Showing posts from January, 2014

Food Friday: January 31

I am thinking of starting up a different intermittent series here on the old blog. Why? Because it’s my blog. And I have come to this conclusion: there’s no reason for me to always be serious or selling on here. And that’s what I do a lot of: either serious (mostly) Bible or church issues, with the occasional politics thrown in, or selling books by giving them review publicity. Not that I have ever misled you on a book—I think I’ve called out a few bad ones, and I’ve tried to be honest and not blindly endorse.But life’s not all about books. It’s not even all about the sermons or the Bible material I do. I actually have other things I like. I like movies. I like fun books. I like sports.In recent years, though, I’ve realized how much I enjoy cooking. So, I’m going to start blogging about food. Not a whole lot—occasionally on Fridays I’ll write up something I’ve learned or done with food. Not because I’m an expert, or because it’s earth-shattering. But because it’s a slice of me and my …

January 2014: Proverbs 31 by Doug

Proverbs 31. It strikes fear into the hearts of some people, because the last 21 verses are an extensive discussion of the “virtuous wife.” And trying to live up to all of that is intimidating. In fact, the only thing I can think of more intimidating than trying to perfectly live every detail of that passage is trying to live with someone trying to live every detail of that passage perfectly. More in a moment on that section, though.

First, we need to remember that Proverbs 31 does not start with “A wife of noble character, who can find?” It starts with a reference to King Lemuel, and this guy’s problematic. Why? Because he is either a pseudonym for Solomon or someone we’ve never heard of anywhere else. I don’t think taking Lemuel as not-Solomon hurts the authority of Proverbs, as I would put Solomon as having compiled and included this section. It’s also not impossible that Lemuel is a rename of Solomon, but that seems a stretch since there is no extant Biblical evidence that he had u…

Remember the Tents: Numbers 29

In Summary: Numbers 29 runs us through more of the ceremonies of the people of Israel. It is certainly tempting to skip on through this and get to the “good stuff” like David and Goliath or, better yet, Lazarus, Jesus, and Resurrections! I think we should be cautious about doing that, though. There are some valuable lessons here.

First, we see a holy convocation for the first day of the seventh month. While we allocate days a little differently, 12 months were in the year as the Jews accounted time then as well.(See In Nerdiness) This makes the seventh month the middle of the year. Take time out, halfway through, to worship. Not a bad idea, is it? It’s actually what we do in many cases, this Sunday’s upcoming SuperBowl is no exception. Halfway through the game, we’ll worship the American gods of rock, roll, and party.
Second, we see the Day of Atonement. This is the big day, for on this day the major sacrifice for unknown sin and community sin was offered (see Leviticus 16 or here). No …

January 2014: Proverbs 30 by Doug

Looking into the Proverbs today, let us take a closer look at Proverbs 30:11. You should see it by hovering over the link there—which allows you to read without me worrying about copyright concerns. There’s a lot of litigating going on in the world today, most of it unnecessary, especially in the Christian world. Let’s not stress too much about that here—there’s enough other places to go for that.

Instead, take a look at our verse. To get at its implications, we need to think about it in layers.

The first layer is the obvious one: choose not to be the kind of person who curses your father and mother. This is an act of the will, either in avoidance of being that person or in choosing to be that person. Keep in mind as you consider this that we cut a much deeper division in the modern era between words and actions than is in view in Proverbs. Speaking a curse on your father would be naturally followed by behavior of ill-will.

The second layer is close to obvious: note that the father is cu…

Wednesday Wanderings: January 29 2014

Tonight’s passage for the kids is about the coronation of Saul in 1 Samuel 8-10. Here are some thoughts:

1. Samuel is a too-frequent story. Godly man, ungodly children. We cannot know exactly what happened with his kids, but we know his sons turned out wicked. We don’t even know what becomes of them once Saul is king. We know this: God does not rebuke Samuel’s parenting like he does Eli’s. That’s important: if he had deserved rebuke, God would surely have said so.
Sometimes you can do it all the way it should be done, and the results are not so good.
2. Saul is the perfect vision of a king. He’s big, strong, and cannot find a pair of donkeys. Did we read that right? Here’s a guy who is so useless at home that his dad sends him seeking lost donkeys—we don’t know how many—and he’s gone at least three days. (One commentary makes it 3 days, but I am not certain exactly why. I think they are taking that from the distances traveled.
Leadership should require a bit more than appearance.
3. Saul i…

January 2014: Proverbs 29 by Doug

Proverbs 29:21 is one of those verses that gets us into trouble in the modern day. Why? Because it talks about slavery without simply saying slavery is bad. And some folks would make it even worse than that! How so?

