Day 356 (Dec. 22): Jesus is cornerstone for believers to build on and nonbelievers to stumble, respect those in authority, slaves who endure hardship will be rewarded, wives must accept husband’s authority, clothe yourself in inward beauty not outward appearance, husbands must treat wives as equal partner, pay back retaliation with blessings, God will reward those who suffer for doing what is right, live for God, watch over flock willingly not grudgingly, watch out for the prowling devil

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.

Day 356 (Dec. 22)

1 Peter 2:4-5:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Peter 2:18-25): On second reading, the slaves he is talking about, I think, are actual slaves, but I think this passage also includes all Christians: Those who can endure unfair treatment will be rewarded.  Does God condone slavery?  What about slavery in the U.S. was it wrong by God and should it have ended?

A. No more than any other human institution that exploits people, as slavery does.  Slavery, in its various forms, is a classic example of the exploitation that people frequently indulge in, including abuse (in all its forms), violence, and sex trafficking (which is frankly just sex slavery).  The ways that we humans too often treat each other in no way pleases God, but there can be light brought out of it as well, as Peter is describing.  If you endure suffering — suffering you don’t deserve, not that you do! — it is a powerful witness to the transformative power of Christ.  So though we often exploit each other (Americans included), Peter is saying that even the suffering of the exploited can be used to glorify God.

O. (3:3-6): My good friend is a hairstylist in Hollywood.  He sees celebrities constantly.  On a visit, his cousin wanted to go to the grocery store in the morning just dressed in casual clothes.  My friend told her no, no, you have to get ready to go to the store there.  Everyone is dressed to the nines, even on a weekend morning.  I just think about how much time that wastes and if you are out showing God’s love, how does that make people feel if, when you are talking to them all dressed up, they think that you are above their status and can’t relate to you.  It’s easy for me to get on the soapbox about this since I don’t spend hardly any time primping.  I always thought I was too lazy.  Now I can use the reason that I want my inward beauty to show.  J

Q. (4:1b): What does it mean to have “suffered physically for Christ” and “you will have finished with sin?”

A. I’m honestly not sure.  Best guess: if you are counted as a follower of Christ to the point where you are willing to suffer punishment for it, then like Christ, you have (symbolically) moved beyond sin, because those who are faithful have been purified of sin by God’s grace.

O. (4:7): Prayer is certainly something that I don’t take as seriously as I should.  And, I think more quiet time with God would draw me closer to Him.

O. (5:2b): Watching over others willingly sure makes it more enjoyable too!

Q. (5:8): This reminds me of our beloved former pastor, Isaac Hunter, who just took his own life.  I looked back on YouTube at some of his old skit videos.  He looked so normal, so together and happy.  The devil must have bore down on him hard for him to trip up and give up.  We can learn from Isaac’s fall.  The devil can trip us up so easily, we have to be on the lookout constantly.

A. While it can sound insensitive (I had tremendous respect for Isaac), what happened to Isaac did not happen overnight, or through a single “attack” of the devil.  I have a strong suspicion that Isaac suffered greatly for years because of his personal choices.  So while Satan may prowl, far too often we give him an opening and are forced to deal with the consequences, as Isaac did.  While the man that you saw in the videos presented an outward appearance of happiness — which may indeed have been genuine — I suspect that Isaac was hiding great pain that not even close friends, co-workers, or counselors could see.  He hid it so well.  Isaac was incredibly gifted, and I am so sad that those gifts have now been lost — partly because he would have been uniquely qualified to share with others about how to confront the demons that haunt you and pass to the other side with God’s help.

Day 265 (Sept. 22): Dedication of Jerusalem’s wall, offerings for temple, Nehemiah leaves and evil waltzes in, Nehemiah returns and restores Jerusalem, unworthy sacrifices, warning to the priests

100 Days to go!  And, just 2 days until we hit the NT!

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.

