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 108 (April 18): David declines second chance to kill Saul, David takes refuge from Saul with Philistines, Benjamin tribes join David, Saul talks to Samuel .. who is dead, Philistines think again about allowing David to fight, Manasseh men join David

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 Samuel 26

1 Chronicles 12:1-7

1 Samuel 27:8-12

1 Samuel 28-29

1 Chronicles 12:19

Psalm 56

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 26:1-25): Why is Saul after David when they’ve been through this cat-and-mouse chase and after David won, they made peace where Saul acknowledged David’s grace and David agreed to not harm Saul’s family.  Although, I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s reading, when I looked back, a verse stuck out.  1 Samuel 24:22 says that Saul went home, but David stayed in the wilderness.  If the fighting was truly over, why would David stay hidden?

A. Because he still didn’t trust Saul is the only reason I can give you.  It appears his instinct not to trust Saul was proven correct.

Q. (26:16): David keeps referring to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” almost in jest.  So, does everyone know that David is anointed or is it to be revealed to all at a later time?

A. God has made David His king, but he will not become Israel’s king until Saul is dead.  It appears that God’s selection of David was not a secret at this point, so perhaps Samuel talked about it before he died.

Q. (27:8-12): Do I have this right that David and his soldiers and their families were living among the Philistines?  David would go on raids of whom and why?  David was aligning with King Achish, a Philistine.  I don’t get this.

A. He did so to move out of Saul’s territory, since this appears to be the only place where Saul would not pursue him — probably because he did not have the military strength.  That is probably your answer as to why he allied himself with the Philistines: because they were the only nation strong enough to protect David.  It seems to fit under the rule of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Q. (28:8-19): We haven’t seen anyone talk to anyone in heaven besides God.  I always thought that mediums, fortune tellers, witches, whatever they are called were a farce.  Apparently not?  Again, this is the OT.  Are these people just present in the OT times or are they really here now?  This reminds me of my questions when the Egyptian “magicians” replicated the staff-to-snake trick of Aaron and Moses (Exodus 7:8-13).  I have never believed that magic or possessions exist today.  Maybe they do?  But, in the staff-to-snake miracle, could God have made the magicians able to do this trick just so he could finish it off with his snake eating their snakes?  I was shocked to read Samuel talking again!

A. First, let’s clear something up: it does not appear that Samuel is in “heaven” in the sense that we would understand it.  Samuel is in the realm of the dead, Sheol, which is NEITHER heaven nor hell.  Much of the OT refers to it as a place of rest for the dead (akin to the Greek concept of Hades), while awaiting judgment at a future date — we will see this referred to as the Day of the Lord in future volumes, so watch for that term.  This is why Samuel tells Saul that he will be “with me” in 28:19.  Samuel is certainly NOT telling Saul that he is going to heaven when he dies “tomorrow.”  So, to get a clear picture of what is going on, you’ve got to remove the simple notion of heaven and hell: eternal judgment in the Bible is not cut and dry at this point in the story (though it will be later!)

In addition to your questions about Egyptian magic, back on Day 76 (when reading Deuteronomy 18), we discussed the issue of communication with the dead, and I mentioned then this story as a forthcoming example, so here’s your pay off.  The implication of the story, to me, is that in this era — I couldn’t tell you whether or not you can still do so today — it was possible for certain people to communicate with the dead.  They did so using what we would call occult practices today — and they surely still exist. We usually call them Wicca or similar names today.  The issue here is not whether or not one can communicate with the dead.  This story surely tells us that we COULD, if not can, but rather that God strictly forbids such an act.  The reason: consulting the dead, called necromancy, always involves an attempt to learn about or control the future, as Saul is doing here.  When we do that, we are no longer trusting God to provide for our future.  Now in Saul’s case you can understand his desperation: his prophet is dead, the priesthood has allied itself with David, or been killed by Saul himself, and he appears to have no way to communicate with God.  He has painted himself into this corner, but we can certainly sympathize with his plight.  It’s going to get bad for Saul and his family.

Q. (29:6): So, Achish acknowledges the Lord here.  Are the Philistines just fickle and go back and forth between following the true Lord and idols?  Or, was he just simply acknowledging the Lord’s power, even though the Lord is not his God?  Another question this brings up is swearing.  We may have talked about it before, but it’s worth exploring again.  We have read about many of God’s followers — most recently, Jonathan and David and Abigail — swear by God.  One of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:7 says, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”  I certainly don’t think any of the three I mentioned are misusing God’s name.  But, I thought it was a great time to bring the subject up.  I have the feeling that whenever I mention the Lord, I have to make sure he would approve of it.  I don’t say He said something He didn’t, nor do I use his name casually in blame or whatever.  It jabs me when I hear someone say, “God this” or “Jesus that” or “Oh my God,” especially Christians.  As I pull the knife out of me, I would like to call the person on it, but never do.  What do you say about this, Rob?  I found a great paper on this subject.  See if you think it’s worth mentioning. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/06/what-does-it-really-mean-to-take-the-lords-name-in-vein/

