Day 224 (Aug. 12): False prophets will be punished, Zedekiah and and people left in Judah will be object of horror and a symbol of evil, Lord charges Judean exiles to prosper in Babylon, Shemaiah and his family will be punished for false prophecy, God promises to return and restore Judah and Israel

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.

Jeremiah 23:33-24:10

Jeremiah 29-31:14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 24:1-10): Just checking on the status of David’s lineage.  Is King Zedekiah, “a bad fig,” of David’s descent?  Maybe Daniel who was exiled to Babylon?  I have lost track.

A. Yes he is (he’s Josiah’s son, who was the last of the “good” kings), and he will be the last to sit on the throne of David as we currently understand it.  Daniel is of the same tribe as David (Judah), but he is not directly related to him.  After Zedekiah, there will no longer be a need to keep track of David’s ancestry until Jesus and the NT.

Q. (Jeremiah 29:3): I just want to make a note of the community of families that we come across.  I have just blown over a lot of the names because they are strange and too many to remember, except the major characters.  However, Hilkiah stood out to me.  Hilkiah is the one who discovered the scrolls in the temple and, when the scrolls were read to the king, he had one prophet killed and had Jeremiah in hiding, right?  Anyway, here, we see Hilkiah’s grandson delivering a letter for Jeremiah.  I just wanted to note the similarities we have now in knowing families for generations.

A. You’ve got it right.  See my answer to the next question to see why family is so important to God.

Q. (29:5-9): I find it interesting that God tells the exiled Israelites to work hard and prosper in the land where they are captives.  What is the purpose of this?  Can we apply it to our lives today?

A. I heard a great sermon on this back in college pointing to the idea of God’s multigenerational approach to His people.  In this chapter, He speaks (via Jeremiah) of “you” being restored after 70 years.  But note clearly: everyone who would have heard this message as it was first written would have been dead by the time 70 years had passed.  So how does this have anything to do with “you”?  Simple, God is speaking to His people over multiple generations.  If you consider the message from this perspective, it is easy to see, I think, why God says settle down, plant gardens, have families, and marry off your children: He is telling the people how He will redeem them- by their children and grandchildren, who will be the ones to receive the restored Promised Land, which is coming in a few weeks.

So how might this apply to us?  Well, certainly, I believe that it says that God places INCREDIBLE value on family and children, in a way that our society seems to have lost.  Children are too often seen as a burden today, or as a social appendage to be “in”.  But, God sees great value in Christians raising their own children to know their faith and pass it along to the next generation, so that the Word of God carries on even after many generations are dead.  One what we might call “unintended” benefit of this type of multi-generational thinking is that it removes much of the pride and self-centeredness that too often plagues us.  If we think of children and the next generation as being more important than ourselves, then we can find it easier to love them and make sacrifices on their behalf.  This type of thinking puts an entirely new spin on being “pro-family,” doesn’t it?

O. (29:24-32): God’s “gotcha” message.

Q. (30:1-24): In reading this, I just think of how our lives today compare to back then.  I know we haven’t got to Jesus dying on the cross and it changing the requirements and discipline of believers, but I do wonder how much some of God’s requirements are alive today.  Obviously, the leaders and many people of Jerusalem were worshiping idols and doing things that are wicked in the eyes of the Lord.  There aren’t many man-made idols that the people reading this blog are worshiping today.  However, I question how close we are to God.  How much time do we spend with God?  I definitely talk to God fairly often.  But, I still let my brain swim in some problems where I should give it up.  And, whenever God has spoken to me, He has shouted, which is probably because I am doing all the talking.  I don’t sit and just wait for Him to talk to me.  I just started reading “Jesus Calling” where the author has done the same thing, not given God some quiet time.  As busy moms, we hardly have some quiet time without laundry and dishes piling up and kids being ignored and wrecking the house.  But, like exercise, I just let my time with God go.  So, I am trying to make time for Him … and exercise.  I try to talk to Him when I exercise, but I have to admit that it does not come naturally.  It feels awkward.  It’s so hard to sit quietly.  But, like exercise, I’m trying to make time for it.  And I am looking forward to seeing the results … of becoming closer to God.

