Archive for the ‘Old Testament’ Category

Continuity vs. Discontinuity

The solution to this problem can be stated as follows: only where the text itself (in either Testament) signals the reader that the author clearly intended the material to have a limited application of a built-in obsolescene can we dare to conclude that the material in that section is discontinuous and of no permanent or literal authority. This is not to say that that same material may not, however, have behind it an abiding principle that is clearly taught in the abiding and continuous revelation of God. The question of continuity and discontinuity cannot be solved by imposed philosophical or imposed theological categories over the text of Scripture; the text must remain sovereign! It will give its own signals in the very context in which the suspected discontinuous text appears. Thus, we would solve the problem of the number and location of these texts that are time-conditioned by appealing to an exegesis of the affected passages.

from Walter C. Kaiser, Toward Rediscovering The Old Testament, 100.

Some Thoughts on Psalm 33

Lest my fellow contributors think me dead, here are some thoughts I’ve been having…

I have been enjoying reading through some psalms in the study here the past couple weeks. Psalm 33, which we recently used in worship at the church I attend, has been on my mind. I thought I would give some minor observations that might help us think well about this text. This is not intended as a detailed discussion of the content of the psalm, but a few points that help guide our reading thereof.

First, Psalm 33 should be read closely with the psalm(s) that precedes. Several lines of evidence support this supposition. Unlike the surrounding chapters, Psalm 33 does not have a title in the Hebrew text. In fact, a few Hebrew manuscripts connect this psalm with Psalm 32. Moreover, connections between 33:1 and 32:11 cannot be missed. Consider the following:

32:11 Rejoice in Yhwh and be glad, righteous ones! And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
33:1 Shout for joy in Yhwh, righteous ones! Praise is becoming to the upright.

Furthermore, it seems that 32:10 forms the basis for the response in 33:21–22:

32:10 There are many sorrows for the wicked one, but the one who trusts in Yhwh, loyal love surrounds him.
33:21–22 For in him our heart will rejoice, for in his holy name we have trusted. Yhwh, may your loyal love be upon us, according to how we have waited for you.

Therefore, the connections with Psalm 32 appear at both the beginning and ending of Psalm 33, which is an appropriate place for such relationships to be made so that the reader does not fail to observe them.

Second, recognition of these connections guides the reading of the psalm; that is, I don’t believe we should simply consider this mere coincidence. The primary answer to the significance of this connection seems to be that Psalm 33 is given as an appropriate response to the exhortation of Psalm 32. The righteous ones—i.e. those who (within the context of the Psalter) meditate upon Torah (Ps 1) and find refuge in the Son (Ps 2)—are called upon to shout for joy in the Lord.

Third, the psalm is corporate in its nature. As such, it guides the response of the readers/worshipers, informing theologically their response to Yahweh. The corporate response is most specifically seen in the change from third person (vv. 1–19) to first person plural (vv. 20–22). So, what began with a call to worship in vv. 1–3, continued with the author’s reasoning of why such praise and reverence for Yahweh is fitting, ends with the response of the forgiven (see Ps 32). Their response is one of waiting, hoping, and trusting in God’s commitment to His promises. I like what Goldingay says about this in his commentary (p. 474):

The frame of the psalms suggests an equivalent comprehensiveness about our human response to God. Worship involves looking away from ourselves to an object. It involves the making of music and noise. But when we have seen who Yhwh is, it involves an expression of reverence, hope, joy, and trust.

More on the Land Promises

In yesterday’s post, “Joshua 21:43-45 and the Promise of Land,” I concluded with a question about how Deuteronomy 30:1-10 is interpreted by those who see no future fulfillment of the land promise given to the nation of Israel. More specifically, I asked how and when the promise of Deuteronomy 30 will be fulfilled. In response, Expository Thoughts reader Joe asked the question: “Was Israel not restored to the land after the Babylonian captivity?” In other words, weren’t the promises of restoration to the land fulfilled prior to the close of the OT, and isn’t it therefore futile to await a future restoration of Israel to the land?


