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 11.20

 

January 2020, Number 323

 

 

Week I. Read Romans 11.20 noting the words faith and awe. What if awe also means fear [φοβος]? On this read Hebrews 10:30 noting the words fearful, hands and living. Why is God so scary – even when we believe in him? On this read Romans 9.16–18 noting the play between the words will and wills. Why is this play scary? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the line storing up wrath for yourself. So the consequence of no mercy is wrath – and not some holding place of neutrality and waiting. Why would we store up wrath for ourselves? On this read Romans 1.18 noting the phrase suppress the truth. And why would we do that? On this read Romans 1.25 noting the line serve the creature rather than the Creator. Why would we do that? On this read Romans 7.23 noting the line captive to the law of sin. What drives us in that direction – especially knowing what the consequences are? On this read Romans 6.20 noting the correlation between slavery and freedom. This freedom to do whatever we want is what drives us to take the risk of incurring God’s wrath on Judgment Day. Make sense?

 

Week II. Read again Romans 11.20 noting the same words faith and awe. How does our yearning for independence and freedom make us risk wrath? On this read Romans 11.8 noting the phrase spirit of stupor. This is an adverse spirit that blocks us from seeing and hearing what’s truly righteous. Where does it come from? Read again Romans 11.8 – noting that it is God who brings it about. Why would he do that? On this read Romans 11.25 noting the words mystery and hardening. Are God’s ways unexplainable then? On this read Romans 11.33 noting the words unsearchable and inscrutable. Why is this important? On this read Romans 9.21 noting the words potter and clay. Is there any shared agency regarding what will become of the clay? On this read Romans 9.16 noting the line it depends not upon man’s will or exertion. Why is that? On this read Romans 3.24 noting the word gift. So what?

 

Week III. Reread Romans 11.20 noting the same words faith and awe. If faith and salvation are gifts, then what is our role in believing and being saved for eternity? On this read Romans 8.17 noting the phase provided we suffer. How do we do that? On this read Romans 12.2 noting the line do not be conformed to this world. Do we generate that nonconformity – and so suffer? On this read Romans 10.17 noting the two uses of the word comes. Is there any personal agency on our part in that coming of faith? On this read Romans 3.11 noting the phrase no one seeks God. Read also Romans 7.18 noting the phrase but I cannot do it. Do those two verses wipe out human agency in things divine? On this read Romans 4.17 noting the line things that do not exist. How can non-existent things have agency? How can what’s dead generate life?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 11.20 one last time again noting the words faith and awe. If we are dead, how does life and faith come into us? If we don’t join in on God’s gift-giving, how can we actually believe in him? Won’t faith always fall just outside of us? On this read Roman 8.10 noting how the dead become alive. What generates that – do the dead spontaneously regenerate? On this read Romans 8.2–4 noting the phase for God has done – and how it contrasts with the phrases set me free and fulfilled in us. So God operates on us – not only outside of us, as in the just requirement of the law, and he condemned sin. How does this crossover happen? On this read Romans 7.23 noting the line in my members… at war with. Does this mean that we don’t begin apart from God and then try to find a way to connect with God? On this read Romans 8.15 noting the wearing out of fear. Is sonship the clue? Does it imply a prior connection? And it is that enough? Not if the word some is true in Romans 11.14. Do you agree?

 

Job 1.5

February 2020, Number 324

 

Week I. Read Job 1.5 noting the word continually. Why did Job continually sanctify his sons and make offerings to God on their behalf? On this read 1 Samuel 3.13 noting the words punish and restrain. Did Job think his sons were like Eli’s sons? On this read 1 Samuel 2.12, 17 noting the line the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord [and] they treated the offering of the Lord with contempt. Is that what Job worried about – and so he was trying to restrain them by sanctifying them and making offerings for them? But why did he think that might happen? On this read Job 1.1 noting that Job was blameless and upright. Shouldn’t that goodness have rubbed off on his sons? Was there any reason for Job to suppose that this transference hadn’t occurred? On this read Genesis 37.2 noting the ill report from Joseph to his father, Jacob, about his brothers. What was it about? On this read Genesis 35.22 noting Reuben’s incest with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. So if goodness didn’t transfer from Jacob to Reuben, might not Job reasonably worry too about his sons?

 

Week II. Read again Job 1.5 noting the little word may. Was there a good chance, then, that this possible infraction had happened? The word may, then, seems closer to likely. Is that why he was on top of it because it already had happened before – and Job worried about it coming back? If not, is Job then simply neurotic? But that wouldn’t be becoming of such a fine man! Even though there aren’t any reports of his sons cursing God at their parties, Job acts as if there were and he is now trying to soften the blow before it happens again. Note that he actually sanctifies his sons after their parties – just in case. On this realistic view of evil, see Genesis 4.7 noting the line sin is couching at the door. Would this sin also include lying? And does that explain why Job doesn’t first ask his sons if they have sinned before he sanctifies them? On this read Psalm 116.11 noting the line men are all a vain hope – or all are liars. Pretty bad, don’t you think?

