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)! As Lutherans, however, we are still to "abide in the womb of the Word" (Luther's Works 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).

Acts 28.6

January 2015, Number 263


Week I. Read Acts 28.6 noting the word changed. What was it that they changed their minds about? On this read Acts 28.4 noting the word murderer. Why did they think Paul was a murderer? On this read Acts 28.3 noting the words viper and hand. Why should this verse lead to that conclusion? On this read Genesis 9.5 noting the words lifeblood and reckoning. Was there any reason to suppose that Paul was a murderer, and that dying by snake bite was his reckoning? On this read Acts 7.58 and 9.1 noting the words stoned and murder. (Note that Saul’s name later is changed to Paul – Acts 13.9.) Why aren’t murderers shown any mercy? On this read again Acts 28.4 noting the word justice. Read as well Isaiah 61.8 noting the line I the Lord love justice. What does justice require? On this read Isaiah 1.17 noting the words correct, defend and plead. Read also Psalm 99.4 noting the word equity. Are there any exceptions to this even-handedness? On this read Numbers 35.9-12 noting the words cities, refuge, manslayer, intent, avenger and judgment. Do you think these cities were a good idea? Explain your answer.

Week II. Read again Acts 28.6 noting the line expecting him to… suddenly fall down dead. Is this the way God’s justice works? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words unless and perish. Read also John 5.14 noting the line sin no more, that nothing worse befall you. So is there to be sudden recompense or not? On this read Acts 12.23 noting the words immediately and smote. Is that always the way it’s supposed to go? On this read Psalm 50.21 noting the words done, silent and now. What does this verse imply – that there isn’t always immediate, sudden recompense? Luther thought that when God “postpones” his punishment, it’s actually worse because when it finally comes, we think we’ve escaped only to find out, much to our chagrin, that the opposite is actually the case (Luther’s Works 28:159-60). Do you agree? On this delay read Habakkuk 2.3 noting the phrase if it seems slow. Read also on the passage of time, 2 Peter 3.8-9, noting the contrast between the words one and a thousand, and the phrase not slow… as some count slowness.


Week III. Reread Acts 28.6 noting the line waited a long time. Why did they wait so long before changing their minds – especially since they were expecting a sudden death? On this read Acts 28.5 noting the line shook off the creature into the fire. Was this unexpected? On this read Proverbs 23.29-35 noting the words wine and serpent. These words describe a relentless creature that blocks any shaking off. Because of that they may have been puzzled by what Paul was able to do – and had to wait and see what would come of it. On this strange ability of Paul’s, read Mark 16.17 noting the line pick up serpents and… it will not hurt them. Does this still pertain today? On this read Matthew 12:38-41 noting the line no sign shall be given… except the sign of Jonah. This goes against the signs in Mark 16. Read also Matthew 4.7 about not forcing God to rescue you, by recklessly endangering yourself. That also goes against Mark 16. But Mark 16 still is valid – but only for the first century mission in Jerusalem. Once the church spread outside of Jerusalem, Matthew 12 pertains – or so thought Luther (Sermons of Martin Luther, Lenker edition, 3:241-42). What do you think?


Week IV. Read Acts 28.6 one last time noting the word god. Why this flip-flop? On this read Acts 14.8-18 noting the words gods and nature. The analysis here is that the Lycaonians couldn’t grasp divine mediation through human agents. Instead they collapsed the one into the other – thereby identifying the two. Against this wrong-heading identification, read Romans 1.25 noting the words exchanged, worshipped and rather. How is this warded off? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.7 noting the words treasure, earthen, vessels, transcendent and belongs. How does that block idolatry? Are there any other ways to do so?


Proverbs 1.33

February 2015, Number 264


Week I. Read Proverbs 1.33 noting the phrase dread of evil. What is this? On this read Proverbs 1.19 noting the word violence. Read also Proverbs 1.24-32 noting the words calamity and complacence. Where do these horrors come from? On this read Proverbs 1.24-25 noting the words refused and ignored. Does this mean that God is punishing us with these horrors because we refused to listen to wisdom? On this read Proverbs 1.31 noting the words eat and sated. Does this mean instead that we punish ourselves by suffering the consequences of our own wicked behavior? On this read Proverbs 28.10 noting the line will fall into his own pit, as well as Psalm 57.6 noting the line they dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Does this mean that we are not immune from our own wickedness? On this read Proverbs 1.19 noting the line it takes away the life of its possessors. Why do we think we can escape this? On this read Proverbs 23.29-35 noting the words wine and hurt. How long will that solution last?


Week II. Read again Proverbs 1.33 noting that same phrase dread of evil. So do we only have ourselves to fear? On this read Proverbs 14.9 noting the line God scorns the wicked. So if God also punishes us, how does he do it? On this read Ezekiel 14.21 noting the words sword, famine, evil beasts, and pestilence. Read as well Numbers 11.1 noting the word fire; Numbers 16.31-32 noting the line the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up; Isaiah 30.30 noting the word hailstones; Ezekiel 13.13 noting the two words stormy wind; and Ezekiel 30.12 noting the two words dry up. Does God only punish by way of natural disasters? On this read Joshua 2.8-11 noting the words fear, hearts, melted, and courage. This psychological punishment is devastating and can happen invisibly, and at anytime and anyplace. And does God only punish because he is angry? On this read Hosea 6.1 noting the line he has torn that he may heal. Do you agree? Is there any other way for God to heal sinners?


