Day 355 (Dec. 21): Love all, respect marriage, God will never fail us, World is not our permanent home, Peter reminds believers that they were chosen, believers have hope for the priceless inheritance in heaven, trials make your faith genuine and strong, faith will earn you praise when Jesus returns, call to holy living for sake of salvation, love deeply, purify yourselves by getting rid of all evil behavior

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.

Hebrews 13:1-25

Peter wrote his first and second letter from Rome shortly before his death, which probably occurred in AD 64 during the persecution of Nero.

1 Peter 1-2:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 13:1): So the angels delight in humans when we are kind to strangers?

A. It would appear so.  That certainly reflects the joy in heaven that Jesus describes in Luke 15.

Q. (13:13-14): Wow.  I never thought about the fact that Jesus blood was shed outside the city, making him an outcast.  As Christians, we do feel as outsiders for a good portion of the time.  But, we can find respite in the community of believers.  Also, I know I have said this before and I don’t think it’s out of discontentment, but I have never really felt at home, like I was totally happy in a place.  I was close living in Hawaii, like 90 percent close.  It is so beautiful there, what I would picture heaven to be.  But, I remember growing up that I just didn’t feel like I belonged in Kansas (spare me the Dorothy jokes, please J).  And, we moved to Florida after my husband retired from the Navy, as it was closer to the likes of Hawaii, but it still doesn’t do it for me.  Then, if we did ever move back, I would be far away from family again.  So, I just think that no place is perfect and I’ll find my spot in heaven and be totally happy.

A. Peter is noting here the special role Jesus’ body had in the sacrifice he offered: the “scape goat” took the sin of the people outside of the camp (one image — Lev 16:8), and the carcasses of certain animals used in the sacrifices were burned outside of the camp because they were unclean (another image).  In short, the idea here is that since Jesus was taken outside of the “camp” (Jerusalem) to die, he symbolically took all of the sin with Him, which was God’s plan from the beginning.

Q. (13:21): To me, this is telling us to use those God-given talents we have and make them work for His glory and good!  Use the tools He gave you to grow God’s house.

A. That image of “producing” in us comes from John 15, where Jesus tells us about abiding in Him in order to thrive and produce good fruit.

Q. (1 Peter 1:1): Here is that word, “chosen,” again.  I am setting the meaning of the “chosen” matter that God knows our hearts before we are born.  He knows we will choose Him, and thus, He has chosen those people for His kingdom.  I can HOPE in this that I am correct.  But, this “chosen” issue I have been uncertain on, so I can hope that I will get my understanding resolved.

A. I will be no help to you in this instance, I am afraid.  Protestants have been arguing about what it means to be chosen for 500 years, so it’s pretty well worn ground.  The idea of being chosen is a dividing point between Calvinism and Arminianism — Calvinists assume election based upon nothing more than God’s free choice, while Armenians, as you suggest, see this as selection by foreknowledge.  I leave it to you to decide.

O. (1:7b): Another reason to have faith in Jesus!

Q. (1:12) Pretty cool that humans are going through something that even the angels don’t know until it’s happening.

A. It is indeed an intriguing thought that beings outside of time do not know our fate, and are in suspense of sorts.  No wonder there is rejoicing in heaven!

Q. (1:15): I have a ways to go to be holy in everything I do, but at least when I know that I mess up, I apologize a.s.a.p.

A. Forgiveness and grace are the main tools that God uses to drive us to be better disciples.

Q. (1:17): Judge according to what we do … I thought we were saved by faith alone.  Is it saved by faith, judged by works?

A. Yes, you’ve got it.

Q. (1:20): So God and Jesus have known all along that Jesus would die on the cross to save us from our sins.  God seemed so disappointed with Adam and Eve, but He knew they were going to sin?  Also, some places say that God chose Jesus to be our atonement and other places say Jesus gave up himself for our sins.  Will you explain this difference?

A. Coming back around to the free will question you asked earlier: the question you ask here is a big part of the reason I lean towards free will instead of predestination — the accounting for human choice.  God has known all ends since the beginning (no one doubts that), but God took the risk and created our race because, in my opinion, He values our choice to love Him above all other things.  We must CHOOSE to follow Him, though He certainly guides our steps.  But as soon as you, or even God, open the possibility of choosing love, you have given the person the possibility of also choosing to not love, to reject relationship.  God is not interested in robots, He desires children who want to love Him, but that must, by definition, involve a choice.  Nothing pleases me more as a father of a little girl than when she runs up to me coming through the front door and says, “daddy, daddy!”  I do not make her do that, she does it out of her limited understanding of what love is — and she chooses to love me.  Is that love always guaranteed?  Of course not (something surely God understands), but God appears willing to risk the rejection of relationship for the chance that His children will come to know and love Him.  That is Good News if ever there was any.

Q. (1:22): Does brothers and sisters mean those in Christ or everyone, believers or not?

A. He’s referring to believers — note the first half of the verse — but surely Peter would not disagree with loving those who are not.

Day 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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.

Hebrews 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 341 (Dec. 7): Paul chosen to share Good News, Jews and Gentiles share equally in God’s inheritance, Paul prays for Spiritual empowering for Ephesus, church was made to act together and make up Christ’s body, church leaders are a gift from Jesus, throw away old sinful nature and put on new nature through Spirit, everything you say should be good and helpful, greed offers no place in heaven, live according to light within you

Only 24 days left to the end, but who’s counting, this is fun!

