Monthly Home Bible Study

The Reverend Ronald F. Marshall

Along with our other regular study of Scripture, let us join as a congregation in this home study. We will study alone then talk informally about the assigned verses together as we have opportunity. In this way we can "gather together around the Word" even though physically we will not be getting together (Acts 13.44).

We need to support each other in this difficult project. In 1851 Kierkegaard wrote that the Bible is "an extremely dangerous book.... [because] it is an imperious book... – it takes the whole man and may suddenly and radically change... life on a prodigious scale" (For Self-Examination). And in 1967 Thomas Merton wrote that "we all instinctively know that it is dangerous to become involved in the Bible" (Opening the Bible). Indeed this word "kills" us (Hosea 6.5) because we are "a rebellious people" (Isaiah 30.9)! And so the "Word of God is never so despised as where it is richly taught" (Luther's Works 67:218)! As Lutherans, however, we are still to "abide in the womb of the Word" (LW 17.93) by constantly "ruminating on the Word" (LW 30.219) so that we may "become like the Word" (LW 29.155) by thinking "in the way Scripture does" (LW 25.261). Before you study, then, pray: "Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in Our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen" (quoted in R. F. Marshall, Making A New World: How Lutherans Read the Bible, 2003, p. 12).

Romans 2.5

January 2018, Number 299

 

Week I. Read Romans 2.5 noting the line you are storing up wrath for yourself. Why say this? On this read Luke 12.19–20 noting the words ease and fool. Read also Revelation 3.17 noting the phrase not knowing. Read as well 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the word blinded, and 1 Corinthians 10.12 noting the line take heed lest he fall. All these verses take up recklessness and delusion. How is that best combated? On this read Amos 4.6–12 noting the five uses of the word yet and then the word therefore. Here we see relatively mild chastisements followed by a more severe threat. On that more severe threat – prepare to meet your God – read the details in Hosea 13.4–8 noting the line I will fall on them like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rend them. Read also Ezekiel 5.13–17 noting the phrase with furious chastisements. Is this what is needed to wake us up? On this read Acts 7.51 noting the description stiff-necked. Read also Zechariah 7.11–12 noting the words adamant and therefore. So is it clear why wrath is coming?

Week II. Read again Romans 2.5 noting that same line you are storing up wrath for yourself. Why are we so reckless and foolish? On this read Psalm 10.11 noting the line God… will never see it. Read also Psalm 64.5 noting the question Who can see us? and the similar question in Psalm 73.11 How can God know? and finally the line in Psalm 94.7 The Lord does not see. Why are we so cocky about our privacy? On this read Psalm 139.7–12 noting the words flee and cover. Can we ditch God (fleeing from him) and trick him (hiding from him)? On this read Genesis 3.8–10 noting the words hid and called. How does God’s voice blow their cover? On this read Psalm 29.3–9 noting the words thunder, breaks, fire, shakes and strips. How does this work? On this read Acts 2.37 noting the line cut to the heart. How does God disrupt our consciousness like this? On this read 1 Samuel 16.7 noting the line but the Lord looks on the heart. What can he do because of that? On this read 1 Samuel 7.10 noting the words thundered and confusion. Can God scramble our attention span? On this read about God-induced panic in Joshua 10.10, Judges 8.12, 1 Samuel 5.9–11, and Zechariah 12.4 and 14.13. Do these verses erase any and all reasons for being smug?

Week III. Reread Romans 2.5 noting again that same line you are storing up wrath for yourself. What is this wrath? On this read Numbers 16.31–35 noting the words earth, split and swallowed. Read also Ezekiel 13.13 noting the words deluge and hailstones. Why does God strike us with natural disasters? On this read Genesis 7.19 noting the line the waters prevailed so mightily. So nature’s magnitude is overwhelming to us – which is its built-in intimidation. So David could stand up against a giant man (1 Samuel 17.45) – but hardly against massive floods, hurricanes or great earthquakes! Is there more? On this read Mark 9.48 noting the words worm and fire. This is about hell. On hell read also Revelation 9.5 noting the word torture. What’s terrible about this additional mode of punishment is its length – there’s no end to it. Do you agree this makes it worse?

Week IV. Read Romans 2.5 one last time noting again that line you are storing up wrath for yourself. But what if these threats don’t work? Does that mean they are useless? On this read Ezekiel 2.5 noting the words refuse, rebellious, know and among. Why is this knowledge valuable if it doesn’t change thought and action? On this read John 1.5–11 noting the contrasting phrases not overcome it and received him not. So can the threats be operative even if they don’t accomplish anything? On this read Psalm 62.8–12 noting the words extortion, power and work. Note also the play between the words began and completion in Philippians 1.6. So if the threats don’t work does that mean they might work later? On this read Luke 15.14–17 noting the words spent, want and when. How much time do you think elapses between these verses? Does it matter?

 

Genesis 8.21

 

February 2018, Number 300

Week I. Read Genesis 8.21 noting the word evil. Martin Luther thought this referred to no “mild disease” in us, but rather to an “utmost lawlessness” in us, making us “exceedingly depraved” (Luther’s Works 2:119). But was he right? On this read Isaiah 30:9–11 noting how rebellious we are. Read also Jeremiah 17.9 on how desperately corrupt we are. Check out also Romans 7.18 about nothing good dwelling in us. How do we get off on the wrong track like this? On this read Ephesians 2.3 noting the line we are by nature children of wrath. Where does that leave us? On this read Mark 7:21–23 noting how we are defiled from within by such things as slander, pride, foolishness and murder. How deep is that corruption in us? On this read Romans 7.13 noting how we are sinful beyond measure. Where does that lead? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2–5 noting how we become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Sound like anyone you know?

