Day 215 (Aug. 3): Moab and Ammon will be destroyed, joined by Ethiopia and Assyria, Jerusalem remains stubborn, Jerusalem will be redeemed, Josiah dies from enemy arrow, the Philistines and Moabites will see destruction

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.

Zephaniah 2:8-3:20

2 Chronicles 35:20-27

2 Kings 23:29-30

Jeremiah 47-48:47

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zephaniah 2:8-9): This is an off-the-wall observation.  I hadn’t really thought about people’s and animals’ protection of “their” borders.  Does God say anything about this instinct we have?  We watched “Chimpanzee” the other day and the chimp groups had distinct borders.  We also have personal space or borders that we don’t want people to cross.  This is a protective mechanism, a survival instinct, or what?  Does God address it anywhere?  Also, v. 9 says, “The remnant of my people will plunder them and take their land.” So, this means the Israelites have the land of Moab and Ammon in addition to Canaan?  Is this setting up for the greater nation of Israel that we have talked about where other nations join them?

A. As far as I can tell, God does not address the nature of humanity and animals to claim borders.  If anything, the Bible teaches that God Himself regularly uses and shapes borders (see Genesis 1 for example, and all the “separations” God includes).  The writer of Joshua and Judges would have us understand that God provided the borders for the 12 tribes in the new nation that they formed, so we would hardly expect Him to condemn it when animals or other nations do it.  If anything, the Bible tells us that this desire originates in God, and is reflected in His creation.

Q. (Zephaniah 2:12-15): Now Zephaniah 2:8-11 doesn’t necessarily say that these happenings are being told directly to Moab and Ammon.  I think it sounds like it is being told to the Israelites.  But, vs. 12-15 sound like they are being addressed to the Ethiopians and Assyrians.  I know it’s not that important.  I am just wondering if these happenings are warnings to the nations or if they are prophecies being told to the Israelites.

A. I believe that they are both: the prophecy against Moab and Ammon would have been powerful signs to the Israelites, who saw them as enemy nations deserving of God’s wrath.  But God clearly, as with Israel, takes no pleasure in their destruction (Jer 48:36), but apparently feels that they must pay for their mockery of Israel and their worship of the idol Chemosh.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:7): God struggles terribly with impressing His power upon the Israelites.  They just don’t listen.  Is part of their problem that God cannot be seen?

A. Sure, but that doesn’t excuse their behavior.  Part of the reason God mocks the various idols of the people so mercilessly, i.e. they are just wood or metal, is that the people seem to find security in something they can touch and see, rather than having complete faith in God Himself, which they unfortunately cannot.  I frankly see this as being a problem of human nature — we trust what we can see a lot more than what we can’t — and it is surely still a problem with the various idols in our society.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:11): I don’t understand who Zephaniah is talking about when he says “you will no longer need to be ashamed, for you will no longer be rebels against me.”

A. He’s talking about the restored Kingdom of God, when the people will be purified of their sin and live in harmony with their Creator.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:15): I remember waaaay back when the Israelites were demanding to have a king.  God said it wasn’t necessary because He was their leader, their king.  But, the people demanded one.  Now, here, the kings are gone, right?  And, God says He will live among them … just like he recommended.

A. You’ve remembered correctly.  In this instance, God is speaking about His future Kingdom, where He will rule among the nations.

Q. (2 Chronicles 35:22): So, Josiah should have listened to King Neco?  This was a weakness of Josiah that he didn’t want to be told what to do?

A. It appears to be a pride moment for Josiah, and he pays a hefty price for ignoring Neco’s warning.  It is surely strange to the story, I admit, that God’s word comes via a pagan king.

Q. (Jeremiah 48:7): I don’t remember hearing about Chemosh before.  Anything special about that idol?

A. We have addressed it before, but I can’t seem to find the reference to the question.  Chemosh was the idol/god of the Moabites and occasionally Israel: Solomon built an altar to Chemosh in 1 Kings 11, and he is mentioned in Judges 11 and Numbers 21.

Q. (48:10): Does this mean that those who can’t bring themselves to kill someone else in the name of God will be cursed?

A.  No.  God has assigned an army (probably Babylon’s army under Nebuchadnezzar) to the “task” of wiping out Moab, and does not want to see them delay: He wants the task done.  It is in no way a license to kill indiscriminately.

