Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The law of unintended consequences

Just ran across this from Bee Culture Magazine: Neonicotinoid Pesticides Foster Spider Mite Outbreaks
Ada Szczepaniec, an agricultural entomologist at Texas A&M University, investigated the outbreak. Her study found that it was not just the elms, but also crops such as corn and soybeans that had been sprayed by the pesticide also showed spider mite outbreaks. When investigating soybeans, she found that exposure to the neonicotinoid pesticides altered their genes involved with the cell wall and defense against pests, and changed them in such a way that the plant became more vulnerable to infestation. Other researchers noticed correlation as well, and recorded spider mite outbreaks on corn and other crops.

As well as spider mite outbreaks, the pesticide has had other quantitative effects as well, like an outbreak of slugs, due to the pesticide killing off their predators.

I hate slugs! The last thing we need is more of those in the garden! Of course, I also am against the use of pesticides in general. We're basically killing ourselves...

Hermeneutics in the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Qumran community wrestled with the biblical tradition. Repeatedly they sought to reconstruct and interpret both their history and their present situation in light of biblical, and especially prophetic, citations. In doing so, they also hoped to gain a perspective on the future, the “end of days.”—The Prophets of Israel, page 96

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Print versus e-book

Apparently somebody suggested that libraries are vanity building projects. And a librarian took the time to respond. The whole thing is worth a read (even though it is longish), but this paragraph jumped out at me:
It will simply not be enough for our colleges to crank out graduates described by one of my colleagues as “drones with smartphones.” We need our librarians to work alongside faculty in helping our students climb the ladder of digital literacy to information fluency, and from there, to equip them with the cognitive grounding in critical thinking so important for taking those deep dives into knowing and understanding. Unless further advances produce e-reading devices that can more fully engage the human brain’s perceptual and cognitive subsystems, solid research evidence compels the conclusion that we must provide our students with a substantial exposure to printed texts. (emphasis original)

Textual transmission and authority

The biblical manuscripts from the Dead Sea afford us a unique view into textual transmission during the Greco-Roman period. The habits and customs of the ancient scribes testify to their absolute fidelity to the text. Nevertheless, there was no single standard text, and alterations such as the one we have described were quite possible. Indeed, the manuscripts from the Dead Sea give the impression of considerable diversity. Thus, for example, the great Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa) represents its own text type in comparison to the version preserved in the Masoretic Text. Fragments have been preserved of the Book of Jeremiah, some of which follow the Masoretic version (4QJera, c, e), while some attest to the short, divergent text of the Greek translation of the Septuagint (4QJerb, d). At the same time, there are also harmonizing and standardizing revisions, to which the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Twelve Prophets from Wadi Murabaʾat (Mur 88) and Nahal Hever (8Hevl) testify.

How to explain this diversity is a much-discussed problem. Some postulate an original text, or one as close as we can get to it, from which the diversity developed. Others, however, argue for textual traditions that originated independently of each other. Given the high percentage of agreement among the texts, the first possibility seems to be more likely. At any rate, it is clear that the diversity did not alter the authority of the text and the esteem in which it was held. There was anything but a slavish word-for-word fidelity. Even if readings differed, for the scribes and readers of the biblical books, the same text always contained the word of God for all time, and consequently for them and their time.—The Prophets of Israel, page 94

<idle musing>
I'm reminded of a snippet from a forthcoming book from Augsburg/Fortress, Isaiah Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics:

…however uncomfortable it may make some modern interpreters of the Bible, in the NT era there was assumed to be a fluidity to these scriptural texts such that even the paraphrastic Greek versions of the MT could still be assumed to be the Word of God, and one was free to go with the version which more nearly made one’s point, in this case a christological point. The canon of the OT was relatively fixed and closed in the NT era for most books, such as Isaiah, but the text itself was not absolutely fixed at that juncture.
For some this is indeed a problem, isn't it? But my faith is built on Christ and his faithfulness, not on the Bible. Yes, the Bible reveals Christ, but I know enough about textual transmission to question inerrancy and it's straightjacket approach to the text. As the hymn says:
My hope is built on nothing less than Zondervan and Moody Press..
No, that's wrong; let's try again:
My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield's Notes and Moody Press...
Still wrong! How about this:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness
And the scripture bears witness to that, so I guess you would have to classify my hermeneutic as Christocentric.

