Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Pursue Joy in God

~adapted from John Piper on How to Fight for Joy in God

1. Meditate on the Word day and night (Psa. 19:8--The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; cf. Jer. 15:16; Psa. 1:3). Read particularly to see the greatness and goodness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 4:4; all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me Matt. 28:17).

As you read the gospels, identify with Jesus and rejoice in his sufficiency:.. E.g., make mental comments such as, "That's my Lord, that's my Christ, that's who thrills me, look at him go! Ooh! did you hear that?!! What an answer! What wisdom! What kindness!"

2. Don't ignore texts that motivate you to fear God (Neh. 1:11 -- delight to fear your name), passages that teach you to fear, to tremble at his power; Jer. 5:22)

3. Learn to preach the sufficiency of God’s promises to yourself daily (Psa. 42; Psa 23:6; no good thing will he withhold – Psa. 84:11; Phil. 4:19; 4:13; Rom. 8:28-29ff).

4. Pray earnestly and continually for all you need to be happy in God. IOUs acronym to help:
Incline my heart to your testimonies (Ps. 119:36)
Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in your law (Ps. 119:18)
Unite my heart to fear your name (Ps. 86:11)
Satisfy me in the morning with your hesed that I may rejoice and be glad in you all my days (Ps. 90:14)

5. Resolve to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12), resisting sin (Heb. 12:4) and Satan’s allurements (1 Pet. 5:8-9) to substitute other joys for joy in God (Jer. 2:13; 17:13). Faith is the catalyst for joy. It is the ground of God’s granting us joy (Rom. 15:13).

6. Share your faith. Paul’s constant theme is that his converts are his joy and rejoicing (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19). Quest for Joy tract from Crossway by Piper.

7. Spend time with God-saturated people who will help you see God and fight the fight of faith. (1 Sam. 23:16)

8. Read biographies of great Christian saints (Heb. 11:4 -- though dead yet speaketh; Heb. 12:1)

9. Read great books about God – (Tozer Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, J. I. Packer Knowing God, John Piper – Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, God’s Passion for His Glory, When I Don’t Desire God, Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections) Lewis: "For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books more helpful in devotion than the devotional books. ... the heart sings unbidden while working one's way through a tough bit of theology ... and a pencil in the hand."

10. Rest, exercise, and diet properly. We are embodied spirits. -- Be unconscious 1/3 of your life -- God doesn't need you 24/7 and wants you to know you aren't indispensable. Sleep.

11. Make a proper use of revelation in nature (Psa. 19:1-6)

12. Pour yourself out for the poor and afflicted (Isa 58:12).

13. Get a global vision of the magnitude of God's work in building His church. Seeing the great works of God is joy-inspiring (Psa. 92:4)

14. Make good use of hymns that cultivate your satisfaction in God.  E.g., 

William Cowper

    God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.

    Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.

    Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.

    Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Joy in God: Our Part & God’s Part

Biblical Data:
  • We are commanded to rejoice in the Lord – so joy must be, in part, a matter of the will (Matt. 5:12; Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16).
  • We are told that joy is a fruit of the Spirit – so joy must be, in part, something we cannot produce on our own, but which is dependent upon the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Thess. 1:6).
  • Paul prays that God would grant the Romans all joy and peace in believing (Rom. 15:13; 1 Pet. 1:8). So, joy is a gift of God that comes to us in the context of our believing.
  • We are commanded to “count” things joy (Jas. 1:2) – so joy must be, in part, a matter of the mind.
  • Paul testifies that he works together with the Corinthians for their joy (2 Cor. 1:24). Thus, joy is something we must labor for
    Laboring for joy may take a variety of forms. Two things stand out to me from Scripture. The first is the labor of keeping the mind focused in faith on God’s sufficiency and the effort of the will to choose to give thanks and praise in anticipation of the revelation of God’s sufficiency. The second is pursuing those things that enable others to be satisfied in God.

