BSF Study Questions John Lesson 14, Day 4: John 10:11-21

Summary of passage:  Jesus declares he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for His sheep.  A hired hand cares nothing for his sheep.  He knows his sheep and the sheep know him just as God knows him and vice versa.  Jesus will bring other sheep.  He freely lays down his life and takes it up again as God has commanded.  Many Jews still insisted he is demon-possessed and did not believe.  But many believed.

Questions:

8 )  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Lay down his life for his sheep.  Jesus’ crucifixion.  Eternally grateful.

9)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Gentiles.  God calls all and wants all to be with Him.

10)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus is God.

Conclusions:  Would have liked to explore the Gentiles more.  Pretty weak questioning today.

End Notes:  “I am the Good Shepherd” (Another I am statement–the 4th of 7 that are unique to John’s Gospel and point to Jesus’ unique, divine identity and purpose) is clear to the Jews–He is the one to care for them.

“Lays down his life” is perpetually. Jesus is always giving us life.

Jesus here declares he is for the Gentiles as well (the other sheep) and he will bring them together as one.  All the sheep will hear, answer and obey, the shepherd.

Lost in translation:  early translations of the Bible had “one fold” instead of “one flock”.  A fold of sheep is only a part of the flock.  Here, some churches used this mistake to justify exclusiveness.

Jesus can raise himself from the dead–what separates him as God and us as man.

That Christ would die for his people runs through this section of John’s Gospel.  Both the love and the plan of the Father are involved, as well as the authority he gave to the Son.  Christ obediently and voluntarily chose to die; otherwise, no one would have had the power to kill him (Luke 23:46).

Jesus, again, divides humanity (John 7:43; 9:16)–as it will be during the Last Days.

Both words and deeds validate Jesus.  Here Jesus was saving souls and telling people he’s gonna die for them and he’s accused of demon-possession?  What demon would ever do such a thing?

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BSF Study Questions John Lesson 14, Day 3: John 10:1-13 & Ezekiel 34:1-16; 30-31

Summary of passages:  John 10:1-13:Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep to explain himself and believers. The only way into the pen is through him (the gate). The one who enters through the gate is the leader (Jesus). The sheep (believers) follow him and only him and know his voice. They will not follow a stranger. They flee from strangers.

Jesus explains he is the gate and whoever enters through him will be saved and have life.  The thief comes to steal and kill.  Jesus explains he is the good shepherd.  He knows his sheep and they know him. A hired hand cares nothing for his sheep.  He runs when a wolf attacks.

Ezekiel 34:1-16; 30-31:  Ezekiel prophesies that the shepherds of the Lord (here the rulers as well as the priests) have not taken care of their sheep.  They have not healed the wounded or brought back the strays.  So they were scattered and became food for wild animals.  Because God’s sheep has no shepherd He is against them and He will look for His sheep and care for them and bring them to Him.  God declares His people His sheep and He is their Lord.

Questions:

5a)  The false shepherds in Ezekiel do not care for their sheep.  They take everything from the sheep (curds, wool, and meat).  They do not heal the wounded or the sick.  They do not bring back the strays.  They rule the sheep harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered and eaten by wild animals.  The false shepherds in John come to steal, kill, and destroy.  The hired hand abandons the flock and allows it to be scattered.  He runs away and cares nothing for the sheep.

b)  He will search for His sheep and look after them.  He will rescue them from the places they were scattered.  He will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries and bring them into their own land.  He will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  He will tend them in a good pasture and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land.  They will lie down there and graze in rich pasture.  He will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.  He will shepherd with justice.  They will know He is their Lord and they are His sheep.

6)  Those who believe in him as the Son of God and Savior will have eternal life.

7a)  Personal Question.  My answers:  Be armed with the armor of God:  His word, His promises, a personal relationship with the Son, prayer, strong faith, the Holy Spirit, the belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-20).  Know God’s/Jesus’ voice and follow it.  Know Him!

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I am so blessed I don’t know where to begin.  My life, my family, my ease, my freedoms, my relationship with Jesus and God, eternal life, everything.  In this season of thanksgiving, I feel very thankful.

