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 195 (July 14): The godly will enjoy the fruits of their labor, the godly are never defeated, the Lord’s love is unfailing and everlasting, don’t sleep until a house for the Lord is found, God chose Jerusalem, God is supreme

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 128-130

Psalm 132

Psalm 134-135

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalms 128, 129): These two contrast in that 128 says that those who “fear” God will enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Whereas in 129, the author has been continuously persecuted for his beliefs, but never defeated.  So, as a Christian, you never know which life you will have, but regardless, God will be with you.  Would this be an accurate interpretation?

A. Those would be the extremes, but many Christians (notably those not in the West) live somewhere in between.  God can choose to bless them greatly, but there are still times of persecution where many are made to suffer.  The same can be true for any of us: God uses us for whatever He desires, but you have the last part right: He will neither leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5).

Q. (135:5): I am still curious about the Bible’s authors acknowledging other gods, usually saying that the Lord is better.  But, why even call them a god when they don’t actually exist?  If there were other gods, God would have had to create them because we learned in Genesis that the earth was nothing.

A. The Bible speaks clearly about the existence of other beings besides humans, which do not have bodies — that is they are spiritual beings — called angels.  We call the evil ones demons.  Not all of these angels are on the side of God.  It is possible (and the common Christian interpretation) that these evil or fallen angels give demonic power to other nations, and attempt to influence their leaders.  Watch for the interaction with one in Daniel 9 when we get there.  So it is very possible that we understand these beings to be the other “gods” worshipped by the nations, but that only God is supreme.  And you’re right: fallen angels are indeed created beings, which adds a wrinkle to our understanding of why God made them in the first place.  Of course, the same question could be asked of human beings.

Q. (135:13): Many of the Bible’s stories seem so amazing to me.  It’s crazy that so many people follow God.  The Bible has done a great job of carrying the stories to written form and they are still read by millions today.  It’s pretty spectacular that the Bible is still regarded as such an important book.  A charge: carry it on to the next generation.  Make sure the little ones know what it is and that truth comes from it.

A. That is certainly an important charge, especially in an increasing post-Christian world, that thinks it knows the Bible, but in truth knows very little about it.  Would that this were not true for many Christians!  Sometimes its not just the next generation that needs to know about the Bible, but the current one.

Day 194 (July 13): Songs for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem: deliver me from those who deceive, God is always watching and helping, Jews are feeling the pressure from mockers, keep the wicked away, their days may be hard but the rewards are plentiful

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 120-121

Psalm 123

Psalm 125

Psalm 126

Questions & Observations

Q. These Psalms are for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.  Why are they going there?

A. They are making a pilgrimage to the holy city in order to worship God and, most likely, participate in one of the three annual festival/holy days (from Exodus 23:14-17 and 34:18-23): Pesach/ Passover, Sukkot/ Feast of Booths, and Shavuot/ Feast of Weeks.  Since Jerusalem would have been higher than the surrounding countryside, it would have required walking up the steep roads to enter the city, and it would have been treated as a formal path of pilgrimage.

Q. (Psalm 120): Any idea who wrote this or what it’s about?

A. Nope, I won’t be much help.  My notes indicate that the places described in verse 5 are in what is now Saudi Arabia, far from the Jewish nation, so this writer had quite a ways to go to reach the holy city.  Because of this distance, he likely feels very isolated and surrounded by “barbarians” who don’t know God.

Q. (121): I think many times people think they have the hard end of the relationship with God because they struggle to keep His commandments.  But, it always feels so ironic that God is doing so much work by always being there, watching over us.  He really is our servant.

A. In a manner of speaking.  God is beyond generous with each of us, but let there be no doubt that while God often “serves” us, it is only that we might turn from our sins and walk more closely with Him.  We should have no illusions about who is in charge, and it is not us.

Q. (123): It sounds like these pilgrims have had enough of taking ridicule from nonbelievers.  They are looking to God to rescue them?

A. As we get closer to the destruction of Judah, the pressure on the people will continue to mount, and the presence of foreigners who mock them for their faith will continue to grow.  The words have been a great comfort to Jews for more than 2300 years, as the people have been conquered, scattered, and persecuted by people of other faiths (including Christians, sadly) for our entire modern history.  God is certainly laying groundwork here to help His chosen people remain faithful, even after centuries of persecution.

