Day 362 (Dec. 28): 144,000 Israelites get seal of God, a crowd comes who survived the great tribulation and serve God, breaking seventh seal causes earthquake, angels blowing trumpets set off destruction on earth, fifth trumpet brings stinging locusts for five months, sixth trumpet blown releases angels who kill one-third of all people, the mighty angel with small scroll says to keep a secret and ate it, scroll was sweet but became sour in stomach

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.

Revelation 7-10:11

Questions & Observations

Q. So, this is all still John’s vision?  Why is this so crazy compared to everything we have read before … except for some of those wild monsters we read about in the OT.

A. This is John’s vision, but it is written in a particular type of genre of writing called apocalyptic.  It would have been a commonly used form for writing in this era, but since the Bible does not contain much of this type of literature (though parts of Zechariah, as we read yesterday, and Daniel 7-12 are examples we do have from the OT.  Note how similar the visions in the second half of Daniel are to what we are reading).

Apocalyptic literature hit its “peak” in the intertestament period, when Jewish oppression drove writers to create visions of God avenging their deaths at the hands of cruel pagans.  John, a Jew, is very familiar with this type of literature.  The key characteristics of this type of writing are vivid use of symbols, animals, numbers, and colors; but it is also characterized by its contrast to what we would call prophetic writing.  In prophetic writing (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, etc.), the situation is dire, but it is not too late for the people to repent — the common call of the prophet.  But this is not the case in apocalyptic literature: it IS too late in this case to repent, God Himself must intervene to avenge what has been done to His faithful children, something we see over and over again.  The wrath that is being poured out in these visions is to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of the unjust — something Christians had heavily experienced during the era of the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian.

Q. (Revelation 7:1-8): Where does the 144,000 come from?  Are these Israelites alive or passed?

A. I’m going to assume you mean what is significant about it, because to me, the math is not in question (12 tribes, 12,000 sealed from each tribe).  There are numerous theories about it: some say it is a symbolic number.  One scholar I read noted that the number signifies completeness in two ways: by squaring the number of tribes (12×12) and multiplied by 1,000, which would have been understood to the original hearers as a sign of completeness.  Others view it as a literal number of Jews saved (Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that ONLY 144,000 PEOPLE will be saved in total!)  But there is not a lot of consensus.  I tend to see it as a symbolic number, since it is from a book that deals in symbolic numbers, not literal headcounts.  As to whether these Jews are alive or dead, that questions is impossible to answer, and is irrelevant anyway: they have completed their trial, so there is no longer a distinction between alive and dead- all are alive in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 7:14): Does the “crowd” refer to the rest of us — non-Israelites?  I thought Israelites were put on a level playing field with everyone else.  What is the great tribulation?

A. The common understanding is that the Jewish group is first seen by John as being a subsection of the great multitude, so that removes any notion of being the “special” section of the saved.  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and His plan of salvation for the entire world had its origins with them.  But salvation is now for everyone.  The crowd is the survivors of the great tribulation, which the rest of the book will be showing to us.  Symbolically, this does describe all Christians from every nation and people, who ALL must pass through some form of trial and tribulation, either great or small.  That’s the way that I read what John has written here: it is a victory celebration for those, Jew and Gentile throughout all time, have come to salvation in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 8:6-13): Why is the significance of the star’s name — Bitterness?  How about the eagle?

A. The star has a few interpretations.  Those who hold to a more literal, “this represents this” interpretation argue that the language of Rev. 8 represents events of great leaders who have fallen (a “falling star”) in the history of our world.  I, frankly, don’t buy that, because there is no indication that this is what John means, and it requires too much pure speculation about who this is.  I think that takes too much away from what John is doing — writing symbolically — in this work.  I believe that the name, which refers to a type of plant, represents the coming bitterness that will befall the inhabitants of the earth in the midst of the coming tribulation.  The eagle is sometimes seen as a symbol of pending destruction, as in Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:13, and Hosea 8:1 — note that in Jeremiah the warning is followed by a declaration of “woe to us” and in Hosea there are trumpets that precede the warning.

