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 301 (Oct. 28): Be ready for Jesus’s second coming at all times, parable of ten bridesmaids, parable of three servants, Jesus will separate the righteous from evil, helping others helps Jesus

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 13:32-37

Matthew 24:36-51

Luke 21:34-38

Matthew 25:1-46

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 24:36-51): We have heard this same story before, I guess from another one of the gospels.  Any idea why it wasn’t put with the other one since this is a chronological Bible?

A. While we’ve heard some version of the material, that doesn’t mean that it was presented at the same time as Jesus’ other sermons or that that material was never repeated (an assumption many skeptics of the Bible simply ignore — Jesus likely taught similar sermons over and over again).  Matthew records that these verses are part of a larger narrative on being prepared for the Final Judgment, which is unique, and has not been presented in the Gospels before now.  That is most likely why some of the material that kind of sounds familiar from other Gospels is presented here as part of a narrative about being prepared.

Q. (Luke 21:34-38): Does this mean we aren’t supposed to let our guard down by hanging out with friends and having a couple of drinks?  Or, is this talking about boozing it up at a bar?  I would say that as long as God is with you and on your mind, you’re OK.  But if you let your morals go, then you risk letting God go and your salvation?

A. The Bible does not prescribe a life completely free of alcohol consumption, but it DOES say clearly that drunkenness is a sin.  Since there are many people who cannot handle the distinction between a couple of drinks and being blackout drunk (i.e. alcoholics), it might be better for those people to avoid consuming alcohol at all, since it tends to dull your wits.  Bad decisions come after consuming too much alcohol.

Q. (Matthew 25:14-30): We’ve seen this one before too.  I can get two different morals from this story.  One is that the master is literally giving talents.  The servants who use their talents and either expand on them or profit from them are rewarded.  Or, the servants who use their talents to bring more people to God will be rewarded.

A. As mentioned, it is possible that Jesus is repeating a story He has already told in this instance to make a point about using the gifts and abilities God has given us (including being given riches).  Either of your proposed “morals” are fine, but they BOTH require a level of discernment: you must determine what you feel God is calling you to do, and then to act on it.

Q. (Matthew 25:31-46): Jesus is talking about when we help others, we honor Him.  If we don’t do that — his will and the new covenant — it’s eternal time in the fire pit.  When we lived on Guam, a neighbor who was a Seventh Day Adventist told me that the Bible says that the eternal fire is really not eternal.  I have always pictured people — I guess it would be there souls? — burning forever and ever.  Rob, what knowledge do you have?

A. First, one quick note: the story of the Sheep and Goats does not say that it is actions ALONE that will get us into heaven or send us to hell.  Our actions are generally a tangible representation of what we believe (i.e. we don’t generally act in contrast to what we believe).  So if we have faith in Christ, and have been changed by His life and teachings, then the result of such thinking will most likely being a radical change in our actions.  We are much less likely to be selfish if we have truly internalized what Jesus has taught us.  So if we have faith in Him, our actions will likely change, which is tangibly proven by our daily interactions with others.

As to the reality of what hell is “like,” we only have bits and pieces to go on.  There are some contrasting images that appear contradictory at first look: we are told that hell is a place of darkness, but also of fire for example.  In Revelation, it will be described as a lake of fire — burning sulfur, which used to be known as brimstone, to be exact.  As we discussed at some point — I forget exactly where — when Jesus discussed what we call hell, He used images of a place called Gehenna, a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem that was once used for pagan child sacrifice.  So there are various ways that the reality of hell is described.  Personally, I agree with one part of what your neighbor has said, but it’s not the part you might think.  I believe that there will be an eternal separation of souls from God, and that while there will be no LITERAL fire there, the agony and anguish of regret at having missed out on God will be undeniable.  Note carefully: all the metaphors that Jesus used to speak about hell — and don’t miss that it is Jesus HIMSELF who teaches much of what we understand about hell! — have a literal point: they represent regret, suffering, and misery.  Hell is real, and it is a real danger to those who willfully turn from God — no one goes to hell by accident — it is willful action on our part to end up there.  We all know or have heard about people who say they want no part of God at all — that He is cruel, or unjust, or whatever.  And as a person who believes strongly in free will, I believe that God is willing to say, “I will not force you to be with me if that is what you desire.”  But surely those who make up their mind to act in defiance of God and choose their sin and selfishness will regret what they have done.  Such defiance often makes us blind to a way out, even if the lifeline is still offered.  C.S. Lewis once cleverly remarked that if hell is “locked,” then it is locked from the inside.  Something to think about…