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.

Ephesians 3-5:14

Questions & Observations

I can’t help but comment about the amazing insight God has given Paul!

Q. (Ephesians 3:17): By Christ making His home in our bodies — this could mean both each individual and/or the church body (right?) — makes me think of that when one allows Christ in that we become like Christ giving grace to others.

A. I wouldn’t agree that Christ making a home in our bodies, via the Spiri, refers to the Church, but is referring to the individual Christian specifically.  The reason for this is the image of the Church united is the Body of Christ, not Christ within the body, if that makes sense.  But your last sentence is spot on.  We can become like Christ to others and share His grace with them.

O. (3:19): This verse fills my heart with pure joy as to how much He loves me and everyone else!

Q. (4:2): Once in a while I say something that I wonder if it was taken wrong by the other person.  I have had my “God filter” or Spirit Sensor on more and more.  But, once in a while, it’s not turned on all the way.  Most of the time, I immediately catch it and make sure they knew what I meant.  But, sometimes, I don’t.  It’s at these times that I pray that the other person is Christian, will know my true heart, know that I am human and forgive me.  This also makes me think of road rage.  So many people lose their cool behind the wheel.  I don’t know if this is a sign of having the Spirit or not, but we just need to always remember that we are not alone.  God/Jesus/Spirit knows our hearts.

A. He does indeed, and that, I think, provides a lot of insight into the grace He provides — He sees the damage and brokenness in each of our hearts, and is sympathetic to our plight.  His desire is to make us whole.

Q. (4:7-8): Are “gifts” referring to the talents we are given or referring to the gifts in v. 11 — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers?

A. Spiritual gifts.  (From Leigh An: I am a little cloudy on what a spiritual gift is, so I googled it.  There are lots of sources.  Here’s one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_gift

Q. (4:16): I just wondered about a symbolic relationship I had an epiphany about.  If together, we are Christ’s body and He had to sacrifice for us, would that be symbolic of us having to sacrifice ourselves (earthly desires) if we want to be a part of Christ’s body?  Also, I think this is a telling verse of how we should get rid of whatever is blocking us from working with others — pride, shyness, time — so we all can benefit from one another.  And, it gives glory to Jesus.

A. The longer we walk with God, the more we will see the need for self-sacrifice in each of our desires — both a desire to sacrifice on behalf of other people and the need to sacrifice our own desires and “die” to ourselves.  There is a reason the Church throughout history has associated Baptism with the idea of dying to self and rising to God, exactly as you have described it.

O. (4:29): “Let everything you say be good and helpful … ” is a tough one, but practice makes (nearly) perfect!

Q. (5:5-6): I have learned to be less and less greedy.  But what degree of greed is bad?  And, how do we measure greed?  For instance, if I would like my house to be decorated nicely — not over the top by any means, but just comfortable and inspiring for my family.  If we have plans to improve our yard, is that greed?  Many times I think it is because it’s of this world and it’s not helping others.  But, then God says two things: give 10 percent and give generously.  Should we enjoy some of the fruits of our labor, or is that greed?  Also, this verse has me a little concerned about my own salvation.  I worry that I’m not pure enough.  A trickle of impure thoughts can still go through my head.  I don’t know exactly what “impure” is referring to here.  I don’t have any immoral thoughts, but I can say that EVERY thought I have does not have the love of God in it.

A. Ok, first, your purity is the concern of Christ, not yours.  You do your part by having faith in Christ’s ability to work through you via the Spirit, and let God worry about the rest.  Remember that worry is NOT productive when it comes to our walk with God, so as much as you can, let doubts, especially about salvation, go — that’s God’s department.

Greed can be tricky to define, as it varies from person to person, but if we are faithful in our tithing and generous with our living, we should not be in danger.  One of the things that we can do is seek God’s council on what is greed in our hearts, and what is just proper provision for our own needs.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labor, but if we have made money ITSELF the aim, that is where greed slips in.  All of the deadly sins (sloth/laziness, wrath, envy, gluttony, lust, and pride are the other 6) are about abuse of good things.  Money, and the desire to have it, is not evil in and of itself, but when we make an idol out of our desire for money (when we trust IT more than we trust God), then we have slipped into the deadly sin of greed.  As we have mentioned in previous questions, the opposite of greed — as the Church has historically defined it — is self-sacrifice: when we give of ourselves with a clear heart, we are turning our back on being greedy.  I’m afraid I can’t give you any more specifics on your particular situation, you have to work the rest out with God.

Q. (5:13): Can “light” here refer to Jesus?

A. It refers to the light of the Gospel message and the power of God.

O. (5:8): I constantly think of examples in nature that model our relationship with God.  And, of course, I think He made them that way intentionally.  If we know God, we can constantly be reminded of Him when we look around us.  This verse talks about light v. darkness — polar opposites, so to speak.  For the most part, evil lurks in the dark, where light comes along and makes it visible.  And, good things come in the light.  Just think how a smile makes you feel instead of a frown; how light — makes me feel anyway — v. days and days of gloom.

