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).

2 Corinthians 7.1

January 2019, Number 311

 

Week I. Read 2 Corinthians 7.1 noting the line let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. Why is this needed? On this read Mark 7.20 noting the words out and defiles. How is it so that we are all wicked within? On this read Psalm 51.5 noting the line brought forth in iniquity. How is that possible? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.22 noting the line in Adam all die. How can Adam, long dead and gone, still do this to everyone who is born up to, and including, this very day? On this read Romans 8.7 noting the words hostile, submit and cannot. How does Adam so distort all human willing? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the line I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing. How can we have such a narrow view of ourselves? On this read Luke 12.15 noting the truncated line life… consists in the abundance of our possessions. How can we have such a rank materialistic view of life? On this read Romans 8.6 noting the line the mind set on the flesh is death. So we get in this fix by setting our minds on the wrong thing. Do you agree? If so, why?

 

Week II. Read again 2 Corinthians 7.1 noting the same line let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. Following from last week, what is this setting of the mind like? On this read Ephesians 5.18 noting the line do not get drunk with wine,… but be filled with the Spirit. Is this setting, then, like an addiction? On this read Romans 12.11 noting the words zeal and aglow. Can we control this fervor? On this read Romans 6.16–22 noting the six occurrences of the word slave. Also read John 8.34 noting the word slave. Does this addiction help explain the new heart in Ezekiel 11.19? How dangerous, then, is the disposition of our hearts? On this read Luke 8.15 noting what the honest and good heart produces. What happens if such a heart is missing? Read Luke 8.11–14 noting the words fall and choked. Is that falling and choking out of our control? On this read Romans 9.16 noting the phrase depends not. If you disagree, why is that?

 

Week III. Reread 2 Corinthians 7.1 noting this time the word holiness. Why should we be holy? On this read 1 Peter 1.16 noting the phrase because I am holy. But isn’t God’s holiness non-transferable? On this read 1 Samuel 2.2 noting the line there is none holy like the Lord. Then what’s the use in trying? On this read Philippians 3.12 noting the contrast between the words perfect and press. Why is the pressing on important? On this read Romans 12.2 noting the line do not be conformed to this world. Why is that? On this read John 15.18–19 noting the sharing of being hated with Jesus. Why does this solidarity matter? On this read Galatians 2.20 noting the connection between the words faith and live. Read also 1 Peter 2.21 noting the line in his steps. Note also that Jesus asks us to be like him in Luke 6.40. This leads to the word imitation in 1 Corinthians 11.1. Where does this lead? On this read James 1.27 noting the phrase unstained from the world. What does that include? On this read 1 Peter 1.13–15 noting the words sober, hope and obedient. Note also the word love in 1 Thessalonians 3.11–13. Does that cover being holy? Why or why not?

 

Week IV. Read 2 Corinthians 7.1 one last time noting the word fear. Why and how should we fear God, and how does that make us holy? On this read Matthew 10.28 noting the words not and hell. Read also John 3.18 noting the connection between the words believes and condemned. On how this fear drives us to holiness, read Jonah 2.4–3.4 noting the movement from the weeds wrapped around his head to preaching the assigned message. This is like being scared straight. How can we embrace this pedagogy? On this read Psalm 34.11 noting the words teach and fear. What is included in this instruction? On this read Ezekiel 5.13 noting the word fury. Why stress this severity? On this read Psalm 90.11 noting the question Who considers the power of thy anger? Do you like this curriculum? Why or why not?

 

Job 10.8

 

February 2019, Number 312

 

Week I. Read Job 10.8 noting the line thy hands… made me. What shall we make of that? On this read Genesis 1.31 noting the line everything that he had made… was very good. Read also Genesis 1.27 noting the line God created man in his own image. Read as well Genesis 2.15 noting the line God… put man in the garden… to till and keep it. What shall we make of these verses? On this read Psalm 17.8 noting the line keep me as the apple of the eye. Read also Psalm 8.5 noting the line God… crowns him with glory and honor. Are we therefore made for greatness, above all the rest of creation? Is this build into our being? On this read Isaiah 43.21 noting the line the people… I formed for myself, to declare my praise. Does this verse set us back a notch? On this read Job 42.3 noting the line too wonderful for me. Read also Psalm 131.1 noting the line things too great… for me. So being made in the image of God doesn’t make us equal to God. On this read Hosea 11.9 noting the line I am God and not man. Does that get us all the way to the word worm in Psalm 22:6? If not, how about the word breath in Psalm 39.5, or the word dust in Genesis 2.7? How do these three verses make you feel? Do they seem belittling? If so, why?

Week II. Read again Job 10.8 noting the same line thy hands… made me. What has God made in us? On this read 1 Kings 2.3–4 noting how the words keeping and commandments define the word man. In this way humans differ from God – we are to obey him – God is not to obey us. On this read Judges 17.6 and 21.25 noting the phrase right in their own eyes. Contrast that with Psalm 115.3 noting the line God does whatever he pleases. Why can’t we do that? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting how we can’t keep good and evil straight. Being made to obey God puts us at a much lower level than God. By how much? On this read Isaiah 55.9 noting the distance between the heavens and the earth. Could that be any larger?