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 146 (May 26): Solomon’s leaders, Solomon’s prosperity and wisdom, Psalm 72: May God give the king wisdom to rule justly, Psalm 127: Without the Lord’s direction, work is futile, blessed are the children

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

1 Kings 4:1-34

Psalm 72

Psalm 127

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 4:20-34): This account greatly contrasts from his father’s.  Why was Solomon so blessed and David’s reign was so tumultuous?

A. Um, let’s hold that thought until the story is completed.  But the answer to your question is David’s sins.  Solomon has done pretty well to this point, but things are about to turn for the same reason David’s kingdom fell apart.

Q. (Psalm 127:3-5): I love these little sprite verses.  They make me smile.   Here it says “how joyful is the many whose quiver is full of them (children).”  We were going to talk about this before, but decided to hold off.  Here it sounds like having a lot of children is a desirable thing by society.  Nowadays, families are normally much smaller with 1-3 children.  Are there any verses that address how God views the many ways of a planned family via birth control?

A. Well, obviously, artificial birth control is a modern invention undreamed of in the days of the Bible, but many of the ways that society has shifted in the last two centuries reflect the movement away from large families (i.e. they became the exception and not the norm).  First, until the modern age, no one planned for retirement (partly because a lot of people didn’t live that long), and so if you did, you were fully dependent upon your children.  So if you had more kids, you were probably pretty safe.  This was especially true of women, who would have depended upon the care of a male relative (most likely a son) after she was widowed.

Regarding the issue of how the Bible approaches family, there’s a lot going on: many of these issues have to be held in tension, but I think there’s a consistent thread.  Part of it has to do with the distinction between OT and NT.  In the OT, the main goal for each generation was raising up a new generation who would love and have a healthy relationship with God so that they to could inherit the Promised Land.  That obviously makes family paramount, so verses like these surely express the sentiment that they felt: they honored God by having many children.  But after Jesus (who as we have discussed, was NOT married), the mission focus was expanded to not only Jews, but also the entire world, while not losing the focus on an individual family (I hope that makes sense).  The individual family was still prized by God: it is still HIS primary design for how His loved is passed from generation to generation, whether among Jew or Christian.  But with Jesus as the example, God set a new standard: family was not the ONLY way to spread His word.  So to some people who were not married — like Jesus, including Paul, and most major western Church leaders, and this would include women — God gave them the task of spreading the word about His actions and having only the congregation or Church as family, rather than offspring.  In other words, they were called to celibacy.  It goes back to Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-15: God has blessed different people in different ways — some He (clearly!) desires to have children, and others He calls to a life of celibacy that they might follow Him more closely for their lives or some portion of it, they are not mutually exclusive.

The problem is that even though God honors BOTH paths equally — as long as we are faithful to Him while on these roads — we find that our society often confuses isolation and not being married with being incomplete.  Part of that incompleteness in our world is removed by having children, but sometimes having children is actually a very selfish way of dealing with feelings of isolation or loneliness.  That is often a very tragic situation.  Now, I am not saying that God cannot redeem such situations, but as we have discussed over these months, how God acts to redeem us and WHAT HE IDEALLY DESIRES are often very different things.  When we allow anything other than God to provide our fulfillment, even children, we have created an idol, however noble its creation might appear to be.  We are not living as the men and women He desires us to be if we are seeking ultimate fulfillment in a child rather than God.  So basically, as long as we keep first things first — that is, God above all else — then I think we have a great degree of freedom as Christians to seek out a partner to have children with within community.  We must honor God with our families, whether they are biological or bound by the Spirit.

Day 139 (May 19): Psalm 79): Asaph cries out to God to quickly rescue the Israelites from their demise as they are being devoured by neighboring pagan nations. He pleads for the Israelites to no longer be punished for their ancestors’ sins. 80) Oh God, bring your glory back to the nation you created. Let it shine! 81) If only Israel would listen, God would bless them. 82) Lord, judge the rulers for what they are: oppressors.

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 79-82

 

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 79): This is the first time where I have read that the Israelites are asking to be lifted from the sanctions caused by their ancestors’ sins.  We have read that the sinners are told their punishment will be handed down through their family, but I don’t remember any descendants acknowledging where their pain comes from.

A. We will see that as the generations continue after David — and to a lesser extent Solomon — the people will become increasingly corrupt, often because of their leaders, the kings.  And there will be a high cost to the people’s sin, that will not just be borne by those who created the situation, but by those who live after it.  In this situation, the results of the previous generation’s sin will be SO obvious that I think you will understand the situation clearly.  Hang in there.

