January 1, 2016 Bible Study — In The Beginning



Starting today I am switching from using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible reading to the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net”.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Genesis 1-3.

    This passage is really three stories. The first is an account of how the Universe came to be and stands alone, separate from the other two. This account of the creation of the Universe is clearly poetic. It is written to show that everything was created in an orderly, planned fashion. I struggle with describing this story as literally true. On the one hand, declaring that this story is literally true leads to a much more rigid interpretation of what it has to say than I believe God intends. On the other hand, declaring that it is not literally true makes it much too easy to reject the truths which it teaches. Among the truths which this story teaches is that God created the Universe in an orderly, understandable fashion. Further, He did so by declaring it to be so. The Universe, and everything in it, was created by the word of God. One of the key factors here for me is that my theology says that death did not enter into the world until the first man sinned. Which is discussed in the third story.


    The second and third stories are linked and there are several points that fit them together. The second story is about the origin of man and woman, family, and society. Once again this story is composed in a very poetic manner, but I have the same issues with making a declarative statement as to whether it is literally true as I did with the first story. The first truth of this story is that it is not good for a man to be alone in this world. The second truth is that man and woman are created to be partners and to help each other. There are two things about this that are important. First, human sexuality is designed to form a bond between a man and a woman. When sexual pleasure is obtained outside of that scenario it is a distortion of what God intended. Second, that bond is intended to be for the rest of the lives of those involved. Once again, when sexual pleasure is obtained outside of that scenario, whether because of infidelity, or divorce, or some other reason, it is a distortion of what God intended and is less than the joy which God intended for us.


    The third story tells us how sin came into the world, and about how we react to our having sinned. First, Eve ate of the fruit, contrary to God’s command, because she sought knowledge and wisdom. Seeking knowledge and wisdom is, in and of itself, a good thing. However, the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom does not justify doing wrong. Eve was seeking a shortcut to knowledge, further she wanted to be God-like. She was not satisfied with being made in the image of God, she wanted to be God. In many ways this is the original sin, the desire to be able to determine right and wrong independently of God, the wish to be able to declare something to be right because we desire it to be so. I want to point out that Adam was standing right there. He failed to offer any counter arguments to those made by the serpent because he, also, wanted to be God-like. But Adam wanted to be able to blame someone else if things went wrong. There is an important lesson here. When you do wrong, you will pay the consequences, even if you were following someone else’s lead.

December 31, 2015 Bible Study — The Day of God’s Judgment

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 31:25-31

    The writer reminds us that someone who is charming may convince you that they are nice, when, in fact, they are only using you for their own benefit and that beauty is temporary. The most important characteristic one should look for when choosing a wife is a woman who fears and loves the Lord. I praise God that He sent me a woman who does the latter while possessing both of the former. And men, if you do not think the same about your wife, you have made a terrible mistake. Although, as long as she fears and loves the Lord there is time to correct that mistake. I am convinced that any woman who fears and loves the Lord has within her what it takes to be charming and beautiful.


Psalm 150

    Praise the Lord. Not quietly, so that no one notices, but with as much noise and motion and energy so that no one can mistake what you are doing. Make sure that everyone and everything knows that you are praising the Lord. Now and always.


Revelation 22

    Jesus is coming back soon to lift the curse of sin from all of creation by replacing this cursed creation with a new one which has been cleansed of the curse. Those who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb will enter into the new creation as new creatures themselves. Those who refuse to give up sexual immorality and lies, who are willing to kill others for their own pleasure, will be left outside. Anyone who is thirsty for righteousness is invited to come and drink from the water of life which God is providing through Jesus. Let us respond to His invitation and extend it to those we encounter. Everyone is welcome who is willing to accept God’s truth.


