Day 364 (Dec. 30): Seven angels standing at Temple hold bowls of seven plagues, those victorious over evil sang song of Moses, plagues caused flowing blood, darkness, earthquakes, hailstorms, prostitute rides beast, beast has fallen, Lamb of God victorious over beast and kings, voice warns to stay away from the wickedness of Babylon, believers rejoice over judgment of Babylon

Welcome to Bible Bum 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.

Revelation 15-18:24

Questions & Observations

Q.  Rob, this is still John’s vision, but we have no idea if this is how the end of days will actually be, right?  And, what about those who see a white light when they are passing, but then come back to earth?  The Bible doesn’t seem to address that.

A. The rest of Revelation after John is told to enter the door is his vision, so yes, this remains a record of what he is seeing.  There are many who see Revelation as some sort of code to be deciphered that would give Christians an “insider” knowledge about what will happen in the last days — which no one even knows when that will be, let alone how it will unfold — but I do not buy that.  People who make such claims don’t really understand the genre of the writing: it was written in code, not for people living centuries later, but for the original audience, persecuted Christians in the seven churches of the first few chapters and beyond.  That it has any benefit to us is, in my mind, incidental to John — though I freely offer that the Spirit desired this book to be for our benefit as well.  But I simply do not think you can “unravel” the code and be given special information: God simply does not work that way with any part of the Bible — the message is always clear and up front.  Hidden knowledge is not part of Christianity — all the “cards” are on the table.  The Bible does not address the near death experiences you are describing, probably because there was no such thing as “near death” in ancient times: you were either dead or alive.

Q. (15:7): There a lot of dishes used in the Bible that hold important things.  Here we have bowls holding plagues, cups that runneth over, and I remember the Tabernacle had some holy dishes, right?  Is that for a reason?

A. I don’t think there is anything special about the use of dishes or cups, they are simply delivery devices for liquids, and there’s just no other way to do that.  Though some of the dishes represent powerful images, such as wrath or healing, the dishes are not the important part of the image: it is what they contain that matters.

Q. (16:4): And here is the blood again.  Blood signifies cleansing of sins.  Here it is more of a payback?

A. The plague of blood serves two purposes: it harkens back to the first plague of Egypt, in which the Nile was turned to blood thanks to Moses’ staff.  But the other purpose for this punishment is described in verses 5 and 6: the blood is a “punishment fits the crime” plague for shedding the blood of those faithful to God.

Q. (16:11): After all of that wrath, the people still refuse to acknowledge God.  They don’t know God so they don’t know they’ve sinned?  And, they are still being called to repent to God and they are still refusing.  Would you say there hearts are hardened?  It doesn’t say anything about that here and why would God harden them because he did this in the past to magnify evil showing the Israelites His power.  These people sound so wicked that their hearts could not be softened ever.  Anyway, just curious.

A. This vision is black and white, like a lot of John’s writings: there is no one who crosses to the other side during this torment: no one repents, and confesses the evil of their ways.  For the Christians who suffered under persecution and likely lost their possessions, if not their lives to the whims of evil men who placed themselves as enemy’s of God’s church, however, this is a just punishment.  It is only a vision after all, but one with a clear purpose: to remind the faithful what they are fighting for and what happens if they are victorious.  Those who persevere through this tribulation — and do keep in mind that in more than 60 countries around the world RIGHT NOW, the tribulation goes on to this day! — they will be rewarded and see those who have punished them punished.

I won’t lie to you, there is an element of blood lust in this that I’m not completely comfortable with, but we must not forget that God does not wink at sin, and some of the greatest sins are to persecute and kill those who are on the side of God.  Personally, I would desire for God to extend grace, but in this vision at least, the time of grace has passed.  Victory is coming for those who remained faithful!

Q. (17:15-18): I don’t understand the dynamic between the beasts and the prostitute.  They are enemies here, but I thought they were on the same Team Evil.

