:1-12

Luke 20:45-47

Matthew 23:13-39

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 21:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 12:31): I had always heard that loving God was the most important and then loving your neighbor was second.  Here it says they are equal.  Does the Bible say one is more important than the other anywhere?  It seems like they are almost one in the same.  If you love God you will likely love others.  If you love others, you probably have God in your heart.

A. No doubt Jesus desires us to love God first — we might call what He says 1 and 1a — but that, as you state, a true love for God will be manifest in a genuine love for others.

Q. (Matthew 22:34): Can you tell me again what the difference is between the Pharisees and Sadducees?

A. Sure.  First, members of BOTH of these parties made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so we might think of them as the two major “political” parties of the day.  The Sadducees were the more conservative of the two, and used the first five books of the OT (Genesis to Deuteronomy) as their primary guides for living.  They rejected much of the later OT writings (notably including writings about resurrection, which as we have discussed come from the later parts of the OT, hence their rejection of the doctrine).  The Sadducees were the primary members of the Priesthood, including Caiaphas who will be one of the central figures of the Passion story as High Priest.  Since they were the “official” leaders of the nation as the priests, the Sadducees worked with the Romans, which made them inferior in the eyes of others, including the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a different ruling party, and their primary concern was a noble one in theory: they desired for God to act on behalf of His people and cast off the Roman oppression (though they rejected overt action such as assassination that groups like the Zealots used).  They believed that if the people of the nation could become righteous enough by keeping the Law, they would “force God’s hand,” so to speak, and bring the Messiah into the world to conquer the Romans.  They were the teachers of the Law.  Since they did not see Jesus as being a leader capable of such a violent revolt, it is little surprise they rejected Him as the Messiah.  The Pharisees hoped to achieve this righteousness by means of legalism, including the use of many traditions that went well beyond the scope of the Law, as Jesus has been pointing out.  They would have been among the most powerful group in the nation, but in general, they would have been greatly disliked by the common Jews, who saw them as showy and flashy but ultimately not helpful.  The Pharisees would be the surviving party after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and their lineage carries on today in the writings of the Talmud, and the line of the Rabbis.

Q. (Mark 12:35-37, Matthew 22:41-46, Luke 20:41-44): I think I understand that Jesus is asking the “experts” on religious law how the Messiah can be the SON of David.  David would not refer to his son as “my lord.”  And that, tripped up the religious leaders?

A. Okay, so here’s what’s going on here: Jesus is mocking the religious leaders in what would have understood in a humorous way.  Jesus is using a quote from David in Psalm 110 (and assuming Davidic authorship, by the way) to say that David himself saw the Messiah as being more than a normal person.  David saw the Messiah as being divine, which is why he refers to Him as “his Lord.”  But everyone in that day knew that the Messiah was ALSO a son of David from his lineage.  So in posing the question in this way, unless the religious leaders of the day were willing to admit that the Messiah was indeed divine (something they rejected — they saw him as a chosen ruler by not divine), they COULD NOT answer His question.  If the person chosen as Messiah was merely a man, then the great King David would have no reason to call him Lord.  That, if you will, is the joke, but it was also a blistering critique by Jesus.

Q. (Mark 12:38-40): I am sure that many religious leaders are guilty of posturing today.  I remember my dad and some other elders of our church inviting our small-town preacher out to dinner.  They would get upset though, because the preacher never paid anything for the dinner.  We gave offering to the church and I guess my dad thought that that is the preacher’s wages and he should pay for his own dinner.  He and his family were extremely nice, but the preacher did have a slight attitude that he deserved to be taken care of.  So, they didn’t ask him to dinner every time.

A. As a person who has worked in ministry, I can honestly tell you that it is quite easy to let a sense of entitlement get a hold of you, and it is something you must make war against.  It is very difficult to remain humble in the midst of those circumstances, which to me makes it all the more important.

Q. (Matthew 23:8-9): Don’t Jews call their leaders “Rabbi” and Catholics call their priests “Father”?

A. Yes they do, though it’s worth mentioning that nothing Jesus says here would be recognized by Jews today — they wholly reject His teachings.  What Jesus is saying here is not to seek the title for the sake of pride (which was a major failing of the leadership), and I do not believe that Jesus is saying, “never have any titles”.  This is a verse about humility, and a reminder to keep in mind who is really in charge.

O. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4): I have read this or heard of this passage many times before.  But, now that I have read it after reading Matthew 23:12, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” this verse has a new meaning.  She was not only sacrificing more than the rich people, she will be exalted for it!  This verse sure is a game changer.

Day 260 (Sept. 17): Ezra learns of intermarriage and falls in shame before God, Ezra sets to purify Israel of sin of breaking Law of Moses, people confess sin of intermarriage, list of those intermarriage offenders, Nehemiah’s alarmed over Jerusalem’s state, King grants Nehemiah’s wish to secure Jerusalem by rebuilding it’s wall, Nehemiah sneaks out to inspect the wall

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.

Ezra 9-10

Questions & Observations

Q. Ezra feels such remorse here.  Can we apply this to today?  Is it wrong by God to marry someone who is not a Christian?  I know several who have married non-believers and they really struggle with the fact that they won’t go to church with them.  I think that we will learn in the NT that they will be saved by their spouse’s faith?  Then, (this is not quite the subject matter, but let’s talk about it anyway) there are others who believe, but have no interest in going to church for whatever reason.  These are some of them: I was in church and it was nothing but power struggles; Sundays are our only day when we don’t have anything to do; I don’t know anyone who goes to church, among others.  But, they believe in God.  So, I think we will learn in the NT that they will be saved, but God also notes that deeds and faith will earn rewards in heaven.  Is that accurate?

A. The NT (Paul’s writings in particular) describe the dangers of being what he calls “yoked” with a non-believer: it puts a serious strain on your own walk with God, as you note.  Too often, you are forced to make decisions that either harm your relationship with your spouse, or your personal walk with God.  Frankly, neither of these decisions honors God (who greatly desires us to honor our marriage, just not at the expense of our relationship with Him).  Thus, it is not hard to see why Paul advises against marrying a non-Christian.  There are certainly issues with children to consider.  As to being in a married relationship with someone of another faith, I can’t see how that would work without major compromises to either their religious faith or yours, and I don’t see the value in such half-hearted religion.

As to whether we are “saved” by our spouses as you suggest, I’m not familiar with the passages in question.  As far as I know, the only instance of Paul describing someone’s faith saving someone else is as it relates to children, not another adult.  We must all make our decisions about what god we will serve, and no one but ourselves will answer to God for it.

Q. (Ezra 10:18-44): I guess by naming each of them, they are held accountable?  And, what about the children?  They are also considered to defile Israel?

A. Yes and yes.  The children are the “fruit” of this series of compromises that clearly did not honor God.

Q. (Nehemiah 1:1): Had Nehemiah lived in Jerusalem?

A. I doubt it.  It was such a long way — a journey of several months — that very few people would make the trip (a very dangerous path, as we read in Ezra) unless it was absolutely necessary.  It is most likely that Nehemiah grew up in the court of Xerxes (Artaxerxes’ father) and was groomed for a position in Artaxerxes’ court.

Q. (2:1-2): We have seen the “cup-bearer” position many times, but I never asked what are the duties of the cup-bearer?  Now that I see Nehemiah doing it, I think of it as a bartender.  Someone who provides the king his drink, someone he could trust and confide in.  Good analogy? (lol)

A. Since one of the easiest and secretive ways of killing a king would be to poison him, the cupbearer would have been a closely trusted ally of the king, who would personally look after all the king would consume on a daily basis.  He was something of a personal aide as well.  It is also very likely, as you infer, that he would have been a confidante of the royal family, and would have had a position of great influence.

Q. (2:10): What would an Ammonite and a Horonite be doing in Jerusalem?  They are not a part of Israel are they?

A. Remember that there is no king of Israel at this point: Jerusalem is being ruled from Samaria, and that is the region of these other tribes.  That is mostly likely why they are there.  It is very likely that the men mentioned had a great financial interest in keeping Jerusalem “down.”

Q. (2:11-20): Nehemiah is so secretive because he was afraid he would counter some objection to rebuilding the wall.  That doesn’t seem right.  Why would anyone object?  And, in v. 2:19, what king is being referred to that Nehemiah would be rebelling against.  I’m confused if there is a king of Judah, Jerusalem or Israel right now.  Wasn’t Ezra given those duties?

