Day 348 (Dec. 14): Leaders in the church should be righteous men, be weary of those who make up ungodly rules, Paul tells Timothy to stay on path to salvation, respect elders, widows and slaves, those who long to be rich fall to destruction

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 Timothy 3-6:10

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Timothy 3:1-13): What are the duties of elders and deacons?  These positions haven’t been discussed before to my knowledge.  But, it’s common sense to know that the church has people organizing it and upholding its values.  Also, the footnote on v. 3:11 says “women deacons” instead of wives.  Can women take the role of pastor, elder, deacon, etc. in a church, according to the Bible?  I know some denominations do allow women and some don’t.  We just read in yesterday’s reading (1 Timothy 2:12) where women are not to have authority over men.

A. The NT writings recognize 3 major offices (there’s another, but its not clearly defined): bishop, pastor/elder, and deacon.  Bishop came to mean the leader of a particular church, pastor/elder a leader within the community with preaching responsibilities, and the deacon is generally accepted to be a “lower level” of service (deacon means servant).  The catch is that the NT DOES NOT define the roles of these offices, only their qualifications, as we see in this passage.  So various churches have taken this information and interpreted it in various ways — some denominations ordain these offices, while some see them as lay positions.  Some denominations do not have a bishop at all (they tend to be autonomous denominations such as Baptists, who do not have a ruling body).  In my background church, the United Methodist, the church has the three offices, all ordained positions: the Bishop is the presiding member of a section of the US (Florida for instances), and the Elder and Deacons are ordained ministers that serve in the various churches.  You must be ordained as an elder to be a head pastor.

That serves as a transition point to your other question: can women serve as leaders in the church?  As I answered yesterday, that depends on who you ask: the UM church happily ordains women as elders, while the Southern Baptist Convention would not.  The interpretation of verses such as the ones for this section would come into play as well: Baptists would disagree that the verse you mentioned refers to female deacons, because they don’t have female deacons, while other denominations who do ordain women have their own reasons for doing so.  So my answer yesterday hasn’t changed: whether women can serve in church leadership depends on who you ask the question.

Q. (3:16): What does “vindicated by the Spirit” mean?

A. He was shown to have been correct about proclaiming Himself Messiah when He conquered death by the power of the Spirit.

Q. (4:4): We always say that God created everything.  But, did He?  How about, glass, plastics, rubber, computers, electronics, silly puddy J?  I agree that everything God created is good (well, I really don’t understand mosquitos, gnats, sharks, skunks, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) but I do question if synthetic things are all good.

A. If you remember the Genesis story, one of the first things God did with Adam was involve him in the process of naming creation — that is, he was given a role to play in God’s creation story.  That role continues to this day: part of the way that God created us in His image was to make us creative, and all that has followed in the course of human history is the story of how we have both failed and succeeded to honor that image within us.  God may not have made the synthetic things, but He made us to be creative and we did so.  With synthetic creations in particular, I see both benefit and drawback in what we have made: we have great benefit to the church in the internet and the ability to share stories and information, but I don’t think I have to try very hard for you to see the downsides of such technology (pornography, hate sites, etc.).  Technology always serves to fill both the good and evil roles within our world, just as the capacity for good and evil reside within each of us.

Q. (5:3-4): There are a lot of older folks in nursing homes.  Does this mean that the families of these elders have failed them?  I know many older parents don’t want to be a burden on their kids.  To me, families are supposed to take care of one another.  Today, though, families are separated by thousands of miles and even different countries making it hard to take care of the elderly.  If there is a will, there is a way.

A. No doubt some people should be convicted by these words and see ways that they have failed their elderly family members, but Paul is describing the situation in a very different world.  First, the human lifespan is way beyond what would’ve been considered “old” back then, and some elderly people have no other way of surviving outside of intense care that often cannot be provided by family.  We certainly have an obligation to do all that we can for our parents in particular (since honoring our parents honors God), but I would not take these verses as being “law” about the ways that we should be forced to take care of elderly family members.  If the Spirit convicts you, though, you should listen — I was convicted that I haven’t called my elderly grandmother in a while, and need to do so.