A. This is a complex analogy.  The woman/prostitute is Rome, not the actual city of Babylon, which has long been known as the city on seven hills.  The vision of the kings/crowns on the beast is clear enough, and the beast in this analogy is the Antichrist, the great enemy of God.  It appears that the beast will come to rule over the woman (that is, rule Rome, at least symbolically), and that is why there is animosity between them.  This makes the 8th king (verse 11) the ruler, but they will turn on the “woman” for reasons that I don’t really know.  It appears that even among “team evil,” there is division.  The ultimate point John is making is that Rome has become a prostitute of all kinds of things that are evil in God’s sight, and that many rulers, merchants, and sailors have “slept” with her in order to gain wealth.  Since the woman will die, it will be bad for all those who “sleep” with her.

Q. (18:10): The prostitute is the city of Babylon, right?  It sounds like the NT’s version   of Sodom and Gomorra.  I would think that Babylon is metaphorical for all who fall prey to the temptations of this world.

A. It’s Rome, as I discussed above, but the rest of what you write has it exactly.  Rome is powerful, which is why she is so tempting for those who desire power or control, but in the end, she will die (the Roman Empire will fall) and God still remains.

Day 361 (Dec. 27): All through John, Jesus wrote letters to churches in Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, heaven, Lamb opens the scrolls and breaks the seals

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.

Revelation 3-6:17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Relation 3:1-6): Sounds like most of Sardis has fallen, but Jesus is giving them a last warning/chance?  And those who have made the right choices are good to go.  I am starting to get a better understanding of the “chosen” issue.

A. When you say “most,” keep in mind that it means the congregation of Christians, not necessarily the entire city.  It appears that many in that congregation were falling away — we don’t know why — and Christ is calling them to renew their faith.

Q. (3:7-13): Sounds like Philadelphia is a great place to be.  They have done well and get to skip the testing for judgment?  V. 12 says that a new heaven will come down and Jesus will take on a new name?

A. Maybe.  The Greek can either mean, “keep you from [undergoing]” which would match your suggestion, but it might also mean “keep you through,” which would imply that they will not be left out of the trial period that is described in the rest of the story.  The new Heaven and the name of Jesus will come later in the story.

Q. I notice that each of these church letters end with the same words: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.  To me, this is just saying that we can all benefit from these teachings?

A. Yes, and Jesus spoke very similar words during His earthly ministry (Matthew 11:5, Mark 4:9).

Q. (3:14-22): Jesus is giving the church in Laodicea a charge to choose believing?

A. He is saying that they are tepid, or lukewarm: neither hot nor cold.  The explanation for the reference is quite clever: Laodicea was a wealthy city, and there were two sites close by that were considered “luxuries”: Hierapolis, famous for its hot springs, and Colossae (the same as the NT letter), which was famous for its cold, invigorating spring water.  People from Laodicea went to Hierapolis for “spa days” as we might refer to them, and vacationed in the summer in Colossae, and so they could enjoy both the hot and cold water as they wished.  But apparently, at one point, there was a project to pipe hot water into Laodicea from the hot springs, which they were able to make work — a feat of engineering at the time! — but the water lost its heat along the way.  The water that arrived was lukewarm, and was apparently nauseating to drink: so no one did — they spit it out.  So Jesus is saying that the community of Christians in this city was like the tepid water in the pipes — no one was “drinking” it, and that had to change.  And they needed to be desirable water — hot or cold.