Q. (Revelation 9:1-12): Ouch.  I don’t want to be in that crowd.  Locusts are a popular pest in the Bible.  Who is the Destroyer?

A. Most likely a symbolic personification of destruction, though some think that there is a powerful demon, a fallen angel, who is lord of the Abyss.

Q. (Revelation 9:13-21): Horses are popular in Revelation.  And, colors are pointed out when they are mentioned — here, the riders.  Why all the mutations of animals?  These visions can’t be actual — like back with Joseph’s visions when the wheat symbolized his brothers.

A. Yes, they are visions.  Horses are powerful symbols in this story because at the time, a warhorse would have been the most powerful weapon of war in existence.  They symbolized power, control, and conquest, and to a certain degree, they still do today.  Other animals — including some non-real ones coming up — are used because they often carry with them double meanings, the same reason that various colors are used.  The images of wild beasts and vivid colors drive our imagination, exactly as John desires.

Q. (Revelation 10:1-11): Is the mighty angel Jesus?  Can you point us back to the scripture that v.7 talks about when God revealed His plan to the prophets?  And, what is being symbolized when John ate the small scroll and it tasted sweet and then bitter?

A. No, Jesus is NEVER referred to as an angel.  It most likely refers to an archangel, one of the “high” classes of angels.  There is no Scripture that tells the exact spot where God revealed His plan to the prophets: it simply didn’t work that way.  God revealed pieces of His vision to the various men and women who were faithful to Him in the OT, and those visions, put together, and viewed through the “lens” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us the vision for God’s plan.  The sweet/bitter of the scroll harkens back to Ezekiel, who was also ordered to consume a bitter message.  The sweetness is the inevitability of God’s victory, the good news.  The bitterness/sour is that this victory will involve the suffering of many or the bad news.  John must proclaim both messages, telling of Christ’s victory will be sweet, telling of suffering and persecution will be painful.

Day 291 (Oct. 18): Sheep know their shepherd because He is their protector, Jesus accused of blasphemy, Jesus tells of narrow door to get to heaven, Jesus cries out over state of Jerusalem, Jesus rebuked for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus teaches humility, parable of great feast

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.

John 10:1-42

Luke 13:22-14:24

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 10:16): I would think this is referring to the Kingdom of God?

A. Yes indeed.

Q. (10:29): I would think that “for my father has given them to me” would mean the ones who pass the tests are given to Jesus to care for.

A. Something like that.  It certainly reads like a verse that points to some form of Predestination- God has selected some people to be the “sheep” of Jesus.  What remains a mystery, however, is what “causes” God’s selection.

Q. (10:34): The prophets were called gods?  Why?

A. It is not necessarily referring to prophets.  The verse is from Psalm 82, and appears to be talking about the people of Israel being gods in the sense of having been adopted BY GOD.  Jesus is basically saying that there is scriptural precedent for Him referring to Himself as God in human form, even if those around Him do not see it that way.

Q. (Luke 13:27): So, God is saying that after judgment happens, there are no second chances — we’ve had millions already.  He, of course, used to know you, but since you chose to sin, he has turned his back on you and, frankly, doesn’t care about you, so thus doesn’t “know” you.

A. As we’ve discussed before, when we talk about our relationship with God as a race, we should consider that it is not God that moved or walked away at all, but rather that WE did.  I think that this gives us a proper understanding of what it means that God does not know us, we have no heart or consideration for the things of God, but desire only to go our own way.  This parable is also not saying that there is no hope, but it is a warning that judgment is real, and there are consequences for our rebellion.

Q. (13:30): I think this is so amazing how the tables will be completely turned around.  So, that waitress who you decided not to tip very good is rewarded much more than you are.

A. Its known as the Great Reversal: the last shall be first, and the first last.

Q. (13:33): Jesus calls himself a prophet here?  And, why Jerusalem?  Is it keeping the Scriptures true?

A. He is speaking of Himself as a messenger of God, and it will indeed get Him killed by those who claim to be of God.  Don’t forget that the midst of Jeremiah’s ministry, it was the leaders in Jerusalem who claimed to be speaking for God, but were in fact leading the people astray and telling them that everything was alright even in the midst of a coming threat.  That is the image Jesus has in mind.

