Friday, December 21, 2012

Free Lectures on Romans by Douglas Moo

Douglas Moo's commentary on Romans ranks up there in my mind as one of the best commentaries I've ever read cover-to-cover (along with Bruce Waltke on Genesis). It combines simple presentation with scholarly interaction, Christian conviction with wide scholarly engagement, exegetical rigour with practical application, all the while letting Paul's letter lead him rather than touting a particular party-line. When I worked through the book of Romans a few years ago on my own, it was a delight to devour Moo's commentary cover-to-cover when I was done my own work. So I was thrilled to see on Justin Taylor's Blog, that Moo's lectures on Romans are free on That site also boasts some other excellent lectures that are well worth listening to (especially Miles Van Pelt on OT Biblical Theology!!). Create a free account and download free lectures here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tim Keller on Reading Calvin's Institutes in a Year

When Challies linked to Keller's reflections I was interested to read. A few years back, in honour of Calvin's 500th birthday, I read through a similar plan as Keller, and evidently, had similar appreciations. Read Keller's thoughts here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dane Ortland on The Psychology of Resentment

I really appreciated this article by Dane Ortland. It begins this way:
You need not experience extraordinary suffering or be wronged in an unusually grievous way to feel the strong, seemingly unstoppable pull toward resentment. All you need to do is live a little in this fallen world. Before long you're given a good solid reason to resent someone. Often someone quite close to you. Family member, spouse, parent, long-time friend, etc. It feels impossible to love that person.
What causes such bitterness? Why are our hearts so immovably deadened toward that person? 
Well, they wronged you, so you resent them. They hurt you. They did what they should never have done. Or didn’t do what they should have done. And you bear the wounds. 
Yes—but what’s the reason beneath the reason? 
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

All People are Worshippers!!!

‎"Exalting is part of existence. It is so much a part of it, that when one has ceased to exalt God, something else must be exalted. Then God can be displaced by a man, an institution, an idea. Exalting remains a function of existence...Not everywhere where God is no longer truly praised will men of necessity fall into the extremity of the deification of man. But they must surely exalt, admire, honor something. There is no real, full existence that does not in some way honor, admire, look up to something...If the praise of God, as the Psalms express it, belongs to existence, then the directing of this praise to a man, an idea, or an institution must disturb and finally destroy life itself. The Psalms say that only where God is praised is there life" (Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms, 160-161).

As I read Westermann's book today, that quote stuck out to me. I've been reading a ton of academic commentary on the Psalms lately, and it struck me that along with a few of those commentators, Westermann knew the God he wrote about. Then I read this by Brueggemann: "Westermann developed his ideas on the lament psalms while he was a prisoner of war in a Russian camp where he had no books except the Bible. I take it as important that he was able to see, precisely while he was in prison, that the psalms of lament move from what he calls plea (lament or petition) to praise. The lament psalms characteristically culminate in joy, praise, well-being, and an offering. For Westermann, this was not a literary matter but a profoundly theological matter in which the world of the speaker is decisively changed" (quoted from 'The Friday Voice of Faith,' 13). That explains it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stephen G. Dempster: The Narrative Structure of the Book of Psalms

Does the structure of the Book of Psalms tell a story? Is there a narrative that can be uncovered? Over the course of the past few hundred years the study of individual Psalms has dominated Psalm scholarship. However, since the 1985 publication Gerald Wilson's pioneering dissertation entitled, 'The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter,' many have begun to see an intentionality in the shaping of the Psalter.  I find the following string of quotes (mixed with a few of my own comments in all caps) from Stephen Dempster's Dominion and Dynasty helpful and convincing. As you read, remember that the Psalms are divided into five books (Book 1 = Psalms 1-42, etc)...

"The first two psalms, 'the doorway into the Psalter,' stress that the blessed person, who meditates on the Torah day and night, will be like a tree of life planted by the rivers of water (1:3). There are allusions to the tree of life in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10-14), and to the eschatological trees of life planted by the river of life flowing from the new temple in Ezekiel (Ezek. 47:1-12). The second psalm stresses the importance of the Davidic king's meditating on Nathan's oracle to David, which now has universal scope. All nations will one day bow before Yahweh's Messiah...Canonically, it is impossible to miss the allusions: a Davidic king (genealogy) will rule over the entire earth (geography)" (194-195).

PSALMS 1-2 - "These texts provide perspective on the storyline of Scripture. The Psalter keeps hope alive by indicating that Israel is still expecting an all-conquering hero who will be anointed by Yahweh to rule the world. The second psalm shows the resistance to this rule, the Lord's sovereign decision to affirm this rule based on Nathan's oracle, the implications of this kingship (universal dominion), the obliteration of all resistance, and the need for submission to the rule" (195)


SUPERSCRIPTIONS - "The psalm titles draw attention to the Davidic king as the one who prays for and represents Israel. It is clearly David who is emerging as the focus of the Bible. Somehow the hopes of the Israelite nation are placed on his shoulders" (195).

SEAMS - "Other psalms, placed strategically at the seams of the Psalter, develop this kingship theme (G. Wilson 1985). The first division consists largely of laments (Pss. 3-41), and the first and last psalms of this division (Pss 3; 41) show that, despite treachery towards the divine king, whether that of his own son (3) or of his closest friend (41), God gives the king triumph over his enemies. After a series of initial laments emphasizing the exile of David (Pss. 3-7), a creation psalms reminds not only the king but all of humanity of its regal destiny (Ps. 8)" (196).

BOOK 2 - "In the second book, closure is achieved with Psalm 72. There are many lament psalms in this collection, but this particular psalm reveals the light at the end of the tunnel: the day when the Davidic king will rule the earth. He will bring an end to injustice, and justice will flower in the land. All nature will be renewed. The extent of his reign is described with an almost exact quote from the Twelve: 'he will reign from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth' (Ps. 72:8; cf. Zech. 9:10b). Echoing Isaiah, his enemies will lick the dust and all kings will worship him, bringing their treasures (72:10-11; cf. Is. 60:1-22). The last line of the psalm proper reaches a thematic climax with the statement that the Abrahamic promise of blessing on the earth is realized in him: 'All nations will be blessed in him and they will bless him' (72:17). The concluding doxology states the consequence: the whole earth is filled with his glory (cf. Is. 6:3; 11:9). And, as is noted in this section, this marks the end of the Davidic psalms of David the son of Jesse (72:20)" (196).