Nehemiah 12:27-13:6

Nehemiah 5:14-19

Nehemiah 13:7-31

Malachi 1-2:9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Nehemiah 12:27-43): The wall is so incredibly important to Jerusalem because it protects them (and notably the temple and treasures from enemies), makes it easier to break away from ruling kingdoms and not pay their “taxes” or whatever they are called and it would better control who comes into their city — keeping those out who may defile them.  Is this right?  Are there any other reasons that a wall is so important?

A. I don’t get the impression that Judah wanted a wall so they could revolt against the king: that was certainly not Nehemiah’s plan, but other than that you have it right.  In the ancient world, a city wasn’t really considered a city without a wall: the “regulation” that came with the wall (what goes in, what goes out) was central to this idea of a city.

Q. (13:15-18): Keeping the Sabbath holy and a day of rest is obviously a very important law for God.  If it’s so important, why is it deflated in the NT?

A. Oh, let’s not spoil that when we’re so close.  Patience.

Q. (13:19): I have heard that the Sabbath back then was actually on Saturday.  Is this right?  If so, how has it ended up on Sunday?

A. You are correct, it is Saturday.  Here’s what I responded when asked this very question in our section on the 10 Commandments way back Exodus 20 (Day 38, Feb 7th):

Observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday [Day 37], there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

Q. (13:19-21): Back then, religion, at times, had control of the government.  There is irrefutable evidence that the U.S. forefathers’ heavily put their religion into laws and forming this country.  That has pretty much been completely replaced by a politically-correct, religious-free attitude or equality for all religions.  I wonder if it would ever change back.  Do you know of any research to compare the well-being of society during times when Christianity has controlled a society?

A. First, the separation of Church and State (i.e. religion and government) is a modern, Enlightenment concept that would have baffled people from prior centuries, but it is standard practice now.  I will leave it up to you to decide if we are better off with these two “camps” divided (I personally think the barrier is silly and artificial, but anyway…).  As to your question, I rather doubt there would be any way to empirically test it, simply because there have been so many stripes of Christianity throughout the centuries.  I would point out, however, that I do not think that it is in the best interest of our society to keep pushing for less and less religious influence.  The natural state of man is slavery (i.e. control by someone or something else), but it is only in the Gospel that man can find true freedom.  That is why the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western Society were so crucial to the establishment of the freedoms we enjo — we moved away from our natural state by God’s grace, and the flourishing of the entire Western world was the result.  But what happens when we remove the foundation?  The building collapses, and we return to our natural state: control of the many by the few in power (i.e. slavery).  I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like the direction we’re headed.

Q. (13:25): I am surprised that Nehemiah beat and pulled the hair of offenders.  I wonder what kept them people from fighting back?  Maybe he had other palace officials with him.  Why would people want to submit to someone who is so oppressing?

A. Nehemiah was in charge: that’s why.  If they turned on him, they would be out.

Q. (Malachi 1:2-5): This does not sound like a loving God.  Why would He make an entire nation a forever enemy?  I hope you can explain this because I am bummed about it and confused.

A. I agree it sounds harsh, but like all nations, Edom can take solace in the light of the Gospel: all nations are redeemed by God’s work in Christ, even the enemies of God’s chosen people (whether in ancient times or today).  Praise God for His great mercy!

O. (1:8-9): I love this!  I have been thinking about giving my best lately.  My Kindergartner came home from school all excited about finding things for a charity drive to give to Haiti orphans.  She was looking for toys that she didn’t want.  I explained to her that that was fine.  If they are in good shape and she doesn’t want them, then giving them away is a great idea.  But, I also told her that God expects us to give our best.  I asked her about some pop beads that she enjoys playing with from time to time.  I told her that I could just imagine a group of girls sitting in a circle playing with them.  I think she got the picture.  She put them in her school bag to donate.  Giving to the orphans is giving to God.

Day 257 (Sept. 14): Temple is finished and dedicated to God, Exiles celebrate Passover, King Xerxes big banquet, Queen Vashti prohibited from ever seeing Xerxes again, Xerxes is charmed by Esther and makes her queen, Mordecai tells Xerxes of plot to kill him, Haman’s plot to kill the Jews was debunked

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 6:14-22

Ezra 4:6

Esther 1-4

Questions & Observations

I have heard this story quite a lot, but never in the detail that the Bible is providing.  It’s such a thorough account that I don’t have any deep questions, just technical ones.

