Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #3 (6-8)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. The Gospel of John chapters 6-7 begin a new section in which Jesus shows His divine glory (he makes alive and judges) in his relationship to two Jewish festivals: Passover and Tabernacles. In both, he is not just a participant. Instead he is the God that is worshiped in these festivals. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 6 shows Jesus as superior to Moses because He is the God of the Passover and Exodus event. The  feeding of the 5000 identifies him as the Passover lamb and the one who provided bread in the wilderness to sustain the life of his people. Walking on the water presents Jesus in terms of the way Old testament theophany presented YHWH, as ruler over the chaos. It also shows that Jesus is the One who gets his people across the water, as when God miraculously parted the sea to allow Israel to escape from Egypt. When the crowd asks Jesus to explain the miracles, he says "I am the bread" that comes from the Father. Jesus Himself is the one that sustains life now and provides eternal life (physical and spiritual) in the age to come. The only way to get this life is a daily regular, pictured by eating and drinking, trust in Jesus that humbly listens to his word and relies on his provision. He then provides the Spirit who enables this supernatural quality of life. Most of the crowd responds to this revelation the same way they responded to Moses in the wilderness: they grumbled and complained and many quit following Jesus. The question to us becomes, are we willing to acknowledge who Jesus is and make the daily commitment to base our entire lives upon him and what he provides. 

We do not expect a small amount of food to feed many people nor the surface of the water to support a human being, and neither do we expect body and blood to bring us eternal life. But, just as Jesus is far superior to Moses, so too the salvation he brings is far more than the provision of physical food and the protection from physical danger. John 6.1-21, 149–150

Our primary work is being receptive to God. All our actions and plans are dependent on the most important action—union with God in Christ by the Spirit. Ultimately it is not a matter of our working for God, but a matter of God’s living his life and doing his work through us as we trust him and align ourselves with him by his grace. John 6.22-30, 154

Along with the revelation of God’s sovereignty is the revelation of his desire that all be saved (1 Tim 2:4)...It is a mystery how salvation can be open to all yet dependent on the will of God...In practical terms, this dual teaching of Scripture leads us to two responses. The first is a life of praise and joy in the revelation of a gracious heavenly Father who is utterly good and completely for us. The second is a life of real effort, taking seriously our Lord’s call to enter the narrow gate (Mt 7:13) and to persevere to the end. John 6.30-71, 160

The next section (7-8) intensifies the conflict about Jesus, as he reveals himself even more clearly at the Feast of Tabernacles. The issue here is the origin of Jesus. Those who reject him are looking at Jesus as just a teacher from Nazareth, while Jesus' claim is that he came from the Presence of the Father. He has come from God and supplies the "bread" and "water" (37-39) of the age to come because He is the presence of God in the flesh and will provide God's continued presence to people through his giving of the Spirit. His credential is not from a rabbinic school, but from the Father as attested by his miracles and teaching. Jesus says that he handles the law correctly and truly understands its purpose, to reveal God and teach people how to image God in their relationships. This is why Jesus is justified when he heals on the Sabbath. The response is mixed with many of the audience, the temple guard and even one Pharisee, Nicodemus, listening to Jesus, but the almost all the Jewish leadership opposes him. Jesus forces us to take him on his terms alone and to interpret scriptures with him as the guiding principle.

If Jesus is Lord, then he cannot be wedded to any other religion or philosophy. Rather, he is the standard of truth by which we assess all other claims. There are elements of truth in all religions, but we are able to recognize those elements precisely because they cohere with Jesus, the truth incarnate. If Jesus is not the truth, then he cannot offer us life. John 7.1-13, 181–182

This call to right judgment is a challenge to each of us, for we are all guilty at times of judging by appearances. The only way to avoid such shallowness is to be united with God and to share in his truth about Jesus and about our own lives. This requires that we will God’s will (7:17), which means God’s will as God knows it, not as our prejudices and sins tailor it. To will God’s will is to have a purity of heart and a clarity of vision that come through death to self. Until we have found our own heart (which lies deeper than our emotions and imagination) and made contact with God there, we will be in danger of judging by appearances instead of with right judgment. John 7.14-36, 187

When Jesus cries out at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles on this particular day, the worshipers meet God in his sanctuary—in the person of his Son. The longing for God is met with God’s invitation to come and be satisfied. In Jesus, God’s own desire for man is expressed and the desire of man for God is met. All that the temple represented is now found in Jesus. John 7.37-39, 194

Like these Pharisees it is all too easy to mistake our interpretations of God’s revelation for reality. We should hold firmly to what has been revealed in Scripture under the guidance the Spirit has given the church, but we must do so in an abiding relationship with the living God in whose presence we live. We must hold firmly to him in his objectively real presence and allow him to correct our personal, faulty understandings of him and his ways. The truth is in Jesus in perfection, but our apprehension of him is not yet perfect. John 7.40-52, 203

The next section was certainly not originally part of John's Gospel. Whitacre sees it as a "patch" from one of the Synoptic writers which, though it does not do it with the language and style of John, fits the theme of this section. Jesus acts with the authority, and mercy and grace, of God to forgive a sinner and restore relationship with God.

Jesus' noncondemnation is quite different from theirs. They wanted to condemn but lacked the opportunity; he could have done so, but he did not. Here is mercy and righteousness. He condemned the sin and not the sinner. But more than that, he called her to a new life. The gospel is not only the forgiveness of sins, but a new quality of life that overcomes the power of sin. John 7.53-8.11, 209

The rest of chapter 8 deals with Jesus' teaching, during the "lamp-lighting ceremony" of the feast, to be the "Light of the world." Again Jesus is identifying himself with YHWH of the exodus experience who led Israel as a pillar of fire to light the night and lead the way. Jesus is the greater light who overcomes the spiritual forces of darkness, sin and death. Because the people do not understand the metaphor, Jesus makes his claim more concrete by claiming to be the One from above, who comes from the Father, reveals the Father, and distributes the blessings of the Father. When his opponents reject him again with accusations of being demon possessed, Jesus directly addresses their problem: they act like the devil who tries to live in independence from God and thus takes a stand against truth and life. Jesus then makes the explicit claim to be the "I AM" which they also reject. This is the decisive turning point of the Gospel. Though many Jews have believed in Jesus and received his message, the official leadership has rejected him and the nation will be judged. Jesus will now form his kingdom community apart from the temple. 

The world lies in darkness and death because it has rebelled against God and thus broken contact with the one source of light and life. Jesus claims to be the light that brings light and life back to the world and sets it free from its bondage to sin. All the salvation that went before, such as the deliverance celebrated at this feast, was a type of this deepest and truest salvation that Jesus now offers. John 8.12-20, 212

In this section we have Jesus’ very clear statement of his divine identity, of the necessity to have faith in him and of how the cross will reveal most clearly his identity as I AM. John 8.21-30, 218

Jesus has claimed to be I AM, the divine presence. So when he leaves the temple it is nothing less than “the departure of the Divine Presence from the old ‘Holy Space’.” He will not return again to the temple; he will come only to its outer precincts (10:23). His formation of a community apart from the temple will now become more apparent. John 8.31-59, 233–234

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

PIU Shirts

Here is Joyce and I modeling our new PIU shirts. Joyce brought them back from Guam. I really miss the people and the work we did there. Please pray for the school as they head into the annual PIU Days celebration and a very important board meeting in March.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Brief Medical Update

27983232_10213919254563235_6940450497373603902_oThis update had to be brief because not much has changed since the last one. But, this is a very important week for us so I thought it warranted an update. I have been recovering slowly from my November stem cell transplant and chemotherapy that went with it. I am gaining strength to walk a little more each day, do some strength and edema exercises, and get out a little more. I have not noticed any cancer symptoms returning and am thanking God for that. The edema does not seem to be getting much better at all and is still a concern. It limits what I can do and how long I can stay up or sit up. That is why this week is a turning point. First, I will see my local oncologist on Wednesday to get an update from him. This will be my fist visit there since the transplant. Then on Friday I will go to Stanford for a PET scan to make sure there is no recurrence of lymphoma. We are fairly confident and hopeful for a good outcome there, but I’d be lying if I said that I am not a little nervous. Then later Friday afternoon we see the edema specialist to hopefully begin a treatment program that will deal with that issue. So my big prayer requests here are for a clear PET scan and some relief (healing) from the edema.