Man’s part in having Joy in God: 
  •  Choose to focus the mind on the sufficiency of God and His promises (Psa. 90:14; Jas. 1:2‑4), thereby fostering and building faith and hope which are grounds of joy (Rom. 15:13; 12:12). 
  • Choose to regard and, thus, to be satisfied that all things are an expression, in some way, of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, goodness, and wisdom (Job; 1 Cor. 10:13; Psa. 145:9; Rom. 11:33-35).
  • Ask God to strengthen your faith and to give you joy by His Spirit (Rom. 15:13; Gal. 5:22; Acts 13:52).
  • Engage in expressing thanksgiving in and for all things (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18). The degree to which we experience the emotional dimension of joy will fluctuate in direct proportion to the object of our mind’s focus (God vs. other things), the strength of our mental focus (faith), our expression of it to others, and other physical factors such as rest, health, and exercise.
God’s part in our Joy in Him:

God by His Spirit (Gal. 5:5; Acts 13:52; Rom. 14:17) ...
  • illumines us to see His sufficiency (Psa. 90:14).
  • enables us to persist in believing His word regarding His character and will (John 15:11).
  • grants us joy and peace as we believe (Rom. 15:13).

[1] Piper’s by-line for reflects this dimension of pursuing joy: “Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Joy in God: Mental State, Spontaneous Emotion, Both?

Experience inclines us to believe that joy is an emotion that is spontaneous in its appearance. Scripture teaches us otherwise.

Psa. 90:14 David prays “O satisfy [שׂבע] us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psa. 63:5 My soul is satisfied [שׂבע] as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. (cf. Psa 22:27; 107:8-9)

Both of these texts teach us that satisfaction in God is the root of joy in God. Thanksgiving is its flower; its fruit is praise. As Lewis says, “All enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. … We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”[1]

Joy in God is the state of being satisfied in God. Such satisfaction in God produces the emotions associated with joy (gladness, happiness, delight[2]) as the mind focuses on how He and His promises are abundantly sufficient for all my needs.

To put it another way, joy in God, its emotional accompaniments, and its physical expressions are the result of seeing, believing, and acting upon the fact that God is more than enough for me.[3]

Joy’s emotions rise as the mind focuses upon and savors the beauty and worth of God, and they fall as the mind’s focus is turned elsewhere, e.g., in work. The emotions of joy are not to be mistaken for joy itself. Otherwise, we end up pursuing our own ephemeral emotions. (So also Lewis).

The habit, cultivated by Bro. Andrew, Frank Laubach, A. W. Tozer, and others, of lifting the mind to focus upon God throughout the day, may be the best way to sustain joy’s emotions. Hebrews 12:2, however, convinces me that emotions need not be present for joy to be present:

Heb. 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus … who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame …

We do not see Jesus experiencing emotions of joy in the Garden of Gethsemane, nor during the trial, nor on the cross. Rather, we see his soul troubled, the shame of nakedness and mockery, the agony of crucifixion, and the feelings of abandonment. Yet, the Hebrew writer tells us that Jesus had his mental gaze firmly fixed upon joy! The anticipation of joy in bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10-13), the joy of sitting down again at the Father’s right hand—it was these joys (and others) that sustained Jesus through the distress of Gethsemane and the pain and shame of Golgotha.

I think it is just such a fixed mental gaze that James has in mind when he tells us to “count it all joy, when you fall into various trials,” because you know that tried faith produces endurance, and enduring faith leads to perfection (Jam. 1:2-4).

[1] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958], 94-95.
[2] Isa. 66:11 parallels delight and satisfaction.
[3] See Jim Berg, God is More Than Enough (Greenville: Journeyforth, 2010).

