Day 313 (Nov. 9): Disciples chose seven men to assist them, Stephen is arrested, Stephen addresses the council

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

Acts 6-8:1a

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 6:7): It’s nice to see some Jewish priests softening up and being converted.

A. There is certainly a degree of importance in this often missed verse.  Though many of the Jewish leaders condemned themselves by siding against Jesus, they were able to find repentance and be saved by the very plan that they had themselves enacted.  Surely that is God’s grace at work!

O. (Acts 6:15): So, take that!

Q. (Acts 7:2-50): OT, in a nutshell, right?.  Thanks, Stephen!

A. Sort of.  He definitely hits the um…highlights.  But his main point is that the Jews have a long history of rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit because of their hard hearts, as they are doing here in persecuting the Church.  Stephen is accusing them of being just like their ancestors, and I would say their response indicates that they did not like that accusation.

Q. (Acts 8:59-60): I guess Jesus’s believers knew what they were getting into after seeing Jesus crucified.  Stephen showed what kind of mercy he had on people by asking God to forgive his murderers.  I take it that Stephen is asking Jesus to welcome him to His Kingdom when he asks Jesus to receive his spirit?  Pretty amazing stuff.

A. Yes, I would say that is right.

Day 39 (Feb. 8): More laws, annual festivals, God promises to be with Israelites, Israel accepts Covenant

Exodus 22:16-24:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 22:16): There are obviously more laws here than the 10 Commandments.  Do these other laws have an official name?  Do you know how many there are total?  My husband knew once, but has forgotten.

A. It is usually referred to as the Law or Torah.  Jews call the individual laws Mitzvah.  There appear to be 613 commands contained in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Have a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/613_commandments.  The page lists all of them at the bottom.

Q. (22:18): Sorceress?

A. Sure.  We would probably use the word witch: those women in particular who used the forces of the occult — or appeared to — in order to manipulate events.  This would include fortune telling, séances and speaking with the dead — we will actually see this in 1 Samuel — and other occult practices.  Sorcery is strictly forbidden in scripture, since it relies on other, likely demonic, powers not of God.  It is always an attempt to gain inside information on the future, thereby demonstrating lack of faith in God.  We will see more commands like this one.

Q. (22:28): I’m going through these thinking that I’m OK.  But to not dishonor any of our rulers?  That can’t possibly apply today?  Politics would be no fun!

A. Ha!  Respect for authorizes put in place by God IS a Biblical concept, even when those authorizes do not serve God (however you define that).  Paul speaks very similarly in Romans 13:1-7.  We must be very careful in not submitting ourselves to the authorities in place, and it is important to see the necessity of humility in doing so; something a lot of Christians could use more of.

Q. (22:29-30): We covered the “give the firstborn sons and livestock” thing, but remind us again in a nutshell.  Thanks!

A. God spared them through the Passover, so they belonged to Him.  Thus, they had to be “bought back” in a ceremony where the participants would be reminded of the centrality of God’s power in their lives.  It was a way of remembering what God did at Passover.

O. (23:2-3): I like it when we can easily understand many rules such as these and they are relevant today.

Q. (23:20): Is this angel referring to Moses?

A. No.  Moses was the human representative, but 14:19 has already established an angel, or messenger, of God who has been moving with the company.  We will see some references to this when the Israelites enter the Promised Land in Joshua.

Q. (23:25-26): Is this law just for the Israelites or for all, including us now?  I know Christians who have had these misfortunes.

A. God is making particular promises to these people at this time, and we get to be on shaky ground when we try to adopt promises He makes to them for us.  Having said that, we are certainly commanded to live in good relationship with God, which includes the understanding that God will provide for our needs.  But I definitely say that the Bible does not tell US today that if we live in good relationship with God, only good things will happen to us.  As Jesus reminded his followers: If you follow me, in this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33).  God does not say we will never have difficulty, even with the bare necessities at times, but only that He will never leave us alone.

Day 37 (Feb. 6): Food from God, water from a rock, team work defeats Amalekites, Jethro share wisdom with Moses, the Lord prepares Moses for giving laws

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.

Exodus 16-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 16:19-20): In Exodus 15:26, God told the Israelites to “obey his commands.”  But, in 16:19-20, they are breaking God’s rules already.  God must be frustrated!  This is just a start of a long, long journey, right?  And they are complaining already?

A. I once gave a message where I talked about the only sure thing when it came to the relationship between God and humanity is that we break our promises.  Only God is faithful; it is simply beyond us.  Which is why we need His grace and mercy so badly.  Wait until you see what they will do while Moses is away…

Q. (16:25): Is keeping the Sabbath the Lord’s Day still a law or is it one that has been replaced by the new covenant?  Also, can you explain in a nutshell what the “new covenant” is?

A. Like Passover, we are not required to keep the Law to have good standing with God (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides that).  This does not mean, however, the keeping a Sabbath is a bad idea.  Part of the understanding of the wisdom of Sabbath is that it is the gift of rest: we were not designed to be people who worked endlessly without rest (though we in the modern West frequently think we know better!)  This applies to each of the Ten Commandments (coming soon to a daily reading near you): there is wisdom in following them even today, despite our lack of obligation to do so.