Conclusions:  Great to read God as shepherd and Jesus as shepherd.  Reinforces the Trinity and how God cares for His people.

End Notes: John 10:1-13:  So right after Jesus healed the blind man and the religious leaders threw a fit cause it was on the Sabbath and didn’t believe Jesus did it, Jesus talks about actually caring for people instead of caring more for legalities and rules.

In OT times and ancient Near Eastern culture, the shepherd symbolized the royal caretaker of God’s people. God himself was called the “Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1, 23:1; Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:11-16, Zechariah 10:2) and he had given great responsibility to the leaders (shepherds) of Israel, which they failed to respect. God denounced these false shepherds (Isaiah 56:9-12; Ezekiel 34) and promised to provide the true Shepherd, the Messiah, to care for the sheep (Ezekiel 34:23).

“I tell you the truth” is common in John’s Gospel and indicates a solemn assertion about Jesus and/or his ministry.

Political and spiritual leaders were often called shepherds in the ancient world (Isaiah 56:11, Jeremiah 31:5). Jesus explained that not everyone among the sheep is a true shepherd; some are like thieves and robbers. One way to tell the difference is how they gain entry among the sheep.

The idea is that there is a door (a gate), a proper way to gain entry. Not everyone who stands among the sheep comes that way. Some climb up some other way.

The religious leaders Jesus is speaking about gained their place among God’s people (the sheep) through personal and political connections, ambition, manipulation, and corruption.

A true shepherd comes through love, calling, care, and sacrificial service.

God wants His people to be led, fed, and protected by those who come in love.

The watchman knows the true shepherd. Towns of that time would have a watchman who watched over all the people’s sheep at night.

A shepherd knows all of his sheep and they know him. A shepherd may even name the sheep and the sheep may even know their name. He calls them and they follow.

According to Adam Clarke, there are 6 marks of a true shepherd in these verses:

· He has a proper entrance into the ministry

· He sees the Holy Spirit open his way as a doorkeeper to God’s sheep

· He sees that the sheep respond to his voice in teaching and leadership

· He is well acquainted with his flock

· He leads the flock and does not drive them or lord it over them

· He goes before the sheep as an example

In sheep pens of the time, there was only one entrance or gate.  Shepherds would sleep in front of the gate at night to protect the sheep.  Hence, the shepherd is the gate.

“All who came before” are the religious leaders Jesus spoke of in John 8:43:47–those whose father is the devil.

Jesus’ followers did not listen to the thieves and robbers.

“Come in and go out” is the common O.T. expression to denote the free activity of daily life. Jeremiah 37:4, Psalm 121:8, Deuteronomy 28:6.

“Abundant” in the Greek denotes a surplus.  Abundant life is a contented life.  It’s not an easy life or comfortable life but one of peace in Jesus.

“I am the Good Shepherd”  (Another I am statement–the 4th of 7 that are unique to John’s Gospel and point to Jesus’ unique, divine identity and purpose) is clear to the Jews–He is the one to care for them.

“Lays down his life” is perpetually.  Jesus is always giving us life.

In sum, the Good Shepherd: gives his life, knows his sheep, and is known by his sheep. This analogy applies to church leaders and pastors today.

Ezekiel 34:1-16, 30-31:  God promises the removal of the false shepherds and the promise of the Good Shepherd (Jesus).  The shepherds here are more rulers and their officials than the priests.  Remember David was the first ruler and he was shepherd.  This is deliberate.  To call a king a shepherd was common in the East at this time.  The disciples were fishermen whose job was to catch fish (men) for God.

Fun Fact:  The image of God as a shepherd begins with Jacob (Genesis 48:15) and end with Revelation 7:17.  Ezekiel developed the image of God as shepherd in more detail than any other author in the Bible.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 14, Day 5: Revelation 8-9

Summary of Revelation 8: Jesus opens the 7th seal and heaven becomes silent. 7 angels who stand before God were given 7 trumpets. Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar and offered up prayers with incense for all the saints. The prayers and smoke went up to God. The angel took the censer, filled it with fire, and threw it at earth, causing thunder, rumblings, lightning, and earthquakes.

The 1st angel sounded his trumpet, unleashing hail and fire mixed with blood upon the earth. One third of the trees and earth was burned up and all the green grass burned.

