Monthly Archives: January 2014

Review: A House For My Name

A House For My Name

I’m starting this review off a little backwards. I have a lot to say, but I’ll start by saying this book is

Recommended

I have enjoyed most of the books I’ve been reviewing, but this might be my favorite book I’ve read and reviewed so far. Leithart actually intends this book to be read in a family devotional setting. While Leithart is an academical OT scholar, this book is surprisingly easy and interesting to read. It is intended to be read in a family devotional setting. “Dear lord, read all of the Old Testament to kids?” Well, yes. Leithart says,

“I encourage parents not to underestimate what children can learn about the Bible. Unlike many books of theology, the content of the Bible is fairly easy to grasp. Even (especially?) a two-year-old understands what happens when someone’s head is bashed with a tent peg. If trained to read properly, children can begin to see how parts of the Bible are connected to each other and to one big story” (pg. 15). 

And that’s what Leithart seeks to do in this book, and he does it well. The Old Testament, as a whole, is a story. Each book is it’s own story, but each book relates and builds on other books. I enjoyed reading this book, and always came away with new insights and nuggets that I did not know before. If you’d like too see a picture of how the Old Testament is a unified story, get this book!

Now before I start trying explaining this book in this section, here’s the rest of the review.

Actually Read the Old Testament?

“The whole Bible tells a story” we are often told. The Old Testament points to Christ, and the New Testament tells about this new age and salvation that He has ushered in. But how come the Old Testament is so darned hard to read? Genesis is mildly interesting when you aren’t reading the genealogies, and Exodus is an imaginative experience with plagues of locusts and hail falling from the sky and which paints a picture for us to see God as a consuming fire on top of Mt. Sinai, One who is great and mighty and should be feared. But then we read laws, building regulations, and more laws up until the end of Deuteronomy (with a few interesting judgment stories of self-seeking rebels in Numbers [16] and some bits of narrative-retelling in Deuteronomy).

Joshua has some awesome battles, but then there’s a twelve piece land giveaway that borders on the side of tears in your daily devotional. Why is Judges even in the Bible if, for the most part, they weren’t any good? Deceit, tent pegs, greed, child sacrifice, self-focused sexual desire. They’re just as bad as the people they lead! (Hmmm….)

If we already have the books of Samuel and Kings, do we really need Chronicles too? And aside from promises about an eternal covenant, God being our God and us being His people, and some scathing rebukes to rich ‘cows,’ what do the prophets even mean? Yes, I should care for the poor, widowed, and orphaned, but what does another judgment on Egypt, Philistia, and Mount Seir have to do with me?

Super Seeds

Because the times of the Old Testament are so far removed from us, many liberals have said that Christian theology has “superseded” that of the OT theology causing us to no longer need the Old Testament. There’s nothing left to be found in it. In fact, it is the seed that grows into our knowledge of Christ once He comes (came) and fulfills (fulfilled) the OT.

But there is a way to read the Old Testament that is of benefit to Christians today. We don’t rip out the OT for a reason. Paul says it’s still holy Scripture breathed out by God and is profitable for our Christian living.

So how do we read the OT? Like a book that has a point, the highest of which is to glorify God and direct us to His Son, the coming Messiah. But there are also themes and motifs seen throughout these books. For example, in the books of Samuel we see a motif (theme) of the “spear.” First the Israelites don’t have spears except for King Saul and his son Jonathan, but all of the Philistines do, one in which is Goliath. Goliath has a spear and is an enemy of David and God. Soon after Goliath’s death, the “spear” motif is seen with another: Saul! Just as Goliath was the enemy of both David and God. “As Samuel warned, Saul…is a king like the kings of the nations; he acts like a Philistine giant” (pg. 33).

There are 8 chapters (he’s even fine with you skipping the Introduction since it is the most “egg-heady” section of the book. Although even the intro is interesting 10 pages in where he starts to law done “rules of engagement” in reading the OT).

The 8 chapters I spoke of are as follows:

  1. Book of Beginnings
  2. Out of Egypt I have Called My Son
  3. From Sinai to Shiloh
  4. The House of David and the House of Yahweh
  5. Walking in the Customs of the Nations
  6. The Last Days of Judah
  7. Exile and New Exodus
  8. Israel Dead and Reborn

I don’t have the time to elaborate on all 8 chapters. You might as well just read the book. But hopefully I can hold or pique your interest in a few nuggets from this book.

I’m King of the World

In Genesis 1-2 Adam’s job is to “rule” and “subdue.” In the OT the word “subdue” is used to describe a victory in war (David) and subduing one to slavery (Jer. 34:11, 16; 2 Chron. 28:10). Adam is to make the world pleasing to God, to multiply and fill the earth, growing the garden of Eden (the first “temple”) so that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). As King of the world (since he is the head of humanity), if he subdues the earth he will be building a house for God within the house that God has built for him.

An Eternal House

Later, we see God promise to build David a “house” (eternal lineage, where the real temple of God will not be a building but a people among whom He will dwell), and “once He has built the house for David, David’s son will build a house for Him,” a house that connects heaven and earth, the true tower of Babel (pg. 148). The future history of the world is bound up with the Davidic dynasty through which the Messiah would come. 

Moses and Stephen

What’s the deal with Moses’ 40 year wandering before he met up with Pharaoh? What it God’s longterm way of dealing with a prideful Moses who was a bit too eager to save his people from the Egyptians? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But when Moses went to “visit” his Hebrew brethren, we don’t know if this is the first time he has done this. When God “visits” His people, it’s with the intent of saving them and destroying their enemies (Ps. 106:4). Moses intends to bring Israel to salvation.

