Sunday, March 08, 2009

He is able ...

• to guard what I’ve deposited with Him δι᾽ ἣν αἰτίαν καὶ ταῦτα πάσχω• ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐπαισχύνομαι, οἶδα γὰρ ᾧ πεπίστευκα καὶ πέπεισμαι ὅτι δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παραθήκην μου φυλάξαι εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν ἡμέραν. (2 Tim. 1:12)

• to do exceedingly abundantly above what we are asking or thinking Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν (Eph. 3:20)

• to cause all grace to abound unto me. δυνατεῖ δὲ ὁ θεὸς πᾶσαν χάριν περισσεῦσαι εἰς ὑμᾶς, ἵνα ἐν παντὶ πάντοτε πᾶσαν αὐτάρκειαν ἔχοντες περισσεύητε εἰς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθόν, (2 Cor. 9:8)

• to help those who are being tested ἐν ᾧ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς, δύναται τοῖς πειραζομένοις βοηθῆσαι. (Heb. 2:18)

• to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him. ὅθεν καὶ σῴζειν εἰς τὸ παντελὲς δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ, πάντοτε ζῶν εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν. (Heb. 7:25)

• to guard us from stumbling and present us blameless before his glory with great joy. Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ φυλάξαι ὑμᾶς ἀπταίστους καὶ στῆσαι κατενώπιον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ ἀμώμους ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει (Jude 1:24)

• to subdue all things to himself. ὃς μετασχηματίσει τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ δύνασθαι αὐτὸν καὶ ὑποτάξαι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. (Phil. 3:21)

• to heal blind eyes. ἐλθόντι δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ τυφλοί, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς• πιστεύετε ὅτι δύναμαι τοῦτο ποιῆσαι; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ• ναὶ κύριε. τότε ἥψατο τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν λέγων• κατὰ τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν. (Matt. 9:28-29)

Lord Jesus, I rejoice that you are able! You are more than able to enable me with overcoming power, more than able to give victory again! I rejoice in your ability!

I'm really enjoying using Bagster's Daily Light in BibleWorks 8. This resource offers thematically selected Scripture readings for morning and evening. In BW 8, they can be read in Greek and Hebrew as well (see below).

Saturday, March 07, 2009

God sanctifies Himself (Ezek. 38:23)

Last Sunday I shared a SS lesson with the combined Adult and Young Adult classes at Burlington Bible Methodist Church. I attempted to answer three questions:
1. What does it mean for God to sanctify Himself (Ezek. 38:23)?
2. What does it mean for us to sanctify God?
3. How do the answers to the first two questions relate to the first petition of the Lord's pattern prayer, "Hallowed by thy name?"
In this post I share my answer to the first question. As I journeyed through all the OT texts on holiness, I was struck by the following verses.
Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, And the holy God will be sanctified in righteousness.

Ezekiel 20:41 "As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will be sanctified among you in the sight of the nations.

Ezekiel 28:22 and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, And I will be glorified in your midst. Then they will know that I am the LORD when I execute judgments in her, And I will be sanctified in her.

Ezekiel 28:25 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will be sanctified in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob.

Ezekiel 36:23 "I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I am sanctified among you in their sight.

Ezekiel 38:23 "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD."'

Ezekiel 39:27 "When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations.
"Sanctified" appears to have the same basic information component in reference to God that it does in reference to things or human persons: separateness or set apartness. God is sanctified when He acts in a way that clearly separates Him, i.e., distinguishes Him, from the pantheon of ANE gods.

His name had been profaned ("made common, ordinary") by the exile of Israel. From the standpoint of the watching world, Yahweh turned out to be no more powerful than any of the other gods that Nebuchadnezzar's military juggernaut had toppled. Yahweh was, in fact, less power than the Babylonian gods, because the Babylonian gods had empowered Nebuchadnezzar to capture His city and destroy His temple.

This is what Yahweh will not tolerate: being made to look ordinary. Thus he promises that He will sanctify Himself (distinguish Himself from all others), magnify Himself (demonstrate His greatness to the world), and make Himself known in the sight of many nations (Ezek. 38:23) by bringing Israel back from exile and reestablishing her in her land.

