Day 364 (Dec. 30): Seven angels standing at Temple hold bowls of seven plagues, those victorious over evil sang song of Moses, plagues caused flowing blood, darkness, earthquakes, hailstorms, prostitute rides beast, beast has fallen, Lamb of God victorious over beast and kings, voice warns to stay away from the wickedness of Babylon, believers rejoice over judgment of Babylon

Welcome to Bible Bum 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.

Revelation 15-18:24

Questions & Observations

Q.  Rob, this is still John’s vision, but we have no idea if this is how the end of days will actually be, right?  And, what about those who see a white light when they are passing, but then come back to earth?  The Bible doesn’t seem to address that.

A. The rest of Revelation after John is told to enter the door is his vision, so yes, this remains a record of what he is seeing.  There are many who see Revelation as some sort of code to be deciphered that would give Christians an “insider” knowledge about what will happen in the last days — which no one even knows when that will be, let alone how it will unfold — but I do not buy that.  People who make such claims don’t really understand the genre of the writing: it was written in code, not for people living centuries later, but for the original audience, persecuted Christians in the seven churches of the first few chapters and beyond.  That it has any benefit to us is, in my mind, incidental to John — though I freely offer that the Spirit desired this book to be for our benefit as well.  But I simply do not think you can “unravel” the code and be given special information: God simply does not work that way with any part of the Bible — the message is always clear and up front.  Hidden knowledge is not part of Christianity — all the “cards” are on the table.  The Bible does not address the near death experiences you are describing, probably because there was no such thing as “near death” in ancient times: you were either dead or alive.

Q. (15:7): There a lot of dishes used in the Bible that hold important things.  Here we have bowls holding plagues, cups that runneth over, and I remember the Tabernacle had some holy dishes, right?  Is that for a reason?

A. I don’t think there is anything special about the use of dishes or cups, they are simply delivery devices for liquids, and there’s just no other way to do that.  Though some of the dishes represent powerful images, such as wrath or healing, the dishes are not the important part of the image: it is what they contain that matters.

Q. (16:4): And here is the blood again.  Blood signifies cleansing of sins.  Here it is more of a payback?

A. The plague of blood serves two purposes: it harkens back to the first plague of Egypt, in which the Nile was turned to blood thanks to Moses’ staff.  But the other purpose for this punishment is described in verses 5 and 6: the blood is a “punishment fits the crime” plague for shedding the blood of those faithful to God.

Q. (16:11): After all of that wrath, the people still refuse to acknowledge God.  They don’t know God so they don’t know they’ve sinned?  And, they are still being called to repent to God and they are still refusing.  Would you say there hearts are hardened?  It doesn’t say anything about that here and why would God harden them because he did this in the past to magnify evil showing the Israelites His power.  These people sound so wicked that their hearts could not be softened ever.  Anyway, just curious.

A. This vision is black and white, like a lot of John’s writings: there is no one who crosses to the other side during this torment: no one repents, and confesses the evil of their ways.  For the Christians who suffered under persecution and likely lost their possessions, if not their lives to the whims of evil men who placed themselves as enemy’s of God’s church, however, this is a just punishment.  It is only a vision after all, but one with a clear purpose: to remind the faithful what they are fighting for and what happens if they are victorious.  Those who persevere through this tribulation — and do keep in mind that in more than 60 countries around the world RIGHT NOW, the tribulation goes on to this day! — they will be rewarded and see those who have punished them punished.

I won’t lie to you, there is an element of blood lust in this that I’m not completely comfortable with, but we must not forget that God does not wink at sin, and some of the greatest sins are to persecute and kill those who are on the side of God.  Personally, I would desire for God to extend grace, but in this vision at least, the time of grace has passed.  Victory is coming for those who remained faithful!

Q. (17:15-18): I don’t understand the dynamic between the beasts and the prostitute.  They are enemies here, but I thought they were on the same Team Evil.

A. This is a complex analogy.  The woman/prostitute is Rome, not the actual city of Babylon, which has long been known as the city on seven hills.  The vision of the kings/crowns on the beast is clear enough, and the beast in this analogy is the Antichrist, the great enemy of God.  It appears that the beast will come to rule over the woman (that is, rule Rome, at least symbolically), and that is why there is animosity between them.  This makes the 8th king (verse 11) the ruler, but they will turn on the “woman” for reasons that I don’t really know.  It appears that even among “team evil,” there is division.  The ultimate point John is making is that Rome has become a prostitute of all kinds of things that are evil in God’s sight, and that many rulers, merchants, and sailors have “slept” with her in order to gain wealth.  Since the woman will die, it will be bad for all those who “sleep” with her.