Moses murders the slave-driving Egyptian, acting “on the principle of ‘eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, stroke for stroke’ (pg. 76). Stephen says that this was an act, not of brutal murder, but “vengeance on behalf of the oppressed” (Acts 7:24). Moses, being a prince and ruler in Egypt, is permitted to do this, to stand for justice.

However, Moses gets a taste of how Israel will treat their future savior. Soon he tries to stop a fight between two Israelites, but they don’t want Moses as prince and judge over them (Ex. 2:14). So Moses goes to Midian, one, because Pharaoh heard about this and planned to kill him, and two, because God was judging Israel for her sins. Their salvation is delayed for a generation because they do not accept Moses. Stephen tells the Jews they are “doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:51-52).

Jesus, Our Messiah, Our Fulfillment

The Mosaic order of water and purification cannot heal. Yet Jesus heals a man who has been sick for 38 years (the same amount of time Israel was in the wilderness; Deut. 2:14).

Moses is the leader of the people who received the manna, whereas Jesus is manna (and even still people grumble against Him – Jn. 6:41, 43, 61).

A river flows from the Garden of Eden (2:10), meaning Eden is uphill. Water, trees, and a man and woman on a mountaintop are features of the Garden that come up over and over later in the Bible. Abraham’s servant finds Rebekah for Isaac while waiting at a well (Gen. 24:10). Jacob meets Rachel at a well (Gen. 29:1-12). Moses fights of shepherds attacking Jethro’s daughters at a well and ends up marrying on of those daughters (Ex. 2:16-22). We see garden scenes, a man, a woman, and animals. “The patriarchs are new Adams with…new Eves who are to be fruitful, multiply, rule, and subdue” (pg. 54). In John 4, we see Jesus meet the Samaritan woman at a well while discussing marriage, everlasting life, and true worship with her.

No, they don’t get physically get married, but Jesus, the True Adam, discusses the spiritual marriage between the Bridegroom and His bride, when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters covers the sea.

The Chocolate Milk

Pretty much the whole book.

Leithart does an excellent job in showing the comprehensive story of the Old Testament. Books relate a growing theme, a typology (what God typically does) that culminates in Jesus Christ.

The Spoiled Milk

Usually the allusions to other parts of Scripture are clear and insightful. Yet there are still instances where more references would have helped solidify Leithart’s case. On page 115, Leithart mentions Gideon, the fleece, and the Holy Spirit. Yet was Gideon really a picture of being clothed with the HS, or was God simply giving mercy to an unbelieving Gideon?

Along with that time Leithart said Jesus showed He accepted Gentiles when He ate seafood because the Old Testament spoke of “the sea” as Gentiles at times. While the OT did poetically speak of Gentiles at times, I don’t see how it means Jesus’ love for shrimp scampi shows his acceptance of Gentiles.

Instances like this are very few and far between, and are usually very quick. They don’t take up much space, rather than a whole chapter causing you to wonder if it was worth the read.

This book is worth the read.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 279 Pages
  • Publisher: Canon Press (June 20, 2000)
  • Amazon
  • PDF. I will say that this sample is made up of the beginning section of the book (Table of Contents, Preface, and Introduction). As I said before, Leithart warns us of the Introduction’s egg-headiness (academic) style, and allows you to turn to chapter 1. That being said, if you want to have a look at this, the more interesting part of the Introduction starts on pg. 27 where he shows you how he interprets the OT. Through it he gives some rather interesting examples. These examples are a taste of the book, yet the book is not exactly like this. I promise the book is an easy read.


[Speci
al thanks to Gene at Canon Press for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Honor Culture in the Gospels

So, as promised and in much “quicker (?)” time than my Introducing the Apocrypha posts [1 and 2], here is the second part of my Honor and Shame series. 

David deSilva’s The Hope of Glory takes a glance at how the New Testament authors sought to change the behaviors and social interactions of honor-sensitive people. What is an honor-sensitive person? It’s someone who wanted to have honor for themselves and for their community. They wanted to have a good name for themselves and for their family and local community. 

The “Head” of Honor Culture

When someone was the head of the home, a tribe, or a group of people, they were the honorable authority. They carried the responsibility for caring for the group, and they were to be honored. 

Along with that, even the physical head was honored. Kings wore crowns on it, and priests were anointed with oil on it. It was a physical representation of honor granted to the recipient. On the other hand, dishonor was brought through slapping (Mt. 5:39), striking (Mk 15:19), and beheading (Mk 6:25-29). 

The Sanhedrin slaps, strikes, and spits on Jesus’ face (Mt. 26:65-68). The Roman soldiers give Him a mock “crowning”, mock prostration, and more strikes to the face (Mt. 27:27-31). 

Another dishonor, a huge dishonor, was crucifixion. “Corporeal punishment, such as flagellation or crucifixion, is an act of degradation imposed upon the body, a token of the lack of esteem in which criminals, who are so punished, are held.” (p. 13). 

Yet, though this is the most dishonorable of acts, the Gospels promote the innocence, justice, and courage of Jesus all throughout. Jesus’ opponents are the most dishonorable, being presented as envious (Mk 15:10), plotting to kill Jesus by trickery and deception (Mk 14:1, 10-11), and bearing false witness in court in order to deem Him guilty (Mk. 14:56-59). 

However, Jesus was not a character of a misfortunate circumstance. The passion predictions (16:21-23; 17:9-12, 22-23; 20:17-19) show that His trial, torture, and death were not a surprise.  His death was intentional. More than that, it was noble. In fact, it was “voluntarily accepted and enacted for the benefit of others” (p. 46). 