 

Week III. Reread Job 1.5 noting the same line Job… would rise early in the morning. Why does he get started so early covering for his sons? On this read Acts 12.23 noting the words immediately and smote. Is that why Job couldn’t waste any time? But isn’t God also slow to anger – as in Exodus 34.6? Couldn’t that happen too? On this read Ecclesiastes 8.11 noting the line fully set to do evil. Would that be a reason for God punishing quickly? On this read Revelation 3.19 noting the fast transition from love to chastening. So is delaying punishment unloving? On this read 2 Thessalonians 2.11 noting the category of strong delusion. Is this like the giving up in Romans 1.24? What shall we then make of God tormenting us? On this see Romans 5.3 noting the words rejoice and suffering. Why would we do that? On this read Romans 5.5 noting how suffering is correlated with God’s love for us. Is that only because of what the suffering brings?

 

Week IV. Read Job 1.5 one last time noting the word hearts. Why add that qualifier? Is it to show that what Job fears most is that his sons sin on purpose and not inadvertently? On this read John 3.19 noting the phase men loved the darkness. That sounds like they have their hearts in it! On this read Ezekiel 11.19 noting the line I will take the stony heart out of their flesh. Read also John 3.7 noting the line you must be born anew. Why is this massive change needed instead of some midcourse correction or life improvement plan? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the line no soundness. Read also Romans 7.18 and the line nothing good dwells within me. Are such draconian solutions needed because our diagnosis is so unremittingly bad? If our hearts are so bad, do we need hearts of a completely different sort? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the line with all your heart. Is that what it’s like to have one thing… needful (Luke 14.42), instead of being distracted by things… on earth (Colossians 3.1)? Does Job, then, have the mind of Christ – as in Philippians 2.5? Is that what Job 1.5 is about?


 


Hebrews 3:13

 March 2020, Number 325

 

Week I. Read Hebrews 3.13 noting the phrase hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. What’s the risk here? On this read Hebrews 3:12 noting the line fall away from the living God. How is this possible if John 10.28 says that nothing shall snatch us away from Christ? On this read Romans 8.17 noting the line provided we suffer. And if we don’t? On this read 1 Timothy 1.19 about Hymenaeus and Alexander who made shipwreck of their faith. How were they able to do that? Luther thinks this is “an excellent metaphor from ships. In a single word,” he writes, Saint Paul “points out what the world and the sea are. We are carried into the midst of perilous storms. With trembling we must remain in the Word…. So it is not that we are safe. We are serving as soldiers. We have not been set up in a place where it is safe to leave the Word of God and hide it under the bench” (Luther’s Works 28:253). Is he right? On this read 1 John 5.19 noting the words whole, power and evil. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Read also 2 Timothy 2.3 noting the word soldier. Is that right? And read Matthew 10.16 noting the word wolves. How can that be?

Week II. Read again Hebrews 3.13 noting the word hardened. Why such a severe word? On this read John 8.34 noting the word slave. Is that a hardening word? On this read Romans 6.16 noting the phrases yield yourselves and you are. Is that reversible? On this read Jeremiah 13.23 noting the question can the leopard change his spots? What do you make of this? On this read Luke 18.27 noting the words impossible and possible. What swings the pendulum? On this read Luke 11.13 noting the words more and ask. Can it be that simple? Why wouldn’t everybody be asking and receiving? On this read John 3.19 noting the words love and darkness. Read also Isaiah 30.10 noting the word illusions. Why are we so resistant? On this read Acts 7.51 noting the word stiff-necked. Read also John 8.44 noting the words devil, desires and liar. Lest you think this last verse doesn’t apply, read 1 Corinthians 10.6.

Week III. Reread Hebrews 3.13 noting the word deceitfulness. Why is sin deceitful? On this read 1 John 3.4 noting the word lawlessness. How is that deceitful? On this read Romans 7.9 noting the words alive, apart, revived and died. What kind of life was that? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the words ease and merry. What’s wrong with this light-heartedness? On this read John 16.33 noting the word tribulation. Read also Romans 7.24 noting the word wretched. And how do I die when sin is accentuated? On this read 1 Corinthians 14.24–25 noting the line the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and… falling on his face. How is this falling down a dying? On this read Luke 15.24 noting the equation of the words lost and dead. And how does the law revive sin? On this read Ephesians 5.11 noting the word expose. Have you tried that?

Week IV. Read Hebrews 3.13 one last time noting the line exhort… every day. Why is that needed? On this read 2 Thessalonians 3.6–12 noting the connection between idleness and exhortation. What makes us idle – so much so that we need pushing if we are going to get going? On this read 1 Corinthians 9.24 noting the words run and compete. These stand against laziness. Read also Philippians 3.13–14 noting the words straining and press on. These words also go against the laziness of the flesh – as in the laziness of drunkenness in Galatians 5.21. What’s behind our laziness? On this read 2 Timothy 3.3–4 noting the words pleasure and profligates or lovers of extreme luxury. What makes us like that? On this read Romans 13.14 noting the gratifying of the desires of the flesh. What draws us there? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the word transient, and Colossians 3.2 noting the word earth. Is that why we need to be born anew in John 3.3?