The simple answer to Joe’s question is that yes, some of the Jews did indeed return to the land after the Babylonian captivity, specifically under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. At the same time, however, none of these three returns to the land constituted a fulfillment of the restoration promises found throughout the Old Testament. As I have written elsewhere, I say this for ten reasons:


1. Several of the restoration promises speak of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) being reunited with the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom (Judah), and this simply did not occur under the previous returns from exile (Isa 11:11-12; Jer 3:18; 23:5-6; 31:27: Ezek 37:21-22; Hosea 1:11; Zech 10:6).


2. Several of the restoration promises speak of the spiritual renewal and wholehearted obedience of the nation, and this cannot be reconciled with the sinful state of the nation during the previous returns (Deut 30:1-3, 6; Jer 3:17; 24:7; 32:38-40; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:26-27).


3. Scripture indicates that when the nation of Israel is restored, her land will be renewed and her cities will be rebuilt, and this did not happen during the previous returns (Ezek 36:29-30, 33-36a).


4. According to some of the restoration promises, the return of Israel will be so astounding that it will eclipse and overshadow the exodus out of Egypt and make it seem small in comparison, and such was clearly not the case with the previous returns (Jer 16:14-15; 23:5-8).


5. The prophet Zechariah held out the promise of restoration to the land even after the returns under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (Zech 8:4-8; 10:8-10; 14:1-21).


6. Several passages indicate that, at the time of the promised return to the land, the Jews will be as numerous as they were prior to the exile. In contrast, the population of the post-exilic period was small (Ezek 36:37b-38a; Jer 33:22; Zech 10:8).


7. Scripture indicates that Yahweh will destroy the nations to which He has scattered the Jews at the time that He restores the nation of Israel, but this did not happen in the previous returns (Jer 30:10-11; 46:28).


8. In key OT passages, the promised return to the land is presented as an integral part of the New Covenant, which was not inaugurated until Christ’s first coming (Jer 31:27-40; Ezek 36:24-36).


9. The OT is clear that once God restores the Jews to their land, they will not be uprooted again from their everlasting possession (Amos 9:15: Jer 23:5-6; Ezek 34:28; 37:25).


10. The Bible teaches that God’s ultimate purpose for the promised return is the vindication of His name among the nations (Ezek 36:16-38), and this purpose was not met in the previous returns.

Joshua 21:43-45 and the Promise of Land

In a recent comment here at Expository Thoughts, a reader named Joe took issue with the dispensational teaching that the land promises to Israel have yet to be fulfilled. Joe made several arguments in his refutation, one of which was the often repeated claim that the land promises of the Old Testament were completely fulfilled in the book of Joshua according to Joshua 21:43-45, and therefore we have no reason to expect that there will be a future fulfillment of this promise. As I once wrote on another blog:

To comment briefly on Joshua 21:43-45, I see this passage as indicating an initial and partial fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham. Part of the difficulty of the issue is that Joshua 21 clearly says that Israel possessed all the land promised to her by Yahweh, and yet other passages in Joshua indicate there was remaining land yet to be conquered and possessed (Josh 13:1-17; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12-13, 17-18; 23:4-6, 12-13). It is not an easy issue to resolve. Calvin referred to it as an apparent contradiction.

Regardless of how we solve this dilemma, however, keep in mind the historical context of these passages in Joshua. Prior to their entrance into the promised land, God said that if Israel obeyed the Mosaic Law, she would experience Abrahamic blessing (Lev 26:1-13; Deut 28:1-14), but if Israel disobeyed the Law, she would experience curses (Lev 26:14-46; Deut 28:15-68). With regard to the promised land, if Israel was not faithful to keep the Mosaic Covenant, she would be dispersed from the land (Lev 26:32-33; Deut 28:63-64), but if she was faithful to the Mosaic Covenant, her days in the land would be blessed and prolonged (Lev 26:5-6; Deut 28:8).

In this way, God’s promise that the nation would possess the land was certain and eternal (the Abrahamic Covenant), but the occupation of the land and enjoyment of the blessings by any given generation of Jews was conditioned upon obedience to the Law (the Mosaic Covenant). Put another way, adherence to the Mosaic Covenant would enable a given generation of Israel to experience the blessings promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, but unfaithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant would delay the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises until a later time and a later generation.

