Sunday, July 29, 2012

Zephaniah Read-through

Today we look into Zephaniah.

The prophet Zephaniah is possibly a prophet from royal lineage, namely from King Hezekiah.  His career was during the reign of Josiah, King of Judah, and his reforms; BC 640-609.  It is debated at what point of Josiah's reign that Zephaniah prophesied, mainly because much of Judah was still wayward even after Josiah's reforms.  So the period of Josiah's reforms do not conclusively indicate the career of Zephaniah.  As for the people of God, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had already been exiled in BC 722, and now two generations later Judah (the Southern Kingdom) is unwilling to turn back to the Covenant of the Lord.  Thus, in the face of Josiah's attempts to reform the worship of Judah, an explicit example of failure by their Northern brethren and their punishment, and the Lord declaring He would "perhaps" forgive their waywardness if they repent and return to the covenant (2:1-3), Judah is still chooses to be wayward.  This is the difficult situation to which Zephaniah is speaking. 

Main Themes:

1) "The day of the Lord" (1:7ff):  The Lord on this day will judge fairly His people and the nations indiscriminately.  Those who sin against Him will be punished and He will bless those who repent and embrace His covenant (3:11-20).

2)  The Lord opposes those who oppress and oppose His people (2:1-15), a theme that continues to appear due to the lineage of David.  

3)  In the face of Judah's waywardness, the Lord still declares He has a plan beyond the present situation.  The present punishment of wayward Judah and the nations will be how the faithful remnant will be revealed (2:7b; 9b-11; 3:9-20). 

"The Lord will be awesome against them; for He will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations."   Zeph.  2:11

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Isaiah 40:8 - Luther-style

Not only Presbyterians like this verse...

"Das ist ein vortrefflicher Spruch, den man an alle Wände schreiben sollte: Das Wort des Herrn wird allein bleiben.  Was über und außer dem Worte Gottes ist, das wird wie eine Blume auf dem Felde vergehen."

From Mit Martin Luther von Tag zu Tag: Ein Jahresbeleiter, 28. Juli.

Other Luther posts on MosisMose:

A helpful link for typing German umlauts, etc.  FYI.

Book buying series, part 1: Bibliolatry - a Caution.

While I was in seminary I spent much of my time seeking out the mentorship and advice of my professors and other wise peers on many practical topics.  On this blog I will relay much of what I learned because of its value to my development as a student and scholar.  One of the most helpful areas I sought to be schooled in was the art of book buying and building a personal library that will serve in good research and sermon prep.  One peer said to me that he felt, "one of the jobs of a seminarian is to begin building a library".  I started following his opinion but needed to seek more wisdom on how to go about doing that.  But, its true, you can't buy every book!  Nor should you.  And, of course cannot read 'em all.  So where do we start?  That's what I want to discuss in these following posts.

Today, I start with a few needed cautions:

As John Calvin is famous for saying, "Our hearts are idol factories".  Bibliolatry is, as The Oxford English Dictionary defines it, "to deify a book".  This seem to be an extreme, even a silly, warning.  I mean, really, who will deify a book?  Well, maybe, no one.  But who will become more devoted to their books than to their study? Their ministry? Their family?  Many.  There is a lot you can potentially do to build and maintain a nice personal library.  And these things can turn, yes, into devoted worship.  So, we need to keep our book buying and library building in a focus of the larger scope of our ministry, and submitted to the Lord and accountable to others.

Next, it has been a bit ironic watching America become so fixated on the mental imbalance that causes hoarding, and American's responding with awe and pity for "the way those people live, and how they have such a hard time purging what they don't need".  The reality check here is, you do not have to be on one of those shows to be a hoarder.  Actually, the irony is that most American's are hoarders (and not just Americans!).  I have been around the rich in Northwest Columbus, Ohio and around the poor in Appalachia; they all "collect".  Because they are "holding on to something"; an heirloom, maybe - there are always very reasonable rationales.  So what does this have to do with book buying?  Everything!  Books are material things that have the same power over individuals as glassware, paintings, and other nik-naks. We need to keep in focus why we are buying books otherwise we can begin to hoard them- buying whatever we see with less than worthy rationale - and become hoarders ourselves.  We are no different than those people on those documentaries.  We can get a little 'happy feeling' when we click the button on Amazon.  Be careful, this is where a hoarder finds him/herself; that is, finding simple pleasures in another purchase, then finding security in their stuff, etc.  Our security and pleasure is always to be found in the Lord, not our mammon.