Day 293 (Oct. 20): Jesus resurrects Lazarus, Caiaphas plots to kill Jesus, 10 healed but only one is grateful, Kingdom of God is coming, persistent prayers get answered

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

John 11:38-57

Luke 17:11-18:8

Questions & Observations

O. (John 11: 46-48): It would have been much easier if the Pharisees had taken what they had seen for good instead of a threat.  I think they still saw Jesus as a Jew (meaning a “lesser” person) and he was a mere carpenter from Nazareth.  So, this undeserving weakling (to them) was a threat that they needed to squash.  I know I have this same kind of mentality toward some people and some toward me.  I have a friend who is going through all this nutritional cleansing and at first I thought it was just a hoax — but it held my interest because I am always interested in nutrition and have open ears for some of my own medical issues — and then she recently shared how she had woken up the last three days at 6 a.m. with her alarm and she felt bright and ready for the day.  My brain tells me to not believe it, but my heart can’t deny that she does look brighter and I would like to feel awake in the morning.  So, I can see how you can’t see the forest for the trees or whatever that saying is.  Also, I think I’ve said this before that when I told several of my family — even my mom — that I was doing this blog, they seemed to me to kind of shrug at it, like “we’ll see.”  I think dreams are often squashed — not intentionally — by those closest to us.  I don’t know why humans have made affirmation so important, but we need to rise above it, pay attention to our talents and what Jesus has commissioned us to do.  I know this is a little off to what this Scripture is about, but I think it’s an important point that we judge people because we think we know them.  Instead, we should lift them up whole-heartedly!

Q. (John 11:55-57): I can see the drama building.  Jesus is the talk of the crowd and they are wondering — probably wanting — Him to show up, either to see Him for themselves or to see the drama build between Him and the church leaders.

A. It’s not just that.  One of the expectations of the Messiah is that He would arrive in Jerusalem (as described in Zechariah 9) and from there, change everything.  Two things: Jesus will fulfill this prophecy on Palm Sunday, but the crowd will greatly misunderstand what Jesus has come to do.  They expected Him to lead a bloody, violent overthrow of the Roman oppressor, and establish God’s Kingdom that way.  Obviously, we know that Jesus had something else in mind.  But nonetheless, it is no surprise that the people were on tip-toe, so to speak, waiting for Him: they had great expectation that Jesus, if He was the true Messiah, would usher in a new age.  Hold this imagery in your mind for when we read the reactions to Jesus’ entry into the city on Palm Sunday.

O. (Luke 17:19b): I like the footnote version better, “Your faith has saved you.”

Q. (17:31-36): Is this scripture talking about the resurrection or Jesus coming again to judge? Leaving all your possessions — and your loved ones — behind would be very hard.  We have talked about this before.  Since my husband and I are both believers, we’d both be walking toward Jesus.  I think there would be some gathering of children — although, I know Jesus would take care of them.  I think this picture is more of what the end result will look like.  Families will be divided, coworkers staying behind, checkerboard neighborhoods with some gone and some staying behind, etc.

A. This passage and others like it are images of what we call the Rapture: people just disappearing in the midst of their daily lives.  To be honest, I am unsure how to interpret this passage in light of other stories of Christ’s return and the Final Judgment that will be ushered in by Jesus’ return.  It is a mystery of the faith, but it is one we will continue to explore.

Q. (18:1-8): Just believe that God will take care of us.  But, keep believing in Him by praying and praying persistently, which keeps your faith focused on him.

A. I think it serves as a reminder that there is great value in being a person who prays daily with faith in the idea that God is listening and desires to hear from us.  What an amazing thought: God DESIRES our input!

