Archive for the ‘Old Testament Theology’ Category

Rahab’s Confession: Confirmation & Anticipation of the Lord’s Covenant Faithfulness

April 11, 2008

After several weeks of meditation and research over the Israelite spies’ encounter with Rahab in Joshua 2 (esp. 2:8-14), I finally completed my paper for Hebrew class. It was a joy to write it, to gain an even better appreciation for the Hebrew text, and to behold the might and faithfulness of the God of Israel. I hope some of you take some time to look through it.

For those of you who saw the word “Hebrew” above and trembled at the thought of trying to read an exegetical paper, these next couple of notes should help calm your fears. Though it contains Hebrew, the English translation is provided most of the time in parentheses. There are also several syntactical and grammatical notes, but these should not hinder you from understanding the theological significance (i.e. the “so what”) of the text. Further, if you have any questions regarding the passage, feel free to dialogue with me about it on here or through email.

I would love to hear from all of you who do choose to read it at least one thing the Lord taught you about himself, his kingdom, his mercy, his justice, etc. Here is a preview of the introduction to wet your appetite:

“Spanning the ages, from the first day when God’s spoken order triumphed over the cosmic chaos, to these last days in which the Spirit gathers the elect from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation by the power of Christ’s gospel, the kingdom of God has not ceased to irrupt on earth. Within this metanarrative, the gift of the Promised Land to Israel plays a vital role in portraying the Lord’s impending (realized) reign over all creation. A noticeable storyline concerning the initial fulfillments of this land promise flows from the Pentateuch into Joshua, the first of the Historical Books. After the death of Moses, the Lord bolsters his leader, Joshua, and the people, by affirming his plan to give them the promised land of Canaan (Deut 34:1-Josh 1:18), some of which has already been claimed (Num 21:21-35; 31:25-32:42). Moreover, as providence would have it, evidence of this Divine Warrior’s conquest on behalf of his people would come even from the mouth of a harlot in Jericho (Josh 2:9-11). It is here, in the story of Rahab, that readers of Joshua will find not merely a Canaanite’s confession of faith in Israel’s God, but also an account that functions to confirm the Lord’s previous promises and anticipate the imminent taking of Jericho and then the Land–both a promotion of God’s kingdom.”

Click here for the rest of the paper.

George Bush on Joshua 2:11 & 13

March 26, 2008

There is an Old Testament scholar by the name of George Bush, whom I stumbled upon one day when I was reading through John Piper’s book The Justification of God. Thus, I too made reference to his commentary on Exodus (1852) in a paper I wrote. Over the past couple of days I have been browsing his commentary on Joshua (1852), which even bears a title including the aim of his scholarship, an aim which is missing from many works in the Christian academy: Notes, critical and practical, on the Book of Joshua: Designed as a General Help to Biblical Reading and Instruction. I find his work very insightful and nourishing. Here is a flavor of his comments on Joshua 2:11 and 13 after explaining Rahab’s confession and her demand for the Israelites to swear an oath with her even for the sake of her family:

“…It was at once an acknowledgement of the true God, and a condemnation of the false gods and idolatrous worship of her countrymen, and showed a supernatural influence of God upon her soul. He can cause the rays of truth to penetrate the thickest shades of that moral midnight which broods over the minds of the unenlightened heathen, though we have no evidence that he ever does this, except in connexion (sic) with some kind of external instrumentality” (37)

“…But a practical remark of more importance suggests itself in this connexion (sic). The same feelings which warn us to flee the coming wrath and make our own peace with God, will also incite us to do all in our power to promote the salvation of our families and kindred, by bringing them also within the bonds of the covenant. We shall feel that our work is but half done when our own souls are safe” (38).

Psalm 1, Psalm 2, or both?

March 7, 2008

Many times over we read the Psalms, each of them, one at a time. Perhaps, we have a favorite Psalm we run to in times of trouble or fear, and there we find great confidence in a great God who is our strong tower and our place of refuge and strength. At other times, maybe we recite them in the assembly together, or put music to one in particular that we might sing them to and over one another. Without question, these are excellent ways to read the Psalms; indeed, reading them period is a wonderful blessing!

