Friday, July 29, 2011

Righteousness in the Psalms

“The premium placed on righteousness rather than wickedness and the consequences of choosing one over the other is a clear sign that sin is taken very seriously in the Psalter. The discipline of God is regularly associated with the wicked and the blessing of God with the righteous. The Psalter expresses the theology that sin will be discouraged through punishment, and righteousness will be encouraged through blessing. Implicit in the pervasive appeals to these two categories is the call to penitence, that is, for those tempted to pursue sin to choose the way of the righteous with its benefits and to eschew the way of wickedness with its consequences.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 402-403

On the importance of grammar

I just about died laughing at this:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is only a short road that leads from grammatical laxity to cannibalism.

<idle musing>
Now, I'm not afraid to correct someone's grammar, but that is a bit too extreme even for me! Everyone knows it only leads to the collapse of civilization and the end of life as we know it! Cannibalism? Not that far...
</idle musing>

HT: Chris Spinks

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just a few numbers

Yesterday, July 27, our daughter turned 30; on Saturday, the 30, our son turns 27. I don't know, just struck me as funny.

Hey Renee! Congratulations on surviving the first third of your life :)

Greater than the sum of its parts

“In many ways, studying the theology of the Psalter parallels the study of the theology of the Old Testament. The psalms reflect diversity as independent literary units that originated and were used in a variety of historical contexts and yet that have been drawn together into a canonical unity to provide a theological perspective that transcends the sum of its parts.”—A Severe Mercy, page 396

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sad news

I heard via Katya Covrett that John Stott died. She also posted a link to an obituary. Updated link, thanks to Esteban.

He will be missed.

Job and mercy

“The wager by Satan appears to be an extraordinary incident at the outset of the book [of Job], suggesting that God’s dominant mode is to bless faithfulness and curse wickedness. However, God retains the right to grant his grace and even his discipline according to his sovereignty. It is this truth that should have been comforting for Israel, because, if Yahweh were to follow a strict retribution model, they would never have survived. It was his extraordinary displays of mercy in the face of their wicked rebellion that ensured their continued existence.”—A Severe Mercy, page 394 (emphasis his)

<idle musing>
I love the "however!" It definitely explains God's mercy through Jesus!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The harvest continues

Over the weekend, I managed to can 11 jars of tomato sauce and 6 quarts of bread and butter pickles. From the looks of things, I will be canning another 20 or so jars of tomato sauce tonight. And, if the cucumbers keep coming as they are, another 6 quarts of pickles on Wednesday night.

I planted San Marzano tomatoes this year. They are a Roma style tomato. I can't believe how many tomatoes there are on the vines! If they all ripen, I'll have enough for two years of soup and sauce—plus plenty to give away. The best part is that they have a good flavor. The other tomatoes (Beefsteak, Early Girl, and cherry) are doing OK, but not as great as the San Marzano.

I started the fall broccoli the other day. The seeds sprouted in 3 days. Wow. I wonder if the rate of growth will keep pace. If it does, we'll be eating broccoli from them in August instead of September/October. They will go in the hoop house once it gets cool; I'm hoping they keep producing side sprouts until late October. We'll see...

I also planted a late planting of cucumbers; they sprouted in two days! This heat is good for something, anyway. I have been watering the garden twice a week; the heat and lack of rain definitely sucks the moisture out of the soil. I hope to get eating cucumbers off this planting; I'm not sure they will get a chance to produce enough to pickle.

Woman Folly has the advantage

“It appears that the sages are well aware that Woman Folly has an advantage. Not only are the potential feasters described in ways that suggest the potential for folly rather than wisdom (naive, those who lack understanding), but Woman Folly’s invitation is merely to 'let him turn in here' (9:16), whereas Lady Wisdom’s is to 'forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding' (9:6). Here, then, Lady Wisdom calls the simple to repentance, motivating them by the promise of life and insight but calling them to abandon their present patterns of life. In contrast, Woman Folly demands nothing but that one enter.”—A Severe Mercy, page 373

<idle musing>
Indeed, the perfect prophet for our way of life, no? We don't need to change, repent, or anything; we just need to continue consuming and consuming and consuming...until the end. Problem is that the end is destruction. Nothing has changed in 2500 years; we still reap what we sow.
</idle musing>

Monday, July 25, 2011

A refreshing thought

From the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) blog today:

I can no longer in good conscience continue to write about the stuff of this world and how it will make our businesses better without first writing about the things of Heaven and how desperately we need to return to being about these things and not that stuff.