 

Q. (Esther 1:1): Xerxes has such a huge territory from India to Ethiopia.  I can’t imagine how they would rule that many people over a long distance.  They must have had quite an organized structure of assistants.

A. These kings set up puppet regimes throughout the empire.  We will see this again in the NT, when the leaders such as Herod ruled Israel, but served the Emperor of Rome.  This is also why the decrees were so important: they were used to proclaim the king’s orders throughout the vast empire.

Q. (1:3-4): How did Xerxes get so much authority so fast?  In his third year as ruler, he threw a banquet for royalty that lasted 180 days.  And just to imagine the accommodations — they didn’t have Holiday Inn back then.  I just wonder if there were inns or if Xerxes housed them all.

A. Xerxes is king of the Persian Empire, which took over the Babylonian Empire from Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants.  So he got his great authority by inheriting it from the king before him, but he also very likely had to demonstrate his authority as some sort of under ruler, usually a general.  Inns and such places would have been commonplace in major cities of this time, as they are today.  Many times people in this area would use caravans to move large amounts of people and goods, and set up camps in the areas outside (or sometimes inside) a city.

Q. (2:12): Twleve months of beauty treatments?  This would never go today, not in my home anyway.  Who has time for that?  In a whole year, they would look older.

A. I honestly have no idea how to respond to this.  I’m just going to move on.

Q. (2:21): I don’t remember this part of the story.  It’s great to know more about Mordecai.  The whole eunuch thing is hard to accept.  The way the Bible refers to them as eunuchs and not just by name makes it sound like they are a separate “breed.”

A. I realize you’ve had some trouble with this concept, but it would have been accepted practice in the day.  It’s quite clear from the story that even the eunuchs in Xerxes’ empire could become powerful men, as we see in the man who controlled the entire harem for the king.

Q. (3:10): Why did Xerxes hand over the signet ring to Haman?  I don’t understand what authority is given to whomever has the ring.

A. The signet ring had a raised design on it, which was the mark of the king.  In an era, as we have discussed, of great distances between king and country and vast empires, the power of the king’s seal must be understood as incredibly important.  Xerxes, by giving Haman the ring, is basically allowing him to write decrees as though he is the king, because he can use the ring to seal royal letters and decrees.  That’s the real power of signet ring: basically being able to sign the king’s “name” onto something.

Day 247 (Sept. 4): Visions of: rooms for preparing sacrifices, rooms for the priests, inner courtyard and Temple, Lord’s glory enters Temple, altar

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 40:38-43:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 40:38-41:26): Why are there so many specific measurements?  This was just a vision.

A. I don’t know, honestly, but I am sure God had His reasons.  It appears that the point of the vision was for Ezekiel to share what he had been given so that the people would become inspired by the plan.  That’s all I’ve got.

Q. (40:47): I thought the altar was in the most holy place for only the priests to see, but here it’s in the courtyard?  And, I am surprised that God is giving Ezekiel this vision because he has said that animal offerings were not what he desired anymore.  Do I have this wrong?  Maybe it’s because they were empty sacrifices, animals being burned without the right spirit of the people toward the burnings.

A. You’re correct about the animal sacrifices: they were repeatedly offered in the wrong spirit.  They were used as a license to do whatever the people wanted, so the sacrifices were ultimately empty.  As to the altar, there was always an altar in the courtyard for ceremonial use.  It was where the people offered their sacrifices and the priests consumed them.  You’re thinking of the Ark of the Covenant, which was partly made of an altar.  The Ark was kept in the Most Holy Place, but was lost during the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon.  But there was always an altar (made of bronze) for both the Tabernacle and the Temple.

Q. (41:5-6): Ezekiel sees side rooms stacked.  Are they significant?

A. Only in that it allows for more people (i.e. more priests) to be involved in the sacrificial system.

Q. (43:10-12): Why would describing the temple make the people ashamed?

A. They would be most likely mourn for the loss of the great Temple that was destroyed, and would know that it was their sins that caused the loss of the great building which represented their relationship with God.