A. Okay, you went a bit stream of consciousness on me, but let’s see if we can untangle this.  I think the Philistines recognized David’s God, but they would not have acknowledged Him as the God of the whole world, merely Israel.  In this era, it was common thinking that the gods had what we might call territories: so the Philistine god watched over his kingdom, the God of Israel watched over Israel, etc.  They would have seen the battles between human kings and soldiers as acting out struggles between the various gods.  If your army won, it was because your nation’s god was more powerful than your enemies.  The Israelites speak of a radical departure for this: only their God exists, and He rules the whole world.  This concept would surely have been lost on the Philistine king, and he likely was speaking of the Lord out of his own understanding of gods.

I agree with you that David and the others are not misusing God’s name in the stories you mentioned, and it does come down to casual use of God’s name when His name ALWAYS deserves to be revered.  I read on someone’s blog where the writer warned that real danger of violating this commandment is not lightning, i.e. being struck dead, but lightening.  When we misuse a name — any name — we cause that name to lose significance: we take it lightly.  That might be okay with people, but if we begin to take God lightly — and surely we do that in our society today! — the entire fabric of our relationship with God begins to fall apart.  In the end, that only costs us — God does not need us, but we NEED Him.  Much that takes place in our world today — the glorification of sin, the loss of morality, etc. — can be traced to the fact that, ultimately, we take God lightly.  What better example can there be then in how we show a lack of reverence for the name of God!  It can be tricky to get people to see this point of view, but I think with people that we have relationship with; it would be a worthwhile endeavor.  Respect for God is surely worth our time.

O. (Psalm 56) This Psalm reminds me of when Jesus feels the doom of his enemies creeping up on Him.  David says God is protecting him.  He is his shield.  Yet, in verse 11, he says “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?”  I know the feeling.  I know God is real — I have always felt it, but after seeing how undeniably true the Bible is — I have real proof of God’s existence.  Yet, there is always the doubt that if I ask God for something, I won’t get it … that it’s just an empty wish.  I’m working on it.  David admitting his fear and doubts helps me personalize this story.  Verses 12-13 give David’s reason for his faith.  This feels like when David ever has his fear, he can refer to this verse to bolster his faith.

Day 107 (April 17): Saul continues hunt for David, David praises God’s protection, David spares Sauls, Samuel dies, Nabal’s stubborness causes his ruin, Abigail intercedes and dodges destruction, David marries Abigail

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 Samuel 23:13-29

Psalm 54

1 Samuel 24-25

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 23:16): We can obviously see that Jonathan and David had a super-close relationship and that it’s base was a love of God.  It’s so nice to have close friends encourage one another to stay strong in their faith.  If there is faith, there is love and that love is binding.  Since I have become a stronger Christian, it is definitely easier to talk about God, especially with those who know me.  But, I have to admit, that if someone I don’t know at all or a little talks to me about my faith or encourages me, I can be offended.  I feel like they are saying that my faith isn’t strong, when they don’t even know me.  But, now, maybe that I’m wearing my faith more, they will notice and I won’t get those questions.  So, here’s the question.  We all want to proclaim God and tell others, but when is it the right time?  Do we wait for the Spirit?  There are many times when I want to bring up my love for God/Jesus/Spirit, but I feel that if I do, I would turn that person away from me and thus, lose the opportunity to eventually bring up God.  So, do we wait for the Spirit to show us the right time, or open our mouths as soon as our brain says we want to share or proclaim?

A. 1 Peter 3:15 talks about being “ready” to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ.  That, I think, is a good summary of what is expected of us.  When asked, we must be willing to boldly defend the faith that we have.  But to me, that is as far as the ABSOLUTE requirement goes.  Stay with me: I’m not saying that we are not commanded to share the gospel — we are! — but rather what I’m saying is that beyond our requirement to answer those who would question our faith, we are NOT required to share the gospel 24/7.  We can discern, with the Spirit’s help, when is a good time to share, and when to keep silent.  Ideally for me, I like for the other person to broach the subject — and yes I realize that life is not always ideal — and bring up the conversation.  That, in my mind, goes a long way toward preventing us being a burden on others, especially if they do not react well to our message.  No one wants to be that person who drives people further away from the gospel (even the ones who actually DO drive people away think they are bringing people to Christ).  I wouldn’t make sharing your faith the first part of every conversation with a stranger — you’ll surely turn some people off that way — but I would also say that if you are presented a good opportunity, it is your responsibly to God to be His ambassador (2 Cor 5:20).  Being in relationship with non-Christians will go a long way toward affording you opportunities to share your message, and believe me, if you take the gospel seriously, you will get some funny looks and be asked by others.  Besides all of this, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that our good deeds are to be done for the glory of God, that others will see this and realize the truth about God as well (Matthew 5:16).