<idle musing>
That, my friends, is one of the most refreshing things I have heard in a long time. Too often the CBA talks about how to make more money and sell "Jesus junk" instead of talking about the important stuff.
</idle musing>

Wisdom and knowledge

“One must be careful not to associate Old Testament wisdom with modern quests for knowledge and understanding, especially in their secularity. For Old Testament sages, Yahweh was intimately involved in the task of wisdom. This is evident from the recurring appearance of the phrase “the fear of the Lord” throughout Proverbs 1–9. The fear of the Lord is considered the beginning and end of the pursuit of knowledge/wisdom (1:7, 2:5, 9:10). Wisdom itself is associated with knowledge of God/the Holy One (2:5, 9:10). Wisdom claims to be Yahweh’s first creation and faithful companion in the activity of creation (8:22–31). Yahweh is the source of all wisdom (2:6) and the guarantor of its blessings (2:7, 8; 3:5; 8:35). It is trust in Yahweh that contrasts trusting one’s own understanding (3:5), and it is Yahweh who guards and protects the just and faithful (2:8).”—A Severe Mercy, page 366

<idle musing>
As the title of this post shows, I suspect we confuse knowledge with wisdom. Wisdom is far more than that, as Boda points out here.
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wisdom as life

As is evident from these lists, wisdom is a lifestyle to be lived rather than merely content to be mastered. This “skilled” living encompasses both one’s actions and one’s speech, so that wisdom is demonstrated in how one acts and what one says. However, wisdom is more than only pragmatic in character, although practice is the evidence of wisdom’s influence in one’s life. Rather than merely an external pattern to be emulated, wisdom is a principle permeating one’s inner life, and through this is designed to influence all of one’s outer life. It is for this reason that the sage throughout Proverbs 1–9 consistently reminds the audience that wisdom is a matter of the heart. It is the heart that the sage says (“with all diligence”) must be guarded “for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23). Wisdom must then “enter your heart” and knowledge must be “pleasant to your soul” (2:10). It is in the heart that commands must be kept and stored (3:1, 4:21; cf. 2:1; 7:1), with the heart that one trusts in Yahweh (3:5–6) and takes hold of wise words (4:4), and on the heart that commands and teachings as well as love and faithfulness are written and bound (3:3, 6:21, 7:3). Wisdom demands that people set their hearts on prudence (8:5) and apply their hearts to understanding (2:2).—A Severe Mercy, pages 365

A berry good time was had

Debbie and I went blueberry picking on Tuesday evening and managed to get about 13 pounds of blueberries. We froze them all—except for what we ate fresh :)

It was hot, but bearable and there were quite a few other people picking. The original idea was that I would come back on Saturday and pick the rest of what we needed. When we were paying for them, we asked the girl how much longer she expected the berries to last. She answered that with the temperature and dryness, only until Thursday or Friday. Well, that changed our plans!

So, yesterday, with a temperature of 97ºF and a heat index of 107ºF, I made my way out there again. There was no one in the stand, just a sign saying how to pay. There were only two other vehicles there and they left about 1/2 hour after I got there. But, the berries! Because no one had been picking they were quite thick and large. I picked about 13 pounds in about 2 1/2 hours—and ate at least a pound :) Once I got home, I made 13 pints of jam and froze the rest.

I think we are done with jam and berries this year—except for the raspberries in the garden. Those will be for fresh eating, not freezing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The fear of the Lord

“As is evident from this quotation [Deut 10:12-13, 20], fear is included among a complex of words used to describe (along with “walking . . . loving . . . serving . . . clinging to God”) submissive and faithful worship. Similarly, Deut 6:1–5 reveals that to love the Lord their God with all the heart, soul, and mind is the same as the fear of the Lord. Thus, the “fear of the Lord” is a relational term that signifies Israel’s reverential response to God’s gracious salvation.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 361

Knowing God

“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
his upper rooms by injustice,
making his subjects work for nothing,
not paying them for their labor.
He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace
with spacious upper rooms.’
So he makes large windows in it,
panels it with cedar
and decorates it in red.
“Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the LORD.
“But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.””—Jeremiah 22:13-17 TNIV

<idle musing>
Compare what Jeremiah says about what it means to "know God" with some of the rhetoric going on in the U.S. today. Hmmm...wonder which one is right? I wouldn't bet my life on the current interpretation if I were you...Jeremiah's credentials are a bit better than theirs.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And so it begins

The canning, that is. Last night I canned 3 pints of beet pickles, 6 quarts of dill pickles, and 4 quarts of rhubarb sauce. The Roma style tomatoes are starting to ripen in large quantities, so tomato paste and tomato sauce won't be far behind.

We ate our first fresh onions, pepper, and tomatoes pizza Sunday night. Delicious. And, I planted another round of cucumbers last night. I hope they grow fast enough to produce before frost.

I'm going to harvest most of the onions this week; the tops have fallen over and are getting dry. I had to pull the peas this weekend; the heat did them in. Heat is an understatement! It has been 90º+ degrees F for the last several days. The heat index has been around 100º F.

