Day 314 (Nov. 10): Believers spread after Stephen’s persecution, Philip preaches in Samaria, Philp and the eunuch, Saul’s converts to Christianity

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.

Acts 8b-9:43

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 9:10-18): God is so smart to use Saul, the very many persecuting Christians, to spread His message.  Just when I think I may understand the ins and outs of following and understanding God, I lose it.  He is so many steps in front of me that it’s crazy to try to figure out my future.  Yet, I struggle with it daily.  I thought I was in control of my life, pretty much, until I had kids.  I graduated from college, moved to Hawaii, worked super hard and found a great job, got married, had children, stopped working, moved around with military hubby, have two great kids, a house in a great neighborhood, but we are struggling financially.  I used to be able to control my own state of being by working hard.  I work hard and make good money.  Now, my skills are outdated and my attractiveness to employers is nil, as far as I know.  My point is that it’s hard to leave all of what you know behind, the control, and give it to God.  But, like we see with Ananias and Saul, you can never predict how God will orchestrate your situation to help you and others.  It’s so hard to let control go!

Q. (9:36-41): Did Jesus pretty much give the disciples all of the miraculous abilities that He had.  They must have proclaimed Jesus extensively for the people to look past the disciples’ miracles and give that credit to Jesus.  I wonder if the disciples’ ever struggled with any of them thinking that they were powerful themselves and not so much from Jesus — they were taking the glory instead of giving it to God?

A. The text implies that their power is coming by the leading of the Holy Spirit, but since He is part of the Godhead, it is the same “powers” that Jesus had during His time on earth.  One of the most important things to understand about Acts — and the writer Luke keeps reminding us — is that the Gospel is being proclaimed everywhere the Apostles and followers went.  This story contains numerous powerful stories of God using terrible circumstances to turn people to Him.  God used the death of Stephen and the persecution of the Church to force God’s people to move in all new directions, and as the text tells us, they proclaimed their message everywhere they went.  One in particular is the encounter between Philip and the eunuch.  A cool bit of history with one of the stories: the largest church in Ethiopia, called the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Orthodox_Tewahedo_Church), one of the oldest in the ENTIRE WORLD, traces its origins all the way back to this encounter between Philip and this ambassador, probably a Jewish convert.  Now imagine how many people have heard the Gospel proclaimed throughout the ages because of Philip’s faithfulness to the Spirit during that day.  That, I think, gives you a glimpse into the long game that God is playing, and we rarely receive more than a glimpse into how that plan is moving along.  Those glimpses are simply amazing to me!

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 231 (Aug. 19): Ezekiel gives God’s message to those seeking advice but have “idols in their hearts,” God to punish false prophets, even righteous characters of old couldn’t save Israelites from their punishment, people of Jerusalem are but useless grapevines, God shows that Israelites are more sinful than prostitutes, Israelites allies that they have sinned with will witness Israelites’ punishment, God says sinners of Judah will be scorned by whole world

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 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 14:14): I love when the Bible repeats past stories or characters.  It just ties it all together!  I especially appreciate Job.  He kind of came out of nowhere, but was steadfast in God and is remembered.

Q. (14:12-23): I notice the four symbolism here too — war, famine, wild animals and disease.  Those sound like all the categories that I may fear.  Does this correlate at all with the four heads of the cherubim?  One things for sure.  I don’t want to be around evil like that.  I can’t stomach it.  The other night, hubby and I were watching the Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  I couldn’t handle Jim Carrey burning the words “Happy Birthday” on his arm with candles or drilling a hole in his head.  I literally feel like I’m going to get sick.  Hopefully, I would have escaped Jerusalem a long time before all of this craziness started.  It sounds like a horror movie.

A. There was great risk outside the cities, where there pretty much was no law, so there is no guarantee that leaving the city would have improved your fortunes any.  Part of the process of sieging the city would have been to surround and patrol the city itself, to look for those who were trying to escape, so trying to “get out” would have been a great risk in and of itself.

O. (16:1-34): This is an amazing comparison — Israelites and prostitutes.  I think the point we can apply to our lives is that God gives us blessings — sustenance, shelter, family, talents, God’s Word — and we need to make sure we glorify Him with them and know that they are from Him and for Him, not for our own pride and glory.