Week III. Reread Job 10.8 noting this time the phrase destroy me. What happened? Has God forgotten how great we are? Or has our diminished status caused our ruin? On this read Genesis 3.24 noting the words drove, sword, and guard. Why were Adam and his family driven from paradise, never to be allowed to return again? Was it because he was less than God? On this read Genesis 3.11 noting the words commanded and not. Is there any other punishment beside this banishment? On this read Genesis 3.3 noting the phrase lest you die. So death is not natural – because we wear out or weaken or slip and fall? No, on this read Leviticus 26.14–16 noting the line cause life to pine away. Read also Jeremiah 2.9–17 noting the question Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way? Do you agree?

Week IV. Read Job 10.8 one last time noting again the phrase destroy me. Is destruction then all that’s left? On this read Jeremiah 3.17 noting the line they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil hearts. How does one so escape by doing that? On this read Jeremiah 3.10 noting the line return to me with her whole heart. Read also Jeremiah 4.14 noting the question Wash your heart [and] be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you? What happens if this is done? On this read Jeremiah 4.27 noting the line yet I will not make a full end. What would a full end be? On this read Jeremiah 8.22 noting the phrases no balm in Gilead and not be restored. Such hopelessness would be a full end. Why does God block such an end? On this read Jeremiah 31.20 noting the words dear, often, against, remember, yearns, surely and mercy. Why does God so yearn and keep from bringing a full end? On this read Jeremiah 31.3 noting the line I have loved you with an everlasting love. In what way is this good news?

 

 

Ephesians 3.14

 

March 2019, Number 313

Week I. Read Ephesians 3.14 noting the line bow… before the Father. Why is this necessary? On this read Psalm 99.1–5 noting the words enthroned, great, terrible, holy, mighty and footstool. So we fall at his feet and worship him because of his holiness and power. On this point read also Ephesians 3.16 noting the words inner, Spirit and strengthened. So without this bowing down before God we would be weak. Read also Ephesians 3.17 noting the words faith, rooted and love. In addition, there would be no durable, rooted love in us with this bowing down. In the same vein read Ephesians 3.18–19 noting the words comprehend and fullness. Without this bowing down we would also be superficial – lacking in any integrated knowledge of God’s spiritual richness. Note also the word abundantly in Ephesians 3.20 as a further incentive for bowing down before God. How does this happen? On this read John 3.30 noting the correlation between increasing and deceasing. Is this based on Christ sharing his greatness with us when we deplete ourselves by bowing down? For this read Philippians 4.13 and James 4.10.

Week II. Read again Ephesians 3.14 noting the word bow. What is it like to bow down before God? On this read Psalm 51.l7 noting the line a broken and contrite heart. What does that feel like? On this read Ezekiel 16.54 noting the words disgrace and ashamed. Why should we have such strong and negative feelings toward ourselves? On this read Exodus 32.4 noting the re-writing of history on who brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt. This dishonoring of God is shameful and must be confessed by bowing down before him – and not before our idols. Read also Isaiah 66.2 noting the phrase trembles at my word. But read also Psalm 50.17 noting the opposing phrase cast my words behind you. So we cast away what we are supposed to tremble before. This is another reason for bowing down before God in shame and disgrace. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Week III. Reread Ephesians 3.14 noting this time the word reason. Why is it important to have the right reason for bowing down before God? On this read Isaiah 1.18–20 noting the words reason, though, if and but. Why are these words important? Are they engaging so that we won’t respond to God superficially? On this read Genesis 32.28 noting the words striven and God. This is not a lighthearted episode. It displays the sort of seriousness that’s required when bowing down before God. On this point read James 4.8 noting the two uses of the word draw. This can’t be casual either. On this read Hebrews 10.31 noting the word fearful. Also read Matthew 7.14 noting the word narrow. Read as well Malachi 3.2 noting the word endure. Finally read Revelation 1.17 noting the line I fell at his feet as though dead. How does being clear about the right reasons for bowing down help with all of this? On this read 1 Corinthians 14.13–19 noting the words mind, know, edify and instruct. Here we see how reason helps fortify us. Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

 

Isaiah 8.13

 

April 2019, Number 314

Week I. Read Isaiah 8.13 noting the words fear and dread. Why are we to stand in fear and dread of God? On this read Isaiah 8.12 noting the phrase what they fear. And what is it that they fear? On this read Isaiah 41.8–13 noting the words incensed, strive, contend and war. Why are we to fear God instead of those who make life so difficult for us? On this read Matthew 10.28 noting the contrasting words kill and hell. What so scary about hell? On this read Luke 16.19–31 noting the double use of the word torment. What’s so tormenting about hell? On this read Mark 9.48 noting the words fire and worm. Why should we be so tormented in hell? On this read 2 Thessalonians 1.8 noting the line do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (See also John 3.36.) Why is disobedience such a terrible infraction? On this read John 3.30 noting the stark contrast between our decrease and Christ’s increase. Our obedience and praise enthrones Christ – says Psalm 22.3. This explains why our disobedience is so severely punished. What do you think of that?

