Tag Archives: Old Testament

Reading the Old Testament with Martin Luther

Why should we read the Old Testament? It seems pretty obvious to us today, but  in 16th century Germany there was a tendency to look down upon the value of the Old Testament. (No doubt Luther’s Law/Grace dichotomy had something to do with this…) Nevertheless Luther advocates for a figural sort of reading of the Old Testament, in other wrods he asks us to read the Old Testament in light of the New:

There are some who have little regard for the Old Testament. They thing of it as a book that was given to the Jewish people only and is not ouw ot date, containing only stories from past times… But Christ says in John 5, “Search the Scriptures, for it is they that bear witness to me… The Scriptures of the Old Testament are not to be despised but diligently read….Therefore dismiss your own opinions and feelings and think of the Scriptures as the loftiest and noblest of holy things, as the riches of mines that can never be sufficiently explored, in order that you may find that divine wisdom which God here lays before you in such simple guise as to quench all pride. Here you will find the swaddling cloths and manger in which Christ lies… Simple and lowly are these swaddling cloths, but ear is the treasure, Chris who lies in them.

Just as our treasured messiah was hidden and wrapped up in the swaddling cloths while he was in the manger, Christ our messiah is wrapped up in the swaddling cloths of the Law, Writings, and Prophets.

No Martin Luther! Don't Burn that Old Testament! Oh you aren't... its a Papal Bull. Okay proceed with the burning.
No Martin Luther! Don’t Burn that Old Testament! Oh you aren’t –  its just a Papal Bull. Okay proceed with the burning!
Advertisements

What Does a Successful College Ministry Look Like?

Many college ministers are about to enter into a brand new season. For those of us who are starting new things on local college campuses there will definitely be a ton of pressure to provide “results” to the people back home at our churches.

“Recruit new students, get people to make decisions for Christ, put on big events that students love! Do more, get more, be more!”

All these things are fine and dandy. But at the end of the day – tons of new students, new converts, and spectacular rush week events aren’t the things that God is going to judge our ministries on. God is going to look at our lives to see whether or not we have been faithful to the callings and tasks he has given us. In other words success in ministry boils down to faithfulness to what God has called us to…

"Zero Week" at UCLA is a huge week for campus ministries. The same is true for colleges around the country.
“Zero Week” at UCLA is a huge week for campus ministries. The same is true for colleges around the country.

In Father, Son, Spirit, and Kingdom Robbie Castleman compares and contrasts the lives and ministries of two Old Testament Prophets – Jonah and Isaiah. Notice how she describes what it means to be faithful in ministry:

Jonah walked across Nineveh in a three-day ministry with a bad attitude and no love for the lost, and the city had a short lived revival that made the evening news. Today, Jonah’s results would merit him a TV show and a lifestyle that smelled like success. On the other hand, Isaiah hand a lifelong ministry that people ignored, tuned out, shut off and didn’t get. Isaiah ended up with a congregation of only about 10 percent of what he started with (Isaiah 6:9-13). Today Isaiah’s ministry would be subject to every suggestion and gimmick for a quick fix that would put him on the road to the kind of success that can be quantified and measured and then advertised. But with whom was God pleased? (FSSK, 105)

As you go out and work those college campuses, I would encourage you to remind yourself that God isn’t looking for you to generate fruit – that is his job – but he is looking for your faithfulness.

Book Review – A Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 2 by Allen Ross

I have really grown to like the Kregel Exegetical Library commentaries on the Old Testament. A while back ago I reviewed a commentary on Judges from the same series, I really enjoyed it and found it useful, so I had pretty high expectations for this commentary on the Psalms from the same series.

Let me share with you a few things I found to be very helpful…

  1. Engagement With Current Scholarly Work – This commentary does a good job engaging other important works written on the Psalms. For instance in his commentary on Psalm 47 Ross interacts with Mowinckel’s enthronement theory and several more modern variations upon that theory.
  2. It Doesn’t Get Bogged Down on Source Criticism – Though Ross does attempt to (carefully) address the sitz im leben he doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to discern the various sources of the Psalms. Instead he opts for taking the canonical version of the Psalms and makes comments on that version instead.
  3. The Inclusion of Textual Variants and Comments on the Variants – This isn’t necessarily helpful to a preacher, nevertheless the quality and quantity of comments on these textual variants makes this commentary stand out among other Psalm commentaries.
  4. It Provides Clear Outlines of Each Psalm – This will be very helpful to preachers. Its almost as he has broken down each Psalm into 3 (or 4 or 5) point messages!
  5. Helpful & Concise “Message and Application” sections – I found it personally helpful that for each Psalm covered in this volume Ross provides an italicized “central expository idea.” This is a one or two sentence long phrase which captures the central theme of the Psalm. When preaching narrowing down one’s passage to one central idea is very helpful, not only for crafting the sermon but also for helping the congregation remember the central point. Now as they are, these “central expository ideas” probably won’t work as message points, but they are certainly a good start on making an accurate, deep, and memorable statement of your own.

