Monday, May 22, 2017

Mission: Possible

The theme of intercession runs through the entire Old Testament, from Abraham, via Moses and some of the kings, to the prophets. It is particularly the latter that were called to pray on behalf of the people. It will become evident in our reading of the Old Testament texts that pleading for others before God, standing in the breach on behalf of the party under divine judgment, is not only possible but demanded from people.—Standing in the Breach, page 25

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mediated intercession

Every intercessor since Abraham and Moses appeals to the fundamental divine attributes of grace, mercy, and love. Christian intercessory prayer, however, is always mediated prayer. It is mediated through Jesus Christ’s mediatorship. “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5–6). Theologically speaking, Jesus Christ, the pre-existent Word, full of grace and truth, is really the archetypal intercessor and advocate in the divine council (cf. John 1:14, Exod 34:6). Not only does the eternal and risen Christ sit at the right hand of the Father and intercede for the world in general and His people in particular (Heb 7:25, Rom 8:34), but also on earth, Jesus’ life and death were characterized by a sacrificial love that expressed itself often in prayer for others and eventually in the ultimate act of intercession: His sacrifice on the cross (cf. John 17). Therefore, Christian intercessory prayer is always intrinsically related to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (cf. John 15:7, 1 Pet 2:5–10, Heb 4:14–16).—Standing in the Breach, page 15

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The hows and whys of intercession

[B]iblical intercessory prayer is almost always closely associated with God’s name as revealed to Moses. We shall see again and again in our exegesis that intercessory prayer engages with the tension between the divine attributes of love and justice. Or to put it differently, the intercessor stands in the breach between divine mercy and righteous wrath. Since Moses, by invoking God’s mercy and promises against God’s justice, the intercessor participates in God’s “internal dialogue” (cf. Exod 34:6–9). If the intercessor manages to appeal to the divine promises and will, then God is likely to answer favorably. Moses’ intercessions are effective because he prays in tune with God’s nature and because he anticipates the realization of God’s promises.—Standing in the Breach, pages 14–15

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Not one, but two!

Of course it has long been noted that Moses is presented as Israel’s archetypal prophet (Deut 34:10). However, it has been less noted that there is an intrinsic relatedness between his prophetic role and his fruitful intercessory ministry. The prophetic ministry is by its very nature twofold. It includes the proclamation of YHWH’s will, often in the form of divine ultimata and judgment, but also involves advocating for sinful people before the divine throne…. Usually, both aspects of the prophetic ministry have the same twofold goal: the good of the sinful party and the fulfillment of God’s plans. Both effective intercession and authoritative prophetic speech presuppose intimate knowledge of YHWH’s nature and purposes (e.g., Num 14:13–19). Only when the intercessor has deeper insight into the heart of God can the prophet, on the one hand, participate and influence the divine decision-making process and, on the other hand, instruct or rebuke the people with divine authority (cf. Amos 3:7).—Standing in the Breach, pages 12–13

Monday, May 15, 2017

Which is harder?

Especially in the first three centuries, therefore, when Christianity was regarded widely as a strange and dubious new religion, Christians had to avoid drawing the ire and accusations of non-Christians, while also advocating and living out their own beliefs and practices. This likely involved frequent, sometimes complicated, decisions about what Christians felt that they could or could not do, what social events they could take part in, and what roles in society they could accept, requiring them to negotiate their existence as best they could. The most frequent and painful tensions may have been not from governing officials but with family members, friends, and other associates.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, pages 150–51

<idle musing>
Isn't that still true? It's usually those closest to us that have the hardest time with the changes that God requires of us...

On another note: We're on a trip right now and I forgot to bring this book with me, so for the next week or so, I'll be excerpting from a different book that I've been picking away at slowly.
</idle musing>

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Judean Pillar Figurines and their function

"Of course, the general domestic context can only be used to support such assertions [that figurines were used by females or for 'female' concerns, like eroticism, procreation, and lactation] if one concludes that men did not live in Israelite houses, that men were unconcerned with the needs of their families, or that the only thing going on in Israelite houses was sex."—Erin Darby in Gods, Objects, and Ritual Practice in Ancient Mediterranean Religion, ed. Sandra Blakely, SAMR 1 (Atlanta: Lockwood Press, forthcoming)

<idle musing>
I don't know why, but that struck me as humorous—probably because it reveals so much about the presuppositions we bring to bear in our interpretation of the data. Great book, by the way. You should get it when it becomes available.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just toss them in the trash!

Justin is representative of the revulsion at the practice of infant abandonment that is expressed in early Christian writings. As one recent scholar has observed, “With abortion and abandonment, we come to a distinct parting of the ways between Christians and general Graeco-Roman practice.” [Carolyn Osiek] Of course, this attitude echoes and was inherited from the Jewish tradition.— Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, page 146. Pages 146–47 contain a lengthy discourse on how the Greco-Roman world would dispose of unwanted babies…