Q. (4:5): What is the significance of the name “sevenfold Spirit of God”?

A. Seven is our watchword for fullness or completion.  This place is the dwelling of the very Shekinah glory of God.

Q. (4:6-8): Are these creatures the same ones that were in the OT?

A. These are the same beings referred to in Ezekiel 1 (they have only four wings in Ezekiel’s vision, we don’t know why John “gives” them 6).  Christian thought has these representing a class of angels known as Cherubim, which we know very little about.  But the most important thing to note here is that the four creatures speak of the Lamb, they reveal who He is.  Thus, it has become popular interpretation to understand the four creatures as representing the Four Gospels, and this influences Christian art and thought to this day.  If you’re wondering: Matthew is the Man, Mark is the Lion, Luke is the Bull, and John is the Eagle.  Thus, for example, if you visit St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice — or, much closer for you Floridians, Flagler Memorial Presbyterian in St. Augustine, which was modeled off of the original in Venice — I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Old City.  You will see lion imagery throughout the building.

Q. (6:1-17): What is the meaning of the different colored horses?

A. If you recall a while ago, we read about these same colors in Zechariah 1:8-17 and 6:1-8, so again, John is calling on our understanding of those visions to help him paint his vision here.  The four colors represent a sequence (these are the famous Four Horsemen): white represents rule and conquest (the white rider is some sort of ruler or leader of people, and is frequently seen as the Antichrist).  The red represents war and bloodshed. Black represents famine and plague — as a result of war or neglect, there is a shortage of food (frequently associated with times of war).  The prices given are 10 times the normal cost of wheat and barley.  The implication of the oil and wine is that since the trees that produce them have deeper roots, it will be more difficult to stop production of those items, and the black rider desires to control the distribution of these products to ensure maximum suffering, but also maximum profit!  War is so much fun for those who finance it!  (Sarcasm)  The Pail horse, representing the color of a corpse, represents the end of the sequence: massive death, and the rider of this infernal animal is the personification of death itself — what we would call the Grim Reaper.

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:14-10:18

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

Day 290 (Oct. 17): Those who are “ready” for Jesus’s return will be rewarded, the call to follow Jesus causes division, barren fig tree parable, Jesus rebuked for healing on Sabbath, parable of mustard seed, Jesus heals blind man, spiritual blindness

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 12:35-13:21

John 9:1-41

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 12:35-36): Why a master and a wedding feast?  The person waiting is a servant, I guess, getting a dinner party ready?

A. Not in this story.  This is the master returning home FROM a party.  In the ancient world, banquets and wedding feasts could literally go for days and weeks.  Thus, a master who was returning home would not be able to tell his servants exactly WHEN he was going to come home.  That is the idea behind what Jesus is telling the people in this story: you’re not going to know the hour of the return.

Q. (12:42-48): After reading this several times, I take it that Jesus means that all of those who proclaim him and are ready in Spirit to welcome Him will be rewarded.  Those who think they’ll “get their act together” and follow Him later will … not be rewarded.  Servant means believer/follower?  Then, v. 48, says that the more Jesus/God has entrusted us with His flock, the more He expects.

A. Yes, I would say you’ve judged correctly.

Q. (12:49-53): Why would Jesus want to cause division?

A. The call to follow Jesus is a radical one, by its very nature.  It is difficult to think of a stronger contrast between men and women who are powerfully following after the Gospel and those who see it as foolishness (as many today do).  So Jesus is not necessarily interesting in CAUSING division, but division is a natural by-product of the message that He has come to proclaim.  We will see this type of division come to its zenith in Matthew 25 with the story of the sheep and goats, so watch for that during Holy Week.

Q. (12:56): Just an interesting point … I always think of the kajillions of things that God could control.  Here, it sounds like the weather just goes on it’s own because the people can monitor it with close speculation.  So, it sounds like to me, God created nature, but it’s on its own unless God chooses to use it for a lesson or reward.

A. The normal way I have heard such things explained is that God established the “laws” of the universe, including for our world.  God certainly has the ability to supersede these laws, but generally chooses not to except for the reasons you mentioned.  So we can study the way that God made the world — what we would call Science, even if you don’t think there is a Creator behind it — which is what the people in Jesus’ story are doing.

Q. (13:1-5): I don’t understand quite what’s going on in this Scripture, but I think I get from it that the people who Pilate murdered were not the worst of sinners.  So, unless they/we repent, we will face the same fate, or worse.

