Day 360a (Dec. 26): Jude’s letter is similar to Peter’s second letter, beware of false teachers, remain strong in the faith as you did from the beginning, Jesus appears to John holding seven stars (angels of the seven churches) and standing amidst seven gold lampstands, church of Ephesus is told to return the strong faith they had in the beginning, church in Smyrna told of impending suffering but a reward comes afterward, Pergamum church is told to rid itself of evil teaching, and church of Thyatira is warned of Jezebel’s sexual promiscuity but tells others to hold true to their faith because they will get authority of the Father to rule

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.

The letter from Jude addresses many of the same concerns as Peter’s second letter, which suggests that the two letters were written at about the same time and to the same churches.

Jude 1:1-25

We are here at the last book of the Bible.  You did it!  This is a book like no other book in the Bible which can be quite confusing, so Rob offered up an introduction to Revelations.  It’s the next blog dated Day 360b.  Thanks, Rob!

Revelation 1-2:29

John wrote Revelation from the Island of Patmos, where he was exiled “for preaching the word of God and for (his) testimony about Jesus” (1:9).  This occurred either during the mid-60s, during Nero’s reign and before the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jude 1:1): Jude was Jesus’s brother too, right?

A. Jesus had a brother named Jude (also known as Judas, but not the fallen apostle), and tradition holds that this is the writer of this brief epistle.

Q. (Revelations 1:4): What is “sevenfold Spirit”?  What is the significance of seven spirits, seven stars, seven lampstands, and seven churches?

A. The number seven represents completeness, so the usage of seven is used here to have a double meaning.  It represents the presence of the seven churches — which they would have considered to each have a lampstand, a symbol of the power of God and a guardian angel — that the letter is written to, but also the seven represents the ENTIRE eternal Church body.  John is cleverly using a well-known image of the seven days taken to complete Creation (there are many similar OT images in Revelation, as we shall see) for his own purposes.  The more OT you know, the easier it is to unravel many of the mysteries of Revelation.

Q. (1:20): So, we have seen quite a change in God’s people.  The Israelite’s started out with Abraham, grew and grew to a large nation, then salvation was shared with the Gentiles and now God addresses the churches.  The “church” seems like an establishment that God wants us to make.  It’s a model of how we can all work as one for a greater good.

A. The local community church is, to mince no words, the center of God’s plan for the salvation of the ENTIRE WORLD!  So it is not really shocking that the Spirit, through John, writes to both encourage and correct congregations of this day.

Q. (2:13): Can you explain Satan’s “throne” being in Pergamum?

A. We don’t exactly know, but there are a few theories.  The most common theory is that it refers to one of the many pagan temples located in the city — most likely the massive temple to the God Jupiter/Zeus.  It was also a major “hub” of that portion of the Roman Empire, and many important rulings were issued from there, making it a “throne” area of this enemy of the Church, the Empire itself.  A throne would be a place of comfort for a “king,” in this case Satan, so another theory is that John is referring to the city being a place of comfort for the enemy king, Satan himself.  Any of those, or some combination of all of them, is probably what John has in mind.  It is a symbolic image, like many we will see in this text.  Keep reading this section for more!

Q. (2:17): What’s the white stone?

A. In the ancient world, a white stone was often “issued” as a ticket for an important event, such as a festival or wedding.  Thus, Jesus giving a person a stone with a name (likely engraved) on it should be understood as that person being invited to the ultimate celebration: His wedding (more to come on this).

Q. (2:20): Didn’t we read about another Jezebel who was a king’s wife in the OT?  Any similarities between her and this one?

A. Yes we did.  Jezebel was a great enemy of the true people of God in the OT, and so John is using her name symbolically — a running theme here — to describe a woman in the congregation who is leading people away from the true path, as Jezebel did centuries ago.  One of the recurring themes here is in this type of cryptic literature — the genre is called apocalyptic — is that the author wants to keep the true meaning of what he is saying hidden from outsiders.  So by repeatedly using names and symbols of the OT, which Jews and Christians would have been familiar with but most Greeks and Romans would not have, he can convey clear imagery to those in the “know,” but outsiders are not clear on the meaning.  It’s the ultimate in “insider” writing.

