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).

Isaiah 9.13

January 2017, Number 287

 

Week I. Read Isaiah 9.13 noting the word smote. Who is doing this smiting? On this read Isaiah 9.13 again noting the words nor and Lord. Note also the lines the Lord will smite with a scab the heads… and lay bare their secret parts in Isaiah 3.17, and through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is burned in Isaiah 9.19. So it’s the Lord God of Israel who is doing the attacking. And who is he attacking? On this read Isaiah 9.8–12 noting the words Jacob, Israel (twice) and Ephraim. Note also the line the Lord… stands to judge his people in Isaiah 3.13. So it’s his own chosen ones that he is attacking. Why is that? On this read Isaiah 1.2 noting the words sons and rebelled. Note also the seven words sinful, iniquity, evildoers, corruptly, forsaken, despised and estranged all in the one verse, Isaiah 1.4! Now what specifically is this all about? On this read Isaiah 1.17 noting the words good (5.24), justice (3.15, 5.23), fatherless and widow (1.23). Note also the word war in Isaiah 2.4, the word idols in Isaiah 2.8 (2.20, 8.19), and the word pride (proud, lofty) in Isaiah 2.11–12 (17). And regarding idolatry, note the line defying his glorious presence in Isaiah 3.8. These, then, are Israel’s specific violations. Does this smiting seem to have any warrant to you? Why or why not? If yes, do you think our time resembles theirs? Explain your answer.

 

Week II. Read again Isaiah 9.13 noting the same word smote. How will God do this? On this read Isaiah 4.4 noting the words judgment and burning. Read also Isaiah 3.18–26 noting the words finery, rottenness, baldness, shame, sword (8.7) and ravaged, and Isaiah 3.1–5 noting the words bread, water (13), oppress and insolent. Read as well Isaiah 5.5–6 noting the words devoured, trampled, waste and rain, Isaiah 5.25 and its words mountain and quaked, as well as Isaiah 6.10 noting the words fat, heavy and shut. Added to this is the line the stone of offense in Isaiah 8.14. Does this seem to be over-kill to you? Why doesn’t God in Isaiah think so? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the words foot and head. Does this verse justify the extreme measures God is taking in smiting his people? If so, how so?

 

Week III. Reread Isaiah 9.13 noting the word seek. How is that done? On this read Isaiah 8.13 noting the words Lord, holy, fear and dread. What is that like? On this read Isaiah 57.11 noting the words dread, lied, remember, held and peace. On this shifting of dread from some other one or idol back to the true Lord God , read Isaiah 57.13 noting the words deliver, carry and but. Why is this testing important? On this read 1 Kings 18.21 noting the word limping, and 18.37 noting the line turned their hearts back. And read also Isaiah 57.15 noting the words contrite and humble. Why is this broken attitude so important for this returning? On this read Psalm 51.17 noting the word God and despise. So there will be no restoration for us if God doesn’t quit despising us and that takes us to be contrite. And finally read Isaiah 57.18 noting the words but and heal. Why does God make the first move away from his wrath? On this read Isaiah 65.1–5 noting the words ready and sought. Why is God in Isaiah 65.2 ready to spread out his hands all the day to a rebellious people? On this read Isaiah 63.7 noting the line the abundance of his steadfast love. Does that explain it? If so, is it a clear enough path to restoration – testing, contrition and God’s healing hand? If so, why do you think that?

 

Week IV. Read Isaiah 9.13 one last time noting the words not and nor. So why did God’s people give up on him? On this read again Isaiah 9.13 noting the word smote. Why did that push them away? On this read Isaiah 45.15 noting the words God and hidest. So when God smites us we can’t see his love. Is that it? On this read Habbakkuk 1.5 noting the line you would not believe if told. Why is that? On this read 2 Corinthians 12.9 noting the line my power is made perfect in weakness. So it is this disguised positive (strength) that pushes us away. How then can we overcome this? Hear again Isaiah 63.7 in light of Luke 11.28. Do you agree?

 

Nehemiah 9.32

 

February 2017, Number 288

 

 

Week I. Read Nehemiah 9.32 noting the word hardship. What were these hardships? On this read Nehemiah 9.36 noting the word slaves. What’s so bad about being a slave? On this read Nehemiah 9.37 noting the words goes, over, bodies, cattle and distress. So slaves lose riches and are afflicted with bodily pain. Note that some of that pain was inflicted at the pleasure of the masters – suggesting sadistic beatings, overwork and even rape. On this bodily pain read Job 2.7–3.26 noting two things. First that Job’s bodily suffering was very great (Job 2.13). And secondly that Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2.10) – in contradistinction to the thorough exoneration in Job 1.22, and the divine blessing in Job 1.21. That implies that there was unspoken sin in his heart – because after successfully enduring the first onslaught, he caves in under the severe physical pain. Now after knowing these hardships and physical traumas, why would Israel sin again? On this read Nehemiah 9.28 noting the line after they had rest. Did that rest block the memory of physical pain which had been keeping them from further rebellion and punishment? On this read Hosea 13.6 noting the confirming correlation of the two words filled and forgot. What makes this correlation a confirmation that rest leads to amnesia? Go back to Hosea 13.6 and note the word therefore. Are you now convinced? Why or why not?