So to sum up: get to know people before you share, if you can; wait for them to ask you; be discerning about when is a good time to share; be sure you are doing good works (and you are crediting God for inspiring them), and be willing to answer challenges that are put to you.  I hope that’s helpful.

Q. (24:3): I take it that “relieve himself” means sleep and not needing to urinate?  As I recall, Saul falls asleep, and that’s how David cuts his robe.

A. Nope.  The Hebrew translates as “cover his feet” (which is actually what the say in the King James), but it’s a euphemism for using the bathroom (the same phrase is used in Judges 3:24 if you’re interested, and I know you are…).  I’m going to just stop there.

Q. (24:16-21): Saul does a nice 180° turn of attitude.  Any comments, Rob?

A. Sure.  Saul is given a moment of humanity here, and he becomes aware of how faithful David has been to him, even in the midst of Saul’s attempts to kill him.  It is obviously a very emotional scene.  Pay close attention to that request in verse 21, it will be very important to the subsequent story of David’s rule, and it leads to one of my favorite stories in all of scripture.

Q. (25:1b-22): Isn’t David using God here?  I didn’t read that God commanded him to approach Nabal.  Obviously, David and his men are very hungry.

A. I wouldn’t say David is using God; he is trying to gain provisions for his men, but reacts quite poorly to Nabal’s rebuke.  I actually think that lack of reference to God in this story is quite telling.  Unlike the last chapter, he certainly did not consult with God before moving to slaughter Nabal and his family.  Good thing Abigail smooths things over.

O. (25:23-38): This is a WOW story for me.  There are so many interesting things here.

No. 1 is how God tactfully uses women in a man’s world to do His work.  We see here the differences in men’s and women’s temperament.  When David is rejected, his response is vengeance.  The wife, Abigail, knows that men can be foolish, especially her husband, and make rash decisions without thinking of the consequences (I’m not knocking men, more underscoring women’s intuition).  She thinks of an alternate, peaceful plan to this hostility.  In my experience, a woman’s instinct, sixth sense, empathy — whatever you want to call it — is super strong.  But, in the same frame, women can overthink and never act.  Thus, comes a man.  They make a great pair … if they work together.

No. 2: What a difference one person can make.  Here, Abigail made a huge save.  But, also, the servant who told Abigail of the fiasco was a hero.  If he didn’t have the courage to counter the king, he and all of his friends would be dead.

No. 3.  I love how Nabal’s name means “fool.”  Who would name their kid that?

No. 4. Abigail says that David’s “enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling!”  And, tadah, Nabal was paralyzed like a stone and died.

This is my favorite story thus far.

Q. (25:39-44): Yeah!  We have a love story.  What a great ending.  But, then, David has left behind his first wife, Saul’s daughter Michal, and lost her to someone else.  I guess this is just something that goes with the territory of being on the run.  And, I would guess that it would be awkward to be married to a daughter of someone who wanted to kill you, even if they vowed not to be a threat any longer.  But, why does David marry again?  God has established that a marriage should be between one man and one woman.  And, David is the anointed one.  I do believe that we will learn that David has a weakness for women.  This was the flaw that ruined Samson.  As a woman, I don’t understand this strong desire and wild instinct men have toward women.  I do understand that for those who strive to be righteous, that lusting after women is a huge struggle.  Do you believe that this is a way God tests the strength of a man’s will?

A. David certainly does have a way with the ladies, doesn’t he?  Just kidding.  Okay, so here’s the deal, even though God created man and woman to be in relationship together (one at a time in other words), the reality of this society at this time did not live up to God’s standard, and this includes David.  Marriage, at this point, was not selected out of love, but rather political expediency: Saul gave Michal to David in marriage to unite the families and gain David’s political alliance.  Society, especially royalty, continued to operate in this way until the middle of the last century.  Women were, and frankly, used by men to create political alliances, strengthen old ones, etc.  So we must be very careful about applying 21st Century cultural norms — whatever those are these days — to an ancient passage.  David saw a valuable resource in Abigail, so while he may have been attracted to her, at least part of the reason he married her was to benefit himself.  Abigail didn’t exactly lose out on the bargain either — she was very unlikely to have good protection without her foolish husband, so she definitely moved up in the world as well.