Q. (80): Can you tell us the significance of calling the Israelite’s God’s grapevine?

A. Grapes were one of the most important agricultural products in the world during that day.  In a day without sanitary water (or knowledge of hygiene), wine (the main product of grapes) was the safest thing to drink — though it had a much lower alcohol content in those days, so no worries about the entire society being drunk.  So good grape vines would have been precious to the people, and they would have understood not only the value of the grapes, but also the soil, and the amount of time a farmer would have had to invest in setting everything up correctly.  Asaph is calling upon this imagery — he won’t be the last, Isaiah and Jesus will do so as well — to examine the ways that God did all of this for His chosen people, but now the “vine” is threatened.

Q. (81): Will we see in future text a reason why God is letting this destruction happen?  From Asaph’s pleadings, the Israelites sound like they are in total despair.   Also, is it really as bad as they are writing about?  Reading this whiny text, I think in today’s lingo with the response, “drama mama,” but I am judging by today’s standards.  This destruction truly is well … true?

A. Oh yes.  And the reasons for it will be clear.  Jeremiah will make sure of that.

Q. (82): I don’t think God would appreciate verse 2.  That’s why I ask is all of this really inspired?  Who decided what was “inspired.”  Or, do I need to be patient and see that all of Scripture does fit into the Bible’s big picture?

A. So what you are asking is: because God has allowed the true voices of His people to be heard (even if He sees things differently!), the words can’t be inspired?  I would disagree with that.  One of the most valuable things that the Bible offers us is the true, unfiltered, look at how His people reacted to the things that were happening to them.  There will be some truly horrible events that will unfold in our next couple of books, and I do not feel it is in any way unreasonable for the Spirit to inspire His people to speak with their true voices.  I wouldn’t worry too much about God taking “offense” or “not appreciating” something printed in the Bible.  He is bigger than all of our words, and I believe that we in no way offend Him when we bear our soul and beg for His mercy.  It is, to me, a great testimony to the amount of love that He has for His children.

 

Day 138 (May 18): 75) God alone will judge us. The wicked will suffer. 76) Nothing compares to the glory and power of God. Pay tribute to God, the one who judges and rescues. 77) God, you have done so many miraculous things, But why are you now so far away? 78) Let us learn from our ancestors mistakes and teach the ways of God to our children.

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 75-78

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 75): We have talked about deterrents — punishments that happen to people who “misbehave.”  The thought of being judged for all the things I have done is a big deterrent for staying on the path to righteousness.  It also helps me cope with seeing someone making unholy choices, yet living a lifestyle I may be envious of.  I may not feel rewards now, but I will later.  On the flip side, it is easy to think, “na nanny boo boo, I know better than you do” that those who are acting out will get their punishment.  But then, a stronger feeling comes over to help them so they can also enjoy the afterlife.  Is there any scripture that gives advice on how to turn people toward God without turning them away because they perceive us as “preaching,” “crazy” or a “know-it-all?”

A. There are, and I would say that they primarily come from one of Solomon’s contributions to the OT: Proverbs, the book that imparts the wisdom of the ages.  Since that book is coming up soon on our little list, why don’t we hold on to this one and re-examine it down the road.

Q. (Psalm 76): The psalms have talked about God’s anger, like this one in verse 76:7.  Can you explain this when we usually think that God is loving?  Is it fair to compare God’s anger to a parent’s?  It seems like today’s society tries to foster peaceful relationships.  To children, we say use your gentle hands and nice words.  Lawyers try to settle disputes in mediation.  Yet — I’m not being sarcastic, just saying what I think the Bible says — our role model gets angry.  Personally, I would get angry too … if I were God.  Of course, I’m not and maybe that’s the answer.  God can be angry, but we should try to be more loving.  Maybe it’s the OT vs. the NT?  Doesn’t God’s anger calm down immensely in the NT?

A. It only appears that way if you focus on Scripture from a certain perspective.  Unfortunately, that perspective has become the dominant one in modern Western society: the view that God is ONLY love, and therefore would “never” be angry or judgmental about sin.  But this perspective tends to gloss over — at great expense frankly — the idea that God is holy — set apart — and just, and He is in charge of what goes on and what does not.  When you have a “God” who allows you to do whatever you want with the understanding that they will ALWAYS love you (how does that sound in the parent metaphor?), you can see how things can get pretty messed up pretty fast.  Much of our tolerance of sin in the public eye in society today is, frankly, due to our abandoning the idea that there is an external source of justice and right and wrong — God — and when we do that, anything becomes permissible.  It is certainly something that Christians should be aware of and speaking out against.