Q. (18:10): The prostitute is the city of Babylon, right?  It sounds like the NT’s version   of Sodom and Gomorra.  I would think that Babylon is metaphorical for all who fall prey to the temptations of this world.

A. It’s Rome, as I discussed above, but the rest of what you write has it exactly.  Rome is powerful, which is why she is so tempting for those who desire power or control, but in the end, she will die (the Roman Empire will fall) and God still remains.

Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

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 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

Day 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 318 (Nov. 14): Faith in Jesus took the place of the old laws, baptism makes all equal through Christ, Paul is concerned with church in Galatia listening to false teachers, Abraham’s two children illustrate the old and new law, there is freedom in Christ, let the Holy Spirit guide you, help your friends but stay strong to their sinful temptations, circumcision is old law, debate over circumcision requirement

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.

Galatians 3:24-6:18

Acts 15:1-21

Questions & Observations

O. (Galatians 3:27): I like this verse saying that we are all equal in God’s eyes.  Those Christians who don’t treat each other equally have obviously not read this verse!

Q. (4:8-20): I guess the church of Galatia was holding on to the laws and not dropping them to follow Jesus’ teachings?

A. It appears that they were being influenced by some sort of Jewish group that was attempting to convert the Galatian Christians into becoming their disciples, and much of their religion consisted of legalistic following of the Law, which is why Paul takes such great pains to say, “we are under the Law no longer.”

Q. (4:21-31): I love how Jesus, Paul and the disciples use the Old Testament prophecies and stories to tie to the New Testament stories and characters.  It’s so wonderful how they are intertwined.  The NT supports the OT and makes it legit.  The Bible is undeniably irrefutable!

A. I am glad you are seeing how all of the “pieces” are coming together.  Paul is deeply versed in the OT, and will quote from it frequently in his letters.

O. (5:19-21): I’m guilty of a few of these categories.  But, I’m working on them.  Knowing that I believe in Jesus and that pleases Him gives me much comfort.  But, I’m with the group of people that are on the right path to freedom of shame through Christ.  I have dabbled in the darker side in my younger days, but I believe that because I proclaimed Jesus when I was in the 4th Grade and was baptized, that the Holy Spirit has been with me and steered me away from going too far into the “dark.”  I don’t think I realized the depths of baptism then, but I feel blessed to have had parents and grandparents who steered me in the right direction until the Holy Spirit took over.

O. (5:22-23): I first heard these “fruits” from volunteering for my daughters’ Sunday school class.  If you have kids, this is a good one to show them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDNvUOZRFxs

O. (5:26): Jealousy is a tough one for me to overcome, but I’ve made big gains.  I notice that jealousy can cause self-defeating behaviors.  My friends’ kids are doing all of these after-school activities.  We aren’t yet.  We are waiting for God to give us the signal (money, however one teacher wants to barter baby sitting with us!) or not.  But, instead of highlighting what we don’t do as a family, I am finding a lot of joy in what we do do together.  My kids play together and have so much fun discovering the outdoors together, creating books, making me a jewelry box full of necklaces, etc.  It makes me feel fulfilled just thinking of my girls.  When I get jealous and think of the things others are doing that we are not, I feel a weird, bad feeling of shame and darkness.  Let it go!  I also think of keeping up with the neighbors and the bucket list of things I would like to do.  But then, I think about how short our life here is compared to eternity.  Which is better, to make sure life on earth is the best it can be or make sure you are on the path to life everlasting.  I think the latter will take care of the former.

Q. (6:8-10): I hear Paul here saying that we need to watch our own work, but then, as Christians, we need be there for each other in community.

A. Yes, both are important.  We must be watchful of our brothers and sisters in Christ (something, frankly, we as individualistic Americans have a huge problem with).  But Paul’s advice comes with a warning: be careful that you do not fall into the same traps as the friend you are helping!

Q. (6:17): Is this is where Paul mentions that he has some battle wounds from being stoned, but he didn’t die?

A. I don’t know specifically, but if he did indeed survive a stoning, he surely had scars from it.  As I mentioned, it won’t be the last time he gets banged up.

Q. (6:11-18): I know a lot of folks still choose to circumcise their baby boys.  After reading this text, I don’t think God cares one way or another if they are circumcised.  Personally, I think it is a fairly brutal practice.  Even God sounds like he thinks it’s barbaric now.  Maybe he chose this to set Israel apart because no one else would want to copy it.  If God chose an easy way to set them apart, others could easily copy it.  I think the Jewish community still practice this as a religious custom because they think it is a still a sign of the Jewish community?  I wonder if God would get upset with this since in the New Testament he adamentally says that Jesus is the way to eternal life, not circumcision or any other Law of Moses.