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

A Pauline Theology of Pastoral Teaching of Believers: A Provisional Outline

The following provisional outline develops Paul's theology of pastoral teaching of believers. It intentionally does not address his use of teaching for evangelistic purposes. The goal is identify the grounds, motivations, qualifications, goals, contents, and methods of Paul's teaching ministry to saints so as to provide a pattern for pastors to follow and to use in evaluating their own teaching ministry.
    I.       I.         Rationale & Motivation – Why do we teach?
a.       Grounds/Rationale (The logical or theological reasons)
                                        i.      God commands elders to teach (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 2:2); command and teach these things (Παράγγελλε ταῦτα καὶ δίδασκε1 Tim. 4:11); teach and exhort these things (Ταῦτα δίδασκε καὶ παρακάλει; 1 Tim. 6:2)
                                        ii.      God gifts men to teach to equip & mature the body (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 12:28)     
b.      Motivations (what provides motivation for teaching)
                                        i.      Love for God – fulfilling God’s ordination (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11), maintaining the fire of God’s gift (2 Tim. 1:6), pleasing God (2 Cor. 5:9)
                                        ii.      Love for others – perception of their need of salvation (1 Tim. 4:16), for their benefit (Eph. 4:15)
                                        iii.      God’s love for us exhibited in Christ (2 Cor. 5:11)
                                        iv.      To present our ‘work’ at the judgment (Col. 1:28), to be approved by God (2 Tim. 2:15), knowing we will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10-11)
                                        v.      Negatively: not for sordid gain (Tit. 1:11; cf. Tit. 1:7)

II.                II.      Qualifications – who is qualified to serve as a pastoral teacher?
a.       Gender – husband = male (1 Tim. 3:2); not female (1 Tim. 2:11-12)
b.      Character (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)
c.       Skill/capacity – “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24); able to refute (Tit. 1:9); able to defend­­ (Phil. 1:16)
                                        i.      being a teacher is a gift of God to the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)
                                        ii.      “all are not teachers” (1 Cor. 12:29)
d.      Knowledge – minimum knowledge of basics of faith (cf. Heb. 5:12-6:1)
                                         i.      Knowledge of the law (1 Tim. 1:7)
                                        ii.      Sound doctrine (Tit. 1:9; 1 Tim. 1:9; 4:6; 6:3)
e.       Spiritual Maturity – “not a novice” = new convert (1 Tim. 3:6)
f.       Discernment – able to recognize what is contrary to sound teaching (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 9-10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1); the teaching of demons (1 Tim. 4:1); worldly or old-wives fables (1 Tim. 4:7); wrangling about words (2 Tim. 2:14); men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2)
g.      Discipline oneself for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7)

III.             III.      Purposes/Goals – What are the intended results of pastoral teaching?
a.       Learning not to go beyond what is written in Scripture, i.e., the authority of Scripture and the limits of what we are accountable for (1 Cor. 4:6); accurate handling of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15)
b.      Edification > Christlikeness > unity (Eph. 4:13-16; 1 Cor. 14:26)
                                      i.      Furthering the administration of God by faith (1 Tim. 1:4)
                                      ii.      Nourishing believers with words of faith and sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6)
                                     iii.      Develop theologically stable and mature believers (Eph. 4:13-15)
                                     iv.      believers firmly rooted, built up in him, established in the faith through instruction (Col. 2:7)
c.       Equipping for good works (edification of the body, apologetics, polemics, evangelism) (Eph. 4:12; 1 Thess. 4:12)
d.      Continuity of the faith
                                     i.      Guarding from errors of doctrine and practice (1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:20
                                     ii.      Giving it to faithful men who will teach others (2 Tim. 2:2)
e.       Glory of God – (cf. Eph. 3:8-10; 1 Cor. 10:31)
f.       Producing disciple-makers (2 Tim. 2:2; Matt. 28:19-20)
g.      Love out of a pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5)
h.      Ensuring salvation for oneself and one’s hearers (1 Tim. 4:16)
i.        To present our people holy, blameless, and unreprovable when Jesus comes (Col. 1:22)
j.        Discernment: helping God’s people identify the motives that drive unsound teaching (1 Tim. 6:4-5)
k.      Remind God’s people of the ways of the apostles (1 Cor. 4:17)
l.        To provide Jesus a pure virgin (2 Cor. 11:2)
m.  Obedience to the truth (Rom. 6:17; 2 Thess. 3:14; Phil. 2:12; Gal. 5:7; 2 Cor. 7:15; Rom. 16:19) 