Malachi 3-4

    The prophet warns us that the day of God’s messenger is coming soon, but that many of us who are eagerly waiting for that day will not be able to endure that day. This prophecy has often been interpreted as being about the coming of John the Baptist announcing Jesus. I believe that is correct, but I also believe this prophecy refers to Christ’s second coming.
    The time will come when God Himself will testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and liars. God will take the stand to testify against those who cheat employees out of their wages, oppress widows and orphans, deny justice to foreigners. Only then will such people learn to fear the Lord, but then it will be too late. There are many who think they are serving God who will be judged on that day. People who think they are giving God His just dues, but are making excuses to spend those resources elsewhere. People who think they are praising God, yet see no point in doing God’s will. Those who fear the Lord speak with each other and God will call them His children. The key here is that if we do not fear the Lord, we will not serve Him.

December 30, 2015 Bible Study — The New Heaven and the New Earth

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 31:10-24

    Whenever I write on this proverb I feel like I am sucking up to my wife. However, while she does not do all of the things listed in this parable, she is indeed a virtuous and capable woman.


Psalm 149

    I will praise the Lord. I will sings songs to Him (which means you had better sing pretty loud because I do not sing all that well). I will use what ability I have to praise the Lord. He brings me victory when I am humble (and defeat when I get proud). I will praise His name.


Revelation 21

    John tells us that God will create a new heaven and a new earth to replace the current one which was broken by sin. In that new heaven and earth God will live with His people. There will be no more death, or sorrow, or crying, or pain. Those who serve God in faith will dwell there, but those who revel in sins will not be able to enter this new earth. This is a reminder that whatever pleasures sin brings, it is not worth it. And whatever suffering being faithful brings is only temporary. Those who faithfully serve God have no need to fear death. For those, death is the end of pain and suffering followed by a new life with no pain or suffering.


Malachi 1-2

    The prophet condemns religious leaders who, instead of teaching God’s pure instructions, have taught people to sin. They have shown favoritism in the way they carry out God’s instructions. God will punish them for this. The prophet then condemns the people in general for their unfaithfulness. People wonder why God does not accept their offerings. The answer is because they have been unfaithful to their wives (and husbands). The prophet reminds us that God hates divorce. God is wearied by us when we say that those who do evil are doing good in God’ sight. The passage in Revelation I read today said that the immoral will not enter into the new heaven and new earth. This passage condemns those who practice immorality and those who teach that immorality is not immoral.

December 29, 2015 Bible Study –Armageddon and the Millenia

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 31:8-9

    The proverb writer reminds us that God desires that we speak up for those unable to speak for themselves. We need to seek justice for the poor and needy, for those who do not have the means to seek it for themselves.


Psalm 148

    The psalmist calls on everyone and everything to praise the Lord. No matter who you are, no matter what you are, God is deserving of your praise. If it was not for God you would not exist. If it was not for God none of the things which give your pleasure would exist. I will praise His name for the wonderful things which He has done.


Revelation 20

    This passage is one of the most heavily debated in the Bible. There are at least three schools of thought about this passage. The first two believe it to be a literal, thousand year reign of Christ on this earth. The third believes it to be figurative. One school of thought believes that there will be a time of great tribulation when Christians throughout the world are persecuted even more than ever in the past followed by Christ’s return when He will rule over the world for one thousand years. The second school of thought believes that Christ will return and rule over the world for one thousand years followed by a time of great tribulation. The third school of thought holds that Christ’s thousand year reign will be a figurative reign, not one where He is literally sitting as the head of government for the entire earth. My understanding of how Biblical writing works inclines me towards a literal thousand year reign. However, the various prophesies regarding Christ’s return and the end of the world make it hard for me to see how such a literal reign could fit into the other events we are told will occur.


Zechariah 14

    Of course, having written what I wrote about the passage in Revelation, I come to this similar passage in Zechariah. Zechariah prophesies of a day when the nations of the earth will attack Jerusalem and sack it. However, God will provide a path of escape for His people and immediately after the fall of Jerusalem God will come in force and strike down those nations. Zechariah prophesies that God Himself will rule over all of the earth. There will be but one God which all people will worship. A plague will strike every nation which marched against God’s people. Those who survive the plague will worship God. Those who refuse to worship God will have droughts and famines. It is clear that Zechariah is also prophesying a literal reign by God on this earth.

December 28, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 31:1-7

    Those who exercise authority and power should limit how much alcohol they consume. If they make decisions when drunk they may act contrary to the law or render unjust decisions.