 

Week II. Read again Nehemiah 9.32 noting the same word hardship. Why was the hardship of slavery inflicted upon God’s people in the first place? On this read Nehemiah 9.16–17, 26 noting the words stiffened, refused, mindful, killed and blasphemies. Why were these violations so heinous? On this read Exodus 20.1–17, noting the severe consequence – visiting iniquity… to the fourth generation. What warrants this severity? On this read Exodus 34.6–8 noting the words abounding and bow. What do these words say about God? On this read Psalm 99.1–5 noting the words tremble, mighty and footstool. Does this add up to seeing that when God is dishonored there is hell to pay? Is the brutal enslavement warranted then? How so if so?

 

Week III. Reread Nehemiah 9.32 noting the line seem little to thee. Why would God not care about these hardships? On this read Nehemiah 9.38 noting the line because of all this, we make a firm covenant. Does this imply instability and fickleness on the part of God’s people? If so, how do they plan to turn over a new leaf? Will making a firm covenant do it? Will it also convince God that this time Israel will not disrespect him? On this read Ezekiel 11.19–20 noting the words I, new, keep, obey and my. Does Israel in Nehemiah know that it cannot keep a covenant all by itself? It does seem to know that the reason God doesn’t care if Israel suffers is because they are repeat offenders – breaking covenants left and right. On this read Deuteronomy 8.17 noting the line my power… has gotten me this wealth. Does the same bravado hold here in Israel?

 

Week IV. Read Nehemiah 9.32 one last time noting the words keepest and terrible. What do these two words say about Israel’s prospects of keeping the new covenant? On the first word read 2 Timothy 2.13 noting the words if, faithless and faithful. By conceding that God keeps his covenant, lifts all blame from God. It shows that we don’t blame our foibles on his lack of concern for us. And on the second word, read Psalm 99.3 noting the connection between the words terrible and praise. Terror, then, is not a reason to run from God, but to praise him. He is fearsome and mighty and will punish us if provoked by our rebellion. Conceding this connection also shows God our good faith. Will that please God? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the words faith, please, rewards and seek. Does that mean we can manipulate God to favor us? On this read John 6.44 noting the word draw, and John 15.5 noting the word apart. Do those words gut any manipulation on our part? If so, how so?

 

 

 

Romans 11.24

March 2017, Number 289

 

Week I. Read Romans 11.24 noting the word wild. What makes this tree wild? On this read Isaiah 5.2 noting the contrast between the two words choice and wild. What makes the vine wild and unruly if it was so good when planted? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the line woe to those who… put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. What’s involved in this mix-up? On this read Isaiah 3.8 noting the words fallen, against and defying. Why would we oppose God like this and ruin these choice vines? On this read Isaiah 1.19–20 noting the words refuse and rebel. But why are we so disobedient when it isn’t in our self-interest? Why do we willingly hurt ourselves? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the line there is no soundness. What happens when that’s the case? On this read Isaiah 59.2 noting the line your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. What follows when that happens? On this read Isaiah 30.1 noting the phrase they… add sin to sin. Where does that lead? On this read Isaiah 30.11 noting the line let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel. Where does that leave us? On this read Isaiah 30.12–14 noting the phrase smashed so ruthlessly. Do you understand your wildness a little better now? If so, how so? Is it that we have given up on consulting the Lord – following in the path of Isaiah 31.1?

 

Week II. Read again Romans 11.24 noting the phrase cultivated olive tree. What is this tree? On this read Romans 11.5 noting the line a remnant, chosen by grace. Read also Romans 2.28–29, noting the words real, true, outwardly and inwardly. So the cultivated tree is the true community of God. On this read Galatians 6.14–16 noting how crucifixion and walking by that rule brings about a new creation, the real Israel of God. Where do we find this community? On this read Acts 20.7 noting the words first day of the week and bread. What does this new Sabbath indicate? On this read Hebrews 9.15 noting the words mediator, new, death and redeems. And why is this important? On this read Hebrews 8.13 noting the words first, obsolete and vanish. Does this explain the joy in Philippians 4.4? How so?

 

Week III. Reread Romans 11.24 noting the words grafted and against. Is this how we enter into to this new covenant – this new community of God? On this read John 6.44 noting the word draw. How disruptive is this to us? On this read Luke 16.16 noting the word violently. Why does this have to be? On this read John 3.19 noting the words loved, darkness and rather. What does this distorted love do to us? On this read Ephesians 2.3 noting the words nature and wrath. What are the consequences of this corruption to our very nature? On this read John 15.16 noting the contrast between the words choose and chose. What does that imply? On this read Romans 9.16 noting the line it depends not upon man’s will or exertion. Why not? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the words nothing, good and cannot. How impaired do all of the verses leave us? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the words wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. If that’s so, what’s left in us? On this read Mark 7.21–22 noting the words evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. Where does that leave us? Romans 7.24 says body of death. Do you agree? If so, why?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 11.24 one last time noting the word cut. Is this violent word gracious since it gets the ball of salvation rolling? On this read Acts 9.3–9 noting the contrasting words flashed and fell, with led and brought. Is this an example of a violent beginning with a peaceful ending? On this matter of proper sequence, read Romans 2.4 noting the words kindness, lead and repentance. Here the order is reversed, and it fails. Know why? On this read 2 Corinthians 6.1 noting the words entreat, not, grace and vain. So is it that we presume on the kindness of God as Romans 2.4 puts it? Do we misuse mercy and grace and thereby force upon ourselves a harder road? On this read Matthew 7.14 noting the words narrow and hard. Where does that leave us? On this read the Hebrews 11.32–40 with its vast array of difficulties and horrors.