Finally, do not be deceived, having a library of any size does not make you a faithful follower of Jesus, a better preacher, nor a great scholar.  This does not need much explanation.  A couple of ordained ministers/scholars/professors I was most influenced by at Covenant actually possessed libraries that did not match, in my estimation, their achievements, abilities and godliness.  Or maybe it did?  And the great thing is that one of these men was looking to get rid of some of his books!  The last time I checked, putting a book under one's pillow at night and gaining knowledge "through osmosis" (as my old band director would say) did not work, neither did sitting in the midst of them.  It is the seeking of the Kingdom of God, the mentorship/friendship of godly men, and the diligent labor that makes a man, not his books.

I think that will suffice for cautions.  I don't want to be a buzz-kill!  I will follow this post soon with other topics such as buying commentaries, 'to buy or not to buy monographs', to buy or use a library', and some other specialized studies.

Others Book buying posts:
Book Buying series, special edition: Dead Sea Scrolls

Friday, July 27, 2012

Habakkuk read-through...

Do you ever find yourself debating with the Lord?  Do you say, "How long, O Lord"?  Are you generally skeptical of what the Lord is doing in your life and others?  Then Habakkuk is your guy!

Habakkuk is unique among the writing prophets in that his prophesy is a dialogue with the Lord, and not address the people of Judah directly.  More accurately, Habakkuk complains and the Lord answers.  Some welcome humanity from the bible to us who often feel the Lord is not doing it right.  You do not need to be so pious! 

Habakkuk receives his prophesy via vision, again, t
he normal mode of prophesy (2:1b).  The time of his career as a prophet is a bit unknown, but can be narrowed down to an early date of Manasseh's reign (BC 686-642) to a later date of the beginning of Josiah's reign and reform (BC 640-630). The atmosphere of idolatry, syncretism, and arrogance is prevalent due to the wicked rule of Manasseh.  The Assyrian Empire is weakening and the Neo-Babylonian Empire is on the rise. 

Main themes:

1) Things will be tough for Judah for a while but they are called to be faithful in times of trial. "The righteous shall live by faith" is most known from Romans, and the exegesis of Martin Luther and the reformation, but has an even fuller-orbed meaning to the people of God than initial saving faith.  This faithfulness reaches every part of life, and is seen in difficult times when the Lord appears silent.

2)  God is just.  Though He punishes a lesser wicked regime with a more wicked one (a point Habakkuk calls out the Lord for), the Lord will punish all oppression of His people.  Justice will prevail!

3) The Lord is the only one to be worshiped.  The Lord denounces idols and the worship of them quite explicitly in chapter 2 and declares He is the One who is to be worshiped (2:18-20).
4)  The Lord is patient and a caring Father.  We see this via the dialogue between the Lord and His prophet, Habakkuk.  He will hear our objections and we must realize His justice and mercy even when we do not understand how He is pursuing His mission.

"What profit is an idol?...Can this teach?...there is no breath in it.  But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."  Habakkuk 2:18-20

Really love your [apples], want to shake your tree...

Luther gives us an enduring example of what even the most specialized specialist should be pursuing:

"Die Heilige Schrift ist ein ungeheuer grosser Baum, aber es ist kein Ast daran, den ich nicht mit meiner Hand geschuettelt habe und ein paar Aepfel herabgeklopft."

From Mit Martin Luther von Tag zu Tag: Ein Jahresbeleiter, 27.Juli  (a good book to daily practice your German!)

Other Luther posts on MosisMose:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nahum read-through

Today, we continue to follow the order of the Minor Prophets that you see in your English translation to Nahum.

Nahum receives an oracle, a vision, from the Lord.  This, again, is the normal mode of prophesy, Jonah and Micah, the past two days, are not reported as a vision (Micah may be, but Jonah most likely is not due to his 'transitional' nature as a classic to writing prophet role).  But vision is the normal mode.