David will take several other wives — we will even see Michal again — so don’t let that be a surprise to you.  I’m not going to excuse their actions, especially since God is clear that this “big love” idea is not His desire.  Regardless of God’s ideal, and even the warnings He issues about having multiple wives (Deuteronomy 17:17 SPECIFICALLY says for kings not to!), David and Solomon will not listen to this order.  And please note that the law is there for a reason: we will see how polygamy will be extremely costly in both the lives and rules of David and Solomon, David’s son and successor.  This sin — that is what it is — will truly haunt both of these men.  In David’s case, the children of these wives, and the wives themselves, will become petty and jealous of each other (I know that comes as a shock to you ladies).  It will lead to terrible consequences: rape and incest, murder, and the rebellion of one of David’s sons.  It sounds like a soap opera to me, something to watch for in 2 Samuel.  In Solomon’s case, his many (many many many…) wives will undercut his walk with God, and bring about not only his downfall, but the downfall of the united nation.  So don’t make the mistake of thinking that God is just going to “allow” these men to do whatever they want when it comes to wives.  There will be a severe penalty for each of them.  Polygamy is not God’s ideal for a reason.  It has dire consequences for both genders, and ultimately leads people away from God, not closer to Him.

Don’t miss BibleBum tomorrow.  The David and Saul story continues.

Day 104 (April 14): David proclaims God’s power and kills Goliath, David fulfills Sauls request and marries Saul’s daughter as prize, Saul becomes jealous of David’s success and tries to kill him, David’s wife protects him against her father, David trusts in God to save him, David escapes to Ramah and joins the prophesying party

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 Samuel 17:32-58

1 Samuel 18:17-19:17

Psalm 59

1 Samuel 19:18-24

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 17:45): I find it so hard to let go of control like David and give it all over to God.  We are surely trying to raise our children like this, but letting God guide me — and most Christians, I would think — was not something I was taught growing up.  I was raised in the church and definitely taught the major Bible stories.  But, I don’t recall talking about asking for God’s guidance in everything I did.  Now, I am doing that more and more, but I feel like I am a long way off from giving up control of my life to God.  Reading the Bible has definitely shown me that I need Him in all realms of life and my life will be more fulfilling if I let Him in.  Rob, any tips on letting God take control of my (and others) life, as David did?

A. Well, I would say you’re off to a good start.  One of the best ways to give control over to God is to KNOW what the Bible teaches about Him and His will.  This can only come by reading the scriptures.  Once you have become more immersed into the will and desires that God has for your life and the lives of those around you — especially your children — you will find it easier to follow these desires, or at least be aware when you are making a mistake.  Giving more of yourself over to God is one of the roles that the Holy Spirit plays in your life, if that makes sense: He is the one who convicts the hearts of believers to do the will of God the Father and follow Him more closely.  Being focused on the words of God in reading and prayer, or even prayerful reading, is a great way to give control over to God.

One other note might be worth mentioning here: many Christians seem willing to put their faith in God and trust Him with their eternal destiny, but somehow think He is wrong when He attempts to instruct us on how to live RIGHT NOW.  I think that’s a pretty foolish notion if you think about it.  Part of our proclamation as Christians is not just that Jesus/God is our savior, but also that He is our LORD.  If we are unwilling to listen to what God desires to teach us as our sovereign Lord, we have little chance of giving God more control over our life.  Let’s touch on this again way down the road, when we look at the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7.

Q. (18:14-16): Saul was selfish and disobeyed one time.  Is there anything he could have done to redeem himself?  From this passage, he may as well hand David the crown.  Also, Saul’s jealousy of David is obvious.  Can we draw a parallel from David and Saul to Jesus and the Pharisees?

A. Well, he keeps making actions that are selfish and prideful, so stopping that would be a good start. (But, he won’t.  In fact he makes it worse, if you can believe it).  David still has a long way to go, however to get the crown, for reasons that we will continue to see.  While the Pharisees were certainly jealous of Jesus, I think the circumstances are quite different in the two scenarios, so I wouldn’t draw too many parallels from the two.

Q. (18:26): I wish I could read a book — fiction or nonfiction — that would tell about the life and times of the Bible years.  There are so many customs I don’t understand, like this foreskin request.  I’m sure there isn’t any literature describing customs, because it would be just like the Bible, translated from ancient scrolls.

A. The foreskin request is for “trophies,” like the thumb/toe effort we read about earlier.  There are two reasons Saul requests it: first, only the Israelites would have been circumcised, so the Philistines would not have been marked in this way, ensuring that David really did kill the number requested or fake it in some way.  The other thing Saul is requesting David to do is to humiliate the surviving Philistines, by making the bodies “join Israel” in death.  Lovely, isn’t it?

Q. (Psalm 59:4): David is asking God to “wake up?”

A. We will see this referred to sometimes in the Psalms.  The writer is ascribing human qualities (in this case the need for sleep) to God as a way of saying, “if You were paying attention to my circumstances, You would be doing something.”  Since God is not responding in the way that the writer requests, he is accusing God of sleeping on the job.  We will see some very heartfelt pleas in the Psalms that, frankly, I love reading.  It tells me about the cries that these people made to God for the injustices they see in the world, and they really bear raw emotion in the writings: joy, pain, anguish, depression, etc.  So it is little surprise that the Psalmist is accusing God of sleeping on the job, he is pouring out his heart, and God is not, in his mind, responding.