Q. (16:53-58): Shame is almost worse than the punishment itself.

A. Shame, and public shaming in particular, was a central concept in that society, and it still is to this day in the Middle East (including Jewish culture).  To shame someone in public was to disavow them, to show that you were washing your hands of this person, and basically turning them over to the mob, as this scene illustrates.  It was a powerful method of social control.  God is using this image of shaming to demonstrate to His people what their actions are doing, and how He will respond.

Day 179 (June 28): Samaria’s forecast of doom, Samaria falls to Assyria, Israel has foreign settlers, God forewarns Judah

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

Isaiah 28

2 Kings 17:5

2 Kings 17:6-23

2 Kings 17:24-41

Isaiah 1:1-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 28:16): What foundation stone is Isaiah talking about?

A. Isaiah is referring to Himself here.  He uses the same reference in Isaiah 8, noting that He is either the Cornerstone of our lives, or the Rock over which we fall.  I suspect what he is talking about is the contrasting vision of the Temple of the true God (and built of stone) with the false gods that the people had been worshipping in Samaria.  Against this standard or plumb line (v. 17), the Israelites do not measure up to God’s standard of justice.

Q. (Isaiah 28:22): This speech makes me think of what I would call a crazy person on a street corner.  Any idea if prophets were thought of as crazy or did everyone know they were holy?

A. Oh I am sure people thought they were crazy, especially when the spoke truth to power as we say.  But they were called to declare God’s word to an unfaithful people, and they did so, even in ways that sound crazy to us.  Some are even more out there than Isaiah.  Wait until you meet Ezekiel!

Q. (2 Kings 18:10-12): Is this God’s prophecy of the fall of Israel starting?

A. No, it is a summary of what happened.  The deed is done, and in our reckoning, Israel has been destroyed.

Q. (2 Kings 17:17): I caution asking this, but … God sacrificed His son so how is this different?

A. I see no harm in the question, but there were very different things at work.  The people, including some of the kings, who sacrificed children to Molech, who required a live offering, the child, to be fully consumed by fire, were doing so for the express purpose of manipulating this god to favor their cause.  It’s the same thing we saw in 2 Kings 3:27, when the king of Moab sacrificed his son in order to stop Israel’s troops from conquering him.  Children, as we have seen and discussed, are a blessing of God, and therefore are not to be sacrificed in order for personal gain.  We are disgusted by such a practice today, but in this era children were generally seen as having no value at all, so sacrificing them made them “useful” to the parent, in a way that was surely revolting to God.

But what God did in the sacrifice of Christ was something very different.  God did not offer up Christ for the purpose of personal gain — God needs nothing — but rather so that salvation might be opened up to the entire world.  The sacrifices made to Molech were ultimately selfish and about power and control via manipulation.  The sacrifice of God’s son was the ultimate reversal of this exploitation: in this moment of sacrifice  —and don’t forget, Jesus went willingly to His death — Jesus made it possible for all of us to be children of God.  So in my mind, these two examples of child sacrifice couldn’t be more different!

Day 174 (June 23): Jotham rules in Judah, sorrow for Samaria and Jerusalem, Ahaz rules in Judah, Isaiah delivers message to Ahaz, sign of virgin birth

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 Kings 15:32-38

2 Chronicles 27:1-9

Micah 1

2 Kings 16:1-9

Isaiah 7:1-25

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Chronicles 27): Did the Amonites get anything back from paying this tribute?

A. Technically, as a “vassal” state, the Amonites got the protection of Judah’s troops if needed.  Other than that, tribute is a one way street: the mightier one gets the gold.

Q. (Micah 1:1): Do we know anything about Micah?  Just another prophet?

A. We do not know much outside of what he tells us with in the text.  And there is a reference to him in Jeremiah 26:18.  He was most likely from the tribe of Judah, and lived in the Southern part of the kingdom.  He was a contemporary of both Isaiah and Hosea, which I presume we will continue reading in parallel.

Q. (1:5): But Jotham was following God, so I would assume that the people of Judah were too.  Or, do we not know if Jotham was ruling when Micah wrote this?

A. We don’t exactly know, but the story tells us our answer anyway.  The problem was not whether the king was following God (even if he represented the people), but that the people were still worshipping idols, in both capitals, Jerusalem and Samaria.  None of the kings mentioned in Micah did enough to combat this heresy.

Q. (1:6-7): We keep hearing of this looming destruction.  Is this a ploy to warn the nation of Judah and hopefully they will turn toward God to avoid the destruction?  Just a small side question: Do we call the Israelites in Judah “Judeans?”