The 2nd angel sounded his trumpet, unleashing a mountain on fire into the seas. One third of the sea turned to blood, one-third of the sea creatures died, and one-third of the ships were destroyed.

The 3rd angel sounded his trumpet, unleashing a burning star (named Wormwood or Bitterness), which fell from the sky onto a third of the rivers and springs, turning the waters bitter and killing people who drank the water.

The 4th angel sounded his trumpet, striking one-third of the sun, moon, and stars, turning them dark, eliminating one-third of the day and night.

Then an eagle flew over the earth, calling out to the inhabitants warnings that the last three angels were about to sound their trumpets.

Summary of Revelation 9: The 5th angel sounded his trumpet and a star that had fallen to the earth opened the Abyss from which smoke rose which darkened the sky and unleashed locusts who tortured those without the seal of God on their foreheads. They suffered severe agony–so much so they wished for death but were not granted it.

The locusts had human faces, wore crowns, had hair and lions’ teeth. They wore breastplates and their wings were loud. They had tails like scorpions and tortured people with them for 5 months. Their king was Abandon or Apollyon or Destroyer.

The 6th angel sounded his trumpet, releasing 4 angels who were bound at the Euphrates and killed 1/3 of mankind. Troops came forth with breastplates. The horses had lions’ heads and they spewed fire, smoke, and sulfur. They had snakes’ tails.

The rest of mankind who survived this still did not repent.

Questions:

12a)  Trumpets are associated with the theophany at Sinai (Exod 19:13-19; 20:18). The first trumpet judgment is similar to Exodus 9:13-25, hail and fire fell upon the Egyptians. The third trumpet resembles the plague of the freshwater in Exodus 7:20, except that there the waters turned to blood.  The locust in Rev 9:3 is an apocalyptic version of the eighth plague (Exod 10:12-20).  The fourth trumpet and the ninth plague both use darkness on the earth.

b)  The obvious difference is the number:  10 in Egypt and 7 here.  Egypt’s Plagues:  Nile to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, firstborn.  Revelation:  Hail and fire mixed with blood, mountain thrown into the sea, bitter water, darkness as well, demons unleashed for torture, demons unleashed for death, and a dragon unleashed.  The Exodus plagues are mostly using God’s creations on earth to send a warning.  The Revelation judgments are using supernatural forces such as demons and are bent on destruction.  All initiate from heaven.  The Exodus judgments are perpetrated by Moses and are of the earth.

God is saying, “This is it, guys.  Take heed or forever pay the penalty.”

c)   Pharaoh of the Exodus refused to repent (Ex. Ex. 7:13, Ex. 7:23; Ex. 8:15, Ex. 8:19, Ex. 8:22; Ex. 9:34), the earth dwellers will refuse to repent during the Tribulation (Rev. Rev. 2:21+; Rev. 6:16-17+; Rev. 9:20+; Rev. 16:9+, Rev. 16:11+, Rev. 16:21+)

13a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Don’t like the wording of this question.  I don’t believe my heart was “hard” to begin with so therefore it hasn’t softened.  I have, however, grown in my relationship with Him as my knowledge of the End Times has increased and my love for Him and others has increased.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Flippant words, hasty actions, selfishness

Conclusions:  Not the best lesson.  Could have done without question 13.  Admittedly, I was lazy on Question 12.  I just didn’t feel like doing it myself, so I googled the answer.

End Notes:  See HERE and HERE for Revelation 8 and 9 respectively.