A. It fits under a notion that we have talked about a few times, when you asked me about “good people,” and my reply was basically to say, “there’s no such thing.”  What Jesus is sharing here is we are all deserving of death for our sins, but God spares us in His mercy, and we are not called to judgment for our actions — which the grace of Jesus would cover, but still… .  But even if God chooses NOT to call us into judgment, that does not mean that, on our own, we are undeserving of God declaring that our time is up.  It’s a tough message, no doubt about it, but notice what Jesus is doing: trying to convict people and lead them to repentance.

Q. (13:10-13): This Scripture just reminds me (I’m not saying that Jesus is like them) of the healings I’ve seen on TV where an evangelist will be on stage and start healing people.  They may fall on the floor or whatever.  Can anyone now say they can heal in the name of Jesus?  I would think it would be just for those Jesus had chosen to be in His inner circle.  But, the one man who the disciples didn’t recognize and was healing in the name of Jesus, Jesus was OK with that.

A. I do not put much stock in such efforts: many of those individuals are snake oil salesmen who are just trying to get wealthy, and they do no honor to the Gospel.  Honestly, I am of two minds about your question: I have no doubt that God is capable of using His people today to heal, but I have never witnesses such a thing personally (its not a miracle for nothing — they are rare!)

My big concern is this: imagine the potential for abuse in a person such as your TV preacher were able to heal just by calling on Jesus.  It is nearly unfathomable!  Such a power could be — and frankly would be, knowing human nature — completely exploited for personal gain and fame, and the power of God would be completely forgotten.  It is a sad fact about human nature (see question above) that such and ability would wind up generating fame and wealth for the person rather than glory to God.  Now, let me repeat: God is capable of doing whatever He pleases, but I have not seen a lot of evidence that God DESIRES to provide healing in this way, and clearly the reasons I have mentioned have something to do with that in my opinion.  We will see more about such issues as healing and raising the dead as we get a little deeper into the story, and especially into the story of the early church, so hang in there for more.

O. (13:18-19): Yesterday a friend called in the morning to talk because she was upset.  She called me because she knew I would have good answers on showing grace.  Let me tell you, that is a compliment, but I must say that I struggle with it too.  But, I have been working on it, mostly as a result of reading the Scripture for this blog.  So, I have seen this verse at work. What I have been sifting through this year in the Bible helped me help her.  Jesus used me as an avenue to communicate His love and grace.  I’m so glad she called!  And thus, the “harvest” gets larger!

Q. (John 9:3): I used to think that this kind of structure God has built was not fair at all.  I felt like we are puppets in His world helping His story come true.  Well, we are like that in a way, except we are much more than puppets.  We are His children who He loves very much.  Everything He does is orchestrating our lives so we can live with Him in heaven.  Yes, we have difficulties, but those can just serves as tests to see if we can be faithful.  They are opportunities to be humble, to show that we are not in control.  And, if we believe in Jesus and let Him take over, we will live fulfilled lives all the way to heaven.  Question: I still don’t understand God’s reason for mentally handicapped.

A. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about that.  But I know that there are families that have been so blessed by the joy that a child with, say, Down’s syndrome brings to the family, even if the “side effect” is mental retardation.  I have read stories of the way that special needs children have become cherished members of families and communities, and that many are blown away by their faith in Christ.  It certainly sounds like God can have a myriad of “reasons” for the mentally handicapped: they are still His children, and I suspect that God finds very special ways to communicate to them and through them.

For example, try this one (I confess, I wept a little): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christophers/2012/05/what-down-syndrome-taught-one-mother-about-brokenness-beauty-and-perfection/

Q. (9:16): Jesus is not setting aside the Sabbath for complete rest, but if He didn’t heal people who ask to be healed and have faith in Him, he wouldn’t have peace of mind, i.e. peace.  And, maybe the healing gives Him rest.  It would certainly ease the hearts of the ones He was healing.  But, I think the main point is that the Commandment of “Love one another” outweighs keeping the Sabbath.  And, if you don’t help people because it’s the Sabbath, you are disobeying God’s commandment and causing the person to continue their pain.  That doesn’t sound loving.