BOOK 3 - "The next grouping of psalms (73-89) points to disaster for the nation. Within the scope of Israelite history it is tempting to understand these psalms as reflecting the judgment leading up to the exile. The call is to hae faith, despite the current bleak circumstances. This is the message of the wisdom psalm (73) that opens this division of the Psalter. The triumph of the wicked is apparent, not real, and this truth can be seen only from the perspective of the sanctuary (73:17). Significantly, this collection of psalms concludes with a poem (Ps. 89) that poignantly contrasts the stark reality of the present situation - exile, judgment and the absence of a Davidic monarch - with the promise of the enduring throne of David (2 Sam 7)" (196-197).

BOOK 4 - "The next Psalter division (Pss. 90-106), like the previous one, begins with a wisdom psalm, whose unique Mosaic title points back to the wilderness experience of the Israelites as a time when Israel was consumed by God's wrath and judgment for their sin. Why? To suggest that, just as the previous exile ended, so will this one. The community is directed to view things from a divine perspective where a human millennium is but a day (Ps. 90:4)" (199).

BOOK 5 - "The dramitic thanksgiving psalm that begins the final book of the Psalter (Ps. 107) celebrates a return from exile from the four corners of the earth. It is a dramatic answer to the plea at the end of Psalm 106 (cf. 106:45-47; 107:1-3). Yahweh's mercy (hesed) is not temporary but lasts for ever. It will gather (qabatz) the people from the nations! Psalm 107 concludes by stating, 'Whoever is wise and regards these things will understand the mercies of the LORD' (43). These words link up with the first half of Psalm 89 and dramatically affirm the reason for the return to exile: the mercies of the Lord are the reason, particularly as expressed in the covenant to David (Ps. 89:1-3) and in the coming Davidide (Is. 55:3)" (200).

"In their own way the next few psalms speak of the hope of the Davidic monarch. Judah is regarded as God's sceptre in Ps. 108 (cf. Gen 49), which will hold sway over the surrounding nations. Psalm 110 depicts the installation of a new ruler with his enemies under his feet and he smites them on the head, a resounding echo of the reclaimed dominion of humanity (cf. Gen. 1:26-28; 3:15). But it also combined royal and priestly motifs: the new king will virtually transcend not only David but also the Israelite priesthood (Ps. 110:6). From this point on there is a group of praise songs (Pss. 111-118) that follow this theme of God's kingship. These songs are continued in Psalms 135-137, which conclude on the bitter note of exile again. But inserted among them are a gigantic psalm of the Torah (Ps. 119) and a group of fifteen Songs of Ascent (Pss. 120-134), celebrating the pilgrimage to Zion. These pilgrimage songs are probably placed here to show that the reason for return from exile is to go up to Mount Zion to hear the Torah in all its wonder and to worship the Lord (cf. is. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-5). Israel's ascent can thus point the way to the nations (Zech. 8:23). When such an ascent begins, the ways of war are abandoned" (200).

END OF BOOK 5 - "Psalms 135-137 are probably a coda to the ascent psalms. They return the theme to the praise songs of 111-118, but this section ends with the bitter lament of exiles in Psalm 137, who, in their pain, wish for the destruction of the last vestige of their captors. This almost suggests that exile has the final word in the Psalter. However, a final flurry of Davidic psalms (138-144) provides an answer to this lament, concluding with an acrostic psalm of priase in which David calls for all flesh to praise the holy name of Yahweh (145:21). The answer to the problem of exile is David. The last five psalms (146-150) are not only a fitting conclusion to the five books of the Psalter but also a specific answer to David's call (G. Wilson 1985:193). the key note is 'Hallelujah!' here at last is the goal of creation: all of created reality being directed in praise by choirmaster, King David; or, as Gregory of Nyssa states: 'All creatures, after the disunion and disorder caused by sin have been removed, are harmoniously united for one choral dance.' the canonical structure of the Psalms thus clearly develops the prophetic theme of a renewed earth under a Davidic leader" (201-202)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On the Costly Loss of Lament in Worship

Why are so many Psalms (i.e. the hymn/prayer book of God's people for millennia) songs of lament (i.e. honest, raw, petitioning of God because things are not the way they ought to be, and the covenant God who has promised to be faithful needs to come and act), while in many people's private worship and many church's corporate worship, completely omits this genre from its songs and prayers? What is the result of this loss? Some choice quotes from Walter Brueggemann...

In these Psalms, Israel moves from articulation of hurt and anger to submission of them to God and finally relinquishment. Functionally and experientially, the verbal articulation and the faithful submission to God are prerequisites for relinquishment. Only when there is such relinquishment can there be praise and acts of generosity. Thus the relational dynamic vis-à-vis God corresponds to the move of the formal elements. (58) 
One loss that results from the absence of lament is the loss οf genuine covenant interaction because the second party to the covenant (the petitioner) has become voiceless or has a voice that is permitted to speak only praise and doxology. Where lament is absent, covenant comes into being only as a celebration of joy and well-being. Or in political categories, the greater party is surrounded by subjects who are always 'yes men and women' from whom 'never is heard a discouraging word'. Since such a celebrative, consenting silence does not square with reality, covenant minus lament is finally a practice of denial, cover-up, and pretense, which sanctions social control (60). 
Lament occurs when the dysfunction reaches an unacceptable level, when the injustice is intolerable and change is insisted upon (62). 
The lament Psalms, then, are a complaint which makes the shrill insistence: 1. Things are not right in the present arrangement. 2.  They need not stay this way but can be changed. 3.  The speaker will not accept them in this way, for it is intolerable. 4. It is God's obligation to change things (62). 
The claims and rights of the speaker are asserted to God in the face of a system which does not deliver. That system is visible on earth and addressed in heaven with the passionate conviction that it can, must, and will be changed (63). 
A community of faith which negates laments soon concludes that the hard issues of justice are improper questions to pose at the throne, because the throne seems to be only a place of praise (64). 
It makes one wonder about the price of our civility, that this chance in our faith has largely been lost because the lament Psalms have dropped out of the functioning canon (66-67).
From "The Costly Loss of Lament," JSOT36 (1986) 57-71.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Holy Hatred: What Should We Think of the Psalms of Imprecation?