Week II. Read again Isaiah 8.13 noting those same words fear and dread. Why is it that we don’t fear God then? On this read Psalm 90.11 noting the question Who considers…thy wrath according to the fear of thee? What’s behind this neglect? On this read 1 Timothy 1.17 noting the word invisible. How trenchant is this? On this read Exodus 33.20 noting the correlation between seeing God and dying. Read as well John 1.18 and 1 John 4.12 noting the line no man has ever seen God. Does God’s invisibility make it tougher to obey him? On this read Psalm 10.11 noting the phrase hidden his face. Is it that what’s invisible can’t measure up the visible? ‒ so they’re cut off from one another? On this read Proverbs 5.21 noting the line he watches all his paths. How does the invisible, incorporeal One have eyes to see to do that? On this read 1 Samuel 16.7 noting the line the Lord sees not as man sees. Does that mean that God sees us but without having anything like our eyes? Is that why the Bible speaks of God’s eyes but not of his eyebrows? (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures & Conversations… on Religious Belief, 1972, p. 71). So do we only fear what we can see ‒ and not “things that go bump in the night” (1926 litany)?

Week III. Reread Isaiah 8.13 noting again the words fear and dread. Why does Psalm 34.11 tell us that we must be taught to fear God? Is it because what is visible about God is what he does and not himself? On this read Ezekiel 14.21 noting the words sword, famine, beast and pestilence. Are we to fear God because of these terrible things that he sends our way? On this read Numbers 16.32 noting the words opened and swallowed. What person could do that? Did God do that in Korah? On this read Number 16.20 noting the line that I may consume them in a moment. Read also Numbers 16.30 noting the word creates. Does that settle it? On this read John 12.28–29 noting the play between the two words voice and thundered. Why the ambiguity? On this problem read also 1 Samuel 3.8 noting the words then and perceived. Was this based on a process of elimination? If so, why were the only two choices Eli or God speaking? Could Samuel have been delusional? Could there have been another person sleeping there? On this problem read 1 Corinthians 13.12 noting the line now we see in a mirror dimly. Does that apply to everything or just religious phenomena?  Do we have built in limitations?

Week IV. Read Isaiah 8.13 one last time noting again the words fear and dread. With these impediments, how can we switch from fearing visible things and people to the invisible God? On this read Isaiah 43.5 noting the words with, bring and gather. Is that enough? On this read Isaiah 29.13–16 noting the words fear, commandment and rote. What’s wrong here? On this read Isaiah 66.2 noting the word trembles. Without this affective element our fear is insincere. Such fright and trembling is what carries us from the wrong fear to the right one. Do you agree? If so, why?


 

Romans 8.17

May 2019,  Number 315

 

Week I. Read Romans 8.17 noting the word suffer. What are we supposed to suffer over? On this read Romans 8.13 noting the line put to death the deeds of the body. If we don’t do this, where do we end up? On this read Romans 8.12 noting the line to live according to the flesh. What is this abhorrent fleshly, bodily life? On this read Romans 12.2 noting the words conformed and world. What’s so bad about the world? On this read 1 John 2.16 noting the words lust and pride. Where do these drive us? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2–4 noting the words love, self, money, proud, ungrateful, conceit and pleasure. What’s so wrong with this self-concentration? On this read Mark 7.21–23 noting the words within, evil, foolishness and defile. Where does this negative evaluation come from? On this read Matthew 22.37–39 noting the words God and neighbor. Because the self is left out, dwelling on it is aberrant. Is that why the words deny and daily are in Luke 9.23? Explain.

 

Week II. Read again Romans 8.17 noting the same word suffer. Why is it so hard to give up this aberrant way of life – why does this task make us suffer? On this read Philippians 2.12 noting the words fear and trembling. What’s there to be afraid of and tremble over? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the words ease, eat, drink and merry. Do we hold on to these when we’re told to drop them – because we would miss them, thereby causing tension, friction and suffering? On this read Romans 7.22–23 noting the words delight, captive and war. This inner turmoil thwarts the new life in Christ – causing fear and trembling. How so? On this read Luke 11.24–26 noting the words unclean, gone, swept, more, last, worse and first. Do we have a hand in this, or is it all the devil’s doing? On this read John 5.44 noting the misplaced seeking. Read also Psalm 119.37 noting the misplaced looking. What pulls us off track is our longing for ease and merriment. Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

