Monthly Home Bible Study

The Reverend Ronald F. Marshall

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

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

Romans 2.5

January 2018, Number 299

 

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

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

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

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

 

Genesis 8.21

 

February 2018, Number 300

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes 2.25

 

March 2018, Number 301

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Romans 7.11

 

April 2018, Number 302

 

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

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

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

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

 

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?

  

 

Job 34.30

June 2017, Number 292

 

 

Week I. Read Job 34.30 noting the line ensnare the people. This is what Martin Luther thought about that line: “The state is an ordinance of God…. But if He is angry, the princes issue unjust decrees, skin the people, and multiply ungodliness and idols in the land” (Luther’s Works 7:144). How do bad rulers do that? On this read 1 Kings 16.29–34 noting the words Ahab, evil, more, sins, provoke, and the double use of cost. Read as well    1 Kings 21.25–26 noting the words Ahab, evil and idols. Was Ahab, then, a renegade ruler? On this read 1 Kings 16.28 noting the words Omri, buried, Ahab, son, reigned and stead. Did all kings succeed their fathers peacefully like Ahab did? On this read 1 Kings 16.8–10 noting the words Elah, Zimri, conspired, drunk, killed and reigned. Does this mean that God wanted Ahab to be king? On this read 1 Kings 22.34–40 noting the words struck, wounded, propped, died, buried and fathers. Can you see God blessing Ahab in this even though he was an idolater? On this read 1 Kings 21.27–29 noting the words fasted, dejectedly, humbled and before. So God protected Ahab even though he was an evil ruler (as Luther notes). Why? 

Week II. Read again Job 34.30 noting the same line ensnare the people. Why would God support rulers who hurt the people? On this read 1 Kings 12.19–20 noting the words Israel, rebellion, Jeroboam and none. Read also 1 Kings 12.28 noting the words calves, gold and gods. Does this mean that what God establishes isn’t necessarily a blessing? On this read 1 Kings 22.19–23 noting the doubly used phrase lying spirit. Read also Judges 9.22 –24 noting the phrase evil spirit, and the same phrase evil spirit repeated five times in 1 Samuel 16.14–23 (and once more in both 1 Samuel 18.10 and 19.9). Note also Exodus 5.22–6.1 where God does not deny that he has sent evil upon his people. Finally read about God sending dangerous storms in Isaiah 30.30, Ezekiel 13.13, Jonah 1.4, 15 and Matthew 8.23–24. Is this why it says that the Lord is a God of recompense in Jeremiah 51.56?

Week III. Reread Job 34.30 noting that same line ensnare the people. Why does God punish people with these storms of nature and evil spirits in our rulers? On this read Leviticus 26.14–39 noting the many uses of the little word if and the other words fever, smitten, chastise, plagues, desolate, pestilence, fury, destroy, scatter, sword and stumble. Is this retribution based on provocation? On this read Deuteronomy 9.22, Jeremiah 32.32, Psalm 78.58 and Hebrew 3.17 noting the four uses of the word provoke. Why is it that our wicked deeds can provoke God to punish us? Why doesn’t he just ignore them and cut us some slack? On this read Isaiah 1.13–17 noting the words endure, burden, weary and eyes. Why is God so intolerant of evil (except for that which he hurls at the disobedient)? On this read Psalm 99.1–3 noting the words tremble and holy. Is it that holiness intrinsically repels wickedness? Are they like water and oil and cannot be mixed? On this read Isaiah 59.2 noting the word separation. Does that settle it?

Week IV. Read Job 34.30 one last time noting the category godless man. What is the plight of the godless? We know that God uses godless rulers to punish the disobedient, but what is their destiny? On this read Romans 5.6 noting the line Christ died for the ungodly. Why is this chance given to the ungodly? On this read Romans 11.32 noting the line that God may have mercy on all. And note how God must regard all as disobedient in order for there to be mercy available to all. Does this mercy guarantee a blessed destiny? On this read 2 Corinthians 2.14–16 noting the word pairs, saved and perishing, life and death. What differentiates the two sets of contrasting terms? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.6–10 noting the pivotal words courage, faith, please and done. Why are these things needed to make Christ a blessing to us? On this read Romans 3.25 noting the line received by faith. Why does Christ have to be received by us at all? Why can’t he just operate in us on his own regardless of our direct, conscious participation? On this read about the contrast between flesh and spirit in John 3.3–6. Does that take care of it? Why or why not?

