Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

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 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: 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. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

Day 95 (April 5): Samson carries off Gaza’s gates, Samson and deceptive Delilah, Samson pleads to God for one last big hoorah, Micah and his twisted religion, Dan attacks Micah’s land and worships his idol

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.

Judges 16-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 16:1): Samson seems to have a thing for Philistine women.  The Philistines were ruling, so maybe they wore beautiful clothes and nice perfume?  They may have been more attractive than Israelite women?  But, this was part of God’s plan for Samson?

A. I do not think that Samson’s lusting after Philistine women (for whatever reason) is something that God desired, but He did use it to bring down the rulers of the Philistines.

Q. (16:4-19): So, up until 16:21, Samson thought that Delilah was just playing a lover’s game?  Surely, he didn’t realize that she was trying to trap him or he wouldn’t have played along.  Samson really didn’t take heed to his parents warning about getting involved with a Philistine woman when he was courting his first wife.  But, like it says, in 13:5, Samson will begin to deliver Israelites from Philistine rule.  So, how do we know when to break societal rules — like not marrying the enemy — and know that it is God’s plan?   Maybe they didn’t know it then and didn’t need to know it, but it’s important for readers now?

A. I think the implication of the story is that Samson got by for a long time on his immense strength, but he abused the privilege and violated his Nazirite vows.  If you note the sequence of the story, he has touched the lion corpse, consumed alcohol at his wedding, and now in this story has his hair cut, which wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t reveal it — making it ultimately his fault.  These were the exact things that the Nazirite vows said he couldn’t do (Numbers 6:1-8).  Samson was clearly aware of what he was doing; he refers to himself as a Nazirite in 16:17, so he is taking for granted that the blessing of his strength will always be there.  But, oops, he pays dearly for his pride and is forced into slave labor for the amusement of the Philistines.  That doesn’t exactly ring true for me as a message of “sometimes its ok to violate what God has made perfectly clear.”  It seems more like, “you reap what you sow,” which comes for scripture as well (Galatians 6:7).

I knew a minister in college that memorably told me that you never grow closer to God by sinning, and I think that it is good advice.  This is not to say, as we see in this story, that God cannot redeem a man even as prideful as Samson, but who knows how God might have better used Samson if he had been more faithful and less self-serving.

O. (16:22): So we can see here that God is not done with Samson yet.  His hair is growing back.

Q. (16:30): Why did Samson want to die with the Philistines?  He did cross the Philistine/Israel line a lot.  Did he feel like he just needed to go down with them?  I wish we could known more about Samson.  We don’t know much about his heart.  We just know that he liked Philistine women and that got him into trouble.  But in the end, God was victorious via Samson.  Something great can come from suffering.  This copies Christ’s death to some degree.

A. Samson’s death was redemptive to a degree.  It certainly points to the idea that Samson turned to God when he had LITERALLY nothing left, but he did turn to Him.  I don’t really know why Samson wanted to die with the Philistines.  He certainly hated them, and I don’t think he, in any way, thought of himself as “like them,” he just was attracted to their women for some reason.  I think it ultimately was his understanding that he was never going to get such an opportunity again to take out so many important Philistines at once, so he acted on it even though he understood it would cost him his life.

Q. (Judges 17-18): Is this a “stay-tuned” passage?  Micah and his mother sound like they have heard parts of how to properly worship God, but they have obviously missed the bulk of God’s guidance.  Micah steals, his mother says it’s OK sense he admitted it, and from that point on, the story is lacking God.  I need some closure here.

A. Nope.  No “stay tuned”, no other resolution, just some powerful irony, and a whole lot of not God.  This passage — and the one for our reading tomorrow — is a epilogue on the story of Judges that is basically a late way of saying, “how did the Israelites reject God in the Promised Land?”  This story is a powerful indictment of the way that some of the people strayed, and traded in God for false idols.

But for the sake of some closure, let’s do a little summary shall we?  This silver idol that Micah sets up has its origins in his STEALING FROM HIS MOTHER.  From here, rather than using this ill-gotten gain to provide for the poor or donate it to God, he MAKES a god of his own, and SETS UP A HOUSE OF WORSHIP for his idol.  Then, he “ordains” his own son to be the priest of this idol.  If you’re following, what Micah has done is setup a rival religion against God, right in the Promised Land.  Then, he gets a corrupt Levite to run his little house or worship, and he thinks he is all set — that God will actually bless him for what he has done (17:12).