Sunday afternoon we went for a hike in the Lost Bridge Recreational Area, East side. The trail we took was in the woods, thankfully. It was just too hot to bike, and even walking in the woods had us sweating like a faucet. My shirt was drenched after the 2.5 hours of hiking. We were hoping to cover most of the 10-mile trail, but it was too hot!

And the initiative belongs to...

“In each prophetic collection the ultimate hope is shifted from human response to a divine gracious and transformative initiative. It is Ephraim in Jer 31:18–19 who voices this in his cry for God to cause him to return. The prophet shows how God will do this in the latter part of Jeremiah as he speaks of the unilateral gracious initiative of Yahweh to forgive his people (24:6; 31:34; 32:37–38, 41–44) and give them a new heart on which will be written the law (24:7, 31:33, 32:39–40). Whereas Ezekiel talked about repentance in 18:30–32 as making for oneself a new heart and spirit, Ezek 11:19, 36:26–27, 37:14, and 39:26 make clear God’s promise that he would forgive them and give them a new heart and new spirit. While this shift is most evident in Jeremiah and Ezekiel it can also be discerned in the other collections.”—A Severe Mercy, page 355

<idle musing>
Amazing, isn't it? It makes one want to fall down and worship God for his amazing love, grace, and mercy toward us.
</idle musing>

A good bit of advice

“This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hands of their oppressors those who have been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”—Jeremiah 22:3 TNIV

<idle musing>
Pretty good bit of advice, wouldn't you say? Not content to tell you to do what is just and right, Jeremiah spells it a society we aren't doing so well : (
</idle musing>

Monday, July 18, 2011

The rhythm of the prophets

“The prophetic books describe a God who remains free in relation to this process. Yahweh sovereignly responds as he chooses within this rhythm [acts of discipline (judgment) or threats of discipline (prophecy)]. Although the normative pattern is for him to respond to the penitent, at times he may reject what appears to be a penitent cry and at others respond with grace where there is no penitence. This explains the 'who knows' or 'perhaps' that is expressed by David in 2 Samuel 24, the sailors and Ninevites in Jonah, and the prophet in Joel 2:14, Amos 5:15, and Zeph 3:3.5 This is not then an impersonal retribution principle and procedure but rather a rhythm based on covenantal relationship between Yahweh and Israel.

“While God retains his sovereignty, it is apparent throughout the prophetic process that humans exercise their God-given freedom by consistently rejecting divine discipline. It is this freedom that ultimately threatens the basic rhythm itself. Rather than being hidden, this threat is readily admitted within the prophetic corpus and lays the foundation for the revelation of a radically new remedy for sin. The Former Prophets make it clear in the key retrospect in 2 Kings 17 that the prophetic process was unsuccessful because of the people’s rejection of the prophets’ message. Isaiah’s call burdens the prophet with the task of shutting down the prophetic process that was designed to bring response. After early calls to repentance are met with indifference, Jeremiah shows how the prophetic process is ultimately denied by Yahweh as judgment becomes inevitable. So also Ezekiel, who is forbidden from the outset to intercede for a Jerusalem whose fate is sealed, experiences the frustration of preaching repentance to a stubborn remnant. Although there are positive examples of the basic rhythm working in the Twelve, it is clear from Hosea, Amos, and Micah that the process is frustrated by an intractable people.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 354-355

<idle musing>
So much for "name it; claim it; stomp on it and frame it" theology. God is free to respond as he desires, not how we wish he would. No manipulation allowed.

I must say, I prefer it that way.
</idle musing>

The promises are conditional

But, we like to ignore the conditions, don't we? Jeremiah for the day:

“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.”—Jeremiah 18:7-10 TNIV

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden goodies

We ate our first tomato yesterday! And, our second cucumber. The first planting of beans is about done, and the second one is just starting to produce. We've been enjoying kohlrabi and carrots from the garden for over a month now. The carrots were from the January planting; the March carrot planting is about to begin producing.

I planted a package of turnips, but only about 10 came up. I ate two of them the other day. I've decided I'm not a turnip fan... The peas are done; I'll be planting more cucumbers there. And, the last of the Romaine lettuce had to be pulled; it had bolted (gone to seed) and was bitter. I'll put carrots there for a fall crop.

The onions that I have scattered in three different places are a mixed lot. The two in established beds are doing great. In fact, they are about ready to harvest. The planting in the new bed, with little compost, is doing very poorly. Not surprising; the first year we had a garden here, the results were dismal. Very sandy/gravelly soil that needs a lot of compost to do well.

The pepper plants are doing well. We have small peppers on them. The watermelon has small little fruit on it, too. They are cute at that stage, only a few inches in diameter. Won't be long now and they will be huge. I harvested the garlic. Some of it did very well, with large clusters. Some of them weren't so large :) That's ok, I have enough to last the year and some seed for next.