From as early as Matthew 1:21, we see that it was Jesus’ purpose to save His people from sin. Jesus said He came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28), and His blood is of the new covenant which will be shed for the remission of sins (Mt. 26:27-28).

The betrayal of Judas and the envious plottings of the Jewish leaders came as no surprise to Jesus. He knew how His life would end, He knew it’s how it should end, and He knew it was meant for others. 

Matthew records signs at both the beginning of Jesus’ life and at the end, signs which enhance the honor and significance of His death. Yet of all the signs, God gives the final and ultimate  “response” to the “challenge” of Jesus’ enemies (Mt. 27:43; Mk 15:31-32) through the resurrection. And it was through the resurrection that God gave Jesus the name above every name (Phil. 2:9). 

Jesus came to set things straight from society’s skewed views of honor. What they saw as great was not, and what was not was. Jesus came to turn that around (Mt. 20:24-28) in serving one another. Matthew heavily emphasizes forgiveness. It is underscored in the Lord’s prayer (Mt. 6:9-15), the parable of the forgiven and ungrateful servant (Mt. 18:23-35), and in the afore-mentioned “slap across the face” instance where, instead of slapping back, one turns the other cheek.  

When someone slaps you across the face as a “challenge-response,” why should you forgive them? That’s not the “response” that would advocate honor in this honor-hungry society. But it is the response that Jesus calls us to make. The response that flies in the face of society’s expectations. Jesus, the same King who forgave us an enormous debt (Mt. 18:24-27) and expects us to forgive others of their minuscule debts (Mt. 18:28). The same King who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). The same King who endured the torture, the shame, the mocking, and crucifixion for the joy that was set before Him (Heb 12:2) to sit at the right hand of the Father. 

He calls us to forgive, to go against society’s shaming tactics, and to love our neighbor, for when we arrive at the end of the race, when we’ve made it through all of the trials and difficulties that life chucks at us, we will hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant,” and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2). 

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Review: Just Do Something

Just Do Something

Do we really need another book about God’s will? Another book telling us how to find the secret path? If God wants us to follow His will, He should be showing us what He wants to do? Then why is it so hidden? Why is it so difficult to know what He wants us to do? Who do I marry? Should I work? Should I go to school? Both? Where should I work? Should I give to this organization? How much should I give? How many kids should I have? What school should I send them to? Should I move?  Should I be a missionary in Africa? India? Pastor? 

“If there really is a perfect will of God we are meant to discover, in which we will find tremendous freedom and fulfillment, why does it seem that everyone looking for God’s will is in such bondage and confusion?” (p. 54).

DeYoung starts his book with Tinkertoys. It’s been popular for a hundred years because kids like to tinker. And so do adults. So what’s wrong with that?

We have a generation of a bunch of people who can’t stick to their guns. They’re not sure if they’re making the right decisions, and most of the time they can’t make decisions period. Nobody wants to be wrong. Nobody wants to go through difficulties. Nobody wants to get stuck with the wrong job, in the wrong state, with the wrong family, at the wrong church, getting gipped by a faulty charity organization.

So, for the Christian, life after high school is often filled with never-ending unlimited possibilities. A world full of choices. 

Too many choices.

And they float around waiting for “God’s will” to show them the safe way to everlasting peace and fulfillment. 

Enter Grandpa DeYoung

“You just do things.”

What?

“You just do things.”

“‘You just do things'”? Apparently Gramps DeYoung never thought about what God’s will for his life was. He obviously took the wrong course in life having never fretted over God’s will…

By and large, we expect too much out of life. Everything has to ‘fulfill’ us: our spouse, our kids, our jobs, our house, etc. We expect everything to be amazing, and when it’s not we’re severely disappointed and feel as if we’ve been given the slobbery end of the stick.

“I never thought about fulfillment. I had a job. I ate. I lived. I raised my family. I went to church. I was thankful” (p. 31).

That seems…..almost…too simple. Could it really be that I just need to make decisions? 

Moving along to chapter 4, DeYoung touches on looking at God as a Magic 8-Ball. The Bible doesn’t light up when that special girl walks by, nor does golden glitter rain down from the sky when she comes into view. Unicorns don’t come up from the ground. And pigs don’t fly. Is he or she “the one”? Not if you don’t talk to them. 

But how will I know if God doesn’t show me what He wants? We feel the need for God to show us, to know the future, and to make Him our excuse when we don’t want to do things. “Don’t blame me! God told me so!” This isn’t to say that we can’t say we feel the Lord is leading us into a certain direction, but we shouldn’t use the Holy Spirit as our accountability-dodger. 

We never take risks because we never feel peace about them. Well…yeah. That’s the whole point of a risk. God expects us to make good decisions, confident that He already knows what’s going to happen. We can take risks because He already has everything planned out. Why would God give us His Word to teach our brains about seeking, finding, and applying wisdom to our lives, if all we really have to do is ask God for guidance in our every decision?  

A Better Way

Trying to ‘find’ God’s will, something that’s supposed to be so freeing, can keep so many people in bondage. That seems paradoxical. Brian Rosner talks about God’s will in his book Paul and the Law (my post here) dealing with 7 verses where Paul mentions the will of God (and they don’t have to do with a mystic guiding hand). God has a sovereign will, which we won’t fully know. It’s too high above us to know. We don’t know His whole overall scheme with all the little details that are involved. But we can know His moral will: what to do, and what not to do. And basically….that’s it. 