Psalm 147

    The first thing that came to mind when I read this psalm was the song “It is a good thing”, the first line of which begins “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praises to His name.” The psalmist goes on to remind us of why it is a good thing to do so: He heals the brokenhearted, He supports the humble (to name two of the reasons). God does not show favoritism towards those with might and power, or even beauty as we measure such things. No God shows His favor to those who fear Him and strive to do His will.


Revelation 19

    It would not be accurate to say that I never noticed this before, it is just that it never occurred to me that it was significant. Twice in this passage John hears the sound of a great crowd calling out God’s praise. The significance is that those who will be in heaven are a crowd so large that when they speak in unison they sound like ocean waves crashing on the shore. At the same time, or closely thereafter, Jesus will ride forth and for all time defeat the evil in this world and those who have chosen to serve it.


Zechariah 12-13

    Zechariah tells that the day will come when God will establish Jerusalem and the land of Israel such that the surrounding nations will be consumed when they attempt to attack it. Zechariah also prophesies that God will send forth a fountain which will cleanse everyone from their sins. As part of this God will eliminate idol worship and false prophets, those who prophesy on behalf of idols.

December 27, 2015 Bible Study — Good and Bad Shepherds

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 30:33

    You do not bring people together by stirring up anger, or by reminding people of their grievances. When you remind people of their grievances, legitimate or not, you spread division and strife. Take a close look at those who claim to be trying to bring people together while emphasizing the grievances and complaints of various groups.


Psalm 146

    If you rely on people, even powerful people, to rescue the oppressed from oppression, you will be disappointed. The powerful, no matter how well-intentioned, can only help you for as long as they live. When they die the structures they have created will resume oppression. It is only when we rely on God that we will see the oppressed rescued from oppression in any meaningful way. It is God, and only God, who can bring about long term change for the better. I will praise the Lord for as long as I live, for it is He who cares for the orphan and the widow. He will see that they receive justice.


Revelation 18

    Today’s passage refers to the fall of “Babylon”. The “Babylon” referred to here is the city/nation which dominates the world both economically and militarily. It had used its position of power to take unfair advantage of others. John warns us as believers to not take part in the sins of “Babylon”. I am not sure that this prophecy is a once and done prophecy. I believe that any nation which rises to power by oppressing others will suddenly fall and the people of that nation will suffer when that fall happens. Certainly we should take careful thought about this prophecy because if it were about today “Babylon” would be the United States. Are we guilty of the sins which this prophecy ascribes to “Babylon”? How can we separate ourselves from the sins of our nation?


Zechariah 10-11

    Zechariah condemns those who were called to lead God’s people who, instead of serving the people they were called to lead, used their position of leadership to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. However, he also condemns the people for choosing to follow such leaders rather than the good leaders whom God has sent them. I see this in the Church today. All too many people are following leaders who are abusing them, while rejecting leaders who offer to serve them. Zechariah warns us that God will bring persecution and suffering upon the Church if we do not follow those whom He has sent to lead us. I, also, see that God is calling some to serve His people as He desires. Are you one of those called to serve and lead God’s people? If so, are you truly serving them? Or are you “eating the meat of the fattest sheep?”

December 26, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 30:32

    It is foolish to tell others how great you are, or to plot evil. But it is never too late to change your ways.


Psalm 145

    Each generation must tell the next of God’s great acts. In some ways, this is one of the toughest things for me, telling others about the miracles God has performed for me. I have known too many people whose stories made them sound gullible rather than revealing God’s power. While I know that my fear of sounding gullible is a weakness in my walk, I, also, know that God has given me the gift of reaching those who need a more intellectual approach to God. Nevertheless, I do meditate on the splendors of God and on His many miracles. I will remind those in trouble that God is close to all who call on Him.