Week III. Reread Proverbs 1.33 noting the word listens. Why would we not listen to God? On this read Psalm 81.8-11 noting the line Israel would have none of me. What does that mean? On this read Proverbs 1.24-31 noting the two lines none of my reproof and none of my counsel. Why wouldn’t one want God’s reproof and counsel – but instead refuse to listen to him? On this read Isaiah 30.9-11 noting the words smooth and illusions. Why do we have this aversion? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease. Note also lazy gluttons in Titus 1.12. Why do we gravitate in this direction? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the two phrases lovers of self and lovers of pleasure. Love, then, can be good or bad depending on what we love. On this read 1 John 2.15-16 noting the contrast between loving God and loving the world – which includes pride and lust. Where does this bad love come from? On this read Mark 7.20-23 noting the word licentiousness. Do you agree?


Week IV. Read Proverbs 1.33 one last time noting the word ease. What is this ease like if not like being lazy? On this read John 14.27 noting the words peace and world. How is this godly peace different from the worldly ease criticized above as laziness? On this read John 16.33 noting the word tribulation and the line in me you may have peace. How is the awkward combination of peace and tribulation balanced? On this read Romans 5.1 noting the words peace, with and through. Does this include worldly peace? On this read Luke 12.49-53 noting the word fire, division and against. So how is this outer turmoil combined with this inner peace? On this read Romans 8.18 noting the line not worth comparing; and 2 Corinthians 4.17 noting the word slight and the line beyond all comparison. Is the balance even? On this read Hebrews 11.16 (and 13.14) noting the word better. This means that the inner peace outweighs the outer difficulties. Do you agree?


Romans 16.26

March 2015, Number 265


Week I. Read Romans 16.26 noting the line bring about the obedience of faith. How is this brought about? On this read Romans 16.25 noting the words preaching and mystery. Why is preaching needed? Isn’t knowledge enough? On this read Romans 10.14-11.6 noting the words heard, contrary and chosen. Why do not all who hear believe? It is because not all are chosen. But why are not all chosen who hear? On this read Romans 9.18 noting the words hardens and wills. And why would God do that? On this read Romans 9.20-24 noting the words answer, right, wrath and riches. Does this mean that a contrast is needed between the saved and damned in order to show the glories of salvation? If that’s so, why is it? On this read Romans 1.18 noting the words suppress and truth. So is this contrast needed for breaking up this suppression? On this read Romans 3.9 noting the line all men… are under the power of sin. So yes, this suppression needs pulverizing! On this read also Romans 7.9-11 noting the words revived, proved and killed. Do these words take care of the change that is needed?


Week II. Read again Romans 16.26 noting that same line bring about the obedience of faith. So how about the mystery noted in Romans 16.25 from last week? What is it? On this read Romans 11.25 noting the mystery regarding belief among God’s chosen people, Israel. That mystery has to do with their temporary hardening so that non-Jews may also believe. But it also has to do with there only being a remnant of Israel in Romans 9.27 who are saved. Read as well 2 Thessalonians 2.7 noting the mystery of lawlessness. This is about our persistent sinfulness – which is baffling in light of God’s many blessings. Next read Colossians 2.2-3 noting the mystery of Christ and his treasures of wisdom and knowledge. What are they? For one, read Romans 5.9 noting how the blood of Jesus saves us from God’s wrath. Read as well Colossians 2.14 noting that this blood saves us by canceling the bond with its legal demands which stand against us. Note also how this sacrifice of Christ is fragrant to God when offered up to him, in Ephesians 5.2. Is that enough mystery and wisdom? How so? On this read about the depths of God’s wisdom in Romans 11.33-36.


Week III. Reread Romans 16.26 noting the word command. Why is a command needed to get us to obey God? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the words hard and wrath. So we are stone-cold and recalcitrant! On this predicament read also Romans 3.11 noting the line no one seeks for God. Read as well Romans 3.18 noting the line there is no fear of God. How can this be disrupted? On the read Romans 1.24-32 noting the words gave-up, penalty, deserve and die. These hardships can change us. But what about the commands of God? Can they act like these hardships do? On this read Romans 7.13 noting the line working death in me. How much stronger change than that could be brought about by a commanding word?


Week IV. Read Romans 16.26 one last time noting the word faith. Why is faith rooted in obedience? On this read Romans 9.20-21 noting the words molder and potter. Because God is in charge is obedience all that is left for us? How far does this go? On this read Romans 12.19 noting the words vengeance, leave and repay. Why can’t we try to get even with our enemies? On this read Romans 15.1-3 noting the two references to pleasing ourselves. Those verses also block the satisfaction of trying to get even. On this matter read also Romans 13.1-2 noting the words resist, authority and God. These verses put us on our guard. They say that we can’t act like we’re running things. On this read Romans 12.11 noting the line serve the Lord. So that’s our calling – not being in charge. Read also Romans 13.14 noting the line against gratifying desires. This also curtails us. Read as well Romans 16. 20 noting the line God… will soon crush Satan under your feet. Rather than trusting in ourselves to get even, this work of God should be our hope. Do you agree? If so, why?