  • God’s will is for me to be obedient to Him in my ethical decisions. 
  • I am to live a holy life, set apart form the rest of the word. 
  • God’s will is to shape me into the image of Christ. 

It’s not waiting for a “liver-shiver.” It’s being Christ-like in all of my actions. 

Chapter 6 is on ordinary means by which God guides us, while chapter 7 are the “interesting” ways that we should stay away from. Read God’s Word or set out a fleece? Seek out godly counsel or follow the verse my finger lands on when I flip open my Bible? Wait for visions and impressions? Or perhaps realize that those things don’t happen quite as often as they did (or as we think they did) in the New Testament. 

When miraculous visions happened in the New Testament, nobody was looking for them. Peter just wanted to take a nap on a roof. Paul was simply going to Damascus. Nobody asked Agabus for a prophecy. There were times that God gave Paul a decisive answer on where to go. But usually Paul made choices like the rest of us have to make. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28-29). Paul didn’t have a GPS. He planned. He made “strategeries.” He prayed, and then did what seemed wise to him. Yes, sometimes matters didn’t go over well (1 Cor. 16:5-7; cf. 2 Cor. 1:12-2:4). In fact, even when the Holy Spirit did tell Paul where to go, it usually ended up with him getting a beating anyway. But he knew God was with him (Acts 18:9-10). 

The point is this: fear God, not the future. Obey Him. Be like Christ. And let Him deal with your plans. He has given us good plans to walk in (Eph. 2:10). Pray, make wise choices, and walk. 

The Chocolate Milk

I enjoyed DeYoung’s approach to this book. There were times when DeYoung seems to have a heavy hand against those who are just meandering around life. It causes you to sit there and reflect, “Is this me?” (Which, if you know me, much to your dismay, I don’t think this is me and I’m still going over to England). But this isn’t a book that you read for mere information. It is freeing. The next three chapters are well placed and well-defined. 

Chapter 8 is on the way of wisdom: the fear of the Lord. Knowing He is above all, and not actin’ a foo’ and listening only to yourself. This book does not “release” for prayer, or ever having to think about making the right decision. You can still (and will) make a wrong decision. But what this book is about is telling you that you can now and have always been allowed to make decisions. 

Chapter 9 is on what to look for in a job and in a spouse, and how to be wise in your decisions. This is an important chapter because deals with two of our most important thoughts: How can I provide, and who will I provide for? It’s a chapter that every searcher can receive from. 

Chapter 10 is on a final discussion with Grandpa DeYoung and Grandpa Van, and both had a very easy way at looking at God’s will. His will will be done. How did both of them work and get married? They both met, talked, and got along with a girl, married her, and worked at any place that could take them. They worked faithfully to provide for their family, and in their dedication God blessed them. 

FYI

Some people may have a problem with his stance on “quick(?)” marriage, or meeting a girl, talking to her parents, popping the question, and start making babies. That might be simplifying things a little bit, but I see what he means. I’ve read some other reviews, and some had a problem with it. Some will find it humorous and fine, others (there’s always someone) will take offense to it. I didn’t. 

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Amazon
  • Reading Level: High school and up


[Special thanks to Janis at Moody Publishers for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Introducing the Apocrypha, Pt. II

I figured it was about time I would close my Introducing the Apocrypha post with its sequel. My first post was on the history of the Apocryphal writings and how they developed and affected Jewish readers in the NT times. Now I will work to show how aware the NT authors were of the Apocryphal books. [If you’re wondering why I’m writing posts about Apocryphal writings, then you should at least read the beginning of Pt. I].

Quotes

First off, the NT never cites the Apocrypha as Scripture. When quoting OT Scripture, there’s usually some formula like “as it is written,” “as the Spirit says,” “as the Scripture says,” or simply the word “for.” The NT authors never treat the Apocrypha like they do the Hebrew canon (the Old Testament).

While they might not quote the Apocrypha, there does seem to be paraphrases and allusions to it, (though, because of the nature of paraphrase and allusion, one can’t fully prove the NT author is drawing from the Apocrypha itself). 

1. Jesus and Ben Sira

Ben Sira was a Jewish sage in Jerusalem, and his work was well known to first- and second-century rabbis. It would seem that those ministering in Palestine would have some familiarity with Ben Sira’s works.

In Matthew 6:12, 14-15, Jesus emphasis in the Lord’s prayer that our forgiving other people’s sins goes hand-in-hand with God forgiving us of our sins. Ben Sira said it like this,

“Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done”
and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.
Does anyone harbor anger against another,
and expect healing from the Lord?
If one has no mercy toward another like himself,
can he then seek pardon for his own sins?” (Sir. 28:2-4)

Now does this mean Jesus plagiarized?
Negative, Ghost Rider. It helps to show that some of Jesus’ highest ideals were not in opposition to the Jewish wise guys, but instead were in line with their own beliefs. Jesus wasn’t saying anything out of the ordinary. They wouldn’t start to oppose Jesus for His words, for they believed the very same thing.

2. James and Ben Sira

James, the brother of Jesus, was stationed in Jerusalem for most of his ministry. He also appears to be familiar with Ben Sira. James’ epistle resembles the wisdom collection of an OT book more than any of the other NT books. It’s said by some to be the Ecclesiastes of the NT. “[T]he author no doubt enjoyed a broad acquaintance with Jewish wisdom tradition” (p. 24).

The impossibility for God to tempt human beings to sin, as James says in chapter 1 of his letter, again alludes to Ben Sira’s writings.