IV.             IV.     Content – What does the pastor teach?
a.       Whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27); “all scripture” (2 Tim. 3:16-17); OT examples (1 Cor. 10:11)
                                      i.      Sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:9; 4:6; Tit. 2:1)
                                      ii.      Sound words – of Jesus and which conform to godliness (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13)
                                      iii.      Words of faith (1 Tim. 4:6); teacher “in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7)
b.      Hermeneutics (implied in 1 Tim. 1:8); how to derive principles from OT laws (1 Cor. 9:8-11)
c.       Theological content provides the basis for practical admonition (Pauline epistles passim)
                                      i.      Theological content: election, predestination, justification, sanctification, spirit-filling (Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 3-5; 6-8; Eph. 5:18); second coming (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:17-18; 2 Thess. 1-2); God’s purpose for Israel (Rom. 9-11)
                                      ii.      Practical content: ½ of Paul’s epistles. Examples:
1.      discipline themselves for the purpose of godliness, that godliness is profitable for the present and future life, that they are to fix their hope on the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:7-10)
2.      How to rebuke believers, deal with widows (1 Tim. 5:1-16)
3.      How to remunerate teaching elders who do well (cf. Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:9, 11), deal with accusations against elders, and avoid hasty ordinations (1 Tim. 5:17-22);  appreciate those who give instructions (1 Thess. 5:12)
4.      How slaves should relate to their masters, especially if owned by a believer (1 Tim. 6:1-2)
5.      Address the rich to trust God, be generous, lay up treasure in heaven (1 Tim. 6:17-19)
6.      To engage in good deeds (Tit. 3:14)
7.      How to live so as to please God (1 Thess. 2:12; 4:1)
8.      How to lead a quiet life, attend to your own business, work with your hands (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:10)
9.      Holiness of heart (1 Thess. 3:12-13), of life (1 Thess. 4:3-8), and the whole person (1 Thess. 5:23-24)
10.  Expect suffering (1 Thess. 3:4) and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12); view suffering as participating in Christ’s suffering (Phil. 3:11; Col. 1:24)
d.      What not to teach
                                      i.      strange doctrines (1 Tim. 1:3)
                                      ii.      myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation (1 Tim. 1:4)
                                     iii.      what is contrary to sound teaching (1 Tim. 1:9)
                                     iv.      doctrines of demons, such as forbidding to marry and to eat meat (1 Tim. 4:1-4, 6)     
                                     v.      worldly fables fit only for old women (1 Tim. 4:7)
                                     vi.      worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16)
                                      vii.      commandments and teachings of men (Col. 2:22)
e.     How to respond to false teaching (Rom. 16:17)
f.       How to teach – not wrangling about words which does no good and leads to the destruction of the hearers (2 Tim. 2:14); pointing out doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1-4, 6); identifying what is contrary to sound teaching (1 Tim. 1:9)

V.                V.        Methods – How does the pastor/elder teach?
a.       Settings – public (synagogues, Hall of Tyrannus; Act 19:8-9; 1 Tim. 4:13), private homes (Acts 20:20; cf. 1 Cor. 14:35), gathered believers (Acts 20)
b.      Instruments – letters (1 Tim. 3:14; 2 Thess. 3:14), personal messengers (1 Thess. 3; Timothy, Epaphroditus - Phil. 2:19-30)
c.       Frequency – weekly (Acts 13), daily (Acts 19:9), night and day (Acts 20:31)
d.      Scope – “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)
e.       Sequence – the order in which the information is covered; implied in 1 Thess. by what Paul had already told them (1 Thess. 4:6).
                                      i.      Reminding God’s people of what they have learned (2 Tim. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 4:17)
f.       Focus/emphasis
                                      i.      language style & repetition; requires focused attention (1 Tim. 4:13, 16)
                                      ii.      Audience focus: teacher of the Gentiles (1 Tim. 2:7)
g.      Attitude/Approach – gentleness (1 Thess. 2:7), kindness (2 Tim. 2:24); patience (2 Tim. 2:24); appeals, exhorts (Tit. 1:9), commands (1 Tim. 1:3), reasons; reminders (2 Tim. 2:14); as a father would a child (1 Thess. 2:11); tenderly as a mother would her children (1 Thess. 2:7); admonishing (Col. 1:28)
h.      Avoiding flattery (1 Thess. 2:5); human eloquence or wisdom (1 Cor. 2:1, 4), intentional shaming (1 Cor. 4:14
i.        With Authority (Tit. 2:15; 1 Tim. 2:12), with the demonstration and power of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:5)
j.        With all wisdom (Col. 1:28; 3:16)
k.      With praise (1 Cor. 11:2); with rebuke (1 Cor. 11:17)
l.        Modeling what is taught and directing them to imitate him (Acts 20:35; 1 Thess. 1:6; 1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1); modeling teaching for faithful men (2 Tim. 3:10; Tit. 2:7)
m.    Pointing people to the Scriptures (OT specifically) for examples of how to live godly lives (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4)
n.      Audience – believers in general (Acts 13), male leaders specifically (Acts 20; 2 Tim. 2:2)
o.      Teach according to the grace given to teach (Rom. 12:6-7)
p.      Working hard (1 Tim. 5:17); diligently (2 Tim. 2:15)

