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September 16, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Day 15 (January 15th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Days 13 & 14 (January 13th & 14th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

The reading for January 15th is Genesis 36-38 and Romans 12. I’ve left this late once again, so haven’t made any notes.


September 14, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Days 13 & 14 (January 13th & 14th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 12 (January 12th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

I’ve caught up on yesterdays reading and done todays but not taken notes.

The reading for January 12th was Genesis 31-32 and Romans 11:1-18. The reading for January 13th was Genesis 33-35 and Romans 11:19-36.


September 13, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Day 12 (January 12th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 11 (January 11th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

This reading is delayed because I got up late yesterday, met a friend for coffee and then went over to a different friend’s to stay the night.

The reading for January 11th is Genesis 29-30 and Romans 10. Today’s reading proper will, as ever, follow later.


September 11, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Day 11 (January 11th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 10 (January 10th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

The reading for January 11th is Genesis 27-28 and Romans 9:16-33.

Genesis

To get you up to speed, Abraham has died and been buried with his wife, Sarah. Isaac and Rebekah have had male twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau, the elder, has sold his birthright to Jacob in exchange for some food. The birthright includes God’s promise to Abraham.

Chapter 27

In this passage, Jacob steals Esau’s ‘blessing’ from him by fooling a now blind Isaac into bestowing it upon him. The ‘blessing’ was an actual binding legal statement at the time, so Jacob has now stolen both Esau’s birthright and his blessing. As such, he will be the master of Isaac’s tribe, Esau included. Esau is, unsurprisingly, none too pleased about this. Rebekah tells Jacob to run away and tells Isaac that she doesn’t want him to marry a non-Israelite.

Chapter 28

1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman.

Despite the trick Jacob has played on Isaac, Isaac will still bless him.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Jacob finally stops referring to God as his father’s God (having just had God’s promise re-iterated to him). Also another instance of tithing.

Romans

Chapter 9

18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?”

If God has already decided who will be saved and who will not, how can He blame those who will not be saved?

20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Paul answers, somewhat unsatisfactorily, that we are God’s to do with as He will.

22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Paul, however, goes on to say that God is a merciful God and so we should trust in what he is doing, even if it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to us.


The Bible In A Year: Day 10 (January 10th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 9 (January 9th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

Once again, I fail to read on time. I don’t even have the excuse of sleeping patterns this time, I was up a normal amount. Just lazy.

The reading for January 10th is Genesis 25-26 and Romans 9:1-15. As ever, today’s reading proper will follow later.


September 09, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Day 9 (January 9th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 8 (January 8th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

The reading for January 9th is Genesis 23-24 and Romans 8:22-39.

Genesis

Chapter 23

In this chapter, Sarah (Abraham's wife) died.  He asked the Hittites, among whom he was living, to ask one of their number, Ephron, to sell him a cave at the end of a field as a burial site. Ephron's response is:

11 "No, my lord," he said. "Listen to me; I give  you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead."

Abraham goes on to insist that he pay the full price.  Ephron gives him a price (while continuing to insist he take it as a gift) and Abraham pays him.

While on the surface this may look like Ephron is being exceedingly kind to Abraham, he's really just taking advantage of his grief to squeeze money out of him.  Additionally, having bought the entire field, Abraham has become responsible for the taxes due on it, further inconveniencing him.

Chapter 24

2 He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, "Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac."

An odd way of sealing a promise, my NIV study notes tell me that the proximity to his 'organ of procreation' is probably due to the promise being related to his offspring.  Why doesn't Abraham want his son to marry a Canaanite?

6 "Make sure that you do not take my son back there," Abraham said. 7 "The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father's household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, 'To your offspring I will give this land'--he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.

Abraham still displays a tremendous amount of faith in the Lord.  It would also seem that this is an arranged marriage, which is not something that is done by Christians now.

42 "When I came to the spring today, I said, 'O LORD, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 

It is interesting to note that Abraham's chief servant does not consider Abraham's god to be his own.

In the remainder of the passage, Abraham's servant goes to Abraham's people and finds a girl named Rebekah.  He brings her back and she marries Isaac.

Romans

Chapter 8

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

The gift of tongues?

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Does this mean that only a chosen few are ever going to be saved?  Has God already made a decision as to who will be saved?  I think, rather, that this passage means that God already knows who is going to choose to be saved, as he is outside of time.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

We should never be discouraged.  God has given the greatest sacrifice of all and will be glad to graciously give us lesser things that will help us spread the Good News.


The Bible In A Year: Day 8 (January 8th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 7 (January 7th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

Thanks to my strange sleeping patterns of the last few days, this is once again late. As before, I won’t make notes and the actual reading for today will follow later (probably after church).

The reading for January 8th is Genesis 20-22 and Romans 8:1-21.


September 07, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Day 7 (January 7th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 6 (January 6th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

Having finally found somewhere quiet in the house, the reading for today is Genesis 18-19 and Romans 7.

Genesis

To bring you up to date, in yesterday’s passage Abram was renamed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Abraham slept with Sarah’s servant (with Sarah’s permission), who then ran away. She came back and had a child who was named Ishmael0. Abraham was told that he would have a son by Sarah (to be called Isaac) and that God’s promise to Abraham would come true through Isaac, not Ishmael.

Chapter 18

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.

Is this normal hospitality on Abraham’s part or is it immediately obvious that this is God (with some angels)?

10 Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Abraham and Sarah are finally given a timeframe for when God’s promise will come true.

