Day 362 (Dec. 28): 144,000 Israelites get seal of God, a crowd comes who survived the great tribulation and serve God, breaking seventh seal causes earthquake, angels blowing trumpets set off destruction on earth, fifth trumpet brings stinging locusts for five months, sixth trumpet blown releases angels who kill one-third of all people, the mighty angel with small scroll says to keep a secret and ate it, scroll was sweet but became sour in stomach

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.

Revelation 7-10:11

Questions & Observations

Q. So, this is all still John’s vision?  Why is this so crazy compared to everything we have read before … except for some of those wild monsters we read about in the OT.

A. This is John’s vision, but it is written in a particular type of genre of writing called apocalyptic.  It would have been a commonly used form for writing in this era, but since the Bible does not contain much of this type of literature (though parts of Zechariah, as we read yesterday, and Daniel 7-12 are examples we do have from the OT.  Note how similar the visions in the second half of Daniel are to what we are reading).

Apocalyptic literature hit its “peak” in the intertestament period, when Jewish oppression drove writers to create visions of God avenging their deaths at the hands of cruel pagans.  John, a Jew, is very familiar with this type of literature.  The key characteristics of this type of writing are vivid use of symbols, animals, numbers, and colors; but it is also characterized by its contrast to what we would call prophetic writing.  In prophetic writing (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, etc.), the situation is dire, but it is not too late for the people to repent — the common call of the prophet.  But this is not the case in apocalyptic literature: it IS too late in this case to repent, God Himself must intervene to avenge what has been done to His faithful children, something we see over and over again.  The wrath that is being poured out in these visions is to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of the unjust — something Christians had heavily experienced during the era of the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian.

Q. (Revelation 7:1-8): Where does the 144,000 come from?  Are these Israelites alive or passed?

A. I’m going to assume you mean what is significant about it, because to me, the math is not in question (12 tribes, 12,000 sealed from each tribe).  There are numerous theories about it: some say it is a symbolic number.  One scholar I read noted that the number signifies completeness in two ways: by squaring the number of tribes (12×12) and multiplied by 1,000, which would have been understood to the original hearers as a sign of completeness.  Others view it as a literal number of Jews saved (Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that ONLY 144,000 PEOPLE will be saved in total!)  But there is not a lot of consensus.  I tend to see it as a symbolic number, since it is from a book that deals in symbolic numbers, not literal headcounts.  As to whether these Jews are alive or dead, that questions is impossible to answer, and is irrelevant anyway: they have completed their trial, so there is no longer a distinction between alive and dead- all are alive in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 7:14): Does the “crowd” refer to the rest of us — non-Israelites?  I thought Israelites were put on a level playing field with everyone else.  What is the great tribulation?

A. The common understanding is that the Jewish group is first seen by John as being a subsection of the great multitude, so that removes any notion of being the “special” section of the saved.  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and His plan of salvation for the entire world had its origins with them.  But salvation is now for everyone.  The crowd is the survivors of the great tribulation, which the rest of the book will be showing to us.  Symbolically, this does describe all Christians from every nation and people, who ALL must pass through some form of trial and tribulation, either great or small.  That’s the way that I read what John has written here: it is a victory celebration for those, Jew and Gentile throughout all time, have come to salvation in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 8:6-13): Why is the significance of the star’s name — Bitterness?  How about the eagle?

A. The star has a few interpretations.  Those who hold to a more literal, “this represents this” interpretation argue that the language of Rev. 8 represents events of great leaders who have fallen (a “falling star”) in the history of our world.  I, frankly, don’t buy that, because there is no indication that this is what John means, and it requires too much pure speculation about who this is.  I think that takes too much away from what John is doing — writing symbolically — in this work.  I believe that the name, which refers to a type of plant, represents the coming bitterness that will befall the inhabitants of the earth in the midst of the coming tribulation.  The eagle is sometimes seen as a symbol of pending destruction, as in Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:13, and Hosea 8:1 — note that in Jeremiah the warning is followed by a declaration of “woe to us” and in Hosea there are trumpets that precede the warning.

Q. (Revelation 9:1-12): Ouch.  I don’t want to be in that crowd.  Locusts are a popular pest in the Bible.  Who is the Destroyer?

A. Most likely a symbolic personification of destruction, though some think that there is a powerful demon, a fallen angel, who is lord of the Abyss.

Q. (Revelation 9:13-21): Horses are popular in Revelation.  And, colors are pointed out when they are mentioned — here, the riders.  Why all the mutations of animals?  These visions can’t be actual — like back with Joseph’s visions when the wheat symbolized his brothers.

A. Yes, they are visions.  Horses are powerful symbols in this story because at the time, a warhorse would have been the most powerful weapon of war in existence.  They symbolized power, control, and conquest, and to a certain degree, they still do today.  Other animals — including some non-real ones coming up — are used because they often carry with them double meanings, the same reason that various colors are used.  The images of wild beasts and vivid colors drive our imagination, exactly as John desires.

Q. (Revelation 10:1-11): Is the mighty angel Jesus?  Can you point us back to the scripture that v.7 talks about when God revealed His plan to the prophets?  And, what is being symbolized when John ate the small scroll and it tasted sweet and then bitter?