 

 

Hosea 4:14

 

April 2020, Number 326

 

 

Week I. Read Hosea 4.14 noting the word prostitutes. What is a prostitute? On this read Amos 7.17 noting the line your wife shall be a harlot in the city. This implies that she earned money by having sex with strangers. What does God think of prostitution? Is it a way for untrained women to achieve financial independence? (see Gregor Gall, Sex Workers Unionization, 2016). On this read Proverbs 5.3–14 noting the words bitter, death, wander, groan and ruin. How shall we then regard prostitutes? On this read Proverbs 29.3 noting the line squanders his substance. Prohibition follows from this. Note also the words sin and wickedness in Romans 6.12–13. Read also 1 Corinthians 6.15–19 noting the words never, join, one, shun and temple. They also are words of prohibition. Is it punished, then if practiced? On this read Deuteronomy 22.21 noting the word stone. Read also Genesis 38.24 noting the word burned. Why then would anyone want to practice it? On this read John 3.19 noting the words love and darkness. Does that make for fast money in prostitution? Is that gain worth the risk?

Week II. Read again Hosea 4.14 noting the same word prostitutes. What did Jesus think of them? On this read John 8.3–11 noting the words caught, stone, test, without, sin, away, condemn and neither. Even though this woman was not technically a prostitute, the sexual infraction was similar (adultery – sex outside of marriage). What does Jesus add to the analysis of guilt? Both are at fault in the sexual infraction – because either could have stopped it by refraining. So he condemns neither the woman nor the men. Even though Jesus shows mercy all around, he still concludes with do not sin again. Why is that? On this read Romans 6.1 noting the tension between the words grace and sin. So grace can abound without sin abounding too. For admission of guilt does not imply permission to sin.

 

Week III. Reread Hosea 4.14 noting the word cult. How did prostitution become a part of the cult in the temple? On this read Ephesians 5.18 noting the competitive words debauchery and spirit – as they vie for dominance in one and the same person. What does that tell us about prostitution sneaking into the temple? Just as the passion in drunkenness takes over the passion of the Holy Spirit, so the passion of worship and sacrifice in the temple are usurped by sexual passion. On this matter read Galatians 5.23 noting the word self-control. This is to offset fleshly passion. On the norm of spiritual passion, read Romans 12.11 noting the words zeal and aglow. Self-control, without destroying passion, measures it so that it isn’t misused – as in the cases of cult prostitution and drunkenness. Another use of cult prostitution was trying to guarantee fertility. On this read 1 Samuel 1.5 noting the phrase closed her womb, as well as Isaiah 66.9 noting the phrase shut the womb. Note also the phrase opened her womb in Genesis 30.22. So if God controls fertility, control by prostitution wouldn’t work.

 

Week IV. Read Hosea 4.14 one last time noting the words punish and   ruin. Why is there both blessing and curse here – no punishment and yet still ruin? On this read John 8.3–11 again noting that same shared guilt between the woman and the man. God has mercy on the women prostitutes here because of the men who buy their services – since they share in the guilt of the prostitutes. But that doesn’t prevent the ruin from taking place. On this read 1 Thessalonians 4.3–6 noting the words abstain, unchastity, honor, lust, wrong and avenger. Abstinence therefore is required to ward off the contamination that the sexual infraction brings. Why is this allowed to take place? On this read 1 Corinthians 6.16 noting the line one body with her. This is an unavoidable consequence of the sin. God allows it to take place. Why is that? On this read Galatians 6.7 noting the words mocked and reap. So to break the moral deduction from sowing to reaping mocks God – and therefore it cannot be done. God’s holiness can surpass his benevolence. Does that explain Romans 7.12 about the holiness of the law and Matthew 5.17 about the inviolability of the law?


 

John 5.14

May 2020,  Number 327

 

Week I. Read John 5.14 noting the word sin. Why worry about it? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line destroys much good. How so? On this read 1 John 3.4 noting the word lawlessness, and Romans 14.23 noting the word doubts. How does breaking the law and giving up on the certainty of faith do that? On this read Matthew 25.24 noting the word hard, and Romans 11.22 noting the word severe. What makes God so foreboding? On this read Galatians 6.7 noting the word reap – which is about being punished for the bad seeds we sow. Note also how God’s wrath pays back our disobedience in John 3:36. Read also Hebrews 10.29–31 noting the connection between God and punishment. Why does God punish sin instead of overlooking it and cutting us slack? On this read Psalm 106.29 noting the word provoked. How is it possible for us to get under God’s skin? On this read Psalm 99.5 noting the correlation between the words holy and footstool. Why do we have to honor God’s holiness? On this read Isaiah 55.9 noting the double use of the word higher regarding God’s ways and thoughts. Does disregarding that great difference diminish God? On this read Romans 1.24–25 noting how that disregard can’t touch God but instead denigrates us with dishonor when we worship creatures rather than the one holy God. This attack on the created order with its extreme and rigid demarcation – setting God apart from people – is what provokes God. As long as that extreme difference stands, God will be provoked by sin instead of looking the other way. Do you agree? If not, why not?

 

Week II. Read again John 5.14 noting the line sin no more. Can we do that? On this read 1 John 5.3 noting the line commandments are not burdensome. What makes this possible? On this read Philippians 4.13 noting the line in Christ who strengthens me. So if we receive strength from Christ, we can stop sinning. But what about Romans 7.18? – I cannot do what is right. On this read Hebrews 2.1–3 noting the line drift away… from such a great salvation. If, then, we are cut off from the power of Christ by our willful neglect of him, we, then, can’t stop sinning. On this read Hebrews 12.2 linking the phrase looking to Jesus with Hebrews 12.12–16 and the six verbs lift, strengthen, make straight, strive, obtain and be. Do you believe in that linkage? If so, why? How important is it?