James 1:13-14

“No one, when tempted, should say, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and He himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.”

Ben Sira

“Do not say, ‘It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away’:
for he does not do what he hates.
Do not say, ‘It was he who led me astray’;
for he has no need of the sinful.” (Sir. 15:11-12; cf. 15:20)

For both sets of people, how do we solve the problem on how temptation exists in world ruled by a God who is righteous and omnipotent? “By distancing God as the cause or source of any evil and placing the responsibility squarely on the individual person” (p. 24).

Again, James’ readers would probably be familiar (more than we are) with this way of thinking and that the idea of a un-tempting God can also be found in Ben Sira’s writings.

Why would this be anything special? 

Again, James isn’t the first person to come up with the idea of the God who does not tempt. The problem of evil and temptation has been an issue for millennia (just read Judg. 11:29-40; 2 Kings 6:26-29; Job 24; Ps. 10; 42-43; Jer. 12:1-4; Hab. 1:1-4. It’s everywhere!), and James is not the first person to deal with it. He is not spouting something new, some novel idea to get God off the hook. Ben Sira’s writings are made some 200-300 years before James wrote his letter. The people could look back and agree that God is not the one who tempts. But what James does add is the target of blame: yourself. If it is not God to blame, then who is? Simply look in the mirror.

3. Paul and the Wisdom of Solomon

Paul was familiar with the Wisdom of Solomon, for both speak on the impossibility of the creature condemning the Creator, the pot condemning the potter [Rom. 9:19-24; cf. Wis. 12:12; 15:7], and both view the body as an earthly tent which weighs down the body [2 Cor. 5:1, 4; cf. Wis. 9:15].

4. Hebrews and the Wisdom of Solomon

The author of Hebrews knew of the Maccabean martyrs who chose execution over transgression the Torah during the Hellenization crisis of 167-164 B.C. It’s possible Hebrews 11:35 (those who “were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection”) would allude to the stories in 2 Macc. 7;9 and 4 Macc. 9:13-18.

400 Years

Why study the Apocrypha? Or why even read it? Is it important for our salvation? No. But, for history’s sake, for understanding how we got from Point A to Point C, it helps to know Point B. It’s important to know what was in the library of the NT writers, what they had received from their culture, and what helped shape their ideas.

It is in the biblical canon? No, and I’m not saying it should be. Sure, the biblical authors allude to the Apocryphal writings. Paul even quotes a Cretan prophet in Titus 1:12 along with some Greek poets in Acts 17:28. Jude even quotes the Book of Enoch in his letter (v14-15), though he quotes it as if it came from Enoch himself. [In fact, it is entirely possible that Enoch did speak these words resulting in his quote was handed down by tradition, until it was eventually recorded into the Book of Enoch. But that’s an entirely different point.]

The Apocrypha gives us more history and information on Judaism than the Greek poets and prophets mentioned by Paul. The writings were formative for early Christian theology, a heritage shared by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians. Even early authors who questioned the status of the writings as Scripture per se, such as Origen and Jerome, used the texts in their exposition of the books of the New Testament and in their clarification of Christology, soteriology, and the life of faith.

Missing the (roughly) 400 years in between the Old and the New Testaments leaves a lot of history to be desired. 400 year ago at this date in history (1614), we were 160 years from fighting the Revolutionary War (1775). Jamestown, Virginia was the first established permanent English colony on the American mainland (1606). Galileo had just spotted Jupiter’s moons through his telescope (1610). In 4 years the Thirty Years War would begin (1618-48). In 6 years the Pilgrims would land at Plymouth Rock (1620). Maryland (1632) and Pennsylvania (1682) would be founded. The Taj Mahal was completed (1643). James II led the first steps to freedom of religion in England (1685).

And look at where we are now. 400 years is a long time. What if there were no writings in those 400 years? Future generations would have no link between the culture and times of 1614 and that of 2014. Looking only at the United States, they would know nothing of the other 43 presidents, winning the American Revolution, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the ratification of the Constitution, the Gold Rush, U.S. Civil War, slavery, slavery abolished, WWI, Pearl Harbor, WWII, the Civil Rights Act, a time before radio and television, the moon landing, the Great Depression, the economic boom of the 1990s, the rise of the internet, presidential assassinations, school shootings, September 11 World Trade Center attacks, the rise of post-modernism, etc, etc, so on and so forth.

Will the Apocryphal writings fill us with all of the tiny details we should know about how the world works? Nah. Will we ever know everything about those 400 years? Nah. Will we ever know everything about our past 400 years? Nah. What counts is knowing the Word of God. And if the Apocryphal writings help us to know His Word more, to piece things together a little better, to know how the biblical authors may have thought, then good.

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Review: The Righteous in the Muck of Life

9781845505813v4

Pastor/Commentator Dale Ralph Davis is at it again with a little “Psalm Sampler” (p. 7) for us consisting of Psalms 1-12. Why does he only write about 12 psalms? Well, there are 150 of them. It’s a sampler, not a platter. These lessons are taken from his Sunday evening sermons to his congregation of Woodland Presbyterian Church. 

“My father once remarked that when the Lord’s people come to the Lord’s house they often come dragging heavy burdens; hence, he said, he usually tried to include something in his preaching that might prove heartening to them. ‘Comfort, comfort my people, says your God’ (Isa. 40:1)” (p. 7).

This book is about comfort. Davis is concerned that we know who God is. He is the one who is with His people. God is one of glory, weighty glory. He deserves to be praised, yet He is mindful even of us. We are nothing but dust, but He delights to know us and take care of us. He is protecting, sufficient, restoring, and accessible (p. 42). Yahweh is not bland, He is alive!

