Friday, August 18, 2017

No, it's more than that!

Often the prophet’s prime or sole responsibility is mistakenly perceived as receiving and communicating God’s words (judgment or salvation), but the biblical picture of the prophetic office is clearly twofold. It entails both the communication of God’s will and the representation of the people’s concerns before God. The prophets usually spoke with as much fervor and zeal to the Lord in prayer as to the people in judgment oracles. The reality of judgment and threat usually go hand in hand with intercessory prayer. Only the office of the prophet allows for this dialectic role.—Standing in the Breach, page 167

<idle musing>
If there is one thing you take away from reading this book, this is it. Prophets don't primarily foretell or even forthtell. Prophets primarily intercede.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I have so much of a problem with the current rage of "personal prophecy." Where's the intercession? How can you intercede when all you ever prophecy is "good stuff?" It reminds me of the false prophets in Jeremiah.

Of course, it didn't end so well for Hananiah, did it? (See Jeremiah 28.) Just an
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Me, at book exhibits

This is me, at book exhibits (ARC = Advance Reading Copies)
You've got to go there to see the whole thing...

Fix it!

Restoring a breached wall by doing righteous community work is a longterm process. When the hour of destruction is advancing, it is the prophets’ duty to stand temporarily in the breach in prayer, before the gradual process of restoring the divine-human relation can begin. Deuteronomy 9–10 gives exactly expression to this dynamic. First, in prophetic fashion, Moses draws attention to Israel’s sin by shattering the covenant tablets (Deut 9:15) and hastens to defend the breached wall from YHWH’s destructive wrath (“For I was afraid that the anger that the Lord bore against you was so fierce that he would destroy you” Deut 9:19). After having successfully fended off the first attack (Deut 10:10–11), the mediator urges Israel to repair the wall by recommitting themselves to fear YHWH and to love their neighbor (Deut 10:12–22).—Standing in the Breach, page 166

<idle musing>
Indeed. That's one reason I have a problem with "declaring the powers bound" thinking. If there is no repentance, you can rebuke demons all day long and it won't have any effect. Repentance is essential to repair the walls. Yes, we need to stand in the breach as intercessors, but we also need to call people to repentance—and live lives that reflect holiness ourselves!

I like how the CEB translates repentance: change your hearts and minds. Too often in the US Evangelical community, conversion has been nothing more than a change of mind. No change in behavior, just a mental assent to a set of beliefs.

Sorry, but that doesn't cut it. That's selling out the biblical definition for cheap grace, easy believism. I'm with the early Anabaptists here: no change in lifestyle equals no salvation. That's one reason Wesley organized his converts into bands and societies: to keep people accountable and to promote "scriptural holiness throughout the land." We could do a lot worse—and are : (
</idle musing>

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Judgment will catch up!

[E]ven after their most grievous offense was pardoned, they continued to be rebellious (cf. Deut 9:22–24). The continuous intercessory activity of Moses indicates, however, that his prayer, though powerful and effective, provides only a temporary solution to Israel’s predicament. It appears that Moses’ summons to a change of heart suggests itself as a more permanent solution to Israel’s rebelliousness. Their stubbornness, in the long run, can only be remedied through circumcision of heart (Deut 10:16), a metaphor for an inner renewal of the covenant relationship, a decisive act of committed obedience.—Standing in the Breach, page 165

<idle musing>
At the risk of overextending the application of this, I would say we're on the same path in this country...there's a limit to what intercession can do. At some point, individuals have to decide whether they want God or not. Contrary to what some think, you do reap what you sow. And violence always begets violence, just as hatred always begets hatred.

Unfortunately, the current evidence is that the choice is "not."

But we are called to pray anyway.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Faithfulness hurts

The fact that YHWH responds favorably to Moses’ threefold appeal reveals not only that mercy depends on YHWH’s character and His promises but also that God allows Himself to be persuaded by His faithful servant to let love triumph over justice. This is not to deny the fact that YHWH has the freedom of disciplining His rebellious son, but the outcome of Moses’ prayer strongly suggests that one of the central purposes of Israel’s election is God’s commitment to fellowship with His people. This is a commitment that in times of rebellion costs Him dearly.—Standing in the Breach, page 163