Here's what Ron Hendel says in his recent collection of essays, Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible (from chapter 11, I don't have the page number handy):

As Roland Bainton observes, for Luther “inspiration did not insure inerrancy in all details. Luther recognized mistakes and inconsistencies in Scripture and treated them with lofty indifference because they did not touch the heart of the Gospel.” [Roland H. Bainton, “The Bible in the Reformation,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume 3: The West from the Reformation to the Present Day, ed. Stanley L. Greenslade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 12] Where minor errors occur, as when Matthew 27:9 mistakenly cites Jeremiah instead of Zechariah, Luther responds: “Such points do not bother me particularly.” [ibid., 13] Similarly, in his commentaries Calvin is not bothered by errors in the text where they are unrelated to matters of faith and salvation. [See Brian A. Gerrish, “The Word of God and the Words of Scripture: Luther and Calvin on Biblical Authority,” in The Old Protestantism and the New: Essays on the Reformation Heritage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 62–63] He acknowledges minor errors without anxiety, as in the contradictions among the Gospels: “It is well known that the Evangelists were not very concerned with observing the time sequences.” [John Calvin, Commentaires sur le Nouveau Testament. Tome premier: Sur la concordance ou harmonie composée de trois évangélistes (Paris, Meyrueis, 1854), 319 (at Luke 8:19): “on sçait bien que les Evangélistes ne se sont pas guères arrestez à observer l’ordre des temps.” Cited in William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 121–22]
So I stand in the finest tradition, lest you be tempted to paint me as a heretic : )

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thought for the day

“The calm words of the wise are better heeded than the racket caused by a ruler among fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one incompetent person destroys much good.”
Ecclesiastes 9:17-18 CEB

Ancient commentaries

Decoding the “mystery” required a special form of interpretation. Precisely this is the idea behind the word pesher “interpretation,” the technical term for commentary on the prophets. This term has a long prehistory. On the one hand, it belongs to the realm of the professional interpreter of dreams and mysteries (cf. Dan 2–5); on the other hand, it means the knowledge that the ancient Near Eastern scribe has about omens and divination. Scribal learning and (prophetic) inspiration do not exclude one another; rather, they originally belong together.—The Prophets of Israel, page 92

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The role of a prophet (again)

I'm just getting ready to start another book, Standing in the Breach, and I started by reading the conclusion : ) It confirmed my desire to read the book! Here's a tidbit:
The main responsibility of the prophets is commonly understood to be that of proclaiming the word of God (cf. Deut 5:23–27, 18:15–18). Acting as YHWH’s mouthpiece, however, is only one side of the prophet’s role. The prophetic ministry is by its very nature twofold. It includes making known God’s will to the people as well as advocating for the guilty party before the divine judge. (p. 512, emphasis added)
<idle musing>
That part of the prophetic role is frequently forgotten or ignored. It sounds neat to reveal God's will to people, to speak out in power, and all that stuff. But the real heart of a prophet is found when they are on their knees before God. When they have the courage to disobey God's command not to intercede. Witness Moses after the golden calf incident: God tells him not to intercede, but he does anyway and saves the nation. Witness Jeremiah: God tells him four times not to intercede; he does it anyway, even though in the end Jerusalem falls.

How many "prophets" on the scene today are willing to do the hard work? How often are they willing to say to God, "Have mercy! Don't judge, but spare them!" The tenor of far too many of them is more like Jonah than like Moses and Jeremiah.