 

 

Job 1.12

April 2017, Number 290

Week I. Read Job 1.12 noting the line in your power. Martin Luther thought that these words were about evil coming to us by God’s “permission” in order to humble us so that we might obey him (Luther’s Works 13:135). But was Luther right? On this read Revelation 12.12 noting the words woe, earth and wrath. Does God send an enraged devil down to earth to torment us? On this read Matthew 4.1 noting the line tempted by the devil. Why would God allow this to happen to his only begotten Son? Shouldn’t he have a better life? On this read Hebrews 2.17–18 noting the words merciful, expiation, suffered, tempted, able and help. How does this work? On this read Hebrews 4.15 noting the word sympathize, which implies shared experiences. So if Jesus floated above the turmoil of life he wouldn’t have cared enough to help us with it. But because he knew what we were going through, he cared – he sympathized with us. But why the tribulation in the first place? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line destroys much good. So when we fall short of God’s glory in Romans 3.23, tribulation follows.

Week II. Read again Job 1.12 noting the same phrase in your power. What’s that like? On this read 1 John 5.19 noting the line the whole world is in the power of the evil one. Read also 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the line blinded the minds of the unbelievers. What is it that we can’t see? On this read Luke 4.5–8 noting the line all the kingdoms of the world… have been delivered to me, and I give them to whom I will. Does that make all the centers of power in the world evil? On this read Matthew 13.22 noting the line the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word. Read also Luke 16.15 noting the line what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Where does that leave us? On this read Matthew 5.3–12 noting the words mourn, meek, hunger and persecuted. These are all maligned designations. On this read 1 Corinthians 1.26–29 noting the words foolish, weak, low and despised. Note also the disparaging of worldly standards in that passage. Link this with the phrase the refuse of the world in 1 Corinthians 4.13. Where does that put us? On this read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the world exiles and aliens. How far out on the cultural, societal edge is that? Read also John 15.18–19 noting the line chose you out of the world. According to John 17.15 this doesn’t mean being taken out of the world. It just means not being of the world. That means not sharing in the dominate value system of our shared, common life. And what is it made up of? On this read about acquiring the image of God in Colossians 3.5–10 by casting off fornication, covetousness, idolatry, anger, malice, slander, foul talk and lying.

 

Week III. Reread Job 1.12 noting that same line in your power. If we were to live our lives striving to avoid the devil’s powerful lines of influences, how would we do that? How would we put off the old nature from last week and replace it with the image of God? On this read Luke 9.23 noting the phrase deny yourself… daily. What’s that like? On this read John 12.25 about not loving your life. What’s an example of that? On this read Philippians 2.3 noting the line count others better than yourselves. But what if it isn’t true? What then? On this read John 9.39 noting the phrase become blind. How does that work? Ignore the differences.

Week IV. Read Job 1.12 one last time noting that same line in your power. Are there any other ways that we can steer clear of the devil’s might? On this read Ephesians 4.32 noting the line forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. This is a tall calling to say the least (Colossians 3.13). It’s also in the parable in Matthew 18.28–35, and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.14–15. So what do you think? Nearly impossible, wouldn’t you say? What’s left, then? Only self-interest – so if you don’t forgive as you’ve been forgiven, you’ll lose it. Sound right? On this read Hebrews 2.1–4 noting the line neglecting so great a salvation. Therefore follow Romans 12.9 and hold fast to what is good – keeping John 15.5 in mind all the way, of course.

 

Galatians 4.28

 

May 2017, Number 291

 

 

Week I. Read Galatians 4.28 noting the name Isaac. Who is Isaac? On this read Genesis 21.12 noting the words Abraham, Sarah and descendants. Read also Genesis 24.67 noting the words Rebekah and wife. Link this verse with Genesis 24.60 noting the words mother and thousands. What do these verses tells us about Isaac? On this read Genesis 17.19 noting the phrase everlasting covenant. What is that covenant? On this read Genesis 17.6–8 noting the words fruitful, nations, descendants, land and God. What comes of this covenant? On this read Genesis 27.38 noting the line but one blessing. How is Jacob able to trick his father, Isaac, out of his one blessing, and what does this mean? On this read Genesis 27.41 noting the line then I will kill my brother Jacob. How could Isaac have allowed this to happen? On this read Genesis 28.15 noting the words with and keep. Is this divine intervention to correct Isaac’s failure? Is this word a protection for Jacob from Esau because of what Isaac did? If so, how so?