Q. (43:13-27): You know that I have had problems understanding and accepting the sacrifices.  I do understand that it’s to give your best to God.  I don’t understand how sacrifices cleanse the altar.  And, I don’t know why there are so many rules with sacrifices.  My guess it would be to show obedience?

A. God desires us to understand that there is redemption in the shedding of blood — the cost of sin is paid for in the dying creature (pay close attention to this image as we approach our Holy Week readings in a couple of months).  But outside of that level of understanding, God simply asks for our obedience, as you have said.  He decides what constitutes atonement, since He is the one who alone knows the true cost of sin.

Day 145 (May 25): Solomon builds towns and ships, Sheba impressed with Solomon’s wisdom and success, Solomon lavishes in wealth, Solomon acquires horses and chariots

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 Chronicles 8:1-18

1 Kings 9:15-10:29

2 Chronicles 9:13-28

2 Chronicles 1:14-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 9:27): Hiram certainly did a lot of work for Solomon.  Why is he so loyal to Solomon?

A. Two options: one is that he is really being loyal to God’s chosen leader, so he is really being faithful to God not Solomon.  The other is that he desired the favor of the king who clearly made him wealthy, even if they had some disagreements over HOW good the properties were.  As we have mentioned, it was not a good idea to be on the king’s bad side.

Q. (1 Kings 10:1-13, 2 Chronicles 9:1-12): After reading this once, I thought this is a great story, but nothing I don’t already know.  But, on a second read, I thought about the lavish gifts exchanged between Solomon, Sheba and Hiram.  Rob, you were right when you said that Solomon was a diplomat.  But, with his wisdom, I would think that it would not be just for his gain, but for mutual gain of the one’s he’s befriending and also, just because he’s a god-loving person and wants to give them the mutual respect that friends give one another.

A. Yes indeed.  And Solomon’s gain is the gain of his nation.  What an image of saying that Solomon’s influence made gold and silver as worthless as stone!

Q. (1 Kings 10:19): Why lions?  Because they are king of the land?  With all of this adornment on his throne, I hope he doesn’t forget that there is a much bigger king above him.

A. Alas, he will in a way.  The lion, is, naturally king of the land.  In those days lions could still be found in the Middle East, so seeing one wasn’t out of the question.  The lion is also the symbol of Judah’s house (Judah was the lion’s cub of Jacob back in Genesis 49).

Q. (1 Kings 10:22): Apes and peacocks?  My footnote says baboons and peacocks.  Why would Solomon want them?

A. We’re not exactly sure what the Hebrew means here, either monkeys or peacocks, because it’s the only place in the Bible where it is used.  I presume they were used for pets or perhaps Solomon had a zoo or something like it to entertain guests.  People still keep all of those things as pets today — sadly for the apes and monkeys — and VERY sadly for the people who live near a person with a peacock.  I’ve been near one and they are incredibly noisy and annoying!

Q. (1 Kings 10:23): Did Israel have a commodity to trade or are they just making their fortune from all of these gifts.  The nation is recognized because it’s where the Lord resides in the temple and for Solomon’s wisdom?

A. It is, but clearly there were things that the people were trading as well, probably woodcraft, metal workings/jewelry, foodstuffs (remember the fertile soil in the land), and aquaculture (since part of the land is by the sea).  But what is making all of these things desirable is Solomon himself.

Q. (2 Chronicles 1:14-17): Why is Solomon building such a big army right now?  Is it the size of the force helps intimidate the enemy?

A. Most likely.  Solomon’s about to have some enemies.  It’s down hill from here.

Day 5 (Jan. 5): God and Abraham’s covenant, sacrifices, Hagar’s relationship with God, circumcision

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 15-17

Questions & Observations

O. (15:5): I would love to be a fly on the wall at this conversation.  I can’t imagine the Lord telling me that I am the root of all of these descendants.  How incredible that must have felt to be handed that kind of “trophy.”  If we all trust in God, we can feel that way too.