Full comparison of the plagues of Egypt with all of Revelation HERE

The Plagues Compared
Plague Egypt Tribulation
#1 – Water becomes blood. Ex. Ex. 7:20; Ps. Ps. 105:29 Rev. Rev. 8:8-9+; Rev. 11:6+; Rev. 16:3-6+
#2 – Frogs Ex. Ex. 8:6; Ps. Ps. 105:30 Rev. Rev. 16:13+3
#3 – Lice Ex. Ex. 8:24; Ps. Ps. 105:31 Rev. Rev. 11:6+?4
#4 – Flies Ex. Ex. 9:6 Rev. Rev. 11:6+?5
#5 – Food source (livestock) destroyed Ex. Ex. 9:6 Rev. Rev. 8:9+6
#6 – Boils Ex. Ex. 9:10 Rev. Rev. 16:2+
#7 – Hail Ex. Ex. 9:23; Ps. Ps. 105:32 Rev. Rev. 8:7+; Rev. 16:21+
#8 – Locusts Ex. Ex. 10:13; Ps. Ps. 105:34 Rev. Rev. 9:3+
#9 – Darkness Ex. Ex. 10:22; Ps. Ps. 105:32 Rev. Rev. 8:12+; Rev. 9:2+; Rev. 16:10+
#10 – Death of Firstborn Ex. Ex. 12:29; Ps. Ps. 105:36 –

Taken from http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/introduction/the-plagues-of-egypt-and-the-tribulation.html

Conclusions  to Lesson 14:  We see God’s mercy.  He has the right to destroy us for our sin; yet, He never gives up and keeps trying to bring back his creation.  We see God’s wrath as justice and judgment must come.  Yet God preserves the faithful and gives us hope in the midst of destruction.

Overall, good questions.  Would have like to have seen more questions in Revelation 9 on the angels, the star, the army, the locusts, and more possible meanings thrown in.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 14, Day 5: Leviticus 17-20

Introductory Note:  Leviticus 16 is studied in Lesson 16.  I’m unsure why we are skipping it here but am sure once we get there it will be clear.

Summary of passage:  Leviticus 17:  The Lord tells Moses that anyone who sacrifices an animal away from the Tent of Meeting is to be cut off from his people because these are pagan sacrifices. The Lord says no one is to eat blood of a creature for life is in the blood which is what makes atonement for one’s sins.  Any animal hunted for food must be drained of blood before eating. Anyone eating a dead animal will be considered unclean and must be cleansed.

Leviticus 18:  The Lord says to not follow the Egyptians or the people in the land of Canaan.  To follow His laws only.  God says no one is to have sexual relations with any close relative:  mother, father, sisters, brothers, in-laws, aunts, uncles, etc.  Do not offer your children as sacrifices to other gods.  Do not have sexual relations with animals or with the same sex.  Do not defile yourselves as other nations have.  If you do, you will be cut off from their people.  Even the land was defiled and punished.

Leviticus 19:  A list of laws, many of which have been repeated such as honor the Sabbath, keep God’s name holy, honor your father and mother, etc.  Other notable laws:  leave gleanings in the field for the poor, love your neighbor as yourself, and treat others fairly.

Leviticus 20:  God lays out the punishments for sins and for disobeying his decrees, most of which is death.  He orders not to offer child sacrifices to other gods, not to sleep with close relatives (much of which is said in Leviticus 18), and not to see mediums or spiritists.  God wants His people to be separate from other nations and to be holy because He is holy.

Questions:

10)  Because the life of the creature is in the blood and it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life and sins.

11a)  That it is defiling, dishonoring, and detestable and requires being cut off from your people if done.

b)  Part personal question:  Because this is how the nations that God is going to drive out before His people became defiled and God wants His people to be separate and good.  My response is God’s laws and reasonings are good.  We all know having babies with close relatives results often in inherited diseases and deformations and having sex with close relatives causes strife among families plus having indiscriminate sex promotes the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and an impure heart and mind.  Everything God does is for our good.

12a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  I have a hard time with this one cause I’m so inherently selfish.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  If you sin, you pay the consequences.  Nowadays, it most likely won’t be a physical death, but it could be a spiritual death.  If you keep God’s laws, you will live–both physically and spiritually.  You will blossom and lead productive lives.  If you choose to live in sin always and not change your ways, you will perish.  We are to lead lives different from those around us because we are His and we are holy.

Conclusions:  I like how all of God’s laws cover every facet of life.  Nothing is separate.  Nothing is sacred.  God is in charge of every aspect of our lives and He makes that clear.  Hence, we cannot hide anything from Him or justify any sin by saying “But God doesn’t say anything about this.”  God is concerned about it all–politics, life, economics, diet, family, friends.  He wants us to be like Jesus in all ways and here in the Old Testament He is preparing His people for just such a thing.

