Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God's discipline

"The pattern established in the book of Judges reappears at 1 Sam 12:8, showing how God's judgment is really discipline to prompt the cry of Israel, to which God will respond by sending salvation. An important clarification is made in 1 Sam 12:8, as Judg 10:10 is used to interpret the pattern of judges [sic], emphasizing the importance of a penitential verbal response to secure salvation."A Severe Mercy, page 16

<idle musing>
I like that: discipline—cry for mercy with penitential verbal response—salvation
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Very important visitors

We've got three of the grandkids with us this week and I'm taking half-days at work to be with them more. Consequently, I am not planning on blogging much, if anything this week! I'd rather spend the time with them. Hope you don't mind :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today is

National ride your bike to work day.

I also have decided to call it "International Let's Plant a Tree Day" in honor of Martin Luther's saying

Even if I knew the world was going to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.

<idle musing>
Of course, I don't know the world is going to end tomorrow, nor do I believe that Camping has a clue about what he is saying; his track record isn't very good... But, the point of Luther's statement is that everything we do should be an offering to God. So, even if the world were to end tomorrow, the tree would still be an offering to God.

If it weren't for the fact that we're going to Minnesota to get 3 of the grandkids, maybe I'd plant a tree. More likely, I'd plant more in the garden, though.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Colossian 3:16-remixed

In the finest spirit of Alan Knox's Scripture as we live it:

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach are taught and are admonished by the preacher one another with all wisdom well-written sermons through psalms, hymns and songs eloquent delivery from the Spirit pulpit, singing listening to God the preacher with gratitude in your hearts.—Colossian 3:16 remixed

Thoughts about David and the census

"This story of David [the census] brings together several key motifs observed elsewhere in the book of Samuel. First, confession of sin once again appears as a key initial step in dealing with sin. In this case, this confession is preceded by the 'troubling' (נכה Hiphil) of the heart. Second, the prophet has a role to play in dealing with sin, not only in identifying sin as seen in 2 Samuel 12 but also in announcing God's judgment. Third, there is an expectation that Yahweh can and will take away (עבר Hiphil) iniquity (עון). Fourth, a request of this sort does not eliminate divine discipline but only mitigates the punishment. Fifth, the sin of one, especially in this case of the king, has implications for the entire nation. Sixth, great hope is placed in the gracious character of Yahweh, who can withdraw punishment at any time. Seventh, Yahweh responds to the intercessory cry of his mediator in conjunction with sacrificial offerings at the altar in Jerusalem."—A Severe Mercy, page 162

<idle musing>
That's a lot to digest in one paragraph! The thing that jumped out the most to me as I read it was the corporate nature of sin. Our individualistic society tends to downplay the side effects of individual sin, but they have repercussions...
</idle musing>

National bike to work month

Here it is over halfway through the month, and Thursday of National Bike to Work Week, and I forgot to mention it! Good thing I'm not doing their marketing! But, you still can do "Ride to Work Day" which is tomorrow!

Anyway, please participate—especially with gas at about $4.00 a gallon. If you live five (5) miles or less from work, you should be able to do it in less than a half-hour without needing a shower when you get there. Sure, the first few times might feel hard, but your body will adjust and thank you in the long run. You never know, you might find out you like it and start doing it regularly!

Of course, I don't expect most of you to do it year round—which is what I do—but at least 3 seasons of the year would be great! Let me know if you try it...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Setting the Precedent

“These powerful interactions between Samuel and Saul at the outset of the monarchical phase of Israel's history set the tone for the rest of the story. The prophet is given the key role of confronting the royal house with their sin and announcing Yahweh's judgment. The definition of sin is broadened beyond exclusive worship of Yahweh at the central shrine to include meticulous obedience to all of Yahweh's commands. These interactions also reveal a severity in divine response to confession of sin. This confession is clearly inadequate to secure the forgiveness of Yahweh, for Yahweh appears to prefer obedience not only over sacrificial ritual but also over verbal confession.”—A Severe Mercy, page 156

<idle musing>
Still true today. Rote verbal confession without transformation isn't going to cut it with God. Mind you, transformation can only happen by the grace of God, but we need to allow it and cooperate...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saul's fall

