Reftagger

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Throw Your Gold in the Trash



What do you consider valuable in your life? When we hear the word “valuable” or “priceless” we often think of money or precious gems. What we think of as valuable and what truly is valuable are often very different things. How much do you value your relationship with God? Can you say that everything else feels like trash compared to God?

In the Book of Job, Eliphaz gives us some great life wisdom. The Book of Job is considered “wisdom literature”, which means (like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), it contains many pithy sayings on life. We often miss the great wise sayings found throughout Job, because we focus so much on the grand idea of “why do we suffer” (which The Book of Job actually does not answer directly).

Eliphaz accuses Job of withholding his material wealth from the poor (Job 22:7-11), which explains, in his view, why Job is being punished. So Eliphaz offers the following admonition:
“....If you remove injustice far from your tents; if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.” Job 22:23-28 ESV
While Eliphaz’s reason for Job’s suffering is wrong, the wisdom of his admonition is exactly right. I think this passage is Eliphaz’s biggest message, namely because Eliphaz (which is a descriptive title, not a name) could mean “God is [fine] gold”.

Eliphaz’s admonition is for Job to “remove injustice from his tents”. In this dialogue, Eliphaz has accused Job of withholding his generosity from the poor, which is the injustice that he needs to remove from his tent. He tells Job that can be just through “lay[ing] your gold in the dust and [lay] the gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed”. Eliphaz is suggesting that if Job stops valuing his material wealth and is generous then his relationship with God will be restored. While this point is wrong, the wisdom is found in Eliphaz’s suggestion to consider his wealth worthless in order to gain God.
When Eliphaz told Job to “lay his gold in the dust”, he was telling him to taking something considered very valuable and to mix it in with something considered worthless. When he told Job to throw the gold of ophir in the gorges he is saying the same thing. In those days, the Gold of Ophir was considered the most valuable and fine gold there was. By throwing it in a “torrent-bed”, or “ravine” or “gorge” he is telling him to take something priceless and make it worthless. A similar concept today would be throwing money or a precious metal in a trash dumpster alongside your leftover food.

Only by considering the priceless worthless could God become like gold,
“Then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty”.
When we remove the love of money from our lives, we can focus our energy on fully loving and enjoying God. Eliphaz understood this concept long before Paul did,
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:7-8)

If our earthly possessions mean nothing to us, then God will be everything to us. It is an intentional and willful attitude and oftentimes a specific action that will lead us to throwing our valuables into the dirt and gaining God as our prize. What will the benefit be of gaining God?
“For then [when God is gold] You will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.” (22:26-28)

When we lower our possessions and elevate God we gain intimacy with him. We will desire to obey him and will we seek him in prayer. When we pray to him with a heart that values him above all, he will listen and honor our prayers. Through intimate prayers to God there will be clarity in our lives. This is not to suggest the “name it claim it” theology or that God is bound by our prayers, but a heart that loves God will be one that God listens to and will want what he wants.

Eliphaz' reasoning for Job’s suffering is wrong and is later condemned by God. Yet, Eliphaz is exactly right: we should consider everything worthless and consider God priceless. Then we will have intimacy with him and even when we don’t know what lies next in life, we can trust him and the path that he will establish for us.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Faith and Mountains: God's Work





Recently I had the chance to visit Mt. Rainier in the State of Washington, which is one of the largest mountains in the United States. Mt. Rainier was literally the biggest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. It could be seen from long distances away and towered far above everything in its vicinity. The mountain was as tall, wide and thick as the eye could see. The mountain was not only untouchable, but impenetrable and immovable. The qualities of mountains make them ideal symbols for the obstacles of life- oftentimes immovable and towering far above anything else in life. The Bible uses mountains as a symbol for the seemingly mountainous assignments God gives us and of life’s greatest struggles.

 This post will focus on the work that God wants us to do and how we can accomplish this with his help. See this post for the mountains of struggles in our life.

 The people of Judah had finally returned from a long exile in faraway lands. Under the care of the Israelite governor, Zerubbabel, Persia has allowed Judah to return home and administer their own province, Judea. One of the most important assignments for Zerubbabel is to rebuild the temple that was destroyed by Babylon during the invasion of Jerusalem (589 BC). The prophet Zechariah has a vision concerning Zerubbabel’s mountainous task of rebuilding the temple. In this vision, an angel shows Zechariah a lamp stand, with oil being poured into each of the lips; surrounded by two olive trees.
A lamp-stand similar to the one Zechariah would have seen in his vision.  
Zechariah does not understand what these mean so he asks the angel:
“ ‘What are these, my lord?’, ‘Do you not know what these are?’, ‘No, my lord’ " - Zech 4:4-5 ESV
So the angel tells Zechariah exactly what God is trying to teach him through the imagery of the lampstand and trees:
"This is the word of Yahweh to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says Yahweh of Hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!" ...The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it... For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice and [see] the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel"- Zech 4:6-10a
For Zerubbabel, rebuilding the temple was a mountainous assignment- let alone rebuilding it to match the splendor of the original. Not only would a new temple require logistical and material resources, but the temple was to be a symbol of the national pride of Israel- the splendor and glory of God himself. Zerrubabel only had limited resources that had to be spread across numerous amounts of construction projects needed to just barely restore Israel to minimal glory, he didn’t have the resources Solomon had when building his temple. God wanted Zerrubabel to rebuild this temple, but the assignment was a mountain- towering far above everything else and seemingly impossible to perform. Through the symbolism of a lampstand (representing God’s power and presence- Zech 4:10), God’s message to Zerubbabel was clear:
“Not by might, nor by power, but my spirit ...What are you o great mountain? Before [you] it shall become a plain”- Zech 4:6-7
It was not through well planned budgeting and skillfully negotiated supply contracts that this next temple would be built. In fact, upon completion of the temple there would be great rejoicing (Zech 4:7b, 9-10). Somehow, through God’s power the second temple, though not as majestic would not only be completed, but as great as (if not greater than) the first temple. Yes, Zerubbabel still had to plan money and spend countless hours to ensure the temple was built; but he knew God was fully able to allow the goals’ completion. The key is that it was not Zerrubabel’s work that completed the temple, but by God’s provision Zerubbabel was able to complete the task God had given him.