The Chocolate Milk

This is essentially a devotional-styled commentary. Davis is easy to read, he looks at the big picture of the psalm taking a few verses at a time without going into too much detail. He tries to comfort the Christian reader. He usually looks back to the previous psalm for the connection to see, for example, why is Ps. 2 after Ps. 1? Why is Ps. 10 where it is? Why is Ps. 1 the first psalm? + Davis seeks to show how to praise God for His character and His goodness. He know Him, and we don’t have to be afraid of His final judgment. + You have to know God to know how to pray. How do you know what to pray for? On what basis are your prayers if you don’t know who you’re praying too? In Psalm 6 David is tired of being weary. Whether physical or spiritual, it is wearing him down. He is waiting for God to rescue him and restore his life to him. In verse 9 David says,

“Yahweh has heard my plea for grace! Yahweh will accept my prayer!”

“That is David’s argument here. He is resting in Yahweh’s character, in the sort of God he had declared himself to be. Sometimes this is your only stay in trouble – simply what God has said about himself and about what he will do. Which suggests how massively important the doctrine of God is for the Christian life” (p. 76-77). Why is the doctrine of God so important for Christians to know? Because what you learn in the light will carry you in the darkness. What you know of God and His character in the good times will save you in the dark times. To know and trust that He is good. In the beginning of Psalm 10, David cries out for God because He is standing a long way off. The psalmist laments because it is out of God’s character. It is abnormal, which seems o say that the psalmist knows and has experienced what is normal from God. So the “‘why’ tells us that there has been a prevous time of enjoying the consistency of Yahweh, a time in which faith was supported instead of perplexed” (pg. 117). God has a character that can be known, and He will come through even in the darkest of times (10:12-18).

Davis stays God-focused (theo-centric). When the enemy loses his footing in Psalm 7 and falls into the pit he has set, who’s doing is it? Well, it is God’s. He is bringing “the wicked to wreck” (p. 90). He is the main storyteller, and one day He will make all things right according to His time. Davis is concerned with the attacked, and he shows that God is also concerned for His righteous who are attacked, oppressed, and persecuted. And He doesn’t forget those who act wickedly. Davis makes sure to make us aware that God is aware of our surroundings. His eyes search to and fro to give support for those whose heart is blameless towards Him (2 Chron. 16:9), and surely that means He seems the wicked in their folly. Why else would He have to ‘search’?

Davis is very clever and it often comes out in his humor. Most commentators are serious in their books (which is a good thing), but Davis takes a fresh approach in being humorous. Even the Bible itself is humorous (I don’t read Hebrew, but from some of my classes at CCBCY I know of Hebrew puns. They usually help to understand a story, and often times make fun of the enemy by putting them in a shameful light). Davis is at times sarcastic or clever, putting down the folly of the wicked, or the enlightened minds of liberal scholars who really just want to trash the Bible into being a fictional book with some good moral fables strewn about in itself. 

The Spoiled Milk

I’m amazed at the amount of stories Davis has. But, if nothing else, I have two main issues with them:

  1. Sometimes examples make sense, but they don’t hit home. I don’t always see the connection between the psalm and Davis’ example. +
  2. Sometimes there are just too many stories. They’re never more than a paragraph long (if that), but after a while I’m tired of seeing his stories. Some of them are great! Others, as mentioned above, I just don’t see the point. Davis is a good exegete (see his commentaries on Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Daniel, and Micah). He can fill plenty of space with talking about the text.

Yet, I know that this is more of a devotional book, rather than word study commentary. But, so as to not belabor the point, the stories can be prolific. Sometimes they’re good. Sometimes they’re not.

Though Davis is Theocentric, however he is not so much Christocentric. His reasoning is that, when speaking to the disciples post-resurrection, Jesus tells them how “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Lk. 24:44). Davis says that it doesn’t so much mean “all things in the law were written concerning Me,” but “all things in the Law that were written concerning Me.” So not everything in the Law/Prophets/Writings concerns Jesus, but Jesus told them everything that does concern Him (p. 9).  However, after reading David Murray’s Jesus On Every Page, and in accordance to what my teacher said in my Jesus Christ in the Old Testament class, it’s not certain psalms (2, 8, 22, 69, etc) that are Messianic….they all are Messianic!  All things were created by Him, through Him, and for Him (Col. 1:16). You can see Jesus all throughout Scripture, rules and boundaries God has set in place (Gen. 1-2), the excellence of wisdom (Prov. 8), and the failings of everyone in the Bible which points to the One who is perfect and complete. Can we really pick and choose which pieces are ‘Messianic’ and which are not? 

I love reading Davis, and I still think this is a terrific devotional book on the psalms. Davis looks to God in all things, rather than at how man should fix the situation in himself. And Davis mentions some poor, strangled texts where a particular pastor shoved the connection to Jesus while overlooking application in the text. And that is a danger. Trying to jump to Jesus too quickly before you’re actually out of the OT text. But that doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t found in the Scripture. Surely, much of what Davis said was only a step away from bringing the application to Christ. And this isn’t to say that David never points to Christ. That would be lying for me to say that, for clearly Davis does point to Christ. However, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). Isn’t He a bit too important to leave out of our Scriptures? He fulfills the types of Adam, the exodus, the temple, a messianic King, bringing in the new creation, it it too hard to find Him in the Old Testament? Some like to think so, but I don’t.

Recommended?