After the appointments at Stanford our plans are to head down to Scotts Valley on Saturday and spend a few days there. We plan to attend Gateway Bible Church on Sunday  and see our ministry partners there. We will then go back to Stanford on Thursday March 8th to get the results of the scan from our transplant doctor. This should help us get some more clarity for our future plans, but, even in the best case scenario, I will still be on disability status and in treatment protocol. We really cannot make any long term plans until my case is reviewed in January 2019. Nevertheless our prayer is for continued improvement so that we begin to be more involved in ministry and connection as 2018 progresses. Even though we will not receive a salary from the mission in 2018, we will still be active as missionaries  there with our account support funds used for ministry expenses and costs of moving from Guam. We appreciate your prayers and support for us and our ministry, and your encouragement for us as we continue to trust God for what He has for us in the future.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #16

BrueggemannThis post moves into the concluding section as we read through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. The final section of the theology, Prospects for Theological Interpretation, discusses the question of where Old Testament theology is or should be going in the future. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 26, Interpretation in a Pluralistic World, focuses on how OT theology should develop in a world no longer dominated by a Western Enlightenment worldview, but instead presents many different possible metanarratives (though most are not presented openly or honestly) to us that could be appropriated. The Old Testament (and I would say the whole Bible), with its approach to present God without resolving all the tensions that its presentation produces, speaks well into a pluralistic world. First, one must start with the text, and try to understand it, as much as possible, within its original contexts. We must understand that interpretive schemes or theological systems (including our own) are greatly influenced by other contexts and should be reviewed and reevaluated periodically. We need to apply new applications of the text, to new situations, with new questions. This does not mean we start over. We read the text WITH our traditions, not UNDER them. As Christians, we recognize that the Holy Spirit has worked in the past, with people from very different traditions who ask the Bible very different questions, and we need to listen to and honor that testimony. As a missionary, I got to hear interpretations, theologies and applications of scripture from people of other cultures that the Spirit used greatly in my life. I think this kind of "pluralism" can only strengthen the church.

Because different interpretations in different contexts—driven by different hopes, fears, and hurts—ask different questions from the ground up, it is clear that there will be no widely accepted “canon within the canon,” which is itself a function of hegemonic interpretation. As a consequence, we are now able to see that every interpretation is context-driven and interest-driven to some large extent. 711

I anticipate that Old Testament theology, in its attempts to honor the plurality of the text, will have to reckon with the cruciality of speech as the mode of Yahweh’s actuality, the disputatious quality of truth, and the lived, bodied form of testimonial communities. 716

I am content to have theological interpretation stay inside the text—to refrain from either historical or ontological claim extrinsic to the text—but to take the text seriously as testimony and to let it have its say alongside other testimonies. 718

In chapter 27, The Constitutive Power of Israel's Testimony, Brueggemann makes his point again that Old Testament theology must be concerned with the OT text that we have. We should not be looking at the research into the history behind the text which leads to theological skepticism or for anything beyond the text. The text itself was what made Israel the community that it was. The testimony of the text to the God Israel worshiped should be what constitutes our theology. We must not remove the tensions in the text to conform them to our own theologies, nor should we add anything. In my opinion, Christians must understand the OT in its own context before we apply Jesus' hermeneutic to it. Yes, all the OT scriptures speak of Jesus (Luke 24.44) but we must understand the OT as Israel's testimony to rightly see how the New Testament writers used it.

Israel’s testimony about a world with Yahweh at its center intends to debunk and nullify all other proposed worlds that do not have Yahweh at their center. This testimony undertaken persistently by Israel is not neutral or descriptive, but it is thoroughly and pervasively partisan advocacy. This partisan advocacy, moreover, is generative and constitutive of a new world, when “recruits” sign on to this world of utterance. In signing on, such recruits and members at the same time depart other worlds that are based in other normative utterances (Joshua 24:23). 723

It may be simply that the issue of ideology and elusiveness is the very marking of constancy that belongs to Yahweh who is endlessly responsive and available and at the same time intransigently sovereign. That unresolved, and perhaps unresolvable, issue is precisely what is so compelling and so maddening about Old Testament theology. 724

My argument is an insistence that utterance is all we have—utterance as testimony—and that utterance as testimony is enough, as it was for the community of Israel. 725

Friday, February 23, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #2 (1.19-5.47)

JohnWith this post we begin reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. The Gospel of John portrays Jesus’ ministry as a progressive revealing of the glory of the Divine Son of Man and Son of God in the words and acts of Jesus of Nazareth. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

This glory of Jesus as the Divine Son of God begins to be revealed in the first few chapters of the Gospel. The first witness to Jesus' glory is John the Baptist. He testifies to the crowd and delegation from Jerusalem that he saw the Spirit descend and rest on Jesus. Jesus is the pre-existent Coming One, the Son of God, Son of Man, and Lamb of God. John directs his disciples toward Jesus, which is what a true humble disciple of Jesus should do. Andrew and Philip typify good disciples who stay in the presence of Jesus and direct others to Him. The conclusion of chapter 1 (v.51) is critical to the message of the book. Jesus fulfills what Israel (Jacob) was supposed to do. Jesus will connect heaven and earth and be the One who will provide God's covenant blessing to all the world. The key is to hear Him and stay in His presence.

John the Baptist is true to his task, for he is testifying to the light (cf. 1:7). Even when he is asked to testify concerning himself he points to Jesus. Thus he is a model of humility, a key characteristic of discipleship in this Gospel. So the Baptist himself is a lamp (5:35), both shining on Christ and exposing the ignorance of the opponents. We find in him a powerful example of humility, single-mindedness and witness. John 1.19-34, 66

These disciples, who will shortly be so full of words, opinions and activity, are characterized at the outset by a desire for the presence of Jesus more than for answers to questions. Their immaturity will become evident immediately, but the crucial issue in discipleship is not whether we are mature but whether we desire to come and see and then abide in the divine presence, the only source of eternal life and growth in grace and truth. John 1.35-51, 72

Chapter 2 begins John's account of how Jesus revealed His Divine glory in action. At Cana, Jesus shows that He is the one who brings in the "new wine" of the coming kingdom, which is pictured in the OT as a wedding banquet. Jesus reveals God's gracious generosity in the over-abundance of wine provided. In the confrontation with the Jewish leadership in the temple, Jesus reveals His body as the "new temple," the place where God and people can come together in relationship. The confrontation also prefigures the opposition that will result in his sacrificial death which makes this relationship possible. Jesus is working on His Father's timetable and plan to show God's glory to the world, which the disciples will only understand after the resurrection and ascension.