End Notes:  Laid out in the Old Testament are just over 600 laws for the entire nation to live by. That’s it!  Think of the millions of laws the US has and try to figure all that out!  The laws are brief and simple (as opposed to say ObamaCare).  Life should be simple.  Right and wrong are simple. God wanted compassionate, consistent, fair-minded, and loving people.  If His people possessed such characteristics, everything else would fall into place.

Leviticus 17:  Pagan cultures and even the early patriarchs built altars and offered sacrifices to their gods or our God wherever they pleased.  Here God is saying “No longer”.  He wants all the sacrifices brought to Him.  Again, setting the Israelites apart from their neighbors.

Besides the life being in the blood, many pagan cultures drank blood.  Again, setting His people apart.

Leviticus 18:  We are God’s, and thus we must follow His laws.  Old translations of “sexual relations”, which is mentioned 17 times in this chapter read “uncover nakedness”, which scholars say is broad enough to cover anything inappropriate from sex to inappropriate fondling.  Thus, it doesn’t necessarily have to be consummation.

These laws emphasize the importance of protecting the sanctity of marriage of which sex is only to occur within those covenant boundaries.

God’s laws here are simple and clear:  homosexuality is wrong.  Adultery is wrong.  Sex with animals is wrong.  Incest is wrong.  It is a defilement against yourself as well as the other party.

We must remember one of the reasons God chose Canaan to give to the Israelites was as a punishment against the people who were living there who were engaging in sin among which was sexual sin.  God does judge and execute punishments for sin.

God made it clear sexual sin was immoral and one paid a big price in the eyes of society if engaged in.  So different from today’s world of “do what feels good” instead of “do what God commands.”

Leviticus 19:  Read “separate” when you read “holy” and you’ll see what God is driving at. Just like God is separate from God, He wants His people separate from others since we are called to be like God and be with Him.

The word for idol means “nothing”.  Israel will continue to struggle with idols for the next 800 years until they are punished and sent to exile in Babylon.  There, their idols switch from a physical representation to a lifestyle one–riches, power, control, etc.

The best example of gleaning the fields in the Bible was Ruth.

A slanderer is a gossiper as well.  Just gossip is a nicer word these days.

A lot of these regulations was specifically against pagan cultures and their worship as verse 19 demonstrates.  God wanted to make sure His people did nothing the other peoples did.

Letting trees become mature before picking the fruit allowed them to bear more fruit in the future.

“I am the Lord” appears 15 times in this chapter.  If you think on medieval times, the lord of the castle was obligated to care for his people who farmed his fields.  In return the people worked for him and cared for him.  So it goes both ways as it does today with God.  He cares for us.  We care for Him.

Leviticus 20:  We tend to skip over the worship of Molech but this was a HUGE problem for the Israelites and continued to be up to their Babylonian exile.  King Solomon built a temple to Molech (1 Kings 11:7) and King Ahaz sacrificed his own son to Molech (2 Kings 16:3).  To think that God Himself has been warning about Molech for centuries and His people keep forgetting and sinning.  What a merciful God we have!

Most of these penalties had to be carried out by the court of law.  Once accused you had to be tried and convicted just like today before put to death for any sin.  Still, rarely were people executed in ancient Israel.  But unlike today the ancient culture condemned the act.

God is judging the peoples of Canaan for their sins by driving them out.  Unfortunately, He judges His own people as well and drives them out too.

God gave all of these laws in an effort to keep His people separate, holy, and out of sin.  So very, very sad that we as humans still disappoint and fall into the same old habits–even when explicitly outlawed.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 14, Day 4: Leviticus 11-15

Introductory Note:  Leviticus 8-10 is studied in Lesson 15.  There’s some good lessons in there especially Chapter 10 where Aaron’s sons are killed by God when they do not follow His instructions.

Summary of passages:  Leviticus 11:  God tells Moses and Aaron that the people may only eat animals that have a split hoof completely divided and chews the cud.  They may eat any animal that has fins and scales.  God lists the birds to not eat.  The people may eat only those winged insects that walk on all fours and have jointed legs for hopping.  God lists the ground animals that can not be eaten and says do not touch carcasses of dead animals or you will be unclean.