Q. (48:35-39, 47): God is super sympathetic to Moab and acts as if it hurts Him to be doling out this destruction.  And, then in v. 47, God says He will restore Moab.  Why does God have a special connection to Moab?

A. I don’t know of anything specific, but as I mentioned above, it appears that God simply takes no pleasure in this slaughter and promises to restore the nation in some form.

Day 130 (May 10): 35) Lord, fight those who oppose me. 36) The wicked delight in themselves. Lord, you provide love and light. 37) Do not get caught up in the achievements of evildoers, for they will wither. The righteous will inherit the earth. 38) O Lord, I have no power over the guilt I feel for my sins. I confess. Lord, please here my cry to you.

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 35-38

 

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 35): David pleads in his psalms.  He pleads for protection for himself and vengeance for those who are evil.  Today, I feel like we make requests to God more politely and reverently in our prayers.  I do ask God for things, but I ask knowing his answer may come now, later or never.  It’s up to Him.   Are we just more polite today? Or, do we know more about God to know he works on His time, not ours?

A. There’s no reason to assume that David ALWAYS pleaded for God to help him, only when he was in desperate situations, which sometimes got written down as poems.  Still, the Bible tells us that God declared David “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22), which tells me that he knew a lot about how to properly approach God.  I would be very cautious in assuming that we know more about God than he did.  Maybe we should all pray a bit more like David.

Q. (36): What is it in sinners that makes them not see evil is bad.  You get caught, bad things happen, like going to jail, hurting others, losing your job, etc.  Yet, knowing they will be punished in some manner is not enough of a deterrent to cause them to make wise choices.  Does the Bible address this issue?  And, as Christians, what is our job in helping this problem?

A. Sin, as I learned from a minister in high school, always pleases, but only for a season.  It is too simple for us to consider sin as “just the bad stuff that people should stop doing.”  Sin almost always carries some sort of short-term benefit, that’s what makes it a temptation in the first place.  And when we start doing the “math” on making a decision we know is poor, we’ve probably already lost that particular struggle.  Sin very rarely is about the big, monumental decisions, and is much more likely to be about small, easy choices to stray from God — the classic slippery slope.  Its amazing to me how we — myself included — can be blinded to the realities of sin for so long, and then in one moment, whether we are caught, or just realize our error, all the “joy” that the sin brought us is instantly gone.  That, ultimately, is how sin traps us: it offers us something that we desire — we are NEVER going to fall into things that do not tempt us — but ultimately, leaves us with nothing but pain and heartache.  If we could just say, “why am I doing this?  I should stop!” I suspect the world would be a better place.  But it simply isn’t in our nature.  That is one of the clearest things to me about why Jesus came into the world.  He came into this world because more than anything else, we needed a savior — we would be hopelessly chained in our sins without Him.  And the ultimate irony?  Without God’s light, we will never be able to see how the sins that we love so much do nothing but leave us enslaved to them (John 8:34).

Q. (37:5-6): What does this mean?  How do we commit work, chores, homework, etc. to God?  I guess we can never do too much for God.  But, we do need to sleep, eat, clean, etc.  Rob, is there anything in the Bible that describes how we should devote our time to God?

A. Paul calls us to devote our entire being to God in Romans 12:1-2.  Here he suggests that we are to offer our bodies as “living sacrifices,” that is, given wholly over to God, and doing everything for His glory.  That starts with our increased desire to see God as the ultimate center of all things anyway, and the more we can focus on God, the more of our lives that will be given over to Him — work, school, cleaning the house, etc.  Remember that God does not merely call us to serve Him, but each other: by serving others well, we reflect His love to more of His children.  If we commit to making more and more decisions that are clearly God honoring — choosing to work sacrificially rather than being lazy for example — I think we will grow to see what God desires for us to do with each moment of each day.

O. (37:8-9): Wow, Psalms covers so many topics.  I didn’t think I would have many questions or comments, but they are rolling out!  We were talking about anger in our small group (Andy Stanley DVD study series, Life Rules) and I was talking about how I get something in my head that someone does or does not do — usually my husband J — and I get so mad and can’t let it go.  But, from knowing that anger does no good for me, my family, those around me, and God, I try to shrug the anger.  Often, I don’t want to bring it up to my husband because I don’t want to start a confrontation and make a rift.  But, I cannot hide my anger, so by not talking I cause a rift and feel like a volcano about to explode!  And, moreover, I don’t want him to prove me wrong, right?  And, I don’t say anything because I usually don’t have all the facts straight and end up being sort-of wrong.  Anyway, the last time, I just said, “phooey, I don’t want to feel like this.”  I marched into his office and unconfrontationally asked him if I could talk to him to try to understand his reasoning for what I was mad about.  And, poof, the reasons came out and made crystal clear sense.  That short conversation lifted a many-week weight off of my shoulders.  Comments Rob?