Q. (5:5): The church I grew up in was in a small town of around 1,000 people.  Every time I went back there were fewer people, but the back pews were filled with widows.  Is there something to say about the older you get the closer you get to God?

A. I guess you could say that you are more set in your ways and unlikely to change.  Besides, in many cases, the elderly have no one left to depend on besides God, and many of them know that the “meeting” is coming soon.

Q. (5:20): What does reprimand mean here?  I remember watching a news report about a guy who took the Bible and twisted it to where parents are super harsh on their children and they would quote the Bible.  It had a following and there was a girl who died because her parents either starved her or left her out in the cold for punishment — I don’t remember which or if it was both.  This verse could be used as a pass for some churches to physically punish someone.

A. That is not what is being described, and what you are describing is a terrible, tragic abuse of power in a way that does NOT honor God.  What Paul is describing is the public proclamation of unrepentant sin, which was a pattern in church “justice” for centuries.  Frankly, I feel that, while it can make us uncomfortable, it is something that is greatly missed in churches that do not use it (some still do, including some megachurches).  It is very difficult to have a coherent, growing congregation if there is unrepentant sin in your midst.  We must do all we can to help protect that community, Paul is saying, including the act of public shaming to bring people back to God, or remove them from the community.

Day 344 (Dec. 10): Paul writes to his good friend Philemon, Paul asks Philemon to welcome Onesimus, Paul writes to Philippians praising ther faith, Paul rejoices that Good News is being preached, Paul wants to live to continue his teaching, live as citizens of heaven, Paul said suffering for Christ is a privilege, Jesus’ humility earns Him the highest honor

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.

Philemon 1:1-25

Philippians 1-2:11

Questions & Observations

O. Rob, I don’t have anything to say about this Scripture except a short summary because our pastor just covered this very issue a month or so ago.  Onesimus left (ran away from) his master, Philemon, in order to be free.  He met Paul in Rome and they became close.  Paul wrote Philemon to tell him to go easy on Onesimus from running away because Onesimus had changed tremendously and loved God.

Q. (Philippians 1:20-26): Is Paul starting to fail in health?  He sounds like he could be questioning his livelihood.

A. I think he knows that time is short, and that he may be a prisoner for the rest of his life, which may not last long.  These “prison letters” read like they are from a man who knows that time is short, and he is acting accordingly.

Q. (Philippians 2:6-8): Why is this section indented?  It’s not a scripture as far as I can tell.  What is it?

A. This is probably one of the earliest known recordings of an early Christian hymn — a song about the faith that Paul is sharing to help make his argument.  He appears to be quoting the lyrics to an early Christian song that teaches about how they understood the nature of Jesus Christ, who was both God and man.

Day 342 (Dec. 8): Let Spirit be your power source, husbands and wives should be in a relationship as Christ is with the church, children should honor their parents, parents should bring them up in the Lord, God rewards slaves and masters alike who are in the Spirit, Put on armor of God, Pray at all times, Tychicus is going to Ephesus to give report, Paul greets church in Colosse, Christ is image of God, Christ is supreme!

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.

Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians while imprisoned in Rome.  He sent the letter to Colosse with Onesimus and Tychicus (See Col. 4:7-9), who were also carrying the letter to Ephesians (see Eph. 6:21-22).

Colossians 1:1-23

Questions & Observations

O. (Ephesians 5:18b-19, 20): I would say this is a good charge to be playing Christian music at all times.  We have a great station in Orlando, Z88.3! On a different note, v. 20 answers something I brought up a long time ago, that about when you pray, you only have to say “in Jesus name” if you ask for something.  Here it says that you should also when you give thanks.  I just think it’s important to give glory to Him every chance you get.