Q. (2:26): What is special about Thyatira?  Is it because those who are strong-willed enough to resist Jezebel deserve a reward?  I have thought a lot lately about how strong sexual desire is — I think probably more among men — and the reason for it.  Maybe a very hard test?  Manlihood, or to show one’s success, is a strong desire, so for men to give that up and submit to God would be a big obstacle to overcome and worth a reward?  (If you haven’t watched the movie Flywheel, it is a good movie about a man giving up his proudful manlihood and control and giving his life to God.)

A. The rewards that you see for each of the churches — there are four more to come — are speaking of the general “rewards” of being faithful to Christ, and I do not believe that there are particular rewards that will not be given to others.  It is simply a way to keep from repeating himself.

Day 334 (Nov. 30): Don’t let others influence you with their evil, Paul’s joy at the church’s repentance, give generously, praise to God for Titus, collection for Jerusalem Christians, Paul defends his authority,

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.

2 Corinthians 6:14-10:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5): Paul says give generously.  Our church says that every week.  But, if you have a lot, you give a lot, as Paul says, and if you don’t have much, you give what you can.  In Genesis, I read that the 10 percent of your income should go to offering.  Does this rule apply to all Christians now?  Also, I think there is a denomination that believes in giving all that they have to the church.  Is it Pentacostal?  What do you say about that?

A. The rule is simple: 10% is the standard for churches, and has been for centuries.  That is the REQUIREMENT — but God still calls us to be generous.  If there is more to give, and you feel God leading you to give me, then you should.  I don’t know of a particular church, much less an entire denomination (Pentecostal is a conglomerate of several denominations) requiring more, though it is a common practice of cults such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientologists.  I think that makes it pretty clear: beyond the 10%, you should give as your conscience leads you, but you should not be REQUIRED to give beyond that — if you are, something is wrong with your church.

Q. (9:7): I love this verse.  When we give an amount that I feel in my heart, I feel much more joy in giving than when we give the same amount every week.

A. Sounds like a great segue to my previous answer.

O. (9:10b): This makes me think of how God provides in surprises.  The amount of giving we do is definitely in proportion to how much we are making.  This story relates to the text because the more God provides, the more we can give to good causes.  I have been needing to find a part-time job.  But, it’s a little hard given that my skills are rusty and my husband’s schedule is erratic.   One of us needs to be at home when the girls are home.  So, I just go back and forth about what to try to apply for.  And, nearly anything that I would apply for I would have to spend some money on clothes or something for the job.  But, out of the blue, my neighbor offered to pay me for yard work.  And, she pays much better than anything I could have found retail.  She just tells me to work when I have time.  I love how God answers prayers better than anything we could have imagined on our own!

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

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

Mark 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:35-37

Matthew 22:41-46

Luke 20:41-44

Mark 12:38-40

Matthew 23:1-12

Luke 20:45-47

Matthew 23:13-39

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 21:1-4

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 67 (March 8): Rights to Inherit land, Joshua chosen as next Israelite leader, offering rules

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 27-29

Questions & Observations

O. (Numbers 27:8): I never really thought about this before, but now that I have, it’s noteworthy.  God saw the importance in every being, that each one should be remembered and acknowledged — here, with land.  It isn’t just that because someone didn’t have sons that they should not have an inheritance.

Q. (27:18): Here God mentions that Joshua has the “Spirit” in him.  Does God explain anywhere thus far what he means by that?

A.  It appears to be some form of reference to the Holy Spirit at work in Joshua, but no, it is not expanded further.

Q. (28:3-8): I think this is the first time God has asked for an alcoholic drink to be offered?  Also, if there were two lambs sacrificed every day, is this meat for the priests to eat?  Or is it just burned for God?

A. You are correct, this is the first instance of an alcoholic beverage asked for, and the meat here did go to the priests.

Q. These occasions have already been mentioned, Day 55. Why are the offerings not included in the earlier descriptions?

A. I don’t really have a good answer for that.  It is simply the way it is presented.

Q. I don’t think we’ve talked about if there are reasons God asks for certain animals to be offered — ram, bull, lamb, goat, etc.?

A. These animals, and some domestic birds (doves, etc.) are the domestic animals that the Israelites have in their flocks/herds.  Each of these animals has been declared clean (what Jews today call “kosher”) by God, and this appears to be the reason He selects them for His sacrifices.  Those basically were the only animals they kept!