"This poem [I Samuel 15:22-23] creates an important contrast between sacrifice and obedience. The sacrifice in view here is not focused on the elimination of sin but rather functions as a gift to God signifying one's entire devotion to Yahweh. A gift such as this to Yahweh, however is no substitute for obedience to Yahweh (בקול + שמע), and when the worshiper does this he or she is using the sacrifice to manipulate the deity and as a result reveals the hypocrisy of the act. This statement does not represent a rejection of the priestly sacrificial system, but does reflect the broader deuteronomic agenda, already discerned in the book of Deuteronomy, to place a premium on practical obedience from the heart over ritual fulfillment.”—A Severe Mercy, page 154

<idle musing>
We never learn, though, do we? We still try to manipulate God until we finally surrender to him.
</idle musing>

Monday, May 16, 2011

A role model

“In this key passage [I Samuel 7] at the outset of Samuel's leadership of Israel, the narrator presents a robust pattern for remedying sin. It shows the key role that the prophet plays to move the people from lament to penitence. It encourages a response that involves repentance in heart and deed with attendant verbal, sacrificial, and fasting rituals and the intercession of a sacred mediator. This account provides a normative picture of the role that proper leadership can play within the nation, especially helpful in the wake of the warnings of Joshua and the initial depictions of Israel in Judges and the first part of Samuel.”—A Severe Mercy, page 151

<idle musing>
That's what we need, someone to move us from lament to real repentance!
</idle musing>

Thought for today

“...we want something that will make people say—What a wonderful man of prayer he is! What a pious, devoted woman she is! If anyone says that of you, you have not been loyal to God.”—Oswald Chambers

Friday, May 13, 2011

Eli's demise

“The demise of Eli's line highlights important principles related to sin and its remedy. First, echoing the concerns expressed in the priestly legislation, sin against the sacred precincts has most serious consequences. Second, such direct sin against the deity is inexpiable—that is no sacrifice or offering is adequate to make atonement for this sin. Third, there are intergenerational implications for sin, and thus patriarchal figures must pay close attention to the behavior of those within their family units.”—A Severe Mercy, page 150

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The focus isn't where we usually think it is

“This policy [of hardening the heart] reveals the severe character of Yahweh's solution for sin in the book of Joshua. The Canaanites are eliminated because of their idolatry. No opportunity is given for 'repentance,' as Yahweh even hardens the hearts of those judged. The purpose given for this policy is not to provide room for Israel but rather to preserve Israel from the sinful practices of those in the land. The focus then is on the preservation of the faithful.”—A Severe Mercy, page 127

<idle musing>
Lebensraum it isn't! But, is that not how it is usually read?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

But I did all the right things

"Exodus 32-34 and Numbers 13-14 reveal that any hope for the grace of mitigated punishment was linked by Israel to Yahweh's dual character of grace and justice. The dispensing of this grace for defiant sin, however, is always an exercise of Yahweh's sovereignty, as he himself declares in the lead up to his forgiveness of a rebellious Israel: 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion' (Exod 33:19). Yahweh's revelation in Exod 34:6-7 reveals his character of mercy and justice, and his actions throughout Torah reveal typical patterns, but he clearly will not be reduced to an impersonal system that dispenses grace based on human manipulation.”—A Severe Mercy, page 120 (emphasis his)

<idle musing>
I love the observation that "he clearly will not be reduced to an impersonal system that dispenses grace based on human manipulation." No magical incantations allowed! No rote recitation of rituals; no mechanistic sacrifices...he wants far more than that; he wants you and all you are. So much for the checklist version of christianity, eh? As Paul put it, we don't want your money, we want you.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A new heart in Deuteronomy?

...the penitential theology of Deuteronomy expressed in chaps. 4, 10, and 30 reveals that Yahweh will effect directly an inner transformation of Israel's heart, circumcising hearts and producing repentance to bring an end to exile. No hope is placed in the people's ability to use the sacrificial system to avert sin or to repent from their sin. This does not place Deuteronomy at odds with the priestly legislation, however, because it also sees no sacrificial remedy for the kind of deliberate sin in view in Deuteronomy. As was seen in Leviticus 26, exile is also envisioned as the context that would give rise to a penitential response. Deuteronomy reveals that the people need a transformation by Yahweh to make this possible.”—A Severe Mercy, page 112

<idle musing>
Oh, I like that! It sounds like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Imagine finding it in Deuteronomy!
</idle musing>

Monday, May 09, 2011

Why the land?