Day 324 (Nov. 20): Set a good example for new believers, Paul is a slave to spreading the gospel, Israel’s idolatry is a lesson, do all for the glory of God

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 Corinthians 8-11:1

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 8:1-13): I understand part of this, I think — eating food that has been sacrificed to an idol is no big deal because the idols are not real and thus, it is not a sin against God, right?  But, I don’t get the part where it can negatively influence other novice believers.  Does it mean that if they see a strong believer eating food sacrificed to an idol, that even though you know it’s false, they would think that you are acknowledging the idol by eating the food.  Then, that could influence them and turn them toward the idol and away from God?

A. I think Paul’s concern is that people will be setting a bad example for new “weaker” believers, and since they might be less sure about their faith, it might cause them to stumble, even though it was not done intentionally.  But you have the first part right.

O. (9:1-27): Paul’s story here sounds like a true description of what it means to be a soldier of God.  He changes to be whomever he needs to be to impress upon people the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Paul knows his mission and does whatever he needs to deliver God’s message.  He keeps his body ready to do what he needs for his missionary journeys.  I would think this means no boozing it up, no gorging because this would make him tired, lazy and less fit to do his work.

Q. (10:4): Looking back to the Israelites’ exodus, are there any references to Jesus living among them?

A. No, Paul is not speaking of the literal presence of Christ among the Israelites, but is rather symbolically saying that He was the ultimate source of their provision.  Paul is using a metaphor.

Q. (10:12-14): I would say that these verses support free will.  Here it says that God gives tests that we can handle and a choice to resist what we are being tempted with.

A. Dealing with temptation is certainly a big part of free will considerations.

Day 259 (Sept. 16): Enemies of Judah notify King Artaxerxes of Jerusalem’s wall being rebuilt, Artaxerxes orders the building to stop, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem, Artaxerxes supports Ezra, Ezra praises God, list of exiles who go to Jerusalem with Ezra, Ezra inventories Israelites and requests Levites, Israelites fast for God’s favor for protection in their journeys, Israelites arrive and sacrifice burnt offerings

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.

Ezra 4:7-23

Ezra 7-8:36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezra 4:7): Xerxes and Artaxerxes are two different kings, right?  But, they both ruled over Persia.  Was there anyone ruling over Jerusalem, like in Jerusalem, not from someone having power over them from afar?

A. They are different kings: Artaxerxes is the son of Xerxes (Artaxerxes’ name means “rule from Xerxes”).  There would have been a ruler (what we might call a governor) of the region of Samaria, who controlled the entire region on behalf of the king.  He will come into play in a larger role when we move to Nehemiah.

Q. (7:6): Who is the king that gave Ezra everything he asked for.  Artaxerxes, right?

A. Yes.  Xerxes is dead at this point.

Q. (7:11-26): I’m trying to figure out what is going on here.  Is Artaxerxes is two-faced?  In Ezra 4:18-22, Artaxerxes orders Jerusalem to stop the building of their wall.  But, in 7:11-26, he is telling Ezra to take anything he needs for the temple and worshipping God.  Another point I would like to talk about is that Artaxerxes respects God’s authority, yet he does not choose to worship God.  Why don’t these other nations who recognize God’s power choose Him as their god?

A. The real threat here, as best I understand the story, is the walls.  That appears to be the focus of the king and Israel’s enemies: if Jerusalem has a rebuilt wall, it will become powerful again, which could be dangerous.  So when Ezra is given his marching orders to bring people back, note that no provision is made for rebuilding the walls, but instead to make worship at the temple.  It will not be until Nehemiah joins the party that we see the king truly change his mind and order it to be rebuilt.  It appears Artaxerxes’ real concern is offending the Jews’ God.  As to why he (and other foreign kings) do not worship God while showing Him respect (of sorts), it most likely has to do with their understanding of gods controlling particular cities or regions.  The idea of one God ruling everything does not appear to be on their radar.  So while they pay lip service to God’s power, they still don’t really think of Him as THEIR God.

Q. (8:15): Any idea why there weren’t any Levites?

A. No idea I’m afraid.

Q. (8:18-19): Why was it so important to keep Temple tasks in line with family origins?  For example, why couldn’t a non-Levite become a priest?  There are other examples, like the tribe that protected the Temple at the gates.  And, why is it important to say someone’s name with who their descendant was?  Was it a reference of character, just to note “for the record,” or what?

A. Since God was the one who ordained that only Levites could serve in the temple (and only a subset of them could be priests), He’s the one you can “blame” for the lack of non-Levite priests.  Don’t forget, that’s what got the people of the Northern Kingdom in a lot of trouble: they were using unauthorized priests because the true Levites wouldn’t participate and went to Judah.  As to the family lines: heritage was EVERYTHING to these people: your only value in such a society at this time was because of who your family was, whether good or bad.  A family name was paramount, as it still is in places in the world today.

