Day 310 (Nov. 6): Jesus secretly walks with two followers, Jesus appears to disciples, Jesus shows ‘doubting Thomas’ the wound in His side, Jesus appears to fishermen disciples, Jesus charges disciples to the Great Commission — to go and teach the world about Him

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.

Luke 24:13-43

Mark 16:12-13

John 20:19-23

Mark 16:14

John 20:24-31

John 21:1-25

Matthew 28:16-20

Mark 16:15-18

Luke 24:44-49

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 24:13-34): I guess God kept the men from recognizing Jesus, so Jesus could study the prophecies with them, so they could indeed see that Jesus was the Messiah?

A. God’s reason for doing so is not exactly clear, but surely that moment of realization must have been absolutely astounding for those two people (some traditions say that one of them — the unnamed disciple, was a woman, but no one really knows).

Q. (Luke 24:35-43): Jesus showed the disciples His hands and feet that likely still had marks on them.  God must have healed Him quite a bit if He can walk after all of that suffering.  God and Jesus healed many, so I guess He would heal Jesus also.

A. Jesus’ body was something different from a normal human body, and the best that I can tell, it was something that this earth has not seen since — it must have been amazing to behold.  Hold on to the thought of the scars Jesus bears, they will be part of the NT theology later.

Q. (John 20:29): I think that because people can’t see God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, that they don’t believe.  But, I think, after people read the Bible, they may change their minds.  I’m glad God gave it to us through all of these followers.  Without it, much more of the world would be lost.

A. It is a wonder that God has left this literal life and death task to ordinary men and women, but He has, and He therefore must remain invisible in order for us to properly carry out this mission in faith.  It wouldn’t be faith if we could clearly see them.

Q. (John 21:15-23): I don’t understand what’s going on in this Passage.  And, is John a little egotistical since he insists on saying that he is the beloved disciple?  It makes me think that his accounts can be a little slanted.

A. I got a laugh out of that question, I’ve never thought of it that way.  Personally, I think John is speaking out of humility rather than naming himself over and over again, but perhaps it’s ego.

This passage is doing two things: first, Jesus is redeeming Peter from his failure and denial — note that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him once for each time he denied before.  After this, Peter will become the central figure of the first half of the Book of Acts, our next reading.

The other thing that is going on here is that there was ancient speculation centered around John the Apostle that Jesus had declared that he would not die (John is likely the last living Apostle at the time of this writing — most scholars believe that John is the last Gospel written).  John is clarifying that Jesus did not say he wouldn’t die before Jesus’ return (having likely overheard Jesus talking to Peter), only that Jesus told Peter it wasn’t his concern.  John will be part of our next group of readings, and will be the center of some of our later readings, notably the Epistles that bear his name and the Book of Revelation.

Q. (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-18): Jesus is talking to the disciples here.  But, is this Great Commission for all believers?  If so, how do we know it’s addressed to us?  I don’t see anyone today casting out demons.  But, is that because they don’t believe 100 percent?  And, what does “speak in new languages” mean?  And the rest of miraculous things mentioned in Mark 16:18?

A. I don’t have a great answer to this question, except to say that the Apostles will perform miracles of their own in our next readings — though not any of the things mentioned.  And that I doubt the authenticity of this section of Mark: It frankly feels embellished from the similar version of the story in Matthew.  So, honestly, I don’t pay a ton of attention to what it says here.

Q. (Luke 24: 49): Can we talk here about the Holy Spirit’s purpose or do you want to save that for later?  I am just wondering what the Holy Spirit can help people with and how does one know they are blessed with the Holy Spirit?

A. Patience, patience.  Soon all will be revealed.  The Holy Spirit will take center stage in the Book of Acts.

Day 230 (Aug. 18): The Lord’s glory left temple, God judges Jerusalem’s leaders for injustice, God promises exiles will return to Israel, Spirit leaves Jerusalem for Babylon, signs of coming exile, God says the time to destroy Jerusalem is here, God rebukes false, lying prophets, victims will be rescued from deceptive women with magic charms

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.