 Is there a mountain in your life God wants you to overcome? What is that one thing God wants you to do that seems so difficult and so impossible? By depending fully on God’s power, you can have mountain moving faith, where the seemingly impossible becomes possible. If you just wait for God to move the mountain for you, are you really having faith? Go, do what God has told you to do and he will move the mountain for you. Maybe it won’t meet your expectations, but God will make it for his glory, even if it is “a day of small things”.
“...if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”- Jesus (Matt 17:20)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 53

יֹ֥ום הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי
The sixth day
The sixth day was for the "world" of mankind. The animals were there as companions and the plants were for food. The deep waters of the sea were a mystery left for modern explorers to uncover.
The word שִּׁשִּֽׁי (shishshiy sixth) comes from the cardinal number שֵׁשׁ (shesh six), which in turn comes from the verb שׂוּשׂ (süs) which means "to rejoice". It seems that since the hand has five fingers, one of the most primitive numbers indicated abundance. This aligns with the message of the last creation day.
The words new to the reader follow:
[behemah] בְּהֵמָה , livestock, cattle.
[adam] אָדָ֛ם , man, mankind, Adam
[tselem] צֶלֶם , image, likeness
[dem·üth] דְּמוּת , likeness, similitude; from דָּמָה , to be like, similar
[zä·kär] זָכָר , male; from the verb זָכַר (zä·kar), to remember
[nĕqebah] נְקֵבָה , female; from נָקַב (naqab), to designate, appoint
[kabash] כָּבַשׁ ,to subject, subdue
['oklah] אָכְלָה , food; from אָכַל ('akal), to eat, consume
[m@`od] מְאֹד , mighty, mightily, greatly, very
[shishshiyשִׁשִּׁ sixth, from שֵׁש (shesh), six

Saturday, July 6, 2019

In One Sitting: Hosea

Recently I decided to do something special- read certain books of the Bible "In One Sitting" and write blogposts about them, sharing what someone can glean when they take a book of the Bible as a whole, rather than segmented like we normally do. Modern chapters, verses and headings are mean't to act as reference aids, but we use them as artificial dividers in the text, where they often don't belong. This wasn't a concept that was brand new to me, but in order to read some books with the focus and dedication they need, I needed to set aside a special and concentrated time to read and meditate.
This past weekend I did the Book of Hosea- which took me a little less than an hour to read in one sitting. Here are my thoughts on the book, after reading it all at once- no interruption. Comment below your own thoughts- I would encourage you to do for the Book of Hosea, or even another book- we may feature your thoughts by allowing you to guest blog. See what God will do. You can do this by ignoring chapters in your Bible, or even use a reader's Bible, which strips away everything but the biblical text.  

The Message

People of faith can turn to other things, material goods, people, experiences or even sin outright- thinking that will it satisfy their desires. When people commit "spiritual adultery", God will allow them to remain in sin for a time to suffer their own consequences. God desires to bring them back into a faith relationship with him, but allows them to undergo a period of testing so that they may realize the fleeting nature of their sin and have a genuine heart transformation towards satisfaction in God. Then God fully accepts them back, the relationship with God is even closer and people realize only God can truly provide sustenance. 

In the Book of Hosea, God lays out all of the sins Israel and Judah. Both of these nations have committed spiritual adultery, both by relying on the power of foreign alliances with Assyria and Egypt as protection and reassurance, not the provision of Yahweh. Additionally, Israel prostituted itself to worship of the Ba'als and their idols. After allowing the Israelites (both nations) to remain under exile in the future, a remnant will return to their homeland and back to the relationship with God they once had.
God demonstrates the current relationship trajectory with his people and his future plans to restore the relationship through the prophet Hosea. Not only does Hosea reveal the charges against Israel, God asks him to depict Israel's relationship with him through his own life. Hosea is asked to marry and then remain faithful to an adulterous woman. She has several (likely illegitimate) children, all with symbolic names to describe what will happen to Israel and how Israel will be restored. Then after her adultery, Hosea repurchases his wife, remaining separate from her from a time until she is ready to come back to him with a dedicated heart. This narrative from Hosea's life is not actually the main point of Hosea, like its often made out to be; while a very real event from Hosea's life, it is primarily symbolic and teaches spiritual truths. This was common occurrence in the life of a prophet- not only would they preach God's word, he would alter their lives to symbolically portray Israel's fate (like in the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc) . 

What Stuck Out

Distance For A Time

"...You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so I will also be to you. For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return ..... they shall come to fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days"- Hos 3:3-5
One of the major themes of Hosea is God's redemption through separation and distancing himself. Yes, you read me correctly. Hosea makes it clear that one way God brings people back to himself is allowing them to dwell in their sin for a time. Paul follows this model when he tells Corinthian believers to allow an incestuous man to be "handed to Satan" (1 Cor 5:5). When God tells Hosea to reunite with Gomer after infidelity, Hosea is not "united" with her (whether that be domestically, sexually or both) for some time until she becomes fully dedicated to him. In the same way, God sends Israel into exile for some time and brings them back after they become fully dedicated to him.

Wisdom of Righteousness

Another theme I noticed, reading Hoses as one cohesive book is the wisdom of right living. 
"Whoever is wise, let them understand these things, whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of Yahweh are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them"- Hos 14:9
The book ends with the above quote, indicating that this is a major theme of Hosea. Many places throughout the book's poetry references how most people are too foolish to realize the worthlessness of their sin. Therefore, those who recognize that sin is unsatisfying are in the minority and are very wise. Only the wise will understand that God provides true satisfaction. Most people in the world do not know God, so by the standard of the text, most people are "fools". Most people without God may be "fine" without him, but only those who know him get a blessing that most will not get in this life.

Other Reflections

While I have a greater understanding of Hosea reading it altogether, I also experienced the inverse effect- I realized just how little I understand the book, even after reading it all at once. So much of the book is repeating the same message over and over again in poetic language in a format that the original readers would have understood. Much of the book talks about specific cities and refers to things that "happened" at those places. Many of the referenced events are lost to us or at best a guess. Therefore, so much of the content is difficult for us to understand and may not be possible for us to understand with our available information. One can only pray for those on the front-lines of biblical research and for God's revelation of the intricacies of Hosea.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 52

וְהִנֵּה־טֹ֖וב מְאֹ֑ד

And behold--Very good

Having surveyed everything on earth, the Creator was satisfied with the work He had done. The inspired penman emphatically (הִנֵּה hinneh "behold") states that things went extremely well (מְאֹ֑ד m@`od "exceedingly" + טֹ֖וב towb "good").

The word הִנֵּה (behold) first appeared in verse 29. It is from the root  הֵן (hen) which appears in combination with prepositions or the article as the third person plural "they, those". Different vowel sounds changes hennah to hinneh, that is, from "those" to "those!".

Much has been written about "very good", but the word translated "very" (מְאֹ֑ד) has its roots in the word אוּד ('ood), a rake or poker for maximizing the heat of embers. With this in mind, m'a°d (my attempt at transliteration) runs the gambit of meanings, from "very" (137×) to "mightily" (2×). The idea carries with it strength or force.

