Day 344 (Dec. 10): Paul writes to his good friend Philemon, Paul asks Philemon to welcome Onesimus, Paul writes to Philippians praising ther faith, Paul rejoices that Good News is being preached, Paul wants to live to continue his teaching, live as citizens of heaven, Paul said suffering for Christ is a privilege, Jesus’ humility earns Him the highest honor

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.

Philemon 1:1-25

Philippians 1-2:11

Questions & Observations

O. Rob, I don’t have anything to say about this Scripture except a short summary because our pastor just covered this very issue a month or so ago.  Onesimus left (ran away from) his master, Philemon, in order to be free.  He met Paul in Rome and they became close.  Paul wrote Philemon to tell him to go easy on Onesimus from running away because Onesimus had changed tremendously and loved God.

Q. (Philippians 1:20-26): Is Paul starting to fail in health?  He sounds like he could be questioning his livelihood.

A. I think he knows that time is short, and that he may be a prisoner for the rest of his life, which may not last long.  These “prison letters” read like they are from a man who knows that time is short, and he is acting accordingly.

Q. (Philippians 2:6-8): Why is this section indented?  It’s not a scripture as far as I can tell.  What is it?

A. This is probably one of the earliest known recordings of an early Christian hymn — a song about the faith that Paul is sharing to help make his argument.  He appears to be quoting the lyrics to an early Christian song that teaches about how they understood the nature of Jesus Christ, who was both God and man.

Day 226 (Aug. 14): Jeremiah praises God, Babylon’s destroying power will be punished, exiles told to flee Babylon before the fall, Babylon will be leveled, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away it’s treasures, Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 captives including King Jehoiachin, Zedekiah rules Jerusalem for 11 years, Egypt came to help Judah against Babylon but Babylon retreated, God said they will return and destroy

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 51:15-58

2 Kings 24:10-17

2 Chronicles 36:10

1 Chronicles 3:10-16

2 Chronicles 36:11-14

Jeremiah 52:1-3

2 Kings 24:18-20a

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 51:15-19): This is a lovely hymn of praise.  I do like to read them.  They usually paint a picture of what life is like living with God near.  However, I do start taking them for granted, just glossing over them because I get the gist of them.  I am guilty also of doing this with prayer and praise.  I get lazy.  For instance, for a while, I was praying before I did every blog.  Now, it’s rare.  I do talk to God throughout the day, but I wondered if you had any suggestions on how to keep praising God without it feeling redundant.  If you give praise from the heart, it helps.

A. There’s a natural ebb and flow to our prayer life and our walk with God, and what you are describing is perfectly natural.  Redundancy can be very difficult to combat, and the laziness it tends to breed in us can make you feel like a failure.  So, first, know that God still loves each of us, even when we fall short despite our best intentions not to.  Among my advice for you would be to determine, as we talked about recently, what your “pathway” is to God: if you know how you best connect with God, it will tend to be the way that is least vulnerable to the apathy you’re describing.  Keep trying new things as well: find different places to pray, or things to read (besides the Bible) to keep your intellect engaged.  Lastly, finding ways to “act out” what you are reading or praying about (aka service to others) will surely help to keep apathy from setting in.

Q. (51:27): Where did Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz come from?

A. They are the names of other nations in this part of the ancient world, but we don’t know exactly where they refer to.

Q. (51:44): I haven’t heard of Bel.

A. We saw it yesterday and maybe a couple of quick references to it, but no, it’s not a term that we would be familiar with yet.  Bel refers to the chief deity of the Babylonians (it is a title, like lord, rather than a proper name), whose “proper” name is Marduk, the sun deity and patron god of Babylon.

Q. (37:3): I think it’s so amusing, crazy — I’m not sure of the word — when these kings do things that are wicked in God’s sight, but then somehow acknowledge Him like Zedekiah is doing here when he asks Jeremiah to pray for him and his people.

A. He wants the benefits of a relationship with God without having to make any sacrifices for it.  Sounds like human nature to me.