 

Week II. Read again Genesis 8.21 noting that same word evil. How are we to deal with this? Isn’t it amazing that the flood did not wash it all away? On the solution to our problem, read John 3.3 noting the line unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Does that mean we need to start all over? On this read John 3.6 noting the contrasting phrases flesh is flesh and Spirit is spirit. Is there no penetration of the good into the bad? On this read 2 Corinthians 6.14 noting the question what fellowship has light with darkness? Note also the stark opposition between Christ and I in Galatians 2:20. How does that work since Saul and Paul were of the same body? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.15 noting the line they live no longer for themselves. It that the new birth; the light; and Christ living in us? What does it mean to live no longer for yourself? How is that possible? On this read Matthew 22.37–39 noting the two targets God and neighbor. Does that leave us out?

 

Week III. Reread Genesis 8.21 noting again that same word evil. Is the only way to deal with this evil, to leave oneself for God and neighbor? On this read Galatians 6.14 noting how we are to be crucified to the world. Read also I Corinthians 15.31 noting the exclamation I die every day! And check out Luke 9.23 noting the line deny himself and take up his cross daily. Finally read Luke 14.26 noting the tough line even hate his own life. Is there then no attention to ourselves at all? Is that because we are so evil that we can’t be repaired? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.31 noting the line do all to the glory of God. Read also 2 Corinthians 3.5 noting the line nothing coming from ourselves. And check out 1 Corinthians 3.7 noting the line neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything. How then should one manage going around in his or her body? On this read James 4.14 noting the line you are a mist. Read as well Psalm 39.5–6 noting the words nothing, breath and shadow. Does that settle it?

 

Week IV. Read Genesis 8.21 one last time noting again that word evil. Does this mist, from last week in James 4.14, leave us with no real body then? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.16 noting the contrast between the inner nature and the outer nature. Is the outer nature done for? Wasting away? Is our inner nature that mist? Are our bodies only good for pummeling and subduing as in 1 Corinthians 9.27? On this read Romans 8.23 noting the redemption of our bodies. Read also 1 Corinthians 15.44 noting the category spiritual body. What would that be – an oxymoron? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.52 noting the line raised imperishable. Is that the spiritual body – one impervious to decay and death? What would that be like and does it matter? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the correlation between the eternal and the invisible or incorporeal. Are we then disembodied in heaven? Would that make our spiritual bodies more spiritual than material? Is James 4.14 about my life right, then, that it is only a mist? What does it matter? On this read Matthew 26.41 noting the line the flesh is weak. Does that favor spirit over body – the strength to do all things as in Philippians 4.13? Is this the effect that evil has on us?

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes 2.25

 

March 2018, Number 301

 

Week I. Read Ecclesiastes 2.25 noting the word apart. Why do we need God to eat and find enjoyment? On this read John 15.5 noting the line apart from me you can do nothing. How is this so? On this read Psalm 104.29 noting the line when thou takest away their breath, they die. So is it that we need God to keep us alive so that we can eat and enjoy things? On this read Ezekiel 37.9 noting the line breathe upon these slain that they may live. Why can’t we do this for ourselves? On this read John 5.26 noting the phrase life in himself. Why don’t we have life in ourselves? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.7 noting the category earthen vessels. Why aren’t we more than these cheap, empty vessels needing to be filled up? Why can’t we generate life-giving power from within us? On this read James 4.14 noting the word mist. Why are we so ephemeral, diaphanous and flimsy? On this read Romans 1.25 noting the contrast between creator and creature. If the creator is all-powerful and infinite as Job 40.2 and 1 Kings 8.27 say, where does that leave us by contrast? Limited and weak as in Matthew 26.41?

 

Week II. Read again Ecclesiastes 2.25 noting this time the word enjoyment. Why is enjoyment important? On this read Jeremiah 31.25 noting that our souls can languish and grow weary. What does that say about us? On this read Ecclesiastes 6.7 noting our inability to be satisfied. Why are we like this? On that read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the words seen and transient. So when we dwell on the transient we are unfulfilled. Who does that? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the person with ample goods. What are people like who are unable to do this? On this read Colossians 3.2 noting the line set your minds on the things that are above. Why will only that satisfy us? On this read Ecclesiastes 3.11 noting the line God has put eternity into man’s mind. So as long as we ignore this we will be out of sorts and dissatisfied with our lives. Why is that? On this read Colossians 1.16 noting the line that all things were created… for God. No wonder than that Romans 13.14 tell us not to gratify the desires of the flesh. And why is that again? Apparently because it’s useless. Do you agree? Is that why Luke 18.27 says that it’s impossible for rich people to enter heaven?

 

Week III. Reread Ecclesiastes 2.25 noting again that same word enjoyment. How does God aid and abet our enjoyment? On this read Psalm 84.10 noting the thousand times contrast between God and wickedness. Read also Psalm 96.6 noting the word beauty. So worshipping God and serving him satisfies us as nothing else can. On this read Luke 10.42 noting the words one, needful, good and taken away. Note also that nothing is said in Luke 10.40–42 about Martha’s upcoming scrumptious meal. Is that because it is the bread which perishes, according to John 6.27, and so not worth laboring over? On this read Psalm 62.10 – If riches increase, set not your heart on them. How hard is that to do? If you think too hard, remember 1 John 5.3 and its line his commandments are not burdensome.

