May 25, 2013

Malachi's Literary Form and Message

After brief discussion on the literary form and message of Malachi James Fischer summarizes Malachi in this way. 
"Or to put it in simpler words, the message of the prophet was to tell who Yahweh was. The message was not from men to God (“We are, sorry”); it was from God to man. And it said Yahweh is father, lover, a God who is faithful because that is the kind of God he is and who wants most of all that men be faithful to him."

James A. Fischer, “Notes on the Literary Form and Message of Malachi,” Catholic Bible Quarterly 34 (1972): 320.

May 24, 2013

The Lessons of Balaam for Ministry

At the conclusion of a fine chapter on the theology of the Balaam oracles, Ron Allen makes the following point.

"A final word concerns the relationship Balaam bears on the issue of the Christian ministry. It is sometimes said that God never uses an unclean vessel. But remember Balaam. Perhaps it might better be said that God rarely uses unclean vessels. This factor may indicate that our success syndrome is wrongly directed. A given minister of God’s Word may have blessing and success simply because God is honoring His Word and not necessarily because He is honoring the messenger.

"The fate of a Balaam is beyond comprehension. Perhaps the Balaam of the Numbers account will not be the only one who died in the enemy camp, having never been related to the God whose Word he communicated to others. Many others may say, “Lord, Lord,” whom the Lord never knew. The story of Balaam tells us a great deal about our God. It also places a mirror before us. We must view ourselves."

Ronald B. Allen, "The Theology of the Balaam Oracles," in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 109–10.

May 23, 2013

File Under Unbelievable

According to a recent Christian Post article

"The head of the Episcopal Church has garnered outrage from some in the Anglican Communion over her claim that St. Paul of Tarsus' curing of a demon-possessed slave girl as described in the Bible was wrong.

"In a sermon delivered before the Diocese of Venezuela on the island nation of Curaçao, Presiding Bishop The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori said that by driving the demon out of her Paul was 'depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.'

"'Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness,' said Jefferts Schori."

To read the full sermon go here.

How can someone in such a high position of leadership so misinterpret a text? How could one equate demonic possession with spiritual awareness? I guess the demons in Matthew 8:31 just wanted to bring spiritual awareness to pigs.

May 22, 2013

Christ in the Psalms

Nicolas Batzig has an interesting post on seeing Christ in the Psalms. I found the criticism of Calvin's approach particularly interesting.

May 21, 2013

Esther's Outstanding Literary Characteristic and Preaching

Robert Gordis suggests that,

"The outstanding literary characteristic of the author of Esther is his interest in the swift flow of the action. He, therefore, strips the plot of all non-essentials, concentrating on events rather than on motivations, on incidents rather than on descriptions of character. Thus, he does not inform us as to the reasons for the king's two banquets, or Vashti’s disobedience, or the grounds for Bigthan and Teresh’s conspiracy. We are not told why Mordecai instructs Esther not to reveal her origin, nor why he himself refuses to bow down to Haman.

"Because of the same over-riding consideration, the author does not concern himself with filling in the background against which the incidents take place. The structure of government and administration in Persia, the relations subsisting between the Jews and the general population, the religious practices and ethnic customs of the people—all these are passed over in silence, so as not to impede the swift pace of the narrative."

Robert Gordis, “Studies in the Esther Narrative,” Journal of Biblical Literature 95 (1976): 45.

If Gordis is correct concerning the author's intention, then this has important implications for how the story might be preached. That is, too much historical background might not help but actually hinder "hearing" the story as the author intended. Furthermore, if the author does indeed show little interest in the character's motivations, then the preacher might be wise to tread lightly here as well. A number of messages that I have heard on Esther have been prime examples of the so-called "sanctified imagination" where the preacher has waxed eloquently on why a character acts as he/she does or even what he/she might have been thinking. While such forays into the white space around the text might be occasionally beneficial, one should recognize that it might actually draw attention away from what the text actually states. Or in other words, spending too much time on what the a text does not say means that we have less time to spend on what a text actually states. This is something, but it is not really exposition.

May 19, 2013

The Lord's Prayer in Bible Magazine

Check out the latest free issue of Bible Magazine. This issue continues a series on the Sermon on the Mount with a particular focus on the Lord's prayer. You can check out the Berean Advocate website here or this issue in particular here.