Q. (8:21-23): This scripture is great for me.  I was just pondering and doubting my resolve with this very issue.  Here, Ezra and crew were worried about traveling a long way without soldiers and horses for fear of being attacked.  It’s great to see how “human” this scripture is.  I think of so many Bible heroes, Ezra appears that he is one this far, and how humble they are before the Lord.  They have fears and doubts like we do today, but they have courage and stick to God.  At BCL — a weekly live performance at our church (where kids and parents learn about God together) — they were talking about courage.  Courage to let God take over the life that I have known for 40-plus years and letting go of it is hard.  Our interests, traits, the way we do things, etc. are learned or develop over time out of habit.  And mine were not all born from God.  I, and my “family” (meaning family, friends, co-workers, really my whole world down to the teachers I had and the tv shows I watch) created my life.  Luckily, God was in it too.  But, my point is, I created who I am, without referring to God’s word or asking Him.  So, I need to repent myself and erase those things from my blackboard that are not Godly.  I’m going to bring in some shame here.  I snack while I’m doing these blogs many times as a nervous habit, to stay awake, just something to do.  In the last 3 years I have gained 10 pounds which really bugs me.  But, munching while blogging hardly seems a sin, but it is.  I need to ask God for help with that.  I also have a problem with thinking people are against me, unfriendly or spiteful without giving them a chance.  That is at my core for some reason.  Must come from my childhood.  But, I am combatting that bad personality trait fairly fast.  Rather, God is helping me combat that.  I also have doubts, like Ezra, that God will take care of me.  Yesterday, we had a full day at a theme park.  So, I thought we should go to the later church service today to let my daughter get enough rest.  But, she is shy and her friends are at the first service.  I just blurted out in my head, “I’m not going to worry about it, God’s got it.”  To my surprise, another one of her friends showed up with her twin little sisters so both my girls had friends they knew in church today.  What a surprise.  And then, there was a bonus.  We talked to them later and figured out some other families we can invite into our small group.  My point is, there is darkness and doubt in our everyday lives — be that it may seem small — that can overtake our day.  If we just let God handle it, it really feels like a big weight off of your shoulders and you get lifted up!  So these ill feelings that these bad habits cause is a huge hint that they are not godly.  And, I should repent and turn them over to God.  They seem so innocent that it shouldn’t matter, but they really do interfere with my happiness.

A. The Bible is quite frank about the shortcomings of many of its characters, and I think that provides a good model for us.  When we see how human many of these people really are (they act in cowardly manners, they fail repeatedly, etc.), we can see the ways that God works with them and through them — sometimes using their very faults in the process — to redeem their lives and the lives of others.  The Bible is quite clear on who is ultimately good, and it is not us.  We will see lots of examples of this in the NT.

Q. (8:33): I don’t ever remember the weight of the offerings as being important.

A. They were making sure that nothing was stolen on the long journey to the Holy Land.

O. (8:35): How wonderful it must have been for the Israelites to be together again and starting anew by worshipping God.

Day 234 (Aug. 22): Remaining Israelites will feel God’s anger, God compares Jerusalem and Samaria as adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah committed sin by worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to their idols, Nebuchadnezzar beseized Jerusalem for two years, God says the people will burn in their filth, God gives no pity to Jerusalem

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

Ezekiel 22:17-23:49

2 Kings 24:20b-25:2

Jeremiah 52:3b-5

Jeremiah 39:1

Ezekiel 24:1-14

Questions & Observations

Q. Is there significance to the names of the “sisters” in this reading?

A. Yes.  The older sister, Onolah, which represent Israel/Samaria, means “her tent.”  This is most likely a reference to the unauthorized places of worship set up in the Northern Kingdoms where the “spiritual prostitution” that Ezekiel is describing in graphic detail took place.  Judah is represented by Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her,” which refers to the place of worship in the Temple, and the pagan worship that took hold there under the corrupt kings.

Q. (Ezekiel 23:22-23): Why are all of these countries interested in attacking Jerusalem anyway?  For their treasures?  Or are we just supposed to know that God made it happen so the Israelites would be destroyed?

A. There’s a few reasons: first, as our readings have described over these last few months, the land in Judah/Israel was very desirable and good for growing crops such as olives and grapes.  Jerusalem itself was set in very high country relative to the surround area, so that also made it desirable.  But ultimately what we are talking about here is trade routes: Judah was set along a major trade road that many nations, including Egypt, used to import and export goods.  Since Babylon is a major enemy of Egypt at this point, controlling this route is a great way to weaken its great enemy.  Those, I think, provide three good reasons why Judah and Jerusalem were targeted.  But do note what got the place ultimately leveled was Zedekiah’s betrayal of his loyalty oath to Nebuchadnezzar when he tried to join Egypt against Babylon.

Q. (23:27): Is God saying that the Israelites wickedness came from Egypt back when they were enslaved or more recently?  I didn’t remember the Israelites worshiping idols until they started traveling in the desert.

A. If you remember the Golden Calf incident back in the dessert, the calf itself was an Egyptian deity — though it is possible there were other influences as well; several local cultures revered a deity represented by a bull, a common ancient symbol of strength.  You could certainly make the argument, as God is doing here, that Israel “learned” these terrible worship practices while slaves in Egypt.  Note what happened in Exodus: at the first sign of trouble with this “new God” who has rescued them (when Moses was gone for forty days), they reverted to some form of pagan worship with the calf image.  I think it is quite fair to say that they picked up this bad “habit” in Egypt.

Q. (23:46): God is asking Ezekiel to bring an army against the sisters — Samaria and Jerusalem?  How could Ezekiel do that?

A. God is pronouncing judgment on them, and not asking Ezekiel to bring this army, as we see in the last sections of this reading, the army was already there.

Q. (2 Kings 24:20b-25:2): So, it finally happens.  So, they are surrounded for two years and get no food or water from the outside?

A. Only what they could smuggle in, which surely wasn’t much.  It was surely hell for the people inside.

Day 51 (Feb. 20): Purifying after childbirth, skin disease decrees, suspicious spots (mildew, leprosy, etc.)

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.

