Day 359 (Dec. 25): John encourages us to love one another as God commanded, everyone who believes Jesus is God’s son will be children of God also, Jesus proved He was God’s son by being baptized with water and shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus protects believers from the devil, avoid anything that can take God’s place in your heart, be leary of deceivers, welcome the traveling teachers

Merry Merry Christmas!  The king is born!  Or, was He born on this day?  Read to the end for a discussion.

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.

3 John 1:1-15

1 John 4:7-5:21

2 John 1:1-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 11-12): This verse reminds me of those people I meet that are just radiating with kindness.  I want to ask them if they are a Christian because I am very curious about that.  Is that OK to ask, or should I just assume they are Christian?

A. I can’t really see someone taking offense to the question, but I personally confess that I rarely ask people when I am similar circumstances.  Someone who is a true, confessing Christian should frankly be eager to tell you so.

Q. (5:6b): I am still foggy on what this means: “And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.”  Does that just mean that we know that Jesus is God’s Son and, when we are baptized we get the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said we would.  Therefore, His promise came true.  And the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus’ teaching because the Spirit shows us the right way to live, the same as Jesus did.  Thus, the spirit of Jesus (who taught us to be godly) still resides in us.

A. One of the things we established in Ephesians 1 is that the presence of the Spirit is the “mark” of our salvation, so in a sense, it is His presence that serves as a “testimony” about our faith in Christ.  He would not be present within us if we did not believe in God’s work in Christ, so His very presence testifies about what we believe.

Q. (5:16b): The sin that leads to death is denying that Jesus is the Son of God?  And, talking about praying for sinners, my daughter has started praying for Satan.  What do you say to that?  It actually stemmed from me because God says we are to love our enemies.

A. John tends to describe things in very strong black and white terms: you are either with God, or an antichrist — that sort of thing.  So it is little surprise that he would say that denying Jesus was the Son of God is a sin that leads to death.  As to your daughter’s action, I love her vision for praying for her enemies!

Q. (2 John 1:1): Is John singling out women believers?

A. Not really.  There is some speculation that 2 John is written to a particular woman, but the scholarly consensus is that the “women” represents a congregation or a particular church.  Revelation will repeatedly refer to congregations using feminine imagery, so it is hardly an uncommon thing for the NT (watch for the bride of Christ imagery).

O. (3 John 1:1-4): Growing up, I remember taking care of visiting evangelists and musicians that came to our church for a revival.  I think they stayed with us some, we fed them, had church dinners.  But now that I belong to a megachurch, there isn’t that sense of close-knit community.  I miss it!  But, as my life has changed from going to a small community to a big metropolis, we can still carve out ways to help others.  And, our church definitely supports missionaries who must travel abroad.

Q. Rob, since this is Christmas Day, can you explain if Christmas was the actual day Jesus was born?  I have heard studies where He was born in January.  Regardless, it’s a very important event to celebrate!  I think it’s interesting to hear how dates get set or rearranged in history.

A. The word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass,” or Christ’s coming or arrival.  In the old days, the celebrations were known as liturgical feasts or feast days, as they still are in the “high” churches.  The first indication of the Christ Mass in the Western Church dates to around 354 AD, but the Eastern Church (what we today call the big “o” Orthodox) had already tied the birth of Christ into one combined feast day known as Epiphany, which takes place on Jan 6th of each year.  The Western Church also recognizes Epiphany as the date of the Magi’s arrival (Matthew 2), obviously have a different date for Christmas.  (In passing reference, you get 12 days if you add the dates from Christmas, Dec 25th, to Epiphany, Jan 6th, which would be the 12 days of Christmas, in case you ever wondered).

Okay, now about that date.  Well, as you can clearly see from what we have already discussed, there was no consensus about the ACTUAL date of Jesus’ birth, because the Gospels do not tell us.  The OBSERVANCE of the birth is what takes place on Dec. 25, so it should not be understood that the liturgical churches have been saying Jesus was born on Dec. 25 for 1700 years … it hasn’t.  As to WHY Dec. 25 was selected, well, now we’re in deeper water.  There is some close proximity to what is called the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a major holiday for pagan culture, the dominant force in the world both Jesus and Christianity were “born” into.  So there is frequently discussed and “known” pseudo-knowledge that the 25th was selected to “replace” the feast of the Solstice, but I do not think this is actually what happened.  What caused it then?  Since that’s a long answer, I’m going to recommend you read an essay from a Catholic writer named Mark Shea (he’s a great writer and normally blogs here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/) on that very topic here: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2006/12/is-christmas-really-just-warmed-over.html

Hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.  Merry Christmas!