Leviticus 12:  A woman who gives birth is ceremonially unclean afterwards.  She must wait a certain number of days so that she may quit bleeding and then offer a sacrifice to make atonement and be clean from her flow of blood.

Leviticus 13:  If anyone has a spot on their skin, he is to go to Aaron to have it examined and diagnosed.  Aaron will decide if the person needs to be quarantined or cleaned.  If the disease is infectious, that person is to cry out “unclean, unclean” and live apart from others as long as he has the disease.  If any clothing is contaminated by mildew, it must be shown to the priest who will determine if it is destructive mildew or not and burn it if it is.

Leviticus 14:  If a diseased person with skin disease is cured, then he must be ceremonially cleaned by the priest who will sprinkle him with eh blood of a bird.  He must then wash, bathe, and shave and bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb to the Tent of Meeting as offerings or doves or pigeons if he cannot afford the others.

The priests are to inspect homes infected with mildew and remove the infected stones and areas.  If the mildew returns, then the house is unclean and most be torn down.  If there is no mildew, then the house will be considered clean and purify it with the blood of a bird.

Leviticus 15:  God lays down regulations for a man with a discharge, for anyone made unclean by an emission of semen, for a woman in her monthly period, for a man or a woman with a discharge, and for a man who lies with a woman who is ceremonially unclean.  If you become unclean, you must atone by bringing a sacrifice to become clean again and wait seven days after the ceremony.

Questions:

8 )  11:1-47:  Clean and unclean food and animals.  Eating of dead carcasses could have bacteria that can kill people or make them sick.  Pork carries many parasites.  Dead animal carcasses lying around attract disease and can spread disease (think Bubonic Plague here).

12:1-8:  Purification after Childbirth.  I see this as a protection from the woman’s husband who may try to have sex with her too soon after childbirth.  This regulation is to allow the woman to fully heal before sex again.

13:1-46:  Regulations about Infectious Skin Diseases.  To protect the people from contracting infectious diseases.

13:47-59:  Regulations about Mildew.  This was to prevent the spread of disease through the clothes people wore.

14:1-32:  Cleansing from Infectious Skin Diseases.  The only practical benefit I see here is this allowed the cured person to be accepted back into Hebrew society.  It does reflect Jesus’s ritual sacrifice for us however, which may have been the point by God.

14:33-57:  Cleansing from Mildew.  To ensure no one gets sick from mildew from the home.  If we use the translation of mildew, this is true as mildew can sicken us today if left in the home.

15:1-33:  Discharges causing Uncleanness.  These rules would help the Israelites avoid venereal diseases that plagued their neighbors.

9a)  Jesus explains in Mark that it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean, not what goes in–for the heart is what is reflected by evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, slander, etc.  Acts says God makes things impure or unclean.  They were for spiritual health and to help the people follow God’s laws for their lives.  Jesus declares that all things are clean.  And if you believe in him, you are clean.

b)  That God is holy and His desire was for them to be holy as well, to be separate from other peoples.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We are to be mindful of what we ingest since our body is a temple to God.  We are to be mindful of what comes out, so we are clean which includes words, actions, and good works.  As long as I remember God’s purpose for my life and His ways, I will try to do my best to be more and more like Jesus every day.

Conclusions:  For Question 8, I just used the titles my Bible had given these sections.  Seemed to sum it up pretty well.  Most of us cannot imagine leading such lives where we’d become unclean and have to avoid such items and people and purify ourselves with sacrifices.  Yet, the lesson to learn is we must watch our own lives with just as much care and attention.  God is watching us with no less.

Keep reading the Mark passage.  Jesus goes on even further with specifics.

End Notes:  Dietary laws were meant to keep the Israelites apart from their neighbors.  Pigs were prominent in Canaanite worship; therefore the Israelites were not to eat pigs.  A different dietary standard would keep the two groups from mixing socially, for a meal was always part of Middle Eastern hospitality.

Some scholars think these rules fit into what the Israelites already thought was unclean–creeping insects, scavenger birds, bodily emissions, and skin diseases.

The point was not if you became clean or unclean since it was unavoidable in life.  The point was to watch your life with care in order to prepare themselves to meet God.  Clear standards were laid out about what was acceptable to God and God demands purity.