The other thing I wonder about myself is how much have I given up of myself to God.  I have asked for a lot of things and not received them.  He has given me a lot of things also, some that I have asked for strongly.  But, I look at my life and think I still have things around that I am stubbornly hanging onto that I know He wants me to give up.

A. There are any number of important ways that we can grow closer to God, but one point that I want to make up front about the “requirement” that we do so.  I want to try and distinguish between requirement or obligation and desire.  I believe that God does not want us to see steps towards growing towards Him as something we are obligated to do, but rather something that we desire to do, and I hope you can see the difference.  When we are in love with someone, we often change little things about ourselves to suit them, and some of these changes can be painful and difficult, but we do these things out of love, not obligation.  We choose to love, and to make changes, on behalf of a spouse, or a partner.

One of the biggest paradigm shifts of early Christianity was the movement away from legalism and requirement that so dominated the OT covenant.  In the New Covenant, made in the blood of Jesus, God shifted the relationship from our requirement to His.  We can do nothing to earn the love and status we have with God, but are only required to believe through faith.  We do not bring anything, and in that since, we are, mercifully, not REQUIRED to do anything.  It cannot be earned, it can only be accepted.  So here again, the steps that we take after our believing faith are steps taken out of LOVE for God and praise for His works.  They are not requirements.  We cannot ADD anything to what God has done in Christ, we can only respond in the way that He desires.

Some of those ways are things we have already talked about: discerning what God has done in our lives and how He desires us to use our gifts and talents.  Practicing good habits when it comes to reading scripture (like, say a daily Bible reading), prayer, and other classical disciplines of the long tradition of the Church.  Now responding to some of your specific questions in a way that I hope will help all our dear readers (thanks as always, for reading this by the way!)  I’m a book person, so most of my advice tends to revolve around reading suggestions, and I won’t deviate from that here.  But the books themselves I hope will spur us toward finding our unique path with God.  Gary Thomas wrote a wonderful book called Sacred Pathways (http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pathways-Discover-Your-Souls/dp/0310329884) in which he talks about the many ways that people connect with God: some do so in nature, others via silence, still others via discussion with others (that’s mine!).  One of the main ideas of the book is that there is not merely one way to connect with God.  If quiet time just doesn’t work for you — it often doesn’t for me, but I can talk about God for hours — then try something different.  The book is super helpful in finding the “pathway” that best helps you connect with God.  If you are interested in learning more about the classical disciplines themselves, then I would recommend two works of our modern spiritual giants: Richard Foster and Dallas Willard.  I would recommend any of Foster’s books, who generally writes about classical disciplines such as prayer, but if you want a good summary, read his book Celebration of Discipline (http://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Discipline-Path-Spiritual-Growth/dp/0060628391/), which I have plugged on this blog before.  It is very approachable, and easy to read.  Willard, who recently passed away, sadly, wrote a more technical book called The Spirit of the Disciplines (http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Disciplines-Understanding-Changes-Lives/dp/0060694424/) which is also an excellent read on how Christians can connect with 2,000+ years of Church tradition on their walk with God.

Let’s try to re-examine some of this matter as we enter the NT, especially Paul’s letters, since he will be among the most important figures in discerning how God has truly changed things in Christ, and how we should properly respond.  May your walk be blessed!

Day 223 (Aug. 11): God’s destruction of Ammon, terror in Edom, fear in Damascus, Nebuchadnezzar sets sites on Kedar and Hazor, Jehoiachin reigns after Jeoiakim dies, Reign of David’s descendants ends with Jehoiachin, God tells of righteous descendant coming, Lord gives warning against false prophets

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.

Jeremiah 49:1-33

2 Kings 24:5-7 / 597 BC

2 Chronicles 36:6-8

2 Kings 24:8-9

2 Chronicles 36:9

Jeremiah 22:24-23:32

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 49:1-33): What are we supposed to take from this scripture other than God is cleansing the earth?  I can see why he chose a flood the first time.  I think it would be easier and a lot less to orchestrate, but, probably harder to rebuild.  And, do we know why God chose Nebuchadnezzar to do a lot of the fighting?

A. God is not cleansing the whole earth, but all of the nations spoken of here (including Judah) are in the path of the Babylonian army, who is conquering this area on their way to Egypt, as the writing eludes to.  Why God chose Nebuchadnezzar specifically is something of a mystery, but perhaps some further readings from Daniel might help spell it out: the story of Nebuchadnezzar from Daniel 4 is one of my favorite OT scriptures.