Day 287 (Oct. 14): Jesus stays back from festival, cost of following Jesus, Jesus goes to festival and teaches, Pharisees are stirred by mystery of Jesus, Jesus promises living water, disbelief as to who Jesus is, adulterous woman provides lesson for all sinners, the Light of the world

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 7:1-9

Luke 9:51-56

Matthew 8:18-22

Luke 9:57-62

John 7:10-53

 [The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11.]

John 8:1-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 7:3): Any idea if this is His biological brothers talking or His disciples?

A. His human half brothers.

Q. (Luke 9:57-62): So basically if you “sign on” to follow Jesus, but have any doubts, you aren’t worthy of being one of his disciples?

A. I would read it more like, “if you prioritize the things of this world before the Kingdom of God, you’ve missed the boat.”

Q. (John 7:10-24): Any idea why Jesus told his brothers that he wouldn’t go with them to Jerusalem but decided to go by himself?  Then, he goes secretly, but starts preaching.

A. Jesus did not attend the festival as a pilgrim (as His brothers did), but rather as a prophet who brought a message of God to the corrupt religious leaders who needed to hear of God’s judgment.

Q. (7:28): Jesus was sent to earth as a human.  I wonder why God chose this avenue.  Since the people know where he came from, it’s very difficult for them to believe in Him.  Did God purposely make Jesus hard for the people to believe?

A. We are still early in the story, so hang in there.  Things will really ramp up with who Jesus claims to be as we enter Holy Week.  Also note that it will be the mission of the Disciples to go to all of these villages (including Galilee) to proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The clarity is coming.

Q. (7:37-39): Is anyone who believes in God and Jesus supposed to be blessed with the Spirit?

A. Yes.  Acts 2 will lay out the details.

Q. (John 8:1-11): I love this “look in the mirror” story.  Why was Jesus writing in the dirt?  Was it just a way for Him to think by using some time up?

A. Since no one knows what Jesus was writing, it is impossible to know what His writing means.  I suspect He was doing so to demonstrate that the crowd was not going to rattle him, even in the midst of the trap.

Q. (8:4): I notice that the teachers of religious law and Pharisees addressed Jesus as “teacher.”  Why do they call Him teacher when they think He’s a fake?

A. Jesus is respected as a Rabbi, and Rabbis frequently had disagreements, so it isn’t that much of a stretch.  The leaders may also be doing so because Jesus followers in the crowd do so: they are doing it out of mock respect.

Day 282 (Oct. 9): Herod confused about who Jesus is, John the Baptist is killed, Jesus feeds 5,000, Jesus walks on water, disciples fail to see Jesus is everything they need, Jesus is salvation, Jesus heals sick

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.

Luke 9:7-9

Matthew 14:1-21

Mark 6:30-44

Luke 9:10-17

John 6:1-15

Mark 6:45-52

Matthew 14:22-33

John 6:16-21

John 6:53-56

Matthew 14:34-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 9:7): Is Herod Antipas the grandson of the Herod who tried to have Jesus killed? I remember he died and his son took over, but Jesus was in danger of him too.  This Herod is softer so I thought it may be yet another generation.

A. Herod Antipas is the son, not the grandson, of the man called Herod the Great.  He ruled Judea for many years, and will have a role to play in the passion story as well as here.  He may have been softer than his father (which isn’t saying much!), but he was still a powerful man who wielded great influence in the region.

Q. (Mark 6:20): Here it says John the Baptist was “a good and holy man.”  So, it’s hard to believe that God didn’t rescue him.  God came to the aid of Daniel with the Lions.  Why couldn’t he save John the Baptist?  Maybe this is why Jesus called him “great than other prophets” because his fate — his sacrifice.

A. John certainly died a martyr’s death — that is, dying for proclaiming God’s truth — but it is hard to say that God did not save him.  It surely must have greatly grieved Jesus.