 

Week III. Reread John 5.14 noting the line nothing worse befall you. What already had hurt him? On this read John 5.4 noting the words lame and paralyzed. What else could trouble him? In that same verse note the word blind. Now how is it possible for distress to be heaped upon distress like that? On this read Matthew 12.43–45 noting the contrasting words swept and evil, order and worse. Why doesn’t the clean life stay cleaned? Note in those same verses that it is the nature of the unclean spirits to look for rest in healed people. How do they get away with that? On this read 1 Peter 5.8–9 noting the words resist and firm. So as long as we’re lax we’ll fail. On this read Jeremiah 48.10 noting the word slackness, and the word armor in Ephesians 6.11. Are you ready? If not, why not?

 

Week IV. Read John 5.14 one last time noting the word befall. How does that happen? On this read Luke 13.1–5 noting the phrase likewise perish. How does God do that? On this read Ezekiel 14.21 noting the line sword, famine, evil beast, and pestilence. Why would God be so cruel? On this read Romans 1.24 noting the line God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. What possible good purposes could these divine acts have? On this read 1 Corinthians 5.3–5 noting the line that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Well, there is surely no better purpose than that! But why can’t we be saved differently? On this read John 6.44 noting the coercive word draws. That’s needed because Romans 11.24 says that our nature is contrary to God. Do you agree? 


 

 

2 Chronicles 36.16

 

 June 2020, Number 328

Week I. Read 2 Chronicles 36.16 noting the words mocking, despising, and scoffing. When did that happen? Check out 2 Chronicles 15.1–8 noting the conflict between King Asa and the prophet Azariah over the abominable idols in Israel. Why was Israel for a long time without the true God – pursuing idols instead? On this read 1 Samuel 3.1 noting the line the word of the Lord was rare in those days. Why was that? Check out Psalm 81.11 noting the line my people did not listen to my voice. Why was that? On this read Isaiah 30.10 noting the desire for smooth things. Why was that? For an idea check out Amos 6.1–6 noting the words ease, secure, and idle in contrast to the line not grieved over the ruin of Joseph. And who are the ruined? On this read Amos 2.6– 8 noting the mistreatment of the needy, poor and afflicted – and the sexual perversity of father and son. Because Azariah condemned this misbehavior, he was mocked, despised and scoffed at.

 

Week II. Read again 2 Chronicles 36.16 noting the same three words mocking, despising, and scoffing. For another example of this abuse of prophecy, read 2 Chronicles 19.1–3 noting the clash between King Jehoshaphat and the prophet Jehu. Note the infraction of loving those who hate the Lord. What’s that like? On this read Isaiah 5.20 about mixing up good and evil. What’s an example of this? On this read Deuteronomy 8.17 noting the misuse of the gift of power. Note also the misuse of insight in Proverbs 3.5. Check out as well the corruption of kings in Hosea 8.4. And also read about the mixing up of the holy and the common in Ezekiel 22.26. Why do we do this? For an answer, go to 2 Corinthians 6.14–18 noting the words mismatched and separate. Why do we ignore these differences? Check out Romans 1.18 noting the suppression of the truth. What’s behind that? Read Romans 1.25 about exchanging opposing forces – truth and lies, creation and Creator. Is this to follow the false God of confusion in 1 Corinthians 14.33? How so?

 

Week III. Reread 2 Chronicles 36.16 noting the line till the wrath of God rose against his people. What is this wrath? On this read 2 Chronicles 21.14–15 noting the words plague and bowels. Over the generations this has mostly been cholera. Why does God inflict such a severe, ongoing, day by day, disease? On this read Ezekiel 5.13–17 noting venting of fury and jealousy. Does that explain it? Go to Psalm 99.3 noting the link between holy and terrible. How does holiness do this? On this read Isaiah 55.8 noting the clash and contrast between the ways of God and our ways. Does that explain the wrath and fury of God? On this read 1 Samuel 15.3–9, 19 noting how King Saul wouldn’t destroy all that the Amalekites had. Our moral scruples are different than God’s. They look better. On this read Deuteronomy 7.16 noting the problem of serving the gods of the defeated enemy – for fear of being snared by those gods. In this case obeying God matters more than saving human lives. What do you think of that?

 

Week IV. Read 2 Chronicles 36.16 one last time noting the line till there was no remedy. What’s that about? On this read Romans 9.16 noting that our salvation does not depend on us. Read also Jeremiah 18.1–17 noting that God does with us whatever seems good to him. So the standard of goodness has to do with God’s liking and not with ours. So the remedy that’s gone is of our making. But God still has his remedy. And what is it? Note Jeremiah 30.10–24 where the incurable are given health (vv 12, 17). So the remedy comes from God. On this read Ezekiel 11.19 noting the new spirit that God puts in us. How does he do this? For an answer, check out James 1.21 noting the implanted word. How does this word get by our resistance to it? On this read Acts 9.3–9 noting the words suddenly, flashed, fell and led. All of these words are out of our control. God can make them happen when he wishes. On this read Psalm 115.3 noting the line our God is in the heaven; he does whatever he pleases. God doesn’t consult with us. On this read Galatians 4.4 noting the connection between the right time and sent. We had nothing to do with that key event. Do you agree?