A. They are accusing Nehemiah of revolting against Artaxerxes, the only king that mattered in this region.  They are basically accusing him — and will continue to do so — of taking the money provided by the king and using it to lead an insurrection against him.  Nehemiah is doing nothing of the sort, but as I said in my last question, it is very likely that Jerusalem becoming important again was going to hurt these men’s sphere of influence and their pocketbook.  They will prove powerful enemies for our story.

O. (2:18): I can imagine the shame and depression that would go along with having a city in ruins with burnt gates and a trampled wall.  Go into a neighborhood with graffiti and there is no pride felt there.  Or even your nice home.  Whenever it’s messy or the yard is unkempt, it feels shameful.  But here, they get hope that their shame will be lifted.

Day 251 (Sept. 8): Daniel earns honor among Darius’s court, other members of the court are jealous and form scheme, Daniel thrown in with lions, God closes mouths of lions, Darius has Daniel’s accusers arrested and thrown to lions, Daniel prays to God for mercy on the Israelites, King Cyrus of Persia proclaims for Israel’s exiles to return, Cyrus orders the plunder from Jerusalem be returned with the exiles, Jehoiachin’s descendants

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.

Daniel 6

Daniel 9

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1:1-11

1 Chronicles 3:17-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 6:1-28): We all probably know this story very well and admire Daniel for his loyalty to God.  Some may say that it would be ridiculous to apply this story to today.  If someone were thrown in a lion’s den, would God save him or her, if asked?  Should anyone be crazy enough to go into a lion’s den anyway?  This reminds me of a story in a sermon I heard several months ago where prayer was the subject.  Someone had just arrived in California (I don’t remember all the details) to speak or maybe he was a pastor at this church.  Anyway, he was being driven to his destination and was notified that there were wild fires all around this place he was going.  Instead of rushing off to the place of the fire, he had the driver pull over and he prayed for 20 minutes or so.  The fire burned everything around this building, but spared the building.

A. God may do as He pleases, as we have often discussed.  I sometimes wonder if we do not vastly UNDERESTIMATE the impact of prayer: too often we assume that circumstances are beyond our control (or even beyond God’s control) when we might find our situation different if we would but pray, as is the case in the story you mentioned.  Now having said that, let’s look at the story a bit more closely.

Daniel does NOT pray for God to rescue Him; he simply prays as he always has, and has faith that God will meet his dire need.  Daniel knew he was being punished unjustly, so he counted on God to be his avenger, and God obviously delivers him.

One of the central themes of Daniel is faithfulness through times of persecution, with this story and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from chapter 3 being the primary examples of this.  It appears that God was sending His people a message (and a message to future generations who would read it): don’t compromise your faith, even when it appears foolish to not do so.  And while most Americans do not face REAL persecution for our beliefs (unlike many parts of the world), the pressure to compromise what we hold most dear is real in our society.  The book of Daniel still has much to teach us, even if we are not at risk to be thrown to hungry lions anytime soon.  Keeping the faith is easy when times are good, but the true test of the power of our faith is what effect it has on us when the chips are down.  To those in difficult times Daniel reminds us: it is always worth it to keep the faith.

Q. (9:1-19): I am surprised that Daniel pleads with God since God said that the land lay fallow for 70 years.  As a follower of God, why would Daniel plead for God to change His heart?  I would think that would be disrespectful.

A. He’s not asking for God to change His mind, he’s asking God to keep His promise to restore His people by confessing on His people’s behalf.

Q. (9:20-27): I’m not really following what’s all going on here.  Can you clarify this passage?  I don’t know what a “set of seven” (didn’t we talk about this with another vision) is?