Exodus 4.10

April 2015, Number 266

Week I. Read Exodus 4.10 noting the word eloquent. What is eloquence, and why does it matter? On this read Exodus 4.14 noting the couple words speak well. Why does speaking well matter to Moses? On this read Proverbs 25.11 noting the words fitly, gold and silver. What makes fitly spoken words so valuable? On this read Exodus 9.7 noting the word hardened. Because people can be hard to get through to, do we think fitly spoken words can make a difference? On this read Proverbs 15.1 noting the words soft, wrath, harsh and anger. Is this the power Moses was looking for? On this read Proverbs 12.18 noting the words wise and healing. Do you think such wise words could have changed Pharaoh’s hard heart? On this read Jeremiah 13.23 noting the line can the leopard change his spots? So how powerful can words be? On this read James 3.6 noting the line the tongue is a fire. This is surely about destruction. But can it also do as much for good? On this read Proverbs 28.23 noting the words afterwards and more. Is this reassuring? If so, explain why.

Week II. Read again Exodus 4.10 noting that same word eloquence. Is there anything wrong about eloquence? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.17 noting the words eloquence and emptied. How can such a wonderful thing as eloquence empty the cross of its power? On this read 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 noting the words plausible and rest. What then would keep eloquence from pulling us away from God like this? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.7 noting the words earthen and belongs. So if this includes simple, plain, earthy speech, how does that break our illegitimate hold on God’s power? On this read Romans 9.20 noting the words who, answer and God. Does our eloquence make us think we have the right to contend with God for a better life for ourselves? On this read Romans 3.19 noting the line every mouth may be stopped. Does this mean we are wrong to think we can debate with God over what’s best for us? On this read Job 40:1-4 noting the words contend, argue, small and hand. Does that settle it? If so, how?

Week III. Reread Exodus 4.10 noting that same word eloquence. Is there anything else wrong with eloquence? On this read Psalm 55.21 noting the words speech, smoother, war and heart. Does this mean that fine speech can cover up the truth? On the read Isaiah 30.10, noting the words speak, smooth and illusions. How does something so refined end up being so bad? On this read Psalm 73.9 noting the words against, heaven and struts. How does this strutting go against God? On this read James 4.6 noting the contrast between the two sets of words oppose and proud, grace and humble. Is it impossible, then, for the eloquent to be humble? On this read Luke 18.9-13 noting the two lines trusted in themselves, and prayed thus with himself. Who would say that this Pharisee wasn’t well-educated, well-off, and well-spoken? Does that then finish off the dangers of the eloquent?

Week IV. Read Exodus 4.10 one last time noting that same word eloquence. What then is the alternative to eloquence? On this read Exodus 4.12 noting the line I will teach you what to say. Is that the only way around it? On this read Exodus 4.13-16 noting the words other and Aaron. Are there then just these two alternatives to eloquence? On this read Matthew 5.37 noting the line say simply Yes or No. Could it be that eloquence is of many words and the better way is of just a few words? On this read Ecclesiastes 5.2 noting the line let your words be few. Read also Proverbs 17.1 noting how being quiet can end strife. Add to this Proverbs 10.19 noting how restraining lips are prudent. So more speech isn’t better – even if it is eloquent. On this read Proverbs 26.4 noting the play between the words answer, fool, folly and like. Why isn’t the wise and eloquent person able to refute the fool without becoming foolish in the process? On this note the little words little and leaven in 1 Corinthians 5.6-7. Does that settle it? Explain your answer.


Matthew 28.15

May 2015, Number 267  

Week I. Read Matthew 28.15 noting the word Jews. Who are they? On this read Deuteronomy 14.2 noting the words holy, chosen, own and all. Why did God choose the Jews to be his special, chosen people? On this read Deuteronomy 7.7-9 noting the words fewest, love and oath. Was there then nothing special about the Jews that caught God’s eye? On this read Amos 3.2 noting the words only, therefore, punish and iniquities. Does this mean that there wasn’t anything positive to draw God to the Jews? On this read 1 Corinthians 10.6-11 noting the words warning, must and instruction. If that’s so, then why choose the Jews to be the whipping-boy of God? On this read 1 Peter 4.17 noting the words judgment, begin, end and not. God’s selection of the Jews, therefore, is to be a motivation for the rest of us. But how about the Jews themselves? On this read Exodus 19.5-6 noting the words if and possession. Does that mean that disobedient Jews aren’t the chosen Jews? On this read Romans 9.6-13 noting the words descended, belong, Isaac, flesh, promise, reckoned, election, loved and hated. Read also in this regard Romans 9.27 noting the line only a remnant of [the Jews] will be saved. So there are Jews, and there are Jews. Is that right? How so?

Week II. Read again Matthew 28.15 noting that same word Jews. Does this mean that all of the Jews during the time of Jesus were bad people? On this read John 11.45 (and 12.11) noting the line many of the Jews… believed in [Jesus]. How happy of a situation is this? On this read John 5.18 noting the line the Jews sought… to kill [Jesus] because he [was] making himself equal to God. So were there more Jews against Jesus or for him? On this read John 7.43 and 9.16 noting the word division. Does that mean that there was an equally split house of opinion regarding Jesus among the Jews? On this read John 15.18 noting the line the world… has hated me. Read also John 19.14-15 noting the line the Jews…. cried out,…crucify him!. These last two readings make it look lopsided against Jesus. Why would so many of his own Jewish people be against him? – with not even his brothers (John 7.5) standing-up for him? On this read John 4.44 noting the line that a prophet has no honor in his own country. Does that explain it? Was Pilate right in Matthew 27.18 that the Jews, by in large, hated Jesus because they were jealous of him?