 

 

1 John 3.18

July 2020, Number 329

 

Week I. Read 1 John 3.18 noting the contrast between word and deed. Even though deeds are favored over words, can words ever matter much? Check out Proverbs 25.11 noting the words fitly, gold and silver. What are fitly spoken words and why do they matter? On this read Isaiah 50.4 noting the words sustain and weary. Why does this matter? Note Elijah in 1 Kings 19.1–4 about wanting to die. Because we can sink into despair, offering comfort can save lives. Fitly spoken words can do this. Does that make you great if you can help in this way? Check out Matthew 10.19–20 noting the words say, given, Spirit and through. Are we only servants, then, and not valued therapists? On this read Luke 17.10 noting the phrase unworthy servants. Read also 2 Corinthians 3.5 noting the line our competence… not… coming from us. Where does that leave us when we help somebody by saying the right things? Check out 1 Corinthians 10.31 noting the line do all to the glory of God. Read also Colossians 3.17 noting the similar line do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Does that settle how you should think about yourself when you help someone?

 

Week II. Read again 1 John 3.18 noting the same two words word and deed. Is there any other value in speaking even though deeds surpass words? Read Romans 10.17 noting the words faith, heard and preaching. How does this work? Note Acts 2.37 and the line they were cut to the heart. Words preached can do this! That’s something like words getting under your skin, as we say. How do they do that? Read James 1.21 and the line the implanted word which is able to save your souls. How is that word implanted in us? Check out Isaiah 55.11 and the line my word… goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty. So God’s words have force – they aren’t inert like printed letters on a page. For an example of this, see Acts 9.1–20 noting the words light, flashed, fell, eyes, filled, scales and proclaimed. Are you convinced? If so, why?

 

Week III. Reread 1 John 3.18 noting the word deed. Why are deeds more important than words? On this read 1 Corinthians 4.20 noting the line the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. Why are deeds more powerful than talking? Go to John 13.35 noting how knowledge of God comes from seeing believers love one another. How does love do this? Read Proverbs 25.21–22 noting how your hardened enemy is softened – melted by coals of fire on his head – when you love him by sharing food and drink. How does that work? Read Philemon 1.7 noting how love can refresh with the joy and comfort it brings. Read also 1 Peter 4.8 about how love covers a multitude of sins. How so? By being forgiving and gracious – and helpful when unexpected. This can draw people in. Does it always work? On this read Matthew 26.46–27.5 noting the word friend at the beginning and hanged at the end. Jesus didn’t attack Judas for betraying him, and still Judas killed himself. The love of Jesus couldn’t save Judas. Do you agree?

 

Week IV. Read 1 John 3.18 one last time noting again the word deed. What other deeds move us in ways that words can’t? On this read Matthew 15.21–28 noting how the woman was ready to eat crumbs with the dogs from under the master’s table. That act moved Jesus to exclaim – O woman, great is your faith! This same humility is in Luke 18.9–14 which ends in praise – he who humbles himself will be exalted. Read also John 6.1–14 noting the lad’s generosity – ending up with five thousand eating as much as they wanted. The miracle could have been opening the hearts of stingy people so that they too shared what they had, instead of physically multiplying the five barley loaves and two fishes first donated by the boy. Another case is in Ruth 2.8–13 where Ruth’s devotion to Naomi moves Boaz to befriend Ruth in Bethlehem. Read also about David’s love for Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1.1–27 upon hearing of Jonathan’s death. Do these cases help explain why we are to match our love with God’s in 1 John 4.19? How so?

 

Hebrews 1.14

August 2019, Number 318

Week I. Read Hebrews 1.14 noting the word salvation. What does this salvation do for us? On this read Hebrews 9.26 noting the line to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Why did sin need to be so treated? On this read both John 3.36 and Romans 5.9 noting the phrase the wrath of God. Why does sin deserve the wrath of God? On this read Ecclesiastes 9.18 noting the line one sinner destroys much good. Is that enough of a reason to incur the wrath of God? On this read Isaiah 59.2 noting the words separation, hid and hear. How is such severe damaged reversed? On this read Romans 8.3 noting the two phrases for sin and condemned sin. How is Jesus able to do that by sacrificing himself? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line he bore our sins in his body on the tree. What did that bearing do to sin? On this read Isaiah 53.11 noting the words see, travail and satisfied. What does this divine satisfaction do to our sinfulness? On this read Romans 6.23 noting the phrase wages of sin. If the suffering of Jesus eliminates the need for any wages posted against sin, what’s left of sin? On this read 1 Peter 1.18 noting the word ransomed, and 1 Corinthians 7.23 noting the word price. With the price being paid, sin no longer has any strength to condemn sinners. Where does that then leave us?