One other quick note: we all have our biases when it comes to reading Scripture: there is simply no way to avoid it.  We tend to read — and mentally focus on — our favorite stories at the expense of other Scriptures that are a bit harder to reconcile with our belief system.  So I am not simply attacking those who want to focus on God’s love at the expense of all else: many others can and do read scripture and see no evidence of love, but only of a wrathful God waiting to strike down sinners.  If that’s what you want to see, it’s there.  The trick, I think, is to not allow yourself to be closed-minded to the possibility that there is always more that God desires to teach us about Himself.  If we have that mentality, I believe that we will be much less likely to fall into the trap of Biblical “bias.”

Q. (77): I completely understand that I’m not supposed to understand all of God’s reasons.  It’s not my place, nor anyone else’s.  I think it’s hard for humans to have patience with God, especially when we have read about his great rescuing miracles, like the parting of the Red Sea as is stated here, and wonder why he can’t grant our one simple request.  I know … He has His reasons!

A. I suppose it would depend upon what the request was and why, deep down, you wanted it.  Keep in mind, the nation of Israel was chosen by God not only to be His people, but to bring about salvation to the entire world through the Jewish God/man Jesus.  So that, in my mind, creates a necessity for some of the places where God clearly intervenes in history: if there is no nation — because they’re wiped out by Pharaoh’s armies — then there is no salvation for the world.  I think always keeping the salvation of the entire world in the back of our minds as we read through the OT is a great way to see why certain events unfold the way that they do.  That certainly gives weight to some of the things God does, doesn’t it?  (From Leigh An: This makes me also weave in one of Jesus’ comments when he says things have to be a certain way for the Scripture to be true.)

Q. (78:2): Why does Asaph want to teach in parables and why did Jesus?

A. Parables are a way of presenting truth in story on levels that can reach very different people in different ways.  You can hear the “surface” truth and just get a good story, or if you desire, you can dig into the words and often discover greater “pearls” that the author intended to be found but not everyone will seek.  That, by the way, is probably why they make such great sermons — you can attack them at multiple levels and lay the “inner” parable out for everyone to share.  Jesus will address this issue in his earthly ministry in Matthew 13.

Having said that, what Asaph is doing here is using Israel’s history as instruction on what the people SHOULD be doing, and not truly disguising ideas within the words.  He is not really using the “parable” concept in the same way that Jesus does.  He is using it more like Stephen will do in Acts chapter 7: convict the people of their present sin by looking at sins of the past.

O. (78:40-55): This is an amazing image: God causing all of this terror to the stubborn pharaoh and his people with frogs, gnats, blood, locusts, hail, death, YET he peacefully walks the Israelites out of this plague-ridden land and protects them, like a shield.

Q. (78:65): I don’t think comparing God to a warrior waking from a drunken stupor is very respectful.

A. I agree, but it’s an interesting image, no?

Q. (78:67-68): Can you tell us again why God chose Judah’s descendants for the throne instead of Joseph, who appeared to be the chosen line?

A. I do not have a good answer to that question.  From Jacob’s deathbed blessing (Genesis 48), we have seen the power of Judah grow the further we have come.  The best reason I can see for the move is that Joseph’s descendants (Ephraim) were not very good leaders (they were the ones responsible for losing the Ark when it was in Shiloh), so God rejected them as the prominent tribe and selected Judah instead out of His own purposes.  This will continue with Jesus, whom Revelation will call the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5).

Join us tomorrow for more Bible wisdom.  We hope you have an awesome day!

Day 137 (May 17): Psalms 50) God says giving thanks trumps sacrifices. We are humble to God’s greatness. 73) Asaph says staying righteous is very difficult, but knowing what happens to the wicked can help keep you on the right path. 74) Lord, how long will you let the destruction of the temple continue?

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 50, 73-74

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 50): Do we know if God instructed Asaph what to say in this Psalm?

A. Yes, the text is inspired.

Q. (73): Asaph seems to have a full spectrum of the destinies of those who are good and those who are evil.  We don’t read about Asaph having talked to God much.  Do we know where he gets his knowledge?

A. We do not.  All we know of him is that he was one of David’s musicians and choir leaders.  But I think we can assume that this position came with great responsibility for Asaph to have a heart for God himself, and I see no reason to assume that he was not faithful in his walk with God.  David seems to generally be very good at picking people … with God’s help.  Even that rat Joab served David well for a long time.