A. Amen sister!

Day 207 (July 26): God’s humble servant, Jerusalem will be rebuilt showing God’s glory, take in the Lord’s offer of salvation, be just and fair to all, sinful leaders are condemned, idolatry condemned, God forgives those who repent

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 52:13-57:21

Questions & Observations

O. (Isaiah 52:13-15): This sounds like the scene from Shrek 2 — I think that was the one — where Shrek and Fiona travel to meet Fiona’s parents and the whole kingdom is eagerly awaiting what they assumed was the beautiful prince and princess.  The crowd went from cheering to jaws dropping as soon as the royal couple stepped out of their cage and showed their ogre selves.

Q. (53:4): Why did Cyrus take on the burden of others’ sins?

A. This section does not describe Cyrus (who is a messiah, but not THE MESSIAH), but rather Jesus.  This section is one of the clearest sections we have that explicitly lay out what God was doing in offering up Jesus on the cross: He was suffering for the sins of many, and by His suffering, we find healing.

Q. (53:4-9): Cyrus’s description sounds similar to Jesus’s.  How does Cyrus, this rescuer, change the attitudes of the Israelites?  Why should he even care about them?

A. See my above answer, but if the question is “why should Jesus care about them?” then that’s a good question.  Why, indeed, did Jesus choose to love the people who had Him killed (both directly and indirectly)?  It was because of the great love that the Trinity had for all humanity, and the realization that we were hopelessly lost on our own.  With the death of Jesus, we see the paradigm completely shifted between God and man, the rift between them is bridged, and the Spirit moves into the hearts of the faithful to guide them in relationship with God the Father via the work of the Son.

O. (54:9): All of those verses that say God’s love is everlasting … Here’s proof.  He’s bringing up Noah and the flood from hundreds of years and many generations ago.  He never forgets!

Q. (55:2): Could we say that this is a “junk food is bad” verse?

A. Only if that junk food is salvation outside of God.  This refers not to physical food, but the spiritual food from God that nourishes our souls.  Jesus will tell us more about this food at a later date.

Q. (56:3): I thought we had talked about eunuchs before, but not sure.  I just looked it up and it is an eye-opener for today’s culture.  Long ago, a eunuch was a castrated male that guards the living quarters of women in an oriental court.  Just for expanding our minds, could you tell us a little about eunuchs.  Why were they castrated?  How were they viewed by society?  Were they slaves and forced to be eunuchs?

A. I’m sure you had fun reading about this particular cultural touchstone of ancient society.  Eunuchs played an important role in ancient society (though Jews did not generally practice this type of action, it mostly refers to the eunuchs Jews would have encountered in Egypt, Babylon, etc.) and many if not most of them were slaves.  They were usually castrated at a young age to prepare them for their livelihood as a slave.  It gave their masters the option to allow these men to guard the chambers of women, often royalty or other important females in society.  This was done to ensure that the eunuch could not rape the woman or even have consensual sex with her.  In that regard, he was the perfect bodyguard for women.

Now because of the fairly obvious implications of being a eunuch, they were fairly poorly regarded among Jews, who saw children as a blessing for God and a continuing of their family line.  Since eunuchs would have no family line, they were considered less than full people in Jewish society and were not allowed to participate in the ceremonial worship of God.  Deuteronomy 23:1 forbid them to be part of the assembly (one reason Jews did not practice ritual castration).  But the NT will have some interesting things to say about their place in God’s coming Kingdom, and they will be based upon what Isaiah is saying here.