VI.             VI.     Relationship of Teaching to other Pastoral Functions
a.       Distinction justified – preacher, apostle, teacher distinguished (2 Tim. 1:11; Acts 13:1)
b.      Teaching as a subset of preaching and apostleship (κήρυξ καὶ ἀπόστολος; 1 Tim. 2:7); preach the word … with instruction (2 Tim. 4:2)
c.       Title of the role is pastor and teacher (Eph. 4:11). Teaching figures prominently in the role.
d.      Teaching emphasized in Pastoral Epistles (*διδασκ* occurs 27x in Tim-Tit.;  2 imperatives to teach, 1 to preach)
                                     i.      1 Tim. 4:11 Παράγγελλε ταῦτα καὶ δίδασκε – command and teach these things
                                     ii.      1 Tim. 6:2 Ταῦτα δίδασκε καὶ παρακάλει – teach and exhort these things
                                     iii.      1 Tim. 5:17 – those who work in the word and teaching
e.       Paul exhorts Timothy to devote himself to reading [the Scriptures], preaching, and teaching, not one to the exclusion of the other (1 Tim. 4:13).
f.       Prophesying results in learning (1 Cor. 14:31), thus it is a form of teaching; “revelation, knowledge, prophecy, and teaching” distinguished (1 Cor. 14:6)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Theology of Yahweh in Jonah

In Jonah, Yahweh speaks to Jonah (Jon. 1:1; 3:1; 4:4, 9, 10), revealing Himself as a personal being who communicates directly to his prophet and through him to gentile sinners for their salvation. Yahweh speaks to the fish and it obeys (Jon. 2:10), revealing His ability to communicate to His non-human creation and its submission to Him.

Jonah seeks to flee from Yahweh’s presence (Jon. 1:3) and learns that Yahweh is no less present on the way to Tarshish, in a fish’s belly, or in Assyria than He is in Jonah’s homeland (Jon. 4:2a). What David describes (Psa. 139:7-12), Jonah experiences. Yahweh is omnipresent.

Yahweh’s sovereignty is evident in hurling a storm (Jon. 1:4) then quieting its raging (Jon. 1:15). He controls the lot to locate a sinner (Jon. 1:7; cf. Prov. 16:33) and guides His prophet to save pagan sailors (Jon. 1:12). He appoints a fish to swallow the fugitive (Jon. 1:17), a plant to grow for shade (Jon. 4:6), a worm to attack a gourd (Jon. 4:7), and a scorching east wind to buffet His angry prophet (Jon. 4:8). Yahweh, “the God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jon. 1:9), does whatever He pleases (Jon. 1:14). Creation responds with immediate obedience to the commands of its sovereign Creator.

Yahweh’s justice and mercy send Jonah to reveal Nineveh’s impending doom (Jon. 1:2; 3:1). Doom comes upon wickedness (Jon. 1:2), implicitly revealing Yahweh’s righteousness and His demand for holiness from all humanity (Jon. 2:4, 7). Mercy comes as warning, for unanticipated disaster cannot be averted. God’s warning serves notice that He wants to turn aside his wrath (Jon. 1:2; 3:9) and relent from His determined calamity (Jon. 3:10; 4:2). Repentance is the key (Jon. 3:8-10; cf. Matt. 12:39-41; Luk. 11:29-32).