Q. (Psalm 59): David’s song tells about evil lurking around the Israelites and the enemy surrounds them. But, when David — or anyone — trusts in the Lord, He will protect them from the evil.  I am eager to read more of Psalms.  This chapter just brings calm to my heart.  Is there anything else to glean from this passage?

A. I think you’ve got it.  Oppression and being surrounded by enemies are common themes of certain Psalms, so you’ll get some more chances to look at the way the writer expresses his apprehension at the circumstances God has placed them in.

O. (19:18-24): God provides the humor.

Day 103 (April 13): Saul destroys Amalekites, Saul falls out of favor with God, Saul asks for forgiveness, Samuel kills King Agag, David anointed new king, David joins Saul’s court, Goliath taunts Israelites, David gives food to brothers in battle, David inquires about reward for defeating Goliath

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 Samuel 15

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 15:2): What does Heaven’s Armies mean?  I know this isn’t important.  The important note here is that God is commanding Saul.  I just always wonder who is all in heaven.  Do we get a glimpse of it later in the Bible?

A. It appears to refer to the angelic warriors that serve God.  We only get glimpses of them, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to wonder.  We are rarely given more than a glimpse at angelic beings.  There’s an important reason why: the Bible desires that God alone should be our focus!

Q. (15:4): Why list Judah separately?

A. Because the city where the armies are mustered is in Judah’s territory.  It is telling us how many “home team” members are serving Saul.

O. (15:7-23): This is such a great lesson for even today.  Go with what you are told, not what your brain tells you would be a better idea.  I see this in my kids.  I tell them to do one thing, but they don’t do it because they are caught up in something else.  Often times, that something else is a little handmade gift for me.  That makes me feel guilty for getting on them, but then, they were making an excuse — albeit a good one — for not doing what they are told.  Also, when you think that the little things don’t matter — sparing some livestock when God told you to destroy everything — they turn into big things.

Q. (15:33): What is this custom of cutting up beings into pieces?  We saw it with the Levite cutting his concubine, Saul cutting up his oxen, and now, Samuel cuts up the king of Agag.

A. It appears to be an act of emphasis, and may have involved a “display” of the parts in some form.  Other than that, I’m not entirely sure.

Q. (15:35): I think we have talked about this before, but why not again?  I have always thought the Lord was sure of everything he did.  But, after reading the Bible a while, it seems that he isn’t always so sure.  Here, he is sorry that he made Saul king.  Moses often talked God out of taking revenge on the Israelites.  But, there are many other things that he has been positive of: Moses, Job, Jacob over Esau, Ephraim over Manasseh, etc.  And, I feel like He already knows the big picture and outcome, so how could he not know the little things like Saul was a bad choice for king.  Looking around, I have no doubt in my mind how amazing our Creator is.  I just think it’s wonderful that we can see some human-like traits in Him.  It makes me feel closer to Him.

A. As a big believer in free will and human choice, my answer to your question is a little complicated, but basically it boils down to this: if we believe that God is ultimately sovereign over all things BUT allows for human choice, then He is certainly capable of being grieved or upset when human beings such as Saul do not follow in the path He desires.  I think this is what the story is attempting to tell us.  Just because God knows the path we will walk in an eternal sense does not mean He regrets any less the poor decisions we make.

If I can be metaphysical for just a moment, let’s examine an idea here.  In our story, we know that 1) God makes Saul king, 2) Saul turns away from God out of fear and a pattern of rash decisions, 3) on this basis, God rejects Saul as king.  But, if God had never made Saul king, He could not have had foreknowledge of what Saul would do.  God’s ability to see our paths is dependent upon the possibilities of our choices, not the other way around (at least in my Biblical worldview).  So, if I am never elected President of the United States (fat chance), God would not have foreknowledge of my administration or mistakes as President, or my re-election strategy, because there would be no administration, and that foreknowledge REQUIRES me to be President in the scenario.  I hope that sort of “big idea” makes sense and can help put passages such as this one and others where God is surprised, disappointed, etc. into proper perspesective.

Q. (16:14-23): So, Saul was no longer king of Israel according to God, but he still was to the people.  Why?  Why wasn’t David automatically king after he was anointed?

A. Well, for one thing, David was a young man when he is chosen, and not yet ready to rule.  For another, well, actually, the next few chapters, I think, will make this pretty clear why not (and I don’t want to spoil it).  But if its not clear in the next couple of chapters, as me again.

O. (16:4-7): I don’t recall ever reading this passage except for the children’s versions.  It’s humorous how the description in the “adult” Bible perfectly matches the pictures of Goliath in children’s Bibles.  The description paints a real clear picture of him except how tall he actually was — 9.75 feet or 6.75 feet.

Q. (17:16): Here we have a “40.”  Is it notifying us of a cleansing period, when you mentioned the meaning of “40” in Day 3’s reading?

