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?


Ephesians 3.14


March 2019, Number 313

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

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

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



Isaiah 8.13


April 2019, Number 314

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

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

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

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


Romans 8.17

May 2019,  Number 315


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


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


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


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



Esther 4.16


 June 2019, Number 316

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

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

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

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



Luke 16.15

July 2019, Number 317


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

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

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

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


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.]