Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No formula here!

“ cannot reduce divine-human interaction to a single model (the problem of Job!), especially because of the dynamic of divine and human sovereignty. The Old Testament is witness to the consistent recalcitrance of humanity but also recognizes the mysterious sovereignty of God. Before renewing covenant with rebellious Israel in Exodus 34, a renewal based on Yahweh’s gracious and just character showcased in 34:6–7, Yahweh declares in Exod 33:19: 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.' This divine freedom is recognized regularly throughout the Old Testament in phrases such as 'who knows' and 'perhaps,' which precede hopes for God’s grace in reply to human response (2 Sam 12:22; Joel 2:14; Amos 5:15; Jonah 1:6, 3:9; Zeph 3:3). It is expressed by the people in Lamentations 3, who claim that God refuses to listen to their penitential cries, and those in Isaiah 64, who claim that God has hardened their hearts. This divine freedom most often benefits humanity. For instance, Cain deserves no grace, but instead Yahweh mitigates his punishment. The nation of Israel is deserving of annihilation in Exodus 32–34 and Numbers 13–14 but instead is preserved by God. The dominant pattern of human sin–divine discipline–human response–divine grace in all of its forms cannot be reduced to an impersonal retribution principle separated from the dynamic relationship between Yahweh and his people.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 521

<idle musing>
And we can all thank God that the divine freedom usually benefits us and can't be reduce to an impersonal principle. I much prefer the divine-human relationship.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


“Because of the stubbornness of humans, divine discipline or threat of discipline does not always lead to a normative human response. In some cases, when this happens God responds with further discipline (Ezekiel 20), sometimes with a mixture of discipline and grace (Psalm 78, 106; Ezekiel 20), and at other times with grace alone (Nehemiah 9, Ezekiel 20, Hosea 11). In some cases, what appears to be a proper human response does not always elicit a divine response of grace from God. This may be due to the fact that God’s patience has run out for the people who have been given enough chances (Jer 14:1–15:4), that divine discipline is not yet complete (Lamentations 3?), or that the people lack true penitential response (Jer 4:1–4).”—A Severe Mercy, pages 521

<idle musing>
In other words, don't put God in a box! And, don't think you can trick God into doing what you want him to do...
</idle musing>

Monday, August 29, 2011

Divine discipline

“At the head of the pattern [of dealing with sin] is divine discipline. Divine discipline for human sin is often presented simply as punishment for violation without being part of a larger pattern that sees it prompting a human response. This is displayed most vividly in the Torah, especially in the early stories of Genesis and in the penalties associated with the legal codes. Punishments of this sort are designed to remove serious violators from the camp or to discourage the violator or others from repeating the violation. However, even in these cases divine discipline refines the community by removing the rebellious and warning the rest of the community. As part of the larger pattern, divine discipline prompts repentance from the willing. The fact that full punishment is rarely exacted but rather more often a punishment is mitigated reveals its disciplinary design.”—A Severe Mercy, page 520

Thought for the day

In their arrogance the wicked hunt down the weak,
catching them in the schemes they devise.
They boast about the cravings of their hearts;
they bless the greedy and revile the LORD.
In their pride the wicked do not seek him;
in all their thoughts there is no room for God.
Their ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected byb them;
they sneer at all their enemies.
They say to themselves, “Nothing will ever shake us.”
They swear, “No one will ever do us harm.”

   Their mouths are full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under their tongues.
They lie in wait near the villages;
from ambush they murder the innocent.
Their eyes watch in secret for their victims;
like a lion in cover they lie in wait.
They lie in wait to catch the helpless;
they catch the helpless and drag them off in their nets.
˻The innocent˼ are crushed, they collapse;
they fall victim to superior strength.
The wicked say to themselves, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”

Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why do the wicked revile God?
Why do they say to themselves,
“He won’t call us to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arms of the wicked and the evildoers;
call them to account for their wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.