Jesus declared all things clean (Mark 7:19 and Acts 10:9-16).  He healed the lepers, made a bleeding woman clean.  Still, God may not be approached carelessly.  Your life must make sure God’s purity is not violated.  Jesus is the only thing that makes clean the unclean–forever.

Leviticus 11:  None of these rules are new.  Noah discussed them as well (Genesis 7:2, 8:20).  God was merely putting them on paper.  The birds listed are either predators or scavengers, both of which eat meat that is already dead.  The Jews largely avoided the plague because of their removal of dead rats.  Pigs are known for tapeworms.  Shellfish carry a lot of mercury in their bodies and are the more likely to be improperly stored for food and thus make one sick.

All of these laws promote cleanliness which in the ancient world no one understood germs or viruses or how diseases spread.  But God did.

And all these laws set the Israelites apart from everyone else who ate whatever they could find no matter how diseased.

With Jesus, these laws are nullified as well and Christians are under no obligation to observe the kosher diet (Acts 15; 1 Timothy 4:1, 3-5).  Does that mean we eat junk food all the time?  Everything is permissible but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you!  (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Leviticus 12:  The idea is that children are good but are born sinners and God wanted the Israelites to know this and remember this.  Scholars say the woman here is symbolically responsible for brining forth more sinners in the world.

The girl child was usually not wanted or valued.  The extra time gave the family more time to bond with the child.  Girls were also more likely to be smaller than boys, so they needed extra care.  Plus, again, the mother brought forth a child who will bring forth more children/sinners.

Jesus was poor.  Luke 2:22-24 tells us Mary and Joseph only brought 2 doves for Mary’s atonement.

Leviticus 13:  Old versions of the Bible translated “infectious skin diseases” as “leprosy”, which was wrong.  Leprosy is barely contagious.  Think such diseases as smallpox, measles, mumps, scarlet fever, etc.  There was no cure for such diseases back then.

Leprosy was feared because it did result in the eating away of flesh, was slow and painful, and did lead to death eventually.  However, the Israelites believed it was inflicted as a punishment for sin and was thus feared.  The people were outcast as they believed they were sinners and unable to stand before God as such.  People’s fears led to discrimination and the lepers took the brunt of it.  Today, leprosy is unknown in the modern world due to drugs to cure it, but does still exist in third-world countries.

For a great synopsis I did of Leprosy last year during our study of Matthew, click HERE for Definition of Leprosy and how lepers were treated in ancient times.

Scholars say the Hebrew people were the first to practice isolation of victims suspected of being contagious in order to stop its spread.

Most Bibles have “mildew” translated as “leprosy” and thus these two sections go together.  If you read it with this translation, then it makes more sense.  The Israelites wanted to make sure the clothes were not contaminated with the disease as well.  Today we know clothes do carry disease and because washing was so infrequent back then it was feared the clothes could spread the disease as well.

Debate about how many people get sick from clothes goes on especially in hospitals when doctors wear the same scrubs for operations.  However, the transmission rate is small but possible.  Here, God says to make sure the clothes are clean as well.

[Side Note:  Anyone remember The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams?  The Velveteen Rabbit was the favorite toy of a boy.  But when he contracted scarlet fever, the boy’s doctor orders the room to be disinfected and all of the toys burnt.  He was thrown out by the boy’s nurse for fear he contained the dreaded disease.  Hence, he was unwanted and turned into a real rabbit and lived in the forest next to the boy’s home.

I thought of this story.  In the case of scarlet fever, it can only be spread through bodily contact and cannot survive very long outside the body so the bunny here was safe.  Back in 1922 when the book was written though no one knew that.  However, germs and diseases can survive outside the body for quite some time so it’s better to err on the side of caution God says.]

Leviticus 14:  The regulations for ceremonial cleansing seem to reflect Jesus.  One bird was killed and its blood was applied to a living bird and then the living bird is freed to live out its life, which is what Jesus’s blood does for us on the cross.  Even cedar wood is mentioned which scholars say reference the cross.  Hyssop as you may recall from last year in Matthew 27:48 was offered to Jesus while he was on the cross.  The shaving of the hair was like a rebirth like a newborn babe and live began all over again.