Leviticus 12

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Leviticus 12:1-8): Lots of questions here.  What does it mean to be unclean?  Why are women unclean after childbirth, something that I would think be a blessing!  Maybe it has something to do with the blood, as we discussed before?  Why the difference in wait time between having a boy and having a girl before a mother can be ceremonially clean?

A. Remember that the sacrifice system only allowed for two options: you were either ceremonially clean or unclean.  If you were unclean, you could not fully participate in the religious life of the community — you couldn’t enter the courtyard of the Tabernacle, for example — and you would have been forced to live outside the safety of the community, as this text alludes to.  It was a powerful incentive for families to maintain clean dwellings and bodies.

While the kosher section is a bit tougher to pin down the “reason” for some animals and not others, the reasoning here is pretty simple: this is basically a system of public health.  Blood, mold, open wounds, and other such things could spread disease, which could spread disease among the whole camp (keep in mind that there is no basic sanitation at this point).  So for the childbirth, it is indeed the bleeding, not the birth itself, that caused the uncleanliness.  The menstrual blood from either monthly cycles or the after effects of giving birth was a great hazard for disease.  The reason for a shorter “quarantine” for baby boys than girls has been lost to history.

(From Leigh An: I found some interesting answers to the last sentence at http://www.stilltruth.com/blog/tcblack/leviticus-125-why-are-girls-different-boys.  They sound logical, but I don’t know what Rob would say to them.)

Q. (13:1-46): Rob, can you tell us the significance here?  In the NT, Jesus heals so many people.  Here, anyone with an affliction, must be examined to see if they are pass all of these tests to see if they are worthy of what?  What does it mean to be ceremonially unclean?  They can’t worship God?  In 12:44, those with serious skin diseases must live outside camp and holler “unclean, unclean” to passers-by.  Where is God’s love here?  Or, am I likely missing a big point?

A. I confess that this passage is difficult to understand, but we have to understand that it is God setting these rules, and we can trust that He had good reason to do so.  This is a legal system God is building here: it will have its imperfections — when in comes to individuals verses the group safety — and things that look unfair to us from a distance.   While there was a process involved, it is important, I think, to note that there were very few conditions — save leprosy — that would have made people PERMANENTLY separated from the tribe.  Most people with skin disorders or similar problems (we will see more of this coming, so hang in there!) would get over them eventually, and could regain full status in the tribe.

The big idea here is that since the presence of God is set in the camp, the camp itself must be a place of ceremonial cleanliness: this is ultimately why all of the restrictions, rules, and procedures that sound harsh and ridiculous to us were put into place.  The presence of God will not stand the presence of things that are unclean (including people) in the midst of Himself, which is central to our understanding of how God relates to sin (which of course makes us ritually unclean).  One other note: many of these rules will be shifted a bit when the camp moves into the Promised Land and the Temple specifically, so there is something to monitor.

Perhaps something else to think about is that by the power of God through Jesus Christ, no one ever has to be unclean again — that certainly puts a different spin on His healing of lepers, doesn’t it?

(From Leigh An: I would think that the sanitation aspect would have something to do with this also as Rob said in the previous answer.  Another thought:  This must be the source for the saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  Funny that I have had a strong Spring Cleaning bug lately.  All our stuff takes up so much time.  But, I know I will feel better when it is cleaned, organized and hopefully a lot of gone!

Q. That brings me to another question.  Only the priests and Levites were allowed inside the Tabernacle, right?  Where were the Israelites — non-priests and non-Levites — supposed to worship?

A. The Tabernacle was not a place of worship for the general population, and it wasn’t really a place of worship for the Levites either: it was the meeting place with God where the Law was upheld and sin atoned for.  As to where the people did worship, I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  It does not appear that there were other locations for worship, so my assumption would be that the people would worship near the Tabernacle — which was at the center of camp remember — but I see no reason that the people could not worship from their own tent homes.

Q. (13:47): My footnotes say that “mildew” actually means “leprosy.”  Why would the NLT version change it to mildew?

A. OK, this is a tricky answer.  So let’s try to thread the needle.  Basically, the Hebrew word used in these passages, sara’at, is a word with a much broader definition than either mildew or leprosy alone.  The word refers to various skin diseases of which leprosy is only one (we actually run into this same problem in the Greek of the NT), but the word ALSO is used to refer to spots on clothing, what we would call mildew or fungal growth. The mold/mildew/fungal growth that takes place in a house — think of dirty bath tub mildew/mold — or other dwelling, which comes up in our next section.  So basically, I disagree with the footnotes assessment that the word used “means” leprosy.  It is actually a broad word with many different definitions, some of which we probably do not even know, and the NLT translators — it’s the same with NIV — have done their best to use the context clues to give our “best guess” as to what the rules have in mind in each instance.

O. (14:14): The blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb and the right big toe is explained in Day 41 (Feb. 10) questions.  You can find it by clicking on the index tab.

Q. (14:1-7): Why the two birds, cedar stick, scarlet yarn and hyssop branch?  Why was one bird released?

A. Certain rituals — including the Day of Atonement from chapter 16 — involved two animals: one was killed, symbolizing the penalty for the sin, and one was released, symbolizing the removal of the sin/purification of the person or people in question.  All three of the other items were used in cleansing and washing rituals, so that the entire procedure involved both sacrifice and cleansing elements.