Ezekiel 10-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (10:15): We have talked about cherubim before.  I believe it was in the altar discussions way back in the building of the Tabernacle.  What is the significance of the four heads and the four sets of wings?  And, it says that the cherubim are “living beings” This is just a vision, right?

A. While we can’t be exactly sure what it is Ezekiel is seeing, cherubim are generally accepted to be angelic beings of some sort.  The four heads/wings symbolize completeness, as the angels are reflections of God’s perfect power.

Q. (12:3-11): I sound like a broken record.  The hole in the wall story was a “message.”  Does that mean these acts happened or is it a vision?

A. In chapter 12, I would say that God told Ezekiel to actually do these actions, including digging the hole in his wall.  I would say Ezekiel expects us to believe that he really did this.

Q. (13:1): God is telling Ezekiel to give the people messages.  Why did God use prophets?  Why didn’t he just tell the people directly?

A. I suppose you can argue that He tried, but nobody listened.  As the people became increasingly corrupt and greedy, they turned away from God, so God selected certain men (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) in this era to bring them back.  Based upon how well we see many of these events tie together, you can see why the era of these men’s ministries is known as the Age of the Prophets.  Ultimately, I see two factors at work here: first, as both Jeremiah and Ezekiel point out, there were a number of men (and apparently women) who were making claims about what God was telling the people to do, but that were false — God was not speaking through them.  God surely might have felt concern that His people were going astray, and needed to respond via faithful members of the community.  The other factor is the fact that we tend to simply “tune out” the still, small voice of God that He uses to reach His faithful people.  When the “small” voice fails, it often requires someone with a bit more volume.

Q. (13:5b-7): This reminds me of something I have been doing lately — assuming God will make true want I want Him to because I’m a faithful servant.  My husband asked me if I felt closer to God since we moved to Florida last year.  I said, “sometimes.”  I realize much more how amazing God is.  But, I feel like I’m going through a cleansing where I get one thing worked out about God and then I need to work on another thing.  I said that I don’t know if I feel closer to God, but I’m understanding my relationship with Him more.  It’s very frustrating.  I’m struggling to get rid of my desires.  I have taken note of all of the prayer requests I’ve had and I get frustrated when they aren’t answered.  I’m doing work for God, stuff that I believe He wants me to do and there’s more for Him that I want to do.  I very much believe that He gave me the ideas.  So, why can’t He make my husband’s business take off — he started about 10 months ago — so we could have the money to start my ventures and pay for some needed house repairs.  Besides, we would give more to the church and charities too.  Then, I realize that I’m asking, but He doesn’t have to answer.  Hopefully he will eventually.  But, like Job, I still have faith.  My husband and I recently signed up to start working in the prison ministry that our church is involved with.  We got on the program’s e-mailing list right away, where my husband received this one: Our church’s pastor for the prison got an e-mail from an atheist saying, in a nutshell, that he wanted to be removed from the church’s e-mail list.  He had no idea how he got on it, being an atheist.  The pastor replied that he would be happy too.  He respects the atheist’s view.  He said he has talked with a lot of atheists in the prison (that was the punch line, in a nutshell).  He had a lot of convincing words.  And, he told the man that he would love to sit down over a drink and discuss their views.  Atheists trip me out.  How could they read the Bible and not make all the connections to see that it HAS to be true?  This made me think of a thought that popped into my mind the other day too that solidifies my belief even more.  There are a lot of religions with their “gods,” there are idols, but how many of them have said in their book that they created the heavens and the earth?  God is the only one who has made the claim that I know of.  He was the only one who was there and had someone write it down.  All the other hypotheses of how the world came to be are just that, guesses.  The Bible is historical and dates way, way, way back.  So, that’s something to put your trust and faith in!