Revelation 17

    I was reading this and realized there is an interesting statement made here about the beast. I had always known that the beast had suffered a fatal wound, yet lived. What I never really noticed was the angel telling John that the beast was once alive, but was not now alive. Yet it would live once again. The reason I find this interesting is that I am convinced that both the woman in this passage and the beast represent political entities. The woman represents the most powerful nation on the earth, particularly one which is economically mighty. If this passage were to come to fulfillment today, the woman would represent the United States.
    The beast is more difficult for me to understand. It seems to both serve the woman and to overthrow the woman. I think one thing which helps us understand the meaning of the beast is to look at what appears to be John’s understanding of this vision. I believe that John, the writer of this passage, thought that the woman was Rome and that the beast the government of the Roman Empire (although he would not have exactly meant what we think of as the government. He would have meant the behind the scenes power brokers, who had no official power, but nonetheless influenced what decisions were made and the people who were individually powerless but who, if they rejected the authority of the government as a group could have brought about its overthrow).


Zechariah 9

    Every time I read this passage I am reminded that Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was exactly that. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey He was declaring that the victory had been won. That ride symbolized a king riding into His capital after victoriously winning a war. The war was over and the enemy was defeated.
    However, there is also a prophecy here which I believe will be fulfilled. Zechariah prophesies that the lands of Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories will be overrun by enemies. As a result the people of these lands will join with the people of Israel. The day will come when Jerusalem will no longer be under threat of attack.

December 25, 2015 Bible Study


For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 30:29-31

    I think the point here is that the dangerous often strut and posture to avoid needing to use their power. On the other hand, all of these “strutters” have the ability back up their strut. Which suggests to me that perhaps the point is that if you strut about you had better have the ability to back it up. The final possible interpretation is that the first three of these are prepared to back up their strut with their own ability, while the fourth is counting on others to make them dangerous.


Psalm 144

    I will praise the Lord because He trains me for the tasks which He sets before me. It is amazing that God pays attention to me. I am nothing compared to Him, or even to the Universe which He created. Even among human beings I am insignificant. Yet despite this, God has performed miracles for me and has prepared me for His tasks. He has reached down and rescued me when I was in despair. I will praise His name every day which I draw breath.


Revelation 16

    Next in John’s vision came seven plagues poured out over the earth in judgment of people’s sins. The first plague afflicted only those with the mark of the beast (which suggests a disease spread by the process of placing the mark). However, the most important point in this passage is that people cursed God for the plagues, yet did not repent of their sins and turned to God. I have known all too many people who blame God for the things which have gone wrong in their life rather than admit that their own mistakes and sins had led them into the situations they found themselves in.


Zechariah 8

    God promises through Zechariah that the day will come when the people of Jerusalem will walk the streets in peace. Old men and women will safely walk the streets with their canes and sit together in the city squares. The streets will be filled with boys and girls at play. When we look at the world today it seems impossible for such a time of prosperity and peace to come to pass, but nothing is impossible for God. For a long time the Jewish people have been a symbol of a cursed nation, but God promises to change that. He will make them not just a symbol of blessing, but a source of blessing. Indeed, He has already done so by sending Jesus to die on the cross, but I believe there is more to come.
    God will bring about peace in Jerusalem. However, He will not do so until the people of Jerusalem do their part. Their part is our part as well. It is to tell the truth to one another; to render just verdicts in our courts; to stop telling lies that we swear are the truth; and to not scheme against each other. If we do this, the day will come when the people of the world will travel to Jerusalem to seek the Lord. There will be peace not only in Jerusalem, but throughout the earth.

December 24, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 30:24-28

    We can take lessons from various creatures none of which are powerful. Ants store up food when it is plentiful for times when it is in short supply. The hyrax (the word translates from Greek as “shrewmouse”, which gives you some idea what sort of creature they are) is weak, but it lives where it is hard for predators to get at it. Locusts have no leaders, yet they move as a group so as to overwhelm any attempt to stop them. Lizards are easy to catch, yet they turn up everywhere. Let us follow these examples as we seek to serve the Lord.


Psalm 143

    If you are feeling depressed, this psalm is both a good prayer and a good meditation. Call out to God for rescue from your depression and from the things which are making you depressed. Then think about the great works which God has done, but not just about the great works, think about all of the things which God has done. If you trust God and give yourself to Him, He will show you where and how to walk. He will hide you and protect you from your enemies. He will teach you to do His will, follow those teachings and, over time, you will find your depression lifting.