First, Proverbs 29:21 certainly speaks of slavery. Slavery was a fact of life in the ancient world. It was sometimes as wicked as modern slavery, or 19th century slavery, or 15th century slavery, but sometimes it was not. That’s a whole different discussion. Proverbs deals with life as it is as much as life as we wish it would be.

In truth, many places in the Bible speak of slavery. Nowhere is slavery truly endorsed, though Paul speaks to slaves of accepting life and going on as best possible. Neither is mistreatment of slaves approved, except by mangling this verse. Which comes from our modern tendency to argue from opposite extremes. Notice how the verse disapproves of “pampering” a slave.

We need to set that aside for a moment, though, and examine the word “slave” in Prov…

Betrayed! John 18

In Summary: At this point in the story, Jesus and the disciples have finished the Last Supper and head to the Garden of Gethsemane. This chapter continues through the arrest of Jesus, including the betrayal by Judas, and works its way through the trials of Jesus. We see Caiaphas and Pilate here, including Pilate’s offer of release and the infamous shout of “Not this man, but Barabbas!”

The challenge of John 18 is finding one focal point among these summary ideas. Should we examine Jesus and His trials? The injustice carried out when anyone is presumed guilty is bad enough, but here we are certain of His innocence! Neither Caiaphas nor Pilate are concerned with justice, though. They are both concerned with power and control. This is bad.
Then we encounter Peter and his denials of Jesus. We knew this was coming, for Jesus had told Peter it would occur (John 13:38), and Jesus is never wrong. It still hurts to see it happen, and even on a second reading, when you think Peter would straighte…

January 2014: Proverbs 28 by Doug

The wicked flee.

Not because they ought to flee. In fact, often it feels like the wicked stand firm when the righteous stand against them. The wicked hold and even advance in the face of opposition. The wicked advance and seize grounds which ought not be theirs.

Why, then, would Solomon tell us that the wicked flee when no one is pursuing? Our experience suggests otherwise. Have the wicked improved over the years? Certainly not.

Here are some realities:

1. The wicked flee in the terror of their hearts. Many times, those who perpetrate great wickedness are actually greatly fearful. It is the fear that causes their violence and tormented actions. This is not an excuse. Rather, it is an explanation when you back up both steps: a wicked person is fearful, and their fear makes them act with greater depravity.

2. The wicked flee in terror to those who support them. This is clearly evident with the wicked that infest church life. They surround themselves with sycophants who will do their bidding…

January 2014: Proverbs 27 by Doug

Proverbs 27 presents us with three verses today. I would continue to advise you that you should read the whole chapter, because context is critical in understanding writing. We should never forget that Proverbs, while exceedingly “tweet-able,” was written in an age of long reading—and of oral reading.

Let’s look at each of the three verses:

First, Proverbs 27:1 tells us not to boast about tomorrow. Why? Because you don’t even know what today is going to bring. Wisdom does not brag about what we will accomplish without considering all the unknown factors. I do think we need to keep this balanced by remembering the usage of the word “boast” here. This verse does not decry planning—far be it for anything in Proverbs to be seen as anti-planning. Rather, this is about claiming that you will be, do, or become super-awesome tomorrow.

And we see this in movies as they reflect life, don’t we? Right after the extended monologue about his awesomeness and plans to rule the world, the villain then sl…

January 2014: Proverbs 26 by Doug

Going on into Proverbs 26, we are in that portion of the book of Proverbs that feels like a hodge-podge. There are verses about speech, fools, wine, slackers, and dozens of other subjects just tossed together. This is why some people see Proverbs as a disparate collection of sayings.

I would suggest a different viewpoint. Proverbs is written to a holistic society. There is little separation between work and worship; faith and family; discipleship and learning. All of these run together or overlap. What good would a subject segregated book of Proverbs be in that case? You would find yourself flipping between the section on fools and the section on wine—or would those go together, but slackers go elsewhere?

Instead, Solomon presents us with life as we know it: everything connects. Your work life impacts your worship of God—and vice versa. Your home life affects your business which affects your romantic life which impacts your use of alcohol. The Proverbs look like a hodge-podge partially…

January 2014: Proverbs 25 by Doug

Looking at chapter 25 today, let’s take a peek at Proverbs 25:11. First, though, a word about the overall chapter. Hebrew poetry does not work quite like English poetry. It is demonstrated in rhythm (a Hebrew word if there is one in English: no vowels!) and formation, not in rhyme scheme.