The conclusion of the matter is that everything God made pleased Him greatly. Everything was working the way it was supposed to. Living beings had the gift of breath and nutrition from living plants, inside a protective atmosphere that received abundant energy from the sun.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 51

לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאָכְלָֽה
To you it shall be for food
As the description of the sixth day concludes, God's providence is in the forefront. The word אָכְלָה (ok·lä') is the general word for food. It from the word אָכַל (ä·kal) which means "to eat, devour, burn up, feed".
The work is the third day is shown to be essential for the survival of the animate creatures of the fifth and sixth days. There were three classes of plants: the sprouts, the seed bearers and the fruit trees. The latter two are designated for humanity, while the first is for the the animals.
In common terms, this can be understood as seeds (grain, nuts and berries) and fruits (including vegetables) were for people, while grass and greens were for animals.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 50

זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם
He created them male and female
It is hard to escape the biological truth reiterated in this verse. Mankind originates in the center of a man. The idea of the seed crosses all forms of life. The male (Heb. זָכָר zakar) is the sower of the seed. The adjective/noun is from זָכַר, to remember, bring to mind. Generally, it is the male of a species that is dominant.
Conversely, the female (נְקֵבָה nĕqebah) is the fertile receptor of the seed. The knowledge of the role of the egg was unknown in ancient times, though infertility was a great concern. The word nĕqebah is from the verb נָקַב (nakab) which means "to pierce, perforate, bore" and by extension, "to appoint". This is purely an agricultural term, as thoroughly appropriate with animals as it is with plants.
The fact that the sexual differences were "created" means that these differences are essential to life. The mere "making" of organisms might work for a generation, but not for the propagation of the species.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 49

אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ

Mankind in Our Image

The apex of creation was mankind (אָדָ֛ם adam). So far creation has been filled with with phenomena, objects, and living things. Though it all demonstrated the majesty and creativity of God, the earth was had no one who could understand it. This required a special feature that could show the mind of God. He called it His "image" (צֶלֶם tselem).

"Adam" comes from the verb אָדַם which means "to be or make red". The word for "ground" also comes from this root. The color red represents blood that is essential for life.

As seen earlier, life had been given to animals of the sea, air and land. The blood flowing in the veins of mankind represented more than mortality. It represented the life that is in God as an attribute. Mankind had life at the pleasure of God Himself, as will be seen in Gen. 2.

The inherent life in God, imparted to mankind, made it resemble the creator in a special way--the image (צֶלֶם tselem)--of God. Though animals could be clever, mankind would be truly creative. Like God, they would be builders. Most of all, they would make decisions that changed the world.

The word tselem is from a root that denotes a shadow, or shade. Trees and structures cast an outline upon the ground when light is blocked from going through them. Metaphorical use of this concept can illustrate only a glimpse of what "cast" the shadow. In this way, the communicable attributes of God can be seen in mankind.

כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ

According to our likeness

Not only was mankind to think like God, the species was to "be like" Him. The word דְּמוּת (dĕmuwth) is from דָּמָה, meaning to resemble, or to be like.

To the first readers, or hearers, of this account, the concept of being godly was more palatable than being in his image. But when one respects the authority in place, and acts according to the desires of that authority, he or she will become like that authority. God, as creator, had made mankind with the capacity to follow rules. It follows, then, that being like God means godliness, not divinity.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How to Store up Treasure in Heaven



You’ve probably heard the saying that we should “store up treasures in Heaven” instead of focusing on earthly possessions. This phrase is used by Jesus numerous times and once by Paul, but is first and most famously used in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not lay up [treasure] for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”- Matt 6:19-21 ESV
The question then becomes, “How do I seek treasure in Heaven?”. There is great news. We do not have to speculate or even infer wisdom from the Bible indirectly. Did you know the Bible tells us directly how to store treasure in Heaven? Let’s take a look directly at how we “lay up treasure in Heaven”.

Paul’s Instruction

 So how do we acquire this treasure that Jesus referred to? Well Paul gives us an explicit how-to in his First Epistle to Timothy:
“[The rich Christians] are to do good, to be rich in good works[:] to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life”- 1 Tim 6:18-19 (slight grammatical modification for exegesis)
Very specifically, Paul tells Timothy that rich Christians (and all believers) can store up treasures in Heaven by being generous and sharing.
There is a direct correlation between earthly generosity and heavenly treasures. Notice, this is not saying that the more generous you are on earth, the more earthly treasures you will have (like the prosperity gospel). This is representative of a financial transaction or exchange- earthly wealth is put aside for the future wealth of Heaven. Much like one invests money for retirement, incurring a present loss that will bring future value, so one who is generous will establish a foundation in rock for the future (1 Tim 6:19).
Getty Images

It is very clear in Scripture that heavenly treasure is only brought about by earthly giving. When Paul’s instruction to Timothy is understood grammatically, the “generous” and “ready to share” are specific examples of the good works. Only the generosity and sharing are described as an activity that creates a heavenly investment, not good works in general. This is supported through Jesus’ practical examples.

Jesus’ Practical Examples

So Paul gives a “how-to” for creating treasure for Heaven, while Jesus gives us practical examples. Luke’s Gospel features very similar language to the Sermon on the Mount, but in a different place and different order. Jesus tells his disciples,
“Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure, there will your heart be also.”
Both Matthew and Luke focus on the importance of investing in Heaven’s treasure, so as to not become attached to Earthly wealth (Luke 12:34, Matt 6:24). Here, Jesus tells us exactly how to gain this treasure- sell your possessions and give to the poor. This does not mean we all have to sell everything we have, but it does mean we must be sacrificial and do whatever it takes to be generous and invest in Heaven (investments require present loss for future value).
There is one other example that Jesus gives us, which is featured in all three synoptic Gospels. In his conversation with the rich young ruler Jesus tells him:
“Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…”- Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22, Matt 19:21
The rich young ruler had faithfully obeyed all of God’s commands, but he desired eternal life. For him, he had to give up what was most important to him- his material possessions and wealth. Again, Jesus gives the practical example of storing up heavenly treasures by selling possessions and being charitable to the poor. The emphasis, once again, is on sacrificially providing for those in poverty and forsaking earthly goods (what we often value most) for heavenly goods (which we do not benefit from, yet). To store up Heaven’s treasure, there must be some personal loss. The same principle of investments applies here: the higher “risk” creates a higher reward. Therefore, the more we are willing to “risk” our earthly wealth, the more we will reap in Heaven.

Conclusion

Every single use of the phrase “treasures in Heaven” is somehow related to money. This means that heavenly treasure is a specific kind of reward for a specific action and is not referring to general rewards in heaven. Treasure in heaven is used as an analogy for some sort of reward in Heaven, as a result of financial activity on Earth. We cannot know what this reward will be exactly, but we know that:
“...God will repay each according to his deeds” (Rom 2:6, Matt 16:27), so a heavenly treasure will somehow correspond to earthly generosity.
So how do we lay up treasure in Heaven? We must physically invest our money and material possessions, by sacrificially giving to others to receive Heaven’s dividends. By doing this, we will prepare ourselves for some future reward that will be better than money on earth. While on Earth, our reward will be blessing the needy and having a mindset that realizes the temporary nature of this life’s goods and that earnestly awaits the rewards of the next life. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 48

יֹ֥ום חֲמִישִֽׁי

Fifth Day

After providing everything needed to sustain it, God created living (moving) things. This is a turning point it creation. By adding sentience and movement, the Creator shared more of His character to the universe. Animals can consciously form relationships with others of their kind and form beneficial bonds with other species as well.