Day 242 (Aug. 30): God to shame shepherds (leaders) for helping themselves and not their flock (Israelites), God to gather scattered sheep, Canaan will be restored, Edom to suffer for treating Israel mercilessly, the land of Israel has been beaten and mocked but God will restore it and punish those who spoke and acted against it, God is especially angry at Edom, God promises a more beautiful Israel than before and one that will not be mocked, God to cleanse the Israelites and their land

It’s hard to believe that today, we are two-thirds through the Bible.  We will start reading the New Testament on Sept. 24.  Yipee!

If you are joining BibleBum for the first time, welcome! This blog is 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.  As you journey through the Bible, think about all the blessings that surround you.  As you read further and further, they will multiply.

Ezekiel 34-36

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 34:1-10): We have talked about God’s use of shepherds and flocks, which is richly used in this passage!

Q. (34:23): Does “David” here refer to David’s line down to Jesus?

A. It refers to a ruler from his line that will serve God as David did.  We will be hard pressed to find such a person until Jesus.

Q. (34:25-31): Here God says that the Israelites will return to their land, not threatened by neighboring kings nor wild animals and they will be known for their plentiful harvests.  However, historically, the Israelites have had it good and they eventually ruin it.  We know that this will happen again since Jesus, the Messiah has to come and save them.

A. There’s a lot that will take place between “then” and when Jesus comes on the scene, but Jerusalem will be Israel’s home and capital for around 500 years before the events of the Passion.  Jerusalem will be destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman army, so I would say God let things run for a pretty good amount of time, wouldn’t you?

Q. (36:25-27): Has this passage been used to create sprinklings in churches?  Or, is that in the NT?

A. Ritual sprinkling of water was part of the ritual of the priesthood, which is what God is referring to here.  The NT tradition of baptism is something else, but the notions of purification that underlie it are fairly similar.  Though I don’t know all the details, it would not surprise me if this verse is cited in the theology of Christian “sprinkling” (rather than immersion) baptisms.

Q. (36:37): God says he is ready to restore Jerusalem.  Has it been 70 years yet?

A. Not yet.  Patience, there is still much to do before they will be ready.

Day 189 (July 8): Let the world shout the Lord’s name, Jerusalem is exalted, God is our shepherd, tell God of your woes, praise God for the beauty of his complex awesome world

Good day!  I hope your summer is going wonderfully!  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.

Psalms 98-100, 102, 104

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 98): I notice the harp is mentioned often as a preferred instrument to accompany praises.  Any idea why?

A. I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for that, other than to say it was a commonly owned instrument of this era, kind of like a guitar today.  When we think of the NLT’s use of “harp,” what they really mean is what we call a “lyre,” a handheld small stringed instrument, like a mini-harp.  According to my notes, there is a reference to the creator of the lyre (as Jews knew it anyway) in Genesis 4:21, and it was also noted to be the official instrument of the nation, probably made so by King David.  Check out some other readings on it here:

http://topicalbible.org/h/harp.htm

and here (lots of pictures):

http://www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/pages/instruments.htm

Q. (100:3): I bet we will see more references to God and Jesus as the shepherd of us — His sheep.  We have seen it several times already.  Why sheep?  They are meek, quiet, community oriented …

A. That last adjective made me laugh: it makes sheep sound like they form little “sheep clubs” with membership dues or something.  The primary reason, as I think we’ve discussed, though for the life of me I forget where, is that one of the main occupations of Israel was sheep herding and ranching.  Sheep would have been an animal that all Israelites would have been familiar with.  Now having visited a few farms, I would have to disagree with your assessment of sheep as being “quiet” or anything like it — they are noisy animals that only get quiet when things turn bad.  But there are lots of other reasons that I can think of why God would call us His sheep.  Since the list I’m coming up with is fairly extensive, I’m going to defer to two resources on the matter.  The first is a book, called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller (according to Amazon, you can get a used copy for a penny: http://www.amazon.com/Shepherd-Looks-Psalm-23/dp/0310274419)

The other is a person’s blog whom I feel does a good job of summarizing many of the reasons I’m thinking of.  Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments.

http://inhonoroftheking.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-does-god-call-us-sheep.html

O. (102:28): How fortunate are those children who are being taught the ways of the Lord.  I feel for those children who are brought into a house of anger, violence or neglect.

