Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ezekiel 19:1-20:44 - An Inevitable End?

19:1-9 – Singing the prophetic lament (or dirge). The Lion Lament. “What a lioness was your mother” should read, “What is your mother? A lioness!” (see Block NICOT 595; Duguid NIVAC 247). What does it mean? Who are the two lions, what are their characteristics and what is their end? The first lion seems to refer to Jehoahaz who was exiled to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco in 609BC (2 Kings 23:33-34), but the second lion possibly could be either Jehoiakin or Zedekiah. “He broke down their strongholds” (LXX and Targums) is read as “he knew his widows” (MT). Note the reference to the lion in Gen. 49:8-9 concerning the tribe of Judah.

19:10-14 – The Vine Lament (cf. Gen. 49:10-11). Who is the vine, where is it planted and how is it described? Note the reference to the “ruler’s scepter”. What is its demise (note the “east wind” which destroys it and see 17:10) and where is it finally planted? Why emphasis the “lament” aspect of this prophecy?

20:1-3 – The specific time reference marks off what follows as a distinct unit in Ezekiel and makes the date of the prophecy August 14, 591BC. The elders of Israel again go to “seek” (Heb. darash) the LORD (see Deut. 4:29; Block NICOT 619). However, the LORD will not allow their inquiry, but why? Compare and contrast what follows in this larger passage with Psalm 106 (Block NICOT 615-6).

20:4-9 – Israel leaving Egypt. Note the comparison/contrast of “the detestable practices of their fathers” with “of the nations” (Deut. 18:9-12; 1 Kings 14:23-24). The LORD swore by Himself to be bound to Israel and to give them a blessed land when He chose them. In what way did his choice of Israel require holiness and singular devotion? What is the significance of the refrain: “I am the LORD your God”? Was Israel free of idolatry during their deliverance from Egypt? What kept the LORD from completely destroying Israel in Egypt and what part of does His self-revelation play in all of this?

20:10-17 – First Generation Israel in the Desert. What did the LORD give to Israel in the desert and why? In what way is the continuing reference to “Sabbaths” a “sign” for Israel? Note that the plural “Sabbaths” (cf. Exo. 31:16-17) may refer to more than just the weekly Sabbath (Exo. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 56:2-6; Jer. 17:19-27; Block NICOT 632). How is the Sabbath defiled? (cf. Num.15:32-36) What stopped the LORD from completely destroying Israel in the desert?

20:18-26 – Second Generation Israel in the Desert. What did the LORD command this generation to do and to not do? In what way would this facilitate Israel knowing that He was the LORD their God? What does it mean for the “man who obeys [the laws of the LORD] will live by them”? Is this even possible or is the LORD holding out something that is impossible for Israel (or anyone for that matter)? Once more, what is the motivation for the LORD not utterly destroying Israel in their rebellion? In verse 25, what are the “statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by” which the LORD gave Israel (see Block NICOT 637-41)? Also, how were they defiled through the sacrifice of their firstborn? (see 2 Kings 17:17)

20:27-29 – The Generation that Lived in Canaan. Not only did Israel repeatedly sin against the LORD on the way to the Promised Land, but once in the Promised Land they worshipped other gods desecrating the whole land of promise.

20:30-38 – The Generation of Israel in Ezekiel’s Day. Did they continue in the sins of their fathers? Note how this demonstrates the justice of the LORD’s judgment against them for their own disobedience in light of chapter 18. Again, the LORD explains that they are not allowed to inquire of Him in their current state. “We want to be like the nations” (compare 1 Sam. 8:5-18) who “serve wood and stone” (Deut. 4:28)? What was the motivation? How will the LORD exert his ruler-ship over His people? He would punish them with the same might and power of His deliverance of them from Egypt (Exo. 6:6; Deut. 4:34; compare 1 Kings 8:42). They will meet with the LORD in the desert as judgment and purging of the wicked among them. What is the stated purpose?