Q. (28:16): This festival lasts for seven days.  Of course there are the offerings, but does the Bible tell what other activities comprise a festival?  I think of our festivals now — none that I can think of last for seven days — but I doubt they have much in common.

A. You can read about many of the traditions that have come to be associated with the festivals, and sometimes in the narrative story of the OT you get some insight into what went on, but generally, no, there is not much information on the celebratory aspects of the Holy Days.  I would suggest outside reading — even the Wikipedia page — for each of the festivals to learn more about them, but we will see some festivals/rituals described in later texts.

Q. (29:12-40): Any reason God would single out this festival by requiring a greater number of sacrifices?  I can’t imagine making all of these sacrifices on one altar.  Just preparing them would take long enough and then offering them properly.

A. This particular festival (also described in Lev. 23) appears to be agricultural in nature, which might explain it.  This festival, today known as Sukkot, will come in subsequent books to be associated with the reading the entire Law every seventh year (its coming in Deuteronomy 31), so this would have been treated as both an important religious day as well.  Those are basically guesses, however.  I don’t really have a certain answer to this question.

Day 50 (Feb. 19): Priests start work, Aaron’s sons sin, priestly conduct explained, ceremonially clean and unclean animals

Woohoo!  Day 50, can you believe it? We are nearly 1/14th through the Bible and have learned so much.  To me, it really is going fast.  I just can’t believe that there are so many more stories to go and more lessons … and understandings to learn!

Leviticus 9-11

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Leviticus 9:23, 24): Looks like the sacrifices offer another benefit: God coming down to show His glory and power.  The fire of God would also be like a victory appearance for the Israelites: seeing that God is powerful, listening, watching … in control.  The words “gratification” and “reassurance” also come to mind.  Did I read this correctly?

A. Yes, that’s the idea.  God is reminding the people of His power, and it won’t be the last time He uses fire to consume an offering.

Q. (10:1-3): I guess this is a way of saying “pay attention.”  We have to give God the benefit of the doubt that they were not taking God seriously and didn’t just make an honest mistake?  I noticed Aaron was silent.  This must have been very hard for him!  Just a comment in 10:6, I can’t imagine being told not to mourn the death of two children!

A. As far as I can tell, it goes a bit further than “pay attention”: Aaron’s sons were careless with the incense of God, and were struck dead for their carelessness.  It is an important thought for us to remember as well: though we are in good relationship with God through the work of Christ, we should be very careful about trivializing the things of God.

Q. (10:19): So Aaron’s apology to Moses served as repentance, which spared the lives of Aaron’s remaining two sons and possibly Aaron himself?

A. I don’t think Aaron is apologizing for his actions: he says specifically in this verse that he is mourning his son’s deaths by fasting, which is why he didn’t eat the meat.  He is explaining to Moses why he did not fulfill his duties, especially since Moses is right: they cannot leave the Tabernacle until their work is done.  I think God was clear on Aaron’s reasons, which is why it appears that Aaron wasn’t in danger, but this verse is about explaining Aaron’s actions to Moses and the audience.

Q. (11:1-44): Can you tell us why all of these rules about what they can and can’t eat?  Why are split hooves and chewing the cud important?  God says many of these animals that he says are ceremonially unclean are detestable, but he created them.  Can you explain that?

A. There is not a lot of rhyme or reason to the list.  There are some people who think that some animals were on the “unclean” list for health reasons (cows, which are permitted, are generally cleaner animals than pigs, for example) but this is difficult to substantiate or find any consistent logic in.  Basically, what we should take away from the list is that this particular list should be seen as separating the people from all of the other nations around them, which very likely didn’t have any dietary restrictions or perhaps had different ones.  The guidelines allowed the people to be set apart for the work of God, so don’t get to worried about the particular habits — chewing the cud — or animal types — birds — that were permissible to eat.

Q. Can you tell us something about why the Jewish community still follows these laws?  And Christians don’t because we are under a new law.  But, like other things in the OT, many laws are covered by the New Covenant and thus are still practiced.  So, would God be more pleased with us if we would follow these consumption laws or do we just trust God that Jesus sacrifice made these “ceremonially clean” laws null and void?