The birds decided that they needed our blueberries more than we did but that's OK. We hadn't expected to get anything off them this year anyway; they are only two years old. Note to self: cover them next year!

The early raspberries are starting to produce; we have everbearing, so the late crop will be fuller and better. But, it does give one a taste of what is coming.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some stuff, but you get the idea...Oh yeah, I made beet pickles last weekend and probably will this weekend as well. Yum!

Future hope

“The Torah ended with Moses’ invitation to an Israel poised for conquest, and the Prophets have echoed this invitation to Israel throughout its history. The pessimism expressed in the closing chapters of the Torah has now been demonstrated from the story and prophecies of Israel, but alongside this is the hope expressed at the end of the Torah for a new day of restoration accompanied by a divine transformation of the heart. With this hopeful vision, the prophets hold to the expectation that Israel will fully realize its destiny as Yahweh’s 'kingdom of priests' and 'holy nation' that will serve as a conduit of his presence and blessing to the nations.”—A Severe Mercy, page 352

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The discipline of the LORD

“It is this other way [YHWH appearing in discipline] that can be regularly discerned within the Twelve. In contrast to Joel and Jonah, the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah receive little response to their calls to repentance, and Amos 4 shows that the people have not even responded to the divine discipline they have experienced so far. This lack of response leads to his call for them to prepare to meet their God, a call with double entendre, suggesting a final hope for repentance along with an expectation of climactic divine discipline. Thus, while holding out hope for repentance alongside the announcement of judgment, Hosea, Amos, and Micah all look to a severe divine discipline from which will emerge a penitent and faithful community, often associated with the Day of the Lord. Though Joel and Jonah have provided some hope for the validity of human response in the first half of the Twelve based on the gracious character of Yahweh, it is ironically the recitation of the character creed of Exodus in the seventh book (Nahum) that signals a shift in the Twelve away from human penitence and to divine discipline.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 348

<idle musing>
The shift in emphasis is interesting, as is the multiple uses of the Exodus character creed (I am slow to anger...). It is indeed a promise and a threat—reminds me of Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16:

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

</idle musing>

New 10-day sale at Eisenbrauns

I just posted a new 10-day sale: 20-50% off selected Egyptology titles. You can see it here.

Pharaonic Inscriptions from the Southern Eastern Desert of Egypt

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


On Monday morning, we had a very severe thunderstorm here in northern Indiana. Someone told me the winds were clocked at over 70 miles per hour. I'm not sure how strong they were, but they were strong enough to topple a 60 foot spruce tree in our yard.

It fell across the road, blocking it, but missed the power lines. If the wind had been from the west instead of the northwest, it could have gotten ugly. Instead, the county pushed it back into our yard, breaking it in half. It looked quite interesting in the front yard (no, I didn't get a picture of it). I was hoping that it would be their responsibility to clean up—it is within the right-of-way—but a call on Tuesday gave me the news that it was mine.

So, last night, Cliff (our neighbor) and I began the task of cutting it up. We got the limbs done and most of the trunk before dark and a burned out chain stopped us. Tonight will probably see us finishing it up. But, now I have a very large hole in the front yard and a much increased brush pile in the back yard...

Sales tax and California

Ran across this today about Amazon's behavior:

In other words, this isn't an argument between two equally reasonable positions. It's an argument between reason and emotion, between your brain and your gut. Amazon has no intellectually sound arguments against collecting taxes from residents—by all ethical and civic standards, its position is unsound. Instead, Amazon is counting on our emotions prevailing—on loyal, tax-savvy customers like me lashing out at our price-hiking legislators. I worry that there's a good chance Amazon—and people like me—will prevail.
That's why Amazon is launching a second front in the battle against sales tax. On Monday, it announced that it would support a ballot initiative to overturn California's law. Amazon's vice president of public policy, Paul Misener (aptronym alert!), put out a statement that borrows from the rhetoric of the Tea Party. The ballot initiative is "a referendum on jobs and investment in California," he said, and "with unemployment at well over 11 percent, Californians deserve a voice and a choice about jobs, investment, and the state's economic future." If Amazon spends substantial sums to push such a ballot measure next fall, it's hard to see how it could lose. The ads write themselves: Don't let greedy lawmakers tax your Internet purchases!

Though I doubt most voters would care to pick apart such a populist message, such a sound bite falls apart under scrutiny. For example, the idea that Amazon is an "out-of-state" retailer in California is a complete fiction. Amazon owns several subsidiaries whose primary offices are located in the state. Within a 30-minute drive from my home, I can visit some of Amazon's most important divisions—A9, which builds its product search engine, is located in Palo Alto, while Lab 126, the Amazon office that designs the Kindle, is in Cupertino. Amazon has also repeatedly claimed that the California law is unconstitutional, but it has not (yet) filed suit against the measure. I suspect it's afraid it might lose on the merits—that any judge who hears that Amazon builds its most successful product in the state will declare the company to be as Californian as Apple Inc.

