Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reading Through Leviticus-Deuteronomy with Goldingay

I am continuing to read through volume 1 of John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Gospel and posting quotes from it on my Facebook page. I continue to appreciate his fresh perspective and commitment to what the text itself says. Chapter 7 of volume 1 is entitled GOD GAVE: The Land, and it focuses on the journey/wandering of the nation of Israel from Sinai to Canaan and the preparation of the people to inherit the land, mainly from Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The journey should have been one of a few months but, unexpectedly it turned into 40 years of wandering. Sometimes Israel seems like a people blessed and at other times like a people cursed. The text keeps a tension between the sovereign promises of God and the necessity for the people to respond faithfully to God. As Goldingay concludes the chapter…

The tensions embodied in the narratives provide mirrors in which they may find themselves. They invite people to consider how far their experience is one of fulfillment and how far of fulfillment or shortfall. Awareness of fulfillment invites them to trust God for complete fulfillment. Awareness of nonfulfillment invites them to look for reasons or for what God wishes to achieve through it. Awareness of their own commitment invites them to challenge God to fulfill the promises. Awareness of their failure to commitment invites them to change. 528

The first section of the chapter is entitled The People of God: Sustained, Disappointed and Protesting. Goldingay comments that the “wilderness experience” seems to be a necessity to prepare God’s people for blessing. The wilderness is sometimes portrayed positively as the place of God’s blessing and at other times negatively as a place of chastisement. Israel’s wrong response in the wilderness should be a challenge to us when God takes us through our “wilderness experiences.”

Perhaps a "wilderness experience" is a sort of spiritual necessity and a people does not grow to maturity without it, through the First Testament shows it is possible to have the wilderness experience in spades without growing to maturity. 452

Yhwh uses natural resources (manna, quail, water, rocks and trees) but heightens their potential or capacity or significance. The people are invited to look to the natural but to expect God to do something supernatural through it. 457

The purpose of the trek through the wilderness was to meet God, receive his law and be prepared for entry into the land. This was to be the “honeymoon period of the relationship” with God. Instead, despite their spoken commitment, the people rebelled. Even the leaders, including Moses, were drawn into the rebellion. The people continually commit to God and continually disappoint Him. This seems to be the pattern for God’s people throughout time.

The church is, in Luther's famous statement, "at the same time right with God and sinful." If it does not own the second facet of its nature as well as the first, it risks behaving as if its own publicity were true and then becoming an agent of sin and oppression rather than that of freedom - as it has indeed been. 468

Section 3 of chapter 7 is entitled The People of God: Chastised and Mercied. One of God’s purposes in the wilderness experience is the testing of the faithfulness of His people. The wilderness experience can also result from chastisement. But neither of these stop God from fulfilling his plan to bless the people in the land and the people experience blessing even in the midst of chastisement. This pattern of testing, chastisement and re-commitment (with God adjusting his plan to meet the situation and fulfill his ultimate purpose) is typical for all of God’s people.

(The church's) wilderness experience tests the nature of its own commitment to God and reveals it to be a people characterized by rebellion and thus often subject to discipline, so that a whole generation or whole churches may be allowed virtually to die out...But God never casts off the people as a whole. It is on a journey to a land of promise. 474

In section 4 Goldingay deals with the issue of War, Its Nature and Rationales. He states that for Yhwh to give the land to Israel he must take it from someone else. Israel made war for a variety of reasons. Sometimes God fought a was of liberation for his people without them even having to fight themselves. God also commissioned Israel to fight punitive wars against nations who attacked them or who were a danger because of their violent natures. There is also a recognition in the text that war is a necessary evil from which the combatants must be cleansed. The war against Canaan was a “herem” in which Israel was told to cleanse the land from the perverse practices of the people there. Sadly, the most effective herem almost wipes out the tribe of Benjamin from the nation.

(The Old Testament) does not view war-making as in ideal state of affairs but it does assume it as a necessary way of reaching stasis. It looks forward to a day when Yhwh will bring war to an end. 480

Section 5 discusses War as the Means of Receiving God’s Gift. It is clear from the text that God gave Israel the land be means of war/conquest. However, how it happened is not very clear. Some texts imply a quick conquering of the land (Joshua) and others a gradual conquering (Judges). Some (Genesis) imply gradual migration and cultural differentiation from within. Goldingay would resist (and I agree) using the conquest story as a pattern for modern warfare. Ultimately, God gave Israel the land, Israel did not take it for themselves.