The glory is also evident in the graciousness of this event, as the prologue has prepared us to notice (1:14). In response to a humble request Jesus provides wine in abundance, over 100 gallons. Here is a free, full, extravagant outpouring, and it is precisely the Son of God’s gratuitous, gracious generosity that is the glory revealed in this sign. John 2.1-11, 80

The death of the Son of God in Jerusalem at the instigation of these Jewish opponents during a later Passover is already referred to here in the opponent’s first provocation at this earlier Passover in Jerusalem. By including this event at the outset of the story and bringing out the themes we have noted, John shows the glory of the cross shining through Jesus’ life from the start. The divine gracious love is crucial to Jesus’ life, and it is at the heart of this story, both in the reference to his death and in his gracious teaching of those who will become his opponents. John 2.12-22, 85

The events in Cana made it clear that Jesus only takes his cues from his Father. In this sense Jesus does not entrust himself to anyone. He is present to all with God’s love, but he is also detached from all in his attachment to God. John 2.23-25, 86

In John 3 Jesus reveals His glory to two people who have been insiders, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and the disciples of John, but neither really understand. Nicodemus confuses physical and spiritual truths. Jesus is saying that, just as one has a physical birth, one must also have a spiritual birth (from above) to have eternal life. Jesus is the One who comes from above, reveals God's love through the cross and is the only one who can provide this eternal life to the one who trusts in Him. John's disciples also fail to understand this and are jealous of Jesus' popularity. John sets them straight that Jesus is superior because He came from above, while John is just an earthly man. The big point is that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God who ministers the Spirit of God to the world. Thus, response to Jesus determines eternal life and judgment. The necessary response is that of John. We must humbly trust and follow Jesus and find our joy in relationship to Him.

The lifting up of the Son of Man points us to the center of his revelation, the cross. The cross itself is a heavenly thing for it reveals the life of heaven that Jesus has come to offer us (3:15). Since God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and love is the laying down of one’s life (1 Jn 3:16), it is precisely in the cross that we see God most clearly. Jesus humbles himself to the point of crucifixion because he is God, not despite it. That God is love is the good news—this revelation is the gospel.  John 3.1-21, 91

John’s joy is in fulfilling God’s will for his life—a model of Christian discipleship. He raises the question for all who would be disciples of Jesus, Where do we find our joy? It is easy to get distracted by the pleasurable blessings of this life. We should be thankful and receive gratefully God’s blessings, but our joy’s deepest foundation is God in himself. John 3.22-36, 97–98

In John 4, Jesus reveals His glory to two people who would have been considered outsiders, a Samaritan woman and a Herodian official. These two have the exemplary faith response that neither Nicodemus nor John's disciples display. The faith of the Samaritan woman and the servant of Herod is contrasted with the faith of the Galileans who would only believe in the signs Jesus did. The Samaritan woman, though confused at first, believed that Jesus was who He said He was and brought her village to Him. The servant believed a somewhat ambiguous word of Jesus and received healing for His Son. The sign did not come until after He believed. The big point is that salvation does not come to someone because of their ethnic origin or superficial knowledge, but because they believe that Jesus reveals the loving God of heaven and His word reveals truth and provides spiritual life. This is worship "in spirit and truth."

To worship in spirit and truth means to worship as one who is spiritually alive, living in the new reality Jesus offers, referred to here as the gift of God, which is living water. For behind the earthly things are the heavenly things, that is, God himself (cf. 3:12). Worshiping in spirit is connected to the fact that God is spirit (4:24). And worshiping in truth is connected with Jesus, the Messiah who explains everything (4:25–26)...So worshiping in spirit and truth is related to the very character of God and the identity of Christ. It is to worship in union with the Father, who is spirit, and according to the revelation of the Son, who is the truth. Indeed, it is to be taken into union with God through the Spirit. John 4.1-42, 106–107

Faith is belief that God is who and what Jesus reveals him to be, the loving Father, and it is trust in this God. This official seems to have something of this faith. John 4.43-54, 115

This section climaxes in John 5 with Jesus' healing of a man on the Sabbath in Jerusalem. Jesus' defense of His authority to do so, that he is "One with the Father," sets the theme of what John is trying to show in the rest of the Gospel. Jesus tells the invalid to carry his mat, which was forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus claims the right to do so because God is allowed to do the work of "carrying the universe" and judging and making alive, thus making himself equal with God. He does this in himself (5.26), making himself more than just an agent of God. He is the Creator God who gives life and manages all creation. To receive Jesus is now the only way to receive the Father. Jesus closes his defense by calling the Father as a witness to his deity. The Father witnessed to Jesus' identity through John the Baptist, Jesus' works (miracle) and words and through the Old Testament. The ball is now in the court of Jesus' audience. Would they respond to the witness and receive life from God or reject it and bring judgment on themselves. 

Thus Jesus is healing one who is totally unworthy, and in doing so he reveals God’s graciousness. Here we have revealed God’s love, which embraces even one who betrays him. The light of God’s glory is shining at its brightest in this manifestation of his love for his enemies. John 5.1-15, 123–124

The Father has put everything into the Son’s hands (3:35), including the most fundamental realities of human existence, the giving of life and judgment. These two activities are at the heart of everything Jesus does in this Gospel, and these verses spell out his right to such responsibility and power. John 5.16-30, 129

In Jesus’ reference to this fourth witness we have the clearest expression of the Christian view of the Old Testament (5:39). This Christ-centered understanding of the Scriptures is affirmed throughout the New Testament and throughout the history of the church. Jesus is the Word, the point of reference for all the words of Scripture. The importance of the Scripture is here affirmed, but Scripture is presented as a means to an end, as a witness to Jesus the Christ. John 5.31-47, 138

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #15

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 23-24 continue the section of the theology on Israel's Embodied Testimony, showing how the religious rites/temple system and wisdom tradition mediated God’s presence to Israel. Chapter 25 summarizes the section. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 23, The Cult as Mediator, discusses how the temple, the tabernacle and Mosaic feasts, regulations and sacrifices that went with it, the religious liturgies in the Psalms and other religious practices contained in the OT ministered the real Presence of God to the nation. These practices provided revelation beyond abstract words and involved concrete sights, smells, and actions to bring both God's and the people's active participation in the relationship. This also brought tension into the theology of the practices which Brueggemann sees as Deuteronomic, "low church" practices which characterize God as omnipresent and beyond human understanding and Priestly, "high church" practices which made Him available in a temple. This tension is left unresolved in the Old Testament. People need a way to make God accessible, but these can be taken for granted by selfish people and religious practices are often selfishly perverted (the temple needed to be reformed by several kings) or become empty ritual (as vehemently criticized by the prophets). Nevertheless, God provided a very concrete way for the people of Israel to connect with His real Presence in the Old Testament system.