Yahweh’s graciousness and compassion, well-understood by Jonah (Jon. 4:2), manifests itself in hearing prayer, refusing prayer, and granting salvation. His gracious compassion hears the prayer of pagan sailors (Jon. 1:14), his fainting prophet (Jon. 2:7), the fasting Ninevites (Jon. 3:10), but compassionately refuses Jonah’s plea to die (Jon. 4:3‑4, 8-9). Yahweh saves pagan sailors who fear Him (Jon. 1:15-16), Jonah from his well-deserved fate (Jon. 2:9-10), and the Ninevites from the punishment their sin deserved (Jon. 4:11), for salvation belongs to Yahweh (Jon. 2:9). The theological pearl of Jonah drops hot from the displeased prophet’s lips: “You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (Jon. 4:2).

The contrast between Yahweh and Jonah is a profound indictment not only of the prophet, but of the people he represents. God cares about the most wicked people on the planet and wants to save them. Israelites care more for plants than people (Jon. 4:10-11). They fear God with their lips (Jon. 1:9) but flee from him with their lives (Jon. 1:3, 10). Idolatrous pagans outstrip God’s prophet in their fear of Yahweh (Jon. 1:14-16), and wicked Assyrians are prompter to admit guilt and repent than self-righteous Jonah (Jon. 3:5-9). Jonah endangers others’ lives to flee from the possibility of God saving more than 120,000 of his enemies’ lives. Both Jonah (Jon. 4:2) and Yahweh (Jon. 3:9) are angry, but Jonah is angry over repentance, forgiveness and loss of personal comfort; Yahweh is angry over wickedness, rebellion, and idolatry. Jonah’s anger is quick to destroy life; Yahweh’s slow to save it.

Jonah’s text lies thick with layers of irony.  Connecting these layers and accentuating them are key terms: ra‘ah רָעָה occurs 7x (Jon. 1:2, 7, 8; 3:10; 4:1, 2, 6) with a range of meanings from wickedness, to calamity/disaster, to ill-pleasing, to misery. The wickedness (ra‘ah) of Nineveh (Jon. 1:2) will bring disaster (ra‘ah) upon it. Jonah’s wickedness brings disaster (ra‘ah) upon the gentile sailors (Jon. 1:7, 8) and upon himself (ch. 2). God sends a plant to save him from his ra‘ah (Jon. 4:6)! Perhaps there is deliberate ambiguity here to exploit the polysemous nature of ra‘ah. If Jonah does not turn from his wickedness (ra‘ah), calamity (ra‘ah) will certainly overtake him and discomfort/displeasure (ra‘ah) will be the least of his concerns! God sends a gourd to rescue Jonah from greater dangers than sun stroke.  Hesed occurs twice, yet figures largely throughout the story. Yahweh is abundant in it and does not forsake it either to sinners or Jonah (Jon. 4:2); Jonah abandons hesed to Yahweh and suffers calamity in the midst of which he accuses pagans of abandoning hesed, and boasts of his thanksgiving vows (Jon. 2:8, 9). When Jonah is about to die because of his own sin, he repents and prays that God would spare his life (ch. 2). When Nineveh repents and God spares them, Jonah prays that he would die (ch. 4)!

Application Points
  • How does Yahweh’s compassion for Ninevites—the worst of the worst—manifest itself in your life?
  • When last prompted by Yahweh to share His mercy with a Ninevite—did you head for Joppa or Assyria?
  • If you, like Jonah, profess to fear God, how do you evidence  your fear of God?
  • Have you repented like Jonah or like the Ninevites?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Exonerating Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite

Back in 2007 I wrote a blog on Caleb's concubines, in which I mistakenly identified the Caleb of 1 Chron. 2 as Caleb the son of Jephunneh who wholly followed God. More careful reading of the genealogies this year exposed my mistake. The Caleb of 1 Chron. 2:46 is not the same as the Caleb who wholly followed God (1 Chron. 4:15).

I have corrected my old post, and hereby "apologize" to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for getting him mixed up with the lecherous Caleb, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah.