But overall, this is a great book. I enjoy all of Davis’ writings. He always has good application that’s taken from the text. It’s never some far-reaching, ethereal idea. It’s straight from the text. I can see it. Plus, he’s pretty funny (especially in his other commentaries). He can be sarcastic, and it’s great. A commentator who’s actually fun to read. Indeed, this book doesn’t cover very many psalms, but it comes in very handy when reading the first twelve.

Lagniappe

+ [Special thanks to Derry at Christian Focus for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

The Writings of Davis

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Review: Better Than the Beginning

Better than the Beginning

This is not your usual book on creation. Creation is more than merely young vs. old earth, creation vs. evolution, 7 days vs. 7 ages, etc. Oftentimes we hear about scientists, theologians, and Christians who talk about creation as just a ‘beginning’ sequence, but in Barcellos’ books he shows how creation requires more from us than mere acknowledgement of its happening.

God intended a goal in creation, it was a means to an end. Despite man’s failings, God will see to it that the planned end will arrive. Barcellos takes us through Scriptures to show God’s ultimate purpose in creation.

Chapter Divisions

Chapter 1: Creation is for the glory of God. Barcellos starts with exposition of Romans 11:36 showing all things are “for Him.” 

Chapter 2: Shows how the Trinity took part in creation, in providence, and in the new creation. All three person are eternal, are God, and by/through/for the trinity was creation created.

Chapter 3: Looks at how creation points to Christ, how it is through Him that we receive our redemption and become ‘new creations.’ We depend on the Son for our initial and continuing existence and for our redemption. 

Chapter 4 and 5: Creation shows the majesty of God, yet because of sin we are rebellious , wicked, self-centered, and we choose to ignore his eternality. 

Chapter 6: Shows the importance of Genesis 1:1, why it was important to Moses, and how it focuses on important themes (God’s rulership, man’s uniqueness, and man’s fall all in the first three chapters). 

Chapter 7: What actually happened in creation? Was it 7 days? Barcellos thinks so, and gives a number of arguments that point in that direction (Exodus 20 being one of them).

Chapter 8 and 9: Man is unique, and we are to reflect God. Adam was a representative who was to be like God. In ruling over creation in Genesis 1:28, Adam was the king over creation, but forfeited it by being a disobedient priest. Because of sin, Adam could not completely fulfill his prophetic position like he could have without sin.

Chapter 10 and 11: Shows what is so important about the Sabbath, and how we get from the garden to the temple to Jesus to the new creation (the new world). The Sabbath was a symbol for what we would one day enjoy in the new age when all is set right. 

Chapter 12: “The end is the beginning glorified. The end is that to which the beginning was made to attain” (p. 150). Due to Christ’s obedience, He obtains an eternal inheritance to give to us what we forfeited so that we may be with Him for all eternity. We are made in the image of God, and we are important to Him. We are the apex of His creation. 

The Chocolate Milk

Barcellos seeks to show all the Trinity in Creation. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all took part in creation, all take part in keeping the world running, and all take part in salvation and the ‘new creation’ that Christians become once saved. 

Explains that Godis above creation. Trying to explain the Trinity by describing Him as an egg (3 parts), water, or even bacon “always breaks down and ends up trivializing the sacred” (p. 67). Barcellos attempts to explain the Trinity in terms of ‘essence’ and ‘persons’, and it makes some sense and adds to the overall understanding of the Trinity. 

I enjoyed reading his “Seven Observations Tying the end of the Bible with the Beginning of the Bible” in Chapter 10 “The Sabbath Rest of Creation (I).”
1. The first heavens and earth become new
2. The tree of life is back
3. The New Jerusalem is described with symbolic language often used of temples (Rev. 21:16-18; cf. 1 Kings 6:20). 
And more….

Barcellos always brings it back to Christ and the Gospel to show the “Son-tilted focus” of creation. 

In many of the chapters Barcellos shows us practical implications of what he’s been saying. Why should we care about the Trinity? To know how to give proper praise and adoration for their work in both the old and the new creation, and to know what the Bible teaches about creation and redemption together. If Psalm 19 points to the awesomeness of God, why doesn’t everyone acknowledge it? Because of sin, and through it we see man’s selectivity in choosing what to ignore (God’s magnificence) and what to believe (anything else). 

The Spoiled Milk

Often times the Scripture quotations, hymns, and other church leader/theologian quotes seem to get in the way. They are more of a hindrance than a help. In chapter 11 there were 3 pages worth of quotations from Hebrews. Can I really say that quoting Scripture is bad? No, and yes. It’s not bad, but when there is so much of it, yes. When stating his case, there seems to be Scripture on top of Scripture on top of Scripture with a few bits of commentary in between. Rather than quoting all of the Scripture (with specific verses in CAPS LOCK), there would have been a better flow if many of the Scriptures had been left as references. 

In Chapter 7, “The 6 Days of Creation”, I didn’t see how the final section “The Gospel and the Days of Creation” followed with the rest of the chapter. It was the gospel, but I didn’t see the correlation between it and a six day creation. 

Recommended?

Perhaps. Barcellos does a good job keeping with the theme throughout the book. Yet in most of the book I couldn’t help but feel a little bored. These were originally a set of sermons, and I could tell. But also I was already familiar with much of what I read. Whether this was from my own Bible College experience or from other books I read I’m not sure, but there wasn’t much in this book that was new to me. Some of the writing was a little drab, but overall, given the consistent theme of the book, I would recommend this to new readers who haven’t had much exposure to the doctrine of creation that runs throughout the Bible. 