 

Week IV. Read Ecclesiastes 2.25 one last time noting again that word enjoyment. Where is true enjoyment found? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.17 noting an eternal weight of glory. On this eternality read Philippians 3.20 noting the line that our commonwealth is in heaven. Why does only the world to come bring us this true joy? On this read Revelation 21.4 noting the absence of tears, pain and death. But how is that possible? On this read Romans 6.9 about dominion, Hebrews 2.14 noting that Jesus destroys death in his crucifixion, and Revelation 5.6 about the heavenly slain Lamb. Together they explain why in Hebrews 9.28 we are to be eagerly waiting for this to happen. Do you agree?

 

 

Romans 7.11

 

April 2018, Number 302

 

Week I. Read Romans 7.11 noting the word deceived. If God’s commandments are involved in this deception, are they then bad? On this read Romans 7.12 noting the word good. How are those commandments exempted from this deception? On this read Romans 7.11 noting the phrase sin finding an opportunity. So sin is to blame and not God’s law. But how is that? On this read Matthew 7.18 noting the line nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. What makes us good, then, if not our good deeds or fruit? On this read Luke 8.15 noting the phrase an honest and good heart. What makes for one of those? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.31 noting the line do all to the glory of God. Read also Colossians 3.17 noting the line do everything… giving thanks to God. So doing something good is only half of it. We must also have the right mind when doing something good if it is going to be good in God’s eyes. Do you agree? Are you glad about this? If not, why not? What would the local food bank think?

Week II. Read again Romans7.11 noting the same word deceived. What are we tricked into thinking through this deception? On this read Romans 2.28 noting that a real Jew is not a matter of doing something only outwardly in just an external or physical way. What’s lacking in such cases? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.12 noting the contrast between position and heart. So is it that an outward Jew lacks heart? On this read Matthew 15.8 noting the superficiality of lip service when their hearts are far from God. Notice here how this honor isn’t good in and of itself – when the heart is lacking! Same goes for giving a bag of food to the hungry. The poor benefit from it alright, but we don’t, because God isn’t impressed. What is it that pleases God and impresses him? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the word faith. Is faith a matter of the heart? On this read Romans 10.10 noting the line a man believes with his heart. So while our sheer deeds of goodness may impress people, God is looking for something more. On this read Isaiah 66.4 noting the words all, righteous, deeds and polluted. They lack an honest and good heart – they lack faith. Is that too strict a view of good deeds? On that read Isaiah 55.9 noting the word higher. Do you agree that this height should make that much moral difference? Why or why not?

Week III. Reread Romans 7.11 noting this time the word killed. What sort of death is this? On this read Luke 18.9 noting the phrase trusted in themselves. What’s wrong with that and why should it end? On this read Jeremiah 17.5 noting the sequence from trusting in ourselves to turning away from God. Can this be averted through intense caution? On this read Matthew 26.41 noting the words weak and flesh. Read also Romans 7.18 noting the words nothing and good. So does trusting in ourselves lead automatically to leaving God behind – regardless of how we try to block it? What then? On this read John 15.5 noting the line apart from me you can do nothing. Where does that leave us? On this read Matthew 11.29 – 30 noting the words come, take, learn and rest. Does that settle it?

Week IV. Read Romans 7.11 one last time noting again that word killed. Is there any joy in this death to our self-trust? On this read 2 Corinthians 6.10 noting the high wire act of balancing sorrowful with rejoicing. Can this be done, do you think? On this read 1 Corinthians 7.31 noting the line as though they had no dealings with the world. What does that attitude bring about? On this read Philippians 4.13 noting the exclamation I can do all things in him who strengthens me. So what is the register of this joy when it abides alongside our sorrowfulness? On this read John 16.33 noting how cheer implies that the world’s been overcome. Does that mean that its measurements and capacities don’t pertain in this case? If so, what follows? Read Philippians 4.7 noting the phrase passes all understanding. That given, what’s the most we can say? On this read Romans 8.18 noting how our sorrow now fades when compared with the joy coming in the next world and our life in heaven. Are you impressed? How so, if at all?

 

Psalm 90.12

 

May 2018, Number 303

 

 

Week I. Read Psalm 90.12 noting the word teach. Why do we need God to teach us about wisdom? On this read Proverbs 9.10 noting that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Why is this? On that read Isaiah 5.20 noting the line call evil good and good evil. Why do we get the most basic things mixed up? On this read Psalm 58.3 noting the lines go astray from the womb and err from their birth. Why are we so deeply corrupted? On this read Romans 5.18 noting the play between the two short words one and all. Who was this one man? On this read Genesis 3.6 noting also the play between the words delight and wise. Why was Adam and Eve’s analysis so bad? How could their eyes and moral judgment mislead them so? On this read 1 John 2.16 noting the words pride and lust. Where do they take root? On this read John 12.25 noting the phrase loves his life. Why are we prone to this wretched self-love? On this read Genesis 1.28 noting the words subdue and dominion. Is our corruption rooted in our brilliance and might, to be able to subdue and dominate like no other living creature on the face of the earth? Has our chief blessing then become a curse? How can this be? Read the story of Samson in Judges 13.24 and 14.3, 15, 19 and 15.14 and 16.4, 16, 19, 30. Wow! Did his blessing curse him? Why?