Q. (Leviticus 14:1-32): In this law, why would someone with a cured skin disease have to make a sin sacrifice?

A. There is probably a mentality that those who have caught a skin disease were being punished for their sin (Job anyone?), and therefore they needed to make a sacrifice for their presumed sin.  When it came to being ritually pure and getting your life back, better safe than sorry!

Q. How did the priests keep all of these rules straight?  There are so many.  Maybe, because of the culture of the times then, they were able to make more sense of all the steps to make offerings and be pure?

A. I don’t have an exact answer for you here, but I’ve read about the process of becoming a priest in Jesus’ day (NT), and these men began learning about the Law almost from birth, so that by the time a person was actually a “career” worker for God, he would have known the Law inside and out.  It was their very life!  We tend to see this as “so many commands,” how could they remember it all.  But most of us know someone who can tell you entire lines from movies, or practically entire chapters from their favorite books.  It is remarkable what the human brain can fully remember when we are driven to learn or remember something because it has such an impact on us.

Quite frankly, we don’t know nearly as much about the Bible (any part really) as the first Christians because there was LITERALLY nothing more important to them to knowing God’s word.  We choose not to spend vast amounts of time learning the scriptures, so perhaps we — and I include myself here — should be very careful about judging the memories or intent of a people who were so literally close to God.

Q. (14:21-32): This doesn’t really sound like a cheaper offering to me?

A. It’s less if you double check and do the math.

Day 50 (Feb. 19): Priests start work, Aaron’s sons sin, priestly conduct explained, ceremonially clean and unclean animals

Woohoo!  Day 50, can you believe it? We are nearly 1/14th through the Bible and have learned so much.  To me, it really is going fast.  I just can’t believe that there are so many more stories to go and more lessons … and understandings to learn!

Leviticus 9-11

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Leviticus 9:23, 24): Looks like the sacrifices offer another benefit: God coming down to show His glory and power.  The fire of God would also be like a victory appearance for the Israelites: seeing that God is powerful, listening, watching … in control.  The words “gratification” and “reassurance” also come to mind.  Did I read this correctly?

A. Yes, that’s the idea.  God is reminding the people of His power, and it won’t be the last time He uses fire to consume an offering.

Q. (10:1-3): I guess this is a way of saying “pay attention.”  We have to give God the benefit of the doubt that they were not taking God seriously and didn’t just make an honest mistake?  I noticed Aaron was silent.  This must have been very hard for him!  Just a comment in 10:6, I can’t imagine being told not to mourn the death of two children!

A. As far as I can tell, it goes a bit further than “pay attention”: Aaron’s sons were careless with the incense of God, and were struck dead for their carelessness.  It is an important thought for us to remember as well: though we are in good relationship with God through the work of Christ, we should be very careful about trivializing the things of God.

Q. (10:19): So Aaron’s apology to Moses served as repentance, which spared the lives of Aaron’s remaining two sons and possibly Aaron himself?

A. I don’t think Aaron is apologizing for his actions: he says specifically in this verse that he is mourning his son’s deaths by fasting, which is why he didn’t eat the meat.  He is explaining to Moses why he did not fulfill his duties, especially since Moses is right: they cannot leave the Tabernacle until their work is done.  I think God was clear on Aaron’s reasons, which is why it appears that Aaron wasn’t in danger, but this verse is about explaining Aaron’s actions to Moses and the audience.

Q. (11:1-44): Can you tell us why all of these rules about what they can and can’t eat?  Why are split hooves and chewing the cud important?  God says many of these animals that he says are ceremonially unclean are detestable, but he created them.  Can you explain that?

A. There is not a lot of rhyme or reason to the list.  There are some people who think that some animals were on the “unclean” list for health reasons (cows, which are permitted, are generally cleaner animals than pigs, for example) but this is difficult to substantiate or find any consistent logic in.  Basically, what we should take away from the list is that this particular list should be seen as separating the people from all of the other nations around them, which very likely didn’t have any dietary restrictions or perhaps had different ones.  The guidelines allowed the people to be set apart for the work of God, so don’t get to worried about the particular habits — chewing the cud — or animal types — birds — that were permissible to eat.

Q. Can you tell us something about why the Jewish community still follows these laws?  And Christians don’t because we are under a new law.  But, like other things in the OT, many laws are covered by the New Covenant and thus are still practiced.  So, would God be more pleased with us if we would follow these consumption laws or do we just trust God that Jesus sacrifice made these “ceremonially clean” laws null and void?

A. As we’ve discussed, the line between the Old (Jewish) and New (Christian) Covenants is one of legalism (old) verses freedom (new).  Under the New Covenant, we are not required to keep the Law for the purposes of salvation.  The Old covenant is the epitome of legalism: Jews must rely on their own actions — and the actions of the priests — in order to assure their good standing with God (though Judaism has its faith elements as well).  But with Christianity, we have moved beyond the old system into the new, which says that we are free to keep the rules of the OT where they benefit us, but we do not HAVE to.  Since we are not under that system, no amount of keeping the kosher laws or other restrictions makes us “better” or “loved more” in God’s sight: we are loved outside of our actions, and saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) alone.  So if we as a community see value in keeping some of the rules — say the 10 Commandments— we can follow them, but we are not obligated to.