There was in the Jerusalem temple, presumably in some regularized way, great joy in the awareness that Yahweh is a sovereign who has established governing control, who has enunciated policies of justice and well-being (shalôm), and who will be “in residence” and available for those who come there. Worship in the Jerusalem temple is something like a royal drama, and entry into “the place of Yahweh” is something like a royal audience with a monarch who in generosity and mercy can enact well-being for his adherents. 655–656

Yahweh’s own self is being mediated, made graciously accessible and available to Israel in these cultic arrangements..In these texts, Israel is dealing with the God who is sovereignly glorious, holy, and jealous, but who intends relatedness that puts Yahweh’s own life at risk in the midst of Israel. The cult is concerned with nothing less than and nothing other than such presence, and therefore we may well understand the extreme care taken with these arrangements. 663

So Israel’s sacerdotal traditions must continue to trouble over and adjudicate the delicacy of the matter of cultic presence. Yahweh must be in the temple, if Israel is to find wholeness and assurance there. Yahweh must not be bound to the temple, if Yahweh’s true holiness is to be fully recognized...The canonical testimony of Israel provides ample evidence for both a “catholic” sacramentalism and a “protestant” protest against a controlled, controlling sacramentalism. 675

Chapter 24, The Sage as Mediator, discusses the role of wisdom teaching in the revelation of YHWH in the OT. That is, the presence of God is revealed through creation in a "natural theology" gained through observation and experience of the way creation works. As this developed in the later stages of Israel's history it was more closely tied to the Torah and its interpretation. Because it is based on observation it continues to develop as new information becomes available. It is important to get this right because living within the boundaries God has set in creation is the key to success. Apocalyptic literature in the OT is clear that God has a plan that will be accomplished and wise people will live in accordance with that plan. The tension in this is to maintain the Mosaic traditions in the Torah while being creative in applying them to the new situation. This is the environment and tension within Judaism when Christ came. This is always a tension within Christian exegesis and interpretation as well.

Thus “natural theology” as revelation does indeed mediate Yahweh, who is seen to be the generous, demanding guarantor of a viable life-order that can be trusted and counted on, but which cannot be lightly violated. The wisdom teachers, for the most part, do not speak directly about God, but make inferences and invite inferences about God from experience discerned theologically. 681

Wisdom teaching is an ongoing, developing process. Therefore, to halt the process by refusing to consider new experience is not “right,” for it misrepresents Yahweh and Yahweh’s reality in the world. It is one thing to acknowledge that the initial deposit of wisdom has arisen from experience. It is quite another thing, with the deposit of experience firmly in hand, to acknowledge new truth—new revelation carried in new experience. Job’s friends could not. Job 42.8, 687

Wisdom understands that Yahweh has a resolute will and a hidden purpose that cannot be defeated in the workings of historical vagaries. That is, Yahweh’s hidden purpose, intrinsic to the processes of creation (logos; sophia) cannot and will not be defeated. Apocalyptic is the categoric assertion of Yahweh’s wise and resolute sovereignty and wisdom. In its appeal to the sovereign creator, wisdom teaching provides material for the fashioning of an apocalyptic articulation of faith. 693

Chapter 25, Modes of Meditation and Life with Yahweh, closes and summarizes the section on how the presence of YHWH is mediated in and to Israel. Brueggemann emphasizes that all these ways of mediation originate with God and are a gift of God, but they operate within the "real-life circumstances" of the people. They make God presence available to the people, but God takes a risk in doing so because people can pervert the revelation they have received and we see this happen in the OT over and over. Torah, kingship, prophecy, worship, and wisdom were intended to be God's presence lived out in Israel in its communal practices, its worship, its history, and its just communities. Israel's speech and action were to be mediation of God's very real presence within Israel to its neighbors.

Idolatry, however, is not a vacuous religious idea. In practice idolatry (hatred of the true God) comes down to oppression (hatred of the neighbor). Thus the Torah binds Israel singularly to Yahweh in the two practices of love of God and love of neighbor. Without Torah, Israel would disappear, and life would be handed over, without protest, to the brutalizing, oppressive ways of life known elsewhere, rooted in the worship of wrongly discerned gods. 697

If it were not for these forms of mediation, Yahweh, as known in Israel’s testimony, would not be available to Israel. When the mediations are distorted, the Yahweh given in the mediation is to that extent distorted. Yahweh is not some universal idea floating around above Israel. Yahweh is a concrete practice in the embodied life of Israel. For that reason everything depends on faithful, sustained, intentional mediation. 701

Israel as a community has access to Yahweh, because it is a community that regularly, in disciplined ways (and also in ad hoc ways), comes to be addressed, to listen, to respond, to enact a world out loud, construed with Yahweh at its center. 702

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #1 (Intro, 1.1-18)

JohnWith this post we begin reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. John clearly announces the purpose of His Gospel to be “that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.”  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

The Gospel of John is quite differently than the other three. It is organized more in a theological than chronological arrangement (except in the Passion section), it emphasizes Jesus' Divine transcendence more than the coming kingdom, and seems to show later theological reflection, with the direction of the Spirit, on what Jesus said and did. John shows that Jesus is the Light, the ultimate revelation of God; the Life, the One who provides the eternal life from God to people; and Love, revealed by a God who is the Creator (Logos), and yet is willing to wash disciples' feet and give His life, so created beings can gain life.  John calls disciples to strengthen their faith, despite persecution, and live a life of humble service that witnesses to the light, life and love that Jesus displayed.

John is thoroughly committed to the importance of history, but he wants to tell the story of Jesus as interpreted by the abiding Spirit. One of the themes throughout the Gospel is how cryptic Jesus’ words and deeds are within the story. What was cryptic then is now clear in the light of the glorification. John wants us to understand Jesus’ identity and significance in a way no one at the time possibly could, in order that we may respond in faith, continue to respond in faith and thereby share in the very life of God. 24

John proclaims Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament in its legal, prophetic and wisdom traditions and also of all religious and philosophical insight. In part this is accomplished by using such archetypical symbols as light, darkness, wine, water and bread, and also by revealing Jesus as the focal point for such universal religious concerns as truth and love. 34

The Prologue of the Gospel summarizes its message. Jesus, in eternity past, is God and was with God. He is the eternal God who has become a human being. Jesus is the full expression of God the Creator in a fully embodied human being, and ultimate communication of God to the world, so that people would put their trust in him and have eternal life; and that believers live in intimate connection and dependence on Jesus, through the Spirit, to the glory of the Father and Son. That is, Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of the One God who is the Creator of everything. As God in human flesh He calls people into a relationship of total commitment with him.

Here at the outset we have the two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus in this Gospel, namely that he himself is the presence of God’s own life and light and that he makes this life and light available to human beings. In one profound sentence we have the central assertion of this Gospel concerning the revelation of the Son and the salvation he offers. John 1.1-5, 53

John is claiming that in Jesus we have received the real thing, the truth from which all truth flows and the criterion for recognizing truth wherever it may be found. John 1.6-13, 54–55

To say the Son is full of truth is to claim he is the perfect revelation of the divine reality (cf. 15:15; 17:10), and saying he is full of grace expresses the character of that reality, the truth about God. “The glory of God is shown by his acting in faithfulness to his own character, and by his character’s revealing itself in mercy.” John 1.14-18, 60

Monday, February 19, 2018

Joyce is Back Home

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20180217_140004 (576x1024)27983232_10213919254563235_6940450497373603902_oJoyce is back home. I picked her up at the Sacramento airport Sunday morning at about 9 after she spent about 18 hours in transit. She got home just in time for temperatures to dip down below freezing but I think she is glad to be here. She spent her last day on Guam with our friends Tony and May Vigil. They went out for lunch on Saturday at the Hyatt (above). She even ran into one of our PIU alumni while she was there. (right) I appreciate them taking good care of Joyce while she was there. She will have some more work to do when she goes back to Guam in a couple months. We would appreciate prayers for guidance and timing as we prepare to sell our house there.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Joyce Sent Me Some More Pictures

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20180216_134013 (1280x720)Joyce sent me a bunch of pictures yesterday. She is getting toward the end of her time on Guam. Yesterday PIU hosted a lunch for her. (above) She has been able to get a lot of work done and has been able to see a lot of people. On the right she is with some PIU staff in the office. I really do miss getting to see these people every day. Thank you to our long-time friends Tony and May Vigil for letting Joyce stay with them while she was there and providing transportation for her. The plan is to have her return in April to finish up the packing and begin getting our house ready to sell of rent out.