But then, oh irony.  He has his idols, wealth, and his Levite stolen from him by a corrupt group from the tribe of Dan.  Don’t miss this: Micah attempts to chase down and rescue his idols- these same “gods” that he likely turned to for protection.  So not only do we have the almost karmic punishment of Micah having stolen from him what he stole from his mother, but now his own gods need “rescuing,” and in the end, he has nothing.  On top of all of this, the religion and priest that he set up are now leading an entire tribe (Dan) away from God.  Frankly, I think that this is exactly what the storyteller intended for us to understand about Micah and this corrupt tribe.  The people were lawless: rejecting God and setting up gods for themselves, and living not by the Law of Moses, but rather by “might makes right.”  And that, I think, is all the closure this story needs.

Day 94 (April 4): Jepthah’s vow, Ephraim fights with Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon become judges, Samson is born, Samson’s riddle, Samson’s fury at Philistines

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.

Judges 11:29

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 11:29): I’m trying to figure out where Jephthah came from — the son of Gilead — but now that I’m looking at it I don’t know who Gilead is.  The new characters are coming and going so fast that it’s hard to remember the Gilead from Gideon and Jotham from Jephthah.  I’m just wondering where Gilead came from.  It seems that the lines between the different tribes are not as noteworthy now?

A. Gilead refers to a mountainous region in the east side of the Jordan where the three tribes settled.  It is not entirely clear whose territory it was in, so it was probably near a border area between Gad and Manasseh.  I suppose once the lines have been drawn as it were, then the territorial themselves would matter less.  The narrator is attempting to have his readers understand where this is all taking place.

Q. (Judges 11:30-31, 11:34-35): Times were so different then than now.  I don’t know if anyone would say, “If you give me victory, I will give you whatever — or whomever — comes out of my house first when I come home from a battle.”  We don’t need to do things like this since Jesus was crucified.  But, it’s hard to even read this.  And, the daughter is OK with it.  Was this a little punishment for Jephthah?  Maybe he was egotistical when he assumed he would come home victorious?  The picture I have in my head of this scripture is with Jephthah coming home taking in all the glory for himself and not giving it to God.

A. What I would take away from this story is the idea that God will not be used.  Even if Jephthah was a righteous man in his walk with God, this vow is very rash and costs him dearly.  One thing to note: it appears part of what he was trying to do was establish a name for himself in order to gain wealth and power, but in making this vow, the wealth and power he established died with him — the vow cost him his only heir.  I suspect this is what Jephthah realized that caused him to tear his clothes (11:35) in anguish.

Q. Maybe the previous question was foreshadowing this next passage: family (Israelites) killing one another.  The Israelites used to be united, but now it seems like they are becoming jealous, warring neighbors.

A. The book covers a significant period of time, and I suspect that this is just part of the nature of people: put them in close proximity long enough, and tensions will rise.  Someone will take offense to something foolish, as in this story, and blood will be shed to resolve it.  While they are defined by their relationship with their God, the people are still plainly very human.

Q. (11:7): One more question about Jephthah: He was the son of Gilead and a prostitute.  When Joshua and the Israelites defeated Jericho, with God’s leadership, a prostitute was saved.  Here we are seeing God welcoming those who have made poor choices, showing them there is salvation through Him.  I almost feel like this is a story more for readers now than then, because then, the people probably did not realize God’s grace toward those kind of sinners.  If you have been reading along, you would remember that when the Israelites were camping in the desert/wilderness for 40 years, anyone with an ailment or who had touched someone or something dead, would be deemed ceremonially unclean and most of the time have to live outside the camp until they were healed.  This seemed to me to be harsh treatment, but as Rob said, it was to keep the camp from being riddled with disease.  That made sense.  And now, that we have seen God choose those who would normally not be chosen to do heroic deeds, we see that God cares for all of his people.  I know we will see much more of this the closer we get to the NT and lots of it in the NT.  Right?

A. I think that’s a very keen observation.  Judges is full of all sorts of the “not chosen,” and this trend will continue — through King David, the prophets, and into the NT.