Day 196 (July 15): Give thanks to God, His love endures, God lifts up the weak, He rebuilds Jerusalem, His power is absolute

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.

Psalm 136

Psalm 146-150

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 136): This Psalm just says to me that God has always been, He always will be — and is above no other — and His hand is in everything.

A. Definitely a recurring theme.

O. (146): When I read this I think, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Our eyes play tricks on our mind all the time.  The powerful look in control, ahead of the “game,” but on God’s scale, the tables are turned: the oppressed, the lonely, the burdened are the winners.

O. (146:9): This verse is two-fold for me.  It says that I don’t need to worry about leveling the playing field, God will.  So don’t get bogged down about the fact that life isn’t fair and getting revenge.  On the side of “he frustrates the plans of the wicked” lets me know that I have wickedness inside me — much, much less than I used to — because I do get frustrated.  But, now I am learning to slow down, analyze a situation and think of what the best thing is to do.  When I do that and include God, my frustration goes away.

Q. (147:11): My 5-year old has swimmer’s ear.  When my husband told me that the doctor said she had an outer ear infection, I thought that would be better than an inner ear or middle ear, but it’s not!!!  Last night was my third night to be up with her, giving her more pain medicine when she needed it every few hours (don’t worry, I didn’t overdose her).  Last night when she was sobbing and saying, “my ear hurts” over and over again, I was crying out to God to take care of her pain.  It was a real forceful prayer like I was yelling at God.  She would quiet down and I thought, “wow, that worked.  Thank you.”  Then, she started up again.  I wasn’t happy with God.  Then, she finally went back to sleep.  I wondered if it was God or the medicine.  My vote was for ibuprofen.  And, I felt bad for thinking that.  I was talking to my bff about it and she said that I can’t forget to ask for anything, but remember it’s if it’s God’s will.  Then, what is the point of prayer?  My hubby said that was Satan entering into my thoughts.  The whole thing does confuse me.  But, what I did realize when talking to my bff is that my daughter felt a ton better today.  I only gave her ibuprofen twice today and didn’t have to back it up with acetaminophen.  So, I bring this up because this verse says, “those who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

A. Prayer can be frustrating! One of my professors wrote a book on it called Talking in the Dark, about praying when life doesn’t make sense (in big and small things).  One of the main prayers that I worry about us being too caught up in is asking God to take away all of our pain, as you did here, and I do for my girls as well, so you’re hardly alone there.  But, I wonder how often God desires us to see that pain is often His way of getting our attention — so says C.S. Lewis, who called it God’s megaphone — and that if we have a right knowledge of God, then pain can be endured.  There are several reasons for this.  The first is that if we see pain as only being temporary — especially the pain of death in every sense of the word — that makes it a lot more endurable.  In light of eternity, we can gain a lot of perspective on pain that lasts mere moments or hours, even if it seems like an eternity when we are going through it or being with someone who is.

Whenever I’m discussing pain with someone, I think of two biblical examples of how we should turn to God in the midst of trial.  Two of the holiest men who ever lived, Jesus and Paul, both went through periods of trial.  In Matthew 26, and the other gospels as well, Jesus pleads with God the Father for the “cup” (of suffering and sin) to pass from Him.  He knows what it will mean to endure the path of suffering, and it appears that the human part of Him was afraid.  But He resolved to do the will of His Father, and submitted Himself to the humiliation and torture of the cross.  In doing so, He freed all humanity from our own sin if we believe in Him.  The passion story unfolds over the course of about 18 brutal hours, and Jesus hung from the cross for 6 before He died.  Surely it was endless agony, but those six hours were used by God to change the course of human history.  And He did so using pain inflicted upon His own Son.  God truly can bring light out of our greatest darkness.