 

Week II. Read again Psalm 90.12 noting the same word teach. Why can God do a better job teaching us what is right than we can ourselves? On this read Romans 16.27 noting the line to the only wise God. Why is only God wise? On this read Hosea 11.9 noting that God is not man. Why is that an advantage? On this read Isaiah 55.9 noting the double use of the word higher. Does this make God wiser? On this read Job 42.3 noting the line too wonderful for me. Like what? Well, read Job 38.17 about where darkness comes from. According to the study, Darkness at Night: A Riddle of the Universe (Harvard University Press, 1987), scientists still haven’t figured this out – which has nevertheless remained a breeze for God for eons. So how does that make you feel? Check out Psalm 22.6.

 

Week III. Reread Psalm 90.12 noting this time the line number our days. What is this about? On this read Job 14.5 noting the words determined and appointed. What difference does it make that our days are set? On this read Hebrews 9.27 noting again the word appointed but also with the word judgment. What does that combination do to us? Does it ramp up the intensity of our lives? On this read Philippians 2.12 noting the words fear and trembling. So how intense is life to be? On this read 1 Corinthians 9.24–27 noting the words compete, prize and box. Read also 2 Timothy 2.3 noting the phrase good soldier of Christ Jesus. So are we to think of our lives as those of warriors on the battlefield and athletes in training? On this read 1 Timothy 6.12 noting the line fight the good fight of faith. Where does that take us? On this read Ephesians 6.10–11 noting the words strong, put, whole and armor. This doesn’t look much like the Christians I hear and see walking around these days. How about you? What do you see and hear?

 

Week IV. Read Psalm 90.12 one last time noting the word wisdom. What then is the wisdom that God teaches us? On this read Micah 6.8 noting the words justice, kindness and humility. What’s justice about? On this read Matthew 7.12 noting the importance of treating others the same way that you want to be treated. This is the famous Golden Rule. Then how about kindness? On this read Luke 10.29–37 noting the words compassion and care. So we are not to pass by the needy as the two others did. And how about humility? On this read Philippians 2.3 noting the line count others better than you. But what if they aren’t? What if you are kinder, smarter, wealthier and healthier? On that temptation, read Luke 9.23 noting the two words deny and daily. Read also Philippians 3.8–9 noting the words loss and refuse. Where does that leave you? On this read 2 Corinthians 12.11 noting the word nothing. How do you like that? Explain your answer.

  

 

Hebrews 4.12

 

June 2018, Number 304

Week I. Read Hebrews 4.12 noting the phrase word of God. Why do we need a good image for this word? On this read 1 Thessalonians 2.13 noting the line what it really is. Why do we have troubling accepting God’s Word for what it really is? On that read Isaiah 55.8–11 noting how God’s thoughts, ways and word are higher and more powerful than ours are. What does that assessment do to us? On this read John 3.30 noting the word decrease. But do we take kindly to this reduction of our value and might? On this read Luke 15.28–32 noting the words angry, refused and me. Why does this older son want better treatment? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the dispute over what’s good and evil. For a similar dispute, read Genesis 3.1–6 noting the words not, die, good, food, delight and wise. Where does this confidence come from that we know better than God? On this read Job 42.3–6 noting the line things too wonderful for me. Why do you think we can take on these things? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the line not knowing that you are wretched. Why do we have such an exalted but false view of ourselves? On this read Isaiah 30.10 noting the line prophesy illusions. So we want to be deceived, just as John 3.19 says!

Week II. Read again Hebrews 4.12 noting the same phrase word of God. How can we stop our illusions regarding it? On this read Hebrews 4.11 noting the word disobedience. How do we muster that resistance to disobedience? On this read Colossians 3.16 noting the line let the words of Christ dwell in you richly. Read also Colossians 3.15 and its line let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. What is to follow from that? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.17 noting the phrase a new creation. This newness is what comes from that rich-dwelling and heart-ruling. How so? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. What comes from that movement? On this read Luke 9.23 noting the words daily, deny and himself. When that happens, then the yearning for illusions in Isaiah 30.10 goes away. Do you agree? Does this happen perfectly? On this read Philippians 3.12–14 noting the denial of perfection. Does that then end the struggle against illusions? Note in that same reading how this denial goes along with the line I press on. Is this a good action plan for us?

Week III. Reread Hebrews 4.12 noting this time the words piercing and discerning. How does the word of God do that? On this read Jeremiah 23.29 noting the words fire and hammer. How does this fire and hammer affect us? On this read John 12.25 noting the words hates and life. Because these words are clear, forceful and uncompromising, they hurt us and conflict with our love for pleasure and self in 2 Timothy 3.2–4. There you have it. For more on this, read Acts 4.12 noting the line there is salvation in no one else. That also smarts! It leaves out and offends our friends from other religions. That hurts because it scares us with unpopularity and the loneliness of that little bird in Psalm 102.7. Right?

Week IV. Read Hebrews 4.12 one last time noting the words soul, thoughts, intentions and heart. Why are these the targets of this word? On this read Luke 8.15 noting the line in an honest and good heart. Read also Ezekiel 11.19 noting the line I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. Is this where the battle of faith rages? On this read 2 Corinthians 10.3–6 noting the words arguments, proud, thought, captive, obey and disobedience. How are these bad thoughts defeated and made obedient? Note the word captive in this same passage. How does that differ from convince? Convincing requires changing one’s mind, whereas captivity doesn’t. Is there an example of that in the Bible? On this read Acts 9.3–20 noting the words suddenly, flashed, fell, why, rise, see, lay, hands, go, chosen, suffer, scales, baptized and proclaimed. I don’t see much convincing and arguing here – and changing Paul’s mind by contesting his previously held thoughts on factual and logical grounds. No – just physical things (hands, scales) and commands. What do you think?