<idle musing>
Be sure to read the whole thing. The bottom line is we, as a nation, need to decide whether we are in favor of the common good, or are we in favor of our own little slice of whatever. Of course, if we decide on the slice, it will disappear; look up "tragedy of the commons" on a search depravity is real.
</idle musing>

The call to repentance

“It is clear throughout the Twelve that human penitential response is the preferred remedy for sin. All of the 8th-century prophets call the people to repentance even as they announce God’s judgment. Whereas these three books (Hosea, Amos, Micah) reveal a negative response to calls of this sort, mixed among them are two books, Joel and Jonah, that showcase positive responses. Connections between these two books and their vision for repentance are evident in the striking similarities between the rituals associated with the people’s repentance (fasting, sackcloth; cf. Joel 1:13–14, 2:15–16; Jonah 3:5–8).”—A Severe Mercy, page 347

Jeremiah for the day

"You are always righteous, LORD,
when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease?
   You have planted them, and they have taken root;
they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
but far from their hearts."—Jeremiah 12:1-2 TNIV

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Your dose of Jeremiah for the day

"If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place..."—Jeremiah 7:5-7a TNIV, emphasis added

<idle musing>
I'm finding my stroll through Jeremiah very interesting...
</idle musing>

Malachi and sin

“At two points, the book [of Malachi] confronts inappropriate moral patterns, the first among the priests who are showing partiality by favoring the powerful in their torah rulings at the temple (2:1–9) and the second among the people who are divorcing their wives for foreign women (2:10–16). By relaxing the strict torah rules over appropriate animals for sacrifice and by divorcing Jewish wives in favor of women from the foreign elite, priests and people alike were compromising principles of the Law for the purpose of gaining social status.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 342

<idle musing>
Looks like he's gone from preachin' to meddlin'... "compromising principles of the Law for the purpose of gaining social status." That could easily describe much/most of the church in the US today...
</idle musing>

Monday, July 11, 2011

The book of Joel and the prophetic process

“Though divine discipline and human repentance are key to Joel’s vision of remedying sin, it is ultimately an appeal to God’s favor that encourages the people to repent. It is this appeal to God’s character that shows that the call to repentance is distinct from the call to communal lamentation: “It is motivated not by a reference to the calamity, but first by a reference to Yahweh’s character and will (v 13b), and second by the prospect of his future action (v 14)” (Wolff 1977: 40). God’s response is true to form as his zeal is aroused to spare his people from their present predicament and proclaim his plan to pour forth his Spirit on his people and bring judgment on the nations. Joel presents the proper function of the prophetic process.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 309

Thought for the day

“Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;
they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit
Should I not punish them for this?” declares the LORD; they do not seek justice.
They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor.
“Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?”—Jeremiah 5:27-29

Friday, July 08, 2011

Grace only, grace always

“The consistent lack of response from the people in this book [Hosea], however, creates the expectation that the obedience of the people would be ultimately possible only through the initiative (2:24–23, 3:1–5, 11:8–11) and transforming work (14:4) of Yahweh. Hosea, therefore, envisions a role for the prophetic call to repentance as well as the discipline of God to deal with sin, but in the end the greatest hope for remedying sin is placed on the passionate grace, unilateral initiative, and transforming work of Yahweh to create penitence that is both authentic and enduring.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 304

<idle musing>
Again, grace—unilateral grace. Only that can create a true and lasting repentance (and remember repentance in Hebrew means to turn and move away from something).
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Berry time

Actually, strawberry time has come and gone already. This year, the strawberries where I usually pick were terrible. I picked about 3 pounds in an hour and exhausted the patch. The cold, rainy spring had really affected them adversely. So, a bit disappointed, I went home and picked 8 pounds from our little 16 foot strawberry patch in 20 minutes. That gave us about 10 pints of freezer jam. We usually have 50-60 pints for the year. That little patch kept producing until last week. We ended up with 34 pints; still short of our goal, but better than we expected.

So, Tuesday I went out to the garden and checked our little blueberry plants. We have 6: two that blossomed and have berries, one that is doing well, but didn't blossom. We also have two that may not make it and one that died. Anyway, I managed to pick almost 2 dozen berries. That is about half of them, so, no jam this year from our own bushes :) But, I suspect I will be able to pick some sone. We're aiming for 60 pounds this year. Last year we picked 40 and ran out about a month ago. The reason for the extra 20 pounds is that I need to make up the missing strawberry jam in blueberry jam. We'll see...