“In Deuteronomy 5:27, the people express their verbal agreement to listen to and obey Yahweh, and it is this commitment on their lips that explains the constant appeals in the book for their response. The ubiquity of these appeals however, may suggest pessimism over Israel's ability to obey Yahweh's word.

“That this is the case is intimated by the fact that the beginning of the book is dominated by rehearsals of their rebellions in the past...Furthermore, it is explicitly stated that the land was given to them not because of their righteous character (9:1-6) or their great size (7:7-10) but rather because of the merciful and faithful character of Yahweh and the wickedness of the Canaanites (7:7-10).”—A Severe Mercy, page 111

<idle musing>
I'm thankful for the merciful nature of God, but I certainly wouldn't presume on it—that's called cheap grace! I'm also thankful for the faithfulness of God—but I wouldn't presume on it. And, as an analogy, I wouldn't purposely antagonize my wife because I know she is faithful and merciful and will forgive me! Can you imagine a marriage based on that kind of thinking?! No wonder Leonard Ravenhill hated the lyrics of the hymn that stated. "born to wander, Lord I feel it. Born to leave the God I love."

Of course, that we can be faithful ourselves is totally reliant on the power of God within us through the Holy Spirit. Without that, the song's lyrics are only too true—just as the Israelites found out when they tried to keep the covenant...
</idle musing>


I don't often comment on economic stuff on this blog, but this one got me to thinking...

These days Americans get constant lectures about the need to reduce the budget deficit. That focus in itself represents distorted priorities, since our immediate concern should be job creation. But suppose we restrict ourselves to talking about the deficit, and ask: What happened to the budget surplus the federal government had in 2000?

The answer is, three main things. First, there were the Bush tax cuts, which added roughly $2 trillion to the national debt over the last decade. Second, there were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which added an additional $1.1 trillion or so. And third was the Great Recession, which led both to a collapse in revenue and to a sharp rise in spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs.

So who was responsible for these budget busters? It wasn’t the man in the street.

President George W. Bush cut taxes in the service of his party’s ideology, not in response to a groundswell of popular demand — and the bulk of the cuts went to a small, affluent minority.

Similarly, Mr. Bush chose to invade Iraq because that was something he and his advisers wanted to do, not because Americans were clamoring for war against a regime that had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, it took a highly deceptive sales campaign to get Americans to support the invasion, and even so, voters were never as solidly behind the war as America’s political and pundit elite.

Finally, the Great Recession was brought on by a runaway financial sector, empowered by reckless deregulation. And who was responsible for that deregulation? Powerful people in Washington with close ties to the financial industry, that’s who. Let me give a particular shout-out to Alan Greenspan, who played a crucial role both in financial deregulation and in the passage of the Bush tax cuts — and who is now, of course, among those hectoring us about the deficit.

<idle musing>
3.1 trillion dollars! I can't fathom that kind of money, can you? And 2/3 of that for war! I guess that's another reason to be a pacifist...
</idle musing>

It finally arrived

And it only took 90 years!

That's right, the last volume of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is actually in the warehouse! It just arrived this morning. Here's photographic proof:

Friday, May 06, 2011


“Deuteronomy thus envisions repentance as something that follows serious disciplinary action of a jealous Yahweh in response to idolatry and that results in exile. What should not be missed, however, is that penitence is seen not as a regular rhythm within the life of the community but rather as an important phase in the history of salvation, a phase that will bring an end to the exile of the community.”—A Severe Mercy, page 107

<idle musing>
Interesting thought: "penance is seen not as a regular rhythm within the life of the community but rather as an important phase in the history of salvation." That would line up with the New Testament idea, wouldn't it?
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 05, 2011

There is hope

“The only hope once defiant sin was committed was found in mediatorial figures who could stand before Yahweh and seek pardon for the people. The most common figure is Moses, but at times priestly figures such as Aaron and his son Phinehas are able to secure forgiveness and atonement, bringing an end to punishment. This forgiveness and atonement often involves mitigated punishment, that is, the people still suffer, but they do not receive the full measure of judgment that they deserve.”—A Severe Mercy, page 95 (emphasis his)

<idle musing>
After yesterday's post, I wasn't sure where we were headed, but this give's at least some hope. It's still a Severe Mercy, but it is mercy! This book certainly can't be accused of encouraging a cheap grace...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Another garden update

I haven't posted about the garden lately—not because I haven't been doing anything with it!