 

 

Isaiah 2.22

July 2018, Number 305

Week I. Read Isaiah 2.22 noting the question what account is man? Why say that? On this read Isaiah 1.2 noting the word rebelled. When did that happen? On this read Isaiah 48.8 noting the phrase from your birth. What is this rebellion over and how bad is it? On this read Isaiah 2.8 noting the phrase filled with idols. What’s wrong with them? On this read Isaiah 41.29 noting the phrase empty wind. Read also Isaiah 45.20 noting the line wooden idols… that cannot save. Read as well Isaiah 42.8 noting the exclusive phrase no other, nor. Where does that exclusivity come from? On this read Isaiah 8.13 noting the line let the Lord… be your dread. Why is that? On this read Isaiah 49.7 noting the word chosen. That means God doesn’t want to share his people with any other supposed god. What follows from that? On this read Isaiah 58.13–14 noting the words sabbath, heritage and heights. What furthers this worship? On this read Isaiah 57.15–16 noting the words contrite and humble. Will that do it?

Week II. Read again Isaiah 2.22 noting again the question what account is man? Continuing from last week, what else is our rebellion over? On this read Isaiah 1.17 noting the words good, justice, oppression, fatherless and widows. Why are these relationships so important? On this read Isaiah 61.8 noting the line I the Lord love justice. Why should justice matter? On this read Isaiah 11.6 noting the words dwell, lie, together and lead. Where does this goal of harmony come from? On this read Isaiah 5.2 noting the line planted it with choice vines, and, then, how they turned wild. Are we obliged to maintain the goals of creation? On this read Isaiah 13.13–16 noting the shaking, dashing and the plundering. Are we to try to reverse this unraveling of creation through our obedience? On this read Isaiah 1.16 noting the phrase wash yourselves. Will that do it?

Week III. Reread Isaiah 2.22 noting this time the phrase turn away. Why wouldn’t God turn away from us? On this read Isaiah 52.13 noting the word servant. (Acts 8.35 says this servant is Jesus, even though in Isaiah he goes unnamed.) How does this servant help? On this read Isaiah 53.11 noting the word satisfied. How does this servant satisfy God so he will not turn away from us in our rebellion but stay with us, forgive us and save us for all eternity? On this read Isaiah 53.5 noting the words wounded and healed. Why does he have to be wounded in order for us rebellious ones to be healed? On this read Isaiah 53.6 noting the line the Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all. Why can’t we do this for ourselves? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the line no soundness… from the sole of the foot even to the head. Why is that? On this read Isaiah 30.10 noting the phrase prophesy illusions. Why are we so self-destructive? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting how we’ve mixed up good and evil. Where does that leave us?

Week IV. Read Isaiah 2.22 one last time noting the word breath. Does that do us any good? On this read Isaiah 13.9 noting the line destroy its sinners. What keeps this from happening? It’s only that servant and his suffering on our account in Isaiah 53 that saves us from this destruction. On this pending destruction read Isaiah 42.25 noting the phrases heat of anger and the fire round about. How shall we stay close to the suffering servant? On this read Isaiah 55.7 noting the line forsake his way, and… his thoughts. Why is this important? On this read Isaiah 2.11 noting the line the Lord alone… be exalted. Why can’t we also be exalted? On this read Isaiah 5.24 noting the word rottenness. How can this be? On this read Isaiah 9.17 noting the line everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. So it isn’t our breath that matters. On this read Isaiah 11.4 noting the line he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Before a line like that, all we can and should ever do, according to Isaiah 66.2, is tremble. Do you agree?

   

Job 16.12

 

August 2017, Number 294

Week I. Read Job 16.12 noting the phrase I was at ease. What was that like? On this read Job 1.3 noting the line greatest of all the people of the east. What made him so great? On this read Job 1.2–3 noting the words sons, daughters, sheep, camels, she-asses and servants. Is this superficial, material greatness? On this read Psalm 4.7 noting the contrasting words Thou and grain. Why is this divine joy better than the joy from grain and wine? On this read Matthew 6.19–20 noting the words consume and steal. What’s the advantage here? On this read Hebrews 13.14 noting the word lasting. Why is it important how long something lasts? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.16–18 noting the words wasting and affliction. Why are these worth avoiding? On this read John 14.27 noting the word peace. See that same word peace in Philippians 4.7. So the superficial agitates in a way that the durable does not. Did God want to throw out Job’s ease for that reason? If so, why?

Week II. Read again Job 16.12 noting this time the line God broke me asunder. How is that the best way to overcome ease? On this read Romans 5.3–5 noting the words endurance, character, hope and disappoint. Why is being broken asunder the best way to avoid disappointment? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.15 noting the word died and the line live no longer for themselves. How are we disappointed if we live for ourselves? On this read Matthew 22.37–39 noting the words God and neighbor – as well as the repeated use of the word all. Why are we left out? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2–5 noting the words proud, abusive and conceit. Why are we so distorted? On this read Isaiah 53.6 noting the words astray and own. How bad is it? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line nothing good dwells within me. How does being broken set us free? On this read Galatians 6.14 noting the word crucified. This crucifixion pushes us out, away from ourselves. On this read John 12.25 noting the link between the eternal and hating yourself. Do these considerations justify being broken asunder? If so, how so?