The Psalms of imprecation are notoriously difficult for any interpreter. How should they be understood and applied today? It intuitively feels wrong to ask God to harm our enemy. Is this not contrary to the New Testament's command to love and pray for those who hate us and wish to harm us? Once again, Bruce Waltke has been helpful to me. In the following quote he shows that there is not easy, fast answer, but if one understands the issue from various angles, they are able to understand what is going on and finally, to see how these passages of Holy Scripture apply and do not apply today...
"Thirty-five of the petition psalms ask God to punish the enemy. These psalms also trouble many. Lewis speaks of them as 'terrible or (dare we say?) contemptible Psalms.' Here he joins hands with those who deny that all Scripture is inspired. Dispensationalists traditionally averred that they are part of the ethical inferiority of the Old Testament. In fact, however, upon reflection they teach sound doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16) and are most holy.  a. These petitions are by saints (especially the innocently suffering king) who have suffered gross injustices. Few commentators have experienced the agony of utterly unprovoked, naked aggression and gross exploitation.  b. The petitioners are righteous and just: they ask for strict retribution... c. The petitioners are faithful. The pious recognize that vengeance is God's, not theirs (Deut. 32:35). They trust God, not themselves, to avenge the gross injustices against them. d. The psalmist is not vindictive (Ps. 109:5). 'There have been few men,' says Derek Kidner, 'more capable of generosity under personal attack than David, as he proved by his attitudes toward Saul and Absalom, to say nothing of Shemei.' The wicked, by contrast, avenge themselves (cf. Rom. 12:17-21). e. These prayers are ethical - that is, the petitioners ask God to distinguish between right and wrong (cf. Ps. 7:8-9; 2 Tim. 4:14-18). f. They are also theocratic, looking for establishment of a kingdom of righteousness by the moral administrator of the universe (cf. Pss. 72, 82). The earthly king asks no more of the heavenlly King than the latter asked of him (cf. Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:13, 19; 21:9, 22; 22:22, 24). g. The prayers are theocentric, aiming to see God praised for manifesting his righteousness and justice in the eyes of all (cf. Pss. 35:27-28; 58:10-11). Calvin wrote, 'It was a holy zeal for the divine glory which impelled [the psalmist] to summon the wicked to God's judgment seat.' h. These prayers are evangelistic, aiming for conversion of earth by letting all people see that the Lord is Most High over all the earth (Ps. 83:17-18). i. They are 'covenantal'; a wrong against a saint is seen as a wrong against God (Psss. 69:7-9, 22-28; 139:19-22)... j. The prayers are oriental and full of figures, especially hyperbole... k. The prayers are political. If we may presume the enemy heard the prayer, he would be publicly exposed as one who opposed the kingdom of God. Moreover, the righteous identify with the psalmist and rally around him (Ps. 142:7; cf. the complaint of Ps. 38:11). Indeed, the enemy and potential evildoer may be instructed and converted through prayer (cf. Pss. 51:13; 94:8-11). l. These prayers are consistent with the central message of the Bible: 'Thy kingdom come'...The Lord's Prayer entails that saints pray for the overthrow of Satan's kingdom. Though theologically sound, these petitions for retribution are nevertheless inappropriate for the church in the present dispensation for the following reasons. (1) Ultimate justice occurs in the eschaton...(2) Sin and sinner are now more distinctly differentiated (cf. Eph. 6:11-18), allowing the saint both to hate sin and love the sinner. (3) The saint's strugggle is against spiritual powers of darkness. He conquers by turning the other cheek and by praying for the forgiveness of enemies (Matt. 5:39-48; 6:14; Luke 6:28, 35; Acts 7:60)" (878-880).

Psalms of the Messiah

I've been spending a lot of time lately studying the shape of the book of Psalms. It is logical to observe that there is intentionality in the ordering of the Psalms; just like each individual Psalm had a context it was composed in, the compilers of the Psalter were intentional in the ordering of the material. The more I study this topic, the richer it gets. But few quotes have packed more punch for me in terms of revolutionizing my understanding of the Psalms, as the following by Bruce Waltke:
"The concept of Messiah was also developed in the editing of the Psalter. Israel draped the magnificent royal psalms as robes on each successive king, but generation after generation the shoulders of the reigning monarch proved too narrow and the robe slipped off to be draped on his successor. Finally, in the exile, Israel was left without a king and with a wardrobe of royal robes in their hymnody. On the basis of I AM's unconditional covenants to Abraham and David, the faithful know that Israel's history ends in triumph, not in tragedy. The prophets, as noted, evisioned a coming king who would fulfill the promise of these covenants. Haggai and Zechariah, who prophesied about 520 BC when the returnees had no king, fueled the prophetic expectation of the hoped-for king by applying it to Zerubabbel, son of David, and to Joshua, the high priest. When this hope fell through, Israel pinned their hope on a future Messiah. It was in that context, when Israel had no king, that the Psalter was edited with reference to the king. Accordingly, the editors of the Psalter must have resignified the Psalms from the historical king and draped them on the shoulders of the Messiah. Samuel Terrien, commenting on Psalm 21, agrees: 'The theology of kingship and divine power had to be re-examined in the light of the historical events. Psalm 21 needed to be reinterpreted eschatologically. The Anointed One began to be viewed as the Messiah at the end of time.' In short, in light of the exile and the loss of kingship, the editors colored the entire Psalter with a messianic hue" (890).
- See his chapter entitled, "The Gifts of Hymns and the Messiah: The Psalms," pages 870-896 in his larger "Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Book I'm Most Anticipating in 2012

It's an embarrassment of riches, really; we live in an age where great resources for understanding the Bible are plentiful. What a blessing. Or, what a distraction! With the glut of resources, I'm constantly being reminded that I am simply not able to read all of the great books that are being published. As I get intentional about what I read, the need for good practical books remains. For example, my wife and I are currently reading Tim Keller's book on marriage out loud to each other, and it's been amazing. Likely the best book on marriage either one of us have ever read! But the focus of my reading is usually on what I might call 'tool books,' or books that are really tools to help me better read and understand the Bible for myself. I spend the weight of my time there, because these books help me to dig for myself into God's Word.

Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants

For me, then, the most anticipated book release of 2012 is "Kingdom Through Covenant," by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum. In this book, an Old Testament Professor(Gentry) and a Systematic/Biblical Theology Professor(Wellum) team up to examine what they call the backbone of both testaments. Here is the publisher's description:

Many theological discussions come to an impasse when parties align behind either covenant theology or dispensationalism. But Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum now propose a significant biblical theology of the covenants that avoids the extremes of both classical systems and holds the potential to break the theological impasse. Kingdom through Covenant is not a system-driven work, but a careful exposition of the covenants as key to the narrative plot structure of the whole Bible. 
Kingdom through Covenant emphasizes the importance of the covenant concept throughout Scripture, showing that crucial theological differences can be resolved by understanding how the biblical covenants unfold and relate to one another. Rather than looking at covenant as the center of biblical theology, the authors show how the covenants form the backbone of Scripture and the key to understanding its overarching story. They ultimately show that the covenant concept forms a solid platform for systematic theology. 
By incorporating the latest available research from the ancient Near East and examining implications of their work for Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and hermeneutics—Gentry and Wellum present a thoughtful and viable alternative to both covenant theology and dispensationalism.

Canadians can pre-order it at a hefty discount here.

Americans can get an even better discount here.

Buy it and read it!

(Did I mention that both of these professors are Canadians? From my neck of the woods? The potential blessing of reading it just multiplied tenfold!)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Wrestling With Ecclesiastes, Part III - Observing Life Under the Sun

Table 1:
The Ancient Hebrew View of the Universe
(see footnote 30)
This is the third post in a weekly series called, 'Wrestling with Ecclesiastes.' I've always found Ecclesiastes to be a very difficult book to understand, so this past semester I took the opportunity to focus on it in one of my classes. In this blog series I'm sharing some of what I've learned. For the first two posts in the series, go to the following:

Part 1 - The Teleological Suppression of the Eternal: Rethinking Absurdity in The Teacher's Perspective

Part 2 - Foundations: Author, Structure, Genre

Today's post is, I believe, the most important key to understanding Ecclesiastes. I've titled this post, 'Observing Life Under the Sun' because that is what I think Ecclesiastes is, a catalogue of observations by The Teacher about life under the sun. Read on to find out what I mean.

When we get looking at Ecclesiastes it becomes clear that the work of The Teacher is one of personal empirical observations.21 The Teacher's language is filled with these verbs of observation, with The Teacher himself as the subject (mostly, but not limited to, the first person singular voice). Some key phrases are: ‘I saw,’22 ‘I gave my heart,’23 ‘to seek,’24 ‘to explore’ (1:13; 7:25), ‘I spoke with my heart’ (1:16), ‘my heart saw’ (1:16), ‘I gave my heart’ (1:17; 9:1), ‘I spoke in my heart,’25 ‘I explored in my heart’ (2:3), ‘I will see’ (2:3), ‘I turned’ (in the sense of ‘considered, looked at, reflected on,’ 2:11, 12), ‘I knew’ (2:14; 3:12, 14), ‘I found’ (or ‘to find’ with The Teacher as the subject),26 and ‘I said’ (8:14; 9:16). Further, the pronoun ‘I’ occurs on its own, usually as an intensifier of a first person verb, 28 times in the book,27 and the noun ‘heart’ with the first common singular pronominal suffix attached to it, occurs 18 times.28

But these personal observations are intentionally limited. The qualifying phrases ‘under the sun’ (29 times),29 and ‘under the heavens’ (3 times, 1:13, 2:3, 3:1) occur throughout the book, for a total of 32 combined occurrences of the synonymous phrases. As The Teacher makes his observations, he does not do so as a prophet, from the top down, letting special revelation about ultimate reality refine his observations. Rather, he deliberately observes life ‘from the ground up,’ or ‘under the sun.’ Table 1
 displays the Hebrew view of the universe, and offers insight into the world that The Teacher is observing. For the purposes of this present study, it can be noted that the ‘under the sun/under the heavens’ qualifying phrase radically alters The Teacher's perspective.31 This is not to question the validity of the book, but it does radically effect its interpretation. As he makes his observations, The Teacher is choosing to do so with a sort of ‘tunnel vision,’ simply soaking in what really happens in the world and offering reports. For one thing, this insight has great bearing on the so-called contradictions throughout the book. Michael V. Fox observes:
The contradictions in the book of [Ecclesiastes] are real and intended. We must interpret them, not eliminate them. To be precise, [The Teacher] is not so much contradicting himself as observing contradictions in the world. To him they seem to be antinomies, two equally valid but contradictory principles. He does not resolve these antinomies, but only describes them, bemoans them, and suggests how to live in such a refractory world. The contradictions do not make the book incoherent. On the contrary, [The Teacher's] persistent observation of contradictions is a powerful cohesive force, and an awareness of it brings into focus the book’s central concern: the problem of meaning in life. The book of [Ecclesiastes] is about meaning: its loss and its (partial) recovery.32
To be sure, the book of personal observations under the sun is the key to this, and other key themes throughout the book. As we will see in a later post, it is only in the epilogue that this ‘under the sun’ limit to perspective is removed.


21 Michael V. Fox interestingly notes that, “[The Teacher's] epistemology as a whole has no parallel in other ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature, which, contrary to a widespread view, is not empirical” in “Qohelet’s Epistemology.”HUCA 58 (1987), 137.
22 1:14; 2:13, 24; 3:10, 16, 22; 4:1, 4, 15; 5:12, 17; 6:1; 7:15; 8:9, 10; 9:13; 10:5, 7
23 1:13, 17; 8:9
24 1:13; 7:25, 28; 12:10
25 2:1, 14, 15; 3:17, 18
26 7:27, 28 (3x), 29; 12:10
27 1:12, 16 (2x); 2:1, 12, 13, 14, 15 (3x), 18 (2x), 20, 24; 3:17, 18; 4:1, 2, 4, 7, 8; 5:17; 7:25, 26; 8:2, 12, 15; 9:16
28 1:13, 16 (2x), 17; 2:1, 3 (2x), 10 (2x), 15 (2x), 20; 3:17, 18; 7:25; 8:9, 16; 9:1
29 1:3, 9, 14; 2:11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22; 3:16, 4:1, 3, 7, 15; 5:12, 17; 6:1, 12; 8:9, 15 (2x), 17; 9:3, 6, 9 (2x), 11, 13; 10:5
31 I am indebted to Richard P. Belcher for first pointing me to the prevalence of, and importance of this phrase in Ecclesiastes. In his Ph.D. dissertation, supervised by Tremper Longman III and with Peter Ens as a secondary reader, he writes, “Although [The Teacher] carries out his search from a wisdom standpoint, his limited under the sun perspective effects his conclusions concerning divine retribution. Much like the author of Psalm 73, he struggles to understand why certain things happen in this world. Whereas the author of Psalm 73 needed a renewed understanding of God to break from from his struggle, [The Teacher] needs the epilogue to remind him of the revelation of God” Richard P. Belcher. Divine Retribution in Ecclesiastes: An Analysis of the Deed-Consequence Relationship With Implications For the Interpretation of the Book. (Ph.D. Dissertation, Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, PA: ProQuest Dissertations and Thesis, 2000), iii; For a fuller fleshing out of this idea see Ibid., 253-255; For others who share the perspective that the phrase ‘under the sun’ denotes a limit to perspective, see, for example, Longman, Ecclesiastes, 39; Michael A. Eaton. Ecclesiastes: An Introduction & Commentary. (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, D.J. Wiseman, Gen. Ed. Leicester, Eng; Downers Grove, ILL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983), 15-50.
32 Fox, A Rereading of Ecclesiastes, 3.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Carl Trueman on (Screen-Using) Multisite Churches

