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 219 (Aug. 7): Nebuchadnezzar asks for ‘wise’ men to interpret his disturbing dream, ‘wise’ men said it was impossible and faced execution, Daniel interpreted dream from a vision from God, Daniel rewarded with position of ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow to gold statue, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and thrown into furnace, they were safe and accompanied by a mysterious fourth in furnace, Judeans cannot use temple to shelter them from destruction, God urges Jeremiah to stop praying for Israelites, time is coming for Jerusalem to be ‘Valley of Slaughter’

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.

Daniel 2-3:30

Jeremiah 7-8:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 2:12): I don’t understand why men were ordered to kill Daniel and his friends because wise men — not Daniel and his friends — told the king his dreams were impossible to interpret.

A. The previous chapter has established that Daniel and his friends are wise men/advisors to the king (1:20), and therefore subject to the penalty of the king’s decree.

Q. (2:30): Here Daniel is saying that dreams tell you what is in your heart.  Does God say that our dreams are supposed to mean anything?  Maybe just to some people?  I would think people would know if God was trying to speak to them through dreams.  Mine are either normal stuff, but sometimes I feel the devil enters them and makes me question my awake life.  I still have fears that I woke up late and missed a test or did a poor job at work like I totally slacked off.  That’s not me.  I studied hard in college, putting ice cubes on my eyelids to stay awake, not to mention the amount of caffeine I used to consume.

A. Dreams are a potential way for God to get our attention, but that doesn’t mean that all dreams are directly from God.  Part of the backdrop for this story is the story of Joseph and Pharaoh from way back in Genesis 41: the pattern is repeated — and perhaps God chose to use the same method to gain the attention and trust of a great king — the king has a dream about future events, which only a man of the true God can reveal.  The men (Joseph then, Daniel now) is handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

Q. (2:47, 3:1): Why on earth did King Nebuchadnezzar say that “your God is the greatest of gods” and then go make a 90-foot tall gold statue?

A. Probably because the statue was of himself.  He was seeking to be worshipped as a god — he was incredibly powerful, one of the most powerful kings in history — and probably had no idea why the Jews would have any objection to worshipping him.

Q. (3:18): This verse brings up a subject that I feel “gray” on.  Here Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the subjects of this wonderful story of faith.  They have faith in God that He will save them from the blazing hot furnace.  Yet, they put a disclaimer in there that if God does not save them, they still believe in Him and will not worship any idol.  This mirrors thoughts I have.  I trust God, but when I proclaim Him, I’m not sure He’s going to come through at that moment when I am asking for His help.  It’s like when I ask Him to heal a sick person or help me through a rough time, I don’t know if he’ll answer the situation, so you always have to put in the “God willing” tagline.  Then, those critics can say that we have to say He will come through when He wants to.  Then, we have to say that it’s all part of His plan and we have to trust in Him that He knows what’s best for us.  That’s a hard sell to non-Christians.  I would love to do an apologetics study.  Do you know of any good, easy-to-follow ones?

A. There’s an old saying that goes “faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” that I think addresses the sentiment you are describing.  It is that type of faith that these three men powerfully display in the midst of their trials: they have nothing left to trust in but God’s deliverance, but they even say “it doesn’t matter if God saves us or not, we’re not worshipping your idol.”  Their powerful faith has served as an example throughout the ages to both Christians and Jews who have gone through times of persecution, and especially in times what God did not deliver the people from suffering and death (as God did not spare Jesus).

Apologetics can be a very helpful resource for bolstering the faith that we already have, though I would caution against using it too strongly to try to CONVERT non-Christians.  It is useful to help us answer the tough questions about faith — and I believe that they are good answers to those questions — but be careful about using them as a bludgeon against others who do not share your faith.  Conversion of the sort you are describing comes much more from relationship and love than argument.  Very few people are “argued” into the Kingdom of God.  Three resources I would recommend are the Case for Christ and Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, and Mere Christianity (which is British and can be a bit hard to read, so you’ve been warned) by C.S. Lewis.

Q. (Jeremiah 7:3-7): Before we have read where God said good deeds at this point would not erase the evil that has been done, thus the destruction of Jerusalem is unavoidable.  Here, God says He will give them another chance if they abandon their evil ways.  Isn’t this contradicting or am I missing something?

A. I think God is talking about repentance that comes from the heart of the people.  He is saying that if they truly change their hearts, not just their actions, He will relent.  The problem?  They won’t change their hearts.

Q. (7:8-11): Here God is saying that just because the temple is in their city, the citizens of Jerusalem cannot think that they get a pass from punishment if they sin.  Right?

A. Yes.  It appears Jeremiah is telling us that the false prophets of his day trusted\ the building itself rather than the God who it represented.  This will be costly.

Q. (7:3-15): So, in this scripture, Jeremiah says God will excuse the Israelites if they shape up, then He says that being a citizen of Jerusalem does not shade them from being punished for sins and in the last paragraph God is talking about exiling them.  I’m just commenting that God goes through a big change in His attitude of the Israelites.

A. I wouldn’t agree.  I think this is a continuation of the sentiment I described in the previous question, God is after a change of heart, and the people will not yield their hearts to Him.  So He is warning them that just because they have this incredible building, they will not be spared what is to come.  The only thing that will spare them is repentance.  If they don’t repent, being in God’s city will not save them, and exile is coming.