Week III. Reread Job 16.12 noting this time the line seized me by the neck. Why is God so violent with us? On this read John 3.19 noting the line loved the darkness rather than the light. What does that mean for us? On this read Romans 3.11 noting the line no one seeks for God. Does that mean when God comes after us with his corrective measures we resist thereby making his assault on us all the worse? On this read Romans 7.13 noting phrase sinful beyond measure. God has to take these extra steps because of our rebellion. On this read Jonah 1.4 noting the line the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea. What provoked that? Was it part of God’s original plan to deal with Jonah? No, God attacks in this way because Jonah refused to obey. On this read Leviticus 26.14–26 noting the expressions but if and and if. Read also Luke 13.5 noting the similar expression but unless. But aren’t these additional tactics still too rough? On this read Romans 11.22 noting the words severity and kindness. Are we stuck then? If there is going to be divine kindness does there also need to be divine severity – as a matter of definition? If so, what do you think of that? Does it make sense?

Week IV. Read Job 16.12 one last time noting again the word ease. What is so wrong about being at ease? On this read Amos 6.1 noting the words ease, secure and notable. What’s wrong with feeling secure? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the line I need nothing. Would that include God’s protection? On this read Psalm 30.6 noting the words prosperity and never. Does ease make us cocky, then? On this read Luke 18.24 noting the words hard and riches. If wealth leads to cockiness, then riches are very dangerous and the ease it brings. On this read 1 Timothy 6.9–10 noting the words desire, snare, evil, cravings and hearts. If God were not to warn us of such pitfalls that would be unloving. If God were not to take drastic measures to wrench us away from such ruin that also would be unloving. Why? On this read Revelation 3.19 noting the words love and chasten. Do you agree? If so, why?

 

 

Romans 1.32

 

September 2017, Number 295

 

Week I. Read Romans 1.32 noting the phrase Though they know. Luther believed that every Christian should memorize the entire book of Romans, “word for word” (Luther’s Works 35:365). Even if we can’t do that, we can at least begin with this one verse. So to start, what good is knowledge if it doesn’t prevent us from doing evil and approving of it? On this read Romans 2.4 noting the word meant. Why is meaning important? Note the connection established by the meaning of kindness in order to link it with repentance. Why is that connection good to know? On this read Romans 11.22 noting the two word pairs severity and fallen, kindness and continue. Why are these comparisons good to know? On this read Romans 6.1 noting the contrasting words sin and grace. Why would we think that sinning generates grace? On this read Romans 5.8 noting the logical connection between sinners and love. What’s the logic here? Is it that love cannot be stopped by sinners, or that love is inspired and motivate by sinners? On this read Romans 5.20 noting the phrase abounded all the more. Is this about motivation or endurance? If it’s about endurance, what difference does it make? Why would seeing it as motivation be a mistake?

 

Week II. Read again Romans 1.32 noting this time the same phrase Though they know. What is further important to know about the connection between sin and grace? On this read Romans 6.16 noting the connected words yield and slaves. How does this happen? Why can’t it be a looser relation? On this read Romans 6.17 noting the expression from the heart. When the heart is involved behavior is habituated and slavery sets in – for good or ill. How is this so? On this read Romans 10.9 noting the contrasting words lips and heart. Talk is cheap but the heart is where weighty matters dwell. How so? On this read Romans 9.18 noting the linked words hardens and heart. So what comes of all of this? On this read Romans 2.29 noting the words circumcision, heart and spiritual. Because the heart admits to hardening, deep spiritual cutting is required to get it going in the right direction. On this read Romans 15.13 noting the words hope, joy, peace, believing, Spirit and abound. Why are so many gifts tied into the Spirit? On this read Romans 8.11 noting the words raised, dwells, and give. There is tremendous power in this verse to turn us around and give us life where there is only death. Do you agree? Have you experienced it? How so, if so. If not, why not?  

 

Week III. Reread Romans 1.32 noting this time the line deserve to die. Why so severe? On this read Romans 8.13 noting the contrasting words die and death. What’s the relationship between these two deaths? The first one is bad and the second is good. The first one is self-inflicted and the second is a gift. The first one is about self-absorption, the second is about living for God and others. On this read Romans 7.9 noting the line and I died. How does this happen? By way of sin becoming intensified when the law condemns it. How does that happen? On this read Romans 6.11 noting phrase consider yourself dead to sin. On this read Romans 6.6 noting the line our old self was crucified with him. How does that happen? On this read Romans 6.4 noting the line we were buried… with him by baptism. How does baptism bring this death about? It changes our considerations according to Romans 6.11. On this read Romans 12.2 noting the line be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Luther called this thinking “in the way Scripture does” (LW 25:261). No wonder we are to let these words “dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3.16). Do you agree?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 1.32 one last time noting the word approve. Why would we do such a heinous thing? On this read Romans 1.24 noting the line God gave them up… to impurity. What’s that like? On this read Romans 4.15 noting the word wrath. What does that do to us? On this read Romans 12.19 noting the word vengeance. Why this retaliation? On this read Romans 3.8 noting the word just. Does that settle it for you? How can we honor God’s justice? Our only hope is Romans 8.4—don’t you agree?