 

 

 

Romans 3.11

 

July 2017, Number 293

 

Week I. Read Romans 3.11 noting the line no one seeks for God. How can this be? On this read especially Acts 17.28 noting the line in him we live and move and have our being. So how can we not seek after the One in whom we are grounded? How can we even avoid him? On this read John 3.19 noting the words light, rather and because. But shouldn’t the light be intrinsically attractive? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the word pairs seen and unseen, transient and eternal. Given this choice we gravitate to the seen, not the unseen. Why is that? John 3.19 says it is because our deeds are evil and we want a cover-up. Read also on this Isaiah 30.9–11 noting the words smooth, illusions, way and holy. Is this because we’re looking for the easy way out? On this read Amos 6.1 noting the words ease and secure. What’s wrong with that? On this read Luke 12.19–21 noting the words ease, fool, soul, required, rich and God. How do we lose God by dwelling on what’s seen, material and obvious? On this read Colossians 3.1–3 noting the words above, life and hid. How do we do that? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.7 noting the contrasting words faith and sight. So the mind in Colossians 3 is faith in 2 Corinthians 5. Do you agree? Why does it matter? Note the word heard in Romans 10.17.

Week II. Read again Romans 3.11 noting the same line no one seeks for God. What would it be like to do so? On this read John 6.68 noting the line you have the words of eternal life. What are these? On this read John 14.19 noting the line because I live, you will live also. How is that possible? On this read Hebrews 2.14–15 noting the words through, death, destroy and death. How does the death of Christ destroy death? On this read Romans 6.23 noting the link between sin and death. Read also about that same linkage in Genesis 2.17. Then read about sin being linked to death by way of a sting in 1 Corinthians 15.56. But what does Christ’s crucifixion have to do with this linkage and the defeating of death? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the phrases sending Christ… for sin and condemned sin. Read as well Colossians 2.14 noting the lines canceled the legal bond against us and nailing it to the cross. Finally read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line he bore our sins in his body on the tress. So Christ defeats the damning nature of sin by being punished for it, when he suffers and dies on the cross. What then happens to death if sin has been so neutralized? Is it drained of its power – its sting – because what brought it into being has been crushed? On this read Hebrews 9.26 noting the line he put away sin by his sacrifice. What was linked has now been broken because Jesus died for the sins of the world, as 1 John 2.2 says. So are you convinced? If not, why not?

Week III. Reread Romans 3.11 noting that same line no one seeks for God. How do we seek after God if the death of Jesus saves us from sin and death? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.15 noting the line live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died. What’s that new life like? On this read Philippians 2.3 noting the word better. Read also Galatians 6.14 noting the words crucified and world. Finally read John 12.25 noting the words hate and eternal. Does that fill out this new way of life? Anything missing? If so, what would it be?

Week IV. Read Romans 3.11 one last time noting that same line no one seeks for God. Along the way, what obstructs this new way of life, that finally seeks after God? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2–5 noting the words lovers, swollen and power. How is this best combated? On this read Luke 9.23 noting the line deny yourself daily. Read also Romans 12.16 noting the line associate with the lowly. Who are they? On this read Matthew 5.3 noting the phrase poor in spirit. How much help is there in these last three readings for overcoming the mess in 2 Timothy 3? Any other verses come to mind? Write them down….

   

Job 16.12

 

August 2017, Number 294

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

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

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

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

 

 

Romans 1.32

 

September 2017, Number 295

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hosea 3.5

October 2017, Number 296

 

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

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

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

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

 

Ephesians 4.1

November 2017, Number 297

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ecclesiastes 7.14

 

December 2017, Number 298

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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