Q. (Mark 6:23): A vow was or wasn’t always kept then and same as now.  I guess we have to always be careful of what we promise someone to make sure we can keep our end of the deal.

A. What really caused Herod the headache was that he had made the declaration in front of powerful witnesses.  It would have been very embarrassing for him if he had not acted on his stepdaughter’s wish.  As is frequently the case, alcohol likely played a role in this foolishness.

O. (Mark 6:50-51): What telling verses.  I like “Take courage!  I am here.”  I think we all need to realize that and let Him take over.  I also notice Jesus says “I am.”

Q. (Matthew 14:28, 32): I notice that Peter calls Jesus “Lord.”  And, in v. 32, we see that the disciples are acknowledging Jesus is the Messiah, the one that has been prophesied.  They finally understand the “secret.”

A. They understand that He is Messiah, but believe me, they have NO IDEA what it means…yet.

Day 269 (Sept. 26): Wise men visit Jesus, Jesus’s family escapes to Egypt to dodge Herod’s jealous wrath, Jesus’s family returns to Jerusalem, Jesus speaks at the Temple, John the Baptist prepares people for Jesus, Spirit descends on Jesus, Jesus is baptized

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.

Matthew 2:1-23

Luke 2:41-52

Mark 1:1b-8

Matthew 3:1-12

Luke 3:1-18

Mark 1:9-11

Matthew 3:13-17

Luke 3:21-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 2:1): Why would Mary and Joseph stay two years in Bethlehem?  Why wouldn’t they have gone back to Nazareth?  Do I have Jesus’s childhood whereabouts right: Born in Bethlehem until 2ish, then told to flee to Egypt until Herod died, then back to where his parents were from in Nazareth?

A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the distance between the regions was great — Nazareth was well north of Jerusalem, Bethlehem was due south — so, it is possible they were not eager to make the return trip.  Since Joseph, and possibly Mary, had family in Bethlehem, Joseph may have found work or something with family, but that’s just speculation.  You have the rest of the story right.

Q. (Matthew 2:5, 15): Just wondering who the prophet was.

A. In this instance, two different men: the first reference is from Micah, and the second one is from Hosea.  Sometimes the source is cited within the text (as in Mark 1), but most times Matthew (writing to a Jewish audience) assumed they knew the texts he was talking about (Jews studied and debated Messianic scriptures extensively in Jesus’ day), but the footnotes always list the reference.

Q. (2:16): I hope you have some reasoning that makes me feel better about the killing of all these baby boys being tied to Jesus’s birth.

A. Not really: Herod was a terribly cruel king who killed members of his own family because he considered them threats to his power.  So it is little wonder that he would react powerfully and kill children at the very hint of a threat to his power.

Q. (Luke 2:51): Here it is again, “his mother stored all these things in her heart.” I take from this that Mary is taking note to her child’s actions, thoughts, works and trying to support Him and maybe imagine what He’ll be like.

A. Imagine being able to interact with Jesus as a child or a young man.  That surely was fascinating to experience as His mother, and I see no reason that she would not treasure experiences that were surely like this one.

Q. (Mark 1:1b-8): How did John know to baptize?  I don’t think we have read why they are baptizing.  Have we been told what baptism symbolizes?  V. 4 says people should be baptized to show they have repented and turned to God.  But how does going under water symbolize this?

A. Baptism as we know it comes out of the ritual washing of the priests from Leviticus.  The baptism John offered was one of repentance: the people were immersing themselves in the “cleansing” water (the Jordan is a notoriously unclean river- remember Naaman’s objection in 2 Kings 5?) to show that they were washing away their sin.  Baptism (at least immersion) has come to mean following in the footsteps of Christ, and dying (being immersed) and rising to new life (coming to the surface).  But in John’s ministry, it was a sign of repentance.

Q. (Mark 1:6,7): If someone was dressed in camel-hair clothes, ate locusts and preached about Jesus, I doubt he would get a lot of followers.  Why the wildman lifestyle?  A footnote indicates that the Pharisees and Sadducees may have come to the river to be baptized.  I would think they would have a hard time accepting John the Baptist as a man of God.