Week III. Reread Matthew 28.15 noting the word story. Why did the Jews want to spread this false story against the possible bodily resurrection of Jesus? On this read John 12.10-11 noting the line on account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, many Jews were… believing in Jesus. But how do lies destroy belief? On the read Hebrews 3.13, noting the correspondence between the words hardened and deceitfulness. What furthers this deceit? On this read John 8.44 noting the description of the devil as the father of lies. Add to this 2 Corinthians 4.4 that he is the god of this world. What do these assaults do to faith? On this read 1 Timothy 6.12 noting the word fight. How is faith a fight, and does it have to be?

Week IV. Read Matthew 28.15 one last time noting the same word story. Why is this lie or false story so long-lasting? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.7 noting the line we walk by faith, not by sight. Is this dictum well received? On this read John 20.21 noting the line unless I see,… I will not believe. Is the bodily resurrection of Jesus, then, a boon to false faith and a threat to the critics of faith? On this read John 10.24 noting the word plainly. This means that simple, obvious faith is what we yearn for, and that’s what the resurrection seems to give us. But against this read John 20.29 noting the line blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. So the resurrection of Jesus is only a threat to those who misconstrue faith as being based on what’s seen. Is that what the Jews thought?



Samuel 25.37

June 2015, Number 268



Week I. Read 1 Samuel 25.37 noting the name Nabal. Who was he? On this read 1 Samuel 25.2-3, 17 and 25 noting the words rich, Abigail, churlish, ill-natured and folly. What is the evidence for this? On this read 1 Samuel 25.10-11 noting the words who and away. Were these concerns reasonable caution or foolhardiness? On this read 1 Samuel 25.11 noting the uses of the word I and the four uses of the word my. Does this show crass egotism on Nabal’s part? On this read 1 Samuel 25.14 and 39 noting the words railed, insult and evil-doing. What confirms these negative assessments of Nabal’s response? On this read 1 Samuel 25.6-8 and 21 noting the words greet, salute, whatever, and guarded, as well as the three uses of the word peace. Are all of these words generous, respectful and conciliatory? Why, then, does Nabal respond in such a hostile way? On this read Proverbs 18.12 noting the words haughty and destruction. Is it this recklessness then that makes him so foolish? On this read Proverbs 11.17 noting the words kind and benefits. Could it be that Nabal’s foolishness was actually closer to cruelty?

Week II. Read again 1 Samuel 25.37 noting the word told. What did Abigail tell Nabal? On this read 1 Samuel 25.13, 22, 24, 27, 31 and 33 noting the words sword, leave, guilt, present, pangs and discretion. How did Nabal respond to Abigail’s report? On this read 1 Samuel 25.37 noting the words heart and stone. What does this mean? On the word heart read Joshua 2.24 noting the word fainthearted, and 1 Samuel 7.10 noting the words confusion and routed. These verses suggest that Nabal was losing his courage and boldness that caused him to respond as he did in the first place. On the word stone read Ezekiel 11.19-20 noting the words stony, heart and obey. This adds that Nabal wasn’t going to apologize for his mistreatment of David’s servants, nor was he going to thank Abigail for surreptitiously intervening on his behalf to save his life. Instead he was going to dig in and silently maintain his position.

Week III. Reread 1 Samuel 25.37 noting the words heart and stone. Why was Nabal so inflexible? Who did a better job dealing with failure? On this read 2 Samuel 12.1-25 noting the line by the guilty King David, I have sinned against the Lord. Why did David turn around when Nabal didn’t? On this read Psalm 32.3-5 noting the words acknowledged and forgive. Why couldn’t Nabal repent like David did? On this read Luke 22.3 noting the words devil and entered. Had the devil entered Nabal as he had with Judas? Or was Nabal’s problem simpler – due simply to his foolishness? On this read Proverbs 1.32-33 noting the words simple, fools, listens and secure. Then again, David had Nathan and Nabal had Abigail. Was there a difference there? On this read 2 Samuel 12.1 noting the line the Lord sent Nathan to David. Read also 1 Samuel 16.13 noting the line and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Does Nabal have the same two gifts that David did? Without them would David have been like Nabal?

Week IV. Read 1 Samuel 25.37 one last time noting the line the Lord smote Nabal; and he died. Why did God do this? On this read Leviticus 26.14-17 noting the two lines break my covenant and cause life to pine away. Why is sin punishable by death? On this read Genesis 2.17 noting the word die and Romans 6.23 noting the word death. But why this correlation? Why not some lesser punishment? On this read Exodus 34.14 noting the line the Lord… is a jealous God. What does this do to God? On this read Ezekiel 5.13 noting the words anger, fury, satisfy, jealousy and spend. Note also the description of God as the Fear of Isaac in Genesis 31.42. But if God is so fierce, why does he wait ten days before he kills Nabal? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words unless, repent and perish. Was it that God was giving Nabal a chance to turn from his arrogance and live? Why would God do that? On this recall the word slow in Psalms 86.15, 103.8 and 145.8. How gracious is that little word?




