Day 364 (Dec. 30): Seven angels standing at Temple hold bowls of seven plagues, those victorious over evil sang song of Moses, plagues caused flowing blood, darkness, earthquakes, hailstorms, prostitute rides beast, beast has fallen, Lamb of God victorious over beast and kings, voice warns to stay away from the wickedness of Babylon, believers rejoice over judgment of Babylon

Welcome to Bible Bum 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.

Revelation 15-18:24

Questions & Observations

Q.  Rob, this is still John’s vision, but we have no idea if this is how the end of days will actually be, right?  And, what about those who see a white light when they are passing, but then come back to earth?  The Bible doesn’t seem to address that.

A. The rest of Revelation after John is told to enter the door is his vision, so yes, this remains a record of what he is seeing.  There are many who see Revelation as some sort of code to be deciphered that would give Christians an “insider” knowledge about what will happen in the last days — which no one even knows when that will be, let alone how it will unfold — but I do not buy that.  People who make such claims don’t really understand the genre of the writing: it was written in code, not for people living centuries later, but for the original audience, persecuted Christians in the seven churches of the first few chapters and beyond.  That it has any benefit to us is, in my mind, incidental to John — though I freely offer that the Spirit desired this book to be for our benefit as well.  But I simply do not think you can “unravel” the code and be given special information: God simply does not work that way with any part of the Bible — the message is always clear and up front.  Hidden knowledge is not part of Christianity — all the “cards” are on the table.  The Bible does not address the near death experiences you are describing, probably because there was no such thing as “near death” in ancient times: you were either dead or alive.

Q. (15:7): There a lot of dishes used in the Bible that hold important things.  Here we have bowls holding plagues, cups that runneth over, and I remember the Tabernacle had some holy dishes, right?  Is that for a reason?

A. I don’t think there is anything special about the use of dishes or cups, they are simply delivery devices for liquids, and there’s just no other way to do that.  Though some of the dishes represent powerful images, such as wrath or healing, the dishes are not the important part of the image: it is what they contain that matters.

Q. (16:4): And here is the blood again.  Blood signifies cleansing of sins.  Here it is more of a payback?

A. The plague of blood serves two purposes: it harkens back to the first plague of Egypt, in which the Nile was turned to blood thanks to Moses’ staff.  But the other purpose for this punishment is described in verses 5 and 6: the blood is a “punishment fits the crime” plague for shedding the blood of those faithful to God.

Q. (16:11): After all of that wrath, the people still refuse to acknowledge God.  They don’t know God so they don’t know they’ve sinned?  And, they are still being called to repent to God and they are still refusing.  Would you say there hearts are hardened?  It doesn’t say anything about that here and why would God harden them because he did this in the past to magnify evil showing the Israelites His power.  These people sound so wicked that their hearts could not be softened ever.  Anyway, just curious.

A. This vision is black and white, like a lot of John’s writings: there is no one who crosses to the other side during this torment: no one repents, and confesses the evil of their ways.  For the Christians who suffered under persecution and likely lost their possessions, if not their lives to the whims of evil men who placed themselves as enemy’s of God’s church, however, this is a just punishment.  It is only a vision after all, but one with a clear purpose: to remind the faithful what they are fighting for and what happens if they are victorious.  Those who persevere through this tribulation — and do keep in mind that in more than 60 countries around the world RIGHT NOW, the tribulation goes on to this day! — they will be rewarded and see those who have punished them punished.

I won’t lie to you, there is an element of blood lust in this that I’m not completely comfortable with, but we must not forget that God does not wink at sin, and some of the greatest sins are to persecute and kill those who are on the side of God.  Personally, I would desire for God to extend grace, but in this vision at least, the time of grace has passed.  Victory is coming for those who remained faithful!

Q. (17:15-18): I don’t understand the dynamic between the beasts and the prostitute.  They are enemies here, but I thought they were on the same Team Evil.