Oh, and the mulberries are coming on, too. Debbie doesn't like them, so I don't make jam or freeze them. But, I like to eat them off the trees. We have about 3 mulberry trees along the creek. It isn't a bumper year for them, but enough to keep me happy. I supplement them with black raspberries, of which we have many wild ones in the back. They are small and somewhat seedy, but make for good eating when they are fresh.

I know it isn't a berry, but our green beans are producing now. I planted a filet bean this year, which doesn't freeze well, but sure makes good fresh eating. We've had beans for supper 3 nights in a row now, and we'll have them again tonight and for the next 2 weeks. No, we don't get sick of them.

Hosea 3

“[In Hosea 3] we see that repentance typifies Israel’s experience after its rebellion, but this is only made possible by the unilateral and gracious initiative of Yahweh.”—A Severe Mercy, page 297

<idle musing>
This seems to be a recurring theme, doesn't it? The unilateral and gracious initiative of YHWH is the reason for all repentance—even in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Mennonite response

Lately Goshen College has been in the news because they stopped singing the national anthem at sporting events. Of course, the irony is that they had a 115-year long history of not doing it and only started in 2010. It caused such an uproar among their constituents, that they reversed themselves in a year. The pundits who are always looking for a sign of the decline and fall of whatever it is today saw the reversal as proof of apostasy. Now, a Mennonite pastor responds.

... we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.

To Mennonites, a living faith in Jesus means faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and it looks like a cross.

<idle musing>
Do read the whole thing. It's well worth your time.

I'm not a Mennonite—never have been—but I am an heir to, and adherent of, the anabaptist/believers' church tradition. I would argue that the early church was, too :)
</idle musing>

Interesting thoughts on sin and love

I am way behind in blog-reading, but Scot McKnight has some posts that are well worth reading, although a bit stale.

First, a guest post by John Frye:

God’s justice does not require that he, in the end, forgive everyone. Forgiveness is not an attribute of God. It is an act. Therefore not forgiving is not a violation of God’s being. Yes, God is love and God can be unforgiving. Forgiveness is not part of our nature, either. It, too, is a decision, an act just like God’s forgiveness is a decision, an act. I think it is petulant to respond: if God does not forgive all the time, then I don’t have to either. In view of the cross, we live in a vast forgiveness atmosphere. We are called to forgive just as God forgives us. This is right and commanded. Yet, God is just and he will punish evil doers. Love does not require that God forgive.

And then, by Scot:

...there is a widespread apathy about sin because we’ve embraced a God who is so gracious and loving that God has become avuncular, or a God who will ignore our sins. Another point I make is that sin wounds, always wounds, and it wounds because it eats away at our character and our capacity to love and to become holy.
We reduce sin to manageable proportions when we reduce the “Christian life” to “accepting Jesus” (not carefully understanding even what “accepting” means) and when we fail to see the massive focus of Jesus on “following him.” Sin, in other words, is the failure to follow Jesus — and following Jesus is about the first two commandments because it is about making God truly God in our life, and following Jesus is ultimately what Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden: either do what God calls us to do or not.

Sin is about usurping, and for us Christians that usurping takes on a powerful christological shape in the NT: it’s about Jesus, it’s about following him. When we choose not to follow Jesus, we choose to become usurpers.

Sin is not reduceable [sic] to a checklist. It’s too deadly serious for that.

And from today, by John Frye again:

A friend of mine remarked that the new defin[i]tion of God’s love means unconditional, endless tolerance and affection. Sweet, but so much wishful thinking. Discounting the perichoresis of the Trinity, the hard edge of love that compelled Jesus to voluntarily lay down his life for sinners is considered ‘bad parenting’ by God the Father, even divine child abuse. You can read it in many popular expressions of the new, soft, fireless, judgmental-less love. I think many of these new “God is love” proponents learned their definitions of love from Sesame Street rather than from the biblical text. What I think they mean when they say “God is love” is “God is nice.”

<idle musing>
Good thoughts. The last one reminds me of a wonderful little book that I read a few years ago, might even have excerpted here: God is Not...Religious, Nice, "One of Us," An American, A Capitalist. As always, be sure to read the whole post of each of them.
</idle musing>

What hope do we have?

“These two aspects [remembering/loathing/shame, and changes in behavior] of the restoration vision in Ezekiel thus reveal the necessity of both internal contrition and external behavioral change to the restoration era. This era is occasioned by a restitution of relationship because of Yahweh’s glory and grace. This sort of vision for real change, however, reminds one of the frustrated attempts of Ezekiel’s generation to respond to the covenantal demands of God. Is there any hope that, even in this new era of restoration occasioned by God’s grace and glory, a human response of contrition and penitence such as this will ever be realized?