Nahum's prophetical career was somewhere during the time of BC 663 to 612.  Other than Assyria as its cruel oppressor, Nineveh being its capitol, little is known about the need of Judah to hear this prophesy since the prophesy is aimed towards Nineveh.  Nahum prophesied during the monarchy of Manasseh (exceedingly wicked), Amon, and Josiah (known for his reforms).  At this time in Judah's history, the Neo-Babylonian empire was gaining strength, and though Assyrian Empire was historically on the decline (the fall of Nineveh was BC 612), at the time of this prophesy they were at their height of power.

So, if in Obadiah "Edom is toast", then in Nahum, Nineveh is the fried egg that completes the spread.  The fate of Nineveh due to their treatment of God's people and arroagance is sure.  They will be destroyed.

Why is the Lord going to destroy Nineveh so ruthlessly after two days ago we read of the lesson He taught Jonah (and Israel) about compassion with Nineveh as the object lesson?  First, this historically is a different Nineveh that repented in the presence of Jonah, since about or over 100 years have passed.  But more importantly, the line of David is in question.  The Lord is not 'flip-flopping' on His judgements.  It is important and helpful to remember that when we read the writing prophets, the Lord is preserving His people, yes, because He loves them, but more importantly because they carry the line of David that will bring the Messiah - the King and redeemer of the world.  Sometimes the Lord's word through His prophets can seem very strange and at times contradictory, but if the preservation of the line of David is kept in mind many prophesies will start to make more sense (Most importantly when the Lord seemingly works against His people, due to their actions, idolatry, or simply apathy, that can thwart the succession of the line of David.  Or, when a nation for which he previously had compassion or used in His plan, like Nineveh, suddenly is the object of His wrath).


1)  The Lord judges all nations and controls history.  We have seen now in Micah and Nahum a prophesy against a people, namely Israel's leaders and Nineveh, that became reality soon after.  The nationality of the country matters not to the Lord when it concerns His plan and arrogance against His mission to establish His Kingdom.

2)  The Lord will protect His people.  Nineveh has become an arrogant city that oppresses Israel, and though the Lord used Assyria to discipline His people for their waywardness, He will not allow Assyria to wipe Israel off the map.  The love of His devotion to His people is strong especially, again, in view of the line of David.

3)  The Lord's plan of the restoration of Israel is still in view.  The Lord has not forgotten His mission and plan to establish His Kingdom on earth among all people (the meaning of "keeping your feasts" is remembering the Lord's promises; Neh. 1:15).

"Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!  Keep your feasts, O Judah; for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off."  Neh. 1:15

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Micah Read-through

Continuing on, today, Micah will be discussed.

Micah, though unlike the other writing prophets his call as a prophet is not recorded nor is he ever referred to as a prophet, had a known prophetic career during the period of the 8th to 7th century, under three Kings of Judah, namely Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  Micah's prophesy (3:12) is directly quoted in Jeremiah 26:18 by the elders of the land in reference to its influence upon Hezekiah, and is prophesy by the "Spirit of the Lord" (Mi. 3:8; 1 Pet. 1:20-21).  The audience is unique to Micah in that it is directed towards the leadership of the people who exploited the people of God (chapter 3 addresses each category of leadership explicitly).  The broader audience, that is of Israel or Judah is unclear, but some prefer to think it is Judah due to Micah's "high places" remarks in chapter 1.  Many also note that Micah sums up three other prophets, those are Amos (justice); Hosea (steadfast love); and Isaiah (humble devotion to the Lord).
Key themes:

1)  Covenant faithfulness is not simply carried out through rituals and religious practices, but renewed worship of the Lord.  The Lord calls Jerusalem, in chapter 1, a "high place" indicating its guilt of idolatry, but contrasts this in chapter 4 with the nations "flowing" to worship the Lord and to be taught. Does the Lord desire sacrifices and offerings, yes, but not as Israel saw it.  He desires His people "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly in the Lord".  This is a larger and truer sacrifice than lip service.