Week III. Reread Romans 8.17 noting again the word suffer. Why is this required? Why can’t we believe in Jesus and remain in the flesh – loving the world and conforming to it? On this read Matthew 6.24 noting the line no one can serve two masters. Why can’t we? On this read Isaiah 43.21 noting the words formed and praise. Were we, then, made for one God – for only one loyalty and service? On this read Matthew 4.10 noting the words only and service. Read also Exodus 34.14 noting the line whose name is Jealous. Why won’t God share us? On this read Luke 1.79 noting the contrasting, mutually exclusive words, light and darkness. On this separation also read Luke 16.26 noting the word chasm, and 2 Corinthians 6.14 noting the world fellowship. Why can’t light and darkness go together? On this read 1 John 1.5 noting that light and darkness cannot go together in God. Read also 1 John 4.20 noting how love and hate don’t go together either. Is this too tidy? Do you agree with this stark split?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 8.17 one last time noting again the word suffer. What if this suffering is too much for us? What then? On this read Matthew 11.28–30 noting the words rest, yoke, learn, easy and light. How does God ease our burden? What can we learn from him to help us out? On this read Matthew 6.33 noting the words first and all. Read also Matthew 19.29 noting the words left, my, receive and inherit. How does this compensation work? On this read John 16.33 noting the two uses of the word world. Read also Luke 14.14 noting the words repay and repaid. Will this form of compensation work? On this read Hebrews 11.16 noting the word better, and the word lasting in Hebrews 13.14. Read as well Romans 8.18 noting the word comparing, and the word comparison in 2 Corinthians 4.17. On this same point read Revelation 21.4 noting the line the former things have passed away. How are we to regard this coming life? On this read Hebrews 9.28 noting the phrase eagerly waiting. Can you muster that?


 

 

Esther 4.16

 

 June 2019, Number 316

Week I. Read Esther 4.16 noting the line if I perish, I perish. Why did Esther think her life was in jeopardy? On this read Esther 2.7 noting that Esther was a Jew (Esther 2.5) – her Jewish name being Hadassah. Then read Esther 3.6 noting that Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews. Note also Esther 4.11 about anyone being put to death if they were to enter the king’s room without being called. So Esther risks her life to go to the king, being against the law (Esther 4.16). Why does she insist on doing this? On this read Esther 4.8 noting the supplication that Esther is asked to make on behalf of the Jews before the king. And what ignited all of the hostility against the Jews in the first place? On this read Esther 3.2–5 noting the words bow and fury. What came of his anger? On this read Esther 5.14 noting the words gallows and hanged. Did this come to pass? On this read Esther 7.6 noting the line this wicked Haman, and also Esther 7.10 noting the line they hanged Haman on the gallows. Read as well Esther 9.14 noting the line the ten sons of Haman were hanged.

Week II. Read again Esther 4.16 noting the same line if I perish, I perish. What made Esther so confident that she had a good chance to prevail? On this read Esther 2.21–23 noting the words knowledge, hanged and recorded. How did this book of records help Esther? On this read Esther 6.1–4 noting the words chronicles, found and honor. Did anything else help Esther prevail? On this read Esther 2.15–17 noting the words favor, all, king, loved, queen and banquet. Is this only about superficial beauty? On this read Esther 10.3 noting the words welfare and peace – supposing they apply equally well to Esther. Where do these traits come from? On this read Esther 3.8 noting the line their laws are different from those of every other people. Is this what caused the fear of the Jews in Esther 8.17? Does the avenging in Esther 8.13 have anything to do with this newly found fear?

Week III. Reread Esther 4.16 noting this time the word fast. How does that help? On this read Esther 7.4 noting the line if we had been sold merely as slaves. This statement shows that such mighty restraint can come from fasting. It also leads to the abated anger of the king in Esther 7.10. Why is self-control so important? On this read Esther 9.22 noting the linkage between feasting and helping the poor. How can these two opposing impulses coincide in the one and same person? On this read Esther 1.12 noting the words Vashti, refused and enraged. Here is a case where they don’t abide together. Note also the king’s search for a harem of beautiful virgins to replace Vashti in Esther 2.2–4. How restrained is this? Read also about Mordecai’s adoption of Esther (Hadassah) in Esther 2.7. Is fasting and restraint also a part of these adoption negotiations? Esther doesn’t contest it anywhere. Does that show self-control in the adoption process? And do the commands ordered by Esther to Mordecai show self-restraint in Esther 4.17?  What does all of this say about the value of fasting?

Week IV. Read Esther 4.16 one last time noting the phrase against the law. Why rebel? What’s so urgent? On this read Esther 3.6 noting the words destroy, whole and kingdom. Does that threat make slavery look not so bad in Esther 7.4? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.17 noting the line an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Read also Romans 8.18 noting the line the sufferings… are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Is this contrast evident in Esther 3.8 where Jewish law is described as being different from those of every other people – perhaps because of the One they believe in? On that read Exodus 34.14 noting that One’s name as being Jealous. Does that character trait enhance the contrast between the temporal and mundane  and the Jealous One? How large should it be? On this read Isaiah 55.9 noting the phrase higher than the heavens. Does that settle it – or is it still unclear how vast the difference is? Does Hosea 11.9 show how the greater the difference, the more compassion there is for sinners? Explain.

 

 

Luke 16.15

July 2019, Number 317

 

Week I. Read Luke 16.15 noting the line exalted among men. What’s so wrong with what we exalt? On this read Luke 16.13 noting the line you cannot serve. Why can’t we serve many at the same time? On this read Exodus 34.14 noting the line the Lord whose name is Jealous. Why is God the winner – getting what he wants? On this read Isaiah 42.7 noting the line my glory I give to no other. Why not? On this read Isaiah 46.5 noting the words liken, equal, compare and alike. What makes God unique? On this read Isaiah 43.11–13 noting the words savior, deliver and hinder. What shall we then say about other supposed gods? On this read Isaiah 43.10 noting the line before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. Where does that leave us? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the three phrases with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. Is there anything left over to give to another concern? On this read Luke 10.42 noting the word one. What do you think of that narrowness?