The LORD is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.—Psalm 10:2-18

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The progession of hope

“It is in the midst of Israel’s struggle with sin that the way forward is revealed. Expanding the insight first voiced in Deut 30:6, the prophets ultimately look beyond Israel’s ability to a new day in which Yahweh will enable them to remain faithful and avoid sin. What was only a passing comment in the Torah expands and dominates hope, especially in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Initial signs of fulfillment of this promise can be discerned in Hag 1:12–15 as God stirs up the spirits of the faithful remnant. Only through a divine transformation such as this will Israel be able to fully realize its destiny as the conduit of divine presence and blessing to the nations.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 515

<idle musing>
What was true for Israel is even more true for the church. No divine transformation means no power, no witness, no good news. Christianity is more than a mental assent to a set of doctrines...
</idle musing>


“‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.”—Ezekiel 34:17-22 TNIV

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transformation in the Psalms

“...the confession of culpability reveals a theological conviction that the remedy for sin is not just divine discipline but rather grace obtained through prayerful admission of sin. This forgiveness, however, is not the final remedy, because the psalmists also look for a righteousness that arises from the heart and that is enabled by Yahweh, who teaches as well as transforms the heart.”—A Severe Mercy, page 508

Bad shepherds

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”—Ezekiel 34:10 TNIV

<idle musing>
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Job and repentance

Divine discipline is indeed the dominant remedy for sin. Job’s friends and Elihu echo this principle of divine discipline and stress as well the importance of prayer and repentance as a remedy for sin in response to discipline. Job’s problem is not with these remedies for sin but rather with the absolutizing of the world view that assumes all suffering is directly related to sin and thus demands repentance. It is interesting, however, that in the end Job does repent, not of sin, but rather of his expectation that Yahweh is accountable to him for his administration of his retribution principles.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 507-508

Thought for today

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.”—Ezekiel 34:2-4 TNIV

<idle musing>
What do you think Ezekiel would say to our politicians and big business executives today? Do you think he would tone it down? Me neither...
</idle musing>

Monday, August 22, 2011

Redemptive purposes

“ can discern a pattern that sin is first met with prophecy, and only after repeated warnings (expressions of God’s grace) does God act in judgment. Even this judgment has redemptive purposes because it has as its goal the rest of the land and the return of the people.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 503

Itching ears

“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”—Ezekiel 33:30-32 TNIV

<idle musing>
Not a whole lot has changed in 2500 years, has it?
</idle musing>


The weather here has moderated and the green beans have started producing. They pretty much shutdown when it got so hot, but now I'm getting enough to freeze.

I tried some great northern beans this year, too. They are a dried bean—great for baked beans. I picked some Saturday that I was afraid would fall off the vine. I figured I might get a cup, but once I shelled them, I ended up with almost 6 cups. They've started producing again, too. Makes me hungry for baked beans :)

The cucumbers haven't been producing as much as I wish, but I still managed to can 4 1/2 quarts of bread and butter pickles. I hope the second planting does well.

Last week, I planted more beans, peas, and carrots. Something is eating the pea seeds from underneath. Only about 30-50% are left. Anybody know what might be eating them? I didn't think moles would eat them.

Sunday saw me get two flat tires—both of them the front tire. One of the roads that desperately needed resurfacing was sealed instead. All that managed to do was disguise the holes and add pea gravel. One of the pieces of pea gravel was shaped like a tiny arrow head, just perfect to cause a flat. I was only about 5 miles into a 45 mile ride. No problem; I always carry an extra tube. Finished the ride in good shape. Later that evening, Debbie and I were going to take a 20 mile ride, so I pumped up her tires and added air to my front tire (the little hand pump on my bike only got it to about 50 lbs.). I got about 3 miles into the ride and the tire started going flat again. Apparently, I missed a stone and the 90 lbs. of pressure was enough to flat extra tube, either. End of ride at 5.5 miles because I was out of patches! So, today is a trip to the bike shop for more patches. The tubes are still good, only about 3 or so patches on them.

Friday, August 19, 2011


“[2 Chronicles 7] Verses 14 and 16 provide two reasons why human responses to God of this sort make forgiveness possible. First of all, it is because the supplicants are “my people who are called by my name” (v. 14). Here one finds the covenantal language of “my people,” seen regularly in the covenantal formula: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Exod 6:7, Lev 26:12, Deut 29:12, Jer 31:33). Further, these people are called by Yahweh’s name in an ancient context in which “name” is intimately associated with the very essence of the one who bears it. Thus, “to be called by my name” is to be intricately associated with this deity, that is, to be the people of Yahweh in covenant relationship. Covenantal language of this sort thus assumes the entire foundation of grace that undergirds this relationship. Divine grace thus propels the people of God to respond when he enacts the kind of discipline rehearsed in v. 13. The second reason that the process described in vv. 13–14 is possible is given in v. 16. God’s attentiveness to his people is linked to his election of and passion for the temple.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 496