A. While it is by no means a requirement, many Christians still use the ritual of circumcision (Jews call it a bris) to honor God and show that their child is set apart as Jewish children were.  One must be careful in reading too much into what Paul is saying- Paul is referring to ADULT believers, not babies, in his discussion of the ritual, and that certainly makes a big difference in how the ritual is considered, wouldn’t you agree?
Personally, I do not believe that many Christians are under the impression that their children MUST be circumcised to be saved, and that it is a decision that they make in an effort to honor God.  It is a decision that is made with the freedom that God has given us in Christ, and beyond that, it is a parental choice.  Many do see it as “barbaric”, but many others see it as doing their best to honor the best traditions handed down from generations of Jews AND Christians.

Q. (Acts 15:1-21): I see the apostles are gaining respect among the church.  You said in a recent reading that the old school leaders go to the wayside as the Christian leaders begin to gain respect.

A. Something like that.  What I meant was with Acts specifically: the Apostles (Peter in particular) were the central figures of the first half of the book, but that Paul and his companions (Luke, Barnabas, etc.) will become the central figures in this second half as we read on.  The center point of the growing church will no longer be Jerusalem (I don’t think it is even mentioned again after this meeting), but rather Antioch, which is at the center of the Jewish/Gentile crossroads leading into Asia Minor and Europe.  We’re going on a road trip!

Day 316 (Nov. 12) Angel aids Paul in escaping from prison, God strikes dead Herod Agrippa for taking glory, Barnabas and Paul preach together in Cyprus and Paphos, Paul accuses governor’s sorcerer, governor became believer, Paul preaches at Antioch of Pisidia’s synagogue, Paul intrigues Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas ran from Antioch of Pisidia to Iconium where they were run from town also, Paul heals crippled man in Lystra, Paul stoned but didn’t die

Only 49 days to the end!

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

Acts 12:6-14:20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 12:6-19): Whether Peter was rescued for his own faith or because he had people praying for him or both, I think we can take from this scene, the results that can be realized through group prayer.  Rob, can you tell us of any verses where God or Jesus is telling us to pray together?

A. Actually, that is not a topic that Jesus really addressed outside of Matthew 18:19-20, which says that He is there in our midst when we gather and will give us what we seek, which is certainly applicable here.  It is the other works of the NT that will have more to say about this topic, so keep watching.

Q. (Acts 13:3): Also, can you tell us more about the “laying of hands.”

A. Sure: it was a way for a community to pray for a person.  The person prayed for would sit or stand in the midst of a group, and the group would place hands upon that person as they prayed — something many churches still do today.  It is frankly nothing especially complicated, but is merely a method of community praying.

Q. (Acts 13:9): I always thought that Saul became Paul after his transformation to Christianity.  But, as I googled it and referred to Wikipedia, I see that Saul is his Jewish name and Paul is his Roman name.  It says that he used Paul to put those to whom he was preaching at ease.

A. It is a common assumption that Saul’s name change to Paul was divinely inspired, the way that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, but that is not the case.  You have the right information on what Paul was doing, using his name to make the people more open to his message.  This will not be the last time that Paul will take advantage of his dual life.  Paul was a devout Jew in his former life as Saul, which helps him address Jews with authority, as he will do in Philippians.  And he will also pull out his Roman citizenship — something quite valuable in his day — when necessary as well to get out of trouble.  No doubt about it Paul is resourceful.

Q. (Acts 13:48): What does the author mean here when he says, “and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.”  This makes it sound like the Kingdom of God uses predestination.

A. There is certainly some role of selection in the Kingdom, but once again I would point out: we do not know what is the criteria that makes a person “selected”.  It’s very possible that it is faith in God that makes one selected.

Q. (Acts 14:19-20): Is there any point worth mentioning about Paul being stoned, but not dead?

A. I guess what happened is that the people assumed he was dead, but he was not.  This verse is part of the reason that many scholars think that Paul was disfigured by this incident and the others to come — it will not be his last brush with trouble — but it certainly gave him a powerful witness.

Day 313 (Nov. 9): Disciples chose seven men to assist them, Stephen is arrested, Stephen addresses the council

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

Acts 6-8:1a

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 6:7): It’s nice to see some Jewish priests softening up and being converted.

A. There is certainly a degree of importance in this often missed verse.  Though many of the Jewish leaders condemned themselves by siding against Jesus, they were able to find repentance and be saved by the very plan that they had themselves enacted.  Surely that is God’s grace at work!