Week II. Read again Hebrews 1.14 noting this time the word who. Who is this? Read Romans 8.29 noting the word predestined. Who are they? On this read Matthew 22.14 noting the contrast between the words called and chosen. If the predestined are the chosen, who choses them? On this read John 15.16 noting the line I chose you. What is the principle of selection used? Who qualifies? On this read Romans 9.18 noting the phrase whomever he wills. So are there no principles involved? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the line without your Father’s will. What principle is this? On this read Psalm 62.1 noting the words alone, waits and salvation. Read also Psalm 62.11 noting the line power belongs to God. Note as well the line in Romans 9.16 – it depends not upon man’s will or exertion. Selections then are based on God’s authority and not on our personal or spiritual qualifications. That’s the criterion. What do you think of it?

Week III. Reread Hebrews 1.14 noting this time the word obtain. Why does salvation need to be obtained or acquired? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the category this body of death. What is it like being this way? On this read Psalm 49.7–8 noting the line the price of his life… is costly. Where does that leave us? On this read Psalm 51.5 noting the line I was brought forth in iniquity. Is our natural state, then, one of being lost? On this read Luke 15.15–19 noting the words swine, no and worthy. Do we know this about ourselves? On this read John 3.19 noting the words loved and darkness. Read also Revelation 3.17 noting the contrast between the words rich and poor. How could we be so wrong about ourselves? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the words blinded and keep. How about that!

Week IV. Read Hebrews 1.14 one last time noting again the word obtain. How do we obtain this salvation in order to displace our wretchedness? On this note the reference to the ministering spirits sent forth to serve in Hebrews 1.14. What do they do for us? On this read Luke 1.32–33 noting the words great, High, throne, reign and end. How important is this revelation? On this read Matthew 13.55 noting the category the carpenter’s son. What does that tell us? On this read Matthew 11.27 noting the line chooses to reveal him. So are we closed off from God and salvation without such angelic words of revelation? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the category the dominion of darkness. Does that settle it? Is it either darkness or angelic revelation? On this read Luke 1.79 noting the line to give light to those who sit in darkness. Are those the only options? On this read Luke 16.26 noting the line a great chasm has been fixed. Does it divide light from darkness and nothing else? If you see a third option somewhere or some halfway spot in between, show how if fits with these verses.

 

 

Isaiah 6.4

 

September 2019, Number 319

 

 

Week I. Read Isaiah 6.4 noting the word shook. Martin Luther believed that this shaking is at the very heart of God’s truth – terrifying and humbling us so that we will give up on everything we formally trusted in and abandon all of our self-assurance (LW 16:71). On this read Isaiah 66.2 noting the line trembles at my word. Why can’t we be more confident and assertive before God? On this read Isaiah 30.9 noting the words rebellious and lying, and the line will not hear the instruction of the Lord, as well as Isaiah 48.4 noting the words obstinate, iron and brass. Is this too negative an assessment of us? On this read Isaiah 1.5–6 noting the words whole and no. Why are we so sick and unstable? On this read Isaiah 59.14–15 noting the two lines truth has fallen and truth is lacking. Why have we given up on the truth? On this read Isaiah 58.13 noting the line seeking your own pleasure [and] talking idly. Would truth interrupt these? On this read Isaiah 48.18–19 noting the cutting off of the words peace, righteousness and name. What do you think of that?

 

Week II. Read again Isaiah 6.4 noting the same word shook. What is it about God that upsets us? On this read Isaiah 5.21 noting the line woe to those who are wise in their own eyes. What’s so wrong with that? On this read Isaiah 9.17 noting the words godless, evildoer and folly. Where does that blindness lead us? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the switching around of the words evil and good, darkness and light, bitter and sweet. What else is upsetting? On this read Isaiah 40.21–23 noting the words grasshoppers and nought. How is it that God so dominates? On this read Isaiah 41.4 noting the words calling, first and last. Where does that verse put God? On this read Isaiah 41.11–12 noting the words war and nothing. Where does God get such power over war? On this read Isaiah 55.11 noting the words word, accomplish and prosper. How can God’s word do that? On this read Isaiah 43.3–13 noting the words holy, henceforth and hinder. So is God’s unique power intrinsic to him – and nothing more?

 

Week III. Reread Isaiah 6.4 noting again the word shook. What else is there about God that’s upsetting? On this read Isaiah 64.6 noting the words righteous and polluted. Why don’t our righteous deeds please God? On this read Isaiah 1.13 noting the words offerings and assemblies – both of which are commanded and good but vain. Is something more needed than objectively correct actions? On this read Isaiah 57.15 noting the words contrite and heart. What’s to be avoided here? On this read Isaiah 9.9 noting the words pride and arrogance. How is a good heart added to good behavior – in order to keep our good deeds from being polluted? On this read Isaiah 51.7 noting the words law and heart. Does this explain why God replaces perfume with rottenness in Isaiah 3.24 – perfume being superficial? Is that why the beautiful is equated with the proud and lofty in Isaiah 2.12–16?