Jesus described the New Covenant as the relationship between God and human beings who put their faith in His sacrifice (death and resurrection) to overcome their sin.  You hear about the New Covenant every time you take Communion or Eucharist: The body and blood of Christ broken and shed for the forgiveness of sins.  So rather than using the blood of animals to merely cover up sin (as the Law did, and frankly, still does), the power of the sacrifice of Jesus, our own spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19), removes the stain and power of sin from our lives in order to establish a new, better relationship with God.

Q. (17:9,10): Joshua comes into the picture?  I don’t remember reading about Hur?  Who is he?

A. Joshua does appear to drop out of the sky, doesn’t he?  It appears from this story (and the subsequent stories) that Joshua was already an established commander and representative of his tribe (Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons).  The writer appears to have no interest in introducing him to the reader.

Regarding Hur, it appears (according to 1 Chr. 2) that Hur is a son of Caleb (though the language is ambiguous — he might actually be Caleb’s FATHER!), who will be one of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land who is faithful (the other being Joshua).  Other than that, we have no information about who this person from the Bible.  There are apparently Jewish traditions that can provide some insight into who he is, and you can read about them on Hur’s Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hur_(Bible)).

Q.  (17:14): Joshua is gaining power.  God gives him a leadership role.  What does “I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven” mean?

A. It appears to mean that Amalek’s race (the Amalekites) will not survive.  (Note that Amalek is the grandson of Esau — the rivalry continues!)  They will, however, continue to be thorn in the side of Israel even after the monarchy is established under Saul and David.

O & Q. (18:1): I can imagine what Jethro thought.  Moses told him that he had to go rescue his people from Egypt — all 2 million of them.  Now they are camped by a mountain.  I can’t imagine a picture of that many tents.  Any idea why Moses didn’t keep his wife and sons with him through the deliverance?

A. Perhaps he thought it was safer that way.

Q. (18:10-12): It’s wonderful to see two families coming together supporting one another and praising the Lord for all of their blessings.  Can you tell us from whom Jethro was a descendant?  They were obviously blessed.

A. He does not appear to be descended from any party we have established.  He was not an Israelite, but was a priest, and it appears he believed in his son-in-law’s God.

Q. Just a background question.  Does the Bible say anything about the relationship of Moses with Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him?  They had spent years together and then, poof, Moses fled.  I guess it’s not important to God’s message?

A. Nope.  She is not mentioned again.

O. (18:21): This verse made me chuckle.  Jethro tells Moses to select leaders who are “capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes.”  I chuckle thinking of our legislators and all the pork barrel politics.  Oh, how things have changed.  Watch this video to see who used to lead our country: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlfEdJNn15E.  I’m not saying they are all bad now at all.  But, I think we have spiaraled down from where our country started, leadership-wise.

Q. (19:1): So this is the second time the Israelites have been in the Sinai wilderness?

A. No.  The story implies that Moses was called from Sinai, but only he was there.  The narration is telling us how long after they left Egypt that all those people you spoke of arrived at Sinai.

Q. (19:15): Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Bible times seem to be a lot less modest.  I guess if they are living in tents, things might be a little less private.  Today, many may be offended by pastors talking so freely of sexual intercourse, circumcision, etc.  Is there any Biblical reason why we are a bit more modest today?  I guess I’m just thinking of Christians, the media seem to talk about it, but it’s usually either jokes or dirty talk.  Is there any reason that we shouldn’t talk about things more freely?  To me, romance is a personal thing and talking more freely of it may welcome infidelity.  (On a side note, did anyone watch that very seductive commercial at the first of the Super Bowl?  We don’t watch any sports, except for the Olympics.  So, we thought we’d give our 4- and 7-year-old girls a taste of American fanfare.  We ordered pizza and were ready.  Then, I couldn’t have scrambled faster for the remote when that commercial with the French kiss came on the screen.  We quickly decided to watch a movie.  The last I was into football in my college years, the early ‘90s, I just remember funny commercials and beer commercials.  What’s up with a close-up French kiss?  My best friend watched with her 8-year-old son until half time.  She said Beyoncé wasn’t wearing much.  She said, “What are they teaching my son, that this is what everyone wears?”  She asked her son if he thought what she was wearing glorified God.  He said, “no.”  Comments, Rob?

A. The request to abstain from sex was part of the purification ritual (that will be something like a marriage ceremony — you’ll see).  Other than that, I have no comment.

Q. Is there any reason God choose Mount Sinai to speak to the Israelites?  Is Mount Sinai known today?  If so, how tall was it?  I’m just trying to get a picture of how long it took Moses to climb the mountain.

A. Sinai (or Horeb as it will be called later) appears to be a particular place where God chooses to make His presence especially known (Elijah will come for a visit in a few hundred years).  As with a lot of matters like this one, there is what is known as a “traditional” site for the mountain in what is now Saudi Arabia, and (as you can imagine) it draws people of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths (there’s a Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top).  You can read about it here and see some pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_Sinai

A.  Look it up on youtube too.  There are different ideas of where Mount Sinai is.