Week II. Read again Luke 16.15 noting this time the word heart. What’s wrong with our hearts? On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the line the heart is… desperately corrupt. How bad is that? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line nothing good dwells within me. How has this come about? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the line not knowing that you are wretched. How are we so blind to our condition? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the line the god of this world has blinded us. Who is this God? On this read 1 John 5.19 noting the line the whole world is in the power of the evil one. How can this be? Isn’t God in charge? On this read Luke 4.5–6 noting the line all the kingdoms of the world… have been delivered to me. Why is this? On this read 2 Corinthians 13.5 noting the words examine and test. What are we looking for? On this read Luke 18.9 noting the infraction trusted in themselves. Why is that wrong? On this read 2 Timothy 3.4 noting the contrast between God and pleasure. Is that why we trust ourselves? How are you doing on the test? Should something else be tested instead?

Week III. Reread Luke 16.15 noting this time the word abomination. Why is God so mad? On this read Luke 16.15 again noting the phrase justify yourselves. Where’s the offense here? On this read Psalm 49.5–9 noting the words fear, boast and costly. How is this justification settled then? On this read Romans 3.28 noting the line justified by faith apart from works of the law. How does faith bring this about? What does it apprehend? On this read 2 Corinthians 8.9 noting how what’s poor is made rich by another rich one becoming poor. Who is this and how does this happen? On this read Philippians 2.7 noting the word emptied. Why does Christ do this? On this read Philippians 3.8 noting the phrase surpassing worth. How is this so? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line he bore our sins in his body on the cross. What does that bearing in his body accomplish? On this read Hebrews 2.14 noting the line through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. How important is that victory to you and why? On that read Mark 9.48 noting the words worm and fire. Is it really of surpassing worth? Why?

Week IV. Read Luke 16.15 one last time noting again the word abomination. Are there any other abominations to consider? On this read Leviticus 7.21 noting the consequence – cut off from his people. Read also Deuteronomy 7.25 noting the word images and that they are to be burned with fire. Also note Judges 20.6 about the abomination of concubines who were killed and cut in pieces and sent throughout all the country. Then there are the six abominations in Proverbs 6.16 – haughtiness, lying, violence, wicked plans, running after evil, and sowing discord. And note the definition in Proverbs 15.9 that abominations are the opposite of love. Read also Proverbs 17.15 about abominations getting things backwards. Then there is the abomination about sex in Leviticus 18.22. How shall we react to all of these abominations? On this read Jeremiah 8.12 noting the word ashamed. Do you agree?

   

Job 23.13

August 2018, Number 306

Week I. Read Job 23.13 noting the question who can turn God? What does that mean? On this read Isaiah 14.27 noting the words purposed and annul. Why isn’t this possible? On this read Job 42.2 noting the line no purpose of thine can be thwarted. How is this possible? On this read 2 Chronicles 20.6 noting the line none is able to withstand thee. See also Job 9.4 noting the question who has hardened himself against God and succeeded? What gives God the edge over everything else? On this read Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belongs to God. Read also Revelation 1.8 noting the name the Almighty. Why is God like this? On this read Isaiah 55.8–9 noting the words thoughts, ways and higher. Can we ever hope to share in that power so that we can change God’s course of action? On this read Hosea 11.9 noting the line I am God and not man. Read also Malachi 3.6 noting the line I the Lord do not change. Read also Isaiah 46.5 noting the words compare, equal and alike. Does that settle it?

Week II. Read again Job 23.13 noting the tight link between the words desires and does. Is it impossible then for God to be frustrated? Is there ever any reversal of Job 6.8 – O that God would grant my desire! On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the line God does whatever he pleases. So if God isn’t ever frustrated, how is he disposed? On this read Psalm 59.8 noting the words laugh and derision. Is this crude of God and lacking in compassion? On this read Revelation 3.19 noting the combining of the words reprove and chasten with that of love. So how is God laughing at our attempts to thwart him loving? On this read Ephesians 3.20 noting the line far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. Does that mean that God knows what’s good for us more than we do? On this read Romans 8.26–27 noting the two occurrences of the word know. If that’s the case, could we be mistaken about how much we’re able to bear? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.13 noting the words common, beyond, escape and endure. What say you?

Week III. Reread Job 23.13 noting this time the word who. Could that be the person who prays to God? On this read Luke 18.1–8 noting the line because this widow bothers me (Luke 18.5). If, then, we pester God long enough, can we turn him to do what we want? On this read Isaiah 1.15 noting the words prayers, listen and blood. So did these prayers from a murderer change God’s mind from wanting to help out? On this read 2 Timothy 2.13 noting the play between the two words faithless and faithful. So can we change God’s mind? Or do our prayers fit into his already established way of regarding us? On this read Matthew 6.10 noting the phrase thy will be done, and also Matthew 26.39 noting the similar phrase nevertheless… as thou wilt. Why are these two qualifications added? Is it because our prayers aren’t supposed to change God’s mind? On this read Psalm 50.12 noting the words if, tell and for. Is this because God doesn’t need any help from us? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the word need and the delusion behind it. Then read John 5.26 noting the phrase life in himself. So God isn’t a muncher like we are – feeding-off our environment. Do you buy into this? Is God, then, the only truly independent one?