OK, I'll stop now, but watch for excerpts from this book soon. First we finish going through The Prophets of Israel, then we'll go through The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, which is coming up soon. Another great book in the Siphrut series. If I didn't work for Eisenbrauns, I'd start a standing order for Siphrut, Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic, JTI Supplements, and probably Languages of the Ancient Near East. Good thing I work for them : )
</idle musing>

Friday, November 25, 2016

Foretelling and Qumran

In his work about the Jewish war of the first century C.E., the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes the following on the Essenes:
There are some among them who profess to foretell the future, being versed from their early years in holy books, various forms of purification and apothegms of prophets; and seldom, if ever, do they err in their predictions.
This description is usually taken as a confirmation of the identification of the Essenes with the Qumran community. The testimony is, however, not quite so clear. Josephus has in mind an active ability to prophesy about contemporary events, and in his main work, the Jewish Antiquities, he adduces various examples of Essene predictions that were fulfilled. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls never speak in this manner. Quite the opposite: the Qumran community appears to have stuck to what is found in Neh 6 and Zech 13, regarding their contemporaries as “false” prophets. It is no coincidence that a list of the names of “false” prophets was found at Qumran. This enumeration of well-known prophets from the biblical tradition was possibly augmented with a contemporary prophet. Unfortunately, the text is too damaged to be able to say anything certain.—The Prophets of Israel, page 91

Waiting for lightning

There was a song way back in the day by Stephen Curtis Chapman (remember him?) entitled "Waiting for Lightning." The refrain goes in part:
Waiting for lightning
A sign that it's time for a change
You're listening for thunder
While He quietly whispers your name
Advent is somewhat like that and Brian Zahnd catches that nicely. Here's a good snippet, but read the whole thing (just ignore the misrepresentation of the Magi):
We have been seduced by an idolatry that deceives us into thinking that God is mostly found in the big and loud, when in fact, God is almost never found in the big and loud. The ways of God are predominantly small and quiet. The ways of God are about as loud as seed falling on the ground or bread rising in an oven. The ways of God are almost never found in the shouts of the crowd; the ways of God are more often found in trickling tears and whispered prayers. We want God to do a big thing, while God is planning to do a small thing. We are impressed by the big and loud. God is not. We are in a hurry. God is not. We want God to act fast, but Godspeed is almost always slow.

So we are waiting for God to act, but I would suggest that we are not so much waiting for God to act as we are waiting to become contemplative enough to discern what God is doing. God is always acting, because God is always loving his creation. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always inviting us into their house of love. But when we are consumed by anger, harried by anxiety, and driven by impatience, we are blind and deaf to what God is actually doing in the present moment.

<idle musing>
Ain't it the truth! And busyness is a form of idolatry. We need to learn to rest in God. Mind you, this is a hyperactive, always doing something—or more likely multiple things!—person speaking here. But we need to learn to relax and listen. God is at work; God is alive and active in the world, and in my life and yours. Learn to hear him and respond in love.

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Qumran and the prophetic

[At Qumran] works were composed that employed cosmological speculation about the divine plan for the world or described the eschatological battle of good and evil spirits in heaven as well as on earth. The community began to determine its own place within biblical, sacred history and to extend their reflection on this history as it reached the expected “end of days.” Apart from the biblical history in the Torah and Former Prophets, the Latter Prophets played a decisive role: here, the prophetic books including the Book of Daniel and the Psalms of David, which were also regarded as prophecy, come into play. The many copies of biblical prophetic books, citations from the prophets, prophetic apocrypha, as well as the interpretations of entire prophetic books in the pesharim attest to this.—The Prophets of Israel, page 90

Monday, November 21, 2016

Christian feminism

I can get behind this definition of feminism; here's a brief snippet, but read the whole thing:
A Christian feminist knows that God designed men with all of the humanity, compassion, integrity, strength, and tenderness that he designed women with. Christian feminists reject the low bar society sets for men. Feminists believe men have the full capacity to make choices that oppose patriarchy—choices that are not centered in a hunger for control or in abusing women to maintain that control. Just as Jesus did, we call men to more. A feminist doesn’t lower the bar—a feminist raises it. We don’t excuse toxic, life-destroying behavior from men. We don’t say “boys will be boys,” as if that’s all men can amount to.
<idle musing>
Amen and amen!
</idle musing>

Let the apocalypse begin!