Lagniappe

[A big thanks to Reformed Baptist Academic Press for allowing me a free copy of this book. I was not obligated to post a positive review in return for this copy.]

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Review: The Cross and Christian Ministry

The Cross and Christian Ministry

Why is the cross foolishness for the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews? What’s so foolish and stumbling about it? For those of us living in the 21st century, we are far too removed from the times of Roman crucifixion to realize the brutality enacted on those criminals who hung on the cross. They are sights we will never experience; sounds we will never realize. 

Yet now we wear the cross as a symbol on necklaces, ear rings, and t-shirts. Because we’ve never seen crucifixion up close and personal, we quickly forget the price that was paid on the reality of the symbol we wear. Even still, people today think that the cross is foolish. We worship some bloody, nice guy who hung on a cross. How much more those who lived in the first century? 

Through his exposition of 1 Corinthians, Carson shows us what it means to preach and minister to God’s people in view of the cross. The message of the cross needs to be learned by every generation of believers. Our choices are the wisdom of the world, or the foolishness of the cross which is great than the wisest of men. We are to to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. “Is there anything more important than learning to think God’s thoughts after him?” (p. 10). 

In Brief Summary

What is wisdom? Seeing Christ, His servitude, the cross, how He glorified the Father, and how we live in light of His example.

  1. My preaching, whether in a church or to one person, should be centered on the message (the cross) rather than the form to show myself as impressive.
  2. I may think I am so wise, but I must remember I don’t know anything about God unless the Spirit reveals it to me.  For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
  3. If such is the case, why should I boast over any other preacher? Nobody has all the answers. It would be immature for me to make a special, secluded group if we are all the temple of God. The leaders are only doing what God gives them.
  4. Why try to attain leadership? The fame? The freedom? What about all that responsibility? The suffering? If Jesus is my example I cannot be arrogant for I am not the main character. God is.
  5. If we are all the temple of God, our allegiance to Him surpasses any culture. It doesn’t matter what country you own up to, you are now a citizen of heaven. You do have rights, and you will have to give up those rights at times for the sake of the gospel in order that you might save some.

The Chocolate Milk

  • The last section (2:1-5) was of great benefit. Rather than paying mind to soon-to-be-eclipsed cultural values that could get in the way of our Cross-focused lives, Carson gives enduring principles from Paul on what should be at the forefront of our minds. One of Paul’s points in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians is that the cross is foolishness to the world, and no ‘wise’ person (apart from the Spirit) could ever come up with the idea of the cross on their own. Fads and wisdom of the world changes, but God’s wisdom is consistently consistent. Carson looks at the cross, and reminds us that if we aren’t impressive, it gives more room for the Christ to be impressive for the cross reveals the wisdom of God.
    +
  • When necessary, Carson looks over to the Greek word to find the real meaning behind the translation. 1 Cor. 1:20 says, “Where is the scholar?” The Greek word grammateus denotes a scribe, a Jew who knew the law of God. Paul’s point is that whether you’re a Greek wise man or a schooled Jew, there was no way you would come up with the idea of the cross, God’s greatest display of wisdom and majesty, on your own. We are all rebellious human beings. We can’t know God without the Holy Spirit? And why should we? “How can idolatrous attempts to domesticate God be rewarded with deepened knowledge of the Almighty?” (p. 18).

The Spoiled Milk

  • Chapter 1: Didn’t see how much of what Carson said had to do with “preaching” until the last section (2:1-5). The earlier sections built up to not boasting in a preaching platform and seeing our place before God, but in terms of the chapter title (preaching), I felt the chapter had little to do with it.
    +
  • Chapter 3: In explaining way it’s wrong to boast about human leaders, Carson points out that by focusing and boasting on only one pastor one only looks at one aspect of his God-given gifts. Carson quotes 1 Cor. 3:21b-23, and then elaborates on how the world, life, death, present, and future can all be fearful things, yet wonderful in Christ. However, I didn’t see how it fit with boasting about a particular leader. Then he ends the section with fighting about music in church. I’m sure he was just taking an aspect of things we fight and “factionalize” about, but it was a strange way to end the chapter, bringing more questions and leaving them unanswered.
    +
  • Chapter 5: Carson discusses how Paul became a Jew to the Jews, and a Gentile to the Gentiles, and how he was able to be so culturally relevant between the two groups of people. He wasn’t under the law, but was under the law of Christ. After going through 5 good points on the topic, Carson asks ‘how the old commands relate to the new,’ but then doesn’t answer it stating it would lead him too far from his current discussion.
    +

    • My question is, unless it’s in there because people might be thinking about it, if it doesn’t add to the discussion, why put it in there?
      +
    • Is this a major point? No, of course not. But there were a few times in the book where Carson ended a section, and I couldn’t help but think, “How did we get here?” or “Why did you say it like that?” Usually what Carson said was great, but there were times when he was bewildering, or if not that, dry (unlike his book on Model of Christian Maturity in 2 Corinthians and Basic Exposition of Philippians).

Recommended?

Carson is a clear writer and a great expositor. He does a striking job of keeping the book cross-centered, always keeping our eyes on our Lord and Savior, and not ourselves. There are no tips and tricks on how to be a successful Christian leader in this book, just how to be a humble servant of Christ as He showed us through His perfect example. This book is recommended (also 2 Corinthians and Philippians).

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (February 1, 2004)
  • Amazon
  • Reading Level: Pastors/Teachers/Bible College and above
  • PDF 

[A big thanks to Brianna at Baker Publishing for allowing me a free copy to read and review! I was not obligated to give a positive review in return for reviewing my copy.]

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