Week IV. Read Job 23.13 one last time noting again the word who. Why would anyone want to pray, then, if our prayers don’t make God help us when he otherwise wouldn’t do it? On this read James 5.16 noting the sentence the prayer of a righteous man has great effects. If those effects don’t include changing God, what are they? On this read Philippians 3.12 noting the phrase make it my own – even though it states that Christ Jesus already has made us his own. So while making Christ our own through faith does not get him to embrace us, it does lead us to embrace him in faith. And that’s worth it. But why, if it doesn’t change God for the better? On this read James 4.8 noting the two occurrences of the word draw, and also James 4.10 noting how humbling leads to exalting. This matters because Galatians 6.10 says faith is a household – where we are to live. So faith is good for us. It makes us, according to 2 Corinthians 5.17, a new creation. There you have it! How wonderful is that, even though God isn’t thereby changed for the better when we become believers?

 

 

Revelation 14.13

September 2018, Number 307

Week I. Read Revelation 14.13 noting the word deeds. What are they? On this read Matthew 22.36–39 noting love for God and neighbor. What is it like to love God? On that read Luke 11.28 noting the words hear, ways and keep. What’s this hearing like? On this read Colossians 3.16 noting the words word, dwell and admonish. What else? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the words faith and please. Also on faith read John 6.29 noting the words work and believe. Anything else? On this read Romans 8.17 noting the line provided we suffer with Christ. Read also 1 Peter 4.13 noting the line share Christ’s sufferings. And what is it like to love the neighbor? On this read Matthew 7.12 noting the words wish and so. Also read Luke 10.29–37 noting the words beat, compassion, care, repay and likewise. Read as well 2 Timothy 4.1–2 noting the words urgent, rebuke and exhort. Also on this last reading read, 1 Peter 3.15 noting the words defense, account and gentleness. How easy will both sets of deeds be? On this read Matthew 7.14 noting the words narrow and hard. Can you manage?

Week II. Read again Revelation 14.13 noting this time the word follow. What does that mean? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.17 noting the word creation. Are we then marked and altered by our deeds? On this read Matthew 7.16 noting the line you will know them by their fruits. Read also Isaiah 61.3 noting the designation oaks of righteousness. Who brings about this following? On this read Hebrews 8.12 about remembering your sins no more. If that is the case, what does God remember instead? On this read Psalm 37.18 noting the line their heritage will abide forever. What difference does it make if God remembers our faithful heritage instead of our sins? On this read Hebrews 13.7 noting the line consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith. God sees to it that faithful examples are preserved for us to enrich our discipleship. Do you agree?

Week III. Reread Revelation 14.13 noting again the word follow. Does this have anything to do with heaven? On that matter and faith, read Revelation 21.24 noting the line shall bring their glory into it. Read also James 2.26 noting the essential connection between the words faith and works. So if our faith is in heaven, the works attached to our faith will also be there. What will that be? On this read Matthew 6.20 noting the phrase treasures in heaven. What are they like? On this read Revelation 22.3 noting the word worship. Giving glory to God will be our work in heaven. What will this include? On this read Revelation 5.9 noting the word song. There will, however, be no service to the poor in heaven. Why is that? On this read Revelation 21.4 noting the word pain. So all pain due to sickness, homelessness, lost family and friends, as well as hunger, will be gone. But note, there is also the marriage supper in Revelation 19.9. Such feasting will be another activity, albeit not one in direct service to God. How does that look to you?

Week IV. Read Revelation 14.13 one last time noting the phrase rest from their labors. What sort of labor is this? On this read Genesis 3.19 noting the line in the sweat of your face. Is there labor without sweat? Is that what singing, praising and feasting are? And how are one’s deeds remembered? On this read Mark 16.16 noting the words believes and baptized. Read also 2 Peter 1.5–11 noting the words supplement, virtue, unfruitful, cleansed, confirm and entrance. Do these verses go with the word does in Matthew 7.21? How about the word should in Ephesians 2.10? But what about the solitary word believes in John 3.16? On this read John 3.3 noting the need to be born anew. That adds transformation to faith. Read also John 4.23 noting worship in spirit and truth. That adds the doctrinal attunement of right worship. Note also the additions of self-hatred in John 12.25, judging others in John 7.24, and loving others in John 13.34. Do you still think faith alone saves you? John 3.16 – when linked up with all of John’s Gospel – doesn’t think so.  How about you? Why is more needed than just faith in Jesus? On this read 1 Corinthians 4.20.