Day 3 (Jan. 3): Flood, Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, murder

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

Genesis 7-10

1 Chronicles 1:5-7

1 Chronicles 1:8-16

1 Chronicles 1:17-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (7:4): I saw a skit in church that told of how many years it took to build the ark, but here it’s saying 7 days?  Also, I’m starting to see a lot of 7’s.  What is significant about the number 7?

A. 7:4 doesn’t say the Noah build the ark in seven days; it says God told Noah to be ready, because the flood was coming in seven days.  7:1 tell us that the boat was already ready when God spoke to Noah and told him the flood was approaching.

Regarding your noticing the significance of seven, you have definitely hit upon something.  Seven is one of the most significant numbers in the Bible.  It signifies completeness and fulfillment, and traces its roots back the seven days of creation.

A few other numbers to watch for (some of which are shown in this reading): 3) Either representing the Trinity (which we established is strictly a NT concept), or also a form of emphasis.  Things that the Bible repeats three times (Holy, Holy, Holy from Isaiah 6 is just one example of many), it is to draw attention to something important.  So if you see a portion of narration repeated, its not because the author screwed up and forgot what he wrote, it is to show that the thing repeated is really important.  4) Four is also a number you see frequently, and it tends to identify a completed set of something important (the four living creatures of Ezekiel and Revelation 4-6, the four horsemen of Zechariah 6 and Revelation 6).  6) Six represents humanity, incompleteness (as in not seven), and inferiority to God.  40) Forty represents a trial period or time of cleansing.  You have the flood which lasts forty days and nights, the Israelites in the wilderness forty years, and Jesus in the desert for forty days.

O. (8:3-14): The childhood accounts of Noah and the flood usually say it lasted 40 days and 40 nights.  I always thought that after that time Noah and the boat’s inhabitants walked off after 40 days.  But as the Bible describes, the total time from when the flood started to when they walked on dry ground was more like a year.

 O. (8:20): We know that the Lord is all-powerful.  It amazes me though how in many passages in the Old Testament, God is very angry and doles out punishment.  I would think that because he is all-powerful, he could control his anger.  Passages like these tell me how emotional God is — punishing and then promising to never destroy all living things again — making it easier for me to understand the reasoning of His actions. I appreciate that these dramatic descriptions of his feelings — anger, jealousy — are shared with us throughout the Bible.

Q. (9:5-7): God says if someone kills, they should be killed.  This changes after Jesus dies on the cross where all sins are forgiven?

A. This is the subject of some debate.  Here we see clearly God’s command to avenge murder (along the lines of eye for an eye, Leviticus 24:20), but this command is honestly not consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments.  While the (capital L) Law (which we get from the next few books of the Old Testament) prescribed retribution killing- a death for a death, it is unclear if the Jews actually practiced this as their standard of law.  Certainly by Jesus’ time (First Century AD), it is quite clear that the people did not have the stomach to kill people for the sins prescribed in the Law.  Thus we see the seeds of mercy that Jesus preached (Matthew 5-7) already taking shape in the world into which He was born.

O. (9:24): To me, passing a punishment to someone else almost makes it worse for the offender, especially if it is passed on to your own sons or daughters.  Also, this seems to foreshadow Jesus taking on all of our sins.

Day 2 (Jan. 2): Cain and Abel, Noah, ark

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

Genesis 4-5

1 Chronicles 1:1-4

Genesis 6

Questions and Comments

Q.  (4:14,17): If Adam and Eve were the first ones on Earth, then why was Cain worried that others may kill him?  And, likewise, where did Cain find his wife?

A. Ok, let’s see what we have here.  At this point in the narrative, we have the author telling us about exactly four people: Adam, Eve, Cain (their oldest, or at least older son) and Abel (their youngest or at least younger son).  Since there are references to other people around (not to mention no other women!), the story is, to me, NOT saying that these are the only four people on earth.  There are two possibilities: either the author is assuming that readers will know there are other people around from other parental lines that are not mentioned (in other words, different tribes or families), or that Adam and Eve had many children (male and female) but the author is choosing to only focus in on these two.  I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly which.