A. This is a complex analogy.  The woman/prostitute is Rome, not the actual city of Babylon, which has long been known as the city on seven hills.  The vision of the kings/crowns on the beast is clear enough, and the beast in this analogy is the Antichrist, the great enemy of God.  It appears that the beast will come to rule over the woman (that is, rule Rome, at least symbolically), and that is why there is animosity between them.  This makes the 8th king (verse 11) the ruler, but they will turn on the “woman” for reasons that I don’t really know.  It appears that even among “team evil,” there is division.  The ultimate point John is making is that Rome has become a prostitute of all kinds of things that are evil in God’s sight, and that many rulers, merchants, and sailors have “slept” with her in order to gain wealth.  Since the woman will die, it will be bad for all those who “sleep” with her.

Q. (18:10): The prostitute is the city of Babylon, right?  It sounds like the NT’s version   of Sodom and Gomorra.  I would think that Babylon is metaphorical for all who fall prey to the temptations of this world.

A. It’s Rome, as I discussed above, but the rest of what you write has it exactly.  Rome is powerful, which is why she is so tempting for those who desire power or control, but in the end, she will die (the Roman Empire will fall) and God still remains.

Day 217 (Aug. 5): God’s wrath poors over nations, Baruch reads scrolls of God’s prophecies, Baruch and Jeremiah hide for safety, King Jehoiakim burns the scroll, the scrolls are rewritten and lengthened, God empowers Baruch, Egypt’s boasting was its ruin, reassurance for the rebuilding of Israel

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.

Jeremiah 25:15-38

Jeremiah 36:1-32

Jeremiah 45:1-5

Jeremiah 46:1-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 24:15-29): Can you explain this “cup”?  And, how did Jeremiah get around to all of these nations?  This is something that took many, many years?  I wouldn’t think that all of these nations would have welcomed Jeremiah.  Was it in the reading that God would protect him?

A. I suspect that this section is a vision of some sort; I highly doubt that Jeremiah went to all of these nations — and as you mention, he would hardly be welcomed.  But the cup itself is an image of God’s wrath, which will be poured out upon these nations for their various sins.  This period in the Middle East was one of extreme turmoil, with nation conquering nation and repeated periods of slaughter that can be see as God’s wrath being poured out.  It was a horrible time, and poor little Judah is caught in the middle of this ongoing endless war within this region.  But surely we live in more civilized times today.

Q. (24:33): And you wonder where some people get a sick sense of humor. (lol) God is saying here that these people are basically the “sh” 4-letter word.

A. Sort of.  I think God is comparing the sheer number of unburied bodies to the mass quantity of manure that a farmer would typically use on a field.

Q. (36:5): Why does Jeremiah say he is a prisoner?

A. Jeremiah is imprisoned by the king who doesn’t like what he is saying.  I believe that we will see more about this later, though I am honestly not sure why the imprisonment didn’t come “first” in our reading.  My notes indicate that he may not have been a prisoner — other translations render this word “restricted” — but may simply have been forbidden from going to the Temple to proclaim his message.  In a linear reading of Jeremiah — which we are obviously not doing here — chapters 7 and 19-20 contain various speeches and actions at the Temple that surely made the officials and king not care much for what Jeremiah had to say.

Q. (36:19): OK, the officials were very interested in the Lord’s messages, but they told Jeremiah and Baruch to hide because they knew the king would not be receptive to them?

A. Yup.

Q. (46:20, 2-26): A horsefly, that’s funny.  What I take from this is that God’s instruction of the different kings drinking from the cup of doom is given more details of who will do what to whom.

A. Yes I would say that’s right.  Egypt will be “eaten” by this horsefly from the north — as will every nation in Babylon’s path — under Nebuchadnezzar.

Day 187 (July 6): Joyful are His followers, a charge for the kings, the wicked are successful but they will feel God’s wrath, God created us, He knows us, a cry for God’s care, those who find shelter in God find rest

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.

Psalms 1-2, 10, 33, 71, 91

Questions & Observations

O. (Psalms 1:1-3): If you think about things that kind of irritate you, bring you down and you just can’t shake them, where do those thoughts stem from?  I hadn’t thought about this until just now.  Whatever those thoughts are, they do not include God.  But, when I am focused on God, I am always happy.  When I listen to our local Christian music station, 88.3 FM, I am welling with happiness.  So, set your eyes on God and you will find happiness!