The other story comes from 2 Corinthians 12, in which Paul tells us about what he calls his “thorn,” some sort of what was most likely a physical ailment or other health problem that he had to endure.  The text tells us that he asked God three times to take it away, but God said no.  God told him — and this is the important thing — that His grace was sufficient for Paul (2 Cor 12:9).  Paul is therefore able to endure the physical pain with the knowledge that God’s grace is bigger than our suffering.  It didn’t make Paul’s pain go away, but it completely changed his perspective on it.  Perspective remains key when it comes to our pain.  We will never know a pain-free existence in this life — that is the nature of our world.  But if we gain a proper perspective on it, then we can see it as one of the many ways that God brings good into our world.

Q. (148): I don’t think ocean animals, trees, scurrying animals and most of the things mentioned here will praise God.

A. Not in song perhaps — though some animals do sing in their own way.  I think the writer is carrying the theme of worship to what we might call its next logical step: to have nature itself honor its Creator.  What would that look like?  I suspect what the writer is envisioning is that when the different parts of nature do what God desired them to do — birds sing, predators hunt, fire burns, etc. — then these things honor the God who made them.  But perhaps we might just want to say we don’t have to read every Psalm so literally.  By the way, the writer of the classic hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, composed by St. Francis of Assisi around 1225 AD, is based upon the words of Psalm 148, and if you read the lyrics, you might get some of the idea of what the psalmist was thinking about.  Read them here: http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/a/a100.html

Q. (150): OK, I’m just going to ask.  Where did the idea of praise and worship come from anyway?  Sorry if this seems pessimistic, I’ve been a little grumpy the last couple days.  But, I really am curious about it.

A. In the OT, worship and praise for God has its origins in people’s interactions with Him or being a witness to His actions.  Abraham praises God through his various trials and revealed different names of God in the midst of them — God is my provider for example, (Genesis 22:14).  He also built altars to God in the midst of journeys; places where he could focus on God and remember His presence, even if Abraham couldn’t see Him.  Moses and Miriam sing the first recorded worship of God in song (I think) in Exodus 15.  God has just brought them through the Red Sea, and crushed the army that is chasing them.  In that moment, they break into song, and sing the praises of the God who delivered them.  These names for God and writings and songs about His actions (probably in oral form at first, remember that) are probably among the first ways that people worshipped God.  But as time went by, and God continued to be faithful — in the lives of David and Solomon for example — the actions of God increased, so there was more to write about and focus on.  But notice that many of these Psalms, including some in today’s reading, all point back to the Exodus — the highest point in their history.  No matter how “old” the generations got, they looked back on those moments as being the origins of their people, and offered praise and sacrifices to God accordingly.  Worship, I believe, is simply the correct response when one becomes fully aware of whom God really is.  That would be where it originates with you and me.

Day 192 (July 11): Our God is real, their idols are made by humans, the Lord blesses and never forgets his followers, God is my protector, He cares for the godly, rejoice in all He offers and has given

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.

Psalms 115-118

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 116:1-2, 115:10): I often wonder why we pray to God and praise Him so much.  Why does He seek praise, or does He?  Why are we told in scripture to do so?  I am sure there are a lot of reasons.  One I think of is to keep our eyes on God.  We should want to thank God in prayer for all of our blessings.  Here in 116:2, it says that He bends down to hear what we say.  The Creator of the Earth and all of its complexities eagerly has time for us.  That means that He does care and it is worth our time.  Also, in 115:10, we are told that God is our helper and our shield.  That’s a pretty good armor!  But, does God desire praise?  I know I do when I feel I’ve done a good job or just need a pat on the back or a little reassurance.

A. The parent metaphor is an apt one here.  Do I “require” the praise of my little girls?  Do I require them to say, “You are such a great Daddy!”  No!  No (healthy) parent does that!  But does it bring delight to my heart to hear the love of my daughters?  You bet it does.  As a strong proponent of free will, I believe that God does not force us to love Him, but is honored most when we make the CHOICE to love Him.

Worship of God is never for His benefit (God needs nothing for us, He is a complete entity and Triune community unto Himself), but always for ours.  Worship is one of the key ways that we as people can see the “true” way things are, as we see things being told to us in these Psalms.  Worship, like prayer, is never about changing God, but rather using the truth that God is in charge and we are not to change us.