“The answer to this question is provided by this prophetic book, which envisions a deep inner transformation of the people accomplished by God himself.”—A Severe Mercy, page 291

<idle musing>
That's our only hope: a "deep inner transformation accomplished by God himself." We can't do it, never, ever! But, he can and did. That is something worth sharing and getting excited about!
</idle musing>

Used book dedication for the day

At Eisenbrauns, we buy used books. Not infrequently, they contain notes from the previous owner; some are interesting, most aren't. Some contain dedications from the author, usually pretty generic, but once in a while quite interesting. Today I received a volume of Late Old Babylonian Documents and Letters by J. Finkelstein. The dedication was priceless:

To ....,
I trust this will bring you many hours of pain and I hope also some precious moments of enlightenment
J. J. Finkelstein

<idle musing>
Priceless! And accurate, too...
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A new beginning

“It is not surprising in Ezekiel to find this abundance of priestly vocabulary to describe the new day of Israel’s restoration, but it is important to notice that it is Yahweh’s own initiative that secures this restoration, with little if any reference to the involvement of sacrificial rites. Yahweh here is depicted as a priestly figure who provides the ritual cleansing necessary for Israel to begin anew.”—A Severe Mercy, pages 288

Basics of Biblical Aramaic

I recently received a copy of Basics of Biblical Aramaic by Miles van Pelt (thanks Jesse!). It is the most recent contribution to Zondervan's biblical languages series.

It would be easy to point out the places where I would have done things differently, but first let's see what van Pelt aims to do and if he succeeds:

This grammar was not written for Aramaic scholars or for students interested in comparative Semitic grammar. Rather, the purpose and design of this grammar is to provide the average student with a working knowledge of the Aramaic language appearing in the Old Testament. It was written for those students who desire to study, teach, and preach faithfully from those portions of the Bible that appear in Aramaic. (page x)

I kept reminding myself of this paragraph as I read through the grammar. It is not fair to evaluate a textbook on the basis of what I would have done; I'm far more interested in comparative Semitics and historical grammar than the average student :)

As far as layout, the book is 8.5 x 11 inches and the text is large enough that even my eyes could easily read it. The tables are well laid out and clear. The use of footnotes for interesting, but not essential, information is good, allowing the interested student to obtain more background.

The book assumes the knowledge of biblical Hebrew; there are repeated comparisons to how biblical Aramaic is/is not like Hebrew. Here is where I would have brought in some comparative Semitics and historical grammar to explain the ש/ת interchange, as well as other consonantal differences. He does mention the Canaanite shift, which is good. But, again, I reminded myself of his purpose paragraph. The average student would probably be more confused than helped.

He begins with the nominal system, including particles, conjunctions, and prepositions, and then proceeds to present the verbal system, beginning with the Peal and then giving the derived stems. There is a great deal of emphasis and explanation of weak verbs, which is very helpful when you consider that the majority of the verbs in biblical Aramaic are weak.

The grammar section ends with paradigm charts before launching into the reading section. The book includes all the Aramaic sections of the Hebrew Bible, complete with extensive annotations. The annotations include things like identifying a difficult to figure out root, metathesis, idiomatic phrases, etc. The strange thing about the reading section is that the order of pages is English, not Aramaic. You start reading on the left hand page, then proceed to the right, and turn the page as if it were English. I'm not sure what the logic of that is. I would think that the page order would be Aramaic, but that is a minor quibble.

The book concludes with a dictionary, based on HALOT, with one-two word glosses. Adequate for reading the passages, but for more extensive background, HALOT or BDB should be consulted.

What do I think of the book? As one who learned biblical Aramaic via the “here's a text, lexicon, and Rosenthal, now read it!” method, this book is a vast improvement. I suspect a highly motivated individual could teach themselves Aramaic using it—as long as they already know Hebrew. The explanations are clear enough and the notes in the reading will keep you from getting discouraged.

In answer to the opening question, did he succeed in doing what he set out to do? I would answer, "Yes, he did." As I mentioned, the layout is attractive and the explanations are good. As anyone who has ever taught a language will tell you, there is no perfect first year grammar for any language—except the one you write yourself! If I were to teach biblical Aramaic, I would probably adopt this book, but assign background readings in Rosenthal's A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic. Of course, if someone were to create an immersion course in Aramaic, that would be best!

Musings on the 4th day of July

Actually, these are musings by others, but I heartily endorse them...
First, from Alan Knox

No, I’m not anti-American. Not at all. I’m very grateful to God that I was born in the country in which I have many personal freedoms. But, I’m also tired of the church in the USA confusing patriotism with following Jesus.
I’ve talked to too many Christians in the USA who were more concerned with the individual rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed by God in the Bible, right?), and much less concerned with giving up their rights (much less their life) for the sake of others.
The United States of America is not God’s country. Citizens of the United States who have received the good news of Jesus Christ and have been indwelled by the Spirit of God are God’s people. But, citizens of other countries who have received the good news of Jesus Christ and have been indwelled by the Spirit of God are God’s people also.