As ethnic groups, we are attached to our peoples, and as landed peoples, we are attached to our countries. Yet migration shows that neither is an absolute. It may be the rule rather than the exception that the current occupants of a land have not occupied that land from the beginning of time... That has the potential to make us less determined or exclusive in our attachment to our land or our ethnic group. These relationships are not timeless universals. 488

If we are serious about understanding the text, the realization that our question has not yielded all there is in the text will stimulate the exercise of imagination and reason to attempt to formulate another question that will yield more. Our eschatological aim is that eventually our questions and the text's answers for concentric circles rather than merely overlapping ones. Then we will need no more questions. 491

Israel did not come into possession of the land by its own effort. Yhwh handed it over to Israel, through leasehold rather than freehold, or lending it rather than giving it, and therefore Israel may not appropriate the contents of the land, which it must give back to Yhwh. 495

In Section 6, Goldingay presents “herem” as The Crusade for Holiness. The main purpose of herem is to devote things to destruction to avoid the “negative influence of other religions.” There were exceptions to the herem order (Rahab) when the objects confessed Yhwh. The focus was on pure worship of Yhwh. The Canaanites and Midianites threatened that.

The Ten Words forbid murder, unlawful slaying, not killing in general. Yet even when people are fighting a war that they believe is prosecuting a right cause, they are aware of guilt for killing people... War necessarily is a defiling activity... The enemy is after all human; the shedding of human blood tears the whole fabric of the cosmos. 495

The exclusion of Rahab and her family from herem shows that defilement can be overcome by confessing Yhwh. Rahab is a woman and a prostitute as well as a foreigner. She embodies "otherness" in the fullest sense, in ethnicity, gender and social status. It is thus the more significant that "hers is the first story which treats the issue of Israel's social definition." 498

The religion and wisdom of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and even Canaan can be a danger to be avoided with rigor and a resource to be mined with discernment. 505

Section 7 shows that The Acknowledgement of God is an alternative to defeat and destruction to the other peoples Israel comes in contact with. Gibeon and Rahab make the right choice and are blessed. Balaam and most of the Canaanite cities make the wrong choice and are defeated.

Moses' various prayers have presupposed that Yhwh does relent and have a change of mind, but Yhwh does not do so randomly, as a human being might. Both having a change of mind (about abandoning) and not doing so (about blessing) reflect the same fact: God's commitment to Israel. 508

In principle Canaanites must be eliminated, but Canaanites who behave like Israelites may take their place within the people of God. Israel's national boundaries are critically important, but flexible.... For people of unquestionable pedigree too, real membership of Israel involves choice, the decision to serve Yhwh rather than the gods of Canaan. Israel is "a people who chooses the God who has called them into being." 511

The next section, The Gift of God: The Land, sees Israel’s gift of the land  as a step in God’s purpose to “complete the creation project of subjugating” all the created world. The land becomes a place of blessing when it is the place of relationship with God. God owns all the land and gives it to his people to “possess.” As long as the people live in it according to torah they will “live long” in it and enjoy it.

It is not the land that carries a blessing to the people, but faithfulness to the God of justice, righteousness and mercy. But Yhwh chose to create humanity in bodily form and thus relates to Israel in a way that involves land and is not merely a matter of the spiritual, moral or theological. The story of Yhwh's involvement with Israel thus intrinsically involves the land. 512

From time to time the First Testament continues to emphasize that the land belongs to Yhwh, and the idea of gift and possession carries no implication of absolute rights to the land over against Yhwh... In relation to God, the Israelites remain in the position of resident aliens or migrant workers (Lev. 25.23). 517

If they turn to Yhwh when they have been cast off the land, Yhwh will restore them to possession of it (Deut. 30:1-5). Precisely because the land remains Yhwh's and Yhwh remains theirs, there can again be hope. 521

The final section of the chapter focuses on the end of the book of Numbers and describes the anticipated fulfillment of the land promise: The Giving of God: Fulfillment and Shortfall. Goldingay points out that when the land is seen as a gift of God there is blessing. But when the conquest is seen as a human achievement it leads to trouble. He also points out the tension between the promise to get the land and yet their inability to fully possess it. Ultimately it all depends on God.