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Humility and repentance

“Humility (כנע [kn`]) points to the inner disposition that is the essential starting point for all repentance. The call to prayer (פלל Hithpael [pll]) shifts the focus to an external expression, in this case the verbal dimension of repentance, depicted most vividly in the threefold confession already provided in 2 Chr 6:37. Like humility, seeking God’s face highlights a key inner disposition, as the people are invited to a passionate pursuit of God. To seek after the “face of God” is a radical statement in light of God’s prohibition of this in Exod 33:23. Finally, turning from their wicked ways shifts the focus again to an external expression, in this case the active dimension of repentance, that is, the practical change of behavior. Throughout Chronicles, exemplary characters are not those who attain perfection but rather who exemplify these characteristics.”—A Severe Mercy pages 495-496

<idle musing>
We could use more "practical change of behavior" in Christianity—cheap grace is far too common. And, lest you misunderstand, it is all by the power of the Holy Spirit living within us—works is not the cure for cheap grace!
</idle musing>

Fun game

We hear a lot about the "liberal mainstream media," but did you know how much media clout the hyper-conservative Murdoch owns? You can find out by playing this fun little game:

What's left? :(

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Immediate retribution or cumulative guilt?

“Throughout the rehearsal of this story, the Chronicler depicts the failures and successes of the kings through a theological paradigm often described as 'immediate retribution,' that is, the belief that 'God’s rule of his people is expressed by his constant, direct and immediate intervention in their history' (Japhet 1993: 44) or that 'reward and punishment are not deferred, but rather follow immediately on the heels of the precipitatin events' (Dillard 1987: 76). Although this theological viewpoint is not absent from the Chronicler’s source in Samuel–Kings, the author(s) of Samuel–Kings emphasized another theological paradigm often referred to as “cumulative guilt” (see pp. 165–189 above on Kings).”—A Severe Mercy, page 490

<idle musing>
You can use either paradigm; the end result is the same: guilty! Of course, we are no more innocent than the Israelites were...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nehemiah's covenant renewal

“This covenant agreement in Nehemiah 9–10 is based firmly on the belief that God does punish sin but also that he forgives because of his mercy and grace when his people cry to him in contrition.”—A Severe Mercy page 488

<idle musing>
I, for one, am glad that he does forgive when we cry to him!
</idle musing>

Quick fulfillment?

I was checking the status of a book we distribute today and ran across this:

801-802 months? That's 66.75 years! Of course, you could pay $222.61 (plus shipping). Or, you could order it from us:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Injustice in the Bible

“Sin in Nehemiah 5 is defined as social injustice. The process for remedying sin here shares some elements in common with the “covenant” enacted in Ezra 9. Confrontation through accusation is essential to the process as is the call to behavioral change. The people publicly accept this call through an act of praise and are put under oath.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 481

<idle musing>
Better start getting out the scissors; there's just too many places in the Bible that demand social justice. We can't have that! Better use the mental scissors to eliminate them, that way you can continue to think salvation is just about a mental assent and no life change...
</idle musing>

Friday, August 12, 2011


"As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."—Ezekiel 16:48-50

<idle musing>
Interesting, isn't it? Those who are saying that the US is turning into Sodom probably don't have this angle in mind when they are saying it! But, YHWH and the Bible put social concerns on a much higher plane than most capitalists do... OK, fire away!

Btw, I believe that one of the sins of Sodom was homosexuality, so don't say I am ignoring it. I'm just saying that the biblical text doesn't focus only on the sexual sins of Sodom—unlike some commentators in the U.S. today. For further fun, see this.
</idle musing>

Separation has a purpose

Concerning the uncleanness and separation from foreigners in Ezra 1-6, Boda says, “It also reveals that separation such as this is not just from but is also to something, that is, to the returned community in order to seek (דרש [drsh]) Yahweh.”(emphasis his)—A Severe Mercy, pages 475.