Q. (5:20-33): Rob, it’s OK, I’m not on my women’s equality throne.  I used to cringe at this Scripture because I never wanted to be considered less than a man.  I think the bigger picture here is our relationship with Christ.  He is the one we need to respect, honor, obey, love, worship, etc.  And, he gives us love and blesses us in return.  He really does that without us doing our part.  Likewise, if wives respect, uphold and love their husbands, just as we should with Christ, our husbands will be better people, just as Christ is better if his believers are virtuous.  After all, together, we are His body.

V. 33 hits the core, I think, of what men and women struggle with in their relationships.  Men love themselves, i.e. can have egos.  If they love their wives to the same degree, they will have a loving relationship.  If they put themselves before their wives — note Christ washes the disciples feet and he endured a grueling crucifixion — they will likely have discord.  I have seen many relationships where if the man has a strong ego, the wife is usually quiet and obedient, not a light like God desires.  And, I think some wives may struggle with the respect virtue.  We have a mind of our own, and especially in modern times, we are nearly equal in prosperity.  So, when entering a marriage, you both have to think of each other and not make major decisions by yourself.  I struggle with this, as you can probably tell, because I didn’t marry until I was 31 and had my own ways.  I was always headstrong though.  Anyway, I think some decisions he makes are wrong, but I know that he is human.  Also, I have learned that if I don’t agree with him, I shouldn’t just be quiet.  I talk through it with him so then I have understanding of his thought process and then, I can fully respect him.  This scripture describes more of working together and submitting to one another — not that husbands dominate their wives — like v. 21 says.  Note that it says, “submit to one another.”  It doesn’t say just “women submit.”

A.  You’ve hit upon the key to this section at the end: the idea is mutual submission, and the husband leads in that he is the first to submit.  That, of course, does not make him perfect, but it certainly demolishes any foolishness about this being a “men should dominate their women and the women should just take it” kind of passage.  The man should lead the relationship (and the wife should follow) in his willingness to die for her- to be willing to die to his own desires (especially control over her).  Many times men mistake the meaning of this passage (as women do) and say things like, “she won’t submit”.  But that’s not what Paul says: he says she should submit- after YOU DIE TO YOURSELF!  That is radically different, and it is a shame to me that more people of both genders do not understand the true meaning of this passage.

O. (6:1-3): Note to parents that it says children “belong to the Lord.”  That means we should cherish them treat them with respect.  I have never heard v. 3 before.  I’ll have to read that to my children.  I have a great aunt who will be 104 in January.  I think she wishes she hadn’t been so obedient.  Just kidding.  She is lonely.  All her friends are gone.

Q. (6:5-9): Rob, here’s a good one for you.  Explain slavery in the pre-Civil War U.S. in regards to this Scripture.  The war ended slavery because the Union said slavery was bad.  Here, the Scriptures say is just a way of life.

A. Ok, here goes: the slavery system in the ancient world was a system of slave debt, which frequently ended in the freedom of the slave.  People were frequently sold into slavery to settle debts in lieu of going to prison- and this type of slavery was rarely for life.  Now this is to be contrasted with the life-long, horribly abusive slavery associated with the slaves who were kidnapped from Western Africa during the colonial period of the United States and the Caribbean.  Slavery within the colonial system was for life, with beatings, brandings, separation of families (something the Roman system would not have allowed), and, don’t forget, it would have been entered into via kidnapping.  A master could also hang or beat an American slave to death, something that would NEVER have been allowed, even in barbaric Rome.


Something important to note here is that, despite Paul’s writings, there were people on both sides of the colonies (England and America) that took up what they saw as God’s command to abolish a slavery system that was exploitive and not necessary any longer.  You can read about one of the most famous, an Englishman named William Wilberforce- his story is told in a fairly recent movie called Amazing Grace ( which I would highly recommend to learn more about the reasons behind the abolition movement.