A. It can also refer to a time of trial, and this certainly is a trying period for Israel.  Daily, Goliath is taunting the people and testing their faith in God, which is revealed to be quite poor.  But all that’s going to change when a certain shepherd shows up.

Q. (17:26): Why does David refer to God as the “living” God?

A. Living God is one of the most common titles used to refer to God throughout scripture.  It refers to the fact that the God it refers to is not an idol, a dead object made of wood, stone, or precious metal.  The God of the Bible is a living being and all things find their life in Him.

O. (13:31): That last paragraph makes me want to read on!

Thanks for inquiring about God’s message!  We welcome you to join us tomorrow and the next day and the next!

Day 102 (April 12): King Saul’s ancestors and descendants, Israelites and Philistines continue their hatred, Saul disobeyed God’s battle orders, Israelites without swords to fight, Jonathan asks for God’s help in battle and is victorious, Saul’s vow imperils his son,

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 Chronicles 9:35-39

1 Samuel 13:1-5

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Chronicles 9:37): I should have asked this a while ago.  Why is Jerusalem an important place?  What is there and why?

A. There’s a lot of answers to this question, and it is quite clear even from Genesis 14 that Salem/Jerusalem was an important religious place.  But, the answer to your question is likely that Jerusalem is the “high ground” in that area of Canaan.  It would have been a very strategic place to control, and it will, of course, become the capital of the entire nation, and then the nation of Judah.

Q. (1 Samuel 13:14): This is confusing to me.  Saul is saying that Samuel should have made a better choice, but God knew he would not be the one to lead Israel forever.  So, why is Samuel surprised?  God had not informed him that Saul was not the one?  Or, because Saul failed, God sought someone else and found him?  This is also reminiscent of Moses’ and Aaron’s missteps when they got water from a rock.

A. What Samuel is saying is that if Saul had been faithful, his DESCENDANTS would have ruled over the Israel forever.  Saul’s failings caused God to reject his line, but not immediately his personal rule — that comes later.  Note the way that Jonathan, Saul’s line, is actually the faithful one of the family, as this will play an important role in the subsequent story.

Q. (14:1-15): What do you say about Jonathan’s sideline battle?

A. Jonathan, unlike his father, sought the Lord’s guidance before acting.  When God gave him the sign he was looking for, he went for it.  As I mentioned, it will become clear that, for many reasons, Jonathan is a more faithful man of God than Saul is, which will make the subsequent events even more tragic.

Q. (14:15): Is it possible that our natural disasters today could be God’s responses to sin?

A. I personally do not think so (regardless of what Pat Robertson says).  Generally, when God uses a natural disaster as a punishment, the ones who will “reap” the disaster are fully aware of what will happen to them, and what they are being punished for.  I would say we would be hard pressed to prove such awareness today.  To me, natural disaster is proof that we live in a fallen world, and it is a regular opportunity for God to call people back to Himself in the aftermath — rather than punish them for sins.  I hope you see the difference.

Regardless of our position on such disasters, however, what Christians SHOULD be able to agree upon is that we should be willing to sacrifice and show God’s mercy to those who have suffered from these disasters.  We should see things like hurricanes and earthquakes as opportunities to serve and share the gospel, not as examples of God’s wrath.

O. (14:45): I’m glad this story didn’t end on a gruesome note.  I like seeing the Iraelites, as a whole body, support someone.

Q. (1 Samuel 14:49, 1 Chronicles 9:39): We have two different lists of sons of Saul here.  Rob, can you explain that?

A. Saul clearly had four sons, as the Chronicler tells us.  I don’t know why the last son is “left off” the chart, but it may have had to do with the children (male and female) who served in Saul’s court or council of advisors.  Since this fourth son was not part of that council (he may have come from a different mother than the other children), he is not a part of Samuel’s list.  We will see this other son in 2 Samuel, but I don’t want to spoil why.

Day 101 (April 11): Saul searches for the one God annoints, Samuel anoints Saul, Holy Spirit came upon Saul, Saul acclaimed king, Saul defeats Ammonites, out of anger Saul cuts up oxen and sends to tribes, Samuel retells his service

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 Samuel 9-12:25

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 9:21): Again, we have God choosing someone least expected, although he is the tallest in the land, so maybe that helps him get noticed?

A. It appears that the people wanted Saul as king because he was such a man of stature, but we can’t say exactly why God made Saul His king.  Saul passed the “eye test” in a way that David never will (as we will see shortly), but Saul (as we see in 10:22) is actually a fearful man who is not ready to rule the people, even though he will have his moments.  The writer clearly desires us to see the contrast between David and Saul, especially as the become rivals in a few chapters.

O. (9:22-24): So, Samuel had expected Saul all along because God had told him to expect someone to come (1 Samuel 9:15-16).