Yet, have we ever considered reading them in a different manner, perhaps as a whole corpus with each contributing to a larger picture? Sure, they find themselves in a different genre of literature in comparison to an Old Testament narrative; but does this mean we must read each, one at a time, only, without at the same time meditating on how they may all function together? Is there a reason, a purpose, behind the order in which we, the covenant community, the true Israel, read them? What may their unified message be to us?

These questions I ask, because over the past two weeks I have been reading and re-reading Psalms 1 and 2 from the Hebrew text, and I cannot get over how many verbal and thematic links there are between the two. It is a bit harder to see them in some English translations, but this does not mean you can’t see them at all. Hopefully they will become even more obvious to you shortly and as you continue to read them for yourselves. I will only point out a few links here in an attempt to encourage you to read the Psalms not only individually (as sweet as this is), but also as a whole book.

Notice that Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 both lack a superscription (i.e. the small letters telling us of the historical situation to which the particular Psalm is related), something that is rather common to the numerous others following them. Could it be that they do not contain such superscriptions because the reader is to read them together? In other words, are we as readers not to immediately connect Psalm 2 with anything else except what was just mentioned in Psalm 1? I think the remainder of our observations say, “Yes, read them together.”

Notice that Psalm 1 begins with “Blessed is the man…”, and Psalm 2 ends with “Blessed are all…”. This two phrase form what is often called an inclusio. That is, there is a repetition of a unique feature that frames, or brackets, a portion of Scripture so helping us to zero in on the overarching picture. In this case, the righteous man “does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers” (Ps 1:1). What does he do? He takes refuge in the Son (Ps 2:12).

Notice that the destruction of the wicked are highlighted in Psalms 1 and 2, but from different angles. In Psalm 1, we see that “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” (1:5a) and that “the way of the wicked will perish” (1:6b). Thus, by the end of Psalm 1 we understand there to be a divine resolve to finally and justly punish the wicked. It is no wonder, then, why such a question is raised at the beginning of Psalm 2: “Why are the nations restless, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed!” (2:1-2). If God promises to punish the wicked, then why are the nations permitted to come against him and his annointed? And, we would be right to ask the question based on Psalm 1.

Notice, however, that Psalm 2 deals with the wicked in congruity with Psalm 1. It agrees with the resolve of Psalm 1 in that the Lord laughs and scoffs at those who attempt to come against him (2:4). What is more, the king, God’s Son, which he installed on Zion will shatter them to pieces with a rod of iron. Thus, one must serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, and kiss the Son; otherwise, he will be angry and that person will perish in the wayboth words used in 1:6b.

Notice that Psalm 1 reveals the characteristics of the ideal king to which Deuteronomy 17 refers. He does not participate in wickedness, but delights in and meditates on the Law of the Lord. Because the Law of the Lord gives him counsel and directs his ways, such a righteous king does not sit in the seat of scoffers (2:1). Where then does he sit? Psalm 2 resounds: “he who sits in heaven laughs” (2:4). The righteous king of Psalm 1 sits in heaven, rightly judging the nations from his majestic throne.

Notice: If Psalm 1 refers to a righteous king, who appropriately exercises the kingship laid out in Deuteronomy 17, and who abides in close relationship with the Lord by following his Law and being known by him, could it be that Psalm 2 tells us, even identifies who this mighty king might be? Surely it does: this king is the Lord’s annointed, the one installed on Zion, the one of whom he is pleased to say, “This is my Son, today I have begotten you!” The New Testament writers pick this up and without blinking identify such a king with Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5).

Now, the aim of these few observations among MANY others in the first two Psalms, I pray, at least motivates you to read your Bible. And, in doing so, I pray they stimulate you in thinking of the Psalms not merely on an individual basis, but also in relationship with one another. Just think, these first two Psalms serve as the introduction; there is a great deal more the remaining 148 show us concerning this King. But know this, two truths have already been made clear: (1) the Lord and his anointed will judge the wicked; and (2) those who kiss the Son, who take refuge in him, they will be blessed.

Jeremiah, Jesus, and “Fishers of men”

November 10, 2007

Last week, during my morning prayer time, it became even clearer to me that Matthew 4:18-20 is not Matthew’s clever way of granting the coming generations a cute sermon illustration about what kind of bait we should use on the hook in evangelism efforts. Instead, he is showing us something far more significant in the scope of God’s redemptive history, especially in the mission of Jesus and his disciples.