 

Week II. Read again Galatians 4.28 noting the expression children of promise. What is it like living this way? On this read Galatians 4.29 noting the word persecuted. Why are children of promise persecuted by children of the flesh? On this read Galatians 5.17 noting the words against and opposed. But why can’t they just live and let live? Where does this hostility between the promise or spirit and the flesh come from? On this read Galatians 4.26 noting the word free. Herein lies the rub: Are we free to do whatever we want or free instead only from a bad result (temporal despair and eternal condemnation)? The spiritual calls the former licentiousness (Galatians 5.19); and the flesh calls the latter illusory (Luke 12.19). What, then, are we to do about this standoff? On this read Galatians 4.30 noting the line cast out. On this procedure read 2 Corinthians 6.17 noting the word separate. Read also Matthew 13.30 noting the line let both wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. This leads us to John 17.16–18 noting the play between being sent into the world but not being of the world. Do you agree?

 

Week III. Reread Galatians 4.28 noting that same expression children of promise. Does this way of life have other notable traits besides being persecuted? On this read Galatians 5.5 noting the four prepositions through, by, for and of. What do they signify? Regarding the phrase through the Spirit read John 16.8–11 noting the words believe, go and judged. These moves depict power to change our lives for the better. And regarding by faith read Romans 3.25 noting the word received. This is a matter of activating that power in our lives. Third regarding the phrase wait for read Hebrews 9.26 noting the line eagerly waiting for him. This keeps us focused on the one beneficial necessity (Luke 10.42). Finally regarding the phrase the hope of righteousness, read Romans 8.24 noting the words hope and saved. This comforts us with relief from the life-long bondage to and fear of death (Hebrews 2.15). What do all of these words turns us into? On this read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the word aliens. Read also Philippians 4.4 noting the word rejoice. How great is this alien joy? On this read Romans 5.5 noting the line does not disappoint. Are you ready for that? Why or why not?

 

Week IV. Read Galatians 4.28 one last time noting the word children. Will we ever become adults in God’s kingdom? On this read Matthew 18.3 noting the words enter and children. What does this mean? On this read Matthew 18.4 noting the word humbles. But what does that mean? On this read Luke 11.28 noting the words hear and keep. Keeping what we hear from God is what humbles us. Is that then the end of it? On this read 1 Peter 2.2 noting the phrase grow up. What does that mean? On this read Romans 5.3-5 noting the development of character. That development is the maturity noted in Colossians 1.28. Do you agree? So Christians begin as children and later become adults. Is that right? In what ways?

  

 

Psalm 115.1

June 2016, Number 280

 

 

Week I. Read Psalm 115.1 noting the phrase not to us. Why shouldn’t we be glorified? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.31 noting the line do all to the glory of God. Why shouldn’t we have any? On this read John 5.44 noting the words believe, glory, another and God. How does God get excluded if we are glorified? On this read Matthew 6.24 noting the words serve and two. Why is there this restriction? On this read Exodus 34.14 noting the line the Lord… is a jealous God. What does this mean if jealousy is a sin (Galatians 5.20)? On this read 2 Corinthians 11.2 noting the line I feel a divine jealousy for you. What is this different sort of divine jealousy? On this read Genesis 37.11 noting the word jealous and 37.18 noting the word kill. So human jealousy leads to murder. Does divine jealousy also? On this read Isaiah 65.2 noting the line I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people. Is that murderous anger or generous, earnest concern? How different can jealousy be, then?

Week II. Read again Psalm 115.1 noting the line not to us. What, then, should be given us if not glory? On this read Matthew 22.37–39 noting the two occurrences of the word love. Why is this duty given us rather than glory? On this read Mark 7.20 noting the words out and defile. How intrinsically corrupt are we, then? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the phrase no soundness. Read also Romans 7.18 noting the phrase nothing good. If we’re so bad is there no hope for us doing anything good? On this read Matthew 7.17 noting the two phrases sound tree and good fruit, as well John 15.5 noting the line apart from me you can do nothing. So with God’s help we can do good things, but never on our own because of our internal corruption. So without pressure from God, we’ll remain in our selfish defilements. On this read 2 Timothy 3.4 noting the line lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. So how do we get off the dime? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the word transferred. Will that do it?

Week III. Reread Psalm 115.1 noting the line but to thy name give glory. What good is our glorification of God? On this read Psalm 22.3 noting the line enthroned on the praises of Israel. What does this mean? On this read 1 Timothy 6.15 noting the phrase King of kings. What does this contribute? On this read Ephesians 1.21 noting the line far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. Why put God upon such a throne? On this read Matthew 4.10 noting the words serve and only. Why are we to give such exclusive loyalty to God? On this read Mark 10.18 noting the words good and alone. What does this mean for believers in God? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the three occurrences of the word all. How intense is this? On this read Romans 12.11 noting the words zeal and aglow. Read also Revelation 3.16 noting the word lukewarm. Why does God want so much from us? Note the phrase eternal weight of glory in 2 Corinthians 4.17. Does that answer it?

Week IV. Read Psalm 115.1 one last time noting again the line but to thy name give glory. What glory should we give to God? On this read 1 Thessalonians 5.18 noting the word thanks. Why should we glorify God with our thanks? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the line without your Father’s will. Does this mean that God controls all that happens and whatever happens takes place because he wants it to? On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the words whatever and pleases. Read as well Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belongs to God. Why can’t we be in control of at least some of what goes on? On this read Job 40.4 noting the line I am of small account. Read also Job 42.3 noting the phrase things too wonderful for me. So are we denied control of what’s going on because of our diminished capacity? On this read James 4.14 noting the line you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Note also the phrase mere breath in Psalm 39.5. So does that settle it?