Q. (104): This psalm makes me think of how much we take God’s creation for granted.  I am amazed at all the details that God included, how things were made to coexist, how it all works together.  But, I don’t think about it more than once or twice a day.  Then, of all of God’s creation, it’s the human race that He loves the most and works with the most to try to turn toward Him.  I guess this is because we are created in His image and He desires for us to be with Him to share the beauty of His creation?

A. I would say your guess is correct.

Day 128 (May 8): 22) God does not forget. 23) The LORD takes care of me now and forever. 24) The Earth belongs to the Lord. The pure in heart will enjoy God’s blessings. 25) I belong to you, Lord. Show me your ways, forgive me and be gracious. 26) Take notice of my integrity Lord. I do not belong with sinners. I dwell in your glory.

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.

Psalm 22-26

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 22): I can feel the fear in David’s words.  It’s an intense, gripping fear that grows as he writes.  He is battling with the knowledge of God that his ancestors have taught him and the enemies that are closing in on him as he lies in pain.  What keeps him going is that he trusts in his ancestors’ teachings to trust in God and he will deliver.  Then, he says he will be that same soldier of God for future generations.  Rob, is this an accurate depiction of this Psalm?

A. I think there is the type of struggle you mention, but this Psalm is mostly about a man who is being unjustly persecuted by evil men.  He knows that God will deliver him, and he will, as you suggest, be a witness to the power of God when God delivers him.  It is certainly a powerful psalm, and the first line (22:1) is what Jesus cried from the cross during his crucifixion (Matthew 27:45-46).  In an era without names for these Psalms (there was no such thing as Psalm 22 in those days), this would be like singing the first line of a well-known song today (like if I sang “oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light).  By saying these words, Jesus was connecting with the spirit of this Psalm, and everyone at the crucifixion would have understood that Jesus was proclaiming his innocence before God.

Q. (23): This is probably the most recited scripture at funerals.  I have a Bible that a pastor left at my grandma’s bedside when she passed.  He had it tagged with the 23rd Psalm.  It is so beautiful and gives such serenity to how God cares for us now and forever.  Comments, Rob?

A. One of my favorite Max Lucado books is written on the 23rd Psalm, called Traveling Light.  I would highly recommend it.

Q. (24:1-2): I am often awestruck by God’s magnificent artistry — those words don’t give Him justice — yet I have never thought about the fact that everything in the universe does belong to God.  How far away that is from standard thinking that everything belongs to someone — another amazing fact to contemplate!  Vs. 3-6 make me want to teach God to my kids … and for that fact, as many people as possible!  In Vs. 7-10, I imagine the crowd going wild as God is carried into a stadium filled with praising Christians.  Wouldn’t you say, that it’s also the other way around, that God is there to support us?

A. Part of the beauty of the Trinity doctrine is that we are allowed to have more than one understanding of God.  God is the magnificent artistic Creator, AND the God/man who walked the earth and knew all of our pains (including rejection and loneliness as we discussed in Psalm 22), And He is the very Spirit of life in each of us that brings us closer to our heavenly home.

Q. (25): What’s the deal with the note at the beginning of this Psalm?

A. The editor is letting us know that this Psalm, along with several others, is an acrostic, in Hebrew of course.  Each line of the poem begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  There are 22 letters in Hebrew, and so we will see a number of Psalms with 22 lines for this reason.  We will see this appear in other places in scripture as well, such as Lamentations and Proverbs.  Something to watch for, but it is almost a shame that we miss out on the poetry of the use of Hebrew letters.

Q. (25:11-15): I would say that David is describing God’s handing out of wisdom to His followers.

A. I think it is saying that God is faithful to His people, and provides for their every need, whether it is knowledge, rescue, or anything else.