Monday, August 14, 2017

The stakes are high

In spite of the fact that Israel has been obstinate and rebellious from the moment of birth (Isa 48:4; cf. Deut 9:7, 24), YHWH is determined to glorify Himself by delivering Israel from exile and thereby show once again that He is God of gods (cf. Isa 52:5–6). This is a costly undertaking on God’s part because the restoration and preservation of God’s name (and covenant) is ultimately only possible by way of self-sacrificial commitment to His people. Thus, it has become clear that Moses raises a problem, which reaches to the very heart of God’s internal dilemma. How is one to consolidate divine justice with divine grace and loving commitment? There is no way that one can or should try to resolve this tension because it belongs to the very essence of God’s being (cf. Exod 34:6–7, Num 14:18). The fact, that YHWH allows, even invites, Moses to participate in this dilemma in faithful prayer speaks volumes for YHWH’s solidarity for His people. We have seen that Moses at no point excuses or belittles Israel’s rebellion and disobedience, but he juxtaposes it with YHWH’s history of loving and faithful commitment to them and with the fact that YHWH’s name would be at stake if Israel were annihilated.—Standing in the Breach, pages 161–62

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where does the punctuation go?

In John 1:3–4, that is. Is there a stop at the end of verse 3? Or does it come at the end of the phrase, with the relative pronoun and participle going with verse 4?

Here's the Greek:
3 πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων·

I had never noticed it before, but NA27 (and I assume NA28) have the stop before the relative pronoun. Here's what Metzger says:

1.3-4 οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν {B}

Should the words ὃ γέγονεν be joined with what goes before or with what follows? The oldest manuscripts (P66, 75* א* A B) have no punctuation here, and in any case the presence of punctuation in Greek manuscripts, as well as in versional and patristic sources, cannot be regarded as more than the reflection of current exegetical understanding of the meaning of the passage.

A majority of the Committee was impressed by the consensus of ante-Nicene writers (orthodox and heretical alike) who took ὃ γέγονεν with what follows. When, however, in the fourth century Arians and the Macedonian heretics began to appeal to the passage to prove that the Holy Spirit is to be regarded as one of the created things, orthodox writers preferred to take ὃ γέγονεν with the preceding sentence, thus removing the possibility of heretical use of the passage.

Interestingly, Metzger disagreed with the Committee
[On the other hand, however, none of these arguments is conclusive and other considerations favor taking ὃ γέγονεν with the preceding sentence. Thus, against the consideration of the so-called Page 168 rhythmical balance (which after all is present in only a portion of the Prologue, and may not necessarily involve ὃ γέγονεν) must be set John’s fondness for beginning a sentence or clause with ἐν and a demonstrative pronoun (cf. 13.35; 15.8; 16.26; 1 Jn 2.3, 4, 5; 3.10, 16, 19, 24; 4.2, etc.). It was natural for Gnostics, who sought support from the Fourth Gospel for their doctrine of the origin of the Ogdoad, to take ὃ γέγονεν with the following sentence (“That which has been made in him was life” – whatever that may be supposed to mean). It is more consistent with the Johannine repetitive style, as well as with Johannine doctrine (cf. 5.26, 39; 6.53), to say nothing concerning the sense of the passage, to punctuate with a full stop after ὃ γέγονεν. B.M.M.]
So, the CEB translates it thus:
3 Everything came into being through the Word,
and without the Word
nothing came into being.
What came into being
4 through the Word was life,
and the life was the light for all people.
Not sure which I prefer, but it does make one pause to think...

Friday, August 11, 2017

The tension

The covenant relationship, by its very nature, makes certain demands on both sides of the party (Deut 26–30), by which life and blessing can be gained or lost depending on the human response. Childs helpfully comments: “Election was not a privilege to be enjoyed, but a calling to be pursued.” [fn: Childs, Biblical, 445. He draws attention to the fact that the same tension is still found in Romans 9–11, particularly 11:22: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”] … there is a tension between Israel’s special status and the breached covenant. This dynamic is clearly in the background of Moses’ prayer. The Scriptures witness to this subtle but fundamental tension between election and covenant. On the one hand, YHWH, in sovereign love, choses people on His own initiative. This divine call is unchangeable because it depends on God’s loyalty. On the other hand, the chosen people have entered a covenant relationship that requires obedience. It is a real relationship that depends on both covenant people and covenant God. This dynamic tension cannot and should not be resolved because it is the dynamics of love.—Standing in the Breach, pages 152–53