2)  Oppression of God's people will not be allowed to go unpunished, even if it is by His own people (2:3-4).  He will rescue the oppressed (4:6-7), and exile the oppressor by an oppressor (namely the Neo-Assyrian Empire).  

3)  A shepherd-king will rescue a remnant.  This shepherd-king will be ruler of Israel and deliver Israel in the strength of the Lord (this contrasted with Israel current leadership and their sources of power).  

4)  The Lord's plan is rooted in His character and promise to Abraham.  The Lord has not forgotten His people, His mission to all the nations, and His Kingdom (4:1-5; 7:18-20).  The Lord is faithful to forgive even His most wayward people so that His promise and plan will endure.

I take two things from Micah, today:

First, the power to forgive in the strength of the Lord.  True forgiveness is not easy, and often scandalous.  The Lord gives His ultimate forgiveness to those wayward people of Israel here in Micah via the Cross, the poster-child of scandal!

Second, our true worship is desired by the Lord.  We should realize this is even more than great worship on Sunday mornings.  The Lord regards true worship as "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly in the Lord."  This clearly has implication for many things besides a devoted worship service.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Distance PhD Programs: Advantages and Disadvantages

A friend over at the Wheaton PhD student blog, For Christ and His Kingdom, suggested I post on this topic. I want to note that this post is by one who is just beginning his PhD from distance in Ohio through Trinity College, Bristol (my advisor is Professor John Nolland). That being said, it will be largely from the perspective of one who has simply gone through the application process, but has not yet progressed through much of the program besides initial supervisory conversations.  I did do a pretty thorough job researching both American and UK PhD programs, but this is not substitute for the actual experience.  Thus, I will be leaning on my compadres from this blog and elsewhere to fill the gaps.  The existence of such programs is relatively unknown, thus I think it is a worthwhile topic to discuss and advertise as a legit post-graduate option.

A bit about my needs and what I was looking for, because PhD programs are not one-size-fits-all.

I have a wife and kids, so this limits some things when cost, mobility, and transition is considered.  Finally, once I realized that being called to teach (or pastor, depending on where the Lord takes our family after this season) was not going to land me in the 'top 2%' wage-earners, I realized I need to be very concerned to keep debt down; i.e., don't take loans out for everything(!), or anything, if possible.  Finally, I am one who works well in an independent environment of study and report back to be mentored and guided.  This means that the relationship between me and my adviser, and the expertise and mentorship she/he would provide was much more important to me than school name (though school name - hate to say it, since you do have to 'play the game' a bit - does matter to a certain extent, of course accreditation too).  All that being said, by realizing these things about myself I was able to start understanding what schools I would most benefit from and should apply to.  Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

So Advantages and Disadvantages of the type of program I am in now:


1) Flexible!
    In many ways these programs are flexible for a schedule that needs this aspect.  First, there is no class-work in UK programs (!), which means it is dissertation only. Personally speaking, I count this as a HUGE plus, because I learn best in a seeking, synthesizing, and discussion environment; and I have already engaged in 8 yrs of course-work by this point of my career.  But no class work means it is all on your shoulders to know what you need to know.  If your Greek, Hebrew, German, Syriac, etc. is weak, there is no one to hold your hand to get it done.  If you need to know about Second Temple Judaism, you have to in essence assemble your own class on the subject so that you will be able to discuss the topic with understanding.  If you were in the UK for your PhD work, classes would be free. It is hard finding classes on languages free in the states. Some local Jewish temples do offer Modern Hebrew classes for free, which is a language that is very close to its classical ancestor. So check around! Second, their admission is rolling; normally with two enrollment periods a year which has its advantages (also, I did not run into app fees in the UK! - a nice perk). Third, there is no need to move over-seas.  This is worth giving a bit of explanation.  No its not a mail-ordered PhD, with less prestige (be careful, some can be).  Since UK programs function very much like, "Hi, nice to meet you!  There's the library."  What I can do at Ohio around many great libraries, with skype, email, phone, and semi-annual visits, makes this type of arrangement about as good as being in the UK (i.e., no loss of prestige); besides actually not actually being on location, i.e., having to stay in Ohio and not drink at a real pub!  Flexibility is the big advantage.