A. You bet they had a hard time, we will see this come into play during Jesus’ ministry.  According to the Gospels, John had some sort of big following (though we have no idea how many), but it’s quite clear that his ministry got a lot of “word of mouth” endorsement.  How else could all the people hear what was happening outside the city?  As to why he went all wildman, I honestly couldn’t tell you, but it surely didn’t put as many people off as you seem to think it did.

Q. What is the purpose of having four accounts — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — of Jesus’s life?

A. To get four different perspectives.  Each of the writers has their own pet themes and messages that they desire to share with their respective audiences.  I, frankly, love the idea that there is not one, but four different, fully inspired, perspectives on this God-man.  How could one even come close to telling the whole story?

One other note: if you take four different eyewitnesses to a major event (a battle, a crime, a miracle, etc.) you are going to get four different perspectives on it; that’s just human nature.  So again, the existence (and inspiration) of four different stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is just further proof to me of the depths God was willing to go to ensure that there is a “story” for each of us to connect with.  I personally love Luke’s gospel the best, but I find great things I admire about each of them, and I know others who feel the same way about Mark, John, or Matthew.

Q. (Luke 3:16): What does this mean: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”?  I don’t understand the “fire” part.  Will we get into baptism more later?  Or, should I ask some of the questions now.  Mainly, is infant baptism, sprinkling, immersion, all the same?  I was baptized at a church, dipped underwater.  I was always told that full immersion is what the scriptures instruct.  Our church has frequent infant baptisms.   I always thought the believer had to be old enough to know what it meant to formally accept and proclaim Christ.  I was in the Fourth Grade when I got baptized, but I know I didn’t understood the full scope of what it meant to be a Christian.  I’m still learning that.

A. If you learn everything about being a Christian, do let me know- then you can answer the questions!  Ha!

As to the baptism with fire, it’s a prophecy about Pentecost, which is down the road, so we’ll get to that.  There are more baptisms to see in later events, so let’s table the immersion/infant baptism thing for now, because it is long and not easily addressed.  I’ll work on it.

Q. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22) These three Gospels all say that the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.  What’s the dove symbolism?  Why would the Holy Spirit have to descend on Him?  He is already God.

A. The dove was (and is) a symbol of peace, which probably had something to do with it.  There’s a note of Trinitarian doctrine in this question that’s worth considering: part of the Church’s understanding of the Trinity is that while each person of the Godhead IS God, there remains distinction between them in ways that are difficult to explain or even understand.  The way it is traditionally phrased is this: the Father IS God, but is NOT the Son or Spirit.  The Son IS God, but is NOT the Father or Spirit.  The Spirit IS God, but is NOT the Father or Son.  As to why Jesus “needed” the Spirit, I’m not sure there’s a good answer for that.  The Spirit will continue to have a huge role in the Jesus’ earthly ministry and beyond.

Day 64 (March 5): Purifying with water, Miriam dies, Moses strikes rock for water, Moses is punished for changing rock procedure, King Edom refuses to let Israel pass, Aaron dies, Canaanite victory, manna complaintes, bronze snake, travels to Moab, Beer, more victories

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.  Please join us!

Numbers 19-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 19:1-22): We have talked about how Israelites would be ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead person and would need purification to become clean again.  We have said that the reason for this is a hygienic issue.   God did not want disease to enter the Tabernacle.  Is there anything more?

A. The hygiene is the underlying issue to consider when it comes to the purification, but ultimately, God is providing instructions for obedience, and part of it was not having the Tabernacle come in contact with things that were unclean because they had been in various forms of contact with the dead.  God WAS interested in helping the community not suffer from disease, especially among the priests, but the reason the people were required to obey didn’t just have to do with the spread of disease, but because God was teaching them to trust and follow His commands.  If God declared that contact with dead bodies (including animals, as this passage reminds us) caused people to be unclean, that was all they needed to know in order to obey.  We can see considerations of community hygiene, but they were simply expected to obey because that is what God told them.

Q. (20:1): Not much is made of Miriam’s death.

A. That is true.  Something that I read is that because of her proclamation of victory after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15), she became a figure associated with water.  Thus, the next section of the story, the provision of water in the wildnerness, even with the cost to Moses and Aaron, was a way of honoring her spirit.  Miriam remains an important figure to Jewish women, and one of the most well-known and commonly used Jewish names.  Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, and what seems like a dozen other women in the New Testament, bear the same name, Mary.  Mary is the English version of the translation of the same name in Greek, the Hebrew name Miriam.  So while the story does not seem to honor her, she remains to this day a very revered Jewish figure.