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Here are a few more!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Joyce Hard At Work on Guam


27983265_10213871191921699_1875452651849479964_oJoyce has only three more days on Guam and still a lot to do. The time has gone by so quickly. Above is a picture of one her many post office trips to mail multiple boxes to California. The plan is for her to return to Guam in April  to finish up packing and begin the process to our house. She has also enjoyed seeing many old friends. She had the opportunity to participate a couple nights ago in the PIU women’s Bible study and enjoyed the fellowship there. (pictured right). Below are some more pictures of Joyce and friends.

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Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #14

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 21-22 continue the section of the theology on Israel's Embodied Testimony, showing how the kingship and prophetic office mediated God’s presence to Israel. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 21, The King as Mediator, discusses how God's presence and rule was mediated through the human king of Israel. The constant testimony of the OT is that the real king of Israel is YHWH, but the human king was to represent Him, as a "son," under the authority of the Torah, with the responsibility to administer justice, righteousness and care to benefit all the people, especially the needy. This immediately creates some tension in the text because, from the beginning, the kings acted, as Samuel predicted they would, in a selfish oppressive way. God promises an eternal kingdom to David, yet David himself along with his successors act in a way that makes this seemingly impossible. This ends in exile and the end of the Davidic line ruling in Jerusalem. Yet, despite the prophet's condemnation of the kings, they hold out hope for the fulfillment of God's promises about a Davidic Messiah who will restore the nation and kingship and rule as God intended, extending the blessings of covenant to all the world. At the end of the OT the promise is still open.

Without denying the “warts” of David, Solomon, and their ilk, kingship in Israel emerged, in Jerusalem interpretation, as a great gift from God. The king’s intimacy and congruity with Yahweh indicate that the actual performance of Yahweh’s way in the world is a human possibility. Thus, despite great ambiguity and compromise, it is expected and celebrated that the king will bring the world right for Israel. 611

The prophet equates judging the cause of the poor and needy with “knowing” Yahweh. Note well these lines do not say that judging the poor and needy is the cause and knowing Yahweh the consequence; nor, conversely, that judging the poor and needy is the consequence and knowing Yahweh the cause. Rather, the two are equated. Judging the cause of the poor and needy is the substance of knowledge of Yahweh (cf. Hos 6:6). And so, when the king engages in these practices in the administration of public power, knowledge of Yahweh is indeed mediated in the community of Israel. Jeremiah 22:15-16, Psalm 72, Isaiah 9.2-7, 613

The dynastic promise, rooted in 2 Samuel 7 and explicated in Psalm 89, was turned to the future, so that Israel expected the good, faithful, effective king to come, even though all present and known incumbents had failed. Out of concrete political practice arose an expectation of the coming of messiah: a historical agent to be anointed, commissioned, and empowered out of the Davidic house to do the Davidic thing in time to come, to establish Yahweh’s justice and righteousness in the earth. 616

Chapter 22, The Prophet as Mediator, deals with the very important phenomenon of prophecy, direct revelation from God to a human being, as a means of revelation of YHWH. These prophets claimed to have been in God's presence and received a message from God which (though it may have been rejected at the time) was accepted as authoritative, written down, and placed into the canon of the Hebrew scriptures. The prophet drew His authority from an experience of being in the "Divine Council," in which He received the "word of the LORD" which was to be directed to the nation. This was validated through predictions coming true and adherence to previous prophecies in the tradition of Moses. The prophets brought YHWH's perspective to the nation. They attacked the pride and idolatry of the monarchy in "lawsuit" prophecies of judgment and dealt with the despair of defeat and exile in prophecies of repentance and promise. They called the nation, from the throne room of God, to live ethically with YHWH as the center of life and to trust and hope in His promises to set all creation right at "the end of days."

Prophecy as a mode of mediation begins in the inexplicable appearance of individual persons who claim to speak Yahweh’s revelatory word, and who are accepted by some as being indeed carriers of such a revelatory word. Prophecy culminates as this cadre of individual persons and their remembered, transmitted words (and actions) are stylized into a fixed body of literature and achieve canonical status. 622

Each such prophet does what Moses did, that is, enables Israel in a particular time and place to be fully and intentionally the covenant people of Yahweh. This means, positively, that Israel must reckon with Yahweh’s sovereign intention for its life. It requires, negatively, that Israel must forgo and repent of all of its proximate loyalties, which in the end are idolatrous and which will only lead to death. 635

The prophets are not fortune-tellers or predictors, working with esoteric means or data. They are, rather, those who attend to Yahweh’s resolve, which will not be defeated, even by the “end of history” that comes with failed ethics. Eschatology is simply Yahweh’s capacity to move in and through and beyond the end of history, to reinitiate the life-giving processes of history. 646

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #10 (22-24)

Bock LukeThis post concludes my reading through the Gospel of Luke accompanied by Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Darrell L. Bock. Chapters 22-24 are Luke’s account of the Passion events including the arrest, trials, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He concludes with the risen Jesus commissioning the disciples to take His kingdom to all the nations.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 22 begins Luke's account of the Passion events. As Jerusalem prepares for Passover, their event of national liberation, the nation's leadership prepares to murder the one who came to them to complete God's plan of liberation. Jesus celebrates the Passover with His disciples in a way that would teach them how they were to prepare for the complete liberation that would be provided in God's final kingdom when He returns. The disciples still do not understand and get in another argument about who is the greatest, so Jesus again teaches them that greatness is about service, humility and faithfulness to God. Those who are faithful now will rule with Jesus in His kingdom because of the sacrifice Jesus has made. This is what the Lord's Supper is all about

Jesus’ final moments with his disciples involve a farewell meal. As he celebrates the Passover and adds his own new elements to it, Jesus reveals that his work is modeled after that sacrifice. His humility is to mark the disciples’ own efforts to serve others. Their service will occur in the face of rejection, but service is still the disciple’s calling. Luke 22:1-38

The Jewish celebration of national salvation becomes the occasion for a plot to arrest and convict Jesus. Once again, irony abounds. The leadership steers a course of murder in the name of righteousness. Sin always distorts reality. In addition, a cosmic chess match comes to its crucial moment. Satan will put Jesus in check, but Jesus will make the final move that means checkmate. Luke 22:1-6

Peter will be able to strengthen fellow believers after his fall because he will understand how easy it is to fall. He can call on them to embrace God’s mercy, be prepared to suffer and be ready to give a defense because he will have experienced all of these opportunities himself—some with failure and others with success...Even disciples who fail in a moment of weakness can experience the success of God’s work. The lesson is an important one not only for Peter but also for all the disciples he represents. Luke 22:7-38

Humility, dependence, promise of authority and reward, warnings about opposition and the pursuit of faithfulness are the topics of Jesus’ final testament meal. Luke assumes that disciples will engage the larger world and face a great cosmic battle. But they are not to withdraw or be afraid. Rather, with humility and looking to God, they can face suffering and the world bravely and effectively. Luke 22:7-38

After the supper Jesus leads the disciples to the Mount of Olives. He prepares for His ordeal with prayer. Even though he dreads what He is about to go through, He gives Himself over to the will of the Father and receives spiritual care, strength and encouragement to be ready for what is coming. The betrayal by Judas and arrest of Jesus immediately follow. Luke emphasizes the cowardice and hypocrisy of Judas and the Jewish leadership as they arrest Jesus in away from the public and in the dark. He also contrasts Jesus' response to act graciously and heal the high priest's servant with the disciples decision to defend Jesus with violence. This is a battle between darkness and light. Jesus will win the battle with the weapons of faith and trust in God and give Himself over to His enemies to be vindicated by God and completely defeat the darkness.