The account of the fifth day introduced the following words:

[sharats] v. שָׁרַץ to swarm, to bring forth abundantly; to creep, crawl. n. [sherets] שֶׁרֶץ : swarmers, creepers; a swarm

[nephesh] נֶפֶשׁ soul, life, person

[chay] חַי living, alive; from חָיָה, to live.

[`owph] n. עוֹף a flying thing

[`uwph] v. עוּף to fly

[tanniyn] תַּנִּין dragon, serpent, whale, "sea monster"

[ramas] רָמַשׂ creep, move lightly, move about

[kanaph] כָּנָף wing, extremity, edge

[rabah] רָבָה to be great, many, much or numerous

[chamiyshiy] חֲמִישִׁי adj. fifth, from חָמֵשׁ (chamesh) five

Word for Word: Episode 47

פְּר֣וּ וּרְב֗וּ וּמִלְא֤וּ

Be fruitful, multiply, and fill

The filling of the new world with life from the Creator would be hard, but necessary work. Though it could have been accomplished in a moment, God set in motion a process. The gift of life had been given, but the command meant it was by volition that the paired animals would obey. It is a built in urge in living things to "procreate", but soon the creatures would have to choose.

The first command is to be fruitful, פְּר֣וּ (paru) from פָּרָה (parah). On day three the fruit trees we're created bearing fruit (פְּרִי, peri)  a derivative of this verb.

The command to multiply is רְב֗וּ, rebu, the verb רָבָה (rabah, to become great, many, much or numerous). Each of these translations reflect the root meaning of increasing. The verb would become the honorary title of Rabbi, that is to say "great one".

Finally, the animals are told to "fill" their realm with descendants. The verb here is מָלָא, mä·lā', meaning to fill or be full of. Throughout its use, the fullness has many uses carrying the idea of fulfillment and even satisfaction.

From the choice of terms to the blessing via command, the account is meant to leave nothing to chance. The Creator is in total control of His creation.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Life Lessons from David and Bathsheba

If you have ever been in church, than you have probably heard the infamous account of “David and Bathsheba”, that is, the adultery of David and Bathsheba and David’s eventual murder of her husband. Clearly this event in David’s life is warning against adultery and its grave consequences. It is a clear example of how even David, the “man after God’s own heart” traumatically fell into sin. All of these things are true, but what does this episode really mean for my life? What life lessons can I learn from David and Bathsheba.
In this blog series we are going to take a deep dive into the affair between David and Bathsheba and the real, relevant and practical life lessons we can learn from this.

Idleness Leads to Temptation

“[It happened] In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”- 2 Sam 11:1 ESV 
David had been made King by God and at the time, it was expected that the King lead his soldiers in battle. For one reason or another, David neglected his duty. Relaxation is not wrong, but when relaxation becomes priority over God’s work, we can become idle. Just like David, it is only a short sequence from neglecting our duty, to relaxation, to idleness to temptation and then to sin. 



Sin Consists of a Series of Willful choices

So what made up David’s affair? He desired and lusted after Bathsheba (which crept in while he was idle at home). The adultery of his heart progressed into actionable curiosity. Finally, David had her brought into the bedroom, David committed the act, then he sent her home as if nothing happened. David’s affair consisted of intentional, willful choices throughout the entire process. At any given point he had the opportunity to stop and repent, but he chose to keep going. 


The Consequences of Sin are Unavoidable

David had sent Bathsheba home from his bedroom, as if nothing had been done wrong. Within a short time, David heard word that Bathsheba was pregnant. Sooner or later, David would have to deal with the consequences of his actions.Even while intoxicated with wine, Uriah’s loyalty shone and he slept at the palace and not at home with his wife. Then David became desperate. The consequences of his sin would soon come to light. He did not confess of it, he did not repent of it. David’s single focus was hiding his sin and if Uriah would not cooperate, then he would need to be removed.



God Will Punish Our Sin, Even if its Not What We Deserve

David had sinned and was punished accordingly. David’s entire family would be affected by his sin. David would experience violence for his violence and taking wives for his taking of a wife; the fruit of his sin his son died, seven days later. Despite all of this God kept his love for David. God acquitted David of the rightful punishment- execution. ‘

Be weary- while by God’s grace we may be spared from our rightful punishment of death, we will still get what “we deserve”- God believes in justice and will enact his retribution according to our deeds.



Only God Can Change Our Hearts

David’s prayer is full of asking God to do things. David fully recognizes that in order to get the effects of cleanliness and restoration, God must be the cause. There was nothing that David could to right the wrongs he had done. Furthermore, after his repentance David committed himself to a greater degree of obedience. David’s repentance is a model for all of us. No matter how far we fall from God, God will always take us back- not on our own merit, but wholly on his goodness. 


Sin Can Change Everything For the Worst

 In violence, David fought with his son for control over his throne, much like he committed violence against Uriah. In the process he lost two sons (Amnon and Absalom), had a shamed and scarred daughter (Tamar) and devastating physical and reputational damage to David’s kingdom. A dramatic shift in the narrative, all because of David’s sin.
Much like the sins in our lives, God can spare us from the rightful punishment- death. God can keep the promises and blessings he has given us, but still execute justice. David experience irreparable suffering through this rebellion. That is why sin can never be allowed to rise in the first place. Even if God does not give us the punishment we deserve, there will be consequences- even after repentance. 






A Narrative Shift

David had endured years of violence and uprising running from Saul as rightful King and now he would experience it again- this time everything he had spent his life building would be at stake. After Nathan delivers God’s indictment of his double-sin: murder and adultery, there is a complete change in the narrative of the Book(s) of Samuel (1 and 2 Samuel should be understood as one book). Up until this point, Samuel focuses on David’s rise to power. After this, everything in the main narrative goes down hill. In the same way, after we sin the natural results of the sin or God’s justice may dramatically alter the course of our lives in a negative way. David was acquitted of the punishment he legally deserved: death; however, David still experienced God’s wrath in the law of retribution. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Exo 21:24) or for David- sexual relations with another’s wife will happen to him and violence he committed against Uriah will happen within his own family. 

