Showing posts from 2010

Proverbs 10:29 and the Way of Yahweh

In the New American Standard Bible (1995), Proverbs 10:29 reads:

The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright, But ruin to the workers of iniquity. This verse struck me as odd. Why would Yahweh's way be ruin to anybody? So I decided to investigate.

The phrase "way of Yahweh" occurs seven times in the OT, five of which are conceptually parallel Proverbs 10:29 (Gen. 18:19; Jdg. 2:22; 2 Kgs 21:22, Jer. 5:4, 5). God “knows” Abraham so that he will command his children to “keep the way of Yahweh” by doing righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). This set of collocations—the way of Yahweh is kept by doing righteousness—shows up in Judges 2:22, where the Lord tells Israel he will leave Canaanites in the land in order to test them to see whether they will keep the way of Yahweh as their father’s did. The clear implication is that keeping the way of Yahweh involves doing what is right and good in His eyes.

Amon, son of Manasseh, unmoved by his Father’s late-in-life repentan…

Vows: foolish, sacred, forgivable?

Recently, someone asked me:
Are there foolish vows and sacred vows? Are there vows God will forgive, or does God hold one accountable for all vows until death? My short answer is all vows are sacred; some are also foolish (Pro. 20:25; Eccl. 5:2 4). Breaking any vow is sin (Deut. 23:21; Eccl. 5:5-6; Num. 30:15). God will forgive vow-breakers (Num. 30:6, 9, 13); though He warns there may be dire consequences for failing to keep a vow (Eccl. 5:6).

My best understanding of Scripture is that God does not continue to hold a person responsible to fulfill a vow that has been broken, repented of, and forgiven. God did, however, require those who vowed to give Him a non-cash asset (a field, house, etc.) and then changed their minds to give instead the monetary equivalent plus 20% to the Lord (Lev. 27).

The key texts where God reveals His perspective on vows are Leviticus 27, Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 23:21-23, and Ecclesiastes 5:1-7. Interestingly, the two New Testament texts (Acts 18:18; 21:23-2…

Secular Work in Biblical Perspective

I was recently asked something like the following: I work a secular job that I don’t enjoy. I’d much rather be involved in a ministry-related job. How can I be in the center of God’s will in this kind of a job? How can I be contented and fulfilled when I’m not happy in my job? I think 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 provides a good starting point to answer these questions.
In this passage Paul addresses Christian slaves who had zero control over their lives, let alone their work. He encourages them to take advantage of any opportunity to become free (7:21). At the same time, he emphasizes (7:17, 24) that they do not have to change their life-situation in order to live in service to Christ (7:22).
We can infer two principles from this passage. First, it is biblically acceptable to take opportunities that God brings our way to change from a less favorable situation to a more favorable situation (i.e., from slave to free). Second, any kind of legitimate occupation, including being a slave, can be …

Why should we count it all joy? Second Reason

The first reason we should "count it all joy" is that trials build our faith's capacity to endure (James 1:3).
James gives the second reason in verse four: "... that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing." (ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι.)
But before he gives the second reason, he gives a second command: "Let endurance have its perfect work." (ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω)
What does it means to "let endurance have its perfect work?" Think of the 10k marathon. If a runner gives out after 9k, his endurance did not complete or finish the job. Endurance "has" its perfect work, when it makes it all the way to the finish line. That's what endurance is supposed to do: take you the distance.
Here's James' point. When you're still in pain, or you're out of a job, or you're still not sleeping well, or your situation is getting worse not better, or all of the above are true simultaneously ..…

Why should we count it all joy? First Reason

In my previous post, I argued that James has in mind trials that challenge our confidence in God's goodness, wisdom, faithfulness, or power. Why are we supposed to count falling into such trials all joy?
James gives a two part answer. The first part is in Jam. 1:3 -- "knowing this that the trying of your faith works patience."
The word "knowing" is a participle both in English and in Greek. In both languages, participles are usually subordinate to (dependent upon) the main verb in a sentence. That means that participles give additional information about the main verb.
In this case, the main verb is "count" (ἡγήσασθε) in Jam. 1:2. The participle in v. 3 gives the reason why James is telling his readers to count faith-testing trials all joy: because we know that such trials of our faith produce patience.
As noted previously, the word translated patience (ὑπομονήν) is not the ability to stand in a long checkout line at a Walmart without losing your cool. I…

The kind of trials James has in mind (Jam. 1:2-4)

Most commentaries will note that the word translated "trials" in James 1:2 means a "test." BDAG offers "a test to learn the nature or character of something."
That suggests synonyms like problems, difficulties, issues, inconveniences, or perhaps examinations. If we work only with verse 2, then James seems to be talking about counting it all joy when you encounter life's difficulties, regardless of their nature.
However, verse 3 narrows the focus of this passage and further defines the specific kind of trials that James has in mind. Specifically, James is addressing trials that test a person's faith.
What is a "trying of faith?" A trying of faith is a test that challenges what you believe about God. If the trial you are facing doesn't raise questions about God's goodness, power, wisdom, faithfulness, or love, then it isn't the kind of trial that James is thinking about.
I have my share of problems, difficulties, issues, inconveni…

When you fall into various trials ... (Jam. 1:2-4)

I have fallen into various trials over the past month: Three weeks ago my wife's post-op pain got out of control and she was hospitalized for 2 days..Five days later all five members of my immediate family, myself included, plus my father-in-law, got food poisoning and we were vomiting in turns and simultaneously over a period of 12 hours. Four days later my wife reacts horribly to a medicine prescribed by her gynecologist--burning in the chest, then overwhelming nausea, then overwhelming irrational fear, then return to normal, to be repeated every 30-40 minutes for the next 24-36 hours. Another four days and another medicine is prescribed to which she reacts even more violently and that puts her in the hospital for three days. (She does not tolerate SSRI or SNRI meds!)The results of all the above plus the stress of the surgery and a long list of other stressors preceding the surgery: her adrenal glands appear to have gone haywire, messing with her ability to sleep, putting her ou…