Our mortality is a frightening thing. Jesus faces it by doing what he always did: he took his concerns to God in prayer...Like many who face death, Jesus would like to avoid dying now. If he were considering only his personal preference, he would rather not experience the pain of mortality and the horror of paying for sin. But Jesus has a more fundamental concern: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Here Jesus submits to God’s plan and will. Luke 22:39-46

Sometimes disciples believe they must take matters into their own hands to defend Jesus. But here Jesus stops the attempt to defend him with violence. His path takes a different direction. The healed servant pictures the opportunity that exists to experience God’s grace. Here is a man who rejects Jesus and participates in the arrest leading to Jesus’ death. Yet the avowed enemy is not beyond Jesus’ healing touch. A severed ear can always be restored, if one will listen to him. Luke 22:47-53

Jesus then receives six different hearings before Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod and finally Pilate brings Him before the people. In all of them Luke portrays Jesus as the innocent sufferer. Jesus is convicted by the Jews as a blasphemer, a charge which is ultimately refuted as God the Father will validate Jesus' claim to be the Son of Man at the resurrection. The accusations before Pilate were clearly false and Pilate pronounces Jesus to be innocent. Through the rest of the trials Jesus remains silent. The irony in the trial is that the people demand, and Pilate gives them what they want, the release of a murderer and the crucifixion of an innocent man. This substitution is a picture of what Jesus will do for all sinners; die in their place as the "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

Jesus argues that from now on whatever happens at the trial is irrelevant. His rule from God’s side will follow. People may think they have the right to make a judgment about Jesus, but the judgment that counts is the one made by the resurrected Son of God. In sum, Jesus makes himself and his authority the issue. The leaders are astute enough to see the claim...They sense the depth of what Jesus is claiming—that Jesus uniquely shares God’s rule and power. Luke 22:54-71

Jesus is the substitute for the sinner. Barabbas’s release and Jesus’ death make up a portrait of the exchange God engages in to save sinners from the penalty of their ways (Rom 5:5–9). This sacrifice at the altar of injustice is the ultimate expression of God’s love. Amazingly, in the midst of a monstrous injustice God can design a means of victory. Jesus’ death means the possibility of life for another. No matter how severe the sin, release is made possible through Jesus’ death. Luke 23:1-25

The crucifixion quickly follows the death sentence. Luke is concerned to emphasize Jesus as the innocent sufferer. His death was an injustice and He was who he claimed to be. The thief on the cross and the Roman centurion both testify to this. Even nature (darkness) and God the Father (the torn curtain in the temple) testify to the righteousness of Jesus and the coming judgment on the nation for their rejection of Jesus. Ironically, even the official charges posted by the Romans testify to who Jesus was. Even in the face of such terrible injustice, Jesus responds with compassion and forgiveness. As he dies he reiterates His absolute trust in God. The scene ends with the burial of Jesus. "Jesus has been laid to rest in honor. But things will not remain quiet for long."

Jesus prays for those who will kill him. He asks that his executors be forgiven, since they have acted in ignorance. Jesus’ intercession lays the basis for God’s offer of forgiveness. National consequences will follow from Jesus’ rejection, but God’s love expressed here shows that the rejection need not be permanent, neither for an individual nor for a nation. Luke 23:26-49

The criminal anticipates the restoration and resurrection. He asks to be included. His depth of perception stands in contrast to the blindness of those who taunt. This man, despite a life full of sin, comes to Jesus and seeks forgiveness in his last mortal moments. He confesses his guilt and casts himself on Jesus’ mercy and saving power. Luke could not have painted a clearer portrait of God’s grace. Luke 23:26-49

Devout figures surround Jesus at his birth and death. Those who are righteous and seek God respond to Jesus and look forward to what he will bring. Luke 23:50-56

Luke closes his Gospel with his account of the resurrection of Jesus and commissioning of His followers for the task of telling His story and spreading His kingdom message to all the world. A theme that runs through the resurrection account is that the disciples were surprised by the event. The women, the couple going to Emmaus, the group of disciples all had to be convinced of the reality of the resurrection by seeing Jesus. This happened as they had intimate table fellowship with Him. Jesus then prepares the disciples for the coming task of building and spreading His church, a story which will be continued by Luke in the book of Acts. Jesus then returns to heaven from where He will intercede for His people, send the Spirit to equip them for the task and draw them into intimate fellowship with the Trinity.

Though the church proclaims the resurrection confidently today, the original witnesses had to be convinced that it had occurred. Resurrection had been promised by Scripture and by Jesus, but only slowly, grudgingly and methodically did the disciples come to see that it had come to pass. Luke 24:1-12

Here is the major lesson of the Emmaus Road experience. Though resurrection is hard to believe, be assured that it took place. Its reality means that Jesus’ claims are true. He was more than a teacher and more than a prophet. He was the promised, anointed one of God. A host of skeptics saw that this was so, and they believed. Do not be skeptical as these men were. Remember what God required of his Messiah: suffering, then vindication in exaltation. Luke 24:13-35

The church’s task will be difficult; special ability will be needed to accomplish it. It is not to be carried out in mere human strength. Just as Jesus’ presence at the table has shown, God’s intimate, indwelling presence is necessary to make it work. Luke 24:36-53

Monday, February 12, 2018

Some Pictures of Joyce on Guam


20180212_125506 (1024x576)As many of you know, Joyce is on Guam right now taking care of packing up our house and attending to some business affairs there that we have not been able to deal with during the last year. She has been there a week and has already accomplished quite a bit. Yesterday, she mailed several boxes of books to me. We spent some time going through them (by Facebook video chat) to determine which ones we would give away and which ones I needed. I think, sadly, we are leaving more there than she mailed. Also, she completed the sale of my Kia Forte. I will miss that little car, but it now becomes the first car of the son of one my former students and pastor of the Palauan Evangelical Church on Guam, Andrew Immanuel. Enjoy the car and thank you to all who prayed that we would be able to get it sold.

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Here are a few more pictures of some happy reunions. Joyce got to attend a PIU chapel and a session of the annual Ministry Equipping Conference. I wish I could have been there too!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #13

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapter 19 begins the 4th section of the theology, Israel's Embodied Testimony. This section discusses how God, a "totally other" Being beyond the understanding of humans, communicates or "mediates" His presence in a way that can be understood and practiced in Israel’s experience. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 19, Mediating The Presence of YHWH, serves as an introduction to the section. I think Brueggemann's main point is that what we have in the text of the Old Testament is a "mediation" of an immediate God in the experience and religious practices of Israel. This originates from God through his "originary" theophanies (direct manifestations of God's glory in history), especially the theophanies at Sinai to the whole nation and to Abraham, Moses and Elijah. These were rare and provide the basis for the parameters and authority of the rest of the revelation which was mainly mediated through Torah, prophets, the history of the kings, the religious practices and wisdom literature of Israel. Thus, the OT message about Who God is and what are His purposes for His people are not only communicated in words but embodied in the history and actions of His people.