Q. (74): What devastation is going on here?  It sounds like enemies are destroying the temple.  Someone invaded Jerusalem?

A. If you mean during David’s time, then the answer is no.  If you mean in the OT, then the answer is yes, but…well, I don’t want to spoil the story.  The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel will lay it all out for us down the road.

Day 135 (May 15): Psalms 131) My heart is not proud, O LORD. I have calmed and put my hope in You. 133) Living in harmony is wonderful. 138) God’s love is unfailing. He cares for the humble and keeps distant from the proud. Your right hand keeps trouble away. I await your plans for my life. 139) O Lord, you know everything about me. I cannot hide from you. 141) Lord, keep the wicked at bay. Let my enemies be destroyed. 143) My enemies come crashing down on me. I am in despair! I remember your great works and cry out to you for more help.

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 131, 133, 138-141, 143

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalms 131, 134): I missed asking this question yesterday.  Who are the pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem?  David is certainly at peace in these songs.  In 133:3, it seems David is talking about the afterlife again.  He must be looking forward to it after all the turmoil in his earthly life.

A. No, he’s not talking about the afterlife, at least not directly: there would have been three different times of the year that faithful Jews would have made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the holy days there.  These songs were envisioned to be songs that these men and women would sing on the steep climb to the holy city.

Q. (138:6): This verse brings to light a dichotomy of desires.  Our culture — and I would think that most cultures now or in the past — pushes people toward striving to do their best, climb the ladder, achieve financial prosperity, etc.  However, that “success” is often accompanied by pride.  I was wondering what God’s take is on striving to do your best.  I don’t think we’ve talked about the “1-2-10” talents story yet.  I was discussing the math curriculum with my daughters First Grade teacher last year.  That school’s curriculum was to start math one year early.  So, my daughter was doing First Grade math in Kindergarten and Second Grade math in First Grade.  I thought it was a little too much, too soon.  They said that if they start it when it’s supposed to start, the students are bored with it.  The school says on its answering machine that it’s rigorous.  And, it is.  It is a wonderful school, don’t get me wrong.  Anyway, the teacher said God wants us Christians to be leaders.  Rob, can you address this?

A. I believe that God has created each of us for a purpose, and in some cases, that purpose is to be leaders: leaders of nations, leaders of Fortune 500 companies, leaders of major universities, but ALSO leaders of families, leaders of care for the poor and needy, and leaders in ministry.  Can you see how you would take a very (very very!) different path to get to be a leader of some verses others, and yet, they are all leaders — all important in God’s sight.  So I would agree with your school’s assessment, to a point: I think God desires leaders who are willing to follow after HIM, and not be led by their ego or paycheck.

But I think I could also argument that God desires non-working parents, laborers, followers, helpers, servants, and assistants — the janitor who is passionate about a clean floor is honoring God through what he has been given, just as a God-honoring CEO is.  Even if the janitor does not feel that he wants to be a janitor all his life, he is still choosing to honor God in his work, whether it is as leader or servant.  That, I think is what it comes down to: honoring God through whatever He has given you to do as your task in life, even one moment at a time.

Q. (138:7): There’s that right-hand reference again.

A. Yes.  That was the “power side” where a warrior kept his spear or sword, or a king kept his closest advisor.

Q. (139:23-24): I find it interesting that David asks God to test his faith.

A. Yes he does.  As we discussed a few days ago — when I pointed out in our discussion of Psalm 19 and seeing our faults, Day 127 — one of the best ways to make changes in our lives is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the process.

Q. (141:7): This is quite a visual.  I was just wondering where the practice of burying bones came from.  My family is from rural Kansas where most everyone has a family plot at the cemetery.  Now that I’m more worldly, I know of cremation.  Does God care if we are buried or cremated?  I have always liked burial because then your family can visit it, read the headstones, place flowers on it and just reflect.  But, in our conservation-minded society, it seems to be more savvy to choose cremation.

A. It is Jewish tradition (as well as other societies such as the ancient Greeks) that they buried their dead, as opposed to those who consumed the bodies in funeral pyres, which would naturally connect more with cremation.  But the REQUIREMENT to bury a body is not found in the Bible, so there is a great amount of leeway there.  I do not think it matters to God one bit.

O. (143:8-10): This would be a great passage to read every morning!