Revelation 15

    Those who resist the temptation of the beast, his statue, and his number will stand before God to sing His praises. If we are among that number God will give us the tools which will allow us to beautifully praise His name before all people. This passage is at least partially figurative. As we resist the temptations to give in to persecution we bring praise to God and encourage others to serve and praise Him as well. I will praise and glorify God in such a way as to encourage others to do so as well.


Zechariah 6-7

    Zechariah is given the message that the gold and silver being brought from the exiles still in Babylon should be made into a crown for Jeshua, the high priest. Zechariah declared that Jeshua would rule over Jerusalem as a king and would also serve as high priest. What I find interesting is that Jesus is the Anglicized version of the Greek transliteration of Jeshua. So, it is possible to interpret this passage as a prophecy regarding Jesus. I believe that while this passage had meaning to the people of Zechariah’s day, it was also a prophecy regarding the coming of Jesus.
    There is an important message in this passage. Some of the Jews sent a message to Zechariah asking if they should continue to mourn and fast on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, since it had been rebuilt. Zechariah’s answer is one to which we need to place close attention. He tells them that they were not mourning and fasting for God, and their holy feasts were also for their own pleasure. What God wanted from them, and wants from us, is that we show mercy and kindness to one another. We must not oppress the powerless, the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, and the poor. Further we should not plot and scheme against one another. When I write this I keep thinking, “This is so obvious. I need to write something which shows how this is not just pablum.” Then I look at the world around me, even in parts of the Church, and realize that it may be pablum, but not enough people are listening and acting upon this pablum. All too many people think they are following God by putting on a show of righteousness, while failing to follow these instructions.

December 23, 2015 Bible Study — “Not By Force, Nor By Strength, But By My Spirit,” Says The Lord

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 30:21-23

    There are some things which cause trouble. When the oppressed rise to power they become an even worse oppressor. When a fool gets lucky, he will use it to claim that he was wise. When a servant displaces his, or her, master, they become worse than the one they replaced. The common thread in all of these are people who rise to a position upon which none of their experience has bearing. Often they have no desire to truly do a good job, but even when they do, they do not know how to tell if they are doing so.


Psalm 142

    When we reach the end of our rope and no longer know what to do we can turn to God for guidance. Ideally however we will turn to Him before we reach that point and He will show us how to reach that level of despair. God always knows the actions we should take. He will guide us on His paths so that we can serve Him. If we faithfully serve God we will never find ourselves in a desperate situation because we will know that we have followed the righteous path.


Revelation 14

    I am unsure what is meant by the 144,000. Is it literally only 144,000? Or is that number purely symbolic? The number is clearly symbolic, but I am not sure if it is also literal. However, there is a message here that is more than symbolic. There will be a number of people who are able to keep themselves pure (or perhaps are kept pure by the Holy Spirit). They will be rewarded by becoming members of the choir described in this passage. While even the most vile of sinners will be forgiven if they repent of their sin and turn to God, there is something to be said for not needing such extreme forgiveness, for struggling to maintain one’s purity to the extent which it is humanly possible.
    On a different theme which carries through John’s vision, those who succumb to the temptation and allow themselves to receive the mark of the beast will face God’s judgment. The writer reminds us that those who choose to serve Christ will face persecution and suffering. We must never allow ourselves to be seduced into worshiping the beast or its image. The context here makes me think perhaps I should revisit my understanding of the beast because it suggests that worshiping the beast is something which happens all throughout history, not just at some time just before the end. Let us be on guard so that we do not fall to the temptation to worship the beast.


Zechariah 4-5

    While this passage was directed at Zerubbabel, I believe that it contains a message for everyone who strives to serve God. We will not accomplish God’s will by our strength, nor by our intelligence, nor by any other ability which we possess. While those things may serve us as we strive to do God’s will, it is only by relying on His Spirit and keeping ourselves focused on Him that we will accomplish anything of lasting value in this world.