Immediately after the close of the adultery pericope, an entirely new narrative emerges centering around the turmoil in David’s life caused by the rebellion of Absalom. Notice this all happens after, David repented. First, David’s son Amnon rapes his step-sister, Tamar, whom David had with another wife. Not only was irreparable pain brought to Tamar, her chances of marriage were greatly harmed by the loss of her virginity. Tamar was scarred for life emotionally and perhaps physically, but also culturally. Due to the vile wickedness of Amnon, Absalom grew to hate his step-brother. (2 Sam 13)

“Now Absalom, David’s son son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar.” (2 Sam 13:1a; emp added)
 In the Hebrew the “Now Absalom” literally says, “And after this Absalom”. This opening phrase tells us that the description of Ammon’s rape of Tamar is given as a cause of Absalom’s rebellion. The rest of the book, with an exception of an appendix, focuses on Absalom’s rebellion and the subsequent turmoil in David’s kingdom. Absalom’s murder for Ammon was consummated in murder. Eventually, this led to Absalom attempting a coup and forced David to flee Jerusalem, with Absalom assuming the throne (2 Sam 13:20-15).
While David fled in the wilderness, on some advice Absalom decided to sleep with some of David’s concubines, responsible for maintaining the palace, out in view of everyone; in fulfillment of God’s curse :

“And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. ...You did it secretly, but I will do this [in public]” (2 Sam 12:12-13)
 Absalom did this specifically to bring shame to his father’s name (2 Sam 16:21-22). In those days, sleeping with King’s wives was a claim to his throne- Absalom publicly made a stake to his father’s throne and humiliated him by sleeping with his palace maidens.
So Absalom sent his army after David to pursue him and bring back his body dead so that his kingship, legitimizing his kingship. In the course of the ensuing battle, Absalom was killed and David mourned, though this meant the restoration of his rule (2 Sam 18:33-19:2).
Once the transfer of power back to David began, a man named Sheba opposed his reinstatement as King and he was quickly defeated (2 Sam 20).
This was only a very short summary of a lengthy narrative of Absalom’s rebellion. In violence, David fought with his son for control over his throne, much like he committed violence against Uriah. In the process he lost two sons (Amnon and Absalom), had a shamed and scarred daughter (Tamar) and devastating physical and reputation damage to David’s kingdom. A dramatic shift in the narrative, all because of David’s sin.
Much like the sins in our lives, God can spare us from the rightful punishment- death. God can keep the promises and blessings he has given us, but still execute justice. David experience irreparable suffering through this rebellion. That is why sin can never be allowed to rise in the first place. Even if God does not give us the punishment we deserve, there will be consequences- even after repentance.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

God, Create a Clean Heart In Me

“David said… ‘I have sinned against Yahweh.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘Yahweh also has put away your sin, you shall not die.’”
In the midst of David’s verbal confession before the prophet Nathan, David wrote (or said) a prayer- now known as Psalm 51. It is important to remember that biblical prose is not journalistic in nature, but it is storytelling. The events are not fictional, but they are narrated and told “at a distance” from the raw, historical happenings. David’s confession may not have been at the same time that Nathan had confronted him. It seems, that David’s confession here is a representative statement of his prayer and Nathan’s response is God’s response.
David’s prayer is full of asking God to do things. David fully recognizes that in order to get the effects of cleanliness and restoration, God must be the cause. David asks God to create a clean heart in him. The Hebrew word for create here, bara is a verb that only has God as the cause (according to Dr. Michael Heiser). Again, David asks God for his mercy, his cleansing, deliverance and restoration. David makes a point to confess- but his confession is firmly rooted in the sole power of God to change anything. David appeals to God’s attributes of love and mercy so that he could experience mercy and have his transgressions removed from the record. Specifically, David asks God to be “delivered from bloodguiltiness” or to be acquitted of the charges of murder, the punishment for which is death. David extends his confession to a commitment to better serve and be a witness to Yahweh throughout Israel (Psa 51:13-19).

“[David] did not turn aside from anything that [God] commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite”- 1 Kings 15:5
In the period of time after David’s murder and adultery, but before his repentance- David was not walking with God. It is hard to say exactly how long David was in the state of unconfessed sin, but he was unrepentant for at least a month, but very possibly much longer- up until or shortly after the birth of his son, some nine months after his adultery and eight after murder. When the Book of Kings says David “did not turn aside from anything” does not mean he never sinned. The key difference is that David remained in a sinful state and was unrepentant, until God brought the matter to him personally.
When David had sinned at other times in his life, he had not stopped his pursuit of God. David’s sin was so deep here that he stopped following God. He only repented when he was directly confronted with it. He may have continued to pray and lived his “life as normal”, but with his sin left unresolved, David was not truly walking with God. This is essential to understand the depth of David’s repentance Psalm. David did not have the relationship with God he had for a few month period, he had not been walking with God for a long period of time.
David fully recognized that transformation of heart and cleansing from sin is only doable by God. Once confronted with his sin, David confessed:
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”- Psa 51:16-17
There was nothing that David could to right the wrongs he had done. Furthermore, after his repentance David committed himself to a greater degree of obedience. David’s repentance is a model for all of us. No matter how far we fall from God, God will always take us back- not on our own merit, but wholly on his goodness

The Confrontation

After Uriah’s death, Bathsheba mourned. After the mourning was over David took her as his wife, the right thing to do in the circumstances.

But the thing that David had done displeased [Yahweh]. And And [Yahweh] sent Nathan to David”- 2 Sam 11:27b-12:1a
Uriah was dead, Bathsheba was now his wife. For David, it was as if he not only avoided the consequences of his sin, he had made amends by marrying Bathsheba. God saw what he had done and was not pleased. As the King of Israel, David was responsible the governance of his kingdom; but was still under the leadership of God. Therefore, David had a personal prophet, Nathan, who communicated the revelation of God to him and interceded before him. One day Nathan came before David, having been sent by God. He presented him with a scenario: a rich man with large flocks stole one man’s only lamb. In those days, Kings would act as the chief judge over the country, hearing cases and ensuring fair justice. (2 Sam 12:1-4)
When David heard this, he was outraged:
“As [Yahweh] lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity”- 2 Sam 12:5b-6
At this Nathan hit David with the news- the man being described was David. David had made a precedent and had rightfully convicted himself, with the proper punishment of death. Then Nathan laid out the charge in the very words of God himself: God had anointed David King of Israel, gave him triumph him over Saul, granted him several wives and concubines- yet would have given David even more if he had asked. David had blatantly disregarded God’s law, killing Uriah the Hittite with by the Ammonite’s hands and took Bathsheba to be his wife.
David did not physically lay a hand on Uriah to kill him. However, God charges David as the murderer- the weapons of the Ammonites was the method of Uriah’s death, but in reality David was the one “holding the sword” (2 Sam 12:9; cf 1 John 3:15, Matt 5:21-22).

As a result of all of this- violence would never cease to plague David’s family. This unveils in the remainder of the Samuel narrative. Specifically, God would punish David with the same transgression he had committed- someone in his own family would sleep with one of his wives in public, fulfilled when Absalom lied with David’s concubines on the roof of the palace (which had greater cultural importance explored in the next post). David would experience punishment for his wrongdoing. Since David had committed violence against Uriah, he would experience violence. As he had slept with another man’s wife, so someone would sleep with his concubines- the punishment fit the crime.