A. As we’ve discussed, the line between the Old (Jewish) and New (Christian) Covenants is one of legalism (old) verses freedom (new).  Under the New Covenant, we are not required to keep the Law for the purposes of salvation.  The Old covenant is the epitome of legalism: Jews must rely on their own actions — and the actions of the priests — in order to assure their good standing with God (though Judaism has its faith elements as well).  But with Christianity, we have moved beyond the old system into the new, which says that we are free to keep the rules of the OT where they benefit us, but we do not HAVE to.  Since we are not under that system, no amount of keeping the kosher laws or other restrictions makes us “better” or “loved more” in God’s sight: we are loved outside of our actions, and saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) alone.  So if we as a community see value in keeping some of the rules — say the 10 Commandments— we can follow them, but we are not obligated to.

One of the things Jesus talked about in His earthly ministry is that to sum up the Law, you should love God, and love your neighbor (Luke 10:26-28).  So that should be the lens with which we approach the Law as Christians: does following a command to not eat pork adversely affect my walk with God?  (And for some people, the answer is probably “yes”)  If so, then I should not do it.  If not, then it is probably okay, but we should still seek the Spirit’s guidance in “gray areas”.  How about loving neighbor?  Does committing adultery destroy not just my marriage, but likely other families as well?  If the answer is yes, then again, I should not do it, out of love for my neighbor, not to mention my spouse.  While we know that certain things are clearly off limits — murder, lying, etc. — the new way does have the drawback of giving us a lot more “gray” than black and white, so to speak.  So in the New Covenant, we have the freedom to do as we please, with the understanding that we must be discerning — which frankly can be harder than simply having rules — in what actions we take and how they will be seen by others (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 for Paul’s discussion of Christian freedom and discerning choices).

(From Leigh An: Wanting a little more background to this last passage that Rob mentioned, I read all of 1 Corinthians 10 and enjoyed the whole message.  I can’t wait for the NT!)

Day 46 (Feb. 15): Offerings for the Tabernacle dedication

Good morning!  Thank you for checking out BibleBum.com, where we are reading the Bible in one year, chronologically.  This blog is unique in that at the end of each reading there are questions from the reading answered by a seminary graduate who has studied cultural history.  The information helps readers grasp confusing parts, find deeper meanings and sometimes surprise us!

If you have been reading along, congrats, you have finished Exodus!  That’s three down.  Today we start a new book, Numbers.  Because we are reading chronologically, soon, the text will be flopping back and forth between Numbers and Leviticus.  For background information about Numbers, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/numbers/ and for Leviticus, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/leviticus/.  We will be referring to this link before every new book to provide information about the author, time it was written, and other scene-setter material.

If you are new to this blog, you can go to the “Best New Year’s Resolution” tab to find out why we started BibleBum.com.  To start this blog from the beginning, click on the index tab and find Day 1.  I hope you find this as fun and as enriching as we have creating it!

Numbers 7:1-89

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Numbers 7:10): I would imagine that the Tabernacle looked like a treasure storehouse after all of these gifts.  These gifts were presented and remained right outside the Tabernacle?  All the animals were sacrificed?

A. I’m not sure where things were “stored”, but yes, they were presented outside the Tabernacle.  Yes, the poor animals were sacrificed.

Q. The silver offerings were just a matter of what each was sacrificing?  Did the grain symbolize anything?

A. They are part of the grain offering, which will be explored in Leviticus.

Q. Incense?  Just an aroma pleasing to God?  Was it used for cleansing at all?

A. Incense was used to generate pleasant aromas (you can imagine all the sacrifices would smell bad), but I don’t think it was used in a cleaning manner.  The smoke of burning incense has come to represent the presence of the Spirit of God, and I suspect they would have thought of it in this way as well.

Q. What is the difference between a burnt offering a sin offering and peace offering?

A. Honestly, this is one place where I disagree with the order of the presentation of the material.  If we were reading the books in the order they were put together, we would see already what the different types of offerings were and what they were used for.

Hang in there: the first few chapters of Leviticus make it very clear about the five or so types of offerings, so this is an answer I will defer until we’ve reached the relevant materials.

Q. Any significance to the 12 offerings of platters, basins and containers other than it stood for the 12 tribes?  Is there any reason God chose 12 tribes other than that’s how many son’s Jacob had?  How about significance of 60?