O. (6:8-9): Again, I would like to point out that God says everyone is equal here, no matter if you are a bazilliionaire or impoverished.  Remember where we read in the OT about how the tables will be turned when everything comes to light.  The overbearing people — rich, powerful (if used in the wrong spirit) will be shadowed by those they dominated on earth.  I think that is so cool that we will see our reward.  The test is to stay humble and on the right path.

Q. (6:11): What is the God’s armor?

A. It is a series of reminders that Paul presents using the metaphor of a solider putting on his armor for battle.  Paul is providing a reminder that there are spiritual, not merely physical, dangers in the world.  The devil has you in his crosshairs, Paul is saying, so you need to be prepared to deal with the spiritual realities of the world that we cannot see.  His advice is to remember the ways that God has provided for our spiritual needs, from the Bible, to guidance for our faith, to instruction in righteousness, in order to stand against the devil’s actions, and not retreat.  He is telling his people to stand firm!

Q. (6:18): What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”?

A. I think he means using the Spirit to guide our prayers and give us insight into God’s will for us.

Q. (Colossians 1:22): There is so much depth to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  I have never thought of myself as holy and blameless, without fault.  That is hard to imagine/accept.

A. Well, if its any consolation to you, your blamelessness is not your doing, but rather God’s.  Amazing Grace indeed.


Day 303 (Oct. 30): Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, reach God through Jesus, Jesus tells of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the true vine,

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 13:31-38


Mark 14:27-31


Matthew 26:31-35


Luke 22:31-38


John 14:1-14

John 14:15-31


John 15:1-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 13:31-38, mark 14:27-31, Matthew 26:31-35, Luke 22:31-38): Why is it important that Peter deny Jesus three times?

A. It shows just how fearful Peter’s heart truly is.  He is not ready for this challenge.

OOOOOO.  (John 14:1-14): My new favorite passage.  Wow, does this bring comfort and joy!!!!!

Q. (John 14:6): This may seem very kindergarten, but I thought you may have a humdinger for an answer.  What does Jesus mean by “the way, the truth and the life”?  I take it as Jesus has shown us the WAY we should live, the TRUTH that means he is the son of God and the LIFE means living eternally.

A. I believe that He is telling us that He is the essence of God in human form, what John has been proclaiming all along: Jesus provides us the way to God in Himself and His sacrifice, He proclaimed the True way not just in teachings, but in His actions, and He shows that to be with God is to live, without Him we die.

Q. (John 14:9-11): So, why do some religions, like Judaism, not believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  Why do they deny the NT?

A. Well, there are lots of reasons, but ultimately they come down to knowing who Jesus is.  Jews, for example, could not reconcile a Messiah as a suffering figure: They see the Messiah as a triumphant figure who will establish an earthly Kingdom.  Since Jesus was defeated in death, they reject Him as Messiah — their Messiah would never die.  So, since the death and resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the NT, it is little wonder that many Jews deny it, lock, stock, and barrel.  (I would be remiss if I did not point out that many Jews have never read it, and mistakenly assume it is a manual on how to attack the Jewish faith).  Many other religions stumble over Christ’s death and resurrection as well.  Islam sees Jesus as a prophet, but argue that the Messiah could never be defeated and die on a cross — they say he only appeared to die.  They also strongly align themselves with Jews in saying that there is only one God, and therefore Jesus can’t be God in human form.  I think this is a poor representation of the understanding of the Trinity (Christians are often accused of worshipping 3 gods by Jews and Muslims), but it is typically the reason.  Other religions have some important doctrines — such as reincarnation in Hinduism and Buddhism — that do not jive well with the NT, so they go elsewhere as well.  There are lots of critiques of the NT by scholars who seek to take it apart in order to find the “real” Jesus, as opposed to the one the Gospels describe — because He couldn’t possibly be real, dead men don’t come back!  It is little wonder that Paul will talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus as a “stumbling block” to many and “foolishness” to others, but note what he adds: but to those of us who have faith, it is the power of God at work in us.  The resurrection is typically the line in the sand.