O. (Acts 6:15): So, take that!

Q. (Acts 7:2-50): OT, in a nutshell, right?.  Thanks, Stephen!

A. Sort of.  He definitely hits the um…highlights.  But his main point is that the Jews have a long history of rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit because of their hard hearts, as they are doing here in persecuting the Church.  Stephen is accusing them of being just like their ancestors, and I would say their response indicates that they did not like that accusation.

Q. (Acts 8:59-60): I guess Jesus’s believers knew what they were getting into after seeing Jesus crucified.  Stephen showed what kind of mercy he had on people by asking God to forgive his murderers.  I take it that Stephen is asking Jesus to welcome him to His Kingdom when he asks Jesus to receive his spirit?  Pretty amazing stuff.

A. Yes, I would say that is right.

Day 298 (Oct. 25): Two sons parable shows who belongs to God, farming parable highlights church leaders corrupt hearts, wedding feast parable shows the chosen, coin story shows importance of God, earthly relationships not important for resurrection

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.

Matthew 21:28-32

Mark 12:1-12

Matthew 21:33-46

Luke 20:9-19

Matthew 22:1-14

Mark 12:13-17

Matthew 22:15-22

Luke 20:20-26

Mark 12:18-27

Matthew 22:22-33

Luke 20:27-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 21:28-32): This is what I think is the “moral to this story”: So, Jesus is saying that, in their hearts, the tax collector and prostitutes believe in Him, but were not following yet.  And, the ones who followed God, were not committed in their hearts.  So, the ones who believe are better off with God than the ones who follow Him by sight alone.

A. I would call that is pretty close.  The younger son is the one paying lip service to obeying his Father, but ultimately does not do what the Father says — this is the way that Jesus has repeatedly described the religious leaders.  The older son represents those who are truly following the wishes of the Father, even if they aren’t on the “inside.”  They are doing what is right, which is what the Father ultimately desires.

Q. (Mark 12:1-12, Mathew 21:33-46, Luke 20:9-19): So, I got this one.  The farmers are obviously the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, the landowner is God, the servants are prophets and Jesus is His favored son.  The farmers don’t listen to the prophets, so God sends His son to see if they will obey Him.  They still don’t, they reject Him.  So, Jesus puts the question to the farmers, or church leaders, as to what will happen next.  You would think this would open the leaders eyes to their evil ways.  Then, Jesus gives them another example of them rejecting Him, but then He becomes the cornerstone.  I like Luke’s version where he says that anyone who stumbles over the stone — fails to see Jesus’s teachings — will be destroyed.  I also noted that those who have thought they were the heirs to the Kingdom of God lose their inheritance because of their assumptions that, by default, the kingdom is theirs.  But, they are not following God’s intentions.  They are following their own selfish ways.  So, the Kingdom of God will be granted to those who they have trampled on.

A. Spot on.  Nothing to add here.

Q. (Matthew 22:1-14): God and Jesus use a lot of wedding imagery between them and their followers.  Can you talk about that?  Also, this is an easy story to understand.  But, how about explaining the last verse, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  I’m not sure what “chosen” means.  I would guess it means, “For many are called, but few are worthy.”

A. If you think weddings are a big event here, then you would REALLY be impressed by the wedding feast imagery Jesus is talking about.  Weddings in the ancient world were huge festivals, especially when a ruler such as the king in this story was throwing it.  As we mentioned a few days ago, the festival could go for days, and the exact “end” of the wedding was not entirely known.  One other note that we find humorous: after the actual ceremony, the new happy couple would leave the group and go to, uh…consummate the union.  The wedding party itself literally WOULD NOT BEGIN until they had returned.  Isn’t that something?

We need to compare the two sections of the story in order to understand what Jesus is telling us at the end.  First, the call: the call is one that, metaphorically, goes out to all humanity.  But many do not answer, mostly because like the people in this story, they are too busy with their own business and internally focused.  But the man who is in the midst of the party and not in a wedding outfit — you were expected to wear your best clothes to a wedding, just as today, and many times the host would prescribe or even provide an outfit — brings into focus the last section of the story.  It points back to Jesus’s message in Matthew 7:21-23: not everyone who comes to the party will be able to partake of it.  The image that I have seen used to help us understand the passage is the wedding clothes represent the work of Christ covering up our sins (the “dirty” clothes).  Those who arrive at the “party” without the proper garment (the blood of Jesus atoning for their sins) will, sadly, be cast out.  Without the proper attire, which can only come for the true King, we are lost on our own.  Without a proper outfit, you cannot be “chosen”.