20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

God declares his intent for Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. In the following verses, Abraham asks the Lord if he will destroy the city if there are fifty righteous people found, which God says he will not. Abraham then asks about forty-five righteous people. Abraham argues God down to ten people, when he stops.

It should be noted that Abraham stopped of his own accord, God did not stop him. Would God have refrained altogether if Abraham had asked him to? There’s also an interesting parallel between this and the fact that God, through Jesus’ acts in the New Testament, has agreed not to destroy all in the world because of just a single righteous man, Jesus himself. However, this does bring up questions about God being unchanging. We see him explicitly changing his mind several times in this passage. How is this compatible with the view that God is unchanging?

On a slightly different note, during this discourse Abraham says:

25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

God does not reprimand Abraham for speaking to him such. What effect should this have on how we pray? Should we tell God what he should and shouldn’t do, according to what he’s promised in the Bible? In my opinion, this is a clear example of an intercessory prayer being answered. Abraham is arguing with God on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Chapter 19

To remove any suspense, the heading of this part of the chapter in the NIV is ‘Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed’.

In the first three verses of this passage, Lot (who you will remember lives in Sodom) convinces the two angels who were with God when he met with Abraham to stay in his house for the night. By verse 5, Sodomites have surrounded the house and, true to the nature suggested by the use of that word contemporarily:

5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot, surprisingly enough, refuses and then responds:

8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

This is a function of the insane levels of hospitality required of people in these times.

As a result of this exchange, and the actions of the crowd afterward, the angels come to the conclusion that this city is not worth saving.

12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

Though God has evidently not found the ten righteous people Abraham pleaded for, he still wants to save the few righteous people that have been found.

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

An all-too-common response to the Christian message contemporarily, though you can certainly understand why. However, reading to the end of this passage does suggest that this isn’t the best of responses…

29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

This suggests that Abraham’s concern with God’s plan to destroy Sodom was mostly related to Lot, which was probably the case. God didn’t answer Abraham’s direct prayer but he did answer the underlying problem. The answers to prayer don’t always come in the form we expect…

In the last part of the passage, Lot’s daughters get him drunk, sleep with him (as their husbands-to-be were left back in Sodom) and get pregnant. They give birth to Moab and Ben-Ammi, the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites, who were later to be bitter enemies of Israel. This is also the first incest in the Bible1.

Romans

Chapter 7

1 Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

Christians are not bound to follow the Jewish law.

5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.

Paul seems to be suggesting that the law caused the sin. In a sense it did, as right from the Garden of Eden, human nature has been to do that which is forbidden.

Paul goes on to say that it is our sinful nature that causes us to sin, even if we do not want to.

0 Ishmael is, in the Islamic tradition, an ancestor of Muhammed’s and a prophet. He was also the son who Abraham is later ordered to sacrifice.

1 Or, if you take the first part of Genesis literally, the first explicit incest in the Bible, as Adam and Eve’s children must necessarily have had incestuous relations for us to all be here now.


The Bible In A Year: Day 6 (January 6th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 5 (January 5th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

The reading for January 6th is Genesis 16-17 and Romans 6.

As this reading is late, I’m not going to write notes about it. Today’s reading proper will follow some time this afternoon or evening.


September 06, 2007

The Bible In A Year: Day 5 (January 5th)

Follow-up to The Bible In A Year: Day 4 (January 4th) from The Utovsky Bolshevik Show

I am aware that this is technically a day late (though, in reality, only about 10 minutes late as of starting the post). Imagine you live in the States while reading it and everything will be fine.

The reading for January 5th is Genesis 13-15 and Romans 5.

Genesis

Chapter 13

13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

The first mention of Sodom, which becomes important soonish in the story.

Now Abram splits up with Lot, in an entirely amicable fashion, returning to the land promised to him by God. Then:

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

God reiterates his promise.

18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Abram builds yet another altar.

Chapter 14

It turns out that Lot has gone to live in Sodom. Through a variety of political machinations and not a few wars (verses 1-10 or so) the King of Sodom is legging it, with the people chasing him ransacking all of the Sodomites possesions, Lot’s included. Abram sets off with his men to save Lot and:

16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

Hurrah!

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,

A Communion-esque meal following a great triumph. Interesting to contrast it with the Last Supper, which was a Communion-esque meal preceding a great triumph.

20b Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

The first instance of tithing in the Bible.

Chapter 15

God promises that Abram’s offspring shall be as many as the stars in the sky, despite the fact he remains childless.

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

This is the verse referenced in yesterday’s Romans reading and, according to the NIV footnotes, is the first explicit reference in the Bible to faith being important to God.

7 He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

Yet again God reiterates his promise.

8 But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

For the first time, Abram asks how this can be the case. Previously he has not doubted.

9 So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

This, and the following verses, may seem like an odd way of proving to Abram that he will gain possession. However, the verses 9-21 form a covenant between God and Abram which is, to quote the NIV footnotes again, ‘cast in the form of ancient Near Eastern royal land-grant treaties and contained a perpetual and divine promise to fulfill the grant of land to Abram, and his descendants’. So, presumably, Abram would have got the message.

Romans

Chapter 5

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Reminiscent of the Beatitudes.

7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We are not righteous or good and yet Christ has died for us.

14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

Suggestive of original sin? Did anyone between Adam and Moses go to heaven?

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Sin, and hence death, entered the world through one man, Adam, and caused the death of many. Death was defeated by one man, Jesus, and that allowed for the salvation of many more. Paul clearly considers this a vital point as he reiterates it several times.

20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

This verse seems to suggest that God’s law was the cause for greater trespass (sin). Instead, it is saying that God’s law made clearer the magnitude of the existing trespass.


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