It is impossible to provide a theological critique of theophany, and we must say that it is a primary theological datum itself—that is, a premise of all that follows. In the mode of theophany, Yahweh relates as Yahweh chooses, without condition, reservation, qualification, or explanation. Israel is on the receiving end of holy intrusion, left to characterize in human speech, as best it can, what is unutterable in the sublimity of Yahweh. 569

While the “experience” of Yahweh is valued, what matters in the narrative testimony of Israel is a vocation of obedience that is given, undertaken at great risk, and with weighty implications for the community...These encounters with individual persons are characteristically not ends in themselves, but concern Yahweh’s larger purposes. Individual persons are recruited for great risks. 572

Old Testament theology is not simply an intellectual exercise. Wherever this testimony has been taken seriously, in ancient time or in any time since then, it has been taken seriously in practice...the day-to-day disciplines and practices of the community are indeed theological activities, for such activities are the modes and arenas in which the utterances and gestures of Yahweh can be nurtured. These activities are received as reliable disclosures of the partner in relationship. 575–576

Chapter 20, The Torah as Mediator, discusses the central way YHWH is revealed in Israel's testimony. The revelation of Torah to Moses is originates and defines Israel as a nation. It calls Israel into covenant with God and defines the parameters of that relationship. Torah is much more than a law code. It does provide many commands which Israel is to obey uncompromisingly and establishes authority for the nation. It also, however, provides means for succession of authority, calling new generations into the covenant and updating its regulations to fit new situations. Torah is based on God's character and so provides instruction about how to live before God, with God, and like God. Meditation on Torah becomes worship as it connects the worshipper to God. The Psalms, 1 and 119 for example, focus on the benefits of meditating on Torah. Torah describes the reality of creation, and living within it makes one wise.

Torah means also guidance, instruction, and nurture—a process of exploration and imagination that cannot be flatly subsumed under obedience...Whereas Torah as command is focused on the ethical dimension of existence, Torah as instruction, guidance, and nurture is preoccupied with the aesthetic and artistic, a realm that comes to be expressed as the mystical and sacramental. That is, Torah is as much concerned with the inscrutable mystery of presence as it is with the nonnegotiability of neighborly obedience. 582

Christians who seek to understand what is intended in Torah will have to move beyond conventional, polemical caricatures of legalism, in order to ponder an interpretive practice that is (a) intransigently normative and yet enormously open to adaptation; and (b) has an uncompromising sovereign at its center, but with a capacity to attend in delicate ways to the detail of daily existence. 595

The freedom of the Torah is a freedom in obedience. This freedom is not autonomy, for autonomy is in any case an illusion. It is freedom of living with and for and in the presence of the One whose power is seen in creation, whose passion is evident in Exodus, and whose requirements are known in Sinai. 599

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #9 (19.45-21.38)

Bock LukeThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Luke accompanied by Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Darrell L. Bock. Luke 19.45 begins the final section of the Gospel. Luke's concern here is to show that Jesus' resurrection vindicated Him as the righteous sufferer, the rightful authority over the nation as the Davidic Messiah, and the One who would bring all of God's kingdom promises for all the nations.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue. Again, I am not sure why the page numbers in the IVP series do not come up in Logos, but I will reference the quotes with the corresponding scripture reference.

The conclusion to the Gospel begins with a discussion of Jesus' authority over the nation. When Jesus cleanses the temple he brings to a head His claim to be speaking with God's authority as a prophet and to  be the promised Messianic King, as acknowledged in His entry into Jerusalem, with authority over the Temple. The Jewish leaders challenge this claim. Jesus responds with His question about the source of John the Baptist's authority. His point is that the source of John's authority and Jesus' is the same: God, and God has already vindicated this authority by what has happened in both of their ministries. Then the leaders try to trap and discredit Jesus. The hypocritical question about Caesar tries to place Jesus at odds with Roman power. Jesus fails to take the bait because He does not see the solution as being political. Rome is not the key. The most important thing is to respond to God's authority, which these leaders were failing to do. The Sadducee's question about resurrection is an attempt to make Jesus look stupid. His answer shows that He understands scripture far better than the Sadducees. The kingdom of God requires resurrection and immortality which only God can provide. Jesus' resurrection will be the final and greatest indication that His authority comes from God. The leadership's rejection of God's authority fulfills the pattern of rejection of God's authority seen in Israel's history and illustrated in the parable of the wicked farmers.  

Jesus is the issue, and the subject is properly honoring God. Israel thinks God is honored at the temple. Jesus claims the exact opposite. The nation is divided; choices are required. They cannot both represent God’s will. The warning also illustrates the danger of combining religiosity and commercialism at the expense of true worship—a danger to which we also must be sensitive today. Luke 19:45-48

The psalm (118) uses the symbolism of the foundation stone that is crucial to a building. Jesus is the foundation stone of God’s plan. Though some may reject him, God will make him the centerpiece of his plan. Rejection by the Jewish nation is not the end of the plan. There is no replacing this precious and chosen stone. Luke 20:1-19

God’s promises live on for the patriarchs because they still live. In fact, life is in his sovereign hands, and all live for him...Death is not the end, only a beginning. The question is, the beginning of what? Only one’s response to Jesus determines the answer to that question. Childless levirate wives need not worry which man is their husband. All should worry whether they are a child of God. Luke 20:20-40

Jesus now takes control of the discussion and asks a question to the Jewish leaders about Messiah's authority. How can a human Son of David be David's Lord? The point is that Jesus shares the authority of the Father, reigning with Him as the Son of Man. The leaders are not just rejecting a human messiah, they are rejecting the authority of the Father as well. This is illustrated by their use of the temple and the Old Testament system. They use it to enhance their own honor and wealth, rather than its intended purpose: to worship God and serve His people. The faithful widow who sacrificially gives is an example of the good people the leaders were defrauding. Religion can easily become a means to selfish ambition rather than a conduit to God and a way to serve God's needy people.

The Son of David exercises divine prerogatives from the side of the Father in heaven. His authority is shared heavenly authority. To understand who the Son of David is, one must understand that he shares authority with the Father. As Acts 2 shows, authority over salvation comes from the Father through the Messiah, who sits at the Father’s side functioning in “coregent” fashion. Thus the Lord Jesus reigns at the Father’s side. Jesus does not make this explicit point here. But Luke 22:69 and Acts 2 show that ultimately this is the answer to the question. Luke 20:41-44

Sometimes little gifts cost a great deal more than big gifts do, and their merit is in the sacrifice they represent. In fact, real giving happens when one gives sacrificially...In contrast to the scribes’ pride and hypocrisy stands this woman who has sacrificed out of her life to honor God. So Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, but follow this widow.” When God measures the life of service, he does not just count, he weighs. Luke 20:45-21:4

So, Jesus closes the section with a prophecy of judgment. In 21.5-38 Jesus combines a prediction of the judgment of destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD with the judgment that is coming at the 2nd coming. The two events have commonalities, but will not be the same in all the details and should be kept separate. Jesus predicts the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the coming persecution of the church and the time gap between the two events. In both events God is in charge and believers should remain patient and faithful, even in persecution, knowing that they have eternal life. Every generation should live in expectation of Jesus' return, not engaged in fruitless speculation about specific times, but by faithful service and hopeful prayer.