I was reading through Jeremiah 16. In this chapter, Jeremiah is told that he cannot marry, grieve, or attend feasts with the people. This, of course, serves to separate him from the ways of the adulterous nation of Israel (16:1-9). The Lord then explains, that the next and only step forward for the nation’s restoration is through their suffering under his judgment in exile (16:10-13). However, brighter days await Israel with the hope of a new exodus, that is, of deliverance from exile (16:14-15). And just how will the Lord gather his own people, which he scattered abroad among the nations? He will do so with fishermen: “Behold, I am sending for fishermen (Grk. haleeis, LXX), declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of  the clefts of rocks” (16:16). Though none will escape the impending judgment, Israel’s salvation is secure and all the Gentile nations shall know the name of Yahweh (16:17-21). 

Now, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus walks by the sea of Galilee and sees two brothers, Simon (a.k.a. Peter) and Andrew, casting their net into the sea, and two others, James and John, mending their nets. Narrating the story, Matthew then calls his reader’s attention to the obvious fact that these men were fishermen (Grk. halieis), and next shows Jesus using such an incident to demand they follow him. In doing so, they will not become better commercial fishermen. No, these men will become a completely different kind of fishermen, ones who fish for people, not food.

This sounds very similar to Jeremiah’s prophecy (16:16). What is more, the “fishers of men” passage in Matthew immediately follows a text that interprets the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the ingathering of the nations: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentilesthe people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” What Matthew wants us to see is this: Jesus’ mission has inaugarated the new and final exodus, and those who follow him on the Calvary road and in the proclamation of the Gospel join him in gathering people from among the nations for his name’s sake.  

What were the responses of Peter, Andrew, James, and John? “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matt 4:20, 22). We should be quick to do the same. The final days of salvation have come upon us, and the ingathering of the nations into the people of God is readily before us. Through Jeremiah, the Lord promised to bring about this day, and doubtless Jesus understands it being fulfilled in his own cross-mission as Matthew so testifies. May we all follow Jesus in calling people from every nation to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17).

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

August 2, 2007

What is the purpose of the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11? How is it connected to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Here are a few meditations that I pray would help answer these questions.

1. The story occurs in the days following the flood. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and from these men came many tribes and peoples that populated the land. In 10:32, we not only find these nations descended from Noah, but also that “from these [families] the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood,” the phrase further explained in 11:1-9.

2. Now, we can imagine this story being told to the Israelites as they were coming out of slavery in Egypt, as Moses recounts to them their history. The only thing they knew was a world of diverse languages, especially that of the Egyptians. However, here Moses points out to them that it has not always been that way, and that there is a significant story which tells of why the diversity exists now–a story which communicates grand theological truths about God, judgment, grace, and the Gospel. (more…)

Jesus Reigns, the Saints Remain

June 22, 2007

“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:8-11).

In terms of perseverance in the faith and waging war against this world, the devil, and my flesh, Thursday had to be one of the hardest battles I have ever fought since God saved me. This is also why this text was so sweet to me Friday morning. What an outpouring of grace there was as I meditated on this text.

Thursday, it felt as though I was fighting alone. Friday, the Lord showed me he fought for me as he stood at my right hand. Thursday, I thought I was surely overtaken at the core of my being. Friday, the Lord showed me that with him I shall not be shaken. Thursday, it seemed that nothing but failure and loss stood before me. Friday, the Lord testified that nothing but triumph and victory awaited me since my flesh dwelt securely. Thursday, joy had fled from me. Friday, the Lord graced me with joy from the endless wealth at his right hand. Thursday, I could not see through the death of darkness. Friday, the Lord made known to me the path of life. 

What is more, this Davidic Psalm bears witness to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, according to the Apostle’s words in Acts 13:30-39. The Lord did not allow his holy one, Jesus the Christ, to undergo decay. He did not abandon his soul to Sheol. Indeed, God raised him from the dead! Now he sits at the right hand of the Father, fighting for his church, interceding on behalf of the saints, and reigning for the salvation of his elect. O what pleasures we have in him! O what joy is in his presence! We shall not be shaken, for Christ is Lord! Let your heart be glad; your whole being rejoice! Amen.