As I wrestle with issues of the application of Biblical truth to the nitty gritty of church life, I find that time and again, Carl Trueman is helpful to me. And I'll admit it: more often than not I find myself agreeing with him. Whether he is talking about a cultural or an ecclesiastical issue, he is a sharp thinker, a clear writer (and speaker), gracious, and downright hilarious (which doesn't hurt).

This past week I particularly appreciated his discussion of multi-site churches, where (contra. Keller), those multisite churches use a screen to 'beam' the preacher to the congregation (or audience, for that matter). His article is worth reading in full, and it can be found here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wrestling With Ecclesiastes, Part 2 - Foundations: Author, Structure, Genre

This is the second of what will likely be a weekly series entitled 'Wrestling With Ecclesiastes.' Ecclesiastes is a difficult book; it's hard to get past some of the content. But I am convinced that if we do some wrestling, the book yields great blessing! The first post can be found here:

Today's post will cover a few essential foundational matters including the authorship, structure, and genre of the book.

The authorship and structure of Ecclesiastes are inseparably tied together. The prologue identifies the author with the Hebrew word Qohelet, which the ESV translates as 'The Teacher' (1:1). Michael V. Fox observes that, the noun Qohelet,8 has the root meaning of ‘assembly,’ and its contextual meaning is, “one who does something in the assembly,” namely, public teaching (cf. 12:9).9 The Teacher further identifies himself as the son of David (1:1), and the king over Israel in Jerusalem (1:1, 12). The intended tie to Solomon is clear, because he is the only son of David who reigned from Jerusalem and over Israel.10 The book is structured around a prologue (1:1), body (1:2-12:8), and epilogue (12:9-14), with the opening (1:2) and closing (12:8) of the body enveloped by the key statement, “absurdity of absurdities, says The Teacher, [absurdity of absurdities],11 all is absurdity.”12 In addition, there are three places where the phrase ‘says The Teacher’ is added into the narrative (1:2; 7:27; 12:8). This, coupled with the clear stylistic differences between the body of the book and its epilogue,13 has led most to attribute the latter to the hand of an editor, with some even positing that a third hand was responsible for 12:13-14. However, Fox offers another solution to the differences in person and style. Fox’s thesis is that, “the Book of (Ecclesiastes) is to be taken as a whole, as a single, well-integrated composition, the product not of editorship but of authorship, which uses interplay of voice as a deliberate literary device for rhetorical and artistic purposes.”14 He goes on to note that the phrase, ‘says The Teacher’ in 1:2, 7:27 and 12:8 can be equated with the voice of the narrator, but that the narrator is the author of the whole work, stepping out of the persona of The Teacher and adding comments along the way. In addition, Robert Holmstedt has argued convincingly that in the body of his work, The Teacher creates a second persona, a conversation partner. He argues that the ‘I and my heart’ formula that occurs throughout the book is a device wherein The Teacher creates this second voice, in reference to his inner dialogue with himself (i.e. ‘I and my heart’).15 So there may be a dual persona, the primary of which is The Teacher, and the secondary as his heart, with the third voice of the narrator adding words from outside the Teacher persona. Whether these persona theories are accurate makes little difference to reading the book as a unity, though, if it is remembered that the book of Ecclesiastes was accepted into the canon of Scripture as a unity, with the crucial epilogue attached. For these reasons, and crucial for my argument, as I interpret the book, I will view it as a unity.

With regard to genre, a brief analysis of Ecclesiastes reveals that it is clearly a wisdom book. This is inherent in the book, because its earthy, simple, yet profound observations fit nicely into the wisdom genre. Some of it even has the ‘feel’ of proverbial statements (see, for example, chapter 5). Further, the book contains many key repeated words from the wisdom genre, with words from the root for wisdom,16 knowledge,17 skill,18 folly,19 and madness,20 occurring throughout.

Stay tuned next week for a discussion of what I believe to be the key to understanding this difficult, but amazing book of the Bible.



8 Found in 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8, 9, 10; in other words, the beginning, middle, and end of the book.

9 Michael V. Fox. A Time to Tear Down & A Time To Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes. (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 161.

10 I recognize the well-documented linguistic problems with this dating. For our purposes it is enough to note the intended tie to Solomon, without going into detail on what this means. For excellent discussions on the dating of Ecclesiastes see, for example, Longman, Ecclesiastes, 9-11; Fox, A Rereading of Ecclesiastes, 159-160.

11 The square brackets indicate words found in 1:2 but not in 12:8.

12 My own translation (throughout).

13 Note for example the switch from the first person beginning at 1:12 to the third person in the epilogue.

14 Michael V. Fox. “Frame Narrative and Composition in the Book of Qohelet.” HUCA 48 (1977), 83.

15 See “'I and My Heart': The Syntactic Encoding of the Collaborative Nature of Qohelet’s Experiment.” JHS 9:19 (2009), 2-27. In that place he writes, “Rather than לֵב used with verbs of speaking to express the idiom for internal speech, i.e., someone thinking or speaking to himself, it is used as a full-fledged character in Qohelet...the לֵב here is personified as an experiment partner distinct from himself (so also Fox 1999:267): two investigators can pursue different, even opposing, lines of inquiry better than one, thereby strengthening the conclusions that are ultimately drawn” Ibid., 13-14.