Hebrews 11:38


July 2015, Number 269


Week I. Read Hebrews 11.38 noting the line of whom the world was not worthy. Who are these people? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the words believe and God. Is this some generic god? On this read Hebrews 12.2 noting the words Jesus, pioneer, perfecter and faith, and Hebrews 4.14 noting the line Jesus, the Son of God. So why does this faith in God through Christ Jesus, set us at odds with the world? On this read Hebrews 11.7 noting the line condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness. What was so bad about the world that we had to condemn it? On this read Hebrews 3.12-19 noting the words evil, deceitfulness, rebellious, disobedient and unbelief. Note also the line filled with violence in Genesis 6.11 (that is alluded to in Hebrews 11.7). On this corrupt world read also 1 John 2.16 noting the words lust, flesh, pride and life. Read as well 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the words lovers, self, money and pleasure. In this regard read also Hebrews 11.25 noting the line enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin, and Hebrews 3.13 noting the line hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So how bad is the world overall? On this read James 4.4 noting the line friendship with the world is enmity with God. Do you think all of the negativity is true even if it isn’t generally recognized? Why or why not?

Week II. Read again Hebrews 11.38 noting again the line of whom the world was not worthy. So why isn’t the world worthy of believers in Christ? What are Christians like that makes it this way? On this read Hebrews 13.1-7 noting the words brotherly, strangers, prison, marriage, judge, money and afraid. If these seven traits are central to the Christian life, what is its upshot? On this read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the words aliens and exiles. Read also John 15.19 noting the line out of the world. How is this so? What’s so radical about these traits? On brotherly love read, by way of contrast, Judges 15.11 and Matthew 7.12 (as well as Proverbs 24.29). On visiting prisoners, read Matthew 25.36. On marriage read 1 Timothy 4.3 and Ephesians 5.31-32. On judging, read John 7.24, Romans 2.6-11 and 14.10. On money, read 1 Timothy 6.9-10 and Luke 18.24-30. And on fear, read Matthew 10.28, Proverbs 1.7, Hebrews 2.15 and Psalm 34.11. Isn’t this quite a list?

Week III. Reread Hebrews 11.38 noting the line of whom the world was not worthy. Is it easy to stand against the ways of the world? On this read Matthew 7.13-14 noting the words narrow, hard and few. Read also Hebrews 11.32-37 noting the words lions, fire, sword, tortured, mocking, imprisonment, stoned, sawn, destitute and afflicted. Note also the word hated in John 15.18-19. Why isn’t this rigorous life easier for Christians to live out? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease, and 2 Thessalonians 3.11 noting the word idleness. Does laziness then control us? On this read 1 Thessalonians 5.6 noting the word sleep and the line let us keep awake and be sober. On this startling verse read also Romans 12.11 noting the line never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit. This predicament is part of the war between the spirit and the flesh in Galatians 5.16-17. Do you see that too?

Week IV. Read Hebrews 11.38 one last time noting again the line of whom the world was not worthy. How can we get help in fighting against our worldliness and laziness? On this read Matthew 11.28-30 noting the words rest, easy and light. How does Jesus help us out with our burdens? On this read James 1.21 noting the category implanted word. How does this take place? On this read Romans 10.17 noting the words heard and preaching. Read also Colossians 3.15-16 noting the words rule, thankful, dwell, richly, teach, admonish and sing. What power does the word have over us through these various means? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.17 noting the category new creation, and Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. Note also the word power in Psalm 62.11 and John 1.12. Does that settle it? If so, how?


Hosea 8.14


August 2015, Number 270

Week I. Read Hosea 8.14 noting the word Maker. Who is this maker? On this read Genesis 14.19 noting the words God and maker. Read also Psalm 95.6-7 noting the words Maker and God. What does God make according to this psalm? On this read Psalm 95.4-5 noting the words depths, earth, mountains, sea and land. It also says he did this with his hands. How did he do that? On this read Genesis 1.3 noting the words said and was. So are God’s words his hands? On this read Palm 33.6 noting the words word and made. Real also Psalm 107.19-20 noting the words word and healed. Read as well Isaiah 55.11 noting the words word and accomplish. How does God make things by way of his words? On this read John 1.1-3 noting the words Word and made. What is this Word? On this read John 1.14 noting the words Word and Son. What is the word that makes up Jesus? On this read Proverbs 8.1-36 noting the words wisdom, life and favor. What is this favorable design by which all things were made? On this read Colossians 1.16 noting the line all things were created… for him. That means they must serve his purpose in Matthew 22.36-39 – loving God and neighbor. How would the world be different if it followed its divine design?