O. (1:4-6): What a comfort to know that God is always watching over us, as long as we are on His path.

Q. (2:7): We talked before about the anointed kings being like God’s sons.  The people are encouraged to follow the king’s orders and the kings are charged with being wise and making good decisions.  Why does God link the kings directly to Him?

A. Ok, first things first.  Generally, one of the ways that these ancient cultures thought about royalty is that their leaders were anointed by God (or whatever other gods there were in their society), and were therefore given the title of “son” of God/god.  This is only a cultural title, and does not generally apply to actual genealogy.  Now, having said that, this Psalm is something else entirely.  Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm, one that describes actions or characteristics of the Messiah, God’s anointed or chosen, ruler, and here we see the ruler described as an earthly king.  So in this case, the writer really is referring to a father/son type relationship between God and this Messianic ruler, which the Jews of this era would have been expecting.

One of the “offices” or “titles” that the Messiah will hold (that is, and office anointed by God) is that of king (the others are priest and prophet, so watch for Messianic descriptions of these offices as well).  He is God’s chosen ruler, the one whom the government will be on His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).  He, the whole of God and the best of our humanity, will be the true ruler in the Kingdom of God.

Q. (2:16-17): This psalm and many others speaks so confidently about God’s power, yet they also speak of their reservations about God not being sovereign and failing to help ones who are suffering.

A. I think they are being true to their thoughts: they know God to be all-powerful, and trust in Him, but see that their reality is a lot more “gray” then they would like.  It, to me, is the writer’s attempt to reconcile the truth of God with what they see.

Q. This is a random thought: it seems like in Bible times, people who were following God, or any false god, made lots of time in their day to worship.  I would say a good majority of Sunday Christians just worship on Sunday and maybe say prayers before they eat dinner.  In contrast, some religions in other countries worship at set times during the day and may seem more devoted than the when-we-make-time-for-it religion. But, I’m wondering if God maybe might approve of someone’s faith in Him when they worship on their own time and don’t feel forced to attend.

A. As we have discussed with the issues that got the Jews in trouble in this era, God is after our hearts first and foremost.  So we’ve got to get rid of this idea that we are being “forced” to do anything with our relationship with God.  If you feel like you have to force yourself to be part of religious ritual, then frankly, I would say that’s a problem with you!  It should be our desire to make God the priority in our lives.  From the 10 Commandments on, however, we see that God only requires one day a week from us (the Sabbath—however we choose to interpret it).  What we give from there is, strictly speaking, up to us.  (And I would say the same applies to tithing — 10% required, more than that optional and at our discretion).  Our relationship with God should never feel forced: we would be very concerned about a person if they were asking, “how much time do I have to spend with my kids or my spouse?”  That would tell me there’s a major problem with the relationship, and it would be the same concern I would have if that’s the way they treated their relationship with God.

Now having said that, there’s a flip side to this that does need to be addressed.  I think that the record of scripture teaches clearly that giving God more of our time, talent, or treasure does NOT make Him love us more, but it may change us in the process (note the difference between the two!)  Being devoted to God more hours in a given day will not cause God to bless us more, but it might bring us into closer relationship with Him.

Q. (Psalm 71): It seems that a lot of Psalm writers are worried about God forsaking them.  The writers almost threaten God to not leave them.  Why?

A. Very likely some of these Psalms are written in the midst of terrible things happening to the people of Judah (like watching a foreign power march through and destroy Israel).  The truly insightful Jew is willing to acknowledge that God is all they are really holding onto in the end, so if He “leaves,” then you know you are out of luck.

Q. (Psalm 71:20): Would you say that some “hardship” is sometimes just part of the plan?  I know that the big picture is just to keep trusting in God and He’ll take care of you.

A. Sure.  God does not guarantee us a smooth ride in life, but we believe that He is faithful.  If we ignore His warnings though, we are in danger of being forced to deal with the consequences of our actions.  The choice to sin always bears poisonous fruit, but often we cannot tell whom it will affect.

