Day 275 (Oct. 2): Word spreads about Jesus’s miracles, Jesus draws crowds, Jesus prays and chooses 12 disciples, Sermon on the mount, Beatitudes, sorrow awaits the rich, teaching about salt and light, followers of God’s law will be rewarded, reconcile your anger, lessons on: adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, love for enemies, giving to needy

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.

Mark 3:7-19

Luke 6:12-16

Matthew 5:1-12

Luke 6:17-26

Matthew 5:13-48

Luke 6:27-36

Matthew 6:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 3:9): Jesus seems to use a boat often.  Is there any significance to that or is it just a way to speak to a crowd without getting trampled?

A. It would allow Him to be seen by the crowd as well.

Q. (Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16): Rob, I believe you mentioned the number “12” way back one of our tribes of Israel discussion because, of course, there were 12 tribes.  Now we have 12 apostles.  Any significance?  And, the words “apostles” and “disciples” mean the same thing, right?  From Luke 6:12-16, it sounds as if maybe God helped Jesus choose which men to pick for His followers since Jesus prayed all night.

A. Yes, there was definitely a political message here, and it would have been read as such by all the Jews Jesus encountered.  In selecting 12 close followers, Jesus was basically implying the creation of a new nation — he was selecting 12 new “patriarchs,” implying a renewal or radical movement within Judaism.  Overall, it would actually have been interpreted in a fairly similar manner to His discussion of new wineskins from our previous reading: the old way isn’t enough anymore; I’m doing something new.

O. (Matthew 5:3-10): I remember sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table learning the books of the Bible, the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  I learned the New International Version, which, to me, flows more smoothly.  Here it is:

Matthew 5:3-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

O. (Matthew 5:11-12, Luke 6:22-23): How funny this would be to have someone mocking someone and mockee starts giggling and jumping for joy.

O. (Luke 6:24-26): The subject of this verse must be the direct opposite of the Beatitudes.

Q. (Matthew 5:14-16): I would take it that this doesn’t mean showing off.  It means that your good deeds should be a reflection of God.  Your deeds should make others happy, thus spreading God’s light.  Is this an accurate interpretation?

A. I think a more accurate way to think of it would be to say your deeds should reflect God’s heart, regardless of how they make people feel.  If done in the right spirit this is a powerful witness to God’s ability to change and direct our lives.

Q. (Matthew 5:19): So, here is one of the verses I was looking for during the Old Testament readings.  There are heavenly rewards for obedience to the Laws of Moses.  Those who are doers of the Word and not just believers will earn extra credit in Heaven?  I think we’ve talked about this before.

A. It is hard to tell exactly what Jesus means here, but I think the implication is clear: the desire to follow God’s Law (not because we have to, but because we choose to) is a noble desire, one that God rewards in some way.

Q. (Matthew 5:22, 23-24): Just when I was feeling good about my performance on earth and who I am becoming, I find a verse that I’m guilty of.  I know I have called several people “idiots” in my life time, one in particular, which I’m sure I need to repent.  When we repent, are we to go to the person with whom we have a conflict and right it with them and then go to God?  I always just thought repenting means to go to God.  Is repenting from something 10 years ago still required?  Honestly, this guy at work was above me and not qualified for his job.  He was making tons of mistakes in newsprint.  And, I have never felt the need to tell him I was sorry for my attitude toward him.  I feel more like I should apologize to God.

A. The Sermon on the Mount (what the version from Matthew is called) is a guide to living for those who are in Christ.  It is not a list of requirements or things we must do in order to make God love us.  So remove any ideas of “requirement” from your mind: that’s not what this is about.  This is about the best way to live in God-honoring relationship with the people around us, and much of it starts with our desire to repent of our actions.  If you feel like you should seek out forgiveness from those you have wronged, it might be the Spirit compelling you to do so, even if it would be uncomfortable.  Seeking forgiveness and repenting (even if the other person doesn’t know about the wrong) is certainly good advice in how to maintain peace within your own soul.  How far you go and who you tell is between you and God.

Q. (Matthew 5:27-30): There are tons of people guilty of this.  Not only do you have the ones that have had a divorce and knowingly cheated on their spouses, but here you have all of those folks that raise an eyebrow to anyone they find attractive.  These are those thoughts that you can hide from most everyone except God.

A. Admiring a woman’s (or man’s — women are not excluded) beauty is not the sin.  It is what you might call “lingering” on it, or envisioning yourself in ways that are inappropriate, and you certainly wouldn’t be willing to share with the person.  If you would be completely uncomfortable telling the person the thoughts you were having (i.e. the difference between “you are so beautiful” and “I’m thinking about you and I making out”), then I would say you’re on dangerous ground.