A. Daniel is being given a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One) along with the decree from Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem, which will be narrated in Ezra and Nehemiah.  A set of sevens is most likely 7 years.  What that means is that according to verse 26, the Messiah will appear (what “appear” means we don’t exactly know) approximately 483 years after the decree from Cyrus (7×7=49, 62×7= 434, giving a total of 483), though it is possible Gabriel means the actual restoration of the Temple, which will come a few decades later.  In other words, we don’t know exactly HOW to do the “math” on the coming of the Messiah, and obviously Jewish and Christian sources disagree on how it should be interpreted.  You can read about the various interpretations here, but I will warn you, it gets a bit technical, and frankly cumbersome to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_Seventy_Weeks.  A lot of Christians have gotten taken in by many attempts to “force” the math to show that Jesus is “proven” Messiah by these verses, but I am jut not convinced that you can make it “work” without stretching the numbers.  To me, Jesus is proven Messiah by what He does on the cross and His resurrection, not because some vague prophecy says that was coming at a set time.  But I would not stop anyone from looking into the math, I would only warn them that they will need to dig deep.  It is not an easy passage to interpret.

Q. (2 Chronicles 32:22-23): Is this the same Cyrus who was well, ugly?  He just seems to come out of nowhere.

A. I do not know exactly what you’re talking about, but Cyrus II was a major ruler of the Persian Empire who would have been well known to Jews of this era because of his role in restoring the Jews to their land.  We will see that process unfold over the next few weeks.

Q. (1 Chronicles 3:17-19a): I just assumed we were all done reading anything about Jehoiachin.  Do any of his descendants rise to be known?

A. His son Shenazzar might be the person that Ezra mentions as the “treasurer” of the people, but there’s not much here other than that.

Day 214 (Aug. 2): Habakkuk complains to God against evil, God raises up Babylonians against Jerusalem, Habakkuk pleads with God for a pardon, God replies that there is too much corruption, Habakkuk prays for mercy, God informs Zephaniah with Judah’s coming judgment, last call to be humble before the Lord, judgment against Philistines

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.

Habakkuk 1-3:19

Zephaniah 1-2:7

Questions & Observations

Q. Can you tell us anything about Habakkuk? Was he a prophet?

A. Habakkuk and Zephaniah are considered to be part of the group of Minor Prophets known as “the twelve.”  In the Jewish Bible, each of these twelve writings (with Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) is part of one book.  Christians Bibles consider them as separate “books” but keep the group arrangement.  The twelve writings are included in (roughly) chronological order: Hosea first, Malachi last.

As to information on Habakkuk himself, we know almost nothing except for the fact that he was most likely a contemporary of the “major prophet” Jeremiah and fellow “minor” Nahum.  He is generally understood of being the “voice” of the small group of faithful Jews in Judah (possibly Jerusalem) that seek to understand why God is planning to bring about their destruction.  But that’s really all we know.

Q. (Habakkuk 3:17-18): Habakkuk sounds a little like Job here.  (Job left an impression on me.)  Although Habakkuk sees no signs of hope, he is trusting and rejoicing in the Lord.

A. Through Habakkuk’s visions/conversations with God, he comes to conclude that God is being just and that He will be faithful.  That last chapter is an astonishing psalm of praise.

Q. Can you tell us anything about Zephaniah?

A. Only what the writer chooses to tell us, but in this case, that’s actually something.  It appears that Zephaniah was related to the royal family, and was a great-grandson of Hezekiah the king.  The style of the letter also indicates that he understood royal politics and was most likely familiar with the earlier writings of Isaiah and Amos, both of which he alludes to in his book.

Q. (2:6-7) I welcome this glimpse of calm along the Philistine coast after the turmoil.

A. God’s message indicates that this land controlled by the sea-faring Philistines will revert to pasture land and be controlled by Israel in the aftermath of all the impending destruction.

Day 209 (July 28): A prayer for mercy and pardon, judgment and final salvation, Hezekiah dies

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.

Isaiah 63:15-66:24

2 Kings 20:20-21

2 Chronicles 32:32-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 63): It’s kind of confusing that sometimes Isaiah talks for himself, sometimes for God and I guess, here for the Israelites?

A. He is dialoguing, if you will, with God.  Isaiah begins in chapter 63, and then God responds in 64 and beyond.

Q. (63:17): Can that happen?  Can God “allow” people to turn from Him?  That seems just to be shifting blame to God.  Is it saying that God created them, so why did He make them where they could turn away from Him?

A. I guess that depends on your personal theology and perspective.  I personally am of the camp that says that God does not override free will, so we choose to turn away from Him, rather then His “allowing” or ordaining that we walk away (which would be much more of a Calvinistic argument, and I don’t want to go into that here).  Note well God’s reply in the next chapter, He basically says, “I was just waiting for you to call on me, but you never did.  You chose the path of sin, and now must deal with the consequences, but it is your own doing, not Mine.”  I think the way God replies sheds much light on His perspective on the matter.