A. Many remain unconvinced in the claims of the Bible, and see is as a collection of legends and human words that has no bearing on their lives.  They see religion as a enemy of progress (not understanding that all of Western society is founded upon Christianity/Judaism), and therefore couldn’t care less what it has to say about what this “God” has done.  Just as there are ministry resources for Christians on the Internet, there are also many websites for skeptics and outright atheists that can do a fine job undermining everything you’ve written in this question about your views on the Bible.  Belief and faith are ultimately an act of will — though faith is sustained by the Spirit of God at work — and people must choose to believe in God or not.  It is the job of Christians such as the minister you’ve discussed above to reach out and say, “don’t believe the nonsense you’ve read on the Internet, there IS a God, and you need His son Jesus Christ.”

Q. (13:15): We read a lot that God gets angry.  You can’t blame Him with everything He puts up with when He simply just says to follow Him and you’ll be blessed.  We also have read lately at his anger being satisfied, seeking revenge.  I think people would say that revenge is a human characteristic.  But, if we are created in God’s image and He obviously has been angry and sought revenge, then maybe it’s a quality from God.  I just enjoy seeing the emotional side of God because I am a highly emotional person.  It’s annoying!

A. God is permitted (by virtue of being God) to do as He pleases in terms of showing emotion and taking revenge.  But as we will see, one of the turning points of the NT is Jesus asking God the Father to not take revenge for His is suffering on the cross, but to forgive (Luke 23:34).  God’s choosing to forgive via the atoning actions of Jesus Christ is central to our understanding of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed.  Those who are in Christ do not have to fear God’s wrath, they have passed from being people who are dying to living for the Word itself.

Day 228 (Aug. 16): God makes Ezekiel a messenger/watchman for Israel, Ezekiel only to speak when he has message from God, Ezekiel bears sins of Israel and Judah as he’s force to experience devastation of siege, Judah urged to submit to Babylon, Ignore false prophets, Jeremiah condemns Hananiah, Jeremiah prophecies that Babylon will be empty

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.

Ezekiel 3:16-4:17

Jeremiah 27-28

Jeremiah Wears an Ox Yoke

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 3:24, 4:4-7, 12): This isn’t a literal description right?  Ezekiel’s hands weren’t really tied so he couldn’t move?  It gets worse in Ch. 4.  Why such harsh treatment for someone who is to spread God’s messages?  And dung for fuel to bake his bread.  This is unbearable!

A. I believe that the being tied was symbolic.  It did not imply that he could not move, but should be understood as God restricting his movements metaphorically.  As to the rest of the requirements, it appears that God meant this literally as he made provision for Ezekiel’s needs, though scantily, of food and shelter.  The idea here is that Ezekiel will act out the siege that is befalling Jerusalem on various levels: being trapped within the “walls,” given meager rations, and forced to improvise fuel.  Dried manure was commonly used as fuel in this era, and is still used in parts of the world today.  I cannot imagine it is a pleasant fuel to use, but I believe that that was an intentional choice on God’s part: the unpleasantness was meant to be part of the symbolic penance.

Q. (4:5-6): What is the significance of the length of time Ezekiel was required to rest on his left and then right side?

A. Based upon the model he built, having Ezekiel lie on his left side would have meant he was on the “north” side of Jerusalem, which would have symbolized Israel.  Having him lay on his right side would have caused him to be on the south side, representing Judah and its sins.  The 390 years appears to be the length of time that has taken place since Solomon’s turning away from God, and all the Northern kings who followed down this path away from God.  The 40 years is a bit trickier, but is probably a reference to Manasseh’s long reign before his repentance.

Q. (Jeremiah 28:1-17): Why were there false prophets?  Were they appointed by the king to say what he wants them to say much like the king creates man-made idols to help him in the way he wants help?

A. That’s one possible explanation.  Another is that this man thought he was hearing from God but was simply mistaken as Jeremiah is told.  Telling people what they want to hear is surely a way to make oneself popular, so perhaps this man became a “prophet” because he liked being the center of attention for sharing positive messages that the king and others would have liked to hear.  Those are my guesses.