20:39-44 – Why does the LORD tell Israel, “Go and serve your idols”? (cf. Jer. 44:25; Rev. 22:11) How will the LORD redeem His people and what does it mean for His name to not be “profaned”? When was (or will) the prophecy of the return from exile for Israel and the establishment of the LORD’s “holy mountain” fulfilled? Why is the LORD’s Name so essential and how is the promise of the Promised Land connected to His Name? Note that the righteous lives of returned Israel will result in recognition of self-loathing (contrasted to the modern notions of self-aggrandizing and self-loving). Has Israel (or anyone for that matter) been deserving of the goodness of the LORD? Even once they are accounted as righteous will they be deserving of the goodness of the LORD?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I was absolutely elated yesterday to get my copy of the newly published "Letters and Papers from Prison" (Vol. 8 in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works).  This is the volume wherein Bonhoeffer (I believe) has been most misunderstood and misrepresented (though some would certainly disagree with my conclusions).  His notion of "religionless Christianity" deserves a careful consideration and not a knee-jerk reaction as is so often the case.  I would encourage anyone interested in (the later...more controversial) Bonhoeffer to find a copy and read it thoroughly.

Here are the links to the pdf files of the Introduction, the Prologue, the First Chapter, and the Table of Contents.  Happy reading!  :-)

Should Pastors Get PhDs? (a 3 1/2 min. interview with John Piper)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why I Love the Hebrew Bible

In my first semester at Bible college I had to take a course on Old Testament Survey. I was expecting it to be boring and obscure. Up till that point I mostly thought the Old Testament was in the Bible to just provide some interesting stories for Sunday School until we got to "the more important stuff" in the New Testament. However, my professor for this class demonstrated from the very beginning his deep passionate enthrallment with the Hebrew Bible (in case you didn't realize the "Hebrew Bible" is another way of referring to the Old Testament :-). His hair would begin combed neatly and by the end of class it would be completely disheveled because of his excited lectures and discussions...and his hands and sleeves would be covered in chalk from all his writing. He made the Old Testament come alive for me.

The next semester was my first real introduction to the Hebrew language (which was nothing more than learning the alphabet, some discussion of tenses and sentence structure, and how to use basic research resources for it). One of the things that most strikes me as I remember the professor who taught this class was when he wept while reading the apocryphal "Prayer of Manasseh" (which is not a part of the Protestant canon of the Old Testament, but is in the Catholic canon and still belongs to the overall genre of Old Testament studies). His passion for original languages was contagious and I had never seen anyone weep while reading from the scriptures (sorry...I don't actually think of the "Prayer" as Scripture in the same sense--note the little "s"--, but it certainly is a wonderful piece of literature based upon other recognized Scriptures).

Then somewhat later in college I took an Intro to Hebrew with a brilliant professor of the Hebrew Bible (who had rather "interesting" ways of say the least). More than anything else I took away from that class an appreciation biblical Hebrew culture (and a little modern Jewish culture mixed in). Playing dreidel (here's a very brief description) for Hanukkah as we discussed the history of the game and various other aspects of Hebrew culture. FWIW...I won LOTS of candy that night. :-)

Now nearing the end of my graduate studies where I'm trying to focus on Hebrew Bible (and hopefully some day earn a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible)...I've had opportunity to study with some very gifted Hebrew scholars who have continued to impress their love for the Book (but more importantly their love for the God of the Book) upon me.

I am truly grateful for the amazing men and women who have shared their passion with me over the years.  Most of them will never know the impact they have made in my life.  It has enriched my love for the LORD beyond measure and I only pray that I continue to pass on that same passionate love through my preaching, teaching and living.  I look forward to as many days as the LORD may give me to draw deeply from the depths of this wonderful life-changing Book.

 ברוך השם

Ezekiel 17-18 - Taking Responsibility

17:1-2 – What do “allegory” (Heb. hida “riddle”) and “parable” (Heb.  mashal “proverb”) suggest for reading what follows?