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Slaves, but freed ones

YHWH’s legal claim to the ownership of Israel is based on His act of sovereign redemption. The verb פדה carries the sense of ransoming an enslaved party. Hence, on one level an acquisition of slaves has taken place, and on another level, Israel does not remain merely a “material” property which changed its owner, because the verb פדה is closely associated with the ֵgō'ēl (“redeemer”). In other words, YHWH is portrayed not as slave trader but as faithful and generous redeemer who ransomed Israel from bondage. There might even be a sense that the redeemer is obliged to ransom his near of kin, that is, His son (cf. Exod 4:23).—Standing in the Breach, page 149

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


I just saw this at Evangelical Text Criticism.

A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method
Tommy Wasserman, Peter J. Gurry

Must get! By the way, go to the Evangelical Text Criticism blog and vote for the cover. I chose B

It's a lonely road

This act of humble self-abasement does not only come as a sharp contrast to Israel’s rebellious attitude, but also raises the question of why Moses would do this. After all, he has just condemned Israel’s behavior by shattering the covenant tablets? This brings us back to the twofold role of the prophet. On the one hand, he confronts and rebukes the people’s sin with divine authority, and on the other hand, he entreats YHWH with reverent boldness on behalf of the people. This puts the mediator in an uncomfortable position, as he is caught up between announcing judgment and pleading with YHWH for mercy and pardon in an act of costly intercession. Muffs comments, “Only boundless spiritual bravery allows the prophet to suffer the great loneliness of one who stands in the breach and at the same time to call on the people that does not listen.” [Muffs, Love and Joy, 32].—Standing in the Breach, pages 142–43

<idle musing>
A.W. Tozer said that it was a lonely road to travel for those who were totally sold out to God. Moses is one of the first to exemplify that. Later prophets will travel the same road—think of Jeremiah!
</idle musing>

A bit of lexical information

עון [`wn] indicates both guilt and punishment (that is, it includes the offense and the consequence thereof), and these are not separated in Hebrew thinking.—Standing in the Breach, page 139n291

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


Calvin sees in the divine demand to be left alone Moses’ sharpest and sorest trial of faith. The reformer compares it with God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22). First, the patriarch is told that in and through Isaac God will raise a people for Himself and then Abraham is to slay him. As Calvin observes:
The same thing is here recorded of Moses, before whom God sets a kind of contradiction in His Word, when He declares that He has intention of destroying that people, to which He had promised the land of Canaan.
Of particular interest is Calvin’s interpretation of YHWH’s demand to be left alone. He senses in this request a divine testing of Moses’ faith, while at the same time a means to provoke Moses to pray more earnestly. Calvin’s interpretation is not only congruent with the rabbinic interpretation above but also realizes the critical interrelation between Moses’ prayer and YHWH’s outworking of salvation history. Calvin denies the possibility that God was not serious, or even deceitful when He announced His intention to destroy sinful Israel. According to Calvin there is a delicate line between YHWH’s providence and Moses’ prayer.—Standing in the Breach, page 135

<idle musing>
One of the few times I agree with Calvin! : )
</idle musing>

Monday, August 07, 2017

Thought for the day

The wrath of God under which the idolatrous, sinfully perverted man stands is simply the divine love, which has become a force opposed to him who has turned against God. The wrath of God is the love of God, in the form in which the man who has turned away from God and turned against God, experiences it, as indeed, thanks to the holiness of God, he must and ought to experience it.—Emil Brunner, Man in Revolt: A Christian Anthropology (London: Lutterworth Press, 1947), 187

An encouragement?

Jacob [Exodus, 931] affirms the idea that let me alone actually means do not let me alone and is paradoxically a summons to persuade YHWH not to destroy Israel. Jacob develops the idea of an implicit invitation to intercede by remarking that YHWH could have shut the door and said: “Enough, do not speak of the matter anymore,” as he did when Moses requested permission to enter the promised land (Deut 3:26; cf. Jer 7:16). According to Jacob, God not only encourages Moses to intercede for Israel by increasing his self-confidence (“and I will make of you a nation mightier and more numerous than they,” Deut 9:14), but even provides him with a persuasive argument to counter His anger by reminding him of the promise made to the patriarchs (cf. Gen 12:2, Exod 32:13, Deut 9:27).—Standing in the Breach, page 134–35

<idle musing>
Not sure I'm convinced, but an intriguing idea, anyway.
</idle musing>

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Mode of action or attribute?