I should have read the genealogies more carefully!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

When God made a fool of the Egyptians (Exod. 10:2)

Exodus 10:2 and in order that in the hearing of your son and your grandson you may tell how I made fools of the Egyptians and about my signs that I displayed among them, so that you may know that I am the LORD."

The verb עלל (translated “make fools of” by the NET) occurs 7x in the hitpael (Exod. 10:2; Num. 22:29; Jdg. 19:25; 1 Sam. 6:6; 31:4; 1 Chr. 10:4; Jer. 38:19). The LXX translates it with ἐμπαίζω “mock” (6x) and καταμωκάομαι “mock” (1x; Jer. 38:19). It is translated by the NASB “deal harshly”  (Exod. 10:2), “make a mockery of” (Num. 22:29), “abuse” (Jdg 19:25; 1 Chron. 10:4; Jer. 38:19), “deal severely with” (1 Sam. 6:6), “make sport of” (1 Sam. 31:4). The ESV translates it “deal harshly with” (Exod. 10:2), “make a fool of” (Num. 22:29), “abuse” (Jdg 19:25), “deal severely with” (1 Sam. 6:6), “mistreat” (1 Sam. 31:4; 1 Chron. 10:4), “deal cruelly with” (Jer. 38:19).

Associative Field
Yahweh does this to the Egyptians through the plagues (Exod. 10:2; 1 Sam. 6:6), Balaam believes his donkey has done this to him (Num. 22:9), the men of Gibeah “know” and do this to the Levite’s concubine (Jdg 19:25), Saul fears the Philistines will do it to him if they find him alive (1 Sam. 31:4; 1 Chron. 10:4); and Zechariah fears the deserted Judeans will do this to him if he surrenders himself to the Babylonians (Jer. 38:19).

All of the uses of this verb in the hitpael involve physical harm to the object. Balaam’s case is the least clear, since he suffered no physical harm the two of the times he says that his donkey did this to him. Only one of the instances involved harm—his foot was crush against the wall (Num. 22:25). Because Yahweh is the subject, the verb cannot necessarily imply sinful action. The LXX’s understanding appears to be that this verb denotes not only harmfully abusive action, but also  the consequence of the abuse, that is, that the abused person is belittled, exposed to ridicule, or shamed by the abuse.

The Lexica
HALOT offers “to deal with someone wantonly, play a dirty trick on someone” and “to abuse” in Jdg 19:25. BDB offers “busy, divert oneself with … esp. deal wantonly, ruthlessly.” In NIDOTTE 3:423, Eugene Carpenter offers a rather loose and expansive treatment: “When used with persons the word indicates a destructive, abusive, or deceitful action/attitude toward others, such as to wipe out, kill; make sport of, mock, dally with; abuse; take advantage of; inflict pain/grief upon; exercise oneself in mischievousness, wantonness. For example, the Egyptians/Pharaoh are made sport of/dallied with by the Lord (hitp. Exod 10:2; 1 Sam 6:6). A Levite’s concubine is abused sexually, and Saul and Zedekiah feared abuse from various groups (Judg 19:25; 1 Sam 31:4, hitp.; Jer 38:19, hitp.). The consummate fool was Balaam, whose donkey sported with him (hitp., Num 22:29).” The NET note seems to follow BDB as mediated through Walt Kaiser: The verb ‌הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי‎‏‎ (hit'allalti) is a bold anthropomorphism. The word means to occupy oneself at another's expense, to toy with someone, which may be paraphrased with "mock." The whole point is that God is shaming and disgracing Egypt, making them look foolish in their arrogance and stubbornness (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., "Exodus," EBC 2:366–67). Some prefer to translate it as "I have dealt ruthlessly" with Egypt (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 123).

I'm inclined to follow the LXX's reading. In the case of Saul, he didn't fear bodily harm per se, since he commits suicide, but the shameful abuse he anticipates in the process of being killed by the Philistines. If this is the proper reading, then God's plaguing of the Egyptians is not simply bring them harm, but exposing them to ridicule in the eyes of the world. This reading is supported contextually by Exod. 9:16's "so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth" and historically by 1 Sam. 6:6 where the Philistine's recall how God dealt harshly with Egypt to its shame.