 

Habakkuk 3.18

October 2018, Number 308

Week I. Read Habakkuk 3.18 noting the line yet I will rejoice. Why is this an issue? On this read Habakkuk 3.17 noting the negations – no fruit, no olives, no flock, no herd. So how does rejoicing follow instead of despair? On this read Psalm 4.7 noting the phrase more joy. How does the Lord supplant all of these losses with more joy? Are there any others? On this read Psalm 127.5 noting the words happy and full. What if, like Job, you were to lose all of your children? Can God also overcome that loss? Any others? On this read Jeremiah 33.11 noting the words mirth, gladness, bridegroom and bride. Can God bring joy even when there are no weddings? Also read Psalm 113.9 noting the line the joyous mother of children. But what if barrenness and infertility hold sway? Can God offset that? With what? On this resilience, read Luke 10.42 noting the good portion and the line shall not be taken away from her. Read also 1 Peter 1.24–25 noting the contrast between the two words withers and abides. Do you really think that God can block decay and loss? If so, how so?

Week II. Read again Habakkuk 3.18 noting the same line yet will I rejoice. How does God bring about abiding joy in the face of decay and loss and the overall withering of life? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the words unseen and eternal. How can these unseen things bring us lasting joy? On this read Hebrews 12.2 noting the competition between the words joy and cross. How is this joy set before Jesus and how does it help him to endure by despising the shame of the cross? On this read Romans 15.13 noting the words believing and hope. How does this displace shame? On this read John 16.22 noting the line no one will take your joy from you. Where is this joy grounded? On this read 1 Peter 1.8–9 noting the unutterable and exalted joy. What is this in? On this read 1 Peter 1.3 noting the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why should we care about that? On this read John 14.19 noting the line because I live, you will live also. What’s that life like? On this read Revelation 21.3–4 noting the presence of God and the absence of tears, death, mourning, crying and pain. Is that good enough?

Week III. Reread Habakkuk 3.18 noting just the word rejoice. Why does joy matter? On this read John 16.33 noting the linkage between good cheer and overcoming the world. Why is this joy not rooted in the world? It there a crucial redirection going on here? On this read 1 Corinthians 7.31 and 1 John 2.17 about how the world is passing away. Why does that matter? Is it because the world and its delights cannot sustain us? Is it because we need a firmer foundation that stretches beyond the existence of the world itself? On this read Isaiah 43.21 on how we were formed to praise God; and John 1.12 about becoming children of God through faith. So does focusing on rightly grounded joy clarify who are supposed to be and what we are to labor for (John 6.27)?

Week IV. Read Habakkuk 3.18 one last time noting that word rejoice again. What blocks us from rejoicing as we should? On this read James 1.2–3 noting the word trials. How does this reading link joy together with trials? Is it that trials test us in order to make us steadfast – and only then properly joyful? Why doesn’t being afflicted like this ruin our joy? On this read Romans 14.17 noting the shift from food and drink to the Holy Spirit. What does this mean for us? On this read 2 Timothy 3.4 noting the line lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. How wrenching is this move away from worldly pleasures? On this read Acts 9.3–4 noting the flash and the fall to the ground. Note also the word violently in Luke 16.16. Is this a deterrent? Does anybody want to become a brother of jackals (Job 30.29)? On this read Matthew 7.14 noting the words life and few. What’s the significance of that assessment? On this read Romans 9.27 noting the line only a remnant… will be saved. Do you believe that? Why or why not? How does that make you feel? Joyous?

 

1 Corinthians 13.11

November 2018, Number 309

Week I. Read 1 Corinthians 13.11 noting the line I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. What’s that like? On this read Ephesians 4.14 noting the words tossed, carried, doctrine, cunning, craftiness and deceitful. This is about doctrinal instability and personal gullibility. Kids don’t hold on to the traditions of old, nor do they dig in and resist fads and trends – ungrounded in Holy Scriptures. On these two points read 2 Thessalonians 2.15 and 1 Corinthians 15.58. What prevents the immature from doing these things? On this read Galatians 1.10 noting the contrast between pleasing and serving. Where does this childish flexibility come from? On this read 1 Thessalonians 2.13 noting the contrast between word of men and word of God. If it is the first, then we have a lot of latitude and freedom to act and think the way we want. Do kids love being free of all discipline? On this read 1 Timothy 3.4 noting the words manage, submissive and respectful. How do you like that?

Week II. Read again 1 Corinthians 13.11 noting the same line I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. Why don’t children like being disciplined in their thoughts and thinking? On this read Hebrews 12.11 noting the word pleasant. On this word see 2 Timothy 3.4 noting the line lovers of pleasurer rather than lovers of God. How does pleasure take us over like that? On this read Galatians 5.17 noting the words against and opposed. Because of this contestation and confrontation, many believers capitulate to our base and vile flesh – in order to avoid conflict. That leaves us childlike. Why’s this a problem for us? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line one sinner destroys much good. So caving into the flesh is a disaster. Wallowing in the flesh brings about the list of failures in Galatians 5.19–23, where self-control is central. If the flesh runs free then those horrible works listed in Galatians 5 quickly follow. This is precisely what maturity resists. Do you agree?