One other things that is going on that is worth mentioning is that the author does not appear interested in telling the story of the ENTIRE human race, which tends to be the way we read this story.  Instead, what he appears to be doing is setting up to paths of Adam and Eve’s descendants: the noble way of Abel and later Seth, which honors God (and will be our primary focus in subsequent chapters), and the way of the descendants of Cain, which culminate in “evil” Lamech (since Seth’s descendants had a Lamech as well- see 5:25)

Q.  (4:17-22): Are these verses describing a nomadic culture?  Before that, they were agrarian?  I always thought nomadic ways predated agrarian.

A. While agrarian society did come after hunter/gatherer days, I don’t think the concepts you are describing here are applicable to the story.  What you’re talking about is called the Neolithic Revolution, which is the transition that happened somewhere around 10,000 BC (some say it was much later, like 5000 or 6000 BC).  Over a long period, human kind moved from being primarily hunters and gatherers to relying on agrarian means of creating food and other crops for survival.  This is how we got the beginnings of modern cities and culture.  But when it says that, for example, Abel kept flocks, it doesn’t mean he is a hunter: that is still an agrarian method of survival; Abel wasn’t hunting wild sheep, he was keeping domesticated ones.  BOTH Cain and Abel were agrarian, just not in the same way.  If I were guessing, I would say that none of the people described are hunters; they all appear to keep animals or grow crops.

Q.  (4:24): Why would someone be punished 77 times if they killed Lamech?

A. One of the important concepts to grasp here (and throughout Genesis) is that the author does not appear interested in answering all of our questions, especially about secondary characters such as Lamech.  We have no idea who the men (or man, it might be one) were that he killed, or what is so “special” about him.

Here’s my guess (for what its worth): Lamech is saying that he has killed two people- the “man” and the “young man”(rather than the one person Cain killed), and therefore he would receive “twice” the punishment of his ancestor Cain (i.e. 2 sevens of punishment rather than just one).

The larger point that the author is pointing to, however, is clear: the sin that mastered Cain continued down his family line, so that his descendent would brag about being a murderer.  The evil of Cain has culminated in the corruption of his descendant.  Thus, with the corruption of Cain’s line established, the author steps back and shows how the death of Abel did not prevent God’s people from having in ancestor in Seth.  The rest of the chapter follows the line of Seth as a contrast to Cain, and culminates with Noah.  So Lamech is the culmination of Cain’s line (a bragging polygamous murderer), and Noah is the culmination of Seth’s line, walking in good relationship with God.

Q.  (4:24): God took Enoch? Why?

A. Another one of those questions the author does not feel compelled to answer explicitly.  The implication of the passage is that since Enoch walked in faithful relationship with God, and because of Enoch’s faith (according to Hebrews 11:5, where Enoch makes the spiritual “hall of fame”), God honored him and spared him from death.

Q.  (6:3): God is talking of the Holy Spirit not putting up with humans for so long?  So, God is introducing the The Holy Spirit here and likewise, the Trinity.

A. I think this is actually an “O” statement and not a “Q” statement, but I will try to address it anyway.  I would disagree with this as the “moment” of the Spirit’s unveiling: the Spirit had an active role in the story of Creation (Gen 1:2), so we have already seen the Spirit person of the Trinity at work.  The Old Testament in general, gives the implication of multiple “persons” at work in the Godhead, but the revealed presence of all three (the Trinity) is not revealed until the New Testament, and the word Trinity is never used in scripture; it is a concept word created by the Church fathers to explain the realities of what God had revealed to them.

Q. (6:4): My Bible dictionary says that Nephilites are heavenly beings that had intercourse with human women?  This passage seems to come out of nowhere, but it brings up a subject that I have never known or studied.

A. There are lots of conjectures about the meaning of this passage (the beings are some sort of fallen angel or other “heavenly being”), but there is really nothing solid to go on.  One more instance where we as readers are left scratching our heads and saying “what?”  Once again, the main point of this passage is to point to the corruption of all of mankind, except for Noah and his family.

Q. (6:5): Again, if God made everything and humans are made in His image, then where does all the wickedness come from?

A. As I answered yesterday, the wickedness comes from us as a race choosing to indulge our selfish choices (our sinful nature) rather than the divine image that remains with us (our divine nature).  We see the continued descent of the human race over the first six chapters of this story.  Things will continue to get worse until the introduction of our hero, Abram, in chapter 11.