 

 

 

Romans 9.5

 

July 2016, Number 281

 

Week I. Read Romans 9.5 noting the word Christ. How does Christ belong to the Jews? On this read John 4.22 noting the words salvation and Jews. How does salvation come from the Jews? On this read Isaiah 11.1-9 noting the words shoot, stump, Jesse, Spirit and righteousness. What is this shoot? On this read Genesis 3.15 noting the word seed. Who is this child or seed? On this read John 1.41 noting the words Messiah. Who is the Messiah? On this read Isaiah 61.1-11 noting the words anointed, tidings, liberty, favor, repair, joy, recompense, covenant and salvation. Does this mean that keeping the Jewish law will save us? On this read Leviticus 26.41 noting the phrase make amends. Is that enough to be saved from punishment? On this read Romans 3.20 noting the line no human being will be justified… by works of the law. So how does salvation come from the Jews? On this read Matthew 4.14-16 noting the word fulfilled. And what is fulfilled? On this read Galatians 4.28-31 noting the word promise. So Jesus belongs to the Jews in so much as the promise of his coming to save us was proclaimed by the Jews. Nothing more. Do you agree? If so, why?

Week II. Read again Romans 9.5 noting this time the word patriarchs. What did they do? On this read Romans 9.4 noting the line the giving of the law. What is the law? On this read Exodus 20.1-17 noting the words God, spoke, you, shall, keep and commandments. How do Christians regard these laws? On this read Romans 10.4 noting the line Christ is the end of the law. How does Christ do this? On this read Matthew 5.17 noting the words abolish, law and fulfill. So is the law the same for us as it is under Judaism? On this read Romans 7.12-13 noting the words law, good, death, sin, shown, become and sinful. What happens when we’re shown our sinfulness? On this read 2 Corinthians 3.6 noting the words code and kills. If that’s true, then what saves us if keeping the law can’t? On this read Romans 3.28 noting the words justified, faith and apart. Do you agree?

Week III. Reread Romans 9.5 noting the word blessed. Why would we want to bless God for killing us? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.14-15 noting the words all, died, live and for. So dying is not a dead end, but what brings us to live for Jesus who died to save us from our sins. Why is this important? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the line for sin he condemned sin. What does that give us? On this read Hebrews 2.15 noting the line through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. But if dying is only natural, what’s to be feared? On this read Hebrews 9.27 noting the words die and judgment. Is it then the judgment that follows death that makes it so scary? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the link between judgment and wrath. Why is wrath a possibility on Judgment Day? On this read Ezekiel 5.5-17 noting the words rebelled, ordinances, statues, walked, kept, acted, abominations, eat, scatter, defiled, sanctuary, pity, anger, fury, jealousy, horror, chastisements, destruction, rob and sword. How can we escape this? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the words blood and wrath. Can you rejoice in this as does Saint Paul in Galatians 6.14?

Week IV. Read Romans 9.5 one last time noting again the word patriarchs. Is there anything else to keep from the Judaism of the patriarchs? On this read Romans 9.4 noting the word worship. How did they worship? On this read Isaiah 6.3-5 noting the phrase woe is me. Read also Psalm 99.5 noting the line worship at his footstool. Note as well the distinction between the common and holy in Ezekiel 22.26. Do these three readings point to the awe and reverence in Hebrews 12.28-29? If so, why have they been supplanted by happiness and fun in the church today?

   

Job 41.5

 

August 2016, Number 282

Week I. Read Job 41.5 noting the two uses of the word him. Who is that? On this read Job 41.1 noting the word Leviathan. Some Bibles have a footnote saying this is a special name for the crocodile. If so, does that word represent anything else? On this read Job 41.10 noting the word me. Does this mean that God is describing his fierceness in terms of that of the crocodile? On this read Amos 5.19 noting the word bear, and Hosea 13.8 also noting the word bear. In both these verses God acts like an enraged bear, so the less clear case of the crocodile in Job 41.5 isn’t so far-fetched after all. Also on this read Ezekiel 5.13 noting the words anger, fury and satisfy. Read also Jeremiah 23.29 noting the line a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces. And in the New Testament, read Hebrews 10.31 noting the word fearful. Or Luke 13.4–5 noting the words tower, killed and eighteen. Then there is the word wrath in John 3.36, and punishment in Matthew 25.46. Does the image of the crocodile cover those violent words about God? How does that make you feel? Check out the words reverence, awe and fire in Hebrews 12.28. Note also the word fear in Matthew 10.28.

Week II. Read again Job 41.5 noting this time the words play and leash. Why would one be so careless with such a dangerous crocodile God? On this read Psalm 30.6–7 noting the words prosperity, moved and strong, in contrast to the words hide and dismayed. Does this show that we get sassy when blessed? On this read Hosea 13.5–6 noting the words drought, fed, full and forgot. How does this follow? Why isn’t forgetfulness the farthest thing from our minds when God so richly cares for us? On this read John 3.19 noting the words light, darkness and loved. Why do we do the opposite of what we should do? On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the words desperately and understand. Deep inside us, then, we irrationally switch things around. On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the switching around of the words good and evil. Does that explain our recklessness? Does the word mystery help in 2 Thessalonians 2.7?