Q. (22:30): Does God really halt the lineage of David as king?

A. Yes.  For their sins, David’s descendants will no longer serve as king — the nation has no king anyway, they will be in exile under a foreign ruler — but there is a loophole that we will come to much later.

O. (23:12): I really like when God says, “I, the Lord, have spoken!”  It feels like he is a judge and putting his stamp on it.

Q. (23:14): Why are Sodom and Gomorrah brought up fairly often?  I know what happened and that the townspeople were horribly wicked, but I wouldn’t have thought that this was a story that was handed down near as much as the Flood, Joseph and Pharaoh, and the Exodus.

A. Because they are (ok, were…) in this area of the Middle East and much closer than Egypt.  At least that would be my guess.

Q. (23:17): I find that the last two lines of this verse is a subject that has been on my mind.  Are all of our actions supposed to coincide with God’s desires?  I don’t know anyone who has that strong of a relationship with God that He will guide them through their every move.  But, let’s just talk about our important desires, mainly the thing that we do, like what work, volunteering, starting a new business, joining a new group, getting deeply involved in a hobby.  Are the things that we spend most of our time doing supposed to glorify God?  Here are some specific examples: training for a marathon, decorating our house, surfing or other water sports, watching sports, crafts, etc.  Basically, we can spend hours doing things we enjoy, but do they glorify God?  There are millions of people out there that need to be saved, so how can we justify spending hours on ourselves?  I question some big projects that I want to do.  This blog is the start of one.  I want to expand it.  I felt God’s guidance when the ideas popped into my head.  But, I haven’t heard that affirmation in a long time.  Does God just need to say it once, like the above observation says, “I, the Lord, have spoken,” and he doesn’t need to say anymore?  Then, there are all of those desires that God has not directed me on.  How am I supposed to view those?

A. The further we walk with God, and the closer we grow to Him, I think, we will find the answer to your questions, though probably not with 100% certainty.  Think of it as a relationship with a human friend: the more time you spend with that friend, the more you know that person’s desires, and at a certain point (say with a spouse), you can probably guess with a fair degree of accuracy what that person would do or would ask YOU to do in a certain situation.  It is the same with God: as we grow to be more like Him in the person of Jesus, we will come to know the ways that God is glorified by our actions.  I believe that God is most glorified by us being the people that He designed us to be.  If God has given you a head for business ventures, then He is glorified in you when you do so well, though only if you give Him the credit for what you accomplish.  God certainly desires us to be healthy, so training for a marathon or other event is surely God-honoring.  So part of our mission in our walk is to figure out what exactly God has given to us in terms of spiritual gifts (a NT topic we will walk through later) and natural abilities.  With this information, and the Spirit as our guide, I believe that we will be able to act in ways that give God glory, even if we never hear Him directly speak to us.  We do not necessarily need to hear from Him in order to know what He desires, that is one of the main functions of reading scripture.  I hope that helps.

Day 219 (Aug. 7): Nebuchadnezzar asks for ‘wise’ men to interpret his disturbing dream, ‘wise’ men said it was impossible and faced execution, Daniel interpreted dream from a vision from God, Daniel rewarded with position of ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow to gold statue, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and thrown into furnace, they were safe and accompanied by a mysterious fourth in furnace, Judeans cannot use temple to shelter them from destruction, God urges Jeremiah to stop praying for Israelites, time is coming for Jerusalem to be ‘Valley of Slaughter’

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 2-3:30

Jeremiah 7-8:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 2:12): I don’t understand why men were ordered to kill Daniel and his friends because wise men — not Daniel and his friends — told the king his dreams were impossible to interpret.

A. The previous chapter has established that Daniel and his friends are wise men/advisors to the king (1:20), and therefore subject to the penalty of the king’s decree.

Q. (2:30): Here Daniel is saying that dreams tell you what is in your heart.  Does God say that our dreams are supposed to mean anything?  Maybe just to some people?  I would think people would know if God was trying to speak to them through dreams.  Mine are either normal stuff, but sometimes I feel the devil enters them and makes me question my awake life.  I still have fears that I woke up late and missed a test or did a poor job at work like I totally slacked off.  That’s not me.  I studied hard in college, putting ice cubes on my eyelids to stay awake, not to mention the amount of caffeine I used to consume.