As to the divorce and adultery, I have two thoughts.  One: the mainline church has done a frankly TERRIBLE job discussing the theological implications on divorce, even as our society has come to see it as really no big deal.  But it is not that way to God, and it never will be: divorce wrecks lives and families, and those most affected are the innocent who have no say in the matter at all or are even used as leverage.  This is one place where too many clergy have toed the line that society has been pushing about divorce: if you’re not happy for ANY reason, get a divorce and start again.  I am not saying there are no grounds for divorce (Jesus just mentioned one), but we have let the pendulum swing too far the other way, where divorce is achieved for literally ANY reason at all.  Two: Jesus is pointing out a high standard in this reading, the standard of the conduct God EXPECTS of His people.  And far too often, we fall short all over the place.  That is where the grace that so permeates the ministry of Jesus comes into play: it covers a multitude of our sins.  So what Jesus is doing here is not holding anything back, not watering anything down, but just laying out God’s word among His people.  And if those people fail (which they will), there is God’s love and mercy to fall back on.

Q. (Matthew 5:33-37): Ten years ago or so, I cried out to God for forgiveness on something I was ashamed of.  He forgave me.  I told Him that I would make a book about it to help right my wrong.  I guess from reading this Scripture that I should not have made the deal.  Jesus has already paid the price.  I would still like to write the book, if I get around to it.  I feel that that project has taken a back burner to this blog.

A. One of the coolest things that learning the truth of the Gospel teaches us is that we don’t have to bargain with God, and it is often a waste of time to do so!  God’s great love helps us to move beyond making foolish promises, even if God, in His mercy, allows us to work on our own path (something Paul will discuss).  Who knows, God may desire for you to write the book, just understand that it has nothing to do with His MAKING you do it.

Q. (Matthew 5:41): What’s the deal with this?  It seems oddly specific.

A. In a Roman province (as Israel was), it was the law that a Roman soldier could force any non-Roman citizen (i.e. almost anyone in Israel) to carry his gear or other equipment for up to one mile.  Since the soldiers were surely seen as enemies in Israel (they were seen as foreign occupiers who killed many Jews), the implication is clear: don’t just do the minimum standard when your enemy has control over you- take the power back by serving him as you would a friend, and go beyond what you are required to do.

One interesting note about this information: we will see this law used in part of the Passion story, so watch for that down the road.

Q. (Matthew 5:43-48): I wouldn’t say that “loving your neighbor” was the consensus among the Israelites in the OT.

A. They don’t call it the New Testament for nothing.  Once again, this is about conduct among God’s people who have been redeemed by Christ, not steps taken to get there.  There is a natural tension in the two sides: hold up God’s standard, even if it means going to war (as Israel often did), but also be aware that God loves your enemy as well, and we should act like it.  Different churches have lived in this tension throughout the centuries, and I think it is one of the great freedoms we have in Christ that this is not only one way, but many ways in which we can honor God in our moral decision making.

Q. (Matthew 6:1-4): Matthew 5:16 says the opposite of this.  Can you explain that?

A. What Jesus is criticizing here is the public act of drawing attention to yourself, rather than God, in the midst of your service.  If you are making a big deal about yourself (rather then the Lord who saved you) as the source of your giving, I would say that Jesus is right: you’ve got your reward already, but you’ve done the Kingdom a great disservice.  I would say the difference between Matthew 5:16 and 6:1-4 comes down to humility.  If you don’t have a humble heart in your service, you are ultimately not shining the light on God, or reflecting His love.  Remember this question when we get to 1 Corinthians 13.

Day 258 (Sept. 15): Esther cautiously takes her request to King Xerxes, Haman’s plan to kill Mordecai, Xerxes honors Mordecai, King impales Haman, decree circumvents Haman’s earlier decree to kill Jews, Jews have victory, Festival of Purim, Mordecai promoted and was a “shepherd” of Jews

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.