 

Week IV. Read Isaiah 6.4 one last time noting again that word shook. Anything else about God’s truth that’s upsetting? On this read Isaiah 64.8 noting the words we, clay and potter. Why does that rankle us – so much so that we want to switch the words around and turn them upside down as in Isaiah 29.16? On this read Isaiah 64.8 again noting this line we are all the work of thy hand. On this read further Isaiah 43.20–21 noting the line my chosen people… whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. This locks us into a life before God worshipping him. But that’s too confining, we say! On this read Isaiah 30.11 noting the line let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel. Why is that the case? On this read Isaiah 30.10 noting the category smooth things. What are they? On this read Isaiah 32.9–11 noting the double mention of the words ease and complacent. Why do we want the easy way out? On this read Isaiah 24.5 noting the words polluted, transgressed, violated and broken. What do these words make us? On this read Isaiah 5.2 noting the category wild grapes. How bad is that? As bad as deeply embedded defiance. Do you agree?


 

Romans 13.4

 

October 2019, Number 320

Week I. Read Romans 13.4 noting the word sword. Who uses this sword? On this read Romans 13.1 noting the category governing authorities. They are the police, soldiers and executioners. Who can they kill? On this read again Romans 13.4 noting the word wrongdoers. Are they political activists, or something worse? On this read Romans 13.2 noting the category resists authorities. So they are not protesters. They instead are the ones trying to kill us. Why can’t they be stopped by talking to them? On this read 2 Timothy 3.3 noting the words inhuman, implacable and fierce. Why are they this way? They don’t listen to reason as in James 3.17. And they are embroiled with passions as in James 4.3. What’s an example of this? On this read about David killing Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:41–51 noting the words disdained, dog, cursed, and defiled. Also read about Samson in Judges 15:14–17 noting the words jawbone, slew and thousand. Note as well Acts 12.20–23 noting the words angry, god, smote and worms. And note the rescue of Paul by soldiers in Acts 23.27.

Week II. Read again Romans 13.4 noting the same word sword. Was  Jesus in favor of using swords? On this read Matthew 5.39 noting the line turn... the other cheek. Read also Matthew 26.52 noting the line put your sword back,…. for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Was Jesus then a pacific? On this read Luke 22.38 noting the words two, swords and enough. But were they ever used in self-defense? On this read John 18.36 noting the line if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world. So is Jesus out of sync with the rest of the New Testament? On this other view read 1 Peter 2.14 noting the words governors, punish and wrong – as well as Romans 13.4 from last week. How do these two directions go together? The Bible doesn’t say. Luther thought pacifism had to do with mercenaries and vigilantes, and violence with social jurisdiction and international relations (Luther’s Works 46:134). Do you agree?

Week III. Reread Romans 13.4 noting again the word sword. Are we then not allowed to defend ourselves and families from intruders? Are we to absorb the violence hurled against us as Jesus did – which Philippians 2.5 and 1 Peter 2.21 seems to suggest? On this read Luke 4.30 noting the words through and away. Here Jesus doesn’t absorb the violence. Read also John 10.39 noting the word escaped, and John 8.59 noting the words hid and out. Read also 2 Corinthians 11.33 noting that same word escaped. Matthew 16.24 says Christians are to follow Jesus – imitating his way of life. This, we see, includes both absorbing violence and fleeing from it – without any directions on how to do it. On this read 1 Corinthians 6.15–19 noting the words never, joins, against and temple. So reckless endangerment is ruled out – perhaps giving us a criterion to follow. On this same point, read Matthew 4.6–7 noting the words throw and tempt.

Week IV. Read Romans 13.4 one last time noting again the word sword. Anything more on self-defense? On this read 1 Timothy 5.8 noting the word provide. Would that include killing an intruder if there were no other way to protect your family and relatives from some brutal attack? Note in that verse the closing line about those who fail to help out – he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Does that severe indictment open the way for the use of violence to stop violence? On this read Luke 11.21 noting the line when a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. If guarding when fully armed includes violently stopping violent assaults, then Christians using violence against violence wouldn’t be ruled out – even if it still wouldn’t be the first choice in resolving problems. On that first choice read 1 Corinthians 12.31 noting the line I will show you a still more excellent way – which is the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13.

 

Jeremiah 9.23

November 2019, Number 321

Week I. Read Jeremiah 9.23 noting the line let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Why not? On this read Jeremiah 9.24 noting the line understands and knows me. Why does God matter more than our wisdom does? On this read 1 Corinthians 2.6–7 noting the words age, pass, hidden, decreed and glorification. Why does eternal wisdom matter more than the temporal wisdom of the age? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.17–18 noting the phrase eternal weight of glory. Why is a weighty glory more valuable? On this read Hebrews 2.15 noting the line through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. Because weight waylays this fear it is more valuable. How does it do this? On this read Ephesians 1.7 noting the words redemption, blood and riches. What makes this death rich and all who believe in it at peace? On this read Ephesians 5.2 noting the line a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Why does God need this? On this read Romans 5.9 and John 3.36 noting the words wrath and God. And read Colossians 1.20 to see how peace comes when God’s wrath is overcome. How so? On this read John 10.28 noting the words perish and snatch. How valuable is this assurance? On this read Luke 16.23–28 noting the two uses of the word torment. Does that settle it? What do you think?