16 1:12, 16 (2x), 17, 18; 2:3, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 (2x), 19 (2x), 21, 26; 4:13; 6:8; 7:4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12 (2x), 16, 19 (2x), 23 (2x), 25; 8:1 (2x), 5; 9:1 (2x), 10, 11, 13, 15, 16 (2x), 17; 10:1, 2, 10, 12; 12:9, 11

17 1:16, 17 (3x), 18; 2:21, 26; 7:12, 25 (2x); 8:1, 5 (2x), 7, 12; 9:1 (2x); 9:5 (2x), 10, 11, 12; 11:2, 5 (2x), 6, 9; 12:9

18 2:21; 5:10

19 1:17; 2:3, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19; 4:5, 13, 17; 5:2, 3; 6:8; 7:4, 5, 6, 9, 17, 25 (2x); 9:17: 10:1, 2, 3 (2x), 6, 12, 13, 14, 15

20 1:17; 2:2, 12; 7:25; 9:3; 10:13

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mark Dever on Numbers and Church Growth

I was REALLY encouraged by this 9 minute Q & A session with Mark Dever.

HT: Justin Taylor

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Ecclesiastes is a difficult book, and aptly called, “the black sheep of the canon of biblical books”1 by one author. Of the three wisdom books in the Old Testament, Proverbs teaches patterns of order in a universe governed by the righteous Yahweh, Job teaches the covenant people to embrace mystery in suffering and to live for God’s glory, and Ecclesiastes teaches that all of life is absurd,2 and that God’s people should despair. Or so it would seem upon a cursory reading. I am not the first to struggle with the meaning of this book. Longman reports that, “there were ancient doubts about its divine authority among the rabbis and others”.3 He continues:

In the first tractate of the Mishnah (Shabbat, ch. 3), Rabbi Tanhum of Nave is quoted as saying, ‘O Solomon, where is your wisdom, where is your intelligence? Not only do your words contradict the words of your father, David, they even contradict themselves’...I further observe that the Pesiqta of Rab Kahana (Leviticus Rabbah 28:1) states: ‘The sages sought to store away the Book of Ecclesiastes, because they found words in it which tended to heresy.’4

However, because of its beginning and end, along with its connection to Solomon, the Jewish community did recognize Ecclesiastes as canonical.5 Further, there is no evidence that Christians questioned whether this book was a part of Holy Scripture.6 But that does not mean Christian interpreters have been free from struggle: “In the summer and fall of 1526 (Martin) Luther took up the challenge to lecture on Ecclesiastes to the small band of students who stayed behind in Wittenberg during the plague. ‘Solomon the preacher,’ he wrote to a friend, ‘is giving me a hard time, as though he begrudged anyone lecturing on him. But he must yield.’”7 Thankfully, upon a close reading of Ecclesiastes, the book does yield an important message. This blog series is the product of my own wrestlings, my own effort to read Ecclesiastes closely, and force him to yield his meaning. The title of my series hints at the key to the book’s meaning - the teleological suppression of the eternal: rethinking absurdity in The Teacher’s perspective - and my thesis, which will unpack this title, is as follows: Ecclesiastes is a wisdom book in which the author observes the absurdity of life under the sun, with the end goal of helping the covenant people to accept the absurd and to live for the eternal. In the posts that follow, I will unpack each aspect of this thesis in turn. I will begin with matters that are foundational to my overall argument, including questions of author, structure, genre, and the issue of observing life under the sun. I will then move to discuss the key themes of absurdity, The Teacher’s view of God, and his teaching on joy. With these foundations in place, I will offer a quick overview of the book as a whole, before I conclude by discussing the epilogue as the end goal of the argument of the book, and therefore as the essential key to understanding absurdity in The Teacher’s perspective.



1 Bruce Waltke, with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 946

2 A defense of this translation of the Hebrew term 'hevel' will be set forth in a post to follow.

3 Tremper Longman III. The Book of Ecclesiastes. (NICOT. Ed. Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 1998), 26.

4 Ibid., 27.

5 See Ibid., 28.

6 See Ibid., 29.

7 John Piper. “Martin Luther: Lessons From His Life and Labor,” n.p. [cited 24 February 2012]. Online:

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bernie Madoff Guide to Church Growth

My buddy Clint has an insightful little post here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How To Write God Book Reviews and How to Learn From Poor Critiques of Your Writing

Dr. Robert Holmstedt, a professor of mine in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, offers some very helpful advice on writing book reviews in light of two negative reviews of one of his recent books (An analysis of the Hebrew Grammer of Ruth). In his reflections, Holmstedt sets some helpful criteria for writing a good review, and models a willingness to both critique and also learn from 'poor reviews'. In light of the sheer time and energy it must have taken to write this book, his humility is to be commended. Here are the key introductory paragraphs to whet your appetite for read the whole thing:

Two reviews have now appeared and neither is positive. Timothy Lim (Edinburgh) reviewed it forThe Expository Times (122:3) and, just recently, Marjo Korpel (Utrecht) reviewed it in the onlineReview of Biblical Literature.

Both reviews are instructive, even if they are rather dismissive of my work. How then, you ask, are the reviews instructive? Do they point out fundamental problems that I would change if I could go back and write the book over or that I’ll adjust as I write the next volume in the series? Not at all, I answer. Rather, the reviews shall serve as teaching fodder, since how to write a useful review is clearly not taught much anymore and apparently the concept and components of a useful review are not as obvious as one might expect.

Even if you are not interested in Hebrew grammer, you will benefit from reading the whole article here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

51 Minutes (or so) in Heaven

I've always been dubious when I've heard about books where people say it happened to them, but today it happened to me and the experience I had was absolutely trustworthy. I know of many people who long to get a peek, just a glimpse, into what happens when they die, so they buy people's testimonies about glimpses, trips, experiences, dreams, where they saw, visited, experienced, gazed at, heven or hell. These readers all seem to have one thing in common: they long for a deeper assurance of the eternal, and they want other people in their lives to be jarred into these greater realities as well. But I've always found this unsettling, because although there is a God who reveals glimpses of the eternal to people, there is also an enemy who deceives, not to mention deceitful people out there who write lies in order to get rich. But I know for certain that my story is true and certain and to be trusted, and I come away from it feeling an assurance of the eternal that is absolutely to be trusted. Let me tell you what happened to me today.