This leads me to Deuteronomy 30:1-10. Moses and the people of Israel are on the plains of Moab, on the verge of taking the land the Lord promised her. He has just warned Israel that if she is not faithful to keep the Mosaic Law, she will be torn from the land she is about to enter and she will be scattered among the nations (Deut 28:63-64). Then, in Deuteronomy 30 –prior to her entrance of the land — the Lord makes it clear that this will indeed happen: Israel will be unfaithful to the Mosaic Covenant and will, as a result, be dispersed from the land and scattered among the nations (Deut 30:1; see Deut 31:14-22 and Josh 23:16).

This judgment, however, is not the final word, for in the verses that follow the Lord declares that some time after Israel is dispersed, He will grant to her repentance and a circumcised heart, and she will be restored to the land and experience the blessing originally promised to her in the Abrahamic Covenant (Deut 30:2-10). This happens, of course, just as God has promised, when the Northern Kingdom falls to Assyria in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:6) and the Southern Kingdom falls to Babylon in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer 39:1-10). This is exactly what the Lord predicted back in Deuteronomy 30:1 (and Deut 31:14-22) — Israel has broken the Mosaic Covenant, and as a result she is dispersed from the promised land.

But this is not the end of the story. After all, God has promised Israel that He will restore her once again to the land “which your fathers possessed” (Deut 30:5). In fact, that’s why you see the promise of restoration continuing throughout the prophets who prophesied after Joshua 21 (e.g., Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-16; 14:1-2; 27:1-13; 35:1, 10; 43:5-6; 49:8-13; 59:15b-21; 62:4-7; 66:10-20; Jer 3:11-20; 12:14-17; 16:10-18; 23:1-8; 24:5-7; 28:1-4; 29:1-14; 30:1-3, 10-11; 31:2-14; 32:36-44; 42:1-22; 50:17-20; Ezek 11:14-20; 20:33-44; 28:25-26; 34:11-16, 23-31; 36:16-36; 37:1-28; 39:21-29; Hosea 1:10-11; 2:14-23; 14:4-7; Joel 3:18-21; Amos 9:11-15; Obadiah 17, 21; Micah 4:6-7; 7:14-20; Zeph 3:14-20; Zech 8:7-8; 10:6-12; and 14:11).

When God says, “I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers” (Jer 16:15), He is alluding to the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give the land as an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8). The land promised by the prophets doesn’t just happen to be the same land promised to Abraham, as if it were some kind of amazing coincidence, but rather these promises are a reiteration and continuation of the promise made to Abraham.

Frankly, when people use Joshua 21:43-45 as a proof-text to say that God will not restore the nation of Israel to the promised land, it makes me wonder how they interpret Deuteronomy 30:1-10. In this passage, God says that one day after Israel is dispersed, He will bring her back into the very same land from which she was dispersed. Which land is that, and if the restoration to this land is not future, when did it happen?

Moses was a Dead Head?

As one who takes preaching the OT seriously, it was enlightening for me to find out that a professor at Hebrew University-Jerusalem has concluded that Moses was high (and I don’t mean atmospherically) when he received the Ten Commandments.

The bible is packed with drug-fuelled visions of miracles and according to a leading academic when Moses met God to receive the Ten Commandments he was on a hallucinogen-induced high. The theory, published this week in international philosophy journal Time and Mind, claims that key events of the Old Testament are actually records of visions by ancient Israelites high on hallucinogenic drugs.

See the full article here.

“The Anticipation of the Messiah in the OT”

How should we go about finding the Messiah in the OT? I would agree with many others who have noted that it doesn’t take a class in hermeneutical gymnastics to see that the OT anticipated the coming of the Messiah. I would suggest that first and foremost we begin with what the text actually says and means historically. At a basic level this is called grammatical-historical hermeneutics. There is good evidence that even Jesus Himself understood the OT in a literal way. So with that I offer the following thoughts and observations:

In regards to the disciples we see that when they were called in John chapter 1 that Philip reported to Nathanael that “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jhn 1:45). The way they identified the Messiah was by the OT Scriptures. They knew the expectations of the Law and Prophets and recognized Jesus accordingly. This does not mean that they grasped all the implications of such belief which time would show they did not. Nevertheless, in John 6:69 Peter would later confess on their behalf that they had “believed and come to know” that Jesus was “the Holy One of God” (an allusion to Isaiah 54:5).

