Archive for December, 2006

Born for You a Savior

Born for you a Savior now

‘Tis Jesus Christ the King;

Humbly do before Him bow

And To Him praises bring. 

Born for you a Savior here

‘Tis Jesus Christ the Lord;

Joyful let your hearts draw near

And sing in one accord.   

Born for you a Savior child

‘Tis Christ the Prince of Peace;

God and sinners reconciled—

Let not your praises cease. 

And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

What should our presence be in the pulpit?

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, I was home sick in bed. I did something I rarely have opportunity to do, I turned on the TV to listen to some of my fellow local preachers. Among other things I was struck by how they spoke when in the puplit as compared to regular conversations. I know how many of these men talk over lunch because I’ve been with them on various occasions. What does it say about the preacher when he morphs into something he’s not in the everyday? This is a question that has numerous implications not the least of which is the preacher’s view of the preaching event itself.

On this note, Tim Bayly carries on a good discussion of the preacher’s presence in the pulpit. Be sure to follow the discussion here.

“How” are you preaching Christmas?

Here are some wise words from Warren Weirsbe:

“The first rule in advent preaching is to resist every temptation to say something new and clever about Christmas. Instead, try to say the old truths in a fresh way and wrap each series in an exciting new package.”

HT: Unashamed Workman

End of the year items

Here are a few things I’ve noticed around the blog world:

See you next year.

Guidelines for Studying Proverbs (Part 3)

4. Beware of assuming that proverbs are unconditional promises.

Proverbs are not to be understood as unconditional promises but rather as practical principles to follow as one seeks to fear God and live wisely. In other words, they are poetic guidelines for behavior, not legal guarantees from God, for proverbs state what generally takes place in certain circumstances, not what always takes place in those circumstances (Fee and Stuart 1982: 198-99).  

For example, consider Proverbs 10:4: “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Is this true in every case? No, for some wealthy people are lazy and some poor people are diligent. Or Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Is this the way that an angry person will respond every single time? Of course not. As Parsons writes, “A gentle answer may turn away wrath, but at times such an answer may have no positive effect on stubborn individuals” (Parsons 1995: 159).  

So rather than unconditional promises from God, proverbs often consist of generalizations of what is likely to happen if a certain course of action is taken. In this way, they are intended to exhort people to walk the path of wisdom, not offer iron-clad assurances that A will always produce B. At the same time, some proverbs are unconditionally true, usually those connected to an attribute or action of God (e.g., 11:1; 12:22; 15:3; 15:8; 16:2, 4, 33; 17:3; 22:2) (Parsons 1995: 160). 

5. Beware of assuming that any one proverb is an exhaustive statement about the subject it discusses. 

As Ted Hildebrandt writes, “The truth of an individual proverb is limited to the specific slice of reality that it portrays” (Hildebrandt 1995: 249). In other words, no proverb is a complete statement of truth, and no proverb is exhaustive in its coverage of a particular subject (Fee and Stuart 1982: 201-03). For this reason, the interpreter of a given proverb will need to keep in mind that other proverbs and other portions of Scripture may fill in certain aspects of living wisely in the circumstances addressed by the proverb under consideration.

For example, Proverbs 16:9 (“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”) should give one confidence in the sovereignty of God, but in light of Proverbs 15:22 (“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed”), it should not be understood as eliminating the need for careful planning. As Fee and Stuart write, “Each inspired proverb must be balanced with others and understood in comparison with the rest of Scripture” (Fee and Stuart 1982: 200).   So with these five principles in mind, enjoy and be blessed by your study of Proverbs. And always remember: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!  

Works Cited:

Of the following sources, I would most highly recommend the chapter by Greg Parsons, to whom I am indebted for much of this series.

  • Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.

  • Hildebrandt, Ted A. “Proverb.” In Cracking Old Testament Codes: A Guide to Interpreting the Literary Genres of the Old Testament, edited by D. Brent Sandy and Ronald L. Giese, Jr., 233-54. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.

  • Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1991.

  • Parsons, Greg W. “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Proverbs.” In Learning from the Sages: Selected Studies on the Book of Proverbs, edited by Roy B. Zuck, 151-68. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995.

  • Ross, Allen P. “Proverbs.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 5:883-1134. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.

  • Zuck, Roy B. Basic Bible Interpretation. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1991.

Guidelines for Studying Proverbs (Part 2)

3. Recognize the significance of poetic parallelism in Proverbs. 

The dominant characteristic of poetry in the Old Testament is Hebrew parallelism in which one line corresponds with the other. There are four main types of poetic parallelism used in the book of Proverbs—synonymous parallelism, antithetical parallelism, emblematic parallelism, and synthetic parallelism. 

a. Synonymous Parallelism: In synonymous parallelism, the second line of the pair repeats the idea of the first line without making any significant addition or subtraction. This often includes the use of a strict grammatical parallel between the two lines:

  • 1:20: “Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square.”