Q. (116:3): What is going on here?

A. The writer was facing death, and uses the metaphor of being “snared” in the ropes of a personified death, as an animal in a trap.

Q. (118:24): Amen!  This should wake me up every morning!

A. The church I grew up in started every service with it.  You could do a lot worse than this verse.

Day 190 (July 9): Proclaim God and all of His creation, proclaim who He is and the wonders He has done, a review of Israel in Egypt, the Israelites still strayed from God despite all of His guidance and aid

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.

Psalms 105-106

Questions & Observations

O. (Psalm 105:1-4): I love the beginning of this Psalm.  This was written for the Israelites, but I think we could apply the first two verses to our lives, but more of as a collective charge.  We have talked way back to where we should use discretion when proclaiming God.  If you shout out today how wondrous God is, chances are you’ll get some weird looks.  (If you have enough confidence to shout His praises, more power to you.  Go for it.  I would stop to listen!) But, if you testify in the right place at the right time, it can work.  Or, if this could be more a collective charge where this first two verses are addressing Christians as a whole to have God on our mind, act godly and proclaim Him whenever possible, we can apply it to today.  Verses 3 and 4 are right on!  The more I search for God and request His thoughts, the easier my life is.

O. (105:7): We have read a lot about that.  Those folks should have woken up after all the destruction God did and then rebuilding.

O. (105:8-45): The rest of this Psalm is about how God never faltered on His covenant with Abraham.  Despite all the anger and humiliation God had to endure, He still put up with them.  He kept the covenant.

Q. (106): This Psalm takes us, and the original authors of this passage, way back through lots of generations — 700 or so years worth.  But, they tell it like it just happened yesterday.  And now, we are reading it 2700 years later (I think my estimations are correct).  It’s just amazing how God and the Bible have lasted through all of these years!  Just an off-the-wall curious question: I would assume that the Bible is the oldest book of any religion.  Any idea how far other religions date back?

A. When it comes to monotheism, you would be correct, the OT is the “oldest” major religious text.  But there’s a reason: both of the other major monotheistic religions both spring from Judaism — Christianity (circa 30 AD) and Islam (622 AD).  But the oldest still practiced religion is Hinduism, which is a polytheistic (many gods) and pantheistic (everything is god) religion, the primary faith of the Indian sub-continent.  Though there is no official “founder” for Hinduism as Judaism associates with Abraham, an ancient form of the religion in the Indus river valley can be basically traced back nearly 5000 years (to circa 3000 BC), so it gets the title of “oldest still practiced religion.”  Among their sacred texts are what are called the Four Vedas (truths), and though it is generally accepted that their final composition/editing occurred around 600 BC, they are much older than that, and probably date to an older period than the OT.

Now you can make the argument that forms of spirit worship, the worship of nature, and other such forms of what we would call “paganism” can go back many more thousands of years to primitive mankind even tens of thousands of years ago, but there is no “direct” line from these religious positions to a modern form.

 

Major Monotheistic Religions:

Judaism (circa 2000 BC)

Zoroastrianism (circa 600 BC)

Christianity (circa 30 AD)

Islam (622 AD)

Sikhism (1469 AD)

Mormonism (1820s AD)

Baha’i (1844 AD)

 

Major Polytheistic Religions:

Hinduism (circa 3000 BC)

Shintoism (800 AD)

 

Major Agnostic Religions/Philosophies

Jainism (circa 900 BC)

Buddhism (circa 500 BC)

Daoism (also spelled Taoism, 400 BC)

Confucianism (circa 400 BC)

Day 189 (July 8): Let the world shout the Lord’s name, Jerusalem is exalted, God is our shepherd, tell God of your woes, praise God for the beauty of his complex awesome world

Good day!  I hope your summer is going wonderfully!  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.

Psalms 98-100, 102, 104

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 98): I notice the harp is mentioned often as a preferred instrument to accompany praises.  Any idea why?