A. 12 is a Biblical number of completeness, though I confess I suspect the reason we see it as such is because of the number of tribes (and also the number of Jesus’ disciples in the NT) is 12.  Basically, 12 became a symbolic number of completeness for Jews because there were 12 tribes of Israel, rather than 12 already being a symbol of completeness that just happened to be the number of sons Jacob had.

Q. Why are the offerings all the same?

A. I would presume so that each of the tribes would be equally invested in the Tabernacle, and everyone would have some “skin in the game” as it were.

Day 40 (Feb. 9): Tabernacle offerings, blueprints for Ark of the Covenant, table, lampstand, Tabernacle, altar, courtyard, light, priests’ apparel

Exodus 25-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 25:1-40): Do we learn anything from God’s instructions on how to construct the Ark?  Is it just that God knows what he wants to be comfortable?  Any significance to the cherubim?  Also, I notice that 27 inches is repeated many times.

A. God is asking His people to sacrifice in order to create a place of gathering that will serve His people for the next several decades.  The Tabernacle will dwell within the center of the community — putting God in the midst of His people — and will be a point of gathering.  The items requested would have made a beautiful gathering — which was very functional as well, it could be folded together and loaded up any time — that would have served the entire community.

I think we’re on the wrong track when we think of God desiring “comfort” as though He wanted a Lay-Z-boy to recline in.  This is not an incarnational presence, like Jesus.  This is the presence of God becoming the literal center of the tribes while they are in the wilderness.  We will see how the instructions for the ark and tabernacle will come into play as we move along, but watch for the importance of the poles and rings when it comes time to move.  There is a very special reason for the rings and poles on the ark.

The cherubs — a name for what we think is a classification of angel, but no one knows for sure — were seen in the OT as symbolic attendants to the throne of God, what we call the mercy seat, the cover to the ark.  And in a throne room, the attendees of a king would have been at his left and right.

Don’t pay much attention to the dimensions, if for no other reason than the NLT uses modern units to help us more clearly understand the dimensions of the items being built.  If you look at the NIV or King James, they give the units in “cubits” rather than feet and inches.  For reference, a cubit equals 1.5 feet, or 1 foot, six inches.  Obviously, there were no “inches” and “feet” as measures in ancient times, and generally there were very few standards of measure.

Q. (28:6): Is there any significance to the thread colors chosen — blue, purple and scarlet?

A. Yes.  These colors were symbolic of royalty and were incredibly expensive.  Like the gold and jewels for the task, God is seeking the best that His people have to offer.  He is requesting them to sacrifice in this instance, as one would do for a human monarch.

Q. We see this lavishness that God commands for himself.  No question, he deserves it all.  I just wondered what kind of philosophy the Bible says churches should have when building their places of worship.  Some churches are lavish, others are basically four walls and a roof.  I have had the mindset that if churches spend a lot on their buildings, they are not using their money wisely.  They could be using it for missions.  But, then, are they showing disrespect for God by not having the best possible place of worship?

A. You’ve obviously asked a complicated question, as you can tell by the various ways that churches and individuals have answered it.  Some churches are much more comfortable with “four walls and a roof” (I’m thinking of the of those pre-fab metal roofed churches that you see in rural areas), while others (I’m thinking of an absolutely amazing Catholic Basilica I visited in St. Louis) desire to create real beauty and glorify God through craftsmanship.  I think that both decisions honor God in different ways: we can say, “Lord be glorified by this place” or “Lord be glorified by what we will do within this place” and be perfectly right in both cases.  In this instance, God required the people to sacrifice their best in order to create something that would benefit everyone in the community.  Overall, I would say there is no one “right” way to build a building for God — unless He gives you one as He did here — and we must be discerning to what God desires of us.

Q. I shouldn’t say this, but this reading is a yawner.  Not much action.  But, I do glean several things from it.  1) There are things made for Aaron’s attire that will remind him who he is, a representative to all the people of Israel.  2) God asks for a beautiful place to dwell among the people.  I would love to see it!!!  3) Anything else I’m missing?

A. Seems like you’ve got the general idea.  The instructions given here are just the groundwork: we will still see these things built later in Exodus, and put into action in the next few stories.  So hang in there.

If you (or anyone else) wants to see what this would have looked like, I find that there are various groups on the internet who have built life-size replicas.  Like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stiftshuette_Modell_Timnapark.jpg