Q. (56:6-7): These verses finally welcome God’s love to all nations.  This changes the whole story that we have been reading up to this point.  Thus far, the main, good characters were exclusively the Israelites, with a few exceptions.  So, I would say this changes the social atmosphere of the world.

A. I suppose it does, but frankly that’s only because the Israelites were so terrible about sharing God’s actions with the nations around them.  Remember, God’s choosing of Israel was never about Israel in and of itself, but for the benefit of every nation.  We see a glimpse of the salvation that comes to all nations (via Jesus, who was a Jew) in these verses.

O. (57:1-2): These are extremely soothing words.  Reminds me of the Psalm 23.

O. (57:6b): “They (worthless idols), not I, are your inheritance” is a nice quip.

O. (57:11): Yeah, I wonder what laws these man-made idols have decreed. Ha.

Q. (57:15): I would say that society teaches us to be brave, forward and strong.  Here God calls first these with crushed spirits.  So many people are “type A” personalities and driven.  Where do they fall with God?  Many type A’s I’m sure do a lot of God’s work.  As long as they don’t step on toes, they should be OK with God?  Is it just those who have suffered will be brought out of their misery first?

A. I think that this section has less to do with the “type” of personality a person has and more to do with providing healing to those people whose spirit has been broken by life’s circumstances or by others.  It is a verse about healing and restoration, not personality types.  But to broaden my answer, no one (regardless of personality type) who walks faithfully with God has anything to worry about when it comes to judgment.

Day 178 (June 27): Hosea tells of Israel’s sins and immenent punishment, Israel breaks covenant and will suffer consequences, wrongs of Israel and Judah, God’s wrath for wickedness, healing for those who repent

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.

Hosea 9-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hosea 9:10): When God first named Israel His people, they were few.  It seems that as they grew in number, like God promised the ancestors, that they fell to evil.  With greater numbers comes a greater chance for evil.  And, as we saw with Adam and Eve who were by themselves, that it doesn’t take much to tempt someone.  With more people, the evil just multiplies.

A. That is certainly true.  But Israel in particular has compounded the problem by putting corrupt and evil men on the throne (like Ahab and Jezebel), and continuous worshipping of other Canaanite gods.  They have abandoned God, just as Moses foresaw and warned the people against way back in Deuteronomy.  He warned them that choosing the path without God had only one end: death.  So Israel has reaped what it sowed.

Q. (9:15, 10:8, 10:9): The Lord mentions three places where evil started.  Can you refresh our memory of the sins of Gilgal, Aven (Beth-aven) and Gibeah?

A. Gilgal was the place where Israel camped after crossing the Jordan back in Joshua 4 and 5.  It was the place of ceremony where Joshua and the people re-established the covenant with God and remember His faithfulness.  Apparently this was a place of pagan worship of some sort, but we are not given the details.  Surely it was a great insult to God that a place that had been so significant between God and Israel be used for the spiritual “prostitution” as Hosea has put it.

Beth-Aven is actually making a mockery of the name Bethel.  It is the place where Jacob wrestled with God way back in Genesis 32.  Bethel means “house of God,” Beth Aven means “house of idols” or perhaps “house of nothing,” so you see the mockery of Hosea here.  Anyway, Beth-Aven is the location of one of the golden calves that Jeroboam established to keep people from returning to Judah back in 1 Kings 12 — it’s the thing that God keeps on referring to as the “original sin” of Israel.  All the problems Israel has come back to that moment.

Lastly, Gibeah, one of your favorite stories as I recall (note: Rob is being sarcastic!), was the place back in Judges 19-21 where the tribe of Benjamin went to war with the rest of the tribes over the killing of a concubine by the priest.  The tribe was nearly wiped out, and the other tribes had to resort to basically letting them kidnap virgin women in order to survive.  It was one of the most corrupt moments of Israel’s history, and one that God is recalling now to basically say that nothing has changed.