Week III. Reread 1 Corinthians 13.11 noting again the line I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. Any other childlike traits? On this read Hosea 4.6 noting the line lack of knowledge. Immature thought therefore rests on flimsy evidence. So when kids think – they make up stuff. Their thought is fantastical. But without factual grounding what they come up with isn’t very helpful. Note also the hate for knowledge in Proverbs 1.22 and the foolishness that comes with it. Childlike thought is also fixated on itself. On this read the Golden Rule Luke 6.31 noting the form as to you, so to them. This parallel is not found in selfish, childlike thinking. This parallel is also based on the living sacrifice in Romans 12.1. What do you make of that and how does it help us raise children to think properly in our own time? Do these sacrifices make us less selfish? On this read 2 Corinthians 6.13 noting the line I speak to you children, widen your hearts. This widening brings in others to improve our condition. It also enables us to practice the parallel in the Golden Rule.

Week IV. Read 1 Corinthians 13.11 one last time noting that line I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child again. What other childish traits might there be? On this read 1 Corinthians 14.20–22 noting the distinction between tongues with believers and unbelievers. Without distinctions – like this one – confusion follows and mature thinking comes to an end. How can distinctions do that? On this read 2 Timothy 2.15 noting the phrase rightly handling or dividing. By keeping matters in their own place, our thinking about them won’t become reckless. Note also the words correction and profitable in 2 Timothy 3.16. Childish corrections aren’t constructive or profitable. In part that is because, as we’ve seen, they lack that parallel recorded in Luke 6.31. Read also Proverbs 28.23 noting the unlikely favoring of rebuking over flattery. Kids turn it around the other way. Nevertheless flattery isn’t the way to go. Finally note the place of quiet and shame in mature thinking according to Proverbs 9.13. Why are kids shameless and noisy? Why does the opposite matter so? On this see the sequence – considering and buying – in maintaining property in Proverbs 31.16. Do you agree?

 


 Jonah 1.15

December 2018, Number 310

 

Week I. Read Jonah 1.15 noting the line the sea ceased from its raging. How did the mariners know that drowning Jonah would stop the storm? On this read Jonah 1.12 noting the words throw, then, quiet, know and because. But how did Jonah know that? On this read Leviticus 4.31 noting the words burn, pleasing, atonement and forgiven. Read also Leviticus 4.27 noting the phrase if any one… sins. But how does killing an animal please God when someone has sinned? On this read Numbers 25.1–15 noting bowed, Baal, anger, slay, weeping, pierced, turned, wrath and jealousy. Why does this death turn God away from his wrath and toward mercy and kindness? On this read Leviticus 24.20 noting the line as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured. Why is this establishing of balance required? On this read Isaiah 61:8 noting the line I the Lord love justice. And it is justice that requires this balancing. But why does God love justice? On this read Matthew 20.10–15 noting the words more, equal and allowed. How is this fair since there isn’t any balancing out – as in equal pay for equal work? On this read 1 John 1.9 noting the word just – and the balance between sin and confess, as well as, confess and forgive. Why do we favor 1 John 1 in our church confession instead of Matthew 20? Note the line the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself in Ezekiel 18.20 – unlike Exodus 20.5. Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

Week II. Read again Jonah 1.15 noting the same line the sea ceased from its raging. What did the mariners think of that? On this read Jonah 1.16 noting the words then, feared, sacrifice and vows. Why were they so positive? On this read Psalm 119.45 noting the words liberty and precepts. How is that so? On this read Luke 13.3 linking repenting or perishing. How valuable is being free from dying? On this read Psalm 146.2 noting the word praise. Is that sufficient reason for staying alive? On this read Philippians 1.22 noting the word fruitful. How important is it to help others? On this read 2 Timothy 1.7 noting love and self-control. How much do they help? Are they very important because of the word heartily in Colossians 3.23?

 

Week III. Reread Jonah 1.15 noting again the line the sea ceased from its raging. What made this sacrifice work? On this read Jonah 1.17 noting the line Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three night. How did this sacrifice work if Jonah didn’t die? On this read Jonah 2.3–6 noting the words deep, flood, billows, presence, closed, wrapped and bars. Were these horrors equal to dying? On this read Jonah 2.6 noting the line yet thou didst bring my life from the Pit. This deliverance sounds like the opposite of dying – so those ocean horrors would be like dying since they were bad enough to escape from. And that’s why being thrown into the ocean worked to appease God’s wrath.

 

Week IV. Read Jonah 1.15 one last time noting that line the sea ceased from its raging again. Why was Jonah being punished in the belly of the fish? On this read Jonah 2.8 noting idols. Had Jonah worshipped idols? On this read Jonah 1.3 noting the line but Jonah rose to flee… from the presence of the Lord. Was that disobedience like worshipping idols? On this read Luke 11.28 noting the words hear and keep. Jonah heard the command to go to Nineveh but he didn’t keep it and obey. Why did God forgive Jonah and tell him to do the same thing a second time? On this read Jonah 3.3 noting the line so Jonah arose and went. How did God know that Jonah would go the second time? On this read Jonah 2.9 noting the line I… will sacrifice to thee. Is that contrition enough to get God to give Jonah a second chance? On this read Jonah 4.2 noting the line thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil. What does that add to Jonah’s confession? Why does it tip the scales to mercy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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.]