One thing that would have been helpful, but wasn’t included would have been a brief recap of the introductory material. Ross often alluded to things he had written in the introduction, however the introduction is in volume one, not in volume two… all this to say, volume two certainly does not exist as a stand alone volume, you need volume one. However, the fact that volume two didn’t include any sort of introduction didn’t really change my opinion of this commentary. In fact this made me want to go and get the first volume!

As a preacher and bible college teacher I found this commentary to be useful, exegetically rigorous, as well as very practical. I highly recommend it to pastors and seminary students (some of the issues addressed in this commentary might be a bit too technical for a bible college/undergraduate student or a lay person). So if you are looking for a high quality commentary on Psalms 42-89 you should purchase this volume.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of Kregel in exchange for an impartial review.)

Tuning our Hearts to the Gospel Through the Psalms

Christians throughout history have always read the Psalms as containing hints and clues about Jesus Christ. This however usually boils down to a series of “proof texts” i.e. Psalm 2, Psalm 22, Psalm 72, etc.

N.T. Wright agrees about the fact that the Psalms do in fact point to Jesus.

Everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and Psalms had to be fulfilled. – Jesus (Lk. 24:44)

However Wright, rightly so, argues that the Psalms are Christological not simply because they contain some texts that point to Jesus, no the Psalms are Christological because they lead us into a worldview that only makes sense if Christ is who he claims to be…

Here is N.T. Wright in his own words:

This is more, then, than simply saying that some psalms are to be seen as Christological, meaning that some seem already to have been looking ahead to the coming of the ideal King or that some were read in that way by the early church. My point is deeper. I am suggesting that the entire worldview that the Psalms are inculcating was to do with that intersection of our time, space, and matter with God’s, which Christians believe happened uniquely and dramatically in Jesus. (TCFS 31)

However the Psalms do more than just lead us into a worldview in which time, space, matter and God collide (i.e a worldview that finds its fulfillment in Jesus); the Psalms tune our hearts to a different story. In other words, we might think of the Psalms as the soundtrack which fills in and makes sense of the story we are actually living in.  Ultimately this is the story that Jesus came to complete.

Again Wright in his own Words:

The story the Psalms tell is the story Jesus came to complete. It is the story of the creator God taking his power and reigning, ruling on earth as in heaven, delighting the whole creation by sorting out its messes and muddles,its injuries and injustices, once and for all. It is also the story of malevolent enemies prowling around, of people whispering lies and setting traps, and of sleepless nights, and bottles full of tears… and of course the Psalms tell the story of strange vindication, of dramatic reversal, of wondrous rescue, comfort and restoration. (TCFS 31)

The Psalms lead us to see the world as a place where time, space, and matter collide with God. The Psalms are the soundtrack to the story which tells us about a reigning God, a beautiful creation, what life is supposed to be like, malevolent enemies attacking God’s people, the suffering people endure, and how God rescues and redeems his people. In other words the Psalms prepare us to “understand” who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do. We could say that the Psalms tune our hearts to the Gospel.

The Psalms tune our hearts to the gospel.

Spiritual Depression (Pt. 1)

Its pretty much guaranteed – if you are a Christian you will face a season of spiritual depression at some point in your life. Spiritual depression isn’t exactly like depression, but it bears a lot of similarities. It is marked by apathy towards all things spiritual – you don’t feel like pursuing God, you don’t feel like serving, you don’t feel like engaging with community. But it’s especially marked by a feeling of an absence of Gods presence. Often times this feeling will set in because of sin, something physiological, or an attack from the enemy; but often times it will happen immediately after some awesome experience with God. (e.g. a mission trip, a camp, or some spiritual breakthrough.)

Spiritual depression isn’t exactly like depression, but it bears a lot of similarities.