A. Anger is a tricky thing.  In the right hands, it can allow us to use our passions to confront others about their wrongs — and hopefully have them do the same for us — but we must be careful that anger is used well.

Two things that the Bible clearly says about anger: 1) in your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4:26, quoting Psalm 4): that is, there is nothing inherently sinful about being angry, but if we lose control of our anger, and it leads to us sinning by improperly using that anger (say by hurting someone or even killing them), then we have violated this ideal.  The other advice scripture has is 2) don’t let the sun go down on your anger (also from Eph 4:26).  That is, don’t hold onto anger, for doing so leads to bitterness and all kinds of other problems.  That advice might be best for your situations with your husband.  Be very careful about holding onto anger, so that you can avoid the “volcano” scenarios you describe.  You and your husband will have to work out what constitutes the “sun going down” for you.  My wife and I determined that we never went to bed without resolving an issue we could resolve that evening — obviously this doesn’t work in all situations.  By doing this, we generally prevent small areas of anger of disagreement from becoming big ones.  Anger is compounded with time, so working it out “before the sun goes down” is certainly sage advice to me.

Q. (Psalm 37:12-13): These verses paint an interesting picture, but we don’t know if it’s accurate because it comes from David, not God.  I have come up with some of my own ideas of what God is thinking.  I don’t know if that’s OK or we should just take the Bible word for word.  Or, does it matter?  Just that you think about it gives glory to God?

A. I would say that we should do our best to take the Word of God SERIOUSLY is the best way to look at it.  Expecting perfection in every word is simply not a standard that the Bible applies to itself, but that does not mean to me that the Bible is any less inspired by God.  We don’t know exactly what “inspired” means (there’s a lot of guesses though), but it is clear that scripture tells us that all of itself, including verses about God laughing at people’s foolishness as here, ultimately comes from Him (2 Tim 3:16).

Q. (37:32-33): Why is there such an attraction for some people to overthrow godly people.  Why do people want to be bad?  I really don’t get that.  Is Satan so powerful that God cannot pull these folks away from sin?  Is God relying on Christians to save these sinners?

A. Scripture clearly tells us that God is more powerful than Satan (1 John 4:4), but I believe that neither God nor Satan can do anything but influence us: we must ultimately make the decisions to renounce sin ourselves.  Why does God not pull us away from sin, because WE ARE UNWILLING to give it up!  We are lost in the seduction of sin and its temporary benefits, and so are unwilling to hear God’s call (through the Spirit) to give it up.  We don’t want to hear that in the midst of our poor decision-making.  David is writing about a very black and white world where he is right, and his enemies are wrong, but the reality for us is we are all wrong!  We all go astray, and chose ourselves over God.  It was that way for Adam and Eve, Cain, and every human being who has followed since.  Honestly, that to me is part of the answer to the question: we like to see the godly fall because that makes US feel better about our own personal failings.  Then we can say things like, “…and they were such a good person” and condescendingly think that we are better than people who we hold up as godly, even if the people in question never wanted themselves to be held up as godly themselves.  When given the choice, far too many of us will chose the path of sin and evil, not the path of God.

Q. (37:37-38): And is this to say that when people are on trial, if they are found innocent, they are godly and if they are convicted they really are guilty, because God did not rescue them?

A. I think that that’s a bit too simple a way to look at it.  God can do as He pleases (from the human perspective) with our understanding of guilt and innocence.  I would be very cautious about drawing too many conclusions about guilt and innocence just from these verses.

Q. (38): For someone who has followed God most of his life, David seems to have so much darkness surrounding him and knocking on the door to his heart.  As a follower of God, I would think that his heart would be much lighter.  Did his sins cause the depressing thoughts?

A. We can certainly see the ways that David’s poor decisions in the latter half of his life haunted him.  It cost him his son and countless lives in war and plague.  I think I would be haunted by that.