One of the things Jesus talked about in His earthly ministry is that to sum up the Law, you should love God, and love your neighbor (Luke 10:26-28).  So that should be the lens with which we approach the Law as Christians: does following a command to not eat pork adversely affect my walk with God?  (And for some people, the answer is probably “yes”)  If so, then I should not do it.  If not, then it is probably okay, but we should still seek the Spirit’s guidance in “gray areas”.  How about loving neighbor?  Does committing adultery destroy not just my marriage, but likely other families as well?  If the answer is yes, then again, I should not do it, out of love for my neighbor, not to mention my spouse.  While we know that certain things are clearly off limits — murder, lying, etc. — the new way does have the drawback of giving us a lot more “gray” than black and white, so to speak.  So in the New Covenant, we have the freedom to do as we please, with the understanding that we must be discerning — which frankly can be harder than simply having rules — in what actions we take and how they will be seen by others (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 for Paul’s discussion of Christian freedom and discerning choices).

(From Leigh An: Wanting a little more background to this last passage that Rob mentioned, I read all of 1 Corinthians 10 and enjoyed the whole message.  I can’t wait for the NT!)

Day 40 (Feb. 9): Tabernacle offerings, blueprints for Ark of the Covenant, table, lampstand, Tabernacle, altar, courtyard, light, priests’ apparel

Exodus 25-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 25:1-40): Do we learn anything from God’s instructions on how to construct the Ark?  Is it just that God knows what he wants to be comfortable?  Any significance to the cherubim?  Also, I notice that 27 inches is repeated many times.

A. God is asking His people to sacrifice in order to create a place of gathering that will serve His people for the next several decades.  The Tabernacle will dwell within the center of the community — putting God in the midst of His people — and will be a point of gathering.  The items requested would have made a beautiful gathering — which was very functional as well, it could be folded together and loaded up any time — that would have served the entire community.

I think we’re on the wrong track when we think of God desiring “comfort” as though He wanted a Lay-Z-boy to recline in.  This is not an incarnational presence, like Jesus.  This is the presence of God becoming the literal center of the tribes while they are in the wilderness.  We will see how the instructions for the ark and tabernacle will come into play as we move along, but watch for the importance of the poles and rings when it comes time to move.  There is a very special reason for the rings and poles on the ark.

The cherubs — a name for what we think is a classification of angel, but no one knows for sure — were seen in the OT as symbolic attendants to the throne of God, what we call the mercy seat, the cover to the ark.  And in a throne room, the attendees of a king would have been at his left and right.

Don’t pay much attention to the dimensions, if for no other reason than the NLT uses modern units to help us more clearly understand the dimensions of the items being built.  If you look at the NIV or King James, they give the units in “cubits” rather than feet and inches.  For reference, a cubit equals 1.5 feet, or 1 foot, six inches.  Obviously, there were no “inches” and “feet” as measures in ancient times, and generally there were very few standards of measure.

Q. (28:6): Is there any significance to the thread colors chosen — blue, purple and scarlet?

A. Yes.  These colors were symbolic of royalty and were incredibly expensive.  Like the gold and jewels for the task, God is seeking the best that His people have to offer.  He is requesting them to sacrifice in this instance, as one would do for a human monarch.

Q. We see this lavishness that God commands for himself.  No question, he deserves it all.  I just wondered what kind of philosophy the Bible says churches should have when building their places of worship.  Some churches are lavish, others are basically four walls and a roof.  I have had the mindset that if churches spend a lot on their buildings, they are not using their money wisely.  They could be using it for missions.  But, then, are they showing disrespect for God by not having the best possible place of worship?

A. You’ve obviously asked a complicated question, as you can tell by the various ways that churches and individuals have answered it.  Some churches are much more comfortable with “four walls and a roof” (I’m thinking of the of those pre-fab metal roofed churches that you see in rural areas), while others (I’m thinking of an absolutely amazing Catholic Basilica I visited in St. Louis) desire to create real beauty and glorify God through craftsmanship.  I think that both decisions honor God in different ways: we can say, “Lord be glorified by this place” or “Lord be glorified by what we will do within this place” and be perfectly right in both cases.  In this instance, God required the people to sacrifice their best in order to create something that would benefit everyone in the community.  Overall, I would say there is no one “right” way to build a building for God — unless He gives you one as He did here — and we must be discerning to what God desires of us.

Q. I shouldn’t say this, but this reading is a yawner.  Not much action.  But, I do glean several things from it.  1) There are things made for Aaron’s attire that will remind him who he is, a representative to all the people of Israel.  2) God asks for a beautiful place to dwell among the people.  I would love to see it!!!  3) Anything else I’m missing?

A. Seems like you’ve got the general idea.  The instructions given here are just the groundwork: we will still see these things built later in Exodus, and put into action in the next few stories.  So hang in there.

If you (or anyone else) wants to see what this would have looked like, I find that there are various groups on the internet who have built life-size replicas.  Like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stiftshuette_Modell_Timnapark.jpg

Day 7 (Jan. 7): Isaac is born, Hagar and Ishmael leave, Abraham told to sacrifice son, Sarah dies, Isaac marries Rebekah

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.

Genesis 21:8-23:20

Genesis 11:32

Genesis 11:32

Genesis 24

Questions & Observations

O. (21:12): God seems to be saying that both women are important, but Sarah is Abraham’s wife and he should please her.

O. (21:28): Abraham added 7 ewes to the covenant he made with Abimelech.  If you recall in Day 3’s answers, the number “7” signifies completeness.