A. Dreams are a potential way for God to get our attention, but that doesn’t mean that all dreams are directly from God.  Part of the backdrop for this story is the story of Joseph and Pharaoh from way back in Genesis 41: the pattern is repeated — and perhaps God chose to use the same method to gain the attention and trust of a great king — the king has a dream about future events, which only a man of the true God can reveal.  The men (Joseph then, Daniel now) is handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

Q. (2:47, 3:1): Why on earth did King Nebuchadnezzar say that “your God is the greatest of gods” and then go make a 90-foot tall gold statue?

A. Probably because the statue was of himself.  He was seeking to be worshipped as a god — he was incredibly powerful, one of the most powerful kings in history — and probably had no idea why the Jews would have any objection to worshipping him.

Q. (3:18): This verse brings up a subject that I feel “gray” on.  Here Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the subjects of this wonderful story of faith.  They have faith in God that He will save them from the blazing hot furnace.  Yet, they put a disclaimer in there that if God does not save them, they still believe in Him and will not worship any idol.  This mirrors thoughts I have.  I trust God, but when I proclaim Him, I’m not sure He’s going to come through at that moment when I am asking for His help.  It’s like when I ask Him to heal a sick person or help me through a rough time, I don’t know if he’ll answer the situation, so you always have to put in the “God willing” tagline.  Then, those critics can say that we have to say He will come through when He wants to.  Then, we have to say that it’s all part of His plan and we have to trust in Him that He knows what’s best for us.  That’s a hard sell to non-Christians.  I would love to do an apologetics study.  Do you know of any good, easy-to-follow ones?

A. There’s an old saying that goes “faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” that I think addresses the sentiment you are describing.  It is that type of faith that these three men powerfully display in the midst of their trials: they have nothing left to trust in but God’s deliverance, but they even say “it doesn’t matter if God saves us or not, we’re not worshipping your idol.”  Their powerful faith has served as an example throughout the ages to both Christians and Jews who have gone through times of persecution, and especially in times what God did not deliver the people from suffering and death (as God did not spare Jesus).

Apologetics can be a very helpful resource for bolstering the faith that we already have, though I would caution against using it too strongly to try to CONVERT non-Christians.  It is useful to help us answer the tough questions about faith — and I believe that they are good answers to those questions — but be careful about using them as a bludgeon against others who do not share your faith.  Conversion of the sort you are describing comes much more from relationship and love than argument.  Very few people are “argued” into the Kingdom of God.  Three resources I would recommend are the Case for Christ and Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, and Mere Christianity (which is British and can be a bit hard to read, so you’ve been warned) by C.S. Lewis.

Q. (Jeremiah 7:3-7): Before we have read where God said good deeds at this point would not erase the evil that has been done, thus the destruction of Jerusalem is unavoidable.  Here, God says He will give them another chance if they abandon their evil ways.  Isn’t this contradicting or am I missing something?

A. I think God is talking about repentance that comes from the heart of the people.  He is saying that if they truly change their hearts, not just their actions, He will relent.  The problem?  They won’t change their hearts.

Q. (7:8-11): Here God is saying that just because the temple is in their city, the citizens of Jerusalem cannot think that they get a pass from punishment if they sin.  Right?

A. Yes.  It appears Jeremiah is telling us that the false prophets of his day trusted\ the building itself rather than the God who it represented.  This will be costly.

Q. (7:3-15): So, in this scripture, Jeremiah says God will excuse the Israelites if they shape up, then He says that being a citizen of Jerusalem does not shade them from being punished for sins and in the last paragraph God is talking about exiling them.  I’m just commenting that God goes through a big change in His attitude of the Israelites.

A. I wouldn’t agree.  I think this is a continuation of the sentiment I described in the previous question, God is after a change of heart, and the people will not yield their hearts to Him.  So He is warning them that just because they have this incredible building, they will not be spared what is to come.  The only thing that will spare them is repentance.  If they don’t repent, being in God’s city will not save them, and exile is coming.