We have to take into account the circumstances under which it [apocalypticism] originated. Then and now, they emanated from a deep uncertainty about the signs of the times that is counteracted by exact calculation of the days until the end. Much more interesting than the calculations themselves are their causes and the self-critical view of one’s own past, which—at least in ancient Judaism—arose out of the calculation of history. Both saved Jewish apocalypticism from overestimating human possibilities and from establishing a theocratic state. Like all the “pious” (Hasidim) of this period, apocalyptic thinkers were fundamentalists. Fundamentalism, however, does not necessarily need to have a violent streak.—The Prophets of Israel, pages 86–87

<idle musing>
So, does that mean we should see a rise in apocalyptic thought in the U.S.? Oh, wait, we already have! : (
</idle musing>

Social media needs to adopt this motto!

Wise are those who restrain their talking; people with understanding are coolheaded. Fools who keep quiet are deemed wise; those who shut their lips are smart. Prov 17:27–28 (CEB)

Friday, November 18, 2016

It's in the timing

There is an intrinsic link between the course of the heavenly bodies, the divine order of the cosmos, and the order on earth. This is especially true for the cult, where heaven and earth meet. Considering this, it is understandable why Antiochus IV’s attack on the cult (cf. Dan 7:25) was seen as reaching for the stars (cf. Dan 8:10–11) and why there was such a debate about questions concerning the calendar in 1 Enoch and in the many writings from Qumran.—The Prophets of Israel, page 86

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What about Daniel?

It is more or less a matter of taste whether or not one wants to use the term “apocalyptic” for Aramaic Daniel. In any case, Dan 7 and the corresponding supplements to Dan 2 constitute a move toward eschatology. Eschatology is a prerequisite for Jewish apocalypticism but is not identical with it. It is, however, typical of apocalyptic thought that it uses various material and traditions to contemplate Israel’s fate within the context of universal history.—The Prophets of Israel, pages 82–83

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

We're still waiting

The notion of the disappearance of prophecy coincides with the end of literary production in the prophetic books during the Hellenistic period. The tradition itself draws the line in the Persian period. The latest dates refer to the building of the temple under Darius and the two prophets Haggai and Zechariah (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14). After them, only Malachi as well as Ezra and Nehemiah are seen as replete with the prophetic or Mosaic spirit. Everyone else is a “false prophet.” This demarcation, however, does not reflect a feeling of inferiority with respect to the older tradition but instead a certain consciousness of living at the end of time. After the change from the Persian period to the Hellenistic period, the authors of the prophetic books expected the end of the world. The closure of prophecy and the compilation of the tradition in the prophetic corpus helped to provide self-clarification and orientation for the pious as they faced the eschatological age.—The Prophets of Israel, page 79

<idle musing>
We're still waiting for the eschaton, but Messiah has come!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Covenant and prophecy

The prophetic tradition had its origin in the crisis and breakdown of the usual cultic relationship between YHWH and his worshipers. In the entire tradition of the Hebrew Bible, this rupture triggered reflection on this relationship and on the question of how it would be possible to restore it. One fruit of this reflection was the idea of the “covenant” YHWH makes with Israel by grace alone: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” How the covenant is spelled out in detail differs.—The Prophets of Israel, page 77

And they're off!

I'm leaving for the Annual Meeting of ASOR. Hopefully, this will be an uneventful trip, unlike last year, where it took me 18 hours! I could have driven faster.

I'm driving to Duluth, catching a flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and then a flight to San Antonio. ASOR starts tomorrow evening and then AAR/SBL will begin on Saturday. I fly home on Tuesday, but will stay overnight in Duluth. I'm not a fan of driving Highway 61 after midnight—there are way too many deer. I'm a bit gun shy after hitting one two years ago. So, another night on the road.