17:3-4 – What effect should the description of the great eagle have on us?  Lebanon is (and was) known for its cedars (Judges 9:15; 1 Kings 5:20; 7:2).  The top of the cedar is carried off to “a land of merchants” and “a city of traders”…where is that?

17:5-6 – The first eagle becomes a gardener who plants and meticulously cares for the seedling and suddenly the seedling is a vine that flourishes because of its care.

17:7-8 – A second (lesser) eagle appears who remains inactive throughout the account (see Block NICOT 531 for a comparison of details).  The vine, rather than flourishing in its cared for environment, seeks the nourishment of the second eagle.

17:9-10 – What answers are expected by the LORD’s many questions?  On the withering east wind see Jonah 4:8.

17:11-18 – Whereas the parable was originally addressed to the “house of Israel” the interpretation makes clear that they are the “rebellious house”.  The interpretation is that the first eagle was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon; Lebanon was Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 7:2-12 the “house of cedars of Lebanon”); the “land” and “city” were Babylon.  The first exiles with King Jehoiakin of Judah (597 BC) were the top of the cedar.  The remaining portion of Israel was the vine which had every opportunity to flourish as a vassal state of Babylon.  The second eagle was Egypt.  King Zedekiah of Judah rebelled against Babylon and sought the aid of Egypt after Jehoiachin had been carried off to Babylon.  Why does the LORD promise judgment?  Zedekiah broke the covenant made with Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Chron. 36:13), but more importantly he (and the people) broke covenant with the LORD.  If the King of Babylon would not tolerate a broken covenant how much less would the LORD, maker of heaven and earth, not tolerate it?

17:19-21 – Who would carry out the judgment?  What assurance does the LORD give that this will be done? (17:21, 24)

17:22-24 – A return to the treetop for another sprig.  What will the LORD do in light of these verses?  Who will know this is the work of the LORD and who will benefit from it?  Who or what does this refer to?

18:1-2 – Another proverb (cf. Jer. 31:29-30), but this one is quoted by the people.  What does it mean?  It appears to refer to an impersonal natural retribution (i.e., fatalism) rather than to the personal judgment of the LORD.

18:3-4 – How is the response of the LORD to this proverb related to what He has declared in Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 24:16 and Jeremiah 31:29-34? 

18:5-18 – The righteous grandfather, sinful father, and righteous son (this might refer to Kings Josiah, Jehoiachim and Jehoiachin).  What distinguishes each?  What are the actions that are named as to be done and to be avoided?  What relation does verses 9 and 17 have to what precedes and follows in these similar lists?  Is there any sense of “fate” in what the LORD will do?  What sorts of things constitute doing what is “just and right” and “sins”?  (Lev. 19:15; 20:10, 18; 25:14; Deut. 4:1, 19; 15:7; 23:19; 24:12-17)  In what ways are the actions related specifically to the LORD and to the community?  In what way is the notion of “faith” to be described in this passage?

18:19-24 – Who dies for their sins?  How does this relate to the death of Christ for the world?  According to this passage, does the LORD maintain records of the previous life when one turns from righteousness or wickedness?  How does the LORD feel about the punishment of the wicked?

18:25-32 – Is the LORD unjust?  What is the judgment for righteousness and wickedness?  Does this passage make righteousness possible?  What is necessary for righteousness here?  In what way can Israel (or we) “get a new heart and a new spirit” for themselves according to this passage?  How is this related to what the LORD had already said in Ezekiel 11:19?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Does the Historicity of Adam Really Matter?

I just read a great article by Michael Reeves at Reformation21 titled "Adam and Eve". He discusses (rather cogently I might say, but don't take my word for it) why the historicity of Adam would seem to matter (it impacts the doctrines of Christ, the Trinity, and sin, among other practical biblical concerns). I'd be interested to hear others thoughts interacting with the article (whether positively or negatively--but that means the article should be read if you are thinking to comment on it ;-)...