Week II. Read again Hosea 8.14 noting this time the line Israel has forgotten. Was this an accident? On this read Psalm 81.8-12 noting the words listen and stubborn as well as the line Israel would have none of me. Read as well Hosea 13.4-6 noting the words filled and forgot. Does this then mean that blessings are curses? On this read Judges 10.10-16 noting the word yet. Does this mean that Israel’s forsaking of the Lord is a surprise and incongruent with what went before? On this read Exodus 19.8 noting the line all that the Lord has spoken we will do. Why does this resolve and confidence give way to forsaking the Lord? On this read Exodus 32.1 noting the word delayed. Is this because we are so impatient? On this read Psalm 13.1-2 noting the four uses of the question how long? Why are we so impatient? On this read Psalm 77.9-10 noting the words forgotten and changed. Because of delays in grace do we then abandon the abiding definition of God is Exodus 34.6-7, Psalm 145.8, Joel 2.13, and Jonah 4.2? What do you think of that?

Week III. Reread Hosea 8.14 noting again the line I will send fire upon… his strongholds. Why is God so mad at Israel? On this read Jeremiah 25.8-9 noting the words obeyed and destroy. So is the key to salvation obedience? On this read 1 Samuel 15.22 noting the words obey and sacrifice. Why is this obedience so important to God? On this read Romans 1.5 and 16.26 noting the phrase the obedience of faith. What is there about faith that implies obedience? On this read Romans 14.23 noting the words sin and faith, and I John 3.4 noting the words sin and lawlessness. So if faith is what stands against sin, and obeying God is contrary to sinning against him, then faith and obedience lead into each other. Key to this understanding if also keeping the Creator above the creatures as in Romans 1.25. Without God being kept above us, there will be no obedience or faith or salvation. Do you agree?

Week IV. Read Hosea 8.14 one last time noting the word strongholds. Why don’t our fortification protect us against God’s wrath? On this read Ezekiel 5.13 noting the words anger, fury, satisfy and jealousy. Read as well Amos 5.18-19 noting the words woe, darkness, bear and serpent. Why can’t we stand up against God and his assaults? On this read Psalm 39.5 noting the line every man stands as a mere breath. Read also James 4.14 noting the word mist. How more insubstantial could we be? But do we regularly think this way of ourselves? On this read Isaiah 61.3 noting the word oaks, and the word mountain in Psalm 30.7. So beware.



Hebrews 12.5


September 2015, Number 271


Week I. Read Hebrews 12.5 noting the word punish. How does God punish us? On this read Ezekiel 14.21 noting the words sword, famine, evil beasts and pestilence. Read also Luke 13.4 noting the words tower and fell. Are there then no accidents and simple acts of nature? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the line not one sparrow will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. What does this mean? On this read James 4.15 noting the line if the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that. What is implied by believing that nothing happens without God’s permission? On this read Job 1.21 noting the words gave, taken and blessed. What is it like to bless God and praise him for what he takes away? On this read Hebrews 12.6 noting the words disciplines and loves. How does discipline and punishment show God’s love for us? On this read Romans 1.22-25 noting the line God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity. This is God’s wrath (Romans 1.18). But God’s love punishes us to keep us from going down the path of impurity. Do you agree?


Week II. Read again Hebrews 12.5 noting the same word punish. How do God’s punishments keep us from going down the path of impurity? On this read Amos 4.6-11 noting the five occurrences of the word yet. In this case the punishments don’t block further corruption. For an opposite view, read Judges 6.1-6 noting the words very, low, cried and help. What was the difference between the two cases? Is it severity? On this read Exodus 12.28-33 noting the words great, cry, urgent and dead. Note that this is the tenth of the plagues hurled against Egypt to get Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves. For another view read Job 1.22-3.1 noting the shift from 1.22 to 3.1. What causes this? At 2.10 he is still abiding with God in spite of his suffering. But after this silent shock of his friends in 2.13 registers with Job, then he curses in the next verse. Was it then the bleak reaction of his friends that pushed him over the edge? For an opposite view read Hebrews 10.23-25 noting the words stir and encouraging. Without this help, matters become too severe? Is that why sin has to become sinful beyond measure in Romans 7.13 in order to change us? Note as well the curbs placed on repenting in 2 Corinthians 7.10.


Week III. Reread Hebrews 12.5 noting the same word punish. How are we to avoid being punished? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words unless, repent and perish. How does repentance save us from harm? On this read 1 John 1.8-10 noting the words deceive, confess, just, liar and word. How does confession and repentance trade on truth? On this read Job 10.7 and 42.3-6 noting the shift from innocence to self-loathing. Furthermore read 1 John 3.20 noting how God is greater than our condemning hearts. Read also Hosea 11.8-9 noting God’s extreme resolve to have compassion. Are these two matters – self-loathing and extreme divine compassion – the truth that repentance brings to set us free in John 8.32 and to be witnessed to in John 19.37? If so, then repentance is powerful indeed. It sets matters straight. It is the brokenness and contrition in Psalm 51.17.


Week IV. Read Hebrews 12.5 one last time noting again the word punish. So if we fail to repent and are punished after all, how should we deal with it? On this read Hebrews 12.4 noting the words yet and blood. This shows that things could always be worse. So we mustn’t complain when punished, but instead thank God for his leniency. Next read Matthew 26.75 noting the phrase wept bitterly. This shows that we shouldn’t make excuses to defend ourselves when caught in the act and punished, but instead concede to the Almighty that he is right to castigate us and we are wrong for sinning. Finally read Romans 5.3 noting the word rejoice. This shows that we are to transcend the pain of the moment when punished to rejoice in God’s correction and strengthening of us through that very punishment. Can you handle that? If not go to Matthew 11.28-30 for the interplay between burden and rest.