See some of you in San Antonio!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Prophecy as revelation

The truly critical historians, however, take into account the fact that our contemporary ideas of historical truth were not those held by ancient writers or readers. Above all, they know that the truth of revelation cannot be verified or falsified on a historical basis, whatever its standards. They will reserve their judgment and confine themselves to the claims of the prophetic literature. The literature’s claim that it is the revelation of God’s word is understood and explained in its historical context where, as we have seen, the problems of historicity had not been raised.—The Prophets of Israel, pages 34–35

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

Thought/Psalm of the day

A word for today from Bible Gateway

Psalm 120

A pilgrimage song.[a]

120 I cried out to the Lord when I was in trouble
    (and he answered me):
Lord, deliver me[b] from lying lips
    and a dishonest tongue!”
What more will be given to you,
    what more will be done to you,
    you dishonest tongue?
Just this:[c] a warrior’s sharpened arrows,
    coupled with burning coals from a wood[d] fire!
Oh, I’m doomed
    because I have been an immigrant in Meshech,
    because I’ve made my home among Kedar’s tents.
I’ve lived far too long
    with people who hate peace.
I’m for peace,
    but when I speak, they are for war.


  1. Psalm 120:1 Or song of ascents or song of going up (that is, to Jerusalem); cf Ps 122:4. The heading is found in every psalm from Ps 120 to Ps 134.
  2. Psalm 120:2 Or my soul; also in 120:6
  3. Psalm 120:4 Heb lacks this.
  4. Psalm 120:4 Or the gorse or broom tree

Sunday, November 13, 2016

God at work

Remembering is the theme at the beginning and end of Malachi. Remembering God’s promise to punish Edom (Mal 1:2–5), reflecting upon what God has done in this book of remembrance (3:16–18), and recalling an even bigger story involving Moses and Elijah (4:4–5 [Eng. 3:22–23]) offers hope for those who fear YHWH. This hope, in Malachi, is not a naïve optimism, but a reminder that God has not abandoned God’s people, even though the people have returned to acting much like the people in Hosea. Thus, judgment and hope remain in tension at the end of the Book of the Twelve, a tension that is never resolved, because it deals with the human condition and the relationship of humans to the deity. Those who fear YHWH, who remember what YHWH has done, and who turn to YHWH for help and strength, will find instruction and hope in the midst of life, while those determined to go their own way should know that this God of compassion does not leave the guilty unpunished. The great and terrible day of YHWH functions as both warning and comfort, depending upon what one has learned from this story (Mal 4:5 [Eng. 3:23]).—James D. Nogalski, “Recurring Themes in the Book of the Twelve : Creating Points of Contact for a Theological Reading,” Int 61 (2007): 136

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A timely word from the Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets)

Righteousness and justice—how one relates to God and human beings—are the hallmarks by which humanity in general, and God’s people in particular, shall be evaluated. The prophets challenge God’s people in times of crises in order to elicit a change in behavior. When people worship gods who do not control the world, consequences ensue. When people treat the poor as commodities, consequences ensue. These two foci remind readers of the Twelve of their own responsibility to behave as those who fear YHWH, who learn to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, and who live accordingly.

Repentance, not pride, in the face of calamity and threat offers the only hope that YHWH will intervene to thwart, stall, stop, or repair a damaged people. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Zechariah, and Malachi all underscore the need to repent before YHWH, to change behavior, and to change attitudes toward God and humanity. The Book of the Twelve presumes that calamity comes from YHWH as punishment for rebellion against YHWH, or mistreatment of other human beings.—James D. Nogalski, “Recurring Themes in the Book of the Twelve : Creating Points of Contact for a Theological Reading,” Int 61 (2007): 135–36

What's a person to do?

Just saw this by Ed Stetzer. Very good. Here's a snippet:
Half of Americans, and the vast majority of white Evangelicals, have elected soon-to-be President Trump. Most Evangelicals I know did so because they felt he was the best, flawed, choice they had. But, the results (and the hurt) is still here—and real.

Like many, it is my hope that Donald Trump’s presidency will be better than his campaign—that Trump will be a better President than he has been a person. But regardless, the Church must be the Church.

White Evangelicals owe it to their minority brothers and sisters in Christ, and ultimately all, to care, but also to help bring change in the Church and beyond.

<idle musing>
Indeed! I long-ago shed the label "evangelical" because of the political baggage it carries. If pressed, I would probably say I am an 18th-century evangelical in the mold of a John Wesley, who was a social progressive, establishing schools for the miners' children, appointing women to positions of authority in the Methodist movement, and standing against slavery. Somewhere along the line, probably around 1980, the Evangelical movement in the U.S. completely lost the social progressiveness and became a Republican stronghold (it had been moving that direction, but that seems to be the watershed moment).