Q. (22:9-11): It’s hard to imagine Abraham willingly ready to sacrifice his son and Isaac willingly lying on the altar ready to be killed.  Abraham’s trust in God has grown since he was afraid of the rulers killing him, a foreigner, and taking his beautiful wife.  Abraham willingly sacrificing Isaac foretells God sacrificing his own son?

A. This passage, above all else, demonstrates Abraham’s absolute trust in God’s goodness and direction, even when the direction itself did not make sense to him.  Since Abraham had such great trust in God, however, we should understand a few things.  Abraham understood that this was the child that God had promised him; all of Abraham’s descendants were going to come from Isaac.  So there had to be some way that this was going to be true — God had proven Himself faithful to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience I think reflects this in his decision making.  Abraham understood that God was going to provide for him in some way (see 22:8 and 13).  Note that when Abraham leaves his servant and he and Isaac continue on together, he uses the word “we” when talking about his return (22:5).  He fully expects to return with his son.  The writer of Hebrews also points to Abraham’s thinking: that even if he killed Isaac, God was capable of bringing him back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19) and restoring him to Abraham.  So there certainly was a great deal of trust in Abraham following God’s commands, but the text implies Abraham believed that the loss of his son would not be permanent.

Q. (22:11) The text says that an Angel of the Lord spoke to Isaac.  I always thought it was the Lord himself.  Angels seem to have a lot of authority with God.  Will we learn more about angels later?

A. The word “angel” means messenger, and it is tough for us to understand that cultural understanding of the ancient messenger.  Basically, an official messenger (sometimes called a herald) was seen and treated as though they were actually the king or ruler who sent them; the mindset was that they did not merely speak on behalf of the king, but AS the king (hopefully you can see the difference).  In this light, it is more clear what the OT writers want us to understand: a messenger or angel of God should be read as the actual presence of God being there.

This helps explain why sometimes the language gets a bit murky when describing an angel appearing, but God doing the talking (we will see several more examples of this, notably in Exodus 3 in the call of Moses).  This appears to be strictly an OT distinction: angels in the New Testament (such as Gabriel in Luke 1) speak on BEHALF of God, rather than as God.  Honestly, I am not sure the reasons for this, but it might have to do with a cultural shift in the understanding of the role of angels.

One other note: the concept of angels is not one scripture appears very interested in fleshing out (no pun intended) for us.  While scripture makes it clear that angels (and demons frankly) are real, it almost never provides detailed accounts of them.  This ultimately is because the focus of the reader should be on God, not on God’s messenger.

Q. (22:18): This is telling of Israel.  What is the significance of Israel?  Or, do we get into this later?  This verse says “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”  What does this say about predestination and the chosen that I have heard about?

A. I think that this question has multiple answers that will unfold over the remaining course of the Biblical story.  On one level, we see in Exodus that God describes the Israelites (you’ll see where the name comes from shortly) as a chosen people to show what right relationship with God should look like- this is part of how the Ten Commandments will come into play (more on that later).  The problem is that (he he, spoiler alert) the Israelites fail to live up to the promises that they make to God, despite Him remaining faithful.  But where Israel fails, God sends the Messiah into the world to succeed where ordinary human fell short.  A central theme of Jesus’ ministry is continuing this quest to reunite God and man: Jesus speaks of the ways that people can walk in right relationship with God, and that He himself is at the heart of this message.  And since Jesus (the Messiah or Christ) is Jewish or an Israelite, Christians often assume that the promise to Abraham that the entire world would be blessed by his offspring refer to Jesus himself.

Q. (23:5): The Hittites respect Abraham calling him “my lord” and an “honored prince.”  Is this because he had favor with God?

A. I think so.  Abraham had clearly proven himself a force to be reckoned with (because of God, not because of anything Abraham had done), so that even the elders of other clans and tribes show their reverence for him.

O.  (24:26-27): There is a strong respect between the Lord and Abraham.  They both serve one another.  Abraham’s servants carry the same trust in God as Abraham.  Abraham must have been a successful champion for the Lord to his people.  I like to see the strong relationship that God makes with his followers and how much He will work for them.

Q. (24:40): Abraham must be in God’s presence a lot if he can say that an angel will be with his servant on his trip to find Isaac a wife?  How can Abraham order God’s angels?

A. Perhaps God informed Abraham of the way He would help Abraham’s servant.  I don’t think Abraham is bossing any angels around.

Q. (24:48): Why was marrying relatives OK in Bible times?

A. Family relationships (which frankly border on what we would understand to be incest- the married relationship between close relatives) were more common in the ancient world than today.  Though I would point out that even in the fairly recent modern world, we see things like closely interrelated monarchies of various countries who intermarry, so perhaps we are not as distant from this situation as we would like.

OK, here’s the bigger picture response: the big problem was not Abraham seeking a close relative for his son to marry; the big problem was intermarrying with the local tribes, which is clear Abraham does NOT want to do.  Thus, when presented with the choices of either marrying close kin or intermarrying with other tribes, the choice is clear: Abraham and the generations of Israelites that follow him will choose to “preserve” their ethnic heritage.  This will actually become part of the Law: there will be particular commands against intermarrying, again for the purpose of being a nation set apart for God’s purposes.

O. (24:54): Serving meals and washing feet have been shown to be proper ways to serve guests.  I like to see the love for the Lord and love of one another displayed throughout Abraham’s extended family.