Q. (Mark 12:13-17, Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26): What does Jesus mean by “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”

A. The clue is in what Jesus asks for: a Roman coin called a denarius (the equivalent of the pay for a day’s wages).  In Jesus’s day, this coin would have borne the stamped image of the Emperor Tiberius.  That is, the coin had the “image” of Caesar.  And if we go back all the way to Genesis 1, we note there that man and woman were made in the image of God.  So Jesus is basically making a simple and profound statement about our loyalties: give to Caesar, He says, the things that bear the image of Caesar (the coins), since they “belong to him.”  But, He also says, the things that bear the image of God (us) belong to God, and by extension…not to Caesar.  In summary, Jesus is saying it is right to give to earthly leaders what is owed to them (taxes), but that their leadership pales in comparison to He who made US in His image.

Q. (Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, Luke 20:27-40): Obviously, Jesus is much wiser than me because I don’t understand this one.  All I can guess is that He is saying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead.  He is the Living God.  And, if He lives in us, we are eternally alive.  But, we do die an earthly death and then, when Jesus comes, we will rise again to be alive.  Right?  So, we would be dead for a time.

A. Our bodies are mortal, and will die, but our souls are immortal, and can be given the gift of eternal life from faith in Christ.  We will talk more about what the NT says about our resurrection when we get into Paul’s letters, but that’s enough for now.

Day 245 (Sept. 2): Tribes east of Jordan, Aaron’s descendants, descendants of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, Benjamin

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 Chronicles 5:18-26

1 Chronicles 6:3

1 Chronicles 6:49

1 Chronicles 6:4-15

1 Chronicles 7:1-40

1 Chronicles 8:1-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Chronicles 5:26): On a “free will” argument note.  It bugs me a little bit that God empowers enemy leaders to overtake Israel as punishment.  But, I’m starting to understand.  He is just “setting the bar” to show the Israelites (and I would think us too) how to have a good, fulfilling life — whether it’s all filled with glory or not just depends on the surrounding circumstances — and then a ticket to live with Him.  If we CHOOSE not to accept the rules — which are made for our betterment — then there will be major consequences, either immediate or in the future, but they are certain.  So, no matter if He goes against His people, He is watching over them like we do as parents.  If they make mistakes, they need to be punished so they will know right from wrong and that only bad comes from evil choices.  So, the fact that God gave the Assyrian king no choice in His actions, the king had already made bad choices.  By God empowering him too gives the king a chance to see His might and possibly change His loyalties.

A. I think you’ve touched on a pretty clear understanding of the issues at play here.  God gave the people many (many, many, many) chances to repent of their sin, even over many generations, but they would not yield to Him.  Back in Exodus, God’s solution to this problem was to basically let the older generation die in the dessert and start over with their children.  The solution is not unlike what He is doing here: it is the children and grandchildren of the unfaithful nation that will return to the Promised Land and reestablish the nation that was last for many more generations.  Don’t lose sight of the endgame at work here as well: God has setup the nation of Israel to “give birth” if you will to His chosen Messiah.  It is through God’s chosen one that He will bring about the redemption of the entire world, not merely His chosen children.  So when we consider free will decisions and following God, we must always have in mind that God has a plan of His own, and He will carry it out.  Whether we are able to participate in His plan comes down to a matter of obedience.

Q. Is there any significance in the rest of the listings of the tribes and their ancestral clans?  Is this just to trace ancestral lines and see where they settled?

A. The Chronicler is telling the story of his people, even the ones that have been lost along the way.  That is why all tribes are included.

Day 208 (July 27): Empty worship is false worship, sin separates from God, Justice comes from God not humans, evildoers will be dealt with, God’s words will give you words, all will see Jerusalem’s glory, tell everyone that the Savior is coming