 

Hosea 3.5

October 2017, Number 296

 

Week I. Read Hosea 3.5 noting the phrase they shall come in fear. Luther believed this meant cutting off the “security of the flesh” and imploring the Lord or repenting (Luther’s Works 18:18, 14:191). Do you agree? On the latter read Psalm 32.5 noting the correlation between the words acknowledge and forgive. This is also what Psalm 130.4 says – but using the word feared rather than acknowledge. And how about on the security of the flesh? On this read Hosea 10.12 noting the line break up your fallow ground. Is that fallow ground the security of the flesh? Read also Hosea 2.8 noting the line she did not know that it was I. What does this ignorance do? On this read Hosea 3.1 noting the line they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins. Read also Hosea 8.14 noting the line forgotten his Maker. And read Hosea 10.2 noting the words false and heart. What does this forgetfulness do? On this read Hosea 7.11 noting the word silly. Note as well the line they became detestable like the thing they loved in Hosea 9.10. How bad is that?

Week II. Read again Hosea 3.5 noting this time just the word fear. Does that word also have an object? On this read Hosea 4.9 (and 8.13, 12.2) noting the word punish. Note also the word chastise in Hosea 7.12 and 10.10. Read as well the line my anger burn against them in Hosea 8.5. Why are these punishments to be feared? On this read Hosea 5.7 noting the word alien. Read also Hosea 9.11–17 noting the words birth, miscarrying, hate, slay and wanderers. How does this fear prepare us for receiving the goodness of God? How does it help if, as Hosea 11.7 says, we are bent on turning away from God? On this read Hosea 11.10 noting the line they shall come trembling. But how does that help? On this read Hosea 12.6 noting the line by the help of your God, return. How does this work? On this read Hosea 12.8 noting the line all his riches can never offset the guilt he has incurred. So if that doesn’t work, what does? Hosea 12.13 says God helps by a prophet. But how so? On this read Hosea 14.2 noting the line take with you words. And what are they? On this read Hosea 14.9 noting the words understand and discerning. Note also Hosea 14.8 where God says I am like an evergreen cypress. Does that do it?

Week III. Reread Hosea 3.5 noting this time the word goodness. Does that goodness pull us in the right direction? On this read Hosea 11.8 noting the line my compassion grows warm and tender. That would help. But how does it come about? On this read again Hosea 11.8 noting this time the line my heart recoils within me. What does that mean? On this read Genesis 19.29 noting the word destroyed. If that word, destroyed, is the same as the word, recoil, but translated differently, why would God want to destroy his heart, and what would that mean? On this read Hosea 11.9 noting the line I will not execute my fierce anger. Is that the end of it then? On this read Romans 8.4 noting the line the just requirement of the law. If that’s the case, then God’s anger has to go somewhere if not against us. And where is that? Hosea 11.8 would say it is against God himself. What does that do? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the words bore, die and live.

Week IV. Read Hosea 3.5 one last time noting again the word goodness. Last week we saw in 1 Peter 2.24 how that leads to death and life. Following up on that, what is this death? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.15 noting the line live no longer for themselves. How is that a death for us? On this read Galatians 2.20 noting the line but Christ who lives in me. That means our agendas die. We longer live according to our plans. Self-reliance is gone. But what is that like? On this read Philippians 2.8 noting the word obedience. Read also 1 Peter 1.22 noting how obedience includes purification, earnestness and love for others. Why isn’t there any other way to get there besides obedience to Christ?

 

Ephesians 4.1

November 2017, Number 297

 

Week I. Read Ephesians 4.1 noting the phrase lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Why isn’t faith enough? Why do we also have to live a certain way? On this read Ephesians 2.10 noting the words for, works, should and walk. Why does faith require works? On this read Ephesians 4.20 noting the line you did not so learn Christ. What is there about Christ that requires works to follow faith? On this read Ephesians 5.2 noting the line walk in love as Christ loved us. Does this mean that loving behavior is required of all who believe in Christ because he was a loving man? On this read Ephesians 2.15 noting the line create in himself one new man. How does faith in Christ lead to such a new creation for us? On this read Ephesians 3.14–19 noting the words riches, strengthened, inner, dwell, hearts, rooted, love, power and fullness. So faith brings individual strength now as well as the opening up of heaven  as is stated in Hebrews 10.20. Do you agree?

Week II. Read again Ephesians 4.1 noting again that worthy life. What is it composed of? On this read Ephesians 4.22 noting the old nature and former manner of life made up of deceitful lusts. What’s wrong with those deceitful lusts? On this read Ephesians 5.6 noting the line deceive with empty words. What’s empty about them? On this read Ephesians 5.16 noting that we are to make the most of the time because it is evil. So it would be a lie, or deceit, to encourage time off and easy living. On this read Ephesians 6.18–20 noting the words alert, perseverance, boldly and ought. No time off here. No laziness allowed in this life. Why is that? On this read Ephesians 6.12 noting the words contending, world, rulers, darkness, hosts and wickedness. Why is this such a struggle which needs our undivided attention? On this read Ephesians 5.11 noting the word expose. How is this done if there isn’t any cooperation? On this read Ephesians 5.13 noting the phrase exposed by the light. How does it do that? On this read Ephesians 5.14 noting the line Christ shall give you light. And what is it? On this read Ephesians 5.9 noting the words good, right and true. Does that settle it?

Week III. Reread Ephesians 4.1 noting again that worthy life. What else is in it? On this read Ephesians 4.23 noting the line be renewed in the spirit of your mind. What does that entail? On this read Ephesians 4.26–28 noting the words angry and give. How do those words renew our minds? Not being angry changes our disposition. On this read Ephesians 4.32 noting the line forgiving one another as God forgave you. Thinking like that veers clear of anger. And regarding being generous and giving to those in need, that changes your character. On this read Ephesians 4.13 noting the line attain… mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. With that fullness you can be generous with the poor – since there’s no scarcity of spirit in you. How does all of this renew the mind? On this read Ephesians 5.17 noting the play between the words foolish and understand. A renewed mind isn’t foolish. Instead it hankers after God’s will. Sound right?