Q. (10:1): God has obviously told Samuel how to anoint someone.  Why the olive oil?  We may have talked about this before?  And, wouldn’t he go around with a oily head?  I know that’s not important, just a visual that turns on my curiosity.  About the prophets, were they in direct communication with God, or did they just here what we read in the Bible.  I would think that there are a lot of God’s messages that we don’t know about?  So, in 10:10, we read that the Spirit enters Saul and allows him to prophecy?

A. Olive oil (in addition to serving various cooking purposes as it does today) was used for a variety of health reasons — it is actually still used today as a hair treatment in the Middle East.  One of the things that the oil was used for was to protect animals (sheep in particular) from insects that would get into their ears: the oil was poured on their head to make the wool slick.  So that oil represented protection and also selection (a shepherd would use the oil to protect his sheep), which is where the symbolism comes from.  Oil represents selection or choosing when used in this way, and the most common oil was olive oil.

We obviously have no way of knowing about prophecy that is not included in scripture, but in this case, Samuel is using his prophetic vision to convince Saul that he has truly received an accurate vision of God of God’s plans for Saul.  The Spirit came UPON Saul, not within him (it is a similar idea to the anointing of oil).  The Spirit does not enter into people until Pentecost in the NT, after the atonement of Jesus.

Q. (10:9): What is meant here by God giving Saul a new heart?

A. God empowered Saul to be the king over all Israel.

Q. (10:27): Why would a king gouge out a right eye?  He is obviously a dictator.  I also don’t understand how anyone could gather that many men and perform this heinous act.  Same with when they gathered thousands of men to be circumcised, how was it possible?  Just watch the news and we see that massive imprisonments go on today by way of military.  I just wondered how they had such enforcement back then.  Military also?

A. The eye gouging would serve two purposes: first, anyone who saw the person would immediately know that they had been disfigured, which would have been a humiliation.  Secondly, there is a military significance as we discussed with the removal of big toes and thumbs: the Israelite army (like all armies of the day) would have used various forms of archer to win battles, and removing an archer’s eye would have rendered them almost useless in battle.

I don’t have a good answer on the logistics of these attacks, but I can tell you that if you have hundreds or thousands of men yourself, you can fairly quickly accomplish some pretty messy work.

Q. (11:7): Obviously, cutting something was a way to express anger in those days as we saw a few days ago with the concubine.  This act elicits a putrid image.  I’m sure Saul got everyone’s attention.  Who would be put to the task of delivering such a message to the tribes?

A. Likely servants of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s house.  It is possible that it was even Saul’s family servants.

Q. (12:12-17): Why did God provide a king if He is the king.  Why did he give in to the Israelites wishes?

A. Because they asked Him to.  In His mercy (9:16), He has given them the desires of their hearts, as any good Father will try to do (within reason).  The king will come to be a symbol of the entire Kingdom, so it will be able to see the fortunes of the nation in one man.  This is how the narrative will proceed until the destruction of Jerusalem almost 500 years later.

Day 100 (April 10): Eli dies from shock of battle casualties, capture of Ark curses Philistines, Philistines return Ark, God hears Samuel’s cry, God gives Israelites victory, Samuel’s greedy sons, Samuel warns against pleading for a king

Day 100!  Can you believe it?  Just three more weeks and will be one-third of the way through the Bible.  It doesn’t seem possible.  If you are joining BibleBum for the first time, welcome!  This blog is using the The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version to explore the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  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 Samuel 4:12-8:22

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 4): Just as a scene setter, the Israelites were warring with the Philistines who were in the land of Canaan, which God had given to the Israelites.  When the Israelites were taking over the land conquering cities in the time of Joshua, some of the tribes were not destroyed.  This is because the Israelites were not fully acknowledging God?  And, as you said in earlier readings, this would come back to plague the Israelites.  Since then, the Philistines had grown in strength and worshipped idols and the Israelites had weakened because of straying from God.  The Philistines had enslaved the Israelites (Hebrews) and the Israelites were revolting.  Is this accurate?

A. I don’t think the Israelites were actively being enslaved, but rather the Philistines were taxing them and controlling certain areas of Canaan, and that is what the people were revolting against.  Other then that, I think you’ve told it correctly.

Q. (5:1-12): I remember when the Tabernacle was set up that it was so sacred that only certain ones who had become ceremonially clean could view it.  And, several died trying. Here the Philistines have it.  Has it lost some of its sacredness with the weakening of the Israelites?  How come the Philistines were not struck down as they approached it, let alone touched it?  In the subsequent verses, we learn that they were plagued.  This just seems a weaker curse for mistreating the Ark than in Moses’ time.

A. The curse in some ways represents a form of God’s mercy: the Philistines were not aware of the Israelite requirements to not approach the Ark, so God spared them, but He clearly let them know that He was displeased (the curses are certainly a similar story to the plagues of Egypt).  There is no indication that the Philistines touched the Ark, which would result in their death.  They carried the Ark on a cart to avoid touching it directly.  This was obviously not what God instructed: He wanted the priests to carry it.  So, I would say that the “weaker” curse, as you see it, is God having compassion upon a people who don’t know what they are getting themselves into.  They certainly learned fast that you don’t mess with the Ark.