It all started with my friend John. God led him to heaven for several hours this week, and today he led me, my wife, and about a thousand other people to see the very same realities. John is my pastor, and he is preaching through the book of Revelation. And my wife and I agree that as we were sitting under this ministry this morning, we were transported to see heaven (and hell) in a way that has changed us.

This should not shock anyone. In reference to his preaching, the Apostle Paul told the Galatians: "It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified" (Gal 3:1b, ESV). Paul's preaching gave people a visual display of the the realities he proclaimed. In another place, Paul said that "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16a). So when I heard my pastor open God's living Word this morning, read it, and proclaim its message to us, I should not be surprised that I was, and about a thousand other people were, transported. That he is currently preaching through the book of Revelation explains why I saw heaven in particular so clearly.

And so it comes back to me as a preacher. As I evaluate myself I need to ask, 'will my preaching lead people to a clearer vision of Christ crucified?'; 'am I preaching from all parts of God's Word (including Revelation), so that God's people have a vision of heaven that they long for?'; 'will my preaching leave people wondering about the eternal, wanting a bit more of a peek, leading them to buy less-than reliable books when the absolutely trustworthy, living Word of God simply needs to be declared to them and they would be transported to another world?'. I think that preachers are too quick to mock those books and not quick enough to evaluate themselves and what the popularity of those books must say about their own preaching. To a man (or woman), every person I know who buys books of personal testimony about trips to heaven or hell have at least two things in common: 1) they have good motives; they sincerely want to understand more deeply and live more for the eternal; 2) they find the book of Revelation daunting and confusing.

I am thankful to be under the faithful ministry of a man so gifted and godly. I am thankful that he is preaching through Revelation, and, as he often says in sermons, inviting us to put on these new lenses through which we will see the world. I am thankful that my friend in Toronto has begun a series on the same book!

To download my Pastor, John Mahaffey's series as it unfolds, go here.

To check out the Canadian Gospel Coalition Conference he is organizing, click here.

To listen to John Piper's testimony of having God actually speak to him, click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Middle-Aged White Guy's Guide to Christian Rap

My buddy Tim Challies has provided the following helpful (and hilarious) infographic (I think you can click on it to view the full version):

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tim Keller on New York City's Ban on Churches Meeting in Public Schools

By Tim Keller....

[This was posted today on]

I am grieved that New York City is planning to take the unwise step of removing 68 churches from the spaces that they rent in public schools. It is my conviction that those churches housed in schools are invaluable assets to the neighborhoods that they serve. Churches have long been seen as positive additions to communities. Family stability, resources for those in need, and compassion for the marginalized are all positive influences that neighborhood churches provide. There are many with first-hand experience who will claim that the presence of churches in a neighborhood can lead to a drop in crime.

The great diversity of our city means that we will never all agree completely on anything. And we cherish our city’s reputation for tolerance of differing opinions and beliefs. Therefore, we should all mourn if disagreement with certain beliefs of the church is allowed to unduly influence the formation of just policy and practice.

I disagree with the opinion written by Judge Pierre Leval that: “A worship service is an act of organized religion that consecrates the place in which it is performed, making it a church.” This is an erroneous theological judgment; I know of no Christian church or denomination that believes that merely holding a service in a building somehow “consecrates” it, setting it apart from all common or profane use. To base a legal opinion on such a superstitious view is surely invalid. Conversely, I concur with Judge John Walker’s dissenting opinion that this ban constitutes viewpoint discrimination and raises no legitimate Establishment Clause concerns.

A disproportionate number of churches that are affected by this prohibition are not wealthy, established communities of faith. They are ones who possess the fewest resources and many work with the poor. Redeemer has many ties with those churches and their pastors, and our church community invests time and resources to assist them to be good neighbors in their communities.

Let them be those good neighbors. I am hopeful that the leaders of New York City and the legislators of New York State will see the value of a society that encourages all spheres of culture—the church, government, education, business, etc—to work together for human flourishing.

Dr. Timothy Keller
Senior Pastor
Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Carl Trueman: Gnosticism, Nicea and Celebrity

I think it is wise to be following the whole controversy surrounding the Elephant Room 2, as it helps us think through: 1) the importance of theology; 2) the issue of celebrity pastors; 3) the issue of authority: who we listen to today....not to mention the fact that like 'em or not, the people involved are all influential within the church.

As usual, Carl Trueman offers a very helpful critique. As I do a 'mirror reading' of his little piece, I'm guessing that he's responding to some comments made by James McDonald. A few of the many helpful paragraphs reads as follows (after pointing out that many people who participated in the Council of Nicea had suffered for their Trinitarian theology):
That someone is willing to die for a cause does not sanctify it; but when you add to this that Nicene orthodoxy has been universally agreed upon as important by millions of Christians of multiple races, nationalities and age profile, through sixteen centuries, surely that should give us pause for thought. The questions asked at Nicea were important and they were asked by serious men, men serious enough to risk death for their faith. To dismiss all this with a wave of the hand or through simple lack of knowledge and competence, and to follow this up by playing the race card, is an interesting move.

But hey, if a bunch of middle-aged American pastors in the Elephant Room tell you Nicea and its delegates -- and all the Christians who have suffered and died to maintain its truth over the centuries -- are irrelevant, who am I to question them? To do so would surely be the height of arrogance. Ahem.
Read the whole thing here.

James McDonald is a very good popularizer, but obviously, not a great theologian. He would be an excellent church leader if he surrounded himself with great theologians and listened to them. That he has failed to do this thus far, severely limits his ability to shepherd a growing movement effectively. It's too bad.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Voddie Baucham: The Elephant in the Room

Voddie's word is excellent. Here are the first two paragraphs:

This past week a firestorm erupted over the recent “Elephant Room 2.” The controversy centers around the decision to invite Bishop T.D. Jakes to participate in the event. The central questions in the debate are 1) whether or not Bishop Jakes holds to the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, 2) whether it was appropriate to invite (and feature) him without first having clarified his position on this cardinal doctrine, and 3) whether he cleared up the matter.

I was scheduled to speak at Harvest Bible Chapel on the weekend following ER2 which raised significant questions about my stance on the matter. While I do not consider it my responsibility to comment on every controversy, I do recognize my duty to clarify matters with which I am involved directly, and/or those that impact the congregation I am called to shepherd. Hence, my explanation now.