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

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

Jeremiah 19-20:18

Daniel 1:1-21

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

A. You’ve got the idea.

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

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

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

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

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

Day 217 (Aug. 5): God’s wrath poors over nations, Baruch reads scrolls of God’s prophecies, Baruch and Jeremiah hide for safety, King Jehoiakim burns the scroll, the scrolls are rewritten and lengthened, God empowers Baruch, Egypt’s boasting was its ruin, reassurance for the rebuilding of Israel

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

Jeremiah 25:15-38

Jeremiah 36:1-32

Jeremiah 45:1-5

Jeremiah 46:1-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 24:15-29): Can you explain this “cup”?  And, how did Jeremiah get around to all of these nations?  This is something that took many, many years?  I wouldn’t think that all of these nations would have welcomed Jeremiah.  Was it in the reading that God would protect him?

A. I suspect that this section is a vision of some sort; I highly doubt that Jeremiah went to all of these nations — and as you mention, he would hardly be welcomed.  But the cup itself is an image of God’s wrath, which will be poured out upon these nations for their various sins.  This period in the Middle East was one of extreme turmoil, with nation conquering nation and repeated periods of slaughter that can be see as God’s wrath being poured out.  It was a horrible time, and poor little Judah is caught in the middle of this ongoing endless war within this region.  But surely we live in more civilized times today.

Q. (24:33): And you wonder where some people get a sick sense of humor. (lol) God is saying here that these people are basically the “sh” 4-letter word.

A. Sort of.  I think God is comparing the sheer number of unburied bodies to the mass quantity of manure that a farmer would typically use on a field.

Q. (36:5): Why does Jeremiah say he is a prisoner?

A. Jeremiah is imprisoned by the king who doesn’t like what he is saying.  I believe that we will see more about this later, though I am honestly not sure why the imprisonment didn’t come “first” in our reading.  My notes indicate that he may not have been a prisoner — other translations render this word “restricted” — but may simply have been forbidden from going to the Temple to proclaim his message.  In a linear reading of Jeremiah — which we are obviously not doing here — chapters 7 and 19-20 contain various speeches and actions at the Temple that surely made the officials and king not care much for what Jeremiah had to say.

Q. (36:19): OK, the officials were very interested in the Lord’s messages, but they told Jeremiah and Baruch to hide because they knew the king would not be receptive to them?

A. Yup.

Q. (46:20, 2-26): A horsefly, that’s funny.  What I take from this is that God’s instruction of the different kings drinking from the cup of doom is given more details of who will do what to whom.

A. Yes I would say that’s right.  Egypt will be “eaten” by this horsefly from the north — as will every nation in Babylon’s path — under Nebuchadnezzar.

Day 205 (July 24): Idols are merely man-made objects, Jerusalem shall be populated, God empowers Cyrus, enemies with idols are ignorant, God will deliver Israel, God foretells,

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.

Isaiah 44:6-48:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 44:6-8): Several readings back, you said that “other gods” of enemy nations could be fallen heavenly bodies like angels.  Here God is saying, via Isaiah, that there are no other gods.  Is this just something that is unknown?  Or, maybe He is saying that He’s the only One, True God?

A. As I mentioned in that answer, it is speculation what rule the demonic plays in the actions of gods of this era, but your last sentence is surely correct: compared even to these demonic figures, there is none like God!

Q. (44:12-17): Great speech!  (I’m not being sarcastic.)   But, those who are “stupid and ignorant,” as it says in v. 18, rarely change.  I would say mostly because they are self-centered and don’t think about the greater good?  How can Christians open their eyes to God?

A. I suppose it begins with a desire to change.  Part of the reason we are compelled to share the gospel message with others is that it is important for them to see their own great need for God in all aspects of life.  But if people see no benefit to following God, as is often proclaimed among non-believers, then frankly there is no incentive to change.  We must make the need real.  Part of what Jesus spent a lot of His time in ministry doing was talking about how good life is once we decide to follow God: we can be completely different people (primarily because of the Spirit’s guidance, not our own will).  Unfortunately, these passages, such as Matthew 5-7, often get construed as legalism: things that we must do in order to follow God and have Him love us.  But this couldn’t be further from the truth of the Gospel: God loves us already, and if we yield to Him, we can begin to change.