Fulfillment of the promise is not earned by obedience. Obedience is vital, but fulfillment issues from God's purpose and God's faithfulness. Fulfillment when people are disobedient and failure of fulfillment when they are obedient highlight the fact that ultimate significance does not attach to human obedience. 527

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Guam

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10342890_901037833249195_9039957526666638172_nIt is Thanksgiving morning on Guam. I am the only one up in the house so far – Joyce was up late last night decorating the big classroom at PIU for the Thanksgiving celebration this afternoon. (thank you Kita for letting me steal your pictures from your Facebook page). Joyce says that her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. It is nice to be able to set aside a feast day to celebrate God’s provision and thank him for what He has given us. (On Guam the football games are on Friday so I don’t have to deal with that temptation). We enjoyed a special Thanksgiving chapel on Tuesday where staff, faculty and students got to share their testimonies of thankfulness. I shared that I am thankful that God works through me, despite (and even sometimes through) my pervasive dysfunctions, and brings gifted people to work alongside me. Thanksgiving is a loud affirmation that God is good, period.

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There was singing and sharing in chapel on Tuesday. Joyce and crew decorated on Wednesday

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #2 (9-16)

I am continuing to read through the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John Stott, and post quotes from my NT reading 3 times per week on my Facebook page. Synoptics RelationshipIn November I have continued reading through the Gospel of Mark, accompanied by the second volume in the series, The Message of Mark: The Mystery of Faith, by Donald English (as always his quotes are in blue font below). The second half of the book of Mark continues Mark’s concise action-oriented style that allows us to experience the progressive revelation of Jesus to the disciples as they experienced it in the trek to Jerusalem, the events of the passion week and the mystery of the resurrection. The book is open ended as it calls us to make the same decision posed to the disciples and the women in their fear and bewilderment (16.7-8). Jesus is waiting for you. Will you go to him?

Peter’s confession, the transfiguration, and Jesus’ teaching on servanthood demonstrate that, even though Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God, and rightful king, He came to serve and to sacrifice His life so that those who wish to experience the blessings of the kingdom would put their faith in Him and follow His example of humble self-sacrifice. The way to glory and the restoration of all things comes though betrayal, death and resurrection. Those who wish to follow Jesus must also follow his example of service and sacrifice.  8:26—10:52

Mark is signaling why Jesus has not thus far been open about who he is, and what will be the proper basis on which people will believe and understand what discipleship truly means. ‘There is no way rightly to understand who Jesus is until one has seen him suffer, die and rise again.’ Mark 9,2-13, 165.

The miracle does not depend on the degree, quality or amount of the man’s faith, but only on his having faith to link him effectively with the ministry of Jesus. It is the ‘faith as small as a mustard seed’ principle at work. The emphasis then is not on the quality of our faith but on the power of the Master with whom we are joined by faith. Mark 9.14-29, 168.

Defending the truth, feeling the best ways of living by it, and searching for purity in all things are laudable aims. But Jesus’ test is the simpler one of pedigree. Were the others living and acting in the power of his name? Mark 9.30-50, 172.

Jesus teaches that all who follow him, despite status, will be rewarded but all who keep people out of the kingdom will be judged (enough trouble is coming from the outside so be at peace with one another). One must be totally dependent on God to enter the kingdom. The rich young ruler is an illustration that one cannot enter the kingdom and receive its rewards without following Jesus in total dependence and service.

The Christian church must find a way to hold up, teach, prepare people for, and sustain couples in, the original divine purpose of one man, one woman for life. Yet at the same time it has to find ways of showing the deep compassionate sympathy and understanding of Jesus towards those for whom life has not turned out according to the highest ideals. Mark 10.1-12, 174–175.

The child is entirely dependent upon the parent in the very nature of things. Total trust is the center of a child’s existence. So it must be for the disciple...This is why group after group have so far in the story failed to enter in. They have all brought their own agenda—religious leaders, family, crowd. Only those helplessly needing to be healed, and occasionally the disciples, have burst through into the world of self-abandoning trust, like that of a small child. Mark 10.13-16, 176.

Jesus’ teaching in these verses shows discipleship as a self-denying, self-risking, self-giving part of lowly service for the redemption of the world. Yet so much of Christian life as one can now observe it is about gaining a secure position in society, inviting others to join us where we are, doing little to change the structures of our political and social life. Mark 10.32-45, 182–183.