O. (64:1-3): What an awesome picture this is painting.  Humans seem to have good short-term memories though.  And, when we don’t have frequent affirmation of God’s existence, our doubt rises.  But, like here, they are remembering God’s greatness.  We just have to keep that at the forefront of our memory.

O. (64:4-12): This reminds me of a child who keeps returns to home asking for money and forgiveness.

Q. (65:12): Who is the executioner?

A. Babylon, and King Nebuchadnezzar in particular.

Q. (65:20-25): God is describing heaven here?

A. He is describing His own restored Kingdom, as we have seen over the last few chapters.

Q. (66:2b-3a): This basically sums up who will be rewarded with salvation and who won’t, right?

A. I would say it makes for a good foundation, but a contrite heart alone is not enough: our hearts must allow us to see the salvation that God so generously offers, and accept the offer via the blood of His son Jesus.  But frankly, as verse 3 indicates, many choose to go their own way, content in the “knowledge” that they are all right on their own, and don’t need God.  Such thinking is very dangerous according to God.

Q. This reading went back and forth between talking about the resurrection of Jerusalem and judgment day, right?  It’s a little difficult to follow.

A. Actually, it also covered the destruction of Jerusalem as well, but yes.  God explains His position in response to Isaiah’s requests in the first chapter, and God says there is a price to be paid, but for those who survive (the remnant), they will inherit God’s eternal Kingdom.

Day 201 (July 20): Lord’s case against Israel, Israel’s guilt and punishment, misery turned to hope, Lord’s compassion for Israel, Assyria invades Judah, Assyria king threatens Jerusalem

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.

Micah 6-7

2 Chronicles 32:1-8

2 Kings 18:13-18

Isaiah 36:1-3

2 Kings 18:19-37

Isaiah 36:4-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Micah 6:8): I have a good understanding of the requirements of doing what is right and having mercy that Micah is telling the Israelites they need to have.  But, walking humbly with God is a little foggy to exactly what that should look like.  Can you describe that or better yet, how we should walk with God?  And, I take it that “walk” means have Him in our hearts.  Just another observance is that Micah clearly states here that all the offerings are no longer desired by God.  He wants a personal relationship with His people, right?

A. To me, the key word in that sentence is “humbly.”  Israel, like all of us, had an issue with pride that needed to be resolved if any sort of good relationship with God was going to be established.  We’ve actually been talking about a lot of different ways we can walk humbly with God: we’ve discussed having genuine faith that God has our best interest at heart, and praying accordingly, we’ve discussed the importance of worship, loving God by loving others, and so forth.  To me, when we see God for who He truly is (as the Bible describes it in both the OT and NT), we simply have no choice to be humble before all that God has done for us.  That, I think, is the starting point of a humble walk with God.

O. (6:10b-11): Talk about unfair pricing.  Sometimes I see this unjust pricing today.  If you have ever bought one of those craft kits for kids that are $6-$15 with all the cool photos of what you can make on the outside.  Then, you open it up and there are a few things in it that are worth about $1.  Then, there is the things you see on TV — I am an occasional sucker, not often though — like the slushes.  We try it and it kind of works, but I think that I could probably just make these with some ice cubes and a cup with a lid.  But, no, I paid $19.99 for it.  It makes me feel like a fool.  But then, I think that what person could sell this stuff and feel good about it!  I just watched Mystery Diner last night.  If you haven’t seen that, it’s pretty cool.  They caught people red-handed stealing or throwing away profits from the restaurant owner.  It was hundreds of dollars a day.

Q. (7:16-17): Here Micah is — and we have seen this a lot of other places too — describing the Israelites pretty much enjoying the astonishment that their enemies are experiencing.  I think we all do this or have done this imagining the shock of others when they realize how great we are — here the greatness comes from God.  But, I always thought the feeling of enjoying the fruits of revenge was not proper or godly.