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 58-63

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 58:6-7): This fasting sounds much easier than not eating.  I don’t know if everyone who tries to fast goes cuckoo.  But, I do.  My blood sugar tanks and I can’t think straight until I get some good (healthy) food.  I know that’s not the point of these verses.  I’m just admiring them, because it would bring me much more happiness to help others than to be hungry.  And, more importantly it makes me happy to please God.  I think we have talked some about fasting.  But, I think we’ll talk more about it in the NT?  Speaking of helping others: I was helping a friend move tonight and it made me think about our movers.  Being in the Navy we have had three major moves.  So, we had some experience with movers.  They definitely work hard.  When we unpacked in Guam, the workers brought all of their lunch — and napped for 30 minutes afterward, I guess it’s a custom there, which actually makes a lot of sense.  The guys who unpacked our goods in Virginia asked for lunch.  We had never been told by the housing office to provide lunch.  We gave them a little leftover pizza we had, but we were kind of annoyed at the request.  Besides, we were busy with moving.  And, we know they were told to bring their own.  So, when we packed out the last time, I had inquired with other military families if they provided lunch for their movers.  They overwhelmingly said “yes.”  No, we weren’t expected to by the housing office, but these guys are working at lightening speed and trying to be careful and lifting a lot of very heavy stuff.  I think my friends said that if you treat them well, they’ll treat your stuff well.  So, that was my motivating thought.  But, then as we talked to them and asked them what they wanted to eat and drink, we joked and got to know them better.  We memorized their favorite drinks and got them at Sonic’s happy hour.  We had a great time with them over the three days it took to load the truck.  And, they truly did take care of our furniture.  But, that wasn’t the motivating feeling anymore.  It was that we were serving them.  And, they weren’t movers anymore, they were friends.  Besides, who is more important, the people or your stuff?  Can you imagine the people standing over them day after day scrutinizing their every move?  There are probably some who aren’t careful.  But, if you are kind to them, that’s showing them God’s love and it will reflect back.  My husband was sitting down with a couple of the packers over lunch and I think they were taken aback because they weren’t used to that.  But, when we found out their life stories, it was so rewarding.  They had been movers for a very long time, like 20 some years.  I can’t imagine working that hard for that long.  They drive across the country.  They hate working in the winter and unpacking when it’s freezing.  Talk about serving others!

A. What a fascinating story about the importance of fellowship and getting to know people.  It is easy to see why Jesus spent so much of His earthly ministry during service via meals.  You bring up a good point about fasting, and we will indeed talk about it in the NT, but Jesus makes a keen observation about fasting in the Gospels: the fasting is for afterwards.  We will learn what that means in due time.

Q. (58:10): When it says, “feed the hungry and help those in trouble.”  Besides the literal meaning, can the words have a loose meaning like use your talents to help others?  I have another thought on this too.  So many people think about climbing the ladder or checking off items on their bucket list.  But, what we should really do is know what the Bible says to know what God expects of us — that is the true road to happiness anyway — and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance on what His plan is for us.  Is that accurate?

A. Yes, I would say that’s accurate.  First of all, though, don’t ignore the legitimate need of feeding those around us: many people do not have enough food to be comfortable, and feel a great sense of shame in asking others, including their church, for assistance.  So oftentimes the issue goes unaddressed.  The Spirit can indeed be a useful guide in helping to “find” those who really do need food but do not desire to be found.  Beyond that, however, caring for the needs of a neighbor is a blank slate: you can do with it as you desire, or as you feel God leading you.

Q. (58:13): Is this just for the Israelites because of the NT’s New Covenant or should we, today, follow this advice?  Occasionally, I get “lazy” on a Sunday and “skip” church.  Of course, I feel the guilt, mostly because I worry about what my husband thinks of me playing hooky.  It’s mostly because I have been so swamped in the week and I just need a day or a morning to sleep in — and God happens to be the one that I choose to delete from my week.  Is that bad?  (Doesn’t happen often!)  Also, I feel guilty for daydreaming during songs or group prayer at church.  I feel bad to be in prayer and I’m not focused.  When I pray by myself, I am normally very focused.

A. However we interpret it — Jews maintain the Sabbath is Saturday, Christians Sunday — the Sabbath is a gift to mankind and needs to be respected.  Christians are not “required” to, in the legalistic sense of the word, but I know from personal experience that if I skip a day of rest (note the irony of that statement, and also the way you phrased your question: you described being “lazy” on the Sabbath and not going to church), I am the one who suffers.  Our lives were given to us by God to be in a certain rhythm: six days of work, and a day of rest.  We like to think of ourselves as being “better” than this requirement because we take “two” days off from work, but many times our weekends are no less busy than our weekdays.  We rarely take time to be relaxed and enjoy God and family, but I think we all would be better off if we carved out a full day (or as close as we can manage) to do so.  It is not a requirement: it is wisdom from God that few people ever see!

O. (59:9): I like this verse: There is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living.  That means we need to look to God for justice and the right ways to live.  We do not have it among ourselves.  Therefore, goodness comes from God.

Q. (59:21): “My Spirit will not leave them and neither will these words I have given you.  They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children …”  This verse is directed to Israel, but is it applicable for us?  I would think the verse means that He will give us the right words to say if we are walking with Him.  It’s like when you are thinking of something to say and you have: Option A) what your brain would think to say, and Option B) words that God puts on your lips — what I call my “God filter.”  Now that I understand more and more how I should walk with God, I don’t have to think as much about what the proper thing to say is, it’s just appears on my lips.  I think “why didn’t I think of that?”  I know the words are not my own, but I sound so much wiser.  Thank you, God!