Jesus’ passion and resurrection show that, even though He has the authority of kingship, Jesus chose to give up His life as the ransom for forgiveness of sins, but then rose from the dead and will return to set up His kingdom, so that people would follow Jesus now, recognize His authority as being from God and be ready for His return. 11.1-16.8

The triumphal entry, cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the Temple warn those that reject King Jesus that judgment is coming. 11.1-26

For Mark it is the lowliness and humility of the entry into Jerusalem which matters, not its triumphal nature. It is a kingship of hidden majesty, of humble power to save. Mark 11.1-11, 185.

The debate over Jesus’ Authority verifies that His authority to teach and rule comes from God and so he deserves obedience. 11.27-12.44

For this story, and many other parts of Scripture, to be taken with absolute seriousness we have to avoid a doctrine of God so controlling things that it always works out in detail as he plans. God’s sovereignty is neither wholly pro-active nor wholly reactive: it is interactive, and it is a privilege of our humanity that we can be part of that process of interactivity. Mark 12.1-12, 194.

We know ourselves to be made in the image of God, and that our commitment to him is the only absolute commitment that can be expected of human beings. Everything else must be worked out in the light of that one, total duty. Once we lose that broad perspective we rapidly become little different from any other groups in our involvement. Mark 12.13-17, 196.

The one who has already pronounced judgment on the temple, who has enunciated the double law of love which surpasses all other laws, and who now receives with approval the relegation of sacrifice and burnt offerings, will himself shortly act out the whole scenario as the basis of salvation for all who will respond. Mark 12.28-34, 199.

Jesus’s prophetic discourse warns his followers of the judgment and persecution (near and far in the future) to come, the coming false messiahs and to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man. 13.1-37

What is right for the Master is right for the disciple, though for different reasons. This may be the main reason why this gospel was written, to help people to see that true faith does not save one from hard times and difficult experiences, as many may have hoped. True faith often leads one into hard times and difficult experiences. The glory of faith in Christ is that we are not saved from them but in them. Mark 13, 205.

Written into the challenge to watch is the exhortation to perceive the meaning of things. Ordinary (and extraordinary) everyday events have an eternal significance, if only we can see it. The relationship of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 to the Parousia is a case in point. Jesus is hinting that everything that happens to us is projected on to the screen of eternity. We are becoming what eternally we shall be. Everything has a double point of reference—now and then. We are called to live the now in the light of the then. Mark 13.28-29, 210.

The events of Jesus’ trial and death show that He willingly gave up His life as a covenant sacrifice that would inaugurate the kingdom as He predicted 14.1-15.47

What has been called God’s ‘bias to the poor’ is plain in the gospels. We need to note, therefore, that it is not the supreme concern of Jesus. More important is being in harmony with God’s will and God’s timing (which will include caring for the poor but never allowing it to become the dominant factor). The gospel is good news to the poor; but the poor are not the heart of the good news. Jesus in his self-giving love to save humankind is at the heart of the good news. Mark 14.1-11, 213–214.

Eating and drinking was understood in the first century as a deep and intimate form of acceptance and sharing. Jesus has encouraged his disciples to eat his body and drink his blood. There could be no deeper symbol of total dependence on him and commitment to him. Even more significant still are the background themes of Passover and covenant. At the first Passover God defeated the enemies of his people and set his people free, protected as they were by the blood of the sacrificial lambs. Christ now offers his life sacrificially to defeat the enemies of God’s kingdom and to set free those who will be joined by faith (symbolized here by their eating and drinking) to him. Mark 14.27-31, 219.

What Judas did not discover, though Peter did, and we now know, is that there is forgiveness even for such betrayals... God can still take the broken and spoiled strands of life and weave them into the total tapestry. We should never be complacent about sin, since all sin betrays Jesus: but nor should we be destroyed by remorse or guilt when sin overtakes us—there is forgiveness and restoration. Mark 14.43-52, 223.

Mark’s double story provides alarming evidence of how easily institutions and corporate pressure can totally misrepresent the truth... There is a mystery about corporate evil which carries people along to do things which in their better judgment, and on their own they would never do. Our own century has provided several instances of the operation of what the New Testament calls ‘principalities and powers’ at that corporate level. Corporate evil flourishes when we believe that we are not responsible, that there is little we can do, that others make the policies, we only carry them out. Mark 14.66-72, 225.