Week III. Reread Job 41.5 noting the same two words play and leash. What would one hope to accomplish by trying to put our fearful God on a leash? On this read 1 Kings 8.30 noting the words hearken and place. Is the temple, then, a leash to control God and see to it that he answers our prayers the way we want him to? Can we actually leverage God? On this read Genesis 18.25 noting the line shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Is Abraham strong-arming God in the matter of saving Sodom? Is Abraham more righteous than God? On this read Genesis 19.24–25 noting the words Sodom, fire and overthrew. Did God break his promise to Abraham? Or did God know that there weren’t ten righteous people in Sodom all along? If so, was God then only humoring Abraham’s supposed superior righteousness? Do you think? On this read Jonah 1.11–15 noting the words tempestuous, quiet, sea, threw and ceased. So is the sacrifice of Jonah a leash controlling God? On this read Isaiah 13.9 noting the words destroy and sinners. So God has set up a moral, causal, nexus before the Jonah episode which his sacrifice plays into. Do you agree? On this read Galatians 6.7 noting the words mocked, sows and reap. Is that correlation between reaping and sowing the nexus?

Week IV. Read Job 41.5 one last time noting again the same two words play and leash. How can we give up on this fool’s errand? On this read James 4.6 noting the prerequisite for God granting grace. What does this tell you? On this read Psalm 51.17 noting how contrition blocks God from despising us. Why is contrition needed for this? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.14–15 noting the words control and themselves. Why can’t we just live for ourselves? On this read Ephesians 4.32 noting how receiving kindness requires being kind too. What would that mean for you?

 

 

Romans 8.17

 

September 2016, Number 283

 

Week I. Read Romans 8.17 noting the word suffer. What does it mean to suffer? On this read Matthew 27.19 noting the words suffered, much and dream. What kind of suffering is that? On this read 2 Corinthians 7.5 noting the phrase fear within. How does this anxiety cause suffering? On this read John 20.19 noting the words shut and fear. So fear constrains us to hide, and that confinement is suffering. On this read also Matthew 27.26 noting the word scourged. How does scourging cause suffering? On this read Job 30.17 noting the words racks, gnaws, rest and pain. So pain causes suffering by depleting our strength and joy. And read Matthew 2.16-18 noting the words killed, children, weeping, refused and consoled. How does this weeping cause suffering? On this read Judges 11.37 noting the line bewail my virginity. So loss of love and life causes suffering. Are all Christians, then, expected to endure such confinement, physical pain, and loss of love and life? How so? On this read John 15.18-19 noting the words hated, own and world. Note also the words revile, persecute and evil in Matthew 5.11. Does that settle it? Or do you side with the words prosperity and never in Psalm 30.6? Explain the way you lean.

 

Week II. Read again Romans 8.17 noting the same word suffer. What’s the good in it? On this read Romans 5.3-5 noting the words endurance, character, hope and disappoint. How do these four come about? On the first, read Luke 16.25 noting the words evil, now and comforted. Here we see how the endurance of Lazarus is rewarded in the life to come after he dies. On the second one, read Acts 5.41 noting the line rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer. Here we see how joy and worth are established through suffering. On the third one, read Hebrews 11.19 noting the phrase God was able to raise men even from the dead. Here we see how knowing that death is not the end enables us to endure the pain in the death of loved ones. And on the last one, read John 14.19 noting the line because I live, you will live also. Here the hope of everlasting life doesn’t disappoint because it is grounded in the certainty of Christ’s resurrection. Where does that leave us then? Is suffering good? On this read 1 Peter 4.13 noting the words rejoice, share, Christ’s and sufferings. Does this sharing launder our pain and sorrow – turning them into something good? On this read Matthew 10.24 noting the line a disciple is not above his teacher. Does that settle it? How so?

 

Week III. Reread Romans 8.17 noting the word provided. Why is this condition given? On this read James 4.8 noting the two uses of the phrase draw near. How do we do this? On this read John 15.5 noting the words apart and nothing. How does Christ then help us? On this read Matthew 11.28–30 noting the line I will give you rest. What does it mean to come to him to get this rest? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.14–15 noting the line live no longer for themselves. How can we take leave of ourselves? On this read John 6:44 noting the word draw. Does that put us in good shape? How so?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 8.17 one last time noting the word glorified. Is this about fame and fortune here and now? On this read Colossians 3.1–4 noting the words above, hid and glory. Read also 2 Corinthians 4.16–18 noting the words eternal, glory, beyond and unseen. What is the value in this otherworldly glory? On this read Romans 8.18 noting the words suffering, comparing and glory. Read also the next verses 8.19–23 noting the words futility, bondage, decay, adoption and redemption. Why is being free of these maladies important? On this read 1 Peter 1.4 noting the words imperishable, undefiled and unfading. And what’s the point in this purity and brilliance? On this read 2 Corinthians 3.17 noting the word freedom. Is that intrinsically worthwhile without further ado? If so, how so? For help, read about freedom in Romans 6.16–22.