A. I see a couple of problems with your reading.  First of all, I didn’t see any sense of revenge on Israel’s part in the passage.  It is God’s free choice to avenge His people in whatever timeframe He deems appropriate.  Another issue I see is that God is talking about a day in the future (i.e. something that hasn’t happened yet).  Once again, God is most likely speaking (through Micah) about His Day of Judgment that we’ve been talking about recently.  The nations will truly be in awe, but NOT in awe of Israel.  They will be in awe of God.  When we are living a life that truly pleases and brings glory to God, He will get the credit for it — as He deserves — not us.

Q. (7:18-20): And here, the Israelites seem to be taking God’s mercy for granted.

A. Now that I can say they clearly did.  It will be their downfall, but God has a bigger plan at work that we will have to watch unfold.

Q. (2 Chronicles 32:5-8): I think there is an argument with some folks that God will take care of you, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride and let God build your business or fight your battles.  Is this what God intended?  Or, do we still have to work hard, but know that if we follow God, he will make our lives good, especially the everlasting one.

A. God guarantees us nothing this side of His Kingdom.  Anything that He provides us is a blessing that is to be used for His glory, not our pocketbooks.  So I would say there is great incentive to be hard working — don’t forget that in Genesis, work predates the Fall (work is good!) — and to be proactive about the decisions that we are making.  But as Micah 6:8 reminds us, we must do so humbly, and remember the source of it all.  If we do that, then I believe that God will provide the guidance we need, even if we are not aware of the ways that He is bringing about His glory through us.

Q. (2 Kings 18:25): Is this true?  God set them up to attack?

A. I think the commander is lying to try and intimidate the people.  But, let’s see what happens, shall we?  If what the commander says is true, then nothing will be able to stop Jerusalem’s destruction.

O. (2 Kings 18:37, Isaiah 36:22): Can’t wait to hear the rest of this story!

Day 177 (June 26): God’s forgiving love for unfaithful Israel, Hosea’s wife is redeemed, God charges Israel with wickedness, Israel’s leaders judged hard, call to repetance, Israel’s love for wickedness, Israel harvests the whirlwind

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.

Hosea 2:14-8:14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hosea 2:14-23, Hosea 3:5): I can guess that this is a metaphorical story for Christ coming?

A. I suppose you could make that argument, but I think that most likely it is about the restored nation of Israel that will be established after the captivity.

O. (4:12): I see humor in this that God is accusing them of making an idol out of wood and thinking it can help them.

O. (5:15): God points out how Israel and Judah are predictable in their pattern of sin and punishment, followed by crying to God to bring them out of their despair.

Q. (6:10): God calls Israelites prostitutes, referring to their attitude toward Him.  They should be like a bride and groom or husband and wife with God.  It’s a sacred relationship and when the Israelites seek another God, it’s like cheating on a spouse (God being the spouse), prostituting themselves out to a false god (a prostitute who can only give you one thing you desire).  I see more relationship comparisons.  In a marriage, the relationship may not always provide everything we want.  There are times that the romance is gone, sometimes for a reason, but we have to stick with it and wait for it to come back around.  If we can’t wait and seek something else to fill that void, then the marriage will be ruined.  Same with God.  If we do not abide by his rules, then our life goes down the wrong path because we are not including Him in the relationship.  We may seek other things, work, alcohol, possessions, luxury that get in the way.  Then when we realize that the void cannot be filled with other things and return to God, He may wait for us to show mercy before He returns to our life.

A. The idea of Israel and Judah being required to “earn” its way back to a proper relationship with her Husband is a good one for what is going to happen.

Q. (8:4): I wondered if this was a problem.  Because, starting with Saul, God told whom He wanted to be king.  Then, after Solomon, we seldom heard God telling who He wanted to be king.  And, He led very few of the revolts to dethrone a king.  The leaders were acting out their own desires.  I doubted that all of the kings were David’s descendants.  Were Judah’s kings all from David’s line?

A. Yes they were (as best I can tell).  When God spoke of Himself being faithful to David’s line (via Solomon and Rehoboam), He really meant it.

Q. (8:13b): Is returning to Egypt a metaphor, like they will be in the same despair as they were in Egypt?

A. The only part that is a metaphor is the location.  The people will once again be slaves to another nation (not Assyria), and will have to begin all over again with God.  But God knows what He is doing here, and the results will be interesting to say that least.