The story continues to have strange relevance, since the teaching, dying, rising and ascending of Jesus are a constant rebuke to our human values and systems. ‘Giving to gain’, ‘dying to live’, ‘measuring time by eternity’, ‘estimating greatness by the degree of lowly service’, ‘first being last and last first’, and ‘the meek inheriting the earth’ do not simply cause derision, they produce great anger. Mark’s story not only tells how it happened to Jesus. Perhaps, with a sad shake of the head, he is preparing Jesus’ followers for much of the same. Mark 15.1-15, 230.

These are the only words of Jesus from the cross in Mark because Mark wishes to underline the enormous cost, to Jesus, of obedience to the Father’s will...He was bearing on himself all the awful consequences of human sinfulness before God, so that any who come by faith in him might be set free of those consequences, and follow his way of obedience to the heavenly Father. From the deepest point of darkness emerged the cry of desolation. Mark 15.21-41, 234.

Criminals sometimes lingered for days. Jesus lasted a surprisingly short time. Is this also part of the irony of Mark’s account? He who was not strong enough to resist death’s onslaught for very long is nevertheless the one who by his death is setting the many free (10:45). But this is only for those who see with the eye of faith. Mark 15.42-47, 237.

The resurrection event is recorded encourage people to follow Jesus and overcome their fears and doubts to proclaim the resurrection message 16.1-8

Part of Mark’s gospel is the mystery of unbelief. One reason for unbelief by people who should know better is that they are looking for all the wrong evidence. Jesus refuses to beguile them with a display of earthly power, or oratory about messiahship or fitting into their patterns. They will find the truth only as they look through the evident circumstances and by faith perceive the hidden realities. Mark 16.1-8, 240.

The breath-taking procession of miracles in the first half of the gospel, with the insistence of ‘immediately’ joining one to another in the story, has given way to a different model for discipleship. It is not the endlessly triumphal power display for which perhaps many longed—but the lowly path of obedient service on which Jesus’ miracles were actually based. But that lowly obedient service would bring him eventually to death and resurrection, its ultimate expressions...This is the true path of discipleship, not the permanently clear, bright and shining way but the lowly path of service, or rejection, or persecution, discovering daily the joy that is found not necessarily in happy circumstances but in faithful service and daily rising with him. Mark 16.6, 241.

Faith is to be a daily exercise of walking to where the Lord has gone, believing him to be there and finding him to be so. It is not a procession of cast-iron certainties, but an experience of trust in him who lived, and died, and rose to be with them forever...The sheer frailty and humanity of those first disciples are not to be forgotten. The men are not even there. The women (at least at first) are trembling … bewildered … afraid. They fled and said nothing. Our first-century forebears in the faith were not naturally superior (or inferior) to us. Neither did faith and discipleship come any easier for them. Yet despite all, they went on believing and laid the foundation for us. Mark 16.7-8, 242.

Children’s Day at PIU

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SAMSUNG            One of the most fun days of the Fall semester at PIU is the annual “Children’s Day” planned, performed and played by the Principles of Teaching class as their final class project. The class invites children from the neighborhood, their churches and from the community in general to a day of games, skits, ministry, Bible instruction and food. The professor, Dr. Christel Wood, has been at PIU since the mid-1990’s and has been leading this program as long as I can remember. In fact, some of the students in the class originally heard about PIU as children attending the event. Here are a few pictures.

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The theme of the day was “God answers prayer.” On the right Dr. Christel Wood leads the group in prayer.

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PIU students get an opportunity to interact with the kids in small groups

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and in large groups

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The PIU students have a lot of fun too

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PIU students telling the story and doing a skit

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It is even more fun for me now since my grandkids are involved

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The hot dogs and Kool-Aid were enjoyed too

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Student Life Chapel

SAMSUNG            Friday’s chapel was led by the Student Life team. The student life team consists of the staff (Sarah Brubaker, Daisy Murdock and Rob Puckett), the six resident assistants and the rest of the students. The SL staff has done a great job of organizing the students so that they take care of and support one another. As student Alfredson Perez so eloquently stated it, “It is not just Scott (his RA) that bibles us, we bible each other. It’s all about fellowship.” It is always an encouragement to hear from the students about what God is doing in their lives. This semester they have been studying their way through John’s First Epistle and so the songs, testimonies and skits reflected their thinking and application on 1 John.