Q. (John 14:12-14): How can anyone do greater works than Jesus?  And, what does Jesus mean by ask anything in His name?  When we pray, we are supposed to say “in Jesus name, we pray?”  My hubby says that’s just if you are asking God for something.

A. Because of what Jesus has done on our behalf, which is basically make us children of God via adoption (more on that in Paul’s letters), we are able to boldly approach the throne of God with our requests and make our hearts known to God in prayer.  That is what it means to ask for our prayers in the name of Jesus.  It is Jesus who has opened the door to the throne room that we might approach the King.

Q. (John 14:26): Am I right in saying that all who believe in Jesus are provided with the Holy Spirit which will show us the way?  When I talk to God or Jesus, many times I feel like I am picturing them while I am talking to them.  I have always just talked to Jesus and God though.  I listen to the Holy Spirit, but don’t request things from Him or discuss anything.  Are we supposed to talk to all three the same or differently?

A. Jesus is describing the Holy Spirit as our personal guide to God, and He works to remind us of Jesus’ words and the words of Scripture.  So with that mindset, I would say that addressing the Spirit with praise when He helps you remember a verse, for example, might be a good example of conversing with Him.  The Spirit is just as much God as the Father or Son, and our prayer life should reflect that.  We will see the Spirit really come into power in Acts, so let’s watch for how the Spirit leads then.

Q. (John 14:27): The peace Jesus leaves us with is Him showing us the way to live and that He is powerful and will come back to take us to with Him.  And, He leaves the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit leads us through life, if we let Him.  We talked about the Holy Spirit in the OT, right?  He has always been around, just like Jesus?

A. God, in the three Persons, is eternal, and not bound in time.  The Spirit is surely a big part of the OT: by my count, there were nearly 200 references to the Spirit being at work in the midst of Israel, from Genesis 1:2 and on down.

O&Q. (John 15:1-17): Another awesome passage.  Today’s reading feels like it’s changing my attitude — making me less pessimistic (taking out some of that yucky gray matter) and more filled with love and joy.  I do hope that this Scripture is for all of us and not just the disciples.

A. It is indeed.  John is recording these words that multitudes of people will benefit — wait until you see what Jesus prays for next.

Day 75 (March 16): Idolatry warning, clean/unclean animals, tithes, treatment of debtors, slaves, firstborn male animal sacrifices, Passover, Festival of Unleavened Bread, Festival of Harvest, Festival of Shelters

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 13-16:17

Questions & Observations

Q. (13:1-18): In this passage, God speaks out against those who lure others into idolatry and those who are lured.  That was then, I’m sure we will learn in our NT reading — when we get there much later this year — what God or Jesus says about dealing with others pushing idolatry.  I certainly don’t think the OT will say, “stone them.”  And, we certainly don’t do that today.  We are more of a “coexist” society today.  I wonder what God thinks of that?  I can only imagine that He’s not too happy with it.

A. One big difference between then and now is that God is establishing a pure nation set apart from Him, and a big part of what He was trying to do was keep the Israelites from worshipping other gods.  Today, these boundaries (between Jew and Gentile, between Christian and Muslim) make it very difficult to keep any such society “pure” in the sense that was being described in the text.  The NT in particular will talk about being at peace with those around you, especially those who do not share your God.

Q. (Deuteronomy 13:1-18): At first, I read this and thought that God purposely luring us to other gods or idols to test us just sounds sneaky.  But then, I thought, I guess he does need to test them to find out their heart.  Someone could get easily lost in the crowd, grow up with followers of God, but not really have felt the love in their heart for God or been tested of their faith.  So, tempting them is one way to weed out the unbelievers.  And, it doubles in getting rid of all of those who do the tempting, for they also fail to have God in their heart.  Is this an accurate assessment of this lesson?

A. I can certainly see some wisdom in your description, and I think you’ve hit upon part of it.  I also think it is worth mentioning that people change over time, and the call to remain faithful to God is part of what this is about.  God is calling the people to be ever vigilant against the corrupting forces of false religions and idols.