After hearing all of this David admitted that he had sinned. God’s law explicitly stated that adulterers were to be executed (Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22) and it seemed David expected this.  God had another word for David- God had passed over his sin, he would not die; yet his son would die. David did not get the punishment he deserved, but still had to deal with great consequences for his sin. The punishments of David’s sin would plague him the rest of his life. Yet in all of it, God still kept his promise to David. Violence would curse David’s family, but David’s lineage would experience great prosperity (2 Sam 7:16, Psa 89:4).
David had sinned and was punished accordingly. David’s entire family would be affected by his sin. David would experience violence for his violence and taking wives for his taking of a wife; the fruit of his sin his son died, seven days later. Despite all of this God kept his love for David. God acquitted David of the rightful punishment- execution. ‘

Be weary- while by God’s grace we may be spared from our rightful punishment of death, we will still get what “we deserve”- God believes in justice and will enact his retribution according to our deeds.

Word for Word: Episode 46

יְבָ֧רֶךְ אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים

God blessed them

With millions of sentient creatures scattered from the deepest sea to above the clouds, their creator assured their continuance by granting them what they collectively needed. The word בָּרַךְ is a root word which means "to kneel", as a subject to a ruler to request a favor. When used in the intensive form as here, it becomes the granting of that favor. That is to say, "to bless".

When the self-sufficient Creator deems it proper to cause good things to happen to please his creatures, it shows a personal interest in the affairs of this world. In blessing the lives of even the wiggling sea urchins, God demonstrates his benevolent providence. He is always there, doing the right thing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Desperate Cover Up

"So David sent word to Joab, 'Send me Uriah the Hittite.'"- 2 Sam 11:6 ESV
So begins David’s attempt to hide his sin. He had sent Bathsheba home from his bedroom, as if nothing had been done wrong. Within a short time, David heard word that Bathsheba was pregnant. Sooner or later, David would have to deal with the consequences of his actions. In response to Bathsheba’s pregnancy and “evidence” of David’s sin, he sought to deal with it the natural way- bring Uriah home to his wife.
When Uriah came home from the frontlines, David gave him a warm welcome- completing hiding any ulterior motive. After a pleasant and hospitable evening, David sent Uriah on his way home with a gift to encourage his return to his wife. To David’s dismay, Uriah did not return home that night. When David heard this he was shocked- he would have to move from a simple to an elaborate cover up if Uriah did not go home to his wife.


“Uriah said to David, ‘The Ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing’”- 2 Sam 11:11
Uriah was so loyal to his fellow soldiers and to David, he refused to enjoy the comforts of his home. It is so ironic, yet so pathetically sad, David was not loyal like Uriah. While the soldiers fought on the field, David stayed at home- a major disgrace. While Uriah fought in the battle, David slept with his wife. Yet, here is Uriah; refusing to go home on grounds of loyalty- an utter embarrassment for David.
Perhaps, a drunk Uriah would go home, so David thought. Even while intoxicated with wine, Uriah’s loyalty shone and he slept at the palace and not at home with his wife. Then David became desperate. The consequences of his sin would soon come to light. He did not confess of it, he did not repent of it. David’s single focus was hiding his sin and if Uriah would not cooperate, then he would need to be removed. The next day, David ordered the army to withdraw from Uriah next time in battle, leaving him exposed to the enemy. This was one of David’s most elite men and one of his most loyal soldiers. None of this mattered to David anymore. David no longer viewed Uriah as his friend, but as a potential avenger of the justice he greatly deserved. Once Uriah died in battle, David not only was an adulterer but a murderer.
The unfortunate lesson of David is the consequences of sin always become worse when we try to conceal our sin. He was so fearful of the consequence of one sin, he committed another one to conceal it. Perhaps David’s desperation was sparked by the punishment of adultery- death by stoning (Lev 20:10). David was so desperate to cover his sin, conceal the evidence and avoid his punishment he was willing to disregard the life of one of his best men. Once a deed is done, no matter how hard one tries, the consequences cannot be avoided- all sin will come to light whether through a husband finding his wife pregnant, or with the confrontation of God himself.

The Anatomy of David's Affair

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin…” (James 1:14-15a ESV)

“And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said ‘Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’- (2 Sam 11:3)
 The moment David saw the beautiful Bathsheba and chose to behold her for too long, he (as in the words of Jesus) “had already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). David had already sinned. He had the option to repent of it right there, confess it to God and to turn away (perhaps literally) from his sin. The woman David had seen piqued his interest, so he sent some people to go find out about her. They told David she was Uriah the Hittite’s wife. Uriah the Hittite was no stranger to David, in fact Uriah was one of the top thirty men in all of David’s army (1 Chr 11:41)!
The identification of Bathsheba as Uriah’s wife wasn’t something that David could just brush off. David would have had a personal relationship with Uriah and would have known him well (this is evidenced by David’s later meeting with Uriah). Despite David having heard this was the wife of one of his best soldiers, he still went ahead with his sin. Ironically, Bathsheba was bathing as part of the ritual cleansing after a woman underwent her menstruation period (2 Sam 11:4a, Lev 15:19-23). A woman performing a cleansing ritual for both religious (honoring God) and cultural (pleasing others) reasons, was the object of David’s unclean desires.
“So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her”- 2 Sam 11:4.
David did not have to continue the lust he had began in his heart. He lusted after Bathsheba, asked of her and then was given another opportunity to repent. David was so set in his lust, he ignored sense that would tell him not to have an affair, especially with the wife of one his best men. We don’t know whether or not Bathsheba consented to this or if she did this out of fear. The text here focuses on David’s actions, it has little concern as to what Bathsheba did (only how it affected her). David is the subject, while Bathsheba is the direct object here. This is chiefly ascribed as David’s sin, as the focus of the Book of Samuel was on David.
“And the woman conceived and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant’”- 2 Sam 11:5.
 After it was all said and done, David sent Bathsheba home. David acted as if nothing had happened. Sending her home was as if David was sending the consequences of his actions away from his life. Then he received word, she was pregnant. David’s actions weren’t going to go away with a walk home and pretending nothing occurred.
So what made up David’s affair? He desired and lusted after Bathsheba (which crept in while he was idle at home). The adultery of his heart progressed into actionable curiosity. Finally, David had her brought into the bedroom, David committed the act, then he sent her home as if nothing happened. David’s affair consisted of intentional, willful choices throughout the entire process. At any given point he had the opportunity to stop and repent, but he chose to keep going.

Don’t let sin catch you off guard, but remember- you can always walk away before it's too late.