Q. (44:21, 45:4): Who is Cyrus?  I thought vs. 45:4-5 was going to tell us more about Cyrus, but it really doesn’t … to me.

A. Cyrus was an emperor of the Persian empire around 530 B.C., and that’s all you’re getting for now because I don’t want to spoil the story.  But you can look him up under the title of Cyrus the Great if you want to “read ahead.”

Q. (45:3, 13): Why would God give Cyrus treasures? True believers should do God’s work because we want to, not for riches.  Then, v. 13 says he helped God and was not rewarded.

A. Well, God can do as He pleases, and the reasons for doing so will be made clear, so I have the same answer: have patience.  All answers in due time.

Q. (47:13-14): Just a note about the taboo against astrology.  God says it’s all a farce?

A. Yes.

Q. Just a personal question:  The last two Sundays at church I have teared up almost nonstop … pretty much a cry.  Last Sunday, I cried over the thought of Jesus willingly dying on the cross for our sins.  And, me feeling so undeserving.  Today, it was the thought, “Am I good enough,” meaning am I good enough to go to heaven?  Most of me knows the truth, that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are real.  But, my head does the questioning.  Even when I’m asking some blog questions I feel that I am disrespecting God for asking some of them — the ones that question God and His reasons.  Then, I wonder if my heart is strong enough to receive God’s reward of eternity.  And, how do I become stronger and get rid of those doubts?

A. The longer you walk with God in communal relationship, the easier it will be, though very rarely are all our doubts put to rest this side of eternity.  I do not fear doubt, so long as it does not lead us to abandon our faith; it is the very definition of tossing out the baby with the bathwater.

Day 204 (July 23): Isaiah’s prophecies — Clear the way for the Lord is coming, no one compares to God, Israel’s enemies will shudder, the enemies’ idols will remain motionless, the Lord’s chosen servant, lessons not learned, God is always with Israel no matter the situation, revenge on Babylon, Jacob’s descendants will be blessed

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.

Isaiah 40-44:5

Questions & Observations

O. (Isaiah 40:1-31): The message I get from this whole chapter is how amazing God is.  We cannot imagine his abilities and reasons, there is no other like Him, He is immeasurable.

Q. (40:3-4): Are these verses just saying to get ready, roll out the red carpet for God?

A. Yes.  Watch the way John the Baptist will apply them to Jesus in the NT.

Q. (40:12-15): God seems so inconceivable and if you think about it, He seems impossible.  He’s so beyond our imaginations.  It makes me question if there is a God and I know I’m not alone.  But, then I think about how I felt on my walk a couple weeks ago.  I felt like I was gushing with glory.  Like my whole body was filled with happy tears.  It was nothing I had ever felt before to that degree.  When I question, I think about how the whole world is tied together, I think about how the Bible refers back and forth to one another of a span of hundreds of years.  But, there are so many questions left unanswered.   Like a Bible study leader I had once said, “at least we have the Bible to guide us.”  I would add, we have the Spirit too!

A. One of the fundamental things that I learned in reading about apologetics (the defense of Christianity) was the central concept to what the Bible claims to be: it is a collection of writings that record encounters with the Eternal.  As you rightly point out, since God is so beyond who we are as people, then while it may be in our nature to conjecture about what this being called God is like, it will only be endless speculation unless God Himself chooses to reveal His nature to us.  That nature is most clearly seen in the God/man, the person of Jesus Christ, what Colossians 2:9 calls the fullness of the Divine in human form.  Like many Christians, I believe that the entire Bible can be best seen through the lens of this understanding of Christ: when we see “through” it properly, everything else about the Scriptures falls into line.