Esther 5-10:3

Questions & Observations

O. (Esther 5:13): This sounds like modern-day ultra racism.  It’s hard to believe that racism — like God created one race better than the others — ever existed.  But, I still hear about it, especially in the last presidential election, from both “sides.”  Some were voting for Obama because he was black and others couldn’t handle the thought of having a black man in the White House.  I don’t get that.  Vote for the guy who will do the best job, period.  Skin color doesn’t matter.  My husband and I watched “42” the other night.  It was a long movie, but worth it.  It’s about Jackie Robinson being the first black player in professional baseball.  He had to take a lot of harassment and heckling, but his manager told him to take it, not show his temper and he would come out on top, which he did.  The scene I want to highlight was when there were white people in the stands calling him names and telling him he doesn’t belong.  There was a young boy, happy and celebrating his birthday or something — I don’t remember exactly, but he was in very happy, innocent spirits.  Then, when Jackie Robinson came in the spotlight, the white crowd started heckling him, telling him he doesn’t belong in white baseball.  The boy just looked at all of his adult “role models” doing this and decided it was the right thing to do and joined in.  I’m glad I didn’t live back then!

Q. (7:10): There is something about revenge that is satisfies and calms anger.  Here, King Xerxes is satisfied after Haman is impaled on a pole.  We have read that God’s anger can be satisfied with destruction and devastation.  Why is this?  God is God and He can think, feel and do as he pleases.  But, Xerxes.  I know you have said before that that’s just how the culture was back then.  But, in our culture today, we learn tolerance and give second and third chances.  We are taught to turn the other cheek or to gently, patiently show the offender the better way.  I have also learned that for me, revenge gets you nowhere.  I have never had any huge grudges that have made me want to hurt someone — make them go away, yes, but to hurt them, no — but I do have a history of wanting things my way.  I think many of us do, which makes relationships hard.  But, I have learned that when my husband and I are having a conflict, it does no good to try to be victorious in the battle.  It comes back at me with a vengeance and makes me feel like the bad guy.  Anyway, what changed that revenge used to be OK, but now it’s not?

A. From Deuteronomy on down (32:35 to be exact), the Jews are warned to not take revenge: vengeance is God’s business, not ours.  So I guess you could say that God “changed” the policy of His people — they were not to take revenge, but rather to leave it to God.  This went a long way in ancient society to ending the “blood feuds” where families or villages would get into endless back and forth killing to avenge someone they had lost on their side.  Revenge is poison to all involved.  Note that while Haman’s death is surely a form of revenge, it is not Esther that seeks it, but only the king.  Xerxes was under no obligation of God to avoid doling out vengeance (I’m not saying that makes it right, just noting he’s not under the Jewish obligations to do so).  Jesus and Paul will both have some powerful things to say about taking revenge and its danger, so watch for that.

O. (8:10,11): Yea!  We finally see evidence of how messengers were sent to all ends of the kingdom.  This was an interesting tactic to confront the decree that was already made against the Jews!

Day 239: (Aug. 27): Lord’s anger is like an enemy’s to Jerusalem, Jeremiah cries out to God for mercy, Jeremiah tells of his mockery, Jeremiah is steadfast to hope for relief, Jeremiah asks God for revenge on his enemies, after all the destruction and suffering, God’s anger is satisfied, Edom will be punished for celebrating Jerusalem’s demise

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.

Lamentation 2-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Lamentations 2:1-22): Reading this, I can’t help but imagine what Jeremiah is going through.  He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the anguish of the people.  Now, he is living among it.  I was tearing up as I read His description.  Then, we read where He is pleading to God to be fair.  V. 20 was a clear image where he says, “Should mothers eat their own children, those once they bounced on their knees?”  So, this goes on for 70 years?

A. No, he’s describing the condition of the siege.  Once Jerusalem was destroyed, the people became subjects of Babylon and under the rule of the leader of Judea, who would take better care of them in theory at least.  That’s not to say they had it easy, but nowhere nearly as bad as during the siege.

Q. (3:1-20): I never imagined that Jeremiah would not be spared.  I didn’t think about him suffering along with the others.  He is obviously pouring out his anger at God for these devastating times.  But, then in v. 21, he does a 180° turn and proclaims God.  This reminds me of Job, David, Solomon and others who have cried out to God, blaming him, but then following it with their faithfulness to Him.

A. Lamentations 3 is one of my favorite chapters of the whole Bible, because it lays out the devastation of God’s wrath and the anguish of Jeremiah in agonizing words, but then turns to say that God is still the hope of His people, and His mercies are ever new.  Amazing!

O. (4:12): Like I have said, sometimes I’m slow to realize things.  I always thought Jerusalem was a lesser metropolis because we continuously talk about her invaders, especially Babylon and Egypt and how powerful they were.  But, here, it’s apparent that Jerusalem really was grand because it says, “Not a king in all the earth — no on in all the world — would have believed that an enemy could march through the gates of Jerusalem.”  (And, like Rob said the other day, Jerusalem was on higher ground with land “flowing with milk and honey.”)