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?

 

Nehemiah 9.32

 

February 2017, Number 288

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Romans 11.24

March 2017, Number 289

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Job 1.12

April 2017, Number 290

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

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

 

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

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

 

Galatians 4.28

 

May 2017, Number 291

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

 

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.]