Day 218 (Aug. 6): God has Jeremiah use a shattered clay jar and a garbage dump to demonstrate their future to the Israelites in Judah, Priests whips Jeremiah for prophecies, Jeremiah complains of mockery, Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar takes captives from Judah, four captives enter royal service for Babylon, Daniel refuses king’s food, God gives Daniel talent for deciphering visions and dreams, four captives gain respect

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.

Jeremiah 19-20:18

Daniel 1:1-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 19:2,6): So, God uses the broken pot and a garbage dump to show the leaders what their future looks like.  But, why should these rulers follow Jeremiah there anyway?

A. I guess because they knew him to be a prophet and he asked them to follow him.

Q. (20:1): I take it that Pashhur was not a priest of God?  I didn’t know priests could order someone to be whipped.  It sounds like prophets were viewed with fear and contempt.  They knew they had a direct relationship with God, which they feared, but they didn’t acknowledge God as Lord of all for some reason.  So, they would listen to these prophets, but not like what they say.  Stubborn is a good word for it.

A. Jeremiah’s message is that the generation has become corrupted, and what better proof than the priest, who should be seeking God’s love and charity, order Jeremiah flogged because they don’t like his message.  Jesus will follow in this type of scenario, being put through a flogging and crucifixion under very similar circumstances.

Q. (20:11-13): Although this passage seems a little chaotic, going from one message to the other.  The part that says God tests the righteous and examines our deepest thoughts stood out to me.  I would like to think that God has some respect for me as I am doing many things that he has instructed me to.  So, why can’t He trust me?  Why must He keep testing me?  The best answer and I believe it is that if He didn’t keep testing me, my relationship with Him would become stagnant and it may make me farther away from Him.  But, when I am tested, I dig deeper into my dependence on Him and become a stronger Christian in my walk with Him.

A. You’ve got the idea.

O. (20:14-18): I can feel Jeremiah’s anger here.  It sounds as if his whole life he has been prophesying God’s word only to be faced with ridicule.  So, all he has ever done gets absolutely no respect.  Not a fun life.  I would think that being a prophet is almost a burden, but on the flip side, they know what’s coming.  Given the other option, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Nevertheless, it would be a difficult, lonely life.  I know that Christians always say you are never alone because the Spirit is with you.  This is a common condolence when someone, especially a partner, dies.  But, it’s still lonely and difficult to figure out how you can let God alone fill that void.  I guess it doesn’t mean you have to fill it with all God, but maybe He will direct you to other things that will fill your life.

Q. (Daniel 1:1-2): I can see that by empowering another nation, God is demonstrating to that nation what they could have if they followed Him.  But, here Nebuchadnezzar took the treasures from the Temple of the Lord and put them in the treasure house of his god.

A. Yes, he did, but the true treasures he took were these people, especially the four men that will be at the center of the first half of the book of Daniel.

Q. (1:8-21): I don’t think that being a vegan is what this scripture is about, but this is worth mentioning.  I have been noticing that my friends who eat a lot of salads look more alert and fit.  I have been a vegan for over 20 years.  In college, I would by a ton of veggies and chop them up with my fabulous salad shooter.  Then, I would just have a salad every night.  Well, I got burned out on salads and am reluctant to think about eating them.  I eat a lot of veggies, usually steamed.  But, I know I eat too many processed things.  (Even a vegan can make unhealthy choices).  And, I feel dragged down.  I do notice when I eat fresh, uncooked produce that I feel more alive.  I am making baby steps to include more fresh veggies.  I hope God gives us more guidance with diet.

A. The major issue at play in this story is not vegetarianism/veganism, though there is a diet plan based upon this story called the Daniel Diet Plan (read about it here: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/what-is-the-daniel-diet-plan, and note that Rick Warren of all people is behind it.  I’m in no way endorsing the diet, just passing along the information).  The major issue here is clean and unclean foods.  It is likely that the Babylonians ate rich foods and stews, and wine that was not good for their health, and contained many unclean ingredients.  It is this, and not the meat itself, that is the thing Daniel is avoiding.  We know from modern dietetics that people can survive and even thrive on vegetables (properly balanced of course). So it is likely that Daniel and the other men benefitted from the nutrition in the vegetables in a way that even they would not have fully understood.  God used this situation and Daniel’s plan to gain influence in the king’s court, and we will see the way that this plays out in the next few chapters of Daniel’s book.