"Yahweh is again reminded [in Ps 86] that he is a good and forgiving (sallaḥ) God. The grammatical construction of the qaṭṭal verbal adjective, a form occurring only in this passage, underscores 'that here a divine attribute is bing described, not merely a mode of action.' [Kedar, 107f.] The enduring aspect of this forgiving element in God's personality is being emphasized."—Hausmann in TDOT 10:262

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The audacity!

YHWH’s request to be left alone implies the possibility of not leaving Him alone and thereby restraining God in the outworking of the judgment. In other words, God’s demand implies nothing less than that Moses has to make Israel available for punishment, as it were, otherwise YHWH would be hindered to act. Jewish interpreters have long noticed the disturbing notion that Moses is somehow capable of holding back God from executing His judgment. Rabbi Awahu comments:
If this verse were not written, it would be impossible to say it. This verse teaches us that Moses held the Holy One, blessed be He, like one grabs the cloak of a friend and said to Him, Master of the universe, I will not let you go until you have forgiven them.
Standing in the Breach, page 132

<idle musing>
Now that is audacity! And that's what we're called to as Christians: to intercede on behalf of others. As I've said many times on this blog, the prophets spend as much time interceding on behalf of the people with God as they do telling the people to repent. Would that were true of me!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

That sums it up

I would like to suggest that Deuteronomy 5–11 provide an intrinsic definition of Israel’s ְצָדָקה [ṣādāqah]. It is characterized by wholehearted love and trust in God and a devotion to keep the commandments (cf. Deut 10:12–20; 11:1, 22; 19:9; 30:16). In obedience to the law, the fear of YHWH is realized (cf. Deut 6:1–2, 24).—Standing in the Breach, page 127

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The book is dead! Long live the book!

Just ran across this today, about the "death" of the book. The final paragraph sums it up (although I encourage you to read it all):
All the handwringing that the book is dead is really directed to the “books that are really not books,” the kind of things enumerated above that were published as books at a time when that was, however inadequate, the most viable format. The long-form text, on the other hand, has no real competition outside of the entertainment area, where Netflix and HBO compete with the commercial novel (but not, for the most part, with the literary novel). For all our talk about reduced attention spans, some ideas require space to stretch out in, some areas need extended syntheses. It is a mistake to make a book more like the Web, valuable as Web-like publications are. But they are different kinds of publications. The future of the long-form text, the core meaning of a book, is in making it more like itself.
<idle musing>
I would take issue with reference materials being better digitally. There’s still a lot to be said for the paper dictionary/lexicon. I still reach for BDAG/LSJ/HALOT/BDB/DCH—there’s something about a paper version that makes it easier to pick up a lot of info in a quick glance and then go deeper. I have electronic versions of most of those, but find I rarely use them as opposed to the paper version.

That also goes for text editions. I find navigating a text with an apparatus criticus to be easier on paper—although I'm sure others would disagree with me there.

Sure, the hyperlinking is nice—and I take advantage of that. But, the initial look-up (for me) is easier via paper. Mind you, that's not because I'm a amateur at things digital—I built my first computer back in 1982 and have been on the Internet since 1995. I even ran an IT department for five years and had a network running Linux, BSD, and Windows in my basement for several years. But, there are things that are better on paper, just as there are things that are better digitally.
</idle musing>

Why interecession is necessary

God’s good original intention and purposes with Israel have been endangered by sin and God’s wrath. Divine change of mind has to be understood against this background. As we have just noted, not only does His tendency toward grace and mercy belong to YHWH’s constancy, but so too does His commitment to holiness. God’s intended judgment, however, is always open to an appeal to mercy and compassion. It is in the context of a loyal and responsive God that Moses’ intercessions, and any other prayer, must be understood. YHWH’s nature enables Him to respond to development and incorporate it in the shaping of the future, for better or for worse (cf. Jer 18:1–12). The notion that God genuinely concerns Himself with a prophet’s prayer in working out His judgment is not a sign of divine weakness or inconsistent behavior. Rather, it is a sign of true greatness. God can and chooses to accommodate human prayer in His will and plan.—Standing in the Breach, page 100