I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Other Elephant in the Room

For my little article on the first elephant in the room, go here.

Why would a person resign from a committee of faithful gospel preachers in order to 'unite' with a man who is heretical on at least two fronts (and I do use the word 'heresy' with its full force). This is ridiculous!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How Did the Apostle Paul Understand Leviticus 18:5?

Justin Taylor's post is about the best little summary/explanation I've read on this important topic. I think this kind of thing is the key to understanding how to read/apply both the Old Testament and the New Testament in the life of the Christian. Here is his post in its entirety:

The Apostle Paul twice cites Leviticus 18:5 in the midst of important arguments about justification.

In Galatians 3:12 he says, “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’”

And in Romans 10:5 he says, “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.”

One of the more common recent readings is that Paul is not talking about the actual Mosaic law, but rather about a legalistic misuse or misunderstanding of it. In part this is because we know that salvation has always been by faith, even under the Mosaic covenant, and yet Paul appears to be contrasting the law with faith (see Gal. 3:11 and Rom. 10:6 for the contrasts).

However, this “misuse of the law” interpretation simply can’t account for Paul’s actual flow of thought and argument. Tom Schreiner points out one of the reasons in 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law: “the misinterpretation view suffers from a major defect. Elsewhere Paul always cites an Old Testament text positively to advance his own argument, and we are lacking any clear evidence that he responds to a wrong understanding here. It is most likely, then, that Paul cites the Old Testament to advance his argument.”

So what is Paul really doing? I think Schreiner’s understanding is exactly right, and if you don’t see Paul’s strategy here, you’ll misread a good chunk of Paul’s contrast between the old and new covenants.

Paul reads Leviticus 18:5 redemptive-historically.

Perfect obedience is demanded from those who place themselves under the law, for the atonement provided by Old Testament sacrifices no longer avails with the coming of Christ.

Perfect obedience was not demanded in one sense under the Sinai covenant, for the law provided forgiveness via sacrifices for those who transgressed.

In Paul’s view, however (see Gal. 3:15-4:7), the Sinai covenant is no longer in force. Hence, those who observe circumcision and the law to obtain justification (Gal. 5:2-4) are turning back the clock in salvation history. The coming of Christ spells the end of the Sinai covenant (Gal. 3:15-4:7). Hence, those who live under the law must keep it perfectly to be saved, for in returning to the law they are forsaking the atonement provided by Christ (Gal. 2:21; 5:3). Returning to the law is futile, however, for the sacrifices of atonement under the Sinai covenant pointed ahead to the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore animal sacrifices no longer provide forgiveness now that the definitive sacrifice of Christ has been offered (Gal. 3:13).

In the chapter on this verse in his book, Dr. Schreiner also explains what Leviticus 18:5meant in its original context, how it was interpreted in the rest of the OT, and why we should reject the reading that sees Romans 10:5 and 10:6-8 as both describing the life of faith.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Light Before The Sun

"Let there be light". The first recorded command in history rang out across a dark, formless void, and instantly the dark gloom was replaced by blazing light. The Creator-God stepped back and admired what he had made and he concluded, "this is good". Twelve hours later, the light faded and was replaced, not with never-ending darkness, but twelve hours of darkness before the light blazed forth again. The first recorded day in all of history was complete. On the next day, sky, and the next, land and vegetation with seed-bearing fruit came into existence through the creative command of God. The succession of evening and morning that had begun a few days previously continued and would continue. And then on the fourth day, God spoke again: "Let there be...lights".

It is well documented that the Genesis creation account records the creation of light first, but the creation of lights, of planets to emanate light, on the fourth day. The question begs to be asked, 'how could God create light on the first, and planets on the fourth day'? Some claim that this is a Hebrew poetic device, and that the days of creation are not meant to be interpreted as a creative succession, but rather, as a poetic re-telling of what must have happened, somewhere between history and myth. Some mock, and cite this as the first error in the Bible, the first authorial slip, the first sign that the Bible is not trustworthy. From human experience it is certainly impossible to have light, to have earth at all, without light-emanating planets.

Indeed, there are many proposed explanations for the creation of light before the creation of planets to emanate light, and I have yet to read all the various views on this important topic...but I do have a theory as to what was going on. I think that the second-to-last chapter of the Bible sheds incredible 'light' on Genesis 1. Revelation 21:23 says this about the New Jerusalem:
"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (ESV).
What do we learn here? In the very least, we learn that God has no need of planets in order to emanate light, that all he needs is, well, himself. "God is light" (1 John 1:5). And the New Heavens and the New Earth will have no need of planets because all that separates men and women from God will be gone. Jesus, who is The Light of the World (John 8:12), has already paid for sin and redeemed his people. In the New Heavens and New Earth, the full-inheritance will be given, and the God who is Light will provide all the glory that the Christian's eternal home will need.

Could it be that in that first act of creation, God spoke and simply revealed his glory, allowed his own radiance to emanate forth? Could it be that he hung light into place on that day, and that he himself was the source of that light? This certainly makes sense.

Could it be that on the fourth day of creation, God was making provision for sin, for the day when the crowning climax of God's creation, men and women made in his image, would rebel against their creator, and would be separated from God's perfect presence, for the time when the God who is Light would be unbearable to be around, because he is so perfectly pure, and we are so utterly sinful? Could it be that the all-knowing Creator was already thinking of mercy, was already thinking of how to preserve a people who would rebel, so they would be ready for the gospel, even before they were created?

These are some of my own exegetical wrestlings with God's Word. I do not share these things as the final word, or even a great word that I've read in a book somewhere. I share them as the thoughts of a student of the Bible who is in process, but who loves to dig more deeply in the Word of God, so that the God who has revealed himself would be closer to his heart.

I'm so glad that I wrestle with the Bible deeply, long before commentaries on the Bible ever enter my hands. I'm so glad for the privilege of having daily, even constant, first-hand access to the very words of God.

And I'm also glad for community, even cyber-community. Can you share any thoughts that shed light on, or disproves what I've written? I would love to learn from my readers, and to have my gaze at God be brought into greater focus. Leave a comment and give some thoughts!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Is "Theological Interpretation of Scripture"?

My buddy Uche answers that question in this very brief, very simple, very helpful introduction to a movement in scholarship that I like (and that he embodies).

Read his answer here.