Scripture is full of stories of this sort of thing happening. You find it in the Psalms most often. But one very prominent example is Elijah in 1 Kings 18 & 19. Elijah was on top of the world, serving God, taking down God’s enemies, experiencing God’s power and God’s victory. But the next thing you know, he finds himself in a cave crying, whining, and wanting to die. It’s the classic case of spiritual depression. But in the midst of that God shows up to him. Not in the way you would have expected it. Not in a way that was obvious either. He had to pay really close attention to notice God’s presence in the midst of his world falling apart. Spiritual depression will come. Its guaranteed. But if you are in Christ, you can be sure of his presence – even if its in a way you would never have expected it.

Book Review – A Commentary on Judges and Ruth by Robert Chisholm

There are a few Old Testament scholars that I gravitate towards – Brueggemann, Block, Beale, (The B-Team), John Goldingay, and Robert Chisholm. When I venture into the strange world of the Old Testament, that is when I am asked to fill in for an OT class at EBC, I turn to these guys as dialogue partners. Since I really like what Chisholm usually has to say about the OT I figured that I should take a look at his latest commentary on Judges and Ruth.

Review

Let me just get this out of the way – this book is massive, its 697 pages long. Okay now that I got that off my chest let me talk a bit about the book.Judges and Ruth

Chisholm does some intense exegetical work in this book, he provides his own translation of Judges and Ruth, he breaks up the narratives into 1) mainline clauses, 2) offline clauses, and 3) discourse. This isn’t typical for a translation, but the benefit to doing this is that it helps him do exegetical work, it especially helps the reader appreciate the literary features of both of these books.

Chisholm’s approach is a “literary-theological method.” This is helpful for preachers and teachers. The days when people were doing source criticism (thankfully) are almost over. That way of doing exegesis is way too speculative. Because Chisholm refuses to play the source-criticism game, he can focus on the things that pastors are really concerned about – How is God speaking through this text (i.e. what is the theological message of this text?)

Chisholm claims that he has pastors in mind as readers of the text. The pastors who will probably benefit the most from the depth of exegesis Chisholm engages in aren’t many (scholars will greatly benefit from his nuanced discussion of the text), however Chisholm does step back and give a lot of big picture insight which will actually be very helpful for preachers/teachers.

He approaches each section of text through the filter of the following three questions:

  1. What did the text mean in its ancient Israelite context?
  2. What theological principles emerge from a thematic analysis of the text?
  3. How is the message of the text relevant to the church?

The fact that he breaks the commentary up according to these questions is very helpful for people who are trying to preach. The most basic hermeneutic for preachers is 1-What did the text mean? 2-What is the theological message? 3-How does it apply to us? So in writing the commentary according to his three questions, he allows preachers to interact with answers to the questions that they are already asking themselves on a weekly basis.

Pros

Because of the purpose of this blog (and space constraints) there are too many nuanced arguments to interact with in any detailed sort of way. [For instance I disagree with his interpretation of why Mahlon and Killion have died in Ruth.] However there are many things that Chisholm should be commended for. First, unlike most conservative commentators he is well attuned to feminist issues present in the text. He devotes an entire section in the introduction to Judges to this very topic. It was honestly my favorite part of his discussion of Judges. Second, he catches interesting literary nuances that most people tend to miss. For instance, when discussing Naomi’s move from Bethlehem, he points out the fact that readers who are accustomed to Judges, know that bad things happen when people leave Bethlehem – the reader will expect tragedy when reading about Naomi’s move. However, he points out, that the narrator actually turns the “leave Bethlehem and experience tragedy” narrative on its head. In the story of Ruth, leaving Bethlehem (eventually) leads the to birth of king David. For a Jew, this is the exact opposite of tragedy; it’s the greatest blessing that could be bestowed upon a woman. Finally, the homiletical sections are organized clearly and are full of helpful suggestions for preaching Judges and Ruth. Within the introduction for both of these books, Chisholm includes “Major Themes” and the “Book’s Purpose” these two sections give a framework for his homiletical outlines. For the homiletical outline Chisholm goes section by section giving short, one or two sentence statements about:

  1. The Exegetical Ideas
  2. Theological Ideas
  3. Homiletical Trajectories
  4. Primary Preaching Idea

Every preacher could benefit from reading these short sections. Though concise, they are full of theological depth and practical application.

Concluding Thoughts

I haven’t read any of the other Kregel Exegetical Library Commentaries but if they are anything like this one then I am in love with the series. Chisholm does thorough exegetical work and gives plenty of homiletical help to preachers and teachers. What more do you need from a commentary?

If you are looking for a commentary to use in preparing a sermon series on Judges or Ruth you need to pick up a copy of this book.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an impartial review.)