2) Cost Effective:

   One will notice that cost will be in both categories as an advantage and as a disadvantage.  The cost advantage is that living costs are much cheaper in the US than in the UK.  Secondly, if you are not one of the lucky ones to get full scholarship and stipend by an American program each year, depending on the UK program, three years of tuition can often beat a 5-6 year American program.  A cautious third point would be that many American schools that give stipends frown on working a job outside of your research, some not even allowing it (so you better make sure your stipend can provide what you need), but in a distance UK program in your own country you can work, if need be (note the challenges working while researching can cause to the execution of good research and writing, and the ultimate completion of your project - which is, after-all, the ultimate goal!).

3) Accessible Resources and Advising:
   Neither access of resources nor advising (this, of course, depends on the adviser, and this is upon my limited experience to this point) is cheated by this type of research.  It is true that a hot-dog always tastes better at the game, per se, but if moving to Europe is not a likely option for you to get your research done, and done well, the UK distance programs appear to give full access to all they have. Many programs have librarians will bend over backwards to get you what is needed to do your work well, and such technology as Skype allows for continued and frequent supervising when not in the the country.  So a student working via distance program has an excellent opportunity to have the same access as one studying on site.

Those are a few advantages...


1)  Camaraderie:
   When doing a distance program, the academic community provided by being on location can be seriously lacking.  If one is to stay in the conversation, as it were, make needed professional connection,  and find encouraging camaraderie, one needs to be proactive in finding others who are seeking advanced degrees in broader areas of theology and exegesis with whom to converse.  Attending professional conferences, regionally and nationally (SBL, ETS, AAR, etc.) might become a must instead of simply an option.  For some this disadvantage may not be a big deal, but worth considering.

2) Cost:

   Cost can be a disadvantage, as well.  First, flying ain't cheap.  Count that as a cost as you seek to fly each year to the UK (also, room and board when you're there, and transportation via bus or train all add up).  Second, many American programs are at least simi-funded, but you will be hard-pressed to find any funding in the UK if you are American, or not-British (I think...).  Finally, UK programs can be expensive.  Bristol is exceptional for its lower-cost, but many others can run from $17-22 thousand per year (this is ball-park and is always changing with the economy situations and with the GBP to dollar ratio, which is better for American's currently: 1.6 to a dollar - normally more like 2:1).  

3) Having a topic together:
  For UK programs, you need to demonstrate that you have a topic in mind and that you have done some reading on the topic already.  To some like me, this is an advantage, but to many their topic of research for a dissertation is not very formed in their mind - some don't even know what they want to study.  An American program allows you to form this at about your second year (Wheaton is an exception).  Most UK programs, distance or not, need a full 500-1000 word proposal to apply, some to even require it at first inquiry (many dissertation topics alter as the evidence is presented through research, but a proposal still needs to be present and cogent).  Something to consider.  The key is: Have a good question to pose that is backed with some evidence of prior work.  Please check out this blog post by Larry Hutado.  I found it helpful even after I had been admitted to Trinity College.
Do not let this deter you.  I thought it was helpful to my calling to know what I actually wanted to study.  It answered for me why I was actually studying for a PhD.

4) Prejudices matter at some places:
   'State U' is more marketable in many colleges and universities in America than UK/Continent schools. So, if you are doing this to 'get a job,' and not for a larger purpose of Kingdom work (which is a calling that can be sought in both American and UK schools - "don't hear what I am not saying"), 'State U' is probably a first option to consider (again, study hard for your GRE!).  Seminaries are a wild-card in this 'State U'/UK debate.  The seminary I went to was heavily UK leaning in its faculty, but that is not every seminary.  Others might not be this way.  Some thoughts here by Dr. John Stackhouse on the prospects of even going to a lesser-known to an unknown State U.

These are only a few things I have thought about as I have spent the past 2.5 years finding the right place for my research topic, my family, and the development of my future ministry.  Much of this compares UK v. US programs, and this should indicate, at least in part, that UK programs rarely change in spite of the distance of research.

I hope that others chime in.  I do not have it all figured out.