Q. (10:1): I think this is true today.  The richer we get, the cockier and more prideful we get and think we are self-sufficient, self-motivated and successful.  We probably worship things like work, TV, luxury.  But, why would the Israelites turn to other gods?  Oh, right, because you said when creating a God, you can try to control it — which does nothing anyway.  Whereas with God, He is in control, giving us no self-control.

A. I think you’ve got your own answer.  Don’t forget also, that Israel’s problem started with the king trying to control the people (don’t miss the irony of that statement as it relates to God!) via idols.  Jeroboam wanted the people to worship gods he could control, not the true God that he couldn’t.

Q. (11:8): I think we have found an answer here to the question of “Why did God not give up on the Israelites?”  He has given them so many chances because He remembers the companionship and trust that He had from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.  Maybe He longs for that hoping Israel will turn around.  And, I’m sure that He wants to share His kingdom with them.

A. One of the central concepts of covenant is the idea that if one side of the parties involved does not keep its end of the bargain, the other party does not walk away.  God is demonstrating His faithfulness to His people, by giving them every chance to repent of their sin and return to Him.  But since they will not, they have repentance forced upon them, as we will see.

Q. (14:4): Why is God no longer angry?

A. Once the people have paid their penalty (and they will), then God’s anger (what we would call wrath) in this matter is complete.  He will be able to restore them to a right relationship with Him, and when there is right relationship between God and man — as Jesus will establish for each of us — there is no need for God to be wrathful.

Day 177 (June 26): God’s forgiving love for unfaithful Israel, Hosea’s wife is redeemed, God charges Israel with wickedness, Israel’s leaders judged hard, call to repetance, Israel’s love for wickedness, Israel harvests the whirlwind

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.

Hosea 2:14-8:14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hosea 2:14-23, Hosea 3:5): I can guess that this is a metaphorical story for Christ coming?

A. I suppose you could make that argument, but I think that most likely it is about the restored nation of Israel that will be established after the captivity.

O. (4:12): I see humor in this that God is accusing them of making an idol out of wood and thinking it can help them.

O. (5:15): God points out how Israel and Judah are predictable in their pattern of sin and punishment, followed by crying to God to bring them out of their despair.

Q. (6:10): God calls Israelites prostitutes, referring to their attitude toward Him.  They should be like a bride and groom or husband and wife with God.  It’s a sacred relationship and when the Israelites seek another God, it’s like cheating on a spouse (God being the spouse), prostituting themselves out to a false god (a prostitute who can only give you one thing you desire).  I see more relationship comparisons.  In a marriage, the relationship may not always provide everything we want.  There are times that the romance is gone, sometimes for a reason, but we have to stick with it and wait for it to come back around.  If we can’t wait and seek something else to fill that void, then the marriage will be ruined.  Same with God.  If we do not abide by his rules, then our life goes down the wrong path because we are not including Him in the relationship.  We may seek other things, work, alcohol, possessions, luxury that get in the way.  Then when we realize that the void cannot be filled with other things and return to God, He may wait for us to show mercy before He returns to our life.

A. The idea of Israel and Judah being required to “earn” its way back to a proper relationship with her Husband is a good one for what is going to happen.

Q. (8:4): I wondered if this was a problem.  Because, starting with Saul, God told whom He wanted to be king.  Then, after Solomon, we seldom heard God telling who He wanted to be king.  And, He led very few of the revolts to dethrone a king.  The leaders were acting out their own desires.  I doubted that all of the kings were David’s descendants.  Were Judah’s kings all from David’s line?

A. Yes they were (as best I can tell).  When God spoke of Himself being faithful to David’s line (via Solomon and Rehoboam), He really meant it.

Q. (8:13b): Is returning to Egypt a metaphor, like they will be in the same despair as they were in Egypt?

A. The only part that is a metaphor is the location.  The people will once again be slaves to another nation (not Assyria), and will have to begin all over again with God.  But God knows what He is doing here, and the results will be interesting to say that least.