<idle musing>
That is very important to remember. You don't separate to be separate; you separate to draw near to YHWH. And then he usually sends you back as a witness :)
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pile the words higher

“It is clear that the source of hope for the 'man' in [Lamentations 2] vv. 1–20 comes from his reflection on the gracious character of Yahweh in vv. 21–33.12 Throughout this section of the poem, the composer nearly exhausts the lexical stock for grace in the Old Testament: covenant loyalty (חסד; 3:22, 32 [hesed]), compassions (רחמים; 3:22, 32 [rahamim]), faithfulness (אמונה; 3:23 ['amunah]), goodness (טוב; 3:25, 26, 27 [tov]), and salvation (תשועה; 3:26 [tshu`ah]).”—A Severe Mercy, page 455

<idle musing>
Sometimes I feel like that; pile the words on in hopes that it works...but is that what he is doing? Or, is he reminding himself instead of God? Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The goal of confession

“The admission of sin highlighted above reveals that this mercy and grace does come to the guilty, but only when they confess their culpability. This confession, however, is not merely an external verbal articulation but involves a real change in disposition and behavior. This is suggested by the way in which Ps 103:11, 13, and 17 play on the character creed in Exod 34:6–7, noting that God’s mercy is afforded to those who fear him. It is made explicit in the way in which these psalms accentuate the fact that forgiveness is not the ultimate goal of God’s mercy but rather the transformation of one’s inner disposition and a fundamental change in behavior. According to Ps 130:4, there is forgiveness so that Yahweh may be feared. In Psalm 32, forgiveness is what leads to a new lifestyle (vv. 6–11). Psalm 51 places the priority on a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart. Transformation of this sort is not left to humans. Rather, the psalmists regularly cry for God to do a work within them, asking him to reveal, teach, and lead them in his ways (Psalm 25), to create in them a clean heart, renew a steadfast spirit, and sustain a willing spirit (Psalm 51).”—A Severe Mercy, pages 446-447

<idle musing>
Crash goes the self-improvement theology of so many! It has to be God doing it, or it won't work! They knew it in the Psalms; they knew it in the New Testament and early church. Why do we get it wrong here in the good ole US of A?!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Psalms and formulae

“What these scenarios show is the twofold riddle of the relationship between God and Israel. On the one side, whether God shows mercy or discipline, Israel does not obey, and even what looks like repentance ends up being a lie. Certainly, the psalmist highlights the guilt and despair of humanity. On the other side, there is no established pattern with God. When one expects the full venting of his wrath, he responds with mercy and forgives his people, realizing their frailty. Though in this lies the only hope for a human race unable to respond appropriately to God’s grace or discipline, it does resist any neat schematization.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 433-434

<idle musing>
Amen to that! Praise God for the hope and a double Praise God! that we can't reduce it to a formula; he isn't a tame lion...
</idle musing>

Monday, August 08, 2011


Let's see. Thursday night: 18 pints of tomato soup. Friday night: 7 quarts of bread & butter pickles. Saturday: freeze 5 dozen ears of corn, can 14 jars of tomato sauce. Sunday: rest! Ride 60 miles on bicycle...that's rest? :)

We picked the first broccoli off the second planting. Delicious and big heads! If you recall, my first planting gave me tiny little heads, so this second planting is most welcome. I have a third planting in the basement under lights, almost ready to transplant. That one will go in the hoop house for late fall harvest.

Psalm 51

“Verses 12–14[10–12] [of Psalm 51] take the psalmist’s request to a new level. Having asked for the mercy of God, the psalmist implores God for nothing short of an inner renewal of the affections so as to avoid replicating the sinful patterns of the past. In addition, the psalmist emphasizes that the goal of mercy and transformation is ultimately relationship with God, whose presence the psalmist craves and before whom the psalmist longs to rejoice with thanksgiving.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 429

<idle musing>
I'll take it!
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A cat conspiracy

I know certain bloggers are convinced that cats are evil and about to take over the world. I didn't believe it until this week. Here's proof!

We ordered a book about Paul (you know, the apostle), and here's what we got instead:

Dastardly! They really are trying to take over the world!

Hide that sin

“Psalm 32 thus accentuates the importance of confession for finding forgiveness with Yahweh. For the psalmist, failure to confess is more of a concern than even the sin that needs to be confessed. In this, one can discern a heightening of transparency with Yahweh that is necessary to realize the ultimate vision of the wisdom teacher in Psalm 32, that is, the willing and trusting submission of the disciple to the mentorship of Yahweh.