Psalm 102.7

October 2015, Number 272


Week I. Read Psalm 102.7 noting the word lonely. What makes us as lonely as a sparrow on a rooftop? On this read Jeremiah 15.17 noting the words alone, hand and indignation. Note also the words ears, closed, scorn and pleasure in Jeremiah 6.10. Read also John 15.19 noting the words of, own, chose and hate. Why does God’s word isolate us like this? Why doesn’t it rather help us gain many friends and influence people far and wide? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the words god, world and blinded. Read also 1 John 5.19 noting the words whole, world, power and evil. Are we then driven from the world by its wickedness and left to hole up in remote places? On this read Hebrews 11.37-38 noting the words destitute, wandering, dens and caves. Read as well Luke 9.58 noting the line nowhere to lay his head. Add to this 1 Corinthians 1.26-29 noting the words worldly, standards, powerful, noble, shame, low, nothing and boast. Do these many verses offer a sufficient explanation for what you could call Christian loneliness? How so?  

Week II. Read again Psalm 102.7 noting the same word lonely. In our loneliness, how can we witness to such a world that is passing us by? On this read 1 Peter 3.15 noting the two occurrences of the word reverence. What does this mean? On this read Hebrews 12.28 noting the words worship and awe. What do these words have to do with witnessing? On this read Matthew 17.6 noting the words fell and faces, and Romans 11.20 noting the word proud. Awe therefore points to a power that takes away the control we thought we had over our lives. Because of this awe in witnessing, God can get through to the worldly ones when we cannot due to our loneliness. All we need to do is talk and pray and leave the rest to God. This seems to be the point of the words only and growth in 1 Corinthians 3.7. Our talking is like the planting and watering in 1 Corinthians 3.6. And on the matter of prayer, read Matthew 17.21 noting the words never and except. Through prayer God is able to make our efforts effective when we are not able to. So even though we are removed from the mainstream by our loneliness, we can still witness effectively by way of God’s intervention. Do you believe that? If not, read Ephesians 3.20 noting the words able, do, far and more. Does that then do it for you? 

Week III. Reread Psalm 102.7 noting the same word lonely. Why is this sparrow perched on a lonely housetop? On this read Acts 10.9 noting the word pray. This suggests that the housetop is a place in between earth and heaven, as Luther thought―“I hover between the life of the world and eternal life, lonely in the faith” (Luther’s Works 14:181; 67:98). How do we get stuck on this rooftop? On this read Philippians 3.20 noting the words commonwealth and heaven. Read also 2 Peter 3.12 noting the words hastening and coming. This frame of mind gives us at least one foot out of this world which suspends us in the air as Luther thought. On this suspension read 1 Peter 2.11 noting the word alien. Is that you? Should it be? 

Week IV. Read Psalm 102.7 one last time noting again the word lonely. How can we live with the isolation that comes to us from this loneliness? On this read Matthew 28.20 noting the words with and always. Why is this so valuable? On this read John 15.13-15 noting the words greater, love, lay, down and friends. Does this make Jesus the best friend possible? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the two phrases could not do and for sin. This sacrifice on the cross makes Jesus unique and our best possible friend. On this promise read John 15.15 noting the line I have called you friends. Can this really fill in for having no ordinary friends? On this read Psalm 27.10 noting the contrasting words forsaken and take. In this light read also 2 Timothy 2.13 with the contrasting words faithless and faithful. Note as well the words faithful and endure in 1 Corinthians 10.13. Without God we couldn’t endure our loneliness. On this truth read Matthew 11.29-30 noting the words rest and light. Is that enough for you? In what way?



Colossians 1.22

November 2015, Number 273


Week I. Read Colossians 1.22 noting the word reconciled. Who needs reconciling? On this read Isaiah 59.2 noting the words iniquities, separation and hid. Why are our iniquities or sins so damaging to our relationship with God? On this read Romans 14.23 noting the line whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Does this, then, in large part mean that sin destroys or displaces faith in God? How bad is that? On this read Hebrews 11.6 noting the words faith and please. Is reconciliation with God, then, re-establishing God’s pleasure in us? If so, when was he first pleased with us? On this read Genesis 1.31 noting the phrase very good. How long did this last? On this read Genesis 6.6 noting the words sorry and grieved. How long did that last? On this read John 14.23 noting the words if, Jesus, loves and Father. Why did this divine regret on God’s part last so long? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line one sinner destroys much good. Does anyone else need reconciling beside us? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the line saved by him from the wrath of God. So just as Martin Luther thought, both parties – sinners and God – need reconciling (Luther’s Works 26:325). Do you agree, and if so, why?

Week II. Read again Colossians 1.22 noting the line by his death. Whose death are we talking about here? On this read 1 John 2.1-2 noting the words sin, advocate, Jesus and expiation. How does the death of Jesus do this? On this read Colossians 2.13-15 noting the words dead, alive, forgiven, canceled, bond, against, legal, aside, nailing, cross, disarmed and triumphing. How does his death cancel the legal bond that stood against us because of our iniquities? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the line in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. What does this likeness mean? On this read 1 Corinthians 5.21 noting the three words made, no and become. Is Jesus then both like and unlike a sinner at the same time? How can that be? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line bore our sins. So he was punished for our sin as if he had committed them when in fact he did not. And that’s what it means to say he came for sin in Romans 8.3. He came to be punished for our sins. What does that do for us? On this read Galatians 5.1 noting the word freedom. But from what? Well, being punished for our sins! How good is that? On this read Luke 16.19-28 noting the place of torment unforgiven sinners are headed for. How’s that for a wonderful reward?