Q. This may seem like a dumb question, but there are no dumb questions, right?  Anyway, I have always used the names God and Lord interchangeably.  But, do the two words have different meanings, in reference to our God?

A. No.  They are two different names given to God, where many names are used.  The most reverent name in scripture (to Jews anyway) is the true name of God: Yahweh, represented by the four letters YHWH (called the Tetragrammaton), printed Hebrew does not have vowels.  Whenever you see the use of LORD in all caps, it is a translation of YHWH, which in our version for this study is just rendered God.  But there are other words for God as well, and when Jews refer to God, since Yahweh is such a reverent name, they used the name Elohim or AdonaiElohim is usually how you see the word God presented, and Adonai means “lord,” so when you see only the first “L” capitalized (Lord, not LORD), the translation is referring to Adonai.  So the differences are actually harder to see in the NLT, but are fairly clear in some other Bibles.  Hope that helps.  If not, check this out:

Q. (14:3-4): I thought the ceremonially clean/unclean requirement was lifted?

A. Nope.  Observant Jews keep the dietary laws (kosher) to this day.  What we were looking at yesterday, which is what I think you are referring to, is the idea that people could consume their own herd animals or certain animals that they caught, such as deer and gazelle.  But the rules about what animals they could eat did not change.

O. (14:22-23): I finally got it and won’t ask about sacrificing (here tithing) again.  It’s not about gruesome slaughtering, it’s about giving their best to the Creator.  It serves two purposes: sacrificing their best stuff or giving it up and honoring God.

Q. (16:10): This is the first time I have seen the request to bring “a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him.”  Most of the time, God has been very specific about what he wants to be offered or sacrificed.  Also, I know I have commented on the amount of offerings, gifts, sacrifices to the Lord and what a heap of stuff it must be.  Rob, I don’t think you had a definite answer of what happens to all of the gifts?

A. The implication of these verses is that they were shared among the people, including the Levites and the poor in the various community centers where sacrifices were to be brought.  The sacrifices at the Tabernacle, brought to make atonement for sin or other purposes, were either consumed by the priests or burned completely.

Hope you enjoyed today’s reading.  See you tomorrow.

Day 38 (Feb. 7): Ten Commandments and more, altar rules, treat slaves fairly, personal injury disputes, property laws

Exodus 20-22:15

Questions & Observations

Q. Here are the 10 Commandments.  We all view them as sinning against God when we break them.  But, are they still to be enforced?  Didn’t Jesus give us a new one that covers it all, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do unto others as they you would have them do unto you.”

A. Love your neighbor as yourself covers the last six (i.e. if you love your neighbor, you won’t kill them).  Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment, replied, “love God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Then He said, “all the law and the prophets hang on these two” (Matthew 22: 37-40).  Basically, if we keep these two things in mind and do them (which I freely admit is sometimes very difficult), we will have successfully kept all the Ten Commandments.

Q. (Exodus 20:5): When God says he is a jealous God, is that the same common meaning we know of jealousy now — that of envy?

A. I think God is using an emotion that we as humans understand, being jealous, in order to point out that we must be loyal ONLY to Him.  God is not petty, but the charge that we are worshipping other gods is certainly looked at harshly in the OT.

Q. (20:6): This means that those who follow God will be blessed for many generations, but those who deny God, struggle for generation after generation, right?  But, that is no longer in affect since the crucifixion?

A. Part of what we can learn from the Old Testament is that God takes a multigenerational view of His people (which can be hard for us to grasp in our individualistic society).  If we are truly keeping these commands (and the many to follow), it will be very natural for us to teach them to our children.  And in doing so, we pass the blessings of God on to the next generation, and we entrust them to do so for the next generation.  I think that this is at least partly what God is speaking about here.

Q. (20:7): How do you misuse God’s name?  I was always thought that you do not say things like “For the love of God (in a negative way),” “For God’s sake,” “For Jesus sake,” and especially, “Oh, my God!” or “Jesus!”  The latter two, I can see using them if you are crying out to them, personally, in praise or for help.  But, I hear people, even Christians saying, “Oh, my God!” all the time.  Can you give us the verdict on this?

A. The best way I ever heard this commandment phrased was, “Don’t take the name of God lightly.”  Treat the name of God with the reverence and respect it deserves.  If the names are used for the purpose of speaking to God — for whatever reason, including asking for help — we are on safe ground.  But when — and this is the crucial step — we are using the name of God absent-mindedly (i.e. we’re using the name but not thinking of God), or to use it as a way to curse others, then we are not treating the name of God with the proper respect it deserves.  Then we are taking the name of God in vain.

Q. (20:8-11): So God is saying that the Sabbath is there for us to get rest after 6 days of hard work.  And, we use it to remember that God created us and all the earth.  Most church services are still held on Sunday.  Some are not.  Some say that it doesn’t matter what day of the week you rest, as long as it’s the seventh day.  Some say that going to church isn’t really rest because of the hustling to make it there on time and then there are those who are working to provide the church service.  Is this law still supposed to be observed today?  Can you shed some light on this Commandment?

A. As we mentioned, observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday, there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

Q. (20:12): As a grown child and now a parent, I totally respect my parents.  As a teenager, of course, there were times when I thought they knew nothing and didn’t understand me.  I am now thinking about how to instill love for me and my husband in my almost 8-year-old.  She is sweet, but she is definitely testing the waters on challenging us.  Do you have any wise words or know of any books that can help parents prepare for phase of a child’s life?

A. While I’m sure there are particular psychological techniques that can work, I think you can already see the answer to your question: we teach respect to our children by BEING respectful to our parents.  Where it is possible — obviously, not everyone has parents to model this with — I think we should embrace the idea of multigenerational teaching for our children.  We should teach them about respect for their parents — and I think adults in general, especially the elderly — and talk about how when we do this, we honor God.

O. (20:20): I love this verse.  It is the perfect, short description of what to fear God means: “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

Q. (21:1): Is God telling all of these laws to Moses and then Moses has to retell them to the Israelites, or is God speaking directly to the people?

A. It appears He is speaking to Moses.

Q. (21:1-11): Is there anything to explain about God addressing the process of owning slaves?

A. Slaves were a part of life in this world, and the Bible addresses that reality.  We shall see over the course of the Biblical text the way that God moves along the idea of the dignity and equal worth of all human beings, especially through Christ, but the people in this era weren’t there yet.  God worked with the people where they were, and required them to treat slaves and others with respect.  There was a process for bring required to free slaves (the men, anyway), and providing some level of protection for them — like 21:20, you couldn’t kill your slaves).  This seems barbaric to us today, but was a great leap forward in the treatment of human beings in this era.

O. I’m really starting to get the message that everyone is important to God.  Every one has different positions in the world, which can cause confusion in self-esteem.  But, in God’s eyes, we all are equally important, if we follow Him.

Q. (21:21) Oops!  Just when I thought I was understanding God’s treatment of people, this verse pops up.  How is that fair treatment?  I just don’t understand!  From what I’ve read in the Bible, it sounds like God has chosen certain ones to be His people and others are just extras.

A. Looks like we look at 21:21 in different ways!  I see it as a way to protect slaves from being murdered.  It is certainly true that God does see everyone as having value, but that does not mean that WE do.  So basically, God provided this command because He does see value in slaves, rather than the culture in which the Israelites lived, which saw no value in them at all.  Only free men had value in the eyes of this culture.

Q. Rob, since you are a cultural history guru, when did stoning lose favor?

A. That is hard to say.  We don’t really have much in the way of evidence that the orders to stone were routinely enforced, even in this era (though we will see some particular examples of sinners who are stoned).  But the era of the New Testament, as I understand it, there was simply no stomach among the Jewish religious leaders for being responsible for the deaths of people.

Q. (21:32): There has to be some significance to the 30 pieces of silver, since in the New Testament, Judas accepts 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A. Thirty pieces of silver was the legal price of a slave in Biblical times.  The silver that Judas is offered by the religious leaders is an intentional choice designed to belittle Jesus: they are equating Jesus with a slave to be bought and sold.

Q. (22:8): Many of these verses say that the person must appear before God for judgment.  I thought God kept his distance from the people.  Isn’t Moses the liaison between God and the Israelites?

A. You’ve got it right.  Moses, as God’s representative, was the one whom people would come to for God’s judgment.




Day 33 (Feb. 2): Moses travels to Egypt, Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, Pharaoh orders more work for Israelites, God hears their cries and promises to free them, Moses’ and Aaron’s ancestors, Aaron’s carries God’s miracles

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 4:18-7:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (4:21): Do we learn later why God hardens Pharaoh’s heart?  I thought it was already hard because he was severely enslaving the Israelites.

A. Pharaoh will not allow God’s people to leave, and God is telling Moses that He will do this intentionally in order for His glory to be seen.  I suspect His reasons for doing this are for Him to declare His superiority among the Egyptian gods (something 7:12 points to — despite both parties being able to “make” snakes, the God snake is more powerful), to humble the pride of Pharaoh.  I think on some level God is also out to avenge Himself on the Egyptians, who have taken His precious child (Israel), so in the end, He will take theirs (in the death of the firstborn).

The treatment of Pharaoh is one that is controversial, because you can certainly argue God forces Pharaoh to reject Moses’ demands in order to sadistically punish him.  There are also certainly issues of predestination at work here as well (i.e. did Pharaoh really have a choice in these matters?), but ultimately God gives the game away in this reading: in 6:6: He says that He wants Israel to know who He is, and in 7:3, He will harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His glory among the Egyptians (who do not worship Him, but worship false gods that we will confront).  Above all, part of what we have established in our name discussion from yesterday is that I AM is His own authority (something we established in Job) and He does not answer to us.

Q. (4:22): Israel means the people of Israel?

A. Yes.  The nation of Israel.  We will see God refer to Israel in a variety of ways (including as His wife), but in this case, He refers to the nation as his firstborn son.

Q. (4:24-26): This whole scene is confusing.  Why would God want to kill Moses?  Because his son wasn’t circumcised?

A. It appears so.  That is the best guess we have, and honestly this passage does not make a lot of sense to me either.  But we certainly see that God took the requirements of the Law seriously, and not circumcising a son was a pretty major offense.

O. (5:22-23): Moses confronts the Lord.  Moses had told the Lord that his speech was not worthy of being a leader.  Now, he is showing more confidence.

Q. (6:2): God never told Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who He was?

A. God, for whatever reason, choose not to reveal what we might call His true name to them, and part of the reason for it is revealed to us (by implication).  God is saying that His identity will be that of deliverance for His people (the whole point of Moses’ call story) but that there was no way the earlier fathers would have understood this desire to deliver (because no one needed rescuing in those days).  God reveals Himself to His people on what we might call a need to know basis, and that trend will continue.

Q & O. (7:10-13): Here, there is a pattern God uses of things being swallowed up by healthier, more powerful like things.  Here it’s snakes.  With Joseph it was cattle.  Also, the dried up stalks of wheat bowed down to the healthy ones.  I was surprised when Pharaoh’s magicians could duplicate God’s miracle with Aaron’s staff.  Verse 11 shows that sorcery is real?

A. The consumption implies superiority.  Regarding sorcery, the Bible will record various accounts of usage of the occult (the implication here) and usually attribute the work to demonic power.  It does not shy away from saying that there are no other spiritual powers that can be used, only that God is superior to them.

Q.  I don’t see a point to any of this story yet.  Am I missing something, or do we just need to wait?

A. Deliverance is the point of the story, so hang in there for that.