Monday, November 30, 2020

That elusive hope (no, not political!)

Hope of the resurrection is thus able to inspire believers to expect that God's original purposes for human life will ultimately come to fruition, despite what suffering we experience in the present. Paul’s affirmation in Philippians 1:6 is apropos: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Resurrectlon is the ultimate completion of God’s purposes.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 154

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Upside down world

Paul’s focus is the humble use of power to serve one another, as Jesus served sinful humanity by his sacrificial death (Phil. 2:5–8); in a fallen world, service often leads to suffering. This clearly calls into question any superficial, triumphalistic understanding of the kingdom of God or the restoration of rule, especially to engage in “culture wars” on behalf of the Christian faith (a powerful temptation in some varieties of contemporary Christianity).—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 146

Friday, November 20, 2020

It's coming! Wait for it…

That a great reversal is coming is basic to the biblical picture of God’s justice. As Mary sings in her song known as the Magniflcat, God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, / and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). But before the Magnificat, there was Hannah’s Victory song in 1 Samuel 2, on which Mary’s song was modeled.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 140

Thursday, November 19, 2020

It's official!

I announced in Ancient News that I would be leaving Eisenbrauns/PSU Press at the end of November. Today, it was officially announced that I have begun working for Lockwood Press. Below is the announcement that was posted to the Agade list via Jack Sasson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Shake, rattle, and burn!

Yet Psalm 104 is clear that while God’s judgment of evil (temporarily) destabilizes the cosmos, this is not God’s normative relationship to the world he loves. Earlier in the psalm we are told that God “waters the mountains” and that “the earth is satisfied from the fruit of [God’s] work” (v. 13). Indeed, at creation YHWH “set the earth on its foundations, / so that it shall never be shaken” (v. 5). The paradox is that God’s initially unshakable world, now distorted by evil, will indeed be shaken when evil is removed, but that is precisely so that creation can once again stand secure.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 126

Monday, November 16, 2020

Judgment with a purpose

Suffice it to say that if we were to investigate every case of theophanic judgment in the Old Testament, we would find not only that the language of extreme destruction typically describes some intrahistorical event, but also that it is always for the ultimate purpose of salvation.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 122

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

It's more than just a song

The logic of the prophetic critique is that although “worship” is an explicit claim of allegiance to YHWH, such a claim must be backed up with justice, which is a concrete demonstration of this allegiance. Wliat God really wants is human flourishing, embodied in the healing of the social order, and those who want what God wants will manifest this in their lives. Indeed, the bond between allegiance to YHWH and practice of justice toward the neighbor is so strong that Jeremiah tells King Jehoiakim that doing justice (particularly caring for the marginal) is equivalent to knowing God (Jer. 22:15-16). 104

<idle musing>
Would that someone would tell many modern-day "evangelicals" this! I really like the Anabaptist saying, "No transformation, no salvation." Now, before you accuse me of works righteousness and all that, let me say that all of the transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, empowering and giving the desire to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

He pegged it!

Just as the Torah affirms that the love of God should lead to a life of obedience, the prophets emphasize that Israel’s allegiance or submission to YHWH, the God of the exodus, ought to be manifest in a life that embodies righteousness and justice, since these are central to the interhuman flourishing that God desires. In the prophetic perspective, allegiance to the one true God inevitably flows into a life of obedience characterized especially by justice in human relations; by contrast, idolatry or false allegiance flows into a life of disobedience characterized by injustice. This is most fundamentally a matter of imaging God; the life of a person or community reflects the sort of god they are committed to. The two main targets of prophetic critique are thus idolatry and injustice, since false worship is inextricably linked to corrupt living.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 103

Thursday, November 05, 2020

The goal

The God of the Scriptures (unlike the deity imagined in some of our churches) is concerned for the entire range of earthly life and desires flourishing, well-being, and shalom—in short, salvation—for both humanity and the nonhuman creation. The way of wisdom, which is parallel to obedience to Torah, is meant to nurture holistic earthly flourishing, restoring the whole of life to what it was meant to be.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 102

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Psalm for the day

No matter your political position, this one is for you (and me):
1 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
     because his faithful love lasts forever.
2 Let Israel say it:
     “God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
3 Let the house of Aaron say it:
     “God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
4 Let those who honor the Lord say it:
     “God’s faithful love lasts forever!”

5 In tight circumstances, I cried out to the Lord.
     The Lord answered me with wide-open spaces.
6 The Lord is for me[a]—I won’t be afraid.
     What can anyone do to me?
7 The Lord is for me—as my helper.
     I look in victory on those who hate me.
8 It’s far better to take refuge in the Lord
     than to trust any human.
9 It’s far better to take refuge in the Lord
     than to trust any human leader.

<idle musing>
Especially verses 8–9: don't put your trust in anyone but the Lord.

Whoever "wins" this thing is subservient to—and must someday answer to—the Lord. Our calling as Christians is to be peacemakers, spreaders of shalom in the fullest sense of the meaning of that word: not just peace, but wholeness, healing, flourishing.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Public Service Announcement

This is from Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health. You can read the whole post here.
In other words, if most Americans pulled together to do the right thing and wore a mask in public [95 percent, from the previous paragraph], this simple, selfless act would save more than 130,000 lives in the next few months alone. If mask-wearers increased to just 85 percent, the model predicts it would save about 96,000 lives across the country.

What’s important here aren’t the precise numbers. It’s the realization that, under any scenario, this pandemic is far from over, and, together, we have it within our power to shape what happens next. If more people make the decision to wear masks in public today, it could help to delay—or possibly even prevent—the need for future shutdowns. As such, the widespread use of face coverings has the potential to protect lives while also minimizing further damage to the economy and American livelihoods. It’s a point that NIH’s Anthony Fauci and colleagues presented quite well in a recent commentary in JAMA.

<idle musing>
In my words: If you love your neighbor, you will keep social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands. What is so difficult about that? It's time to grow up and realize the world isn't about you and what your so-called rights. Especially as a Christian, you are called to love your neighbor.

If you can't even put on a mask, that doesn't speak well of your commitment to Jesus. Just an
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

Today is election day in the United States—as if anybody needed to be reminded. All I can say is to pray: Pray for peace. Pray for wisdom. And live as a person of peace—whatever your politics are—and that is a not-so-idle musing.

Hermeneutics count

God’s norms for creation are constant, but the articulation of these norms might need to change in order to address the actual historical situation that God’s people find themselves to be in.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 101 n. 10

Monday, November 02, 2020

Torah and wisdom

Torah and wisdom are not exactly the same in the Old Testament. Yet the convergence between the two is uncanny. Both Torah and wisdom describe, in strikingly parallel Ways, God’s norms for life and blessing (that is, the way of salvation or flourishing), and both are contrasted with paths that lead to death.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 96