The statement that he "is sanctified in righteousness" (Isa. 5:16) deserves special attention. Righteousness in Hebrew, contrary to what many theological word books say, is "conformity to a standard." I am convinced that Lev. 19:35-36 and Deut. 25:13-15 provide the key texts for understanding what it means for something to be righteous: it measures up to the standard under consideration. A righteous scale is one that weighs a pound as a pound and not as a 1.5 lbs or .75 lbs. Righteousness in persons is their conformity to whatever standard is under consideration.

Righteousness in God is God's conformity to His own standards, i.e., His self-consistency. Since God's character sets the standard for righteous behavior in human morals, since character is the standard to which He always adhere. And this is one of the things that sanctifies Him, i.e., sets Him apart and establishes His incomparableness. If the ANE gods were anything, they were fickle and perfidious. This is precisely the opposite of the character of Yahweh. He is righteous in all His ways.

When we pray the first petition of the Lord's prayer, one of the things we are asking God to do is act in the world in a way that clearly manifests the unique excellence of His character and being thereby distinguishing Himself, setting Himself apart, from all others "gods."

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Discovery: 1 Peter 1:16 quotes Leviticus 19

I was sitting in chapel a month ago and Dad was doing a great job preaching 1 Peter 1:13-16. This is a great text that demonstrates that NT apostles understood the Pentateuch to provide immediately applicable commands for NT believers.

Verse 16 is Peter's quotation from Leviticus that buttresses his apostolic injunction to be holy in all your conduct: because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

I was sitting there with my copy of Biblia Sacra (combined Hebrew & Greek Bible), and I noticed the Greek syntax of the quotation placed "holy" in an emphatic position: ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιός.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to look at the syntax of the Hebrew text in the places in Leviticus where this statement is made (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; cf. Lev. 20:7). What struck me as I looked is that Leviticus 19:2 is the only place where the Hebrew syntax exactly matches the Greek syntax of 1 Peter 1:16.

וִהְיִיתֶ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים כִּ֥י קָד֖וֹשׁ אָ֑נִי (Lev. 11:44)
וִהְיִיתֶ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים כִּ֥י קָד֖וֹשׁ אָֽנִי׃ (Lev. 11:45)
קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ (Lev. 19:2)

What further piqued my interest was that Peter's "in all your conduct" fits Lev. 19 much better than it fits Lev. 11. Leviticus 11:44 is part of the conclusion of a section on clean and unclean foods and is followed by a chapter on purification of women after childbirth.

I have been slowly memorizing and meditating on Leviticus 19 for about 6 months. I had come to the conclusion that God's "be holy for I am holy" in v. 2 is not merely one command in a list of commands, but is the key command that controls the entire chapter.

Specifically, fearing one's parents (v. 3), keeping His sabbaths (v. 3), rejecting idolatry (v. 4), worshiping God according to His specifications (vv. 5-8), caring for foreigners and the needy (9-10), not stealing or lying (v. 11), not swearing falsely (v. 12), loving your neighbor (v. 18) ... in fact the entire chapter is an explication of what it means to be holy "in all conduct."

I couldn't wait for chapel to be over so I could go check the LXX to see if, in fact, the variations in Hebrew syntax had been maintained in Lev. 11 and 19. I was a bit disappointed to find that it wasn't.

Lev 11:44 ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε ὅτι ἅγιός εἰμι ἐγὼ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν
Lev 11:45 ἔσεσθε ἅγιοι ὅτι ἅγιός εἰμι ἐγὼ κύριος
Lev 19:2 ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιος κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν
1 Pe 1:16 ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιός

In Leviticus 11:44, the LXX doesn't reflect the Hebrew syntax and places "holy" before "you shall be." So ... the syntax really doesn't decide the question of what text Peter was quoting. I suspect that those identifying cross-references just picked Lev. 11:44 because it was the first place this command occurs. However, I did notice that the syntax of 1 Peter 1:16 does perfectly match Lev. 19:2 as far as it goes.

Bottom line: Both the syntax and the context of Leviticus 19 make it a much better fit as a proof text for Peter's command to "be holy in all your conduct."

Application: In AL this week, I preached a two part message on 1 Peter 1:14-16 and Leviticus 19:1-18. Lev. 19:15-18 was a message all of its own, and, wow, what a powerful text on holy living! In fact, even though conduct is on front stage of this chapter, vv. 17-18 powerfully demonstrate that the holiness God wants from His people has always been a heart holiness that manifests itself in one's life.

To be holy as God is holy is to have the same excellence of character and conduct distinguishing us from the world that distinguishes God from all others gods.