“The second half of the Psalm reminds the audience that the ultimate goal of Yahweh’s mercy is not forgiveness but rather a transformation of one’s inner disposition ('spirit,' v. 2; 'understanding,' v. 9) and a fundamental change in behavior ('way,' v. 8). God’s merciful forgiveness is an invitation to submit to his loving mentorship, to avoid the 'sorrows of the wicked,' and to enjoy the protection and status of the 'righteous' and 'upright in heart.' Psalm 32 reveals that there is indeed a path from the status of wicked to the status of righteous and that this path is through the forgiveness that comes in response to confession of sin and the mentorship that comes through seeking, trusting, and following God.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 422-423

<idle musing>
That first phrase, "failure to confess is more of a concern than even the sin that needs to be confessed" is powerful. Many revivals have started simply through confession of sin. But, we hesitate to confess; we try to hide our sin—as if we can hide from the all-seeing eyes of God! But, ever since the garden, that has been our gut response. God's way is different, though, and more freeing, too.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

No cheap grace

“Psalm 25 highlights the role that sin and its remedy play in the prayer tradition of Israel. Here we see a confession of sin with the verbalization in v. 7 of 'the sins of my youth or my transgressions' and in v. 11 of 'my iniquity,' which is admittedly 'great.' There is a request for God to forget (v. 7) as well as to forgive sin (v. 11), and this request is carefully and relentlessly linked to the merciful character of Yahweh. But this is not cheap grace. Surrounding these requests is the expectation that this kind of forgiveness comes to those who have placed themselves under the loving and demanding mentorship of Yahweh. Psalm 1 at the outset of the Psalter 'directs the wise to the choice of the right road; Psalm 25 is a companion for use along the way' (Craigie 1983: 222). In this way, there is an admission of the challenge of remaining on the path laid out in Psalm 1: 'The essence of the road of the righteous is this: it is a road too difficult to walk without the companionship and friendship of God' (Craigie 1983: 222).”—A Severe Mercy, pages 417-418

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! That is just as true now as it was in the days of the Psalmist.
</idle musing>

26 and a half quarts

We bought peaches yesterday afternoon. We canned peaches yesterday evening...and night...and beyond. We bought a bushel of very ripe peaches (the price was right!) and they needed to be processed immediately. So, we did. Note to self: next year only buy a half bushel at a time!

Since last Saturday, we have canned 12 pints of tomato soup, 6 quarts of bread & butter pickles, and now 26.5 quarts of peaches. Not a bad start. I still need to can about 30 more quarts of pickles, 12 pints of soup, and about 10 jars of tomato sauce. And then there is the freezing...

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Beyond forgiveness

“The psalmists in Psalms 19 and 119 highlight the key role that the Law plays in this teaching, revealing sin and guiding the righteous in godly patterns; however, they move beyond this, crying out to God to do a work within them, imploring him to keep them back from willful sins and not to let sin rule over them (Psalm 19) and to teach, give understanding, cause to walk, incline the heart to the law, turn away eyes from vanity, and revive them in God’s ways (Psalm 119). These psalmists are aware of something beyond forgiveness, a righteousness that arises from the heart and that is enabled by Yahweh, who both teaches and transforms the heart.”—A Severe Mercy, page 414

<idle musing>
A wonderful awareness! May we all walk not only in the awareness that it exists, but in the reality of it in our own lives. Then, and only then, revival will happen.
</idle musing>

Loeb digital

Just saw this on the Classics list:

Along with the Harvard University Press, which publishes Loeb's compact, colorful print volumes, the Loeb trustees recently announced that they are preparing to convert the Loeb series to a digital format that would allow any authorized user to search the English translations of the Loeb works for specific words, ideas, and phrases. Libraries would buy licenses to provide students and other authorized users access to the digital Loeb, which is expected to go live in 2013.

<idle musing>
Nice, but it will be behind a pay wall...guess I had better stick to Perseus. Besides, it sounds like it is an English only search...
</idle musing>

Monday, August 01, 2011

Psalm 119

“Psalm 119 reveals a psalmist who, though protesting that he is innocent before the accusations of enemies, is well aware of past sinfulness and admits this before God. Sin is dealt with by closer attention to the Torah, placing it within one’s heart and experiencing it within one’s life. This is only possible through the direct intervention of Yahweh.”—A Severe Mercy, page 407