  • 17:4: “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”

As Osborne notes, “The interpreter in some instances should not read too much into the semantic variation between the two lines, for that could be intended more as a stylistic change for effect” (Osborne 1991: 176). In other words, the student of Proverbs should guard against the common error of seeing anything more than a subtle difference in meaning between two words being used as synonyms. In addition, when the interpreter encounters synonymous parallelism and comes to an obscure Hebrew word whose definition is unclear, comparing it to its synonymous counterpart will usually shed light on its meaning.  

b. Antithetic Parallelism: In antithetic parallelism—the most common form in Proverbs—the second line is set in contrast to the idea of the first line, and usually by means of the adversative conjunction “but.” This often consists of a restatement of the idea of the first line by asserting its opposite (i.e., both lines state the same idea but in antithetical ways):

  • 10:1: “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.”

  • 12:5: “The thoughts of the righteous are just, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.”

According to Allen Ross, this type of parallelism emphasizes the importance of choosing the way of wisdom and avoiding the fate of a fool by setting “before the reader the choice between the wise and profitable way versus the foolish and disastrous way” (Ross 1991: 888). When encountering this form of parallelism, the interpreter is aided in determining the meaning of certain key words by comparing them to their antonyms.          

c. Emblematic Parallelism: In emblematic parallelism, one line is figurative and the other is literal, and together they form a simile with the word “like” or “as” introducing one of the lines (usually the figurative one):

  • 10:26: “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him.”

  • 11:22: “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.”

The fundamental question for the interpreter is: How is A like B? In answering this question, he must determine the common denominators in the comparison as well as the overall point being made by the proverb (Parsons 1995: 155-56). 

d. Synthetic Parallelism: Synthetic parallelism is a form of synonymous parallelism in which the second line completes, advances, or develops the thought of the first line by supplying additional ideas. If the second line provides no further clarification of the first, the parallelism should be classified as synonymous, but if it does bring forth clarification or expansion, it is synthetic.

  • 15:3: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”

  • 16:4: “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

The goal of the interpreter is to determine the contribution of that second line, as well as the point of the two statements taken together as a whole. Because synthetic parallelism usually takes the form of a wisdom saying (see 2b in part 1), the interpreter will need to determine the unstated exhortation implied by the proverb by wrestling with the question: How am I to live in light of this truth? To fail to take this extra step is to miss the point of the verse.  

Look for part 3 on Wednesday.

While we wait…(I’m thinking of a word that starts with “E” and rhymes with “regurging”)

While we wait for Waymeyer’s next installment in his “Guidelines for Studying Proverbs” series I thought I would drop a few lines regarding some items of interest, mostly about the “E” word (I have no chicken in this cock fight but I do care about how this conversation is shaping what preachers do when they are supposed to be preaching). For those of you who lack imagination, I’m talking about the emerging church.

  • The latest edition of The Master’s Seminary Journal (vol. 17, Num. 2, Fall 2006) should be required reading for expositors if for no other reason than Richard Holland’s (we like to call him “Rick”) article on “emergent preaching” entitled: “Progressional Dialogue & Preaching: Are They the Same?” Rick takes on the growing trend that has turned the pulpit into a place for “progressional dialogue”  resulting in “intentional interplay of multiple viewpoints” which has been part and parcel of the emerging church dialogue. The chief proponent of this view has been Doug Pagitt who has authored the provocative Preaching Re-Imagined. Holland argues (persuasively in my mind) that Pagitt’s counsel has more footing in Fosdick than Scripture. Surrounding the whole “emerging church” debate there has been little shortage of thoughts and ideas from a plethora of viewpoints but relatively little has been written specifically dealing with the preaching style of the movement. Rick’s analysis is a great place to start and will certainly balance-out the presently vapid tone of discussion that has permeated this overlooked area.
  • We need more “charity” in discussion. Is there anyone worth listening to that would argue against such an axiom (if by charity we mean “benevolent goodwill and love”)? However, and this is just an observation, often times “charity” is called for as a last rhetorical resort with the sole purpose of masking uncertainty on Bible knowledge.  There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something about theology or some finer point of biblical data but one should not retreat behind the battle cry of “show charity” simply because one has raised questions and didn’t like the resulting answers. I found Rick Phillips’ thoughts on “The Uncharitable Jesus” to be helpful and instructive on this issue.
  • Be sure to check out part one of Matt Waymeyer’s “Guidelines for Studying Proverbs” if you haven’t already and note the comments which have been equally informative.
  • If you are preaching this Lord’s Day, may you faithfully proclaim “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
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