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Rob and Daisy closed and opened the chapel. The RA’s led their small groups to lead the rest of the chapel service

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Scott’s group went first with some Bible reading, testimony and singing

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They were followed by Jordan’s group

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And Melvin’s group

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Nailynn, in the green shirt introduced the ladies’ portion of the program. The ladies did their program all together

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In the first skit Addie had a hole in her heart that could only be filled by Jesus (Nonie)

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The second skit (I think) warned about how easy it is to let other things get between you and Jesus

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The girls closed the program with an action song

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reading Through Exodus with Goldingay #2

Chapter 6 of Goldingay’s first volume of his Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Gospel is entitled God Sealed – Sinai and focuses on the pivotal event of Israel’s history – the appearance of Yhwh to reveal himself to them and the covenant that came out of it. Israel’s subsequent relationship to God always looked back to that encounter with his “compelling power and immediate presence.” The chapter discussed Exodus 19-40 in the context of the law and the rest of the Old Testament.

The first section in the chapter deals with Yhwh’s Covenant. God’s appearance at Sinai “reworks” his previous covenant relationship as a more detailed experience of God’s character entails a heightened degree of faith response. This “renegotiation” of the covenant will have both conditional and unconditional elements. This creates tension throughout the story as some texts emphasize that Israel fails to obey the heightened covenant expectations and others emphasize the faithfulness of God to fulfill the covenant promises. The “golden calf” incident is a good example of this as it leads to judgment, but also a covenant renewal ceremony. Even though the torah predicts a “complete collapse of the covenant, “Yhwh will not break the covenant” because “it was based on Yhwh’s commitment, not theirs.

In its behavior as well as its worship Israel lives in hope, lives as if expectation has become actuality. We live as if God has already taken us to the place of our destiny. Perhaps this encourages God to take us all the way there. 371

The second section focused on Yhwh’s Expectations within the covenant. Within the relationship, even though God is a friend and “lover” he is the authority in the relationship and is “the God who commands.” God’s commands were “liberating” and “delightful” and showed Israel the way to blessing. The rest of Israel’s history would be a working out of how to live out God’s revelation through Moses.

Yhwh's original design was a talking relationship. Yhwh would lay down the terms of the relationship, but would do so in the context of a conversation... The relationship Yhwh looks for is one in which Yhwh speaks and Israel listens responsively... Yhwh was not seeking a quasi-legal relationship... There is no "legalism" about Israel's attitude to God's commands. 380

Section 3, Yhwh’s Presence: At the Mountain, discusses what “we mean by God’s presence with us” in a way that “preserves the paradoxes involved in describing the reality of God’s presence.” (385) He answers the question about whether people can actually meet with God with “yes and no.” They hear the voice and see the fire on the mountain, but actually communicate with God through a representative – Moses. Yhwh’s presence is seen in the camp but the actual location of the meeting is on a mountain so that there is both immanent and transcendent elements to the story.

The status and significance of the Sinai events anticipate that of the historically crucial events involving Jesus... God may visit people from time to time in ways that may be as terrifying as the event on Sinai, but there is no reason to think that the place of the last visit will be the site of the next. Yhwh's location was not tied to a fixed place, even in the midst of the people, but to the people itself. 390

The next section of the chapter, Yhwh’s Presence: In a Sanctuary discusses how Israel’s liturgical practices, especially the building and use of the tabernacle, “do not provide a paradigm for ongoing meetings between the people and Yhwh.” It is significant that the tabernacle is mobile. It provides a place where God comes to the people and the people can come to worship. But at the same time it provides constraints “to resist the human inclination to feel we have God’s presence guaranteed by something more tangible than God’s word and our mutual commitment. (395) The tabernacle was also designed as a model of God’s real dwelling place in heaven and as a model of all creation, It affirmed the truth that God still ruled over creation and provided a place for his people to meet with him.

Yhwh must not be portrayed so large as to be inaccessible to ordinary people. Like a monarch who has a vast palace but also a country cottage, Yhwh is not confined to the whole world but can focus so as to be wholly present with Israel in this dwelling (the tabernacle).  401

Section 5 of chapter 6, Yhwh’s Presence: In Experience, shows that God’s presence is not confined to the tabernacle or Sinai but that “Yhwh’s Face” is with them to take “an active interest in what happens to them and takes action in light of that (403). Even then the people do not see the full “splendor” of God’s face. Even Moses is “covered by God’s hand” as God’s splendor passes by. Yes, the people see God’s splendor in its results as he provides for them. This experience of God’s goodness and grace elicits a response of fear and trust.