Later when Peter stood on Solomon’s Porch and preached his second sermon (Acts 3:11-26) he noted that many of them were ignorant (3:17). However he reminds them that “the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (3:18). He tells them that even Moses spoke of a final prophet (3:22) and that “likewise all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days” (3:24). It was not for a lack of information that many would not believe.

Stephen’s last sermon caused him to be murdered (Acts 7). The reason is that he retraces OT history and shows that the Jewish leadership and nation as a whole had hardened their hearts, closed their ears and resisted what the Spirit had so clearly taught in the Word through the prophets (7:51-52).  In some ways this reminds us of what Jesus concluded in John 5:46-47 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

A key texts on this issue is Luke 24 where Jesus meets the two men on the road to Emmaus. They are having a conversation with the resurrected Jesus but fail to realize who he is. Luke alludes to the fact that it might be because they had unrealized expectations (cf. 24:21). When Jesus corrects them, calling them “foolish,” he says their lack of understanding is because they didn’t believe what the prophets had already spoken (24:25). So Jesus goes back through the OT and shows them that the Messiah had always been anticipated (24:27). Jesus did not need to insert Himself into the OT in order to show that the Messiah was there. Jesus did not chastise them for failing to spiritualize the OT but for not believing what it so clearly taught.

The NT begins with the assumption that the OT informs the message of the NT (Matt. 1:1). The failure on the part of the people to see the Messiah in the OT was not a hermeneutical problem. Their problem was not that they failed to spiritualize the OT but that they would not take it at face value. So it wasn’t for a lack of information that people refused to believe, it was hardness of heart against God’s testimony of Himself in the Scriptures. Time and again it is noted that they rejected the message of the OT and therefore they missed what the OT anticipated.

We see this today with modern Jews who have the same Hebrew Scriptures yet reject its message in favor of a liberation-styled interpretation whereby the Scripture is nothing more than the story of Israel’s struggle. However, if they really believed Moses they would believe in what Moses hoped for which has now been fulfilled in Jesus (John 5:46-47). I see a similar issue with some Protestants who reject the inerrancy of the OT and as a result have no basis for their many man-made conceptions of who Jesus is. This is why in many respects the Jesus of modern tradition looks different than the Jesus of Scripture. This is also why understanding the OT in its original context and preaching the OT is crucial in order for us to develop a foundational and robust understanding of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

Applying OT Law Today

J. Daniel Hays has written a helpful article called “Applying the Old Testament Law Today” [Bibliotheca Sacra 158: 629 (2001): 21-35].You can find the full article here. He notes:

What approach should believers follow in interpreting the Old
Testament Law? In accord with sound hermeneutical method, it should be an
approach that (a) is consistent, treating all Old Testament Scripture as
God’s Word, (b) does not depend on arbitrary nontextual categories, (c)
reflects the literary and historical context of the Law, placing it firmly into
the narrative story of the Pentateuch, (d) reflects the theological context of
the Law, and (e) corresponds to New Testament teaching.

Here is a summary of how he would apply his method to a particular passage:

  • Identify What The Particular Law Meant To The Initial

  • Determine The Differences Between The Initial Audience And
    Believers Today

  • Develop Universal Principles From The Text

  • Correlate The Principle With New Testament Teaching

  • Apply The Modified Universal Principle To Life Today

Worship is a response to what?

“Worship begins with the response to divine revelation. But if little time or attention is given to the revealed Word of God, read, proclaimed, or taught, then to what do people respond? The result is that worship becomes superficial or sentimental. If the church is truly interested in recapturing the spirit and nature of the prophetic and apostolic ministry of the Word in worship, then there will have to be a greater emphasis placed on reading, teaching, and preaching the Word of God, but it has to be with clarity, accuracy, power, and authority” (Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, 429).

Notes on the OT

Expository Thoughts contributor, Randy McKinion, has been teaching a biblical theology of the OT book by book at Colonial Baptist (Cary, NC). He has made available his notes on a class blog. This is a great resoure so be sure to check it out (here).