Hope this helps.

Other Practically Aimed PhD Posts:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is Learning Greek Helpful, Really?

I get asked this question very often.  Actually, I was just asked it the other day.  Here Ben Stevens gives a good answer, saying, "Get over your fear of a weird language in exchange for a more robust faith".  Check out his fuller answer.

Jonah Read-through

Today, still following the sequence of the MT, I take on Jonah.

Jonah is one of the most unique books in the bible, at least in the MP.  First, Jonah is what many scholars regard as a 'transitional prophet'.  What is meant by this is that Jonah, like the prophets of the classical era of Nathan, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, etc., who spoke primarily to the kings (e.g., the representative heads of the people; here, the King of Nineveh) were also 'sign-prophets', and spoke directly with the Lord to receive their prophesy (not via vision, the normal mode of prophesy for the writing prophets).  But Jonah transitions by speaking directly to the people, as well.
Second, Jonah is a literary masterpiece!  I think it is widely agreed that Veggie Tales gets across the irony of Jonah's office contrasted with his obedience to God's call, the humor of how ridiculous Jonah acts; and the awkward cliff-hanger at the end of the book (VT does a good job debriefing the cliff-hanger also).
Finally, Israel is not mentioned in this narrative. Rather, it is a powerful gentile nation that is in focus and receiving the compassion of the Lord.  All these three observations make Jonah rather exceptional among the MPs.

Jonah is our earliest chronologically speaking of the MPs.  His career was during the 8th century BC; during the reign of Jeroboam II, and though Jeroboam II did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 14:24), he did push the boundaries of Israel further than his father, to the place they were during the reign of David and Solomon - this due to the Lord's compassionate relief (2 Kings 13:4, 23) of the Aramean oppression Israel had been subject to due to their former sins (2 Kings 13:3).  BUT, Israel was still a wayward people who had forgot their mission in the world.

The main themes of Jonah consist of:

1) God is sovereign over man and nature: “and he appointed” (1:4, great wind over the sea; 1:17 God appointed a fish; God commanded the fish, 2:10; 4:6,7 God appointed a plant and worm).
2  God is compassionate: in relation to “ra’a” - evil (i.e., towards Jonah in his selfishness, 4:10; towards the Ninevites when they repent, 3:10).  God will relent at repentance, because he still cares for His people (all His creature (cows too?), not just Israel).
3) God is still on mission to the Gentiles even if Israel has forgotten this as their mission.

I see the major application of Jonah, off-the-cuff, to be that we should seek the Lord in repentance of our evil (ra'ah), but always realizing this is in a larger scope of God's world mission.  God's welcomes our repentance in His compassion, so that we can refocus on His Kingdom.  

"You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right from their left, and also much cattle?"  Jonah 4:10-11.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bantam Review mention over at Euangelion

Over on the Aussie-style Presbyterian's blog, that is Michael Bird's blog, the Covenant Seminary Theological Society's Bantam Review, the first annual journal of CSTS, gets a shout out (here).  You can access the journal here.

The CSTS is a student founded and led group, myself and my friend, Daniel Robbins, founded last summer.  There is a larger history and stated purpose of our group in the journal linked on Bird's blog.  The review consists of five papers given by students at our annual paper giving conference (there were 35 student and faculty members giving papers);  abstracts of the rest of the papers; our weekly leadership meeting minutes; and a schedule of events from the year.

It was truly a great time to see the Lord work through our meager efforts, and glorify himself across many audiences, not simply nerdy white-guys!

Obadiah Read-through...

Today, with Obadiah, we jump around a bit chronologically, but continue to follow the literary sequence of the Minor Prophets, according to the MT (Hebrew OT).

The superscription tells us it is Obadiah who receives this prophesy via vision, the normal mode of prophesy.  We do not know much about the man, Obadiah, and scholars seriously doubt that he is the same guy as in 1 Kings 18:3-16 due to chronological issues.

Historically speaking, Obadiah's prophesy would have been somewhere between the fall of Jerusalem  (BC 586) and Babylon's campaign against Edom (BC 553).  Thus, the first half of the Babylonian captivity.