 

Week II. Read again Jeremiah 9.23 noting this time the line let not the mighty man glory in his might. Why not? On this read Deuteronomy 8.17 noting the words beware, might and wealth. Why is it so risky to have such confidence in our own might? On this read Acts 17.28 noting the line live and move and have our being. What is the extent of this dependence on God? On this read Psalm 104.29 noting the words take and die. That’s quite severe. So if confidence is the wrong way to go, what’s the right way? On this read Ephesians 5.20 noting the words always and thanks. Read also Luke 17.16 noting the word thanks there too. Why is thanksgiving so far superior? On this read Psalm 100.4–5 noting the connection between the words thanksgiving and endures. How about that?

 

Week III. Reread Jeremiah 9.23 noting the other line let not the rich man glory in his riches. Why not? On this read 1 Timothy 6.9–10 noting the words destruction, love and pangs. So to spare us this pain we shouldn’t glory in our riches and love them. What’s a better way to go? On this read Luke 10.35 noting the word spend. What makes this a good use of your money? Note the word compassion in Luke 10.33. Read also Mark 7.11–13 noting stealing money set aside to help your father and mother. Why is this important? On this read Ephesians 6.1–3 noting the words honor and commandment. So compassion for the needy and obedience to the commands of God are a better way to treat your money than love it. Why is that? On this read Mark 10.18 noting the words God and good. That means we should look to God for right guidance and not what feels good to us. Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

Week IV. Read Jeremiah 9.23 one last time noting the multiple uses of the word not. Why does God stand against us like that – opposing our wisdom, might and riches? On this read 1 John 2.15–16 noting the words lust and pride. Why is the world that way? On this read John 3.19 noting the line loved the darkness. What’s the consequence of these verses? On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the line the heart… is desperately corrupt. Jeremiah 17.5 therefore says that we are not to be trusted. And so God opposes our wisdom, might and riches. Where does that leave us? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the words wretched and deliver. How does God rescue us? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the word transferred. This we can’t do because of our corruption. But God can and does do it. Why is that? On this read Ephesians 2.4 noting the phrase rich in mercy. What shall we say to this? Read Psalm 52.8 noting the words trust, God and forever. Not bad. Right?

 


 Peter 2.10

December 2019, Number 322

 

Week I. Read 2 Peter 2.10 noting the phrase defiling passion. Who suffers from this? On this read 2 Peter 2.9 noting the word unrighteous. Does their defiling of passion ruin all passions? On this read Psalm 69.9 noting the word zeal. Note also the same word zeal in Romans 12.11. Why are these positive uses of zeal or passion important? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the three uses of the word all. What does that signify? On this read Philippians 2.12 noting the words obeyed, work, fear and trembling. Why is such arduous exertion needed? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the words wretched and death. What makes us so bad? On this read Ephesians 2.3 noting the line by nature children of wrath. What are the consequences of this origin? On this read Romans 1.31 noting the line faithless, heartless, ruthless. On this read John 3.19 noting the line loved the darkness. What does that do to us? On this read John 2.25 noting the distrust of people because of what was in man. Is that why such an urgent, diligent struggle is needed – because we are so untrustworthy?

 

Week II. Read again 2 Peter 2.10 noting the same phrase defiling passion. How does this bad passion differ from the good passion that fights against sin? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2–4 noting the phrase swollen with conceit that makes us inhuman. Why is this self-preoccupation so bad? On this read Isaiah 43.21 noting the line I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. How is this purpose at odds with self-absorption? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.15 noting the contrast and mutual exclusion between living for yourself and living for Christ. Why can’t these go together – loving Jesus and yourself at the same time? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line nothing good dwells within me. Read also Mark 7.20 noting the line what comes out of a man is what defiles man. Contrast this with Hebrews 4.15 noting the line Jesus… in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Does this difference between Christ and us lead to no agreement between us, as stated in 2 Corinthians 6.16? If so, does that keep the mutual exclusion in place? If so, where does that take us? Could it be to Galatians 2.20? – it is no longer I who live.

 

Week III. Reread 2 Peter 2.10 noting this time the phase despise authority. Why do the unrighteous do this? On this read Galatians 5.19 noting the word licentiousness. Why do we prefer doing whatever we want – which is what being licentious means? On this read Romans 6.20 noting the line free in regard to righteousness. Why does that delight us? On this read Romans 6.17 noting the line obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching. Why do we reject this obedience in favor of being free? On this read Judges 17.6 and 21.25 noting the same line in both every man did what was right in his own eyes. Against this read Proverbs 3.7 noting the line be not wise in your own eyes. How can we break this evil spell – wanting to suit [our] own liking, as in 2 Timothy 4.3? On this read 2 Thessalonians 1.5–10 noting the righteous judgment of God, vengeance, and the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord. Add to this the four sore acts of judgment in Ezekiel 14.21. Do you think that’ll do it – to keep us from licentiousness?

 

Week IV. Read 2 Peter 2.10 one last time again noting the phrase despise authority. What is it like living with the authority of God rather than despising it? On this read John 10.9 noting the line go in and out and find pasture. We long for God’s authority because his wisdom feeds us. 1 Corinthians 2.6 says this authority goes well beyond what it calls the wisdom of this age. That’s the pasture we long for. On this read John 10.26 noting the word belong. When we obey God’s authority we belong to him. This gives us an identity and security found nowhere else. Is that enough to draw you to God’s authority – and forego your freedom? Why or why not? Read Hebrews 12.2 for help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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.]