We must be careful not to get more specific than Scripture does about the events of the future. Luke 2:5-38

Here is why Jesus has revealed the plan—to call disciples to be on the alert. Heeding, watching and praying lead to endurance. Heeding really means following in obedience. Watching means that our eyes are expectant and looking for the Lord’s return, focused on the fact that he will bring us to himself. Praying means we are dependent, looking to him to give us the strength to walk in faithfulness. No matter how tough things get, we can know as we look to God that he cares for us. Luke 21:25-38

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Joyce Arrived on Guam


Joyce is back on Guam for the next 11 days.27624794_10213822067333615_2742045624443493131_o I dropped her off at the airport at 5 AM on Tuesday morning and she arrived on Guam on Wednesday evening, but while I was sleeping early on Wednesday morning in California.27629523_10213818669848680_6076235954131800878_o I have been doing this for 34 years, but I am always amazed that you can be on one side of the world and then be on the other side in less than 24 hours. As you can see, she has already met many old friends. It looks like it was quite an airport reception. I’m sure Joyce is sleeping now, resting up from the flight and for the busy next few days. She is beginning the task of taking care of our business and personal affairs that have been pretty much left undone for a year and getting things ready to move our belongings from Guam to California. This will be a big task that needs to be done in a short time. I know she would appreciate your prayers for this while she is there on Guam. She will be back in California on February 18th.

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #12

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 17-18 close the section on how God is revealed through His relationships with His covenant partners. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 17, Creation as Yahweh's Partner, looks at Israel's testimony regarding God's relationship with creation and human responsibility within it. Again, there are two strains of revelation which seem to be in tension with one another. First, creation is presented positively as blessing, in which God arranges the earth to provide order, fertility, beauty, light and meaning to its people and all created things. This is not a one off where God created it and then left it to work itself out, but continues to provide blessing through childbirth, agricultural fertility, and prosperity. Humans are responsible to live well within this world by being wise, understanding how creation works and living accordingly; righteous, living within God's moral boundaries; and worship, that teaches about and praises God for His gifts in creation. The negative strain in the creation stories is the battle between God and the forces of chaos that disrupts and destroys creation. This is portrayed as both a completed and ongoing battle. God is always at work holding back the forces of chaos, but sometimes seems to purposely let them loose in "wrath" as discipline or punishment. It also seems that creation was designed so that human misbehavior can loose these evil forces as well. The bottom line is that humanity and all creation are completely dependent on God to maintain the order and blessing of creation and to protect it from the forces of chaos and evil. 

It is Yahweh’s will for this newly ordered world that it should be fruitful, invested with “the power of fertility.” Yahweh has authorized in the world the inscrutable force of generosity, so that the earth can sustain all its members, and so that the earth has within itself the capacity for sustenance, nurture, and regeneration. This capacity for generosity is no human monopoly; it is assured that every genus and species of creation can “bring forth,” according to its kind. 529

It (The idea of the power of death still on the loose in creation, which may at any time cause havoc) is not, moreover, a diminishment of Yahweh. To the contrary, it is an assertion of how urgently indispensable Yahweh is to a viable life in the world. Yahweh is the guarantor of blessing; but where that power of blessing is not concretely enacted and guaranteed, the undoing of creation takes place. 537

Yahweh has retained these awe-evoking powers for Yahweh’s own self. Thus while Yahweh can unloose the forces of blessing (or fecundity) into the world, Yahweh can also unloose the forces of curse and death—and will do so, in an extreme case, when Yahweh’s sovereignty is mocked. , 539–540

The rest of chapter 17 shows that Yahweh is committed to ultimately blessing all creation and renewing His blessing on the earth even after the most devastating judgment. God's "resolve" is to complete His plan for a blessed, perfected earth. When humans reject God's blessing, He will withdraw resulting in chaos, exile and destruction. But God is always committed to re-ordering the chaos in a new creation. We can be certain that God will complete this plan because He is committed to His creation.

The poem is a declaration in the mouth of Yahweh, who publicly and pointedly claims authority to replicate the initial creation, only now more grandly and more wondrously. This promised action of Yahweh is clearly designed to overcome all that is amiss...the new creation now promised concerns not only Israel, not only the entire human community, but all of creation, so that hostilities at every level and in every dimension of creation will be overcome. “All will be well and all will be well.” Isaiah 65.17-25, 549

It is not in Yahweh’s character to be a God who settles for chaos. It is in Yahweh’s most elemental resolve to enact blessing and order and well-being. 550

Yahweh promises to overcome all forsakenness and abandonment known in Israel and in the world. When creation is abandoned by Yahweh, it readily reverts to chaos. Here it is in Yahweh’s resolve, and in Yahweh’s very character, not to abandon, but to embrace. The very future of the world, so Israel attests, depends on this resolve of Yahweh. It is a resolve that is powerful. More than that, it is a resolve that wells up precisely in tohû wabohû and permits the reality of the world to begin again, in blessedness. 551

Chapter 18, The Drama of Partnership with Yahweh, closes and summarizes Part III of the theology which discusses the testimony derived from God's relationship with His covenant partners. This is very important because, really, God's character can only be known in the revelation of Himself made to and through these partners. Brueggemann summarizes the OT witness to God's relationship with His partners as a pattern of creation blessing, brokenness from covenant failure resulting in chaos/death/exile, and finally restoration to hope and blessedness. Christianity builds on this pattern with the addition of crucifixion and resurrection. In this drama of partnership there is always a tension between God's freedom and sovereignty to defend His holy otherness and His compassion and commitment to covenant. The partner has an obligation to call out to God and be an active member of this partnership. The OT witness is that God responds to the call from "the pit" and will restore the exile to their land, the chaos to a place of blessing and abundance, the hopelessly oppressed to a viable hope and the dead to life. It is this story of blessing, abundance, restoration, help and hope that provides the needed answer to the enlightenment story of scarcity, loneliness and despair.

The person in the Pit is not to be passive and docile, awaiting the initiative of Yahweh. The whole pattern of the psalms of complaint suggests that in the Pit, the human person can and must initiate the process of rescue by shrill protest and insistent hope. It is not possible or appropriate, in the horizon of Israel, to worry about works and grace in such a transaction, because the mutuality of covenanting requires that both parties should be mightily engaged in the demanding, hopeful act of rescue. 554

Yahweh, who is addressed and reached in the nullity, is known in Israel to be a God willing and able to enact a radical newness for each of Yahweh’s partners, a newness that the partners cannot work for themselves. This newness is deeply shaped by Yahweh’s initial acts of sovereign generosity, but it runs well beyond the imagination of those in the nullity...This drama of brokenness and restoration is the primary outcome of the transactions between Yahweh and Yahweh’s partners. 558

At the culmination of Israel’s portrayal of reality is a certitude and a vision of newness, a full restoration to well-being that runs beyond any old well-being. This culmination in well-being, assured by the resolve of Yahweh, is articulated in the conclusion of most psalms of complaint and in prophetic promises that eventuate in messianic and apocalyptic expectations. Israel’s speech witnesses to profound hope, based in the promise-maker and promise-keeper for whom all things are possible. 561