Methodology for Ministry from Jeremiah – Part 2

According to Paul, God is on a mission to “destroy the wisdom of the wise” (v. 19). The means by which He wages this war is the simplicity of the message of the cross. In contrast to those who seek miracles that point to the authenticity of the message and those who continue to search for human wisdom, Paul simply preached “Christ crucified” (v. 23).

Moreover, Paul gives us the reason that God is on this mission, and he bases this reason upon the message developed by Jeremiah. It is as if Paul is expositing for us the passage we have considered in part 1. His conclusions are the same as Jeremiah:

First, God destroys boasting in man because God Himself and His message about Christ will only be understood by those who have true wisdom.

Consider the following verses from 1 Corinthians 1 (with Jeremiah 9:23–24 in mind):

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Jeremiah had rebuked the entire nation for their faulty, human wisdom, for their presumption upon the strength they believed they had in the covenant, and for their worldly pursuits. Yet, he also encouraged them to pursue the things that honor God—loyalty, justice, and righteousness—things that their spiritual condition would not allow them to accomplish without His intervention to provide them with true wisdom.

Similarly, according to Paul, the calling of God is not found in human wisdom, might, or wealth but only “in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (v. 30). It is only through Christ that faithfulness, justice, and righteousness can be found.

As a result God accomplishes His purpose, namely, that “no man may boast before God” (v. 29) and “so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (v. 31). The reason, then, that a lost world refuses to embrace the message of the cross is the same reason that Jeremiah’s message was ignored—they have confidence both in themselves and in deceptive, comforting words of man-made religion.

Furthermore, as pastors and teachers and Bible students, we must be careful not to place our glory (the basis for our ministry) in our knowledge rather than our Lord. Knowledge puffs up…builds an ego. Be careful that you consistently pursue knowledge of God that begins with “the fear of the Lord,” a knowledge that recognizes His authority and that responds with proper worship.

Second, God destroys boasting in man because the message of the cross will only be embraced through the work of the Spirit of God.

Turning to 1 Corinthians 2, but not leaving the same idea, Paul now applies his thinking to his own preaching ministry.

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Paul’s point, then, is that his methodology of preaching the Gospel reflected his dependence upon the Spirit to bring these things to bear upon the mind of his listeners.

In Jeremiah’s day, the Lord gave him a message to speak that the people would not listen to. In fact, the Lord told him that would be the case: “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (7:27). In fact, the Lord told Jeremiah not to pray for this people, because He would not hear him (7:15).

This is a theme that runs through the prophets, beginning even with Deuteronomy. God was so fed up with their rebellion, apostasy, and refusal to listen to His prophets, that His determination to judge them was certain. He would not relent. Therefore, no matter what the prophet said, the message fell upon infertile ears and hearts. Without the breaking through of God’s power, there would be no acceptance. The reason there would be no acceptance is because their hearts were calloused, unable to hear and receive this message.

As a result, the Lord promised later in Jeremiah that He would take things into His own hands (see Jer 31).

He would provide them with a new heart.
He would make a new covenant with them.
He would give them the ability to know Him and to be His people.

Paul picks up on this truth in the verses before us.

Similarly, we who are given the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel should pay careful heed to this warning. Not only was our own calling dependent upon the Spirit who gave us the wisdom to know the things of God, but also our message must rely upon God to intervene in the hearts and minds of those who hear us. In other words, we must be careful that our words and/or our presentation be clearly dependent upon God’s intercession.

False words will be readily received if presented in an appealing way. Moreover, an appealing presentation might very well breed false conversions. Even more, if you are relying upon your own abilities and talents to build the ministry in which you are involved, then you are really fighting against Christ in the building up of His church.

Paul seems to be saying in this passage that true boasting in God comes by mean of the demonstration of the Spirit of God, not through human argumentation or novelty or ingenuity. It is only when the message is received clearly through the demonstration of the Spirit of God that true boasting can take place.

To be honest, it is no surprise that the people consistently rejected the message of Jeremiah. After all, he was speaking the truth, no holds barred, right? Why would they believe him when they were hearing a more palatable message from the other prophets? The point of Jeremiah, then, is consistent with Paul’s point here—without a breaking through by the Spirit of God, the message will not be received, because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (v. 14).

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