O. (Psalm 91:4): What a picture of protection!  What a great image of God watching His sheep.  I was thinking about how Jesus, God and the Spirit work for us.  I have always thought of Jesus working for us by saving us from our sins as he was nailed to the cross.  But, His influence didn’t stop there.  Jesus was always trying to reach more people to share the word of God and give them heaven’s salvation.  We are supposed to be like Jesus, reaching out to and protecting those who don’t know Him.

Day 178 (June 27): Hosea tells of Israel’s sins and immenent punishment, Israel breaks covenant and will suffer consequences, wrongs of Israel and Judah, God’s wrath for wickedness, healing for those who repent

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.

Hosea 9-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hosea 9:10): When God first named Israel His people, they were few.  It seems that as they grew in number, like God promised the ancestors, that they fell to evil.  With greater numbers comes a greater chance for evil.  And, as we saw with Adam and Eve who were by themselves, that it doesn’t take much to tempt someone.  With more people, the evil just multiplies.

A. That is certainly true.  But Israel in particular has compounded the problem by putting corrupt and evil men on the throne (like Ahab and Jezebel), and continuous worshipping of other Canaanite gods.  They have abandoned God, just as Moses foresaw and warned the people against way back in Deuteronomy.  He warned them that choosing the path without God had only one end: death.  So Israel has reaped what it sowed.

Q. (9:15, 10:8, 10:9): The Lord mentions three places where evil started.  Can you refresh our memory of the sins of Gilgal, Aven (Beth-aven) and Gibeah?

A. Gilgal was the place where Israel camped after crossing the Jordan back in Joshua 4 and 5.  It was the place of ceremony where Joshua and the people re-established the covenant with God and remember His faithfulness.  Apparently this was a place of pagan worship of some sort, but we are not given the details.  Surely it was a great insult to God that a place that had been so significant between God and Israel be used for the spiritual “prostitution” as Hosea has put it.

Beth-Aven is actually making a mockery of the name Bethel.  It is the place where Jacob wrestled with God way back in Genesis 32.  Bethel means “house of God,” Beth Aven means “house of idols” or perhaps “house of nothing,” so you see the mockery of Hosea here.  Anyway, Beth-Aven is the location of one of the golden calves that Jeroboam established to keep people from returning to Judah back in 1 Kings 12 — it’s the thing that God keeps on referring to as the “original sin” of Israel.  All the problems Israel has come back to that moment.

Lastly, Gibeah, one of your favorite stories as I recall (note: Rob is being sarcastic!), was the place back in Judges 19-21 where the tribe of Benjamin went to war with the rest of the tribes over the killing of a concubine by the priest.  The tribe was nearly wiped out, and the other tribes had to resort to basically letting them kidnap virgin women in order to survive.  It was one of the most corrupt moments of Israel’s history, and one that God is recalling now to basically say that nothing has changed.

Q. (10:1): I think this is true today.  The richer we get, the cockier and more prideful we get and think we are self-sufficient, self-motivated and successful.  We probably worship things like work, TV, luxury.  But, why would the Israelites turn to other gods?  Oh, right, because you said when creating a God, you can try to control it — which does nothing anyway.  Whereas with God, He is in control, giving us no self-control.

A. I think you’ve got your own answer.  Don’t forget also, that Israel’s problem started with the king trying to control the people (don’t miss the irony of that statement as it relates to God!) via idols.  Jeroboam wanted the people to worship gods he could control, not the true God that he couldn’t.

Q. (11:8): I think we have found an answer here to the question of “Why did God not give up on the Israelites?”  He has given them so many chances because He remembers the companionship and trust that He had from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.  Maybe He longs for that hoping Israel will turn around.  And, I’m sure that He wants to share His kingdom with them.

A. One of the central concepts of covenant is the idea that if one side of the parties involved does not keep its end of the bargain, the other party does not walk away.  God is demonstrating His faithfulness to His people, by giving them every chance to repent of their sin and return to Him.  But since they will not, they have repentance forced upon them, as we will see.

Q. (14:4): Why is God no longer angry?

A. Once the people have paid their penalty (and they will), then God’s anger (what we would call wrath) in this matter is complete.  He will be able to restore them to a right relationship with Him, and when there is right relationship between God and man — as Jesus will establish for each of us — there is no need for God to be wrathful.