Whomever you voted for, if you are a Christian of any stripe, you are called by God to be an agent of peace and reconciliation. The mood of the country right now is not one of peace and reconciliation. Scripture says that they will know Christians by their love. Hmmm...last time I checked love didn't mean insulting people, attacking people, etc.—and I'm talking about both left and right here. Stetzer is correct. Scripture is very clear that we need to stand with the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized.

How to do that is the question that I'm grappling with right now. I live in a small community (1500 people) that is overwhelmingly white—after all, it's made up of Scandinavians! We're five hours from a major metropolitan area. What can I do? That's the question that I'm laying before God.

Yes, I will (continue to) pray. But what else is God calling me to do?

If, God forbid, Muslims are ordered to wear armbands, I will follow the example of the Danish when the Jews were commanded to wear a star of David armband, and wear one even though I am not Muslim. But before things get that far along (if they do), what can I do?

Just musing out loud here...
</idle musing>

Friday, November 11, 2016

The significance of the prophetic books

The word of God in the prophetic books is understood to have a potential significance that goes far beyond the time they describe. The prophetic books guide their readers so that they can recognize the signs of the times and align themselves with God’s plan. Everything found in these books is valid, though not everything is significant for each historical moment or generation. Many things have already been fulfilled, others await their time, and still others can (or will) be like those events that have already happened.—The Prophets of Israel, page 30

<idle musing>
Excellent! That paragraph is worth the price of the book...
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Psalm for today

Psalm 94

94 Lord, avenging God—
    avenging God, show yourself!
Rise up, judge of the earth!
    Pay back the arrogant exactly what they deserve!
How long will the wicked—oh, Lord!—
    how long will the wicked win?
They spew arrogant words;
    all the evildoers are bragging.
They crush your own people, Lord!
    They abuse your very own possession.
They kill widows and immigrants;
    they murder orphans,
    saying all the while,
    “The Lord can’t see it;
        Jacob’s God doesn’t know
        what’s going on!”
You ignorant people better learn quickly.
    You fools—when will you get some sense?
The one who made the ear,
    can’t he hear?
The one who formed the eye,
    can’t he see?
10 The one who disciplines nations,
    can’t he punish?
The one who teaches humans,
    doesn’t he know?[a]
11 The Lord does indeed know human thoughts,
    knows that they are nothing but a puff of air.
12 The people you discipline, Lord, are truly happy—
    the ones you teach from your Instruction—
13     giving them relief from troubling times
        until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 The Lord will not reject his people;
    he will not abandon his very own possession.
15 No, but justice will once again meet up with righteousness,
    and all whose heart is right will follow after.
16 Who will stand up for me against the wicked?
    Who will help me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord hadn’t helped me,
    I[b] would live instantly in total silence.
18 Whenever I feel my foot slipping,
    your faithful love steadies me, Lord.
19 When my anxieties multiply,
    your comforting calms me down.
20 Can a wicked ruler be your ally;
    one who wreaks havoc by means of the law?
21 The wicked gang up against the lives of the righteous.
    They condemn innocent blood.
22 But the Lord is my fortress;
    my God is my rock of refuge.
23 He will repay them for their wickedness,
    completely destroy them because of their evil.
    Yes, the Lord our God will completely destroy them.


  1. Psalm 94:10 Correction; MT the one who teaches humans knowledge
  2. Psalm 94:17 Or soul; also in 94:1921
Common English Bible (CEB)
Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

It's a modern problem

The problem of differentiating between the historical and literary prophet did not trouble ancient scribes as it has troubled modern scholarship since the Enlightenment and the emergence of historical-critical research on the Bible. For the ancient scribes, the prophet and the prophetic book were one. Yet, for them the most important thing about the prophet was not his biography but rather the word of God that was present in the person of the prophet and is still present in his book. Thus, the prophet and his book give access to comprehensive knowledge about God’s plan, which he had made known to his prophets (Isa 44:26; Jer 23:18; 29:11; Amos 3:7) .—The Prophets of Israel, page 30