God's being with them or God's face being with them signifies not a mere sense of God's presence or inner religious experience, but a presence that expresses itself in action. It is God's doing extraordinary things for Israel that draws the world's attention. 404

Section 6, Yhwh’s Dilemma: Punishment and Mercy, deals with the question of how a sinful people can live the presence of a holy God. Again the text provides no formula that will predict God’s response to Israel’s unfaithfulness. Israel disobeys the law even as Moses is receiving it on Sinai. God could destroy all Israel and restart with Moses but he rejects that option. He also rejects the option to withdraw from Israel. Instead he stays with them creating tension for God and puts Israel in a “dangerous position before Yhwh.” Yet God risks pain by committing to compassion, grace and forgiveness and seals the covenant with Israel.

God is not only able to be active, decisive, self-sufficient, controlling, tough and unchanging, but also to be acted upon, relational, flexible, sensitive, vulnerable, and risk-taking. Yhwh combines love and toughness... The compassion and grace that are willing to carry wrongdoing are the foundation of the people's renewed relationship with God. (Exodus 34.6-7) 414

Section 6.7, Facing Up to Infidelity discusses God’s response to infidelity. Again there are many possible actions God could take. Punishment is necessary but often can be borne without requiring all the people to be destroyed. Even though the people offer repentance and obedience it is short lived and incomplete. The only solution is atonement and forgiveness provided by Yhwh. However, even the priests are not above infidelity so it ultimately must be God himself who fulfills the covenant. 

Yhwh is committed to taking the people on to their destiny in recognition of the fact that they are constitutionally inclined to rebellion and he will take them with a commitment to "carry" that rebellion. This is an act of creation, one of extraordinary sovereign power that refuses to be frustrated by the intransigence of the raw material with which it works. 423     

One of the most eye-opening sections to me was the 8th one: Models of Servanthood. Moses is the key leader and called the “servant of God.” Goldingay’s view is that God chooses Moses, not because of his qualifications, but despite his lack of qualifications. Moses is not successful when he exercises vision or walks ahead of the people. He is only successful when he speaks God’s words and trusts and obeys God. He also pays a huge price for taking on God’s call to leadership and ultimately is not successful in completing his task to take the people to the promised land.

Mosaic leadership does not offer a series of successful solutions but rather a set of perennial problems that may be mitigated from time to time but can never be resolved. Difficulty and disappointment, not triumphant success, punctuate his entire career. It cannot even be said that he learns from them. 431-432

In the final section, Models of Peoplehood, Goldingay suggest ten models for “understanding what Israel is.” They are first a “family,” a national “assembly,” a bureaucratic “organization,” an “army,” a religious “congregation,” a divinely chosen “hierocracy,” a “cultic gathering,” a “whole people of integrity,” and a “movement but also a settlement.” “They are not the people of the land, but of frustrated desire for land.” Of course in all these roles Israel was more dysfunctional than their leader Moses.

The metaphor (army) suggests that God's people has a task to fulfill that involves overcoming significant obstacles and opposition. It signifies the commitment and aggressiveness that need to characterize the community, the determination and assertiveness that characterize and army. 443

Covenant Players Chapel

SAMSUNG            Tuesday we had SAMSUNG            the Covenant Players in to perform at our chapel. This has become an annual event for us and it is always one of the most enjoyed (judging from the high volume of the constant laughter) chapels of the semester. They have also done drama workshops for us in the past. Drama is a very effective way to communicate the gospel and theological truth in our region and I know that the Covenant Players have affected the PIU family beyond just entertaining us. I especially appreciated their working in of personal testimonies into their presentation this time. We also enjoyed good fellowship and lunch with them after chapel.

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The plays were quite relevant to issues at PIU. I think drama sometimes allows sensitive issues to be confronted in a less threatening way. Anyway, they gave me some things to think about.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Joy Chapel

SAMSUNG            SAMSUNG            Last Friday the theme of our chapel was “Rejoice Always.” The chapel was led by education faculty member Marge Raess (right). Marge has a great deal of experience in the Guam school system and we are so thankful that she has donated her expertise to us to train many of our students to be excellent elementary school teachers over the past few years. The message was in the form of a dramatic reading performed by Marge’s students Dar, Janny and Scott. Of course the music fit the theme too. We can rejoice, not because of what is going on around us, but because of the One we know who is with us in the midst of all of it.

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The actors at work

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Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee