Day 346 (Dec. 12): James (Jesus’s brother) writes 12 tribes, get rid of human anger and accept the word in your heart, show no favoritism, faith without good deeds is dead, control your Christian tongue, true wisdom comes from God

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.

James 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. Just some background info, if it’s available: Do any of Jesus’s other brothers speak out for Him?  What were the “12 tribes” that James was talking about?  How did this letter get to them?

A. There is tradition, but not certainty, that the Epistle of Jude (coming soon!) is written by another of Jesus’ brothers — it’s the same name as Judas, so they changed it for obvious reasons.  James, the half brother of Jesus and Bishop of the church of Jerusalem (which will soon be destroyed), appears to be writing to Jewish believers, though it is possible he is using metaphor and refers to both Jews and Gentiles as being part of the “12 tribes”.  Jews of this era were spread over various cities, and any letter like this one would have been sent by messenger.  We do not know who the original readers were.

O. (James 1:2-4): James speaks the truth.  I think this means that the more we endure, the more spiritual we grow until we won’t need to improve much more, if any.

O. (1:14): I think it’s so interesting to point out that evil desires come from ourselves.  We must listen to the Spirit to guide us away from these thoughts or actions.

O. (James 2:10): So, I guess if we have one or two super small sinful issues, then we are not pure.  Purity is the whole shebang.

Q. (James 2:20): Also the other way around, right?  Good deeds without faith has no value to God, right?

A. James is talking about works that are of benefit to mankind, and a faith that is visible to others as a way of spreading the Gospel.  Only God can see our true faith, so in that sense, it does no good to those around us if only God can see it.

Day 19 (Jan. 19): Job — Satan challenges God, Job tested, Job’s friends offer “help”

Good morning!  Thank you for checking out BibleBum.com, where we are reading the Bible in one year, chronologically.  This blog is unique in that at the end there are questions from the reading answered by a seminary graduate who has studied cultural history.  The information helps readers grasp confusing parts, find deeper meanings and sometimes surprise!

If you have been reading along, congrats, you have finished Genesis!  Today we start a new book, Job.  For background information about Job, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/job/.  We will be referring to this link before every new book to provide information about the author, time it was written and other scene-setter material.

If you are new to this blog, you can go to the “Best New Year’s Resolution” tab to find out why we started BibleBum.com.  To start this blog from the beginning, click on the index tab and find Day 1.  I hope you find this as fun and as enriching as we have creating it!

Job 1-4

Questions & Observations

O.  How can anyone possibly own this much property?  He has all these riches and still praises God.

Q. (Job 1:5): After his children had been celebrating for several days Job made it practice to purify them by offering a sacrifice for each one in case they had sinned against God.  How does God view routinely sinning and then asking for forgiveness — taking Him for granted?

A. What you are describing in your question is what Bonheoffer (a church father during the Nazi rule in Germany) called cheap grace: the idea of taking God’s forgiveness for granted, and going on to make bad decisions.  This, frankly, is a very tempting option for a lot of people, and it also can be hard to avoid, since many of us have “pet” sins that we struggle with.  But part of what it means to be a maturing Christian is our gradual efforts to change our bad habits and to be increasingly repulsed by our defiant sin choices.  It should be a daily part of our walk with God to ask for His guidance in the ways that we are taking advantage of His grace and working to remove them.

As it relates to the story, I honestly don’t think this is what the author is talking about.  The writer is trying to show that Job is such an upright man, that he even offers up sacrifices for things his kids MIGHT have done.

Q. (1:6): Can you tell us anymore about this meeting?  Who is the heavenly court?  What is Satan doing with them?

A. While this is not the only glimpse into heaven that we get in the Bible (at least that’s what it appears to be), this is the only time that such a description is given to us.  My assumption is that the heavenly court is made up of angels (including at least one fallen one), but it doesn’t exactly tell us the “roll” of who is there.  The word Satan means “accuser”, which is exactly what he is doing in this scenario: accusing God of protecting Job, and accusing Job of being a “fair weather” person who only loves God because God has been so generous to him.  This is not the last time in the OT that we will see Satan accuse.

One other note that warrants mentioning here: there is a fair degree of variation between what Christians and Jews have to say about Satan and his “role”.  Many Jews do not see Satan as the great enemy of God, but rather an angel who serves the important role of “testing the mettle” of God’s faithful: he does so on God’s side, so to speak.  Passages like this one can point in that direction: the passage does not make God and Satan to be completely antagonistic.  Satan is testing Job, but only with God’s permission.  This image of Satan being a servant, rather than an enemy of God, varies greatly from the picture that is painted by the New Testament.  Keep in mind: much of what the Bible says about the devil (and hell, by the way) comes directly from Jesus Himself (see John 8:42-47 for example), and this obviously would lead to a very different interpretation of Satan’s role between Christians (who follow Christ) and Jews (who reject Jesus as Christ or Messiah).  We will continue to get glimpses into the spiritual realm of angels, demons, and Satan, so see how these two visions line up with what you’ve been taught.

Q. (1:20): I know there is a larger question to ask here.  I’ll get to it.  But, I want to ask about the tearing of clothes.  We have seen Jacob do this, Joseph’s brothers, and here Job tore his robe and shaved his head in despair.  Is there symbolism here?

A. Tearing (or rending) one’s clothes was a way of showing great distress, in this case mourning for Job’s dead children and servants.  Shaving the head would have also been seen as a sign of mourning: it was very uncommon for a man to shave his head (which probably included shaving off facial hair) in this period, and it would have made the man stand out.  If you wanted to bring attention to the fact that you were in mourning, shaving your head and beard would have been a great way to do it.

Q. (1:13-2:10): After reading this, I just said “whew.”  How could anyone take this and why would God test Job so harshly?  In 2:4, it says “you (Satan) urged me (God) to harm him (Job) …” saying God did the harming.  But in 1:12, God said he would allow Satan to test him.  So, who tested him?  Is this a slip of translation?  I bet your going to say that what we need to glean from this is that Job was faithful to God no matter what happened to him or who harmed him.  So, here we are again at: “Does God cause bad things to happen?  Or just know about them and allow them to happen?”  I think it’s clear here that God made the bad things happen.  What significance does this have in God’s battle of strength with Satan?  To me, this is a battle between God and Satan and Job is the pawn.  Again, I feel like I’m going to get struck for saying that!  Just trying to understand.

A. Let’s pull back a bit.  Job is basically an extended narrative essay on the eternal question of theodicy: basically, if a loving, all-powerful God exists, why do bad things happen?  So in the first few chapters, we already have one part of the answer: part of the reason that we suffer is that God is not the only powerful entity in our universe.  There are other entities whom desire to harm God’s children because doing so harms the God who loves them.  If Satan cannot confront God directly, he surely can target God’s children to gain (in his mind) some measure of revenge.  So, God does not choose our suffering, but allows it for us to be tested just as Job is being tested here.

I think the verse you are pointing to does not say that God harmed Job directly, but as you clearly state, He does allow the harm of Satan.  Is that exactly the same as saying “God harmed Job” because He allowed it to happen?  Well, that’s up to you to decide.  Part of what this story builds up to in the late chapters is that we must be VERY cautious in assuming anything about the mind of God.  We make a lot of presumptions about God’s justice (or lack there of as we see it), but ultimately, God does not have to answer to us, as we shall see.

O. (1:1-26): Job is obviously beside himself, hurt to the core.  He seemed calmer when he told his wife that we need to accept the good and the bad — all that comes from God.  Here, it finally hit him.  His ranting reminds me of when something is troubling me and I have crazy thoughts running through my head as I struggle to see the light of it.  His problems are much more devastating than anything I have faced, but I can still relate.

Q. (4:9, 4:19):  When I first read this, I thought it was God talking.  Then, I looked back and was relieved when I saw that it was Eliphaz.  I imagine most people listening to this response of his friend and thinking, “He’s got a point.”  However, we learn that Job does not forget who his Creator is.  We are told that God is loving, yet he can come down on people severely.  We are merely dust, purely disposable.  From my perspective, it seems that the Old Testament is harsher, but the New Testament is the new law and shows much more affection.  Do you feel God can have a change of heart?

A. That is, of course, a classic debate that has been going on for centuries.  Certainly the relationship between man and God changed through the actions of Jesus in the New Testament, but I do not feel that the OT paints God as any less loving and faithful to His chosen people.  It’s just that in the NT, everyone — Jew and Gentile alike, becomes His chosen people if they are in Christ.  I have this great book called Grace in a Tree Stump by one of my professors at Asbury (Ellsworth Kalas — one of my favorite writers), that talks about the many ways that God shows mercy and grace to people throughout the Old Testament.  We should be careful about saying God is more or less “harsh” in the Old or New Testaments.  One thing to remember that frequently gets cast aside in such discussions: while the Old Testament certainly comes across as harsh, it is the New Testament that has the most to say about hell, its reality, and the reality that people will end up there if they do not trust Christ for their salvation.  The Old Testament has a some instances of God striking people down or “causing them suffering” as we’ve been talking about, but the New Testament has a lot more to say about the ETERNAL destiny of sinners.  Is that ultimately more harsh and cruel?  Something to think about.