A. Yes, Judeans is correct.  It’s not a ploy, and Isaiah in particular will reach a point, after Israel is destroyed, of basically telling Judah, “be careful, or you’re next!”

O. (2 Chronicles 28:12): I like seeing Israel react to this warning.  This means they acknowledge His power.

Q. (Isaiah 7:13-16): Isaiah is speaking of Jesus here, right?  What is the purpose of Isaiah revealing the virgin birth to King Ahaz?  The two kingdoms that v. 16 is talking about is Aram and Israel?

A. The verses here establish a “type” or format for this prophecy.  In the contemporary sense of these words, Isaiah is telling the king that God is faithful and will be “with them.”  So in that sense, it does refer to Jesus, but not exclusively.  The NT writers understood that Jesus was “God with us” in the fullest sense, not just as an ally or close at hand, but God made flesh, so they connect this prophecy from ancient times to our understanding of the way that God chose to go about being “with us” in multiple senses of the word.

Q. (Isaiah 7:17-20): So, in 2 Kings 16:5, Ahaz calls on Assyria to fight Aram and Israel, but here Assyria is wiping out Jerusalem?

A. Assyria will not destroy Jerusalem, for reasons that will be explained later, but yes, the king of Judah is encouraging Assyria to conquer Israel.

Day 168 (June 17): Judgment for Judah during Jehoram’s reign, Ahaziah takes over Judah, Jehu anointed king of Israel, Jehu kills Joram and Ahaziah, Jezebel dies!, Jehu kills Ahab’s family, Jehu kills priests of Baal

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 21:8-20

2 Kings 8:23-10:17

2 Chronicles 22:1-7

2 Kings 10:18-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Chronicles 21:8): The Edomites were not a part of Israel or Judah, right?  Were they a vassal state also, like Moab?  They wanted freedom from paying tributes to Judah?

A. Yes.  Israel/Judah became powerful during David and Solomon’s reigns, and took on several vassal states.  But as the power decreased down the line, these servant peoples began to revolt against their ruling nation.

Q. (21:16): It seems ironic that God is waging a war against His Own people.  But, if we want to think deeper, He is actually trying to rid them of evil and reestablish himself.  He needs to show them who is king and who will provide for them.  Are the wicked kings too proud to admit someone is more powerful than them?  They shouldn’t, they are worshipping other idols.  I don’t understand if they are going to worship something, which they do, why deny God?  They know of His power, yet they belittle it.

A. In Israel, this whole mess began, as the end of the reading told us, with Jeroboam building the golden calves in order to prevent the people from worshipping God Himself.  Every king since then has followed suit, either by doing evil, or like Jehu, not correcting the original error of having set up idols.  Essentially, this is really an issue of control and power.  These kings are capable of controlling these other “gods” and using their “power” for their own purposes, but God will not be so easily manipulated.  The unwillingness to submit to the true God’s demands is at the heart of the corruption you have been seeing.

Q. (2 Kings 9:3): Why should this prophet have to run after anointing Jehu as king of Israel?  This scene is humorous.

A. He was telling the commander of a king’s army to commit treason against that king, and could not know for sure how he would react.  If the commander refused the order, he likely would have killed the prophet.

O. (9:13): We don’t see any deliberation here from Jehu about being anointed.  He took the task by the horns and ran with it.

Q. (9:19): Jehu is saying, “Follow me and you’ll see peace?”

A. He is stalling for time and not lying about his intent by saying he comes in peace when he really does not.

O. (9:30-37): The witch is dead!  And the people said, “AMEN!”

Q. (2 Chronicles 22:9): Jehu was Ahaziah’s uncle?

A. Nope.  Jehu was unrelated to Ahaziah.

O. (2 Kings 10:27): A toilet?  Now that’s some humor!

Q. (10:31): What, after all of that work for God he is going to follow Jeroboam?  I thought Jehu was going to be a really good king.

A. Relative to the other kings of Israel at the time, he was.  That’s why his family got to rule for the next three generations.

Day 167 (June 16): The healing of Naaman, Gehazi’s greed, a floating ax, Elisha traps Arameans, Ben-Hadad captures Samaria, lepers visit enemy camp, Israel plunders camp, Shunem woman is proof, Hazael murders Ben-Hadad

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 Kings 5-8:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 5:1): I am confused.  Aram was an enemy of Israel, right?  Why would God give the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, victory over Israel.  Is it because Naaman believed in God?