Q. (Judges 12:8-15): Any idea how these judges were chosen?

A. God is choosing them, that’s all we get.

Q. (13:5): These passages are so rich with messages, foreshadowing.  It’s like Christmas in the Bible.  1) Here God is giving someone a sign — long hair — of belonging to God.  2) We talked about Nazirites before.  Read Day 60, the first question.  3) The repetition.  I have always noted the repetition of the same story, like Moses retelling again and again, and then Joshua backing him up, about God’s deliverance of the Israelites.  But, I have not noted the foreshadowing of several stories, which does the same thing as repetition.  It pounds in God’s message to the reader.  Here we see, once again, God giving chosen children to those who have been barren — Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15), Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25), Jacob’s wife Rachel (Genesis 30), and now Manoah and his wife, and the coming of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1).

A. Not having children was a terrible social stigma in this society, even in NT times, so God delivering these families — the women in particular, who bore the brunt of the shame — is one of His greatest mercies.  We will see more examples of this, including Hannah and her son Samuel, who will lead the nation for many years and crown its first kings (1 Samuel- coming soon!)

Q. (13:11): Notice the angel of the Lord said “I am.”  For me, this is like code.  “I am” means God or Jesus or the Spirit.  Rob, we always talk about the trinity.  Is the angel of the Lord God himself?  Should there be four: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and his angels.

A. No!  While the OT in particular uses names of God to refer to angelic beings, these are messengers who should never be thought of as equal to God.  Remember that in this society and time, a messenger or emissary who came on behalf of a ruler or king was thought of as BEING the king or speaking as though they were king.  This is the image to bear in mind.  Angels are amazing beings — and this passage paints some really cool images — but we are off base at anytime we want to make angels God.  God is God alone, even revealed in His three person — a NT characteristic.

Q. (13:16): I just assumed that Manoah knew whom he was talking to, but it says he doesn’t.  So, are we to read this that Manoah was not a follower of God?

A. Not necessarily.  He may have assumed that this being was actually a human prophet of God, rather than an angelic being.  It is hard to tell exactly who Manoah thought this person was.

Q. (14:1): I just wondered if we have ever noted where the Philistines originated.  Rob, I thought maybe they came from Esau, since you said, way back in Genesis, that his descendants, the Edomites, would become enemies of the Israelites.

A. Nope.  The Edomites are not the Philistines.  The Edomites lived on the southeastern side of Israel (south of the Dead Sea), while the Philistines were probably descended from a seafaring people, and lived southwest of Israel near the Mediterranean.

Q. (14:12-16): Why were riddles so tormenting?  Can you explain it all?  Why would Samson tease them with a riddle?  Then, Samson was mad at his wife for giving up the answer to the young men who were to be Samson’s companions, a gift from his soon-to-be in-laws?  Why would the Spirit of the Lord cause Samson to kill 30 men?  I guess Samson was embarrassed that his wife gave the answer to the riddle away?

A. Samson was surely angry about losing the bet (that line about plowing with his heifer is a classic!), and it appears God used his anger to extract vengeance against the Philistines.  That is the implication of 14:4 — God used this marriage arrangement to confront the Philistines and conquer them.

Q. (15:18): This story confuses me because it seems like God picked a couple who was not necessarily a follower of Him and then gave them a son.  And, until this verse where he cries out for thirst, it doesn’t really say that Samson was doing Godly things.  It says the Spirit would fill him and he would go lashing out.  The puzzle I am putting together in my head is exactly what the angel told Manoah, that Samson would (13:5) “begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”  13:24 does say that God blessed Samson.  The blessings are what?  His strength?  Samson faces so much ridicule — embarrassment, his wife is killed, later he is blinded.

A. Samson’s blessing is surely his strength: They don’t call him the Biblical Hercules for nothing.  But Samson is also quite foolish, and he makes very ungodly decisions, ESPECIALLY as it comes to women.  Ironically, as you mention, his punishment for lusting after foreign women, a sin of the eyes, is being blinded by his enemies.  But even here, God will use Samson’s humiliation to bring victory.

That was a heavy reading today.  Please join us to see what lessons we can learn tomorrow.