Q. (20:2-5): In a reading a couple days ago, you mentioned that because of the disrespect and disbelief that this generation of Israelites had that God intentionally made them wander in the desert for 40 years, long enough for that rebellious generation to die off.  Here they are grumbling again.  Did God reveal to them why they keep wandering

A. I think the previous texts made the matter pretty clear (Numbers 14 tells them that their time in the desert matches the time in days the spies were in the Promised Land: 40 years for 40 days.  But it appears they didn’t get the message, and rather then seeking to repent, they tried to force God’s hand by going into the land anyway, and continuing to complain about Moses and God’s provision.  Some people learn hard.

Q. (20:6-13): I know this story, so I know that God was upset with Moses because Moses struck the rock instead of just speaking to it.  But, if you don’t know this story and are just reading along, you may be confused because Moses got water for the people from the rock as God told him to.  It’s the specific instructions that Moses does not follow.  Do we know if this is intentional on Moses part, or just a misunderstanding?  I guess we take it that Moses did it intentionally, because God knows his heart and Moses did write this book, as best to our knowledge.  Maybe Moses is upset with God: His sister just died?  So, now Moses and Aaron will not see Canaan, just like the rest of that generation of Israelites.

A. Moses will see the Promised Land, just not enter it.  You’ll see how.  I’m sure the death of his sister had something to do with his frustration, but ultimately he directly disobeys God, and joins his generation in being kept out of the Promised Land.  There’s a lot of speculation about what Moses actually did, clearly it wasn’t just a misunderstanding, but rather willful intent on his part.  He is clearly angry with the people, and very likely at the end of his rope in frustration with their complaining.  Personally, I think that what God reacts to is Moses claiming credit for the provision of water (“must I provide it for you”), when God was the one who had made the provision.  It is never a good thing when we claim personal credit for things that we know are the will and provision of God alone.

Q. (20:14-21): The descendants of Esau comprise Edom, right?  Jacob and Esau parted on good terms years ago.  Why would the king of Edom not let the Israelites pass through?  Do we know how other nations view the Israelites at this time?  They are a huge traveling group.  There must have been talk.

A. Remember that Esau’s other name was Edom, related to his red hair and foolish desire for red stew (Genesis 25:30).  We do not know exactly what motivated the king’s decision, but the antagonism between Jacob’s descendants and Esau’s is one of the things we noted back in Genesis was something we would follow throughout the narrative.  As you mention, the group was probably quite intimidating, so perhaps there is little surprise that various nations refused to let them enter their territory.

Q. (20:29): I wonder here if mourning means observance of death or actual mourning.  The reason I bring this up is that the Israelites yo-yo between respecting Moses and Aaron and rebelling against them.  To mourn for 30 days must mean they respected him at this time?  They also seem to be following in the next passage, Numbers 21:1-3.

A. Most ancient societies had standard operating procedures for honoring the dead, which appears to be what the text is describing.  I do think that it is a powerful tribute to the respect they had for Aaron, even as they refused to listen to him.  Aaron, along with Moses, certainly did a lot for the people in terms of, you know, keeping the people alive and out of God’s wrath, and I think the people knew it.

Q. (21:4-9): I must say, I would think that if I had the same thing to eat over and over again that I would complain about it.  Is the lesson that the Israelites are not getting that they have made bad choices (complaining, doubting, being envious) and thus have brought this long journey in the desert on themselves?  If they would have trusted in God, they may have already been enjoying the Promised Land?

A. I think you’ve put it well.  Note the tone of the complaint: we hate this horrible manna, the very provision God made for His people day after day.  No wonder God was angered!  This isn’t, “Moses can we have quail or something else”, this is, “I hate what you are providing for me God,”  That’s very dangerous territory for any of us!

Q. (21:35): So after the Israelites destroyed these cities (God was with them), they could settle in those houses instead of using their tents?

A. I honestly don’t know if they used the territory; the text doesn’t tell us.  I would say it is a fair assumption that they (temporarily- they would be moving soon) used some of the buildings they conquered.

Thanks for reading.  See you tomorrow!

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.