<idle musing>
Yep. I couldn't have put it better myself. It boils down to why we read the Bible. Is it for information? Or is it in hopes of encountering the living God who alone can animate the words on the page?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Idolatry unmasked

On this post-election Wednesday, there are a lot of people rejoicing and a lot of people weeping. As Christians, what should our response be? I like the response posted over at Missio Alliance Here's a paragraph, but please, do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
The good coming from this crazy election season is all this shaking has rattled the thick dust off the idol of nationalism, which is a disproportionate devotion to one’s nation. The sudden revelation of this form of idolatry has been painful for some people. The growing post-Christian culture in America has caused some in the body of Christ to forsake their primary allegiance in Christ for what Scot McKnight has called an “eschatology of politics.” When our ultimate hope is in the candidate we vote for, when our primary concern is the preservation of a certain political system, when we “hold our nose” and vote for a candidate who stands in direct conflict to our Christian convictions simply because we do not want the other side to win, we have shockingly exposed an idol, a false hope for salvation. When we have exchanged our hope in God for hope in elected officials, we have unwittingly traded our Christian birthright for a bowl of toxic political soup.

Another difference to note

There is also a significant difference between the ancient Near East on the one hand and Israel on the other. The ancient Near Eastern archives that we know from excavations have not produced a single prophetic book, nor are the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible archives, and they could scarcely have been included in one. There are simple reasons why this is the case. The ancient Near Eastern archive was a royal library. The prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible predict the demise of the monarchy and similar institutions.—The Prophets of Israel, page 28

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Psalm 73

But me? My feet had almost stumbled;
    my steps had nearly slipped
    because I envied the arrogant;
    I observed how the wicked are well off:
They suffer no pain;
    their bodies are fit and strong.
They are never in trouble;
    they aren’t weighed down like other people.
That’s why they wear arrogance like a necklace,
    why violence covers them like clothes.
Their eyes bulge out from eating so well;
    their hearts overflow with delusions.
They scoff and talk so cruel;
    from their privileged positions
    they plan oppression.
Their mouths dare to speak against heaven!
    Their tongues roam the earth!
10 That’s why people keep going back to them,
    keep approving what they say.
11 And what they say is this: “How could God possibly know!
    Does the Most High know anything at all!”
12 Look at these wicked ones,
    always relaxed, piling up the wealth!
13 Meanwhile, I’ve kept my heart pure for no good reason;
I’ve washed my hands to stay innocent for nothing.
14 I’m weighed down all day long.
    I’m punished every morning.
15 If I said, “I will talk about all this,”
    I would have been unfaithful to your children.
16 But when I tried to understand these things,
    it just seemed like hard work

Yep! That's exactly how I feel sometimes. Good thing the psalm doesn't stop there, isn't it! It goes on, and in the last half we see the truth, but it is seen through spiritual eyes and will never make sense in the eyes of the world. We need to remember that on a day like today...our hope is not in the institutions of government, however good they might be (or bad). Our hope is in God. Here's the rest of the psalm:

17     until I entered God’s sanctuary
        and understood what would happen to the wicked.
18 You will definitely put them on a slippery path;
    you will make them fall into ruin!
19 How quickly they are devastated,
    utterly destroyed by terrors!
20 As quickly as a dream departs from someone waking up, my Lord,
    when you are stirred up, you make them disappear.
21 When my heart was bitter,
    when I was all cut up inside,
22 I was stupid and ignorant.
    I acted like nothing but an animal toward you.
23 But I was still always with you!
    You held my strong hand!
24 You have guided me with your advice;
    later you will receive me with glory.
25 Do I have anyone else in heaven?
    There’s nothing on earth I desire except you.
26 My body and my heart fail,
    but God is my heart’s rock and my share forever.
27 Look! Those far from you die;
    you annihilate all those who are unfaithful to you.
28 But me? It’s good for me to be near God.
    I have taken my refuge in you, my Lord God,
        so I can talk all about your works! (CEB, from Bible Gateway)