A. Very interesting thoughts.  Though it will feel foreign to us — we tend to read the Bible as “insiders” — we as Christians should pay the closest attention to what Isaiah (and other prophets) are saying about God’s movement to OTHER NATIONS.  We are not of the tribe of Israel, so the verses about foreigners in the house of God is much more applicable to us than any verse about the word of God about Israel.  At this moment, the other nations of the world are on the “outside” looking in, but all that is about to change in the NT.

Q. (60:8-9): How does word get out about Jerusalem’s restoration?  I would think it would take awhile.

A. I think the answer to that will present itself, so let’s let the story unfold.

Q. (60): I am amazed that God is giving Israel all of this glory in light of all their disobedience and idol worship.  Vs. 19-22 sound like heaven, especially in the last line that says “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”  Or, is it just talking about the restored Jerusalem?

A. It is talking about the Eternal Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God.  It is a vision of the final restoration of all things that centers around a renewed Jerusalem that will be God’s personal dwelling.

Q. (62:8): The thought of God handing over Jerusalem, the city of the beloved David, to enemies seems ruthless.  But, with all of the disobedience and defiance, they had it coming.  I bet it was harder on God than on them.

A. I will bet you are right.

Q. (63:1-6): I’m not sure what Isaiah is describing here.

A. Isaiah is using the image of winepress — a place where grapes are trampled and crushed to cause fermentation and make wine — and a warrior, God, who has tread the winepress of His wrath.  Note the color imagery: when you worked a winepress of what we call “red” grapes — which are really purple — you end up covered in purple/bluish pigment from the grapes.  In this image, the Warrior is covered in red (blood) from having crushed the enemies of God in the winepress of wrath.  This is actually the inspiring image and scripture for the first few lines of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written during the U.S. Civil War.

Q. (63:7): This sounds like a proper prayer.  At Summit Orlando, we had a sermon on how to pray.  I still have the postcard that gives the directions, although I haven’t followed it even half-heartedly … yet.  But, I think it gives us a guide to build a prayer and enter God’s presence respectfully.  It’s in four parts.  But, the card doesn’t tell me if I read down or left to right, so I’m not sure of the order of the second and third part.  But, here it goes:

1) Adoration: God, I worship you because you are … (Psalm 8, 19, 23, 46, 95, 100, 148, Luke 1:46-55, 68-79.

2) Confession: I need Your forgiveness for … I need Your strength to overcome …  (Psalm 103:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

3) Thanksgiving: Thank You, God, for Your blessings.  I am so grateful for … (Psalm 103:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Luke 17:11-19)

4) Supplication: God, I know that no request is too big for You to handle or too small for you to care about.  I lift up these needs to You, trusting in Your plan … (Philippians 4:6, James 1:5, 4:2, 1 Peter 5:7).

So many times, I just jump to 4 if I need help.  That should be the last thing to include and know that You are asking, God is hearing and He does have a plan which will likely not be the same plan you have.  It will be better and like a surprise.  We seem to magically get money in the mail when we are wondering how we will pay insurance or something like that.  We look at it and just well up with tears.  It’s fun to see how God is going to surprise us.

A. You’ve got the order right: we begin with adoring who God is, confessing our sin, giving thanks for what He has done, and then asking Him to supply our needs.  This is hardly a “hard and fast” role, and our prayer lives should be conversational in nature, but I find that this method is useful for helping me keep “first things first”: God is the beginning of my prayer life, not my own needs.

Day 79 (March 20): Moses reviews Covenant, God shows mercy for those who stray but return, life choices, Joshua is Israel’s new leader, Book of Instruction, Israel’s disobedience predicted

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 29:29): This is an interesting verse.  Has God said this before that there are secrets that He has not revealed?

A. I don’t think it has come up to this point, but honestly, there will always be things about the infinite God that are incomprehensible to the finite “us.”  I don’t really like the way that this verse in translated in this version.  The NIV makes Moses’ point more carefully.  The focus is not on God and His secrets, i.e. things He has not revealed, but rather on the Law as a blessing to the people and future generations of their children.

O. (30:1-10): Yeah!  God has mercy on the Israelites.  I thought that once they sinned, they are doomed.  God is merciful.