 

Ezra 3.12

October 2016, Number 284

 

Week I. Read Ezra 3.12 noting the words wept and joy. Why are there these two opposite responses to the building of the new temple? On this read Psalm 30.5 noting the words weeping and joy – correlated with the words tarry and comes, night and morning. Read also 2 Corinthians 6.10 noting the line sorrowful yet always rejoicing. Why doesn’t the joy displace the sorrow? How can these two be combined? On this read John 16.33 noting how the words tribulation and cheer go together by way of the two uses to the same word world. So as the world changes, tribulation then gives way to cheer or joy. What changes in Ezra 3? On this read Ezra 3.10 noting the word temple. So the same temple is what elicits the two opposing responses. Why is that? On this read Ezra 1.3 noting the word rebuild. This tells us there had been another temple before this rebuilt one. Why did they want to rebuild the temple? On this read Ezra 3.2 noting the words altar, burnt and offerings. Why were burnt offerings needed? On this read Exodus 20.24 noting the word bless, 24.5 noting the word peace, 29.18 noting the word pleasing, and 29.42 noting the word speak. So the temple provides benefits that are lost without it. Is that important?

 

Week II. Read again Ezra 3.12 noting the same two words wept and joy. Why respond in such contradictory ways to those benefits? The joy is obvious – but how about the weeping? On this read Ezra 5.12 noting the words angered and Lord. So the weeping is over the disobedience that made the Lord so mad that he destroyed the temple as a punishment. Anything else? On this read Haggai 2.3 noting the words former and glory. Because that glory is lost, there is also grief. Why is that so? On this read Psalm 50.2 noting the phrases the perfection of beauty, and God shines forth. Such magnificent losses are worth weeping over for they have to do with the goodness of God. On that correlation read also Psalms 27.4 and 96.6. Do you agree? Does beauty really matter to God?

 

Week III. Reread Ezra 3.12 noting the word house. What did Jesus think of this house? On this read John 2.13–22 noting the words whip, drove, overturned, Father’s, zeal, destroy, body and raised. Why does Jesus compare the temple to his body? On this read Hebrews 9.26 noting the words sin and sacrifice. Does Jesus think that he replaces the sacrificial function of the temple with his own sacrifice? On this read 1 Corinthians 5.7 noting the line Christ, our pascal lamb, has been sacrificed. Read also 2 Corinthians 3.10 noting the word surpasses. And note the word obsolete in Hebrews 8.13. Why does this transference from Judaism to Jesus take place? On this read Romans 8.3–4 noting the words weakened, could, condemned, just, fulfilled and walk. Are these deficiencies real? On this read Romans 3.28 noting the words justified and faith. Why does faith alone bring about this justification? On this read Colossians 2.14 noting the words canceled and cross. Why does God only respond to that cross? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the words blood, saves and wrath. Does that explain it? On this read John 10.17–18 noting why God loves Jesus. Tie that in with the two uses of the word love in John 14.23.

 

Week IV. Read Ezra 3.12 one last time noting again the word house. Are there any other important implications to the word house? On this read 1 Peter 2.5 noting the words yourselves, built, house, sacrifices and Jesus. What sacrifices are believers to make? On this read Psalm 51.17 noting the words sacrifice, broken and contrite. Is there anything else besides this humility and self-condemnation? One this read 1 Peter 4.13 noting the words share, sufferings and Christ. And what are they again? On this read John 15.18–19 noting the words hates, own and chose. What does this add up to? Being unliked, unpopular and marginalized. Is there a word for that? Try out aliens in 1 Peter 2.11. What do you think?

 

 

Mark 1.34

November 2016, Number 285

 

Week I. Read Mark 1.34 noting the word demons. What are they? On this read Revelation 12.9 noting the phrase his angels. So demons are bad angels – invisible agents doing the work of the devil on earth. Read also Ephesians 6.12 noting the line spiritual hosts of wickedness. This adds that these hosts of demons, which are many, are at work against God’s people. And read 2 Corinthians 11.15 noting the words servants and disguise. Here we see that the demons serve the devil and don’t appear to be what they are – they’re invisible. On what they do to us, read 2 Corinthians 12.7 noting the word harass. Why do they do this? On this read 1 Timothy 4:1 noting the phrase doctrines of demons. This is because they cannot tolerate the sound doctrine in 1 Timothy 1.10 regarding Christ. What is that doctrine? On this read John 8.12 noting the line light of the world. What does the devil and his demons think of that light? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the word blinded. How bad is that?

Week II. Read again Mark 1.34 noting the same word demon. What becomes of that blindness noted last week? On this read 1 John 3.8 noting the line destroy the works of the devil. How does Christ do that? On this read John 1.5 noting the words shines, not and overcome. How does a shining light have such power? On this read Ephesians 5.11–13 noting the words expose, secret, visible and becomes. This goes back to the disguises noted earlier – and its deception and invisibility. There is a weakness, then, in demonism that cannot tolerate exposure. On this read Matthew 10.1 noting the words authority, over, cast and out. Note also the word greater in 1 John 4.4. Should we not then fear demons? On this read John 8.44 noting the words father, do, desires and lies. Does that mean we empower demons beyond their own intrinsic powers by enabling them? What is the chief ways we do that? On this read 2 Corinthians 2.17 noting the words word and peddler; and 4.2 nothing the words word and tamper. How bad is this of us to do?