Week III. Reread Colossians 1.22 noting the same line by his death. Was this a mean thing for God to make Jesus do? On this read John 10.18 noting the four occurrences of the word I. Read also John 10.30 noting the word one. Note as well the line not as I will, but as you will in Matthew 26.39. Read also Luke 23.46 noting the line Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Why, then, does Jesus use the word forsake in Matthew 27.46? Is that about a breakdown between Jesus and his heavenly Father? On this read Matthew 8.17 noting the words took and bore. So when he cried out from the cross was he really giving voice to condemned sinners and not to his own anguish? If so, there is then no division between the Father and the Son when Jesus cries out about being forsaken. Do you agree? Why or why not? To coax you in the right direction, note the words loves and all in John 3.35.

Week IV. Read Colossians 1.22 one last time noting the word irreproachable. How can we come off looking so good to God? On this read Revelation 7.14 noting the words washing and white. How can the blood of the Lamb do this? On this read 1 Peter 1.19 noting the words precious, blemish and spot. How does his innocence and holiness help us? On this read 2 Corinthians 8.9 noting the trading words rich and poor. Why does Jesus trade with us if it’s not to his advantage? On this read Mark 10.45 noting the words serve and give. Note also the word compassion in Mark 6.34. Are these verses enough to explain how pure believers can become?



Genesis 3:24

December 2014, Number 262


Week I. Read Genesis 3.24 noting the word guard. Why does the entry to the tree of life in paradise have to be guarded? On this read Genesis 2.17 noting the words eat and die. Is this guard at the entry way, then, part of the punishment for disobeying God? If so, how so? On this read Deuteronomy 13.6-9 noting the line nor shall your eye pity him. This means no second chances – and so the entry must be shut, barred and guarded. Is this overly cruel and harsh? On this read Romans 11.22 noting the words severity and fallen. Read also Hebrews 9.27 noting the line die once, and after that comes judgment. Once warned, then, is apparently enough – then punishment kicks in with no exceptions. So if paradise is closed shut like this, is all hope then taken away? On this read 1 Peter 1.3-5 noting the words hope, heaven, guarded and faith. Here we see that the hope from paradise gives way to the hope that is in heaven. On this read Philippians 4:20-21 noting the words heaven and await.


Week II. Read again Genesis 3.24 noting the line a flaming sword which turned every way. Why are these theatrics used? On this read John 3.19 noting the words love and darkness. This defiant love won’t take no for an answer. Read also on this Hebrews 3.13 noting the words hardened, deceitfulness and sin. This verse also helps us see the defiance in sin. Read as well Genesis 32.26 noting the words not and unless. All sinners struggle with God like this – making demands of him. Why do we think we can prevail against the Almighty God – and force our way back into paradise? On this read John 12.28-29 noting the play between the two opposing words thundered and angel. So is it because God isn’t obvious that we feel free to struggle with him and push against his will and ways in the world? On this read Exodus 7.1-13 noting the words as, God, wonders, prove, same and listen. Why isn’t God clearer? On this read Romans 1.20 noting the word clearly, and 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the word blinded. So whose fault is it that God isn’t obvious?

Week III. Reread Genesis 3.24 noting the line he drove man out. Were we forced out of paradise or did we want to get away ,any way, and explore new territories? On this read Genesis 3.8 noting the word hid. This looks like Adam and Eve liked being in paradise and didn’t want to leave – or at least not get caught, which would mean that they would have to leave. On this possibility, read Luke 12.19 noting the word ample and ease. Because of that proclivity in us, paradise would be a congenial place for Adam and Eve to live. So what was it like to be thrown out of paradise? On this read Matthew 25.1-13 noting the words behold, feast, shut and open. Here is a picture of excitement and disappointment, wisdom and foolishness, feasting and sorrow, welcoming and missing out. For another such picture, read Matthew 7.21-23 noting the words declare and depart. Why shouldn’t we be able to stay if we want to? On this read Hebrews 10.26-31 noting the words fearful, fury, worse, vengeance and repay. What requires this severity? On this read Romans 7.12 noting the line the law is holy… just and good – anything but forgiving. Does that explain it?

Week IV. Read Genesis 3.24 one last time noting the line the tree of life. What does this tree give? On this read Revelation 22.1-2 noting the words leaves and healing. What do these leaves heal? On this read Revelation 21.4 noting the words crying, pain and death. What kind of life is this where death and pain are all gone? On this read John 10.10 noting the word abundantly. What is this like? On this read John 5.26 noting the line life in himself. What does that mean? On this read Romans 6.9 noting the line death no longer has dominion. When that dominion is gone, life is made irrepressible and resilient. On this life, see John 17.3 noting the line this is eternal life [knowing] the only true God. Is this tree still in Eden? On this read John 11.25 noting the I am expression. Is Jesus its replacement?