O. (40:31): Just noting a great verse!

O. (41:11-12): God’s word that He will fight your battles for you.  I was talking to my best friend the other day.  The last time we had talked she was struggling to confront someone she really loved with a heavy question.  I asked her what became of that.  She said, “God is taking care of that for me.”  Wow.  I hadn’t realized how powerful God’s care can be.  And, what a burden to be free from!

Q. (41:13): The verse says that God will “hold you by your right hand.”  We talked about the right hand being their sword hands for fighting.  So, this says that God is their weapon?

A. Not in this case, though I confess I’m pleased that you recalled that remark.  In this case, God is describing holding the “right hand” of the nation to keep them from falling and provide support.  It is the same thing I do when I hold the hand (right or left) of my 2-year-old-daughter: if I hold her hand, I can keep her from falling over easily, while she is still learning to walk/run.  That’s what God is describing.

Q. (41:17): This is another repeating, perplexing, hard-for-me-to-shake question about God: If God is God, then why do people have to go thirsty?  Why doesn’t everyone always have food and water that they don’t have to scrounge for?   My guess is that it keeps us looking up.  It keeps us and back then, the Israelites, dependent upon God.  Why do we need to be dependent upon God?  Because He is the truth?  If we follow Him, we will live a good life because the rules that He has made make life work.

A. There’s an old anecdote that comes to mind in discussions like this one.  Two people are having a conversation, and one of them asks, “I’d like to ask God why He allows hunger, thirst, and bloodshed when He can do something about it.”  The other person replies, “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”

I don’t mean for that to be snarky.  I’m not saying, “well, if people are thirsty, what are you doing about it?”  What I want to do is point to a broader truth and get us thinking about our role in providing for the needs of those who can’t take care of themselves, for whatever reason.  Part of what God desires for us to do with the central truth of His message is that we are to love those around us sacrificially — if you heard Jim Keller’s sermon today at Summit (Orlando, FL), he was talking about this exactly.  It is our requirement, but also our right and privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that is hurting.  That means that we participate in food pantries and well-water programs, we care for the elderly and the malnourished — don’t forget there are many like that right here in America — we work to rehabilitate drug addicts, prison inmates, and others that society is ready to write off.  If we are willing to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can often find ways that God desires for us to serve the needs of our neighbors — be it neighbors around the corner or across the globe.  Following Him, as you put it, is more then just about benefitting us, but also benefitting those who God desires to minister to.

O. (41:21-29): Essentially, this scripture just states that idols are empty!

Q. (42:6): I’m not sure who “you” is here.  It thought it was Israel, but then it says “I will give you to my people, Israel.”

A. This section of chapter 42 is describing a servant of the Lord, as the heading indicates.  Many — Christian and Jew alike — believe that it is describing the Messiah.  Watch for the ways that this Servant is spoken of in future chapters, as it will appear again.

Q. (42:9): The purpose of God’s prophecies are to show that God knows what will happen in the future (how could anyone know that?) thus proving that He is Lord.  Is it also truly a warning to the people too, giving them a chance to correct themselves before the impending doom?

A. Yes, I would say that it is.  But radical changes like that are rare for us: very often the path we have chosen to walk in life is very difficult to “bail out” of, even when it becomes clear that we are in danger.

O. (43:2): So no matter how hard life gets or how desperate we become, those things will not consume us.

Q. (43:14-44:5): OK, here’s another perplexing question I have.  God is a loving God, but He can have a very mean tone of voice.  But, I would think that if I had told someone something repeatedly — like I do with my children J — and they choose not to listen, my voice would — and does — get very impatient and elevated.  In a way, it’s like being a child and someone’s scolding you.  You feel terrible, but you know you did it, so who is to blame?

A. God is seeking to gain the attention of a people that have ignored Him for generations, despite all that He has done for them.  I’d say that calls for a little change in tone, don’t you?  If your child is in danger — and believe me, Judah is in danger, we’ve read about what happened to Israel — you raise your voice if your child isn’t listening.  Sometimes we understand that it is the only way.