Idleness Leads to Temptation

“[It happened] In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”- 2 Sam 11:1 ESV (emphasis added)
 These are the opening lines of the account of David’s adultery. It was spring, the war season. In ancient times, armies would primarily fight during spring weather. Armies were not equipped to fight during the cold months of winter. Even if a war was ongoing, opposing sides would often cease battle for the season until the weather was right again. Then they would resume in the spring. One possible reason armies fought in warm weather was that crops were plentiful, giving easily accessible food to passing soldiers.
In those times, Kings were also generals. They led their army on the front lines of the battle. They planned military strategy, negotiated with the enemy and boosted the morale of the troops. Under normal circumstances, during a time of war in the spring, the King would be out in the field with his army. David, however was not in battle, but he “remained at Jerusalem”.
Interestingly, this battle and the fact that David stayed home is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 20 and later in 2 Sam 12:26-31. 1 Chronicles 20:1-3 mentions how David remained at Jerusalem, while Joab besieged Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites. While David did not partake in the battle himself, he took all of the glory and plunder for himself. He should have been on the front lines like a King usually would, collecting his spoils after his own victory.
“And it happened” or as verse 2 says, “And it came to pass” (2 Sam 11:2). It was when David was at home, sitting idle and neglecting his royal responsibility, it happened. These two phrases make it very clear- the following account of David’s adultery was contingent upon him staying home. If David had been at in the field, this would not have happened.
“[And it came to pass], late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.”- 2 Sam 11:2-4a
 David was at home and he arose from his couch in the afternoon where “he saw a woman bathing”. This is all predicated on the fact that “But David remained at Jerusalem”. The text makes it very clear, David staying home was very unusual. It was expected of a King to partake in battle. Leading the army was a built-in duty of Kingship (inferred from the biblical phrase “When Kings go off to war”). It’s not that relaxation is wrong, but David was being idle and lazy. While his men were out in the field, battling against the Ammonites, he sat at home. He let his men deal with the heavy toil of battle. While this happened, he sat at home on his couch and then walked around. David got so caught up in enjoying peace and relaxation he let his guard down for one moment. And it happened. And he saw. And [he] sent. The order of the events is very sequential.

David had been made King by God and at the time, it was expected that the King lead his soldiers in battle. For one reason or another, David neglected his duty. Relaxation is not wrong, but when relaxation becomes priority over God’s work, we can become idle. Just like David, it is only a short sequence from neglecting our duty, to relaxation, to idleness to temptation and then to sin.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 45

הָֽרֹמֶ֡שֶׂת

The movers

On the other side of the spectrum of sea creatures were the myriad of smaller animals--living beings that self propelled through the water, the liquid medium that makes life possible.

There are so many different sea animals that we may never know how many there are or may have been. They live in the deepest part of the waters that have been explored so far. They also live in drops of water so small that the air can transfer them to bodies of water far inland. (see https://massivesci.com/articles/sea-spray-microbiome/)

Aside from the placement of the stars, the filling the ocean was the most extensive act of original creation. And so far as we know, this collection of living things far exceeds the stars in variety.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 44

וְעֹוף֙ יְעֹופֵ֣ף עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ

Flyers flying over the earth

As with the swarm, the flock of "birds" is a large general category. The verb form, עוּף (`uwf), is used to designate flying. The root further points to the most common flyer, the birds, due to their using their wings to wrap, or cover, their young. The noun form is עוֹף (`owf), with the pointing of the vowel different.

עַל־פְּנֵ֖י רְקִ֥יעַ הַשָּׁמָֽיִם

The face of the firmament

There has been much discussion on the nature of the firmament and its relationship with the heavens. As we saw on the second day, the firmament is called "heaven". However, many translate this simply as the air. This seems to be the sense of the birds.

But what is the surface of the sky? Where does the air begin?These concepts are defined by the observer.

The air that every living thing on earth and in the sky breathes begins at the surface of the earth. However, the surface of the heavens is to be viewed from below. It is clear that the sky continues well beyond the birds. That extension of the sky is where the "heavenly bodies" reside. With the earth as the vantage point, the face of the heavens is where the sky touches the earth.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 43

הַתַּנִּינִ֖ם הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים

The great whales

The verb bara, to create, is used a second time when animal life is bestowed upon creatures of the sea and air. The first mentioned is the תַּנִּין, tanniyn, an nonspecific designation for a fearsome creature sometimes called a "dragon". The creatures is said to be quite large. Their size alone would have demanded respect from all other animals in the sea. The contrast between the "monsters" and the "minnows", so to speak, is another merism.

The act of creating was universal in scope. Twice in this verse the Hebrew word כָּל, kal, is used. Be they in the water or the air, every animal was especially designed for its niche in God's world.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 42

יִשְׁרְצ֣וּ הַמַּ֔יִם שֶׁ֖רֶץ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה

Waters, swarm with living swarms

The fifth day God continues to define His creation by its continuing testimony. First, the sprouts sprouted; then the lights lit. And as animal life (Hebrew: נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה -- nephesh khavah ) was created, the lower forms of aquatic life (Hebrew: שֶׁ֖רֶץ sherets, swarming or creeping things) began to swarm, or teem (שָׁרַץ   sharats) in the water.

There was no need to give a lot of detail. God created things in general categories that any observer could relate to. If it moved about in large groups, it was a "swarm".

It is notable that the "soulish life" is first mentioned in the lowest creatures. This kind of life is reserved for the "animal kingdom" from plankton to pachyderm, and beyond. What came first in the water, and would continue into the air.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 41

יֹ֥ום רְבִיעִֽי

The fourth day

A lot happened on the fourth day. The word רְבִיעִֽי (rebiy`iy fourth) is is a form of אַרְבַּע (arba` four). Both words are derived from רָבַע (raba` to lie stretched out). The usage of the derivatives may indicate that the verb is descriptive of four limbs stretched out.

וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֛ם

And He set them

In the study of this day, the centrality of the earth is evident. In a special way (Hebrew:  נָתַן nathan, to give) the vast heavens were "populated" especially for the benefit of the planet made for mankind.

The words introduced in these six verses were:

[ma'or] מָאוֹר luminary, lamp

['oth] אוֹת sign, signal

[mo`ad] מוֹעֵד appointed place or time

[shanah] שָׁנָה year

[galod] גָּדוֹל great, large

[qatan] קָטָן insignificant, small

[memshalah] מֶמְשָׁלָה rule, realm

[kolab] כּוֹכָב star

[nathan] נָתַן to give, set, put

[rabiy`iy] רְבִיעִי fourth, from רָבַע (raba` lie stretched out)

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Time at Central States SBL- Part 2: Research Highlights

Check out Part 1- Key Takeaways. I spent the past weekend at the Society of Biblical Literature, Central States meeting, hosted at Eden Theological Seminary. Here I got to listen to new research papers by various Professors, Graduate Students and other Bible Scholars. Papers presented here were all in the writing stage, so they were not at the peer-review or public stage. Alongside paper reading there was direct dialogue surrounding the research papers that were read. There was many papers that were presented at the conference. I spent most of my time in the Old Testament session, but was also present for several New Testament papers. Both sessions were going on at the same time so there were many sessions I did not get to observe.
Research Highlights (Note I do not necessarily endorse the research below, these are just the papers that stuck out to me)

 The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest
The renowned John Walton was there and was the keynote speaker. In his presentation (which summarized his book The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest which is a detailed treatise of the issue), Dr. Walton explained how the Israelites were not commanded to destroy or “utterly blot out” the Canaanites, rather to drive them out. God did not make a command of genocide as is often stated, but Israel was to remove the land of its Canaanite identity by expelling the Canaanites. Inevitably, armed conflict and slaughter did occur when the Canaanites refused to leave the land. In the view of the ancients, they all recognized that land was gift from divine beings. As we know from the Bible, Israel failed to obey and did not fully drive them out. Instead, the Canaanites assimilated into the culture and turned many away from Yahweh into idolatry.
 Let He Who is Without Sin Cast The First Stone: Jesus and the Law of Moses in the Pericope Adulterae-
This was a paper presented by some people affiliated with the LCMS seminary (I am not sure if they are faculty or students), which is here in the St. Louis area. The “Pericope Adulterae” is the literary unit of the “woman caught in adultery”. It is debated whether or not this section of Scripture is original part of the Gospel of John, because many early manuscripts do not contain it. The presenters suggested that the pericope fit well into John and reinforced the theological themes of the surrounding narrative context. They made it very clear they were not suggesting it was original to John, but it was added in later as commentary. Regardless of its originality (which is unlikely) this does not impact the Bible’s inspiration. Regardless if the event happened or not, the teachings of the passage are aligned with the rest of Scripture’s picture of Jesus.