And, from Michael Gorman (whose RSS feed doesn't appear to be working correctly), 8 baby steps to take. I'll only highlight the third one:

3. Under no circumstances allow the pledge of allegiance. Don’t feel forced to challenge the pledge in principle. Simply say, “In worship we pledge ourselves to God alone.”

And, in an interesting twist, Joel Watts:

The Church is the Kingdom God which is at war with the World, albeit a spiritual war. Would you expect that the American Embassy in Afghanistan to celebrate Al-Qaeda? No, then why bring the world (people would cry, well used too, havoc if you had a dance in the sanctuary, etc.., etc.., etc…) and the regimes which oppose the Church into the Church of Christ?

<idle musing>
Good thoughts. Do you have any relevant posts?
</idle musing>

Friday, July 01, 2011

The dangers of a single point of failure

I put this on Facebook yesterday, but it bears posting here, where I can excerpt a larger part of it. The author is comparing the redundancies built into an airplane with the common model of church:

Many churches, both large and small, seem to engineer their ministries around the antithesis of redundancy--singularity. A single leader becomes the focus of nearly everything that happens, and I’m not just talking about on Sunday morning. I’ve seen some churches become paralyzed when the senior pastor is on vacation or even just out of the office. He is expected to provide guidance on every decision, every committee, every tiny detail of the church’s life and ministry...

The danger of singularity is increased by the recent trend toward video-based multi-site congregations. Rather than mitigating the risk of having a single teaching pastor, it actually compounds it by making more people and congregations dependent on one person. Now if that one pastor leaves or “fails” many more things are put at risk.

But whenever I’ve discussed this inherent danger with those operating video-based multi-site systems they invariably mention the efficiency and effectiveness of their model. Who can disagree? Utilizing one highly gifted person to impact thousands of people in multiple cities is unquestionably efficient...

But who decided that efficiency and effectiveness were the highest values for ministry? Building airliners with multiple engines, fuel systems, computers, and flight controls is very complicated. And all of those “redundant” parts add a lot of weight to the airplane. More weight results in burning more fuel to move it through the air. Burning more fuel costs the airlines more money to operate the airplane. Those higher costs are transferred to passengers in the form of higher fares. It might be possible to build a very inexpensive airplane with only one engine, one pilot, one computer (powered by Windows 7), and charge only $9.99 per passenger--but would you want to fly on it?

<idle musing>
He pegged one our idols here in the US: efficiency. I would argue that effectiveness doesn't happen—at least not if you are looking for changed lives instead of increased attendance and head knowledge. It certainly is efficient, though! Of course, if you are trying to build a community, it isn't effective...
</idle musing>

The negative and positive aspect of repentance

“Repent (שוב) and turn away from (שוב מן Hiphil) all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away (שלך Hiphil) from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make (עשה) yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!

“These verses reveal the purpose of the entire speech [Ezekiel 18], and this purpose lies in repentance. Repentance of this sort involves a fundamental turning from evil patterns, one that is described both as 'casting away' sin and 'making oneself a new heart and a new spirit.' Here we see that repentance has both a negative and a positive dimension: turning from sin and creating a new orientation. In addition, repentance involves both behavior ('your transgressions which you have committed') and the internal affections of heart and spirit.—A Severe Mercy, pages 278-279


From today's WSJ via Shelf Awareness, a daily booksellers' e-letter.

It's only natural for those locked out to despise the gatekeepers, but what about those of us in the reading public? Shouldn't we be grateful that it's someone else's job to weed out the inane, the insipid, the incompetent? Not that they always do such a great job of it, given some of the books that do get published by actual publishers. But at least they provide some buffer between us and the many aspiring authors who are like the wannabe pop stars in the opening weeks of each "American Idol" season: How many instant novelists are as deluded as the singers who make with the strangled-cat noises believing they have Arethaen pipes?

A friend, years ago, worked at a major New York publishing house tending the slush pile. It was her job to peruse the unsolicited manuscripts for anything that might be a hidden gem, and to send the dreaded form letters to the rest. She took no pleasure in sending rejections and was eager to find something, anything, worthy in the pile. She dreamed of discovering the great undiscovered talent—oh, what a story (and a career) it would make! Alas, in two years of sifting she found only one marginally plausible submission she could recommend to her bosses.

...No doubt there are geniuses languishing in obscurity. Who knows how many great books are just waiting to be discovered? But are we really more likely to find them once the publishing pros have been handed their hats and shown the door? I rather doubt it..

<idle musing>
Sounds like a rewarding job—NOT! We get some interesting ones here at Eisenbrauns, too...
</idle musing>