The main theme of Obadiah, according to one scholar is, "Edom is toast!".  In other words, though Israel has fallen so far from obedience to the law and the mission of God, God is still zealous for His people.  Israel's public shame would not last forever, though Israel - now sobered politically, economically, and politically - wondered if God had forgot about them and his promise to Abraham.

Superficially, we can notice a similarity between Amos and Obadiah, though concerning two different audiences.  The observation is that the wealth and power of a nation has no bearing on what the Lord can and will do to establish his Kingdom on earth.  In Amos, Israel (and Judah) are wealthy, politically more powerful than they had been in a while, and Assyria was week; so any discussion of being sent beyond Damascus was ludicrous.  In a similar way, Edom is boasting in its power over God's people.  To both of these situation, as history attests, God acts in a way that is completely unpredictable, namely Assyria strikes down Israel, and Edom is punished by Babylon.

What is the purpose of Obadiah's prophesy in the end? Its in the end! Verses 19-21 tell Israel, despite their situation, God's Kingdom will be established, literally, on and all over the earth, with only One King and Lord; thus Israel will be redeemed (a faithful remnant, which we will see elsewhere, but is not mentioned in Ob.).

Take aways:

1) Our sense of security should only be found in God's mission and Kingdom.  This should continue to be a commonly heard theme through the MPs.
2) Forgetting God's mission and pursuing our own mission (like Israel and Judah in Amos - this is kind of an add-on to yesterday's post, still relevant though), yet claiming the name of the Lord will not be tolerated by the Lord.
3) Finally, and most importantly, those who oppose the mission and Kingdom of God, and especially the people of God, will be put in their place.  God will always stand for those who declare His name!

"For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.  As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head...and the kingdom shall be the Lord's" (Obadiah 15, 21c).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Amos Read-through

I am currently reading through each of the Minor Prophets, one a day. I have read Hosea and Joel alreeady, so maybe I will post on them later, but today was Amos. So here are some introductory things about Amos, and a couple brief salient thoughts.

Amos was writing in the time of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam king of Jerusalem (1:1); about 760 BC, but this remains up for debate. His primary audience is a wealthy Israel (wealth amassed upon the backs of the poor of Israel's own people, namely the people of God. The Torah needs renewed by a Messiah!) without any need for The Lord, though at the same time seeing this situation as a blessing from the Lord. The Assyrian empire was at weak point during this period of history, allowing both Israel and Judah stable governments and latitude it had not experienced in a while.

Amos is concerned to convey the theme of the universal justice of the Lord. Israel was tempted to believe that "the Day of the Lord" meant justice upon their enemies (catch the likely head nodding from 1:2-2:3, then... Oops! The focus changes, doesn't it?). The justice Amos pronounces from the mouth of the Lord is upon Israel as well. A ghastly picture of Israel carrying the tents and sacrifices of their idols being carried on the same shoulders that bore the weight (in worship!) of the tent and sacrifices of the Lord in the Exodus! Exile is threatened as Israel's punishment. Beyond Damascus (possibly why it is changed to Babylon in Acts 7 is to keep Judah and the tent of David in focus for its startling contrast in Acts 15). That would not make sense... Assyria is so weak. So what does Amaziah say? Stop prophesying, Amos! Interesting considering 2:12.

So, "the Day of the Lord" is not something unrepentant Israel should be so eager for.

Other things can be said, but what does this say to us, yes, Western, post-enlightenment, post Second Great Awakening, post-Christian-Christian, folks?
    1) tradition, knowledge, and doctrine devoid of love embodying itself in righteous and just care for others is not desired by the Lord.
    2) while wealth is not a bad thing, it does not imply blessing of the Lord, especially if made at other expense. It could lead to judgement.
    3)all this in view of The Messiah that was hoped for, the Greater David (9:11-15). Only under the Messiah prophesied at the end of Amos (why does this seem like such a puzzling five verses? It does not necessarily need to be a later redaction.) would Israel find one who is perfectly just, righteous, and loving, and give the hope to those under His authority to be the same way. A perfect Kingdom.

 "For the Lord God does nothing without reveling his secret to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?". Amos 3:7-8