Week IV. Read Ephesians 4.1 one last time noting again that worthy life. How do we get there if we’re hopelessly foolish? On this read Ephesians 2.3 noting the line by nature children of wrath. What this does is take away our self-confidence. Where then does that leave us? On this read Ephesians 2:4–7 noting the words but, God, rich, made and show. How does God do this if we are so unworthy? On this read Ephesians 5.2 noting the words love, gave, for, sacrifice and to. If the key is that this sacrifice was given to God, then we see how God reaches out to the unworthy. On this read Ephesians 1.5–8 noting the words destined, freely and lavished. Here we see a divine excess that benefits us. Without it we would remain fools. On this read Ephesians 1.13–14 noting the words heard, sealed and inheritance. This is about being over-powered. On this note the line the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe in Ephesians 1.19. Do you like being over-run? If so, why?

 

 

Ecclesiastes 7.14

 

December 2017, Number 298

Week I. Read Ecclesiastes 7.14 noting the line God has made the one as well as the other. What does this sound like? On this read Isaiah 45.7 noting the words weal and woe. Why does God do both? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the phrase without your Father’s will. What does this mean? On this read Hebrews 2.8 noting the line left nothing outside his control. Are we unable, then, to thwart God’s will? Is it impossible for us to go against God’s will in any given situation? Does God determine everything that happens? On this read Ephesians 1.11 noting the line who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will. How are we then to approach God? On this read Psalm 46.1–4 noting the words God, refuge, strength, present, help, fear and glad. Where does our joy and gladness come from if God does all things, both good and bad? On this read Psalm 145.17 noting the words all, just and kind. Does that settle it for you? If not, why not?

 

Week II. Read again Ecclesiastes 7.14 noting again that same line God has made the one as well as the other. Does that also mean that we can always tell what God is up to if he’s in control of everything that happens? On this read Deuteronomy 29.29 noting the words secret and revealed. Why aren’t we able to understand everything that God does? On this read Isaiah 55.8–9 noting the words thoughts, not, ways and higher. So if we can’t understand everything that God is doing, how can we be confident that what’s happening is right and we should accept it? On this read Psalm 62.8 noting the line trust in God at all times. Read also Psalm 62.1 noting the line for God alone my soul waits in silence. What justifies this capitulation? On this note the question, Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars? in Job 39.26. What do you make of that? Does that put you in your place? On this read Job 40.4 noting the two lines I am of small account, and I lay my hand on my mouth. What do you think of that?

 

Week III. Reread Ecclesiastes 7.14 noting again that same line God has made the one as well as the other. Is it right then that we shut up and accept whatever is as being God’s will? On this read Ecclesiastes 7.13 noting the line who can make straight what he has made crooked. Read also Matthew 6.27 noting the phrase add one cubit. Now we might quibble over adding a cubit or so by some means other than being anxious. But there Job 1.21 stands to make us reconsider: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Where would our imagined contributions figure in there? If nowhere, then what’s left? On this read James 4.14 noting the line you are a mist. Read also Psalm 39.5 noting the line every man stands as a mere breath. But shouldn’t we protest? Shouldn’t we rebel? On this read 1 Peter 1.24–25 noting the line the grass whither and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides forever. So what good would our naysaying do?

 

Week IV. Read Ecclesiastes 7.14 one last time noting again that line God has made the one as well as the other. Does that mean that prosperity and adversity are the same, if God makes them both? On this read Revelation 3.19 noting the line God chastens those whom he loves. Why would he do that? On this read Romans 5.3–5 noting the words endurance, character and hope. Is that good enough? But what about prosperity, then? On that read 1 Corinthians 16.2 noting the words prosper and contributions. So prosperity differs from adversity in that it leads to social welfare, whereas adversity leads to character formation. How then shall we regard the two? Should we rejoice only in prosperity (following Ecclesiastes 7.14)? Or should we also consider the same for adversity (following Ecclesiastes 7.14)? On this read Ephesians 5.20 noting the line always and for everything giving thanks. That would make it sound like prosperity and adversity are on the same page. Do you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

"This is how God proceeds with his Word and work, as he opens them up to the unlearned. To make it known to the wise and prudent is impossible.... [For them] it will be and will remain utter darkness.... Intellectuals don't get into it; the Scripture remains locked to them. Saint Augustine laments how he at first, for nine whole years, coursed through the Scriptures with a random spirit, wanting to understand the Scripture through his reason; but the more he studied it, the less he understood, until at last, to his shame, he discovered that we have to poke out reason's eyes and say, What Scripture says, I leave unscrutinized and simply believe it with a whole heart. If we proceed that way, then Scripture is clear and plain, while before it was dark.... There's no room, therefore, for a smart intellectual and disputer when it comes to this book, the Holy Scripture.... Here with Holy Scripture, the Word of God, let disputing and questioning cease, and say, God has spoken; therefore, I believe. There's no room for disputation and argument.... But if you want to dispute and ask, How is that possible? you will distance yourself from the truth and understanding of Scripture."  
 
[Martin Luther, Sermon on Luke 24:13-35 (1534),
Luther's House Postils, 3 vols., ed. E. F. A. Klug (1996) 2:22, 23, 29, 31.]