A. I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for that, other than to say it was a commonly owned instrument of this era, kind of like a guitar today.  When we think of the NLT’s use of “harp,” what they really mean is what we call a “lyre,” a handheld small stringed instrument, like a mini-harp.  According to my notes, there is a reference to the creator of the lyre (as Jews knew it anyway) in Genesis 4:21, and it was also noted to be the official instrument of the nation, probably made so by King David.  Check out some other readings on it here:

http://topicalbible.org/h/harp.htm

and here (lots of pictures):

http://www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/pages/instruments.htm

Q. (100:3): I bet we will see more references to God and Jesus as the shepherd of us — His sheep.  We have seen it several times already.  Why sheep?  They are meek, quiet, community oriented …

A. That last adjective made me laugh: it makes sheep sound like they form little “sheep clubs” with membership dues or something.  The primary reason, as I think we’ve discussed, though for the life of me I forget where, is that one of the main occupations of Israel was sheep herding and ranching.  Sheep would have been an animal that all Israelites would have been familiar with.  Now having visited a few farms, I would have to disagree with your assessment of sheep as being “quiet” or anything like it — they are noisy animals that only get quiet when things turn bad.  But there are lots of other reasons that I can think of why God would call us His sheep.  Since the list I’m coming up with is fairly extensive, I’m going to defer to two resources on the matter.  The first is a book, called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller (according to Amazon, you can get a used copy for a penny: http://www.amazon.com/Shepherd-Looks-Psalm-23/dp/0310274419)

The other is a person’s blog whom I feel does a good job of summarizing many of the reasons I’m thinking of.  Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments.

http://inhonoroftheking.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-does-god-call-us-sheep.html

O. (102:28): How fortunate are those children who are being taught the ways of the Lord.  I feel for those children who are brought into a house of anger, violence or neglect.

Q. (104): This psalm makes me think of how much we take God’s creation for granted.  I am amazed at all the details that God included, how things were made to coexist, how it all works together.  But, I don’t think about it more than once or twice a day.  Then, of all of God’s creation, it’s the human race that He loves the most and works with the most to try to turn toward Him.  I guess this is because we are created in His image and He desires for us to be with Him to share the beauty of His creation?

A. I would say your guess is correct.

Day 185 (July 4): Psalms of the descendants of Korah: the discouraged still look to God for revival, faithful question God, we worship God in all His glory, God is the answer!

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.

Psalms 42-46

Questions & Observations

Q. (42): This sounds like Job, just a roller coaster of emotion.  Question, question, question, but then proclaim God.  God could be testing here?

A. We are certainly in the midst of great trials for God’s people — which we can see they’ve brought upon themselves — but it is possible they don’t see it that way.  Regardless, God feels distant (and remember who moved when He does!), and the writer longs to be close to Him again.

Q. (44): This psalm says the authors are upright with God, are true believers, have lived up to the law, but they are being destroyed.  Can you explain this?

A. This reads to me like emotional writing of a person who does not understand what God is up to.  I am certain that within each of these generations of people suffering the losses and devastation, which will continue, there were those who remained faithful to God and did not bow to other gods.  But the problem is that “we” word, as in “we have been loyal to the covenant.”  That’s a white wash at best.  Clearly many within the nation, including its rulers, have been completely unfaithful to God, and are suffering for it now.

My reaction to these verses is they sound like a child who is crying out in anger, knowing full well what they are being punished for by a parent, but saying, “I didn’t do anything!”

Q. (45:1): What king is being praised here?  I thought it was God, but then verse 2 says the king has been blessed by God.  I’m really not sure what’s going on in this whole Psalm.

A. The Psalm is written to the kings of the throne of David, i.e. Judah, it appears as a way of honoring them on a wedding day to a foreign wife.  It generates a powerful image of a king who is almost god-like in his abilities.  Of the actual kings who ruled Judah, only David came anywhere close to this description.  But, as we have seen with other types of writings, it establishes a “type” for a godly King, one that will be seen by Christians centuries later as having revealed an image of the Kings of Kings, Jesus Christ.