Q. (6:1-2): The Philistines obviously should have realized the power of God.  I’m just wondering why they didn’t convert to worshipping God.  Were they ever invited?  Or, was it understood that they all had their own idols?  The Philistine priests did a good job of making arrangements for the Ark to be returned.  And, they saw what the Ark did to Dagon.  So, why don’t they turn to God?

A. Hmm, that’s a good question.  I don’t really know.  It was probably because they considered this to be “Israel’s god” which they had offended, and not necessarily that Israel’s god was more “powerful,” simply that they had angered Him.

Q. (8:1-3): Samuel’s sons are falling in the footsteps of Eli’s.  What’s up with these priests parenting skills?

A. We aren’t told, so I don’t really have anything to base an answer off of.  Sorry!

Q. (8:21): Why didn’t God encourage Samuel to keep urging the Israelites that God was their king and that they don’t need to be like their neighbor countries?  Is this a “wait and see” question?

A. Again, this is a good question, but I don’t have a great answer.  We know from the Law that God had already made provision for a human king (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20, from our reading on Day 76).  God was not threatened by the request for a human king — though it appears He was a bit insulted — but He does warn the people that they will regret giving themselves over to a human leader. Boy will they.

Day 99 (April 9): Hannah prays for son, vows to give son to God, Samuel is born and dedicated, Hannah’s Prayer of Praise, Eli’s disrespectful sons, God warns Eli, God speaks to Samuel, Philistines capture Ark in war with Israel

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 Samuel 1:9-4:11

Questions & Observations

O. (1 Samuel 1:19-28): We haven’t seen a person in the Bible like Hannah, who has the utmost reverence for God, for some time.  It’s refreshing and uplifting to read her words.

Q. (2:1-11): Hannah’s prayer is beautiful.  It has so much praise in it and telling of God’s treatment of others.  This almost sounds like Hannah is a prophet.  I must say that it is strange to hear such eloquence for a prayer.  I’m just used to hearing and saying “Thank you for all of my blessings and here is all of my needs/wants.”

A. Her words are certainly prophetic, in the sense of declaring God’s justice and desires, but I would not go so far as to say Hannah is a prophetess.  If you read Luke 1, you can see clearly the writer Luke records that the women of that story, Mary and Elizabeth, are very influenced by Hannah’s song.  Anyway, as a person who clearly felt that God was against her because she couldn’t have children, she readily sings the praises of God when He turns her fortunes.

Q. (2:27-36): I don’t think we see that Eli does anything wrong except for not raising his sons with enough discipline.  God has shown the Israelites that their actions affect the rest of their line.  In Eli’s case, his sons conducted themselves with complete disrespect for the Lord.  And, his descendants are being severely punished for it.  You would think they would learn!  The running theme to the demise of Israelite leaders seems to be greed and pride.

A. God warns Eli that he should be doing a better job of correcting his sons, and his failure to do so is the reason that HE is just as culpable as they are in what takes place.  While both pride and greed do seem to play a part in this story, the real culprit is a lack of reverence for God — both Eli and his two sons are guilty of being too trivial with things that are sacred.

Q. (3:14): I have heard of the unforgiveable sin.  Is this it, blaspheming God?  Can you describe ways of committing an unforgiveable sin today?

A. You’re talking about Jesus’ reference to the unforgivable/unpardonable sin in Matthew 12 and Mark 3.  It has to do with blasphemy, which at least partly has its origins in a lack of proper respect for God, as is described here.  The situations are different, however, for reasons that, quite honestly, I don’t want to spoil at this time.  So if you don’t mind, let’s file this question away for a later date.  It is an important issue, but I want us to examine it within the gospel stories for reasons that will become clear at that time.

Q. (4:1b-11): We know that God said Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, would die on the same day.  Is this the main reason that Israel lost the battle?  Many Israelites had to die for the sins of two priests.  The tone I got from reading this was that the Israelites took God for granted thinking that if they marched in with the Ark that God was with them.  God did not instruct them on the battle or mention that they should carry the Ark.

A. The sins of Eli’s sons contributed to the loss, but the larger issue was the Israelites believing they could use the Ark — and therefore God — as a weapon at their own convenience.  It is likely that the warriors here were hoping to duplicate the victory at Jericho (from Joshua 6) where the Ark was instrumental in giving Israel victory, but in that case, God TOLD THEM to use the Ark.  In this case, they tried to circumvent God and do what they wanted — rather than consulting Him — and lost not only the battle, but the Ark in the process.  Wait until you see what happens when the Philistines try to do things with the Ark: its actually quite humorous!