Suffering Servant or Substitute King? Reevaluating the Imagery of the Suffering of the Servant in Isaiah’s Servant Songs
This paper was actually presented by a recent undergraduate student at Indiana Wesleyan University. This paper was based off the groundwork of John Walton, who was actually present for the reading of the paper- this gave a unique opportunity for the author receive feedback directly from the scholar, whom his work was based on. The author of the paper further explored the idea that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah may actually be using the image of a “Substitute King”. A substitute king was someone who would die in place of the real King who deserved to die. This parallel, if accurate, would have been clearly understood by the original readers. Of interest was critique from some of the scholars in the room that it is not appropriate to identity him as Jesus. It is not that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy, but in the original context, the hearers would have not known of Jesus as a specific messianic figure. The passage may have been talking about a particular figure at the time, that Jesus later embodied in his own suffering as a servant and a king.
 The Third Commandment as a Prophetic Call 
This paper was written by a graduate student as Asbury Seminary. The general interpretation he suggested of the Third Commandment (don’t use Yahweh’s name in vain) extends far beyond using God’s name as a curse, but it is a general call to obedience. That is to say, if someone “bears” the name of God, by claiming to be his follower (i.e a Christian or in those times a Yahwist) and does obey God the name has been used vainly. This is very similar to what Henry and I have articulated in our video broadcast about God’s name. While the researcher did not say this directly, this could be also be extended literally to people with theophoric names or even cities.

 Two Sermons: A presentation of the thematic relationship between the Temple Sermon of Jeremiah 7 and the Baptism Pericope of Matthew 3:7-10 
This research paper drew upon the work of earlier ideas of parallels between The Book of Jeremiah and the Gospel of Matthew. This paper specifically recognized literary parallels between Jeremiah 7 and the Baptism narrative of Matthew. The author related how John the Baptist’ baptism was similar to many aspects of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry. There were many other papers I heard, these are the ones that particularly stuck out to me.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

My Time at Central States SBL- Part 1: Key Takeaways

This past weekend I attended and volunteered at the Society of Biblical Literature Central States Meeting- an academic meeting of Bible scholars in the Central US to present and dialogue about their research. I volunteered for my New Testament professor and advisor who coordinates the meeting.
Essentially, professors and graduate students read their in-progress research papers. Then other scholars participate in Q&A about the research which helps the researcher improve their paper before publication. Additionally there were several meals and a keynote speech that gave more opportunity for scholars to discuss and fellowship. I mostly observed, but it was very interesting to hear some of the dialogue going on. I will note the conference was not just for Evangelical Christians. The meeting was open to all bible scholars part of the Society of Biblical Literature. This means there was a diversity of people there- from Charismatics, Methodists, Lutherans and Baptists to Liberals, Atheists and more. Here I will talk about some of my takeaways from the conference. Read part 2 to learn about some of the research highlights:
Key Takeaways:

  • This was my first academic conference I have ever attended and I actually enjoyed the conference more than I had expected. Hopefully, I can return next year. I mostly sat in on Old Testament sessions, but listened to some of the New Testament as well. 
  •  Many of the research papers were very interesting. Some had new ideas I had never heard before and others reiterated concepts in a new fashion. What was even more interesting than the papers themselves was the Q&A surrounding the research. That is where certain points of papers were praised, elaborated upon, critiqued and challenged. 
  •  John Walton, a very prominent Old Testament scholar on ancient near eastern backgrounds was the keynote speaker. It was very interesting to get to see him in person and hear direct discussion with him regarding his ideas. Some of his ideas regarding Creation, Adam and Eve and the Flood are very controversial among other Evangelicals (he is one himself). It was very intriguing to hear some of the debate discussed in person. I do not have a nuanced enough understanding of some of the issues to have a direct opinion on them.
  •  I was amazed of the cooperation between conservatives and liberals, believers and non-believers and every other group. This was a great reminder that one can be highly intellectual and reasoned, but still be very faith-centered. Even those who do not believe in God’s work still take a great interest in the fabric of his word. Just by hearing much of the research, you may not be able to tell if it was coming from a believer or non-believer. The research seems to be relatively the same, but the point of contention is how does someone respond/ what does someone do their ideas on the Bible is what can make a life changing difference
  • Research is intended for academia. Unfortunately, scholarly content doesn’t always make its way down to the Church. The Church at large is not as engaged with Scripture as it should be. We must not forget that we owe scholars of the Bible for many of our ideas/interpretation and we must continue to rely on them. Pray for God to raise up people who love him and his Word to contribute to biblical scholasticism. 
  •  Research can be very practical- it's all about what's done with the ideas. While research is the origin of the researcher, really it is uncovering what God has already placed, hence “re-search”; searching for what is already there again. If we leave all the deep study of the Bible to scholars, however, we will personally miss out on the opportunity of God’s blessing through the Word. We have to be able to study it ourselves, because it is God’s wonderful tool that allows us to live obediently, without lacking (2 Tim 3:16-17). You can be a Christian and not read the Word, attend Church or Pray, but you will miss out on the real blessing and fulfillment in life that God is abundantly offering.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 40

וְאֵ֖ת הַכֹּוכָבִֽים

And the stars

Though the moon was a "lesser" light, even in its smallest manifestion it greatly outshined the stars ( כּוֹכָב kocab ). The word probably is derived from the verb כָּוָה (kavah, to burn, but originally to to prick or penetrate), though it may be related to כַּבּוֹן, kabon, from an unused root meaning to heap up.

Though these points of light meant very little by themselves, their relative positions formed patterns in the sky, which made navigation at night possible. Certain patterns followed the apparent path of the moon and marked the seasons much like the moon marked the months.


Word for Word: Episode 39

הַמָּאֹ֤ור הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה

The Lesser Light to rule the night

Though the moon is a lesser (Hebrew: קָטָן qatan; small, insignificant) light even when full, it has a significant role in its own domain. 

Regardless of its phase, the daily influence of the moon bends the surface of the earth, especially the less dense seas. The gentle pull of its gravity  offers assurance that God is still in control of the darkened world.