Q. (15:9): You talked about sacrifices in Day 4’s readings, but I still don’t get it.  Killing animals seems so violent.  I just don’t understand why such violence would be pleasing.  Maybe it’s something for me not to understand?  Also, I see the three’s in this passage — a goat, a ram and a heifer, all 3 years old.

A. I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to help you address the violent aspects of the usage of animal sacrifices; this was simply the world that they lived in, and, frankly, our entire world lived in until a couple of generations ago.  Today, we are mostly spared from the sight of animal slaughter, but it is a reality in our continued survival, vegetarian and vegan company excluded.  Let’s stick to this passage for the moment, and I will address the reasons for the sacrifice system when that comes up in Leviticus.  There are particular circumstances going on in Gen 15 that I want to make sure we understand.

This ceremony that takes place between Abram and God in this passage is unique as it comes to sacrifices.  The animals are not sacrificed to cover sin, but rather to confirm a covenant.  As I understand it, in the ancient Middle East, a king would hold a covenant ceremony with a servant or vassal who agreed to serve the king (God of course is the King, and Abram the vassal).  The king and servant would conduct a ceremony in which animals were sawed in half (violent, I know, but it was the ritual) and the participating parties would walk between the two halves (as God does in verse 17 with the movement of the torch) to symbolize the establishment of the covenant relationship.  The sawed animals represented the punishment is either party broke the covenant, though not in a literal way.  The parties basically said, “may I be sawed in half like these animals if I violate this sacred relationship.”

God is using this ceremony to formalize the relationship between Himself and Abram in a way that Abram (and the subsequent readers) would clearly understand.  Though it seems foreign and violent to us, it would have been an especially significant experience to Abram and the ancient Jews who read these words.

I will try to keep addressing the sacrifice system as it comes up, but frankly, the Bible does not shy away from the violence (of many sorts) that takes place on its pages.

O. (15:13-16): The Lord tells of the Israelites saga.  There’s so much back-and-forth references in the Bible that it’s foolproof.  I am surprised that people still try to dispute it!

Q. (16:12): If the Lord or anyone told me that I was going to have a child wilder than a donkey, I would be a little upset.  And, God tells Hagar to go back to live with Sarai who was treating her poorly.  Hagar does not seem to be troubled with any of this.  God said that he had heard her cries, so maybe she was a believer and trusted God?

A. While it seems harsh (a common theme so far I guess), the story of Hagar is actually one of my favorites from the OT.  God made His promises to Abraham and Sarah, and a slave like Hagar could be excused for thinking that her actions (and her child) did not matter to God.  But she is wrong!  God sees her, as she points out, and cares greatly for her needs, as well as the needs of her son.  We will see more of this story in a few chapters, because it happens again.

Q. (17:12-14): Circumcision is something I totally don’t understand.  It is such a violent act for a newborn boy.  And, if it’s the mark of the everlasting covenant, no one can visibly see it unless they are naked.  So, what is the purpose?  Is this still one of God’s requirements today?

A. Regarding the current requirement of circumcision: yes, pious Jews will tell you that circumcising a male child on the eighth day is one of their most sacred duties as a new parent: the circumcision is the ritual for a child becoming “part of the family”.  And just FYI, it is part of pious Muslim ritual as well, and called “Khitan”.  Some Christians choose to participate, but there is disagreement about the requirement.  Christians who argue that we are no longer under the Law because of Jesus may still choose to do so in order to honor God.

Circumcision was (and frankly still is) a unique way of marking a person as a follower of God — and it would have been completely unique in the ancient world.  This gets at a larger theme of the first five books of the OT: that God is requiring that His chosen people act in various ways to show that they are set apart from the world (and other tribes) around them.  I won’t try to defend the violence of the act (like a broken record, I guess that would be the title for our Day 5 discussion), but there are Jews, Muslims, and Christians who to this day see circumcision as bringing their children into covenant relationship with God — something that can literally have eternal consequences.