About 3 weeks ago, I borrowed a pick-up truck (thanks Jim!) and got four loads of wood chips. That's a lot of wood chips! A little over two loads worth went on the walkways of the garden. Last fall I had expanded the fenced-in section to include the raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and asparagus. It almost doubled the size of the garden. It also required significant amounts of wood chips for the paths—hence the 2 plus loads. The rest went around the house, replenishing the ones already there, and on a path that we have in the woods going to the creek. Right now the creek is over its banks and part of the path is flooded, but the rest got a fresh load of wood chips.

I have also been busy planting and transplanting stuff. I transplanted 15 San Marzano paste tomato plants in the hoop house about 2 weeks ago. They are doing marvelously. About the same time, I planted some turnips and kohlrabi in a cold frame; the first planting (mid-March) of kohlrabi didn't make it, although the rutabaga did. In the hoop house, I planted some filet green beans for fresh eating—they don't freeze well—and some carrots. Outside, in the garden itself, I planted about 5 pounds of onion sets and put row cover over them—did I mention that we like onions?

Meanwhile, in the hoop house, the stuff that overwintered has been doing great. I'm giving away spinach; the overwintered is still producing and the stuff I planted at the end of January is also producing, and some that I planted in November (most of it didn't come up) is also giving me spinach. I didn't plant a lot in each planting, but... Oh, if you are looking for a long-time producing spinach, try "Space;" I planted it last fall and it produced all winter (January and February only once every week or so) and is still producing. I do cut-and-come-again to extend the season, but this is unbelievable. It is starting to get a bit tough, but, still.

We've been eating radishes, carrots, and green onions for a while now, probably 3 or more weeks. I brought some green onions in to share with Michael. They overwintered and are huge. They stuck out of the top of my pack; I'm sure people thought I was a bit strange :) They're about as big as leeks. Take a look:

Here they are lying on the desk:

Is there no remedy?

“There appears to be no remedy to remove the guilt of the present generation save their death in the wilderness. Yahweh's merciful forgiveness, however, is available to save the nation. The only effective function available for a human figure is Moses' mediation before Yahweh. He secures the forgiveness of mitigated punishment through an appeal to the glory Yahweh enjoyed among the nations and the mercy Yahweh promised to his people.

“It is important not to miss that Numbers 15 follows immediately after the rebellion at Kadesh in Numbers 13-14. In it, Yahweh highlights the provision of mercy through the sacrificial system for those who sin unintentionally (15:22-29) but the lack of this kind of mercy for those who sin defiantly (15:30-31). The sin of the wilderness generation in not taking the promised land is subtly linked to defiant sin, for which there was no remedy.”A Severe Mercy, page 94

<idle musing>
Not very hopeful sounding is it? I hope it gets better, or we are all doomed...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How they get here

I enjoy looking at the search terms and referring sites from time to time. This one tickles my fancy: http://myhealthcare.com/search?q=acting+strangely...

I'm not sure what qualifies as acting strangely: being a bookseller in an Internet world, being a pacifist in a violence-loving society, or just being a Christian. Maybe all of them...

and the answer is...

“Although the administration of the legal code was designed to deal with offenses, Yahweh provided his own direct covenant blessings to encourage obedience and direct covenant curses to discourage and bring an end to disobedience. These curses appear to replace sacrifice with the suffering connected with the curse. This is made clear in the ultimate curse of exile, which promotes listening to Yahweh, adhering to commands, confessing sins, humbling the heart, and providing sacrifice through suffering. Through this there is an opportunity for renewal of covenant with Yahweh.”—A Severe Mercy, page 85 (emphasis his)

<idle musing>
Pretty severe—perhaps that's why the book is called A Severe Mercy? But, in the end, God will use whatever means he can to woo us to himself. Augustine called the Holy Spirit "the hound of heaven" for a good reason!
</idle musing>

Monday, May 02, 2011

The purpose of the covenant curses

“The blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 thus reveal another way for dealing with sin according to the Holiness Code. Yahweh would use a system of covenant blessings and curses to encourage obedience and discourage sin. The discipline of curse was designed to turn the people from sin and save them from more severe discipline.”—A Severe Mercy, page 83

<idle musing>
Problem is that it didn't work...Israel went into exile. Still doesn't work very well, does it?
</idle musing>

Thought for the day, or lifetime

εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, προσεύχεσθε περὶ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς.

"bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" Luke 6:28