A. Aram and Israel were at war.  The story didn’t say that Naaman had victory over Israel, only that he was given victory by God.  I don’t think the reason for this had anything to do with Naaman’s belief in the God of his enemy Israel, but rather by God’s mercy.  Remember, God did not ordain this war between Israel and Aram.  The evil kings of both of these nations brought it about.  God is, in this case, not necessarily on one side exclusively.

Q. (5:2): Israel must not have been following God at this time because Israel has been pillaged.  Joram is the king of Israel at this time?

A. Yes, Ahab’s son.

Q. (5:7): Why would Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, think that Israel would help heal the commander of his army, after Aram had invaded Israel?

A. He believed it because Naaman told him so.  The whole reason Naaman even comes to Israel was because of his slave girl informing him about Elisha, who had the power, via God, to heal his leprosy.  I suspect your answer is that if that was good enough for Naaman, it was good enough for Ben-Hadad.

Q. (5:15): Why would Elisha not accept the gifts from Naaman?  Because of God’s grace, he does not require gifts?  But, he does like sacrifices, which include gifts.  I probably have this wrong?

A. God’s curing Naaman’s leprosy was a mercy, and did not require a gift.   I suspect it also had to do with the treasures were from Aram, and were probably acquired via pagan ritual.

Q. (5:18,19): So, since Elisha said, “Go in peace” to Naaman’s request of being pardoned when he, with his master King Ben-Hadad, bows to the god Rimmon?  I wouldn’t think God would appreciate this from someone who was just healed of leprosy.

A. Naaman is obligated to bow to Rimmon out of respect for his king; it was a requirement.  But what the text tells us is that Naaman understands who the true God is.

O. (5:20-27): Goes to show you what lies and greed will get you: not ahead like Gehazi thought, but behind with leprosy.

Q. (6:9): So you said that because the kings were not following God, Elisha and other prophets would step in to set them on the right path or give them a glimpse of what God can do if they remain loyal to him.

A. That is the purpose a prophet serves, yes.  In this case, Elisha is keeping Israel out of trouble with Aram.

Q. (6:21-22): Elisha had mercy on the soldiers who came to seize him.  I don’t know why he didn’t do this with the boys who were mocking him in 2 Kings 2:23-24?

A. Well, I don’t have a great answer to that, but part of the answer is the mocking itself: the soldiers were merely under orders to bring in Elisha, but were not disrespecting him.  By tricking the soldiers into basically coming into the capital, he was essentially making them prisoners of war.  Even in ancient society, there were rules about proper ways to treat POWs, and killing them wasn’t acceptable.

Q. (6:25): I read this verse to my husband.  His question is: Why would anyone want a donkey’s head and, especially, dove’s dung?

A. In the midst of a famine, it was apparently all that was left that was edible.  This rather gross imagery is meant to show the extent of the famine.

Q. (6:31): Why is burlap significant?

A. It was a symbol of mourning.  The king was in a state of mourning, but he was unwilling to go all the way and be exclusively dressed in burlap, which was probably a pride thing.  He wanted to mourn the terrible situation, but was unwilling to give up his majestic robes.

Q. (6:31): Is this a “be careful what you wish for” question?

A. It was pretty unwise, yes.

Q. (7:1): Bad flour is punishment for the king for ordering Elisha’s death?

A. Um, not bad flour, cheap flour.  What Elisha means is that the famine will be over, and crops, including flour, will be readily available.

Q. (7:19-20): They couldn’t eat the cheap flour because: A) they were mourning their kings death and had no appetite, B) the soldiers were away plundering so no matter what the price, there was no one to buy it or eat it, C) the people left behind were distracted and had no interest in going to the market, D) it was trampled just like the king, E) none of the above?

A. NOTA.  There’s no “they”, the prophecy only refers to the king’s servant who scoffs at Elisha’s promise.  The king does not die in this story, only this man, who is trampled at the gate by the people rushing to get food.  So he lived to see the cheap flour, and the end of the famine, but he was not able to enjoy it because he was trampled to death.

Q. (8:7-15): I guess being a prophet isn’t all fun.  It obviously has its hardships and requires a stomach of steel.  Hazael seemed to be blindsided by the news that he would be the leader of such destruction — which he did call “great things.”  Why would God cause such horror?  Will we learn why?

A. Well, you already know part of the reason: Israel and Aram are at war, and Hazael has just made himself king by killing the previous king.  But, yes, I believe the full reason will become clear.