Week III. Reread Mark 1.34 noting the line Jesus would not permit the demons to speak about him. Why not? On this read Acts 16.16–18 noting the words girl, divination, proclaim, salvation and out. Why was Paul annoyed with her? What was wrong with her saying these men are servants of the Most High, who proclaims to you the way of salvation? Was that a false statement? No, not at all. Why then not let her get the word out if it’s true? On this read Philippians 1.15–18 noting the words envy, rivalry, partisanship, pretense and rejoice. Are not these two cases alike? Well, note that divination is missing from the second one. So that is the game-changer or deal-breaker. That’s why in the first case the girl had to be silenced, but in the second case Paul’s rivals could speak and were even encouraged to do so. What’s so wrong with divination? On this read 2 Kings 17.7–18 noting the words sinned, secretly, idols, stubborn, divination and anger. What makes divination sinful? On this read Deuteronomy 18.10 noting the words divination and soothsaying – which means divination is about foretelling the future in order to find help in times of trouble. But this clashes with Psalm 121.2 that our help only comes from the Lord. Why is that a problem?

Week IV. Read Mark 1.34 one last time noting the word speak. So if the demons are forbidden to speak about Christ, who then can? On this read 1 Peter 3.13–17 noting the words zealous, reverence, defense, conscience and behavior. Why does the righteousness of Christ have to be matched by those who would want to speak on his behalf? Is there some sort of a validation going on here? On this read John 13.34–35 noting the words love, loved, know and if. How can that be? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.17 noting the category new creation. Does this newness prove Isaiah 55.11 that the word does not return… empty? Is that important to you? Why?

 

 

Romans 2.7

December 2016, Number 286

 

Week I.  Read Romans 2.7 noting the phrase eternal life. What is it? On this read Revelation 21.2–4 noting the words new, heaven, dwell, tear, death and pain. Why is such a place needed? On this read Hebrews 11.16 noting the word better. Read also 2 Corinthians 4.16–18 noting the words inner, glory and eternal. This better life is needed because the ordinary, dying, transient, distorted and wicked world cannot sustain the fulfillment, joy and meaning we long for. What blocks that joy here? On this read Hebrews 2.15 noting the fear of death and the lifelong bondage it brings. What’s behind this fear? On this read Romans 6.23 noting the phrase the wages of sin. Why does sin do this? On this read Isaiah 59.2 noting the words separation and hid. Why is this distancing bad? On this read James 1.17 noting the line every good and perfect gift. It is this goodness and perfection that we hanker after when we long for eternal life. Do you agree? Or do you only long for this life, as 1 Corinthians 15.19 puts it? If so, why? If not, why not?

Week II. Read again Romans 2.7 noting the word give. Why is eternal life something only God can give us? On this read Romans 3.24 noting the words grace, gift, in and Jesus. If it is a gift, then we can’t do it for ourselves or earn it. That’s because it is freely bestowed as a gift. But why’s that? Note that it comes from Jesus whose death brings it about. Because this agency is outside of us (and all people together), it is a gift that only God can give. Read also Ephesians 2.8–9 noting the word boast. In order to ward off taking eternal life the wrong way, it has to come from God, otherwise we’ll boast over having it, which would be the wrong way to take it. That’s because of Galatians 6.14 which says that we should not glory in ourselves or become boastful. On this read James 4.16 noting how such boasting is arrogant and evil. Note also the line do all to the glory of God in 1 Corinthians 10.31.

Week III. Reread Romans 2.7 noting the line by patience in well-doing seek… immortality. What it is like to do that? On this read Hebrews 6.12 noting the line through faith and patience inherit the promises. So if faith and patience are equivalents, what does that tell us about getting eternal life? On this read Psalm 62.1–8 noting the words God, alone, waits, silence and trust. We wait for eternal life and salvation because they are a gift from God. This waiting tempers our well-doing so that we do not think we earn eternal life by our works. Is there nothing then for us to do while we wait? On this read Philippians 3.12–14 noting the words obtained, press on, forgetting and straining. So those deeds would be included in our well-doing which is ours through waiting in patience on God. And what of the seeking… immortality? On this read Romans 3.11 noting the line no one seeks for God. Read also John 3.19 noting the line that we loved the darkness rather than the light. What, then, if we do seek after the immortality and eternal life that comes from God alone? On this read Ezekiel 11.19 noting the line I will… put a new spirit within them. So even if we seek eternal life, the power to do so comes from God and his very gift of seeking after his blessings. That’s because Romans 7.18 teaches that nothing good dwells in us. Do you agree, or are you more optimistic about people? If so, why? Would God approve of your view?

Week IV. Read Romans 2.7 one last time noting the words seek and give. Why does God only give eternal life to those who seek after it? On this read Matthew 7.6 noting the words give, dogs and swine. Who are these dogs and swine? According to the end of Matthew 7.6, they are the ones who don’t want what is holy but trample it down and attack those who proclaim it. What is to be done for them? Argue with them? Make concessions to ease it up for them? On this read Luke 11.13 about asking for the Holy Spirit. We need to ask God for help to do for these dogs and swine what he did for Paul in Acts 9.1–20. Amazing, don’t 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.]