O. (30:9-10): This passage made me smile.  It’s nice to know we can delight God.  So many times, it feels like we can either make Him happy or make Him mad.  But, the thought that we can bring joy to His heart brings joy to my heart, much like when I look at my girls and think how lucky I am that God gave them to me.

Q. (30:17): I know these commandments are for the Israelites — I never really differentiated that rules were for them and not necessarily for us today until Rob explained that — nevertheless, we can still learn from them, right?  Here Moses is telling the Israelites that if they worship other gods, they will be destroyed.  There are other false gods to worship, but I think that once you become a Christian, you are not likely to be lured by other cults, religions, etc., but we have idolatry of today: TV, work, temptations, food, alcohol, sports, anything that we give so much importance to that we forget about God.  Would you say that applying this passage to today in this way is accurate?

A. I think it is.  You have begun to see the way that we should think about idolatry today: as anything that competes with God for our attention and time.  It is anything that we trust in besides God.  Having said that, I think that we as a society are moving toward a more open view of mixed religious theology.  We usually call it pluralism, and say things like, “all roads lead to God.”  Unfortunately, this goes exactly against what Moses is teaching the people here.  We must be very careful about allowing other religious ideas to infiltrate our faith.  Intermixing their faith in God with other faiths will get the Israelites in a lot of trouble.

O. (31:1-8): Just reading this gets my heart pounding.  I imagine the Israelites thinking about how big and numerous these inhabitants were and here God said He is going to conquer them.  And now, since they did not actually see the miracles in Egypt, there may be many who doubt these commands.  But, Moses keeps reminding them of the deliverance and miracles and I’m sure their parents did — the loyal, wise ones anyway.

Q. (31:12): What is in the Book of Instruction?  The curses and the blessings?  Was this book placed in the Ark of the Covenant also?  Do any of these exist in museums today?  That’s another question.  Can you give us a nutshell version of where all of the scrolls that form the Bible were found?

A. The Book of Instruction is the Law.  It is basically some form of the previous four books we have been reading: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  I suspect the versions of the books that we have been reading were edited together to combine the instructions of the Law with the journey in the wilderness that we have been reading about.  There will be various references to copies of the Law throughout the OT, but it appears a copy of the Law did end up in the Ark.  It is very unlikely, however, that it was a copy that would have been used.  It is likely that other copies made by the priests were used for everyday study.

Regarding your other question, you’ve touched upon a complex subject: the transmission of the OT.  There’s a few things to note.  First, the oldest known copy of the complete OT in Hebrew is called the Masoretic Text (usually MT), which is a medieval copy of the OT from the Middle Ages.  We have portions of the OT that are found throughout the Middle East, but there’s a catch.  In the late BC era, the OT was translated into ancient Greek, to create a document known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for seventy from the number of translators who worked on it).  Most of the ancient copies of the OT are Septuagints: Greek, not Hebrew copies.  Modern Jews reject the use of the Septuagint (probably because it’s the version that many early Christians, including Paul, used), and feel that only the Hebrew is valid for translation.  So while we have many fragments of the OT in Hebrew, and several copies in Greek, the oldest complete text comes from the Middle Ages.

I hear the questions rising now: isn’t that a long time?  Yes it is, but one of the coolest discoveries of modern Biblical archeology was the discovery of what is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 50s- found near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.  This was a collection of nearly a thousand clay pots that contained scrolls of various sizes.  These scrolls contained various portions of nearly every book of the OT (the exception was Esther, for reasons that don’t concern us here).  The ultimate find, however, was a full-length copy of the Book of Isaiah on a 12-foot scroll.  The coolest part of the discovery: the text of Isaiah matched more than 99% of the Masoretic text, despite being more than a thousand years older!  This, I think, tells us the great care with which Jews have copied their sacred text (and the way early Christians transmitted theirs), and gives me great confidence that the copies of the Bible that we have today are accurate representations of what the original author and editors desired to write about God.

O. (31:16-18) I doubt this is news that sits well with Moses, especially on the day of his death!

Q. (31:29): So much for peace in the valley of milk and honey.  Why does the disobedience have to continue?  From reading the Bible thus far, it seems that God does have a hand in what disasters strike.  Is this just more of God testing to see who deserves His blessings?

A. The people continue to rebel against God.  And just because God can “see it coming” as it were, does not make the people any less responsible for their actions, which is part of what God is telling Moses here.  The purpose of the curses, the droughts, the conquest by other tribes, these are all tools used by God to call His people back to Him.  None of us deserve the blessings God provides for us.  Like the Israelites, our call is to be faithful to God, and He will handle the rest.

Tune in tomorrow for the Song God gave Moses to share with the Israelites.