The leper was consecrated the same way as a priest and also anointed.  This meant he or she had a special calling on his life.  However, since the cure for leprosy was unknown in ancient times, this ceremony was undoubtedly rarely performed.

Scholars say here leprosy and mildew are related in the Hebrew word used here.

Leviticus 15:  We are to understand this as not any discharge from the body but an abnormal one.  In the case of sex or masturbation, both men and women had to cleanse themselves.  God is not saying these discharges are sinful, just made you ceremonially unclean to be in His presence.  He also made the distinction clear that sex was not to occur in His tabernacle or as a means of worshipping Him.  This was important because in pagan cultures sex was often associated with worship of gods and occurred quite frequently.  Remember the golden calf?  The people engaged in sexual revelry all in the name of worship.

Semen and menstruation are connected with the seed and the blood of man.

In Mark 7:1-9, Jesus emphasized the need for internal cleanliness, not external.  Our outward cleanliness does not make us right with God.  Only Jesus can cleanse us spiritually.  If you have him, then you are clean.  Period.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 14, Day 2: Matthew 13:31-35

Summary of passage:  Jesus told them a parable of the mustard seed and the yeast where he compared the mustard seed to heaven and although it is the smallest seed it will yield the biggest tree that birds will perch in.  He also said the kingdom of heaven is like yeast mixed into flour and worked throughout the dough.  This fulfilled prophecy in Psalm 78:2.

Questions:

3a)  The kingdom of heaven

b)  Heaven starts out small inside of you but as you grow so does heaven.  Heaven or the church will grow, sheltering humans in the process.

c)  I would bet there is a significance because all of Jesus’ words hold meaning.  I can’t imagine Jesus just throwing birds in a parable for no reason.  I would say the birds are humans who land in heaven and are sheltered by God.

4a)  Heaven is everywhere and all of heaven is mixed inside of believers.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I don’t see yeast as evil because that would be saying “the kingdom of heaven is like evil”.  I just can’t see comparing heaven to evil and I can’t see Jesus doing so ever.  The only interpretation would be that evil or corruption is spread throughout people and will threaten his kingdom.

Conclusions:  Didn’t like this lesson.  I think the parables are merely saying heaven (or evil or corruption) is everywhere in and amongst us.  These parables aren’t as impactful as others and frankly BSF didn’t do a good job in unpacking their meaning in my opinion.  I left today with the same level of understanding of these as I had before.  It was only when I did read the commentaries that I saw the other interpretation of evil.

Parable of the mustard seed:  Commentaries say the mustard seed represents the church and how it will one day grow and spread throughout the earth and provide refuge for animals.  The other interpretation is that the seed is corruption within the church and that the birds were a symbol of corruption, nesting amongst Christians.  In the previous parables, birds were the devil.  Revelation 18:2 has birds unclean and detestable.

In reality, mustard seeds are not trees but about the size of a bush so whichever interpretation you choose, the seed has grown supernaturally large.

Parable of the yeast:  Again, same basic two interpretations.  One is that yeast or Christianity will be worked throughout the world.  The second is yeast is corruption that will influence the world.  Yeast is typically a picture of sin (Exodus 12:8, 12:15-20) and hence the Jewish emphasis on unleavened bread.

End Note:  I fundamentally disagree with BSF about the use of commentaries during Bible study (always have and always will with this respect).  When I read a passage and have no idea what it is saying, I get help to know what it is saying and at that moment.  Truly, how many of us go back over the passage after lecture?  I don’t in most cases.  I read the notes and move on.  Hence, my belief one should (and definitely shouldn’t be ‘banned’ from reading commentaries) in the midst of study.  Otherwise, the moment will be lost, you won’t remember in a few days what the passage was about or what you originally thought about the passage, and you won’t have the time to re-visit it either when life keeps charging ahead.

The word scholar comes from the Greek “scole” meaning leisure, free time.  These are people who have studied the Bible for years and have a much better grasp of it than me.  I see nothing wrong with using the cumulative knowledge of generations of scholars so I can get a tiny bit more knowledge of God.  The more I know, the better of a person I am.  And whatever helps me in that respect should not be prohibited.