A. No, Jesus is NEVER referred to as an angel.  It most likely refers to an archangel, one of the “high” classes of angels.  There is no Scripture that tells the exact spot where God revealed His plan to the prophets: it simply didn’t work that way.  God revealed pieces of His vision to the various men and women who were faithful to Him in the OT, and those visions, put together, and viewed through the “lens” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us the vision for God’s plan.  The sweet/bitter of the scroll harkens back to Ezekiel, who was also ordered to consume a bitter message.  The sweetness is the inevitability of God’s victory, the good news.  The bitterness/sour is that this victory will involve the suffering of many or the bad news.  John must proclaim both messages, telling of Christ’s victory will be sweet, telling of suffering and persecution will be painful.

Day 352 (Dec. 18): Christ is our high priest, grow beyond the basic knowledge of Christ, God’s oath is a binding promise of hope, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, Jesus is perfect priest who lives on and can intercede forever and offer salvation

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 4:14-7:28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 5:4): When did God make this oath to Jesus?  The footnote said it was in Psalms, but what is the timeframe and the events surrounding it?

A. That’s a tricky question — keep in mind that trying to assign a “timeframe” to a “being outside of time” is not likely one to have a satisfactory answer.  Ok, the writer is quoting from Psalm 2, which is accepted to be a Psalm about the Messiah — in it, God selects His King and adopts him.  So, carrying the analogy forward, the writer is saying that in quoting from this Psalm, God was making this oath to Jesus as Messiah — it is not a literal oath that God the Father made to Jesus, but is more a metaphorical one describing the relationship between Father and Son.

Q. (5:8): The Bible, in general, is very serious.  And, we shouldn’t take the seriousness of our salvation lightly.  Here it talks about how much Jesus had to suffer, but we know he found joy and delight in people.  He enjoyed those who showed compassion.  But, the seriousness of following God — as it feels in this verse — can sometimes feel stern and cold.

A. It can.  Do keep in mind that the writer is preaching this message to Jewish Christians, who would have treated following God as very serious business — and definitely NOT something to take lightly.  I get the sense that the writer was, as all good writers do, considering his audience in crafting his message, and while it can sound cold to our ears, it was written to show reverence to God.

Q. (5:11-6:12): I like this passage because it basically gives us a swift kick to urge us to keep carrying on and go past the basic knowledge of Jesus is our salvation.  We are to keep moving and telling folks about the Good News.  We are to not waste our time on those who don’t listen?

A. Let’s keep reading the rest of this text, and I think that the meaning of what he is writing here will become clearer.

Q. (7:1-28): OK, Rob, this sounds like a big surprise.  I searched “Melchizedek” on BibleGateway.com, and found several references to him in Abraham’s time.  But, why was he downplayed when we learn in the NT how important he was.  It sounds like he was almost like Jesus, but in the OT?  I don’t remember hearing about him in the OT.

A. He was there, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, but he was frankly not a major character in the story.  The most honest answer to your question would be for me to say that the OT is the story of the Jewish people, and a religious Jew would NOT agree with the argument that the writer is making.  To pious Jews, there IS NO other order of priests then the Levitical priesthood.  This is why the writer devotes an entire section of his writing to make this argument: he wants this Jewish audience to understand that there is another, older priesthood in their own story, and that even the great patriarch Abraham bowed down to him.  It is another example of the “Christ is better than…” arguments that dominate this section of Hebrews.  Essentially with this argument, the writer is making the case for how Jesus could be a priest of any sort without being a Levite since Jesus was a Judean.  And his answer — which frankly many Jews would not accept — is that Jesus is part of a priesthood that long predates the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.

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

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

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 143 (May 23): Solomon moved the Ark to the Lord’s new temple, Solomon delivers amazing prayer, Solomon dedicates Temple to God, Solomon asks God to uphold ‘throne’ vow to David

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 Kings 8:1-21

2 Chronicles 6:1-11

1 Kings 8:22-53

2 Chronicles 6:12-42

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 8:1): OK, Jerusalem and the City of David are the same, right?  Sorry, I’m a little foggy on this.  Did the City of David get renamed Jerusalem.  If so, why?  So they didn’t have to move the Ark too far?  And, it still has all of it’s belongings from the Tabernacle in the desert?

A. Bethlehem is the city of David, not Jerusalem, but it’s a journey of only a few miles, so its not that far either.  The text does say that it was the items from the desert, though perhaps it means the versions of the ones they are using such as the new tent David had designed.  I’m not exactly sure.

Q. (2 Chronicles 5:1-14): How nice to hear such reverence for the Lord again!  The Israelites have been like a yo-yo with their loyalty to God.  After all of the work and years put into the Ark, I’m sure opening the Temple was the pinnacle of the decade … or century.  It is amazing that the Israelites have managed to carry on the stories of God throughout the centuries and retain their faith (though not all of the time!)  On that note, it’s also miraculous that the Israelites still have the Ark.

A. The Temple dedication is one of the high points of the entire nation’s history, no mistake about it.  I think they only had the Ark because of (what else) God’s mercy upon His people.

O. (1 Kings 8:22-53): Nice prayer! Solomon sounds like he is great ruler material!  I also noticed how much Solomon gives tribute to his father, David.  He reminds God of his love for David and asks that He remember the oath he had with David to have his line on the throne forever.  The relationship between Solomon and his father seems strong.  David obviously spent time with Solomon teaching him about God’s ways and all of His miracles he performed for their ancestors.  This shows how the stories were handed down.  It’s just amazing that they weren’t lost in those long years when Israel strayed from God.  Then again, God probably deserves a lot of the credit for giving Solomon wisdom, a virtue that he requested.