Proverbs is not quite written in poetry, but there are similarities. Many of the couplets in Proverbs show poetic feature, and the result is something that, while clear in Hebrew, needs a little help to be clear in English.

This is why you will find the ESV render this verse as “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” while the NASB renders thusly “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Which is right? The answer is “Both.” The comparative structure can go either way, and differing Hebrew experts give differing answers. I cannot claim skill enough to rule here. You should just be aware that your Bible, nor your pastor-teacher’s Bi…

January 2014: Proverbs 24 by Doug

Today, let us take a look at Proverbs 24:11. Deliver those who are being taken away to death. Or you could render that first verb as “bring back,” “rescue,” or even “snatch!” It shows up in the statement of Reuben about Joseph in Genesis 37, Exodus 12 about God’s grace to Israel, and throughout the Old Testament in the sense of taking someone from a bad situation into a good one.Then, let us think about the situation envisioned here. The image is perhaps of captives after battle or slaves being cast aside. Any way that you look at it, those being taken away have no volition in the matter. These folks are doomed, end of story. And they are without any possible opportunity to deliver themselves.Consider the hopelessness of those being taken away. Consider how it must feel. And then consider this: Solomon does not command that the reason they are taken away be asked. Just that they be delivered.This is part of the overall theme of justice in the book of Proverbs. As we look at living in …

Careful Offerings: Numbers 28

In Summary: Numbers 28 comes back to the laws of offerings for the people of Israel. There are several rules and laws regarding offerings, all of which are covered in Leviticus. However, it’s important to realize that the end of Numbers addresses an entirely new generation of Israelites than lived in Leviticus. Remember, after all, that Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are the only surviving men from the incident of the spiesWith this in mind, I think we can understand why the rules are restated in this and following chapters. Additionally, we see that God is reminding the Israelites of some of the daily, continual offerings and sacrifices that are to be made. During 38 years of wandering the wilderness, these may have been neglected. Or they were simply not started, awaiting arrival in the Promised Land.Any direction you look at it, these are sacrifices are important. It is part of the worship of God in the Old Testament, and we as Christians see these as foreword looking to the life, death,…

January 2014: Proverbs 23 by Doug

I had some difficulty picking a focal point for today’s Proverbs writing. Why? Most of the options are not single-verse Proverbs. It’s important to always keep verses in context and to read complete sentences. We are especially driven in Proverbs to skip that, but we shouldn’t.I did find interesting, though, Proverbs 23:1 and its following verse. Partly because, as you can see if you compare various translations, 23:1 can be a standalone sentence or it can connect to 23:2. I happen to like it as separate sentences:First, 23:1 warns you in general about the delicate nature of dining with those in power. Consider what they offer, because it can be treacherous.Consider also whether or not you really want it, because that’s the other aspect here. It is easy to envy the possessions of kings, but what of the responsibility? The world is filled with rulers who take the power and possessions and disdain the responsibility—representative democracy was born out of the abundance of that nonsense…

Seven points of organization: Acts 6

I thought I would share a few thoughts that I had to turn in for class. We were looking at Acts 6 and considering what ideas we could draw about church organization from that chapter. You’ll need to look up Acts 6:1-7 to get the full context. Here’s what I came up with:First, the church leadership was listening to the feedback from the organization as a whole. While there is no textual evidence of a formal feedback structure, it is evident that the Apostles were aware of the complaint. This is a positive organizational practice: communication between all parts of the organization. Second, even as the disciples were increasing (v. 1), the organization of the church still broke down tasks that needed done. This is seen by the statement that there was a daily distribution to widows, but the Apostles are not involved personally at the outset. It is a task being handled by others, even though it is not being handled perfectly. Third, facing the problem, church leadership still presented …

January 2014: Proverbs 22 by Doug

Throughout the chapter, we see echoed the idea that wisdom is better than any other asset, for all other things can be obtained wisely. Unless you don’t really need it, and then wisdom guides against it. And there is Proverbs 22:13, which is one of my favorite Bible verses. Let’s turn our attention to Proverbs 22:11 and consider its implications. First, do not overlook the plain intent of the passage. Purity of heart and gracious speech are being commended by Solomon here. Our first task is to know what these are.Purity of heart has to do with the motivations of a person. While it is true that we never know a person’s motivations (unless they tell us, and then we still have a level of uncertainty), typically their actions and words will reveal their motivation. Gracious speech is not about flattering speech, but about how we present the truth. Flattery is telling someone what they want to hear, but graciousness presents the truth in as clear and gentle a manner possible. These two con…