1–2 Kings Among the Prophets: Learning to Read Ancient History as Gospel Literature

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If you have ever read 1–2 Kings, you may wonder how the two books hang together. What is the main message? And what does this ancient book have to say to us today? Is it simply an historical record of Israel’s kings? Or, being found in Israel’s canon as one of the Prophets, should we read 1–2 Kings as a book of prophetic literature?

Without denying the royal character of 1-2 Kings—“kings” is in the title after all—there are many good reasons for seeing 1–2 Kings as a book with a strongly prophetic message. Making this point, Peter Leithart in his Brazos Theological commentary on 1 and 2 Kingsmakes a number of compelling observations, Continue reading

Putting the Prophets in Their Place: An Introduction to the Historical Background of the Minor Prophets

mick-haupt-eQ2Z9ay9Wws-unsplashThere are four “major prophets” in the Old Testament—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve. While the first three major prophets are each associated with one prophet, the Minor Prophets (i.e., the Twelve) is a collection of twelve different prophets. Together, the twelve Minor Prophets compose a book of prophecy approximately the same size as the other Major Prophets.

Focusing our attention on the Minor Prophets, we can see that these twelve books originated over the course of four centuries (approx. 770 BC to 430 BC). Through this chronology, the Minor Prophets provide a unique perspective on the spiritual welfare of God’s people over time. While there are challenges to discerning the unity of the twelve, their chronology is especially important for understand God’s message.

Because the prophets are forth-tellers of God’s law, more than fore-tellers of God’s future, the prophets addressed the sinfulness of Israel/Judah, called for repentance, and promised mercy in a time to come. To rightly perceive their message, we must know the historical setting. Indeed, because prophets are given to Israel throughout their history (Jer. 7:25), it is vital to learn some basic events in Israel’s history if we are to learn the message of the prophets. Continue reading

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 2): A Biblical and Theological Defense

job.jpegWhy is biblical exposition necessary?

The simple answer is that the health of the church depends on the regular reading and preaching of God’s Word. This claim can be supported by church history, but it can also be seen in Scripture itself. And in Scripture, expositional preaching is supported by both the doctrine of God’s Word and the practice of God’s people.

Today I will add to the blogpost from yesterday and consider the doctrine of Scripture and the practice in the Old Testament. Next week I will come back and consider the practice of Jesus and the apostles.

A Short Doctrine of Scripture

First, as to doctrine, the belief that God’s Word is powerful is seen in the way that God’s created the light by his word (Gen 1:3); he upholds the universe with his word (Heb 1:3); and he raises the dead to life with his word (Ezekiel 37; John 11). Understanding the power of God’s Word, faithful preachers must labor to expound God’s Word and not their own. The goal of preaching is not arranging Bible verses around their own words, ideas, or outlines, but highlighting what God has already spoken. Continue reading

The Significance of the Sermon on the Mount: 10 Reflections from Herman Ridderbos

sermon05What is the Sermon on the Mount about?

That question has puzzled pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars for centuries. While large volumes have been written on the subject, sometimes a slimmer response is helpful. On that note, one finds great help from the late Dutch New Testament scholar Herman Ridderbos.

Writing a chapter on the Sermon on the Mount (“The Significance of the Sermon on the Mount,” in When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology26–43), Ridderbos explains the eschatological nature of Christ’s kingdom and how the arrival of Christ’s kingdom as a fulfillment of the Law and Prophets helps us understand and apply Jesus’ famous words.  Continue reading

Let Us Behold (Not Begrudge) Our Gracious God (Jonah 4:1–11)


Let Us Behold (Not Begrudge) Our Gracious God
(Jonah 4:1–11)

This Sunday we brought our study of Jonah to a close. After looking at the big picture of Jonah (Jonah 1–4), diving into his storm of disobedience (Jonah 1), going under the waters of Jonah’s baptism (Jonah 1:17; cf. Matthew 12:38–41), inspecting Jonah’s prayer (Jonah 2), and learning what true repentance looks like (Jonah 3), we set our gaze on the God of sovereign grace.

By reading in Jonah in conversation with Genesis 4, Exodus 34, and 1 Kings 19, to name but a few passages, we learned what Jonah 4 says to us about our hearts and God’s. Just as the other chapters examined the heart of the reader, Jonah 4 does so all the more. It finishes with Jonah’s rage and God’s question, and it prompts the reader to ask: Will you begrudge God’s grace too?

You can listen to the message online. Discussion questions can be found below as well as a few additional resources. Continue reading

Going to the Movies with Habakkuk and Haggai: What the Prophets Have to Say to Modern Moviegoers

conner-murphy-363916In the last three years, I’ve seen three movies in the theater. I share that to say, I’m not an avid moviegoer. But for reasons of cultural interest and paternal pressure, my sons and I have gone to see the last three Star Wars in the theater. And thus, I offer a belated reflection on the movie.

Only, I will not commend or critique Rian Johnson and his interpretation of the Star Wars canon. I am not nerdy enough, I mean, knowledgeable enough to do that. Rather, I want to make a few observations about the whole movie going experience and how a family-friendly movie is far from faith-building unless coupled with intentional, proactive biblical reflection. (This isn’t a scree against movie going, but a call for biblical reflection on all things, especially watching movies). Continue reading

12 Quotes from Peter Gentry’s Book on the Biblical Prophets


Peter Gentry, Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an incredibly helpful and accessible book in How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets. In this 140-page book, there is much general wisdom about reading Scripture and many specific applications for reading the Prophets, especially Isaiah.

In his plain-spoken and even humorous way, Gentry helps deepen our understanding how different the prophetic literature is. But even more, he gives tools to read these ancient words better.

In preaching Isaiah this month, I’ve found much help in How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets. I share a dozen of the best quotes from his book below. These give a taste of what you’ll find in this book. But let me encouragement you, if you take seriously the study of Scripture, pick up this book and spend time thinking about how to read the Prophets.  Continue reading

Redemptive Roadmap: A Gospel Positioning System

When Having a GPS Makes All the Difference

A few months ago, our family traveled to Chicago.  Somewhere near Indianapolis, we learned that there was a major accident on the highway in front of us.  Fortunately, we had the information ahead of time and were able to get off the interstate in time to miss the heavy traffic.  Or so we thought.

Misjudging the exits, we got caught with all the other cars and trucks on a side road.  Nevertheless, we still had our GPS.  With our global positioning device we were able once again to get off the side road and find our way on a dirt road back to the highway.

Certainly when we set out for Chicago, we did not expect ourselves to be traveling on a dust-covered dirt road in the middle of an Indiana cornfield.  And yet that was exactly where we were.  It was a place that was totally unfamiliar to us, and one that without the GPS we would have no idea where we were.

I think this is often how we feel when we open up the Bible.  Seeking to get to the City of God, namely Jesus Christ, books that contain instructions for bodily discharges (Leviticus 15) and chapters that describing flying scrolls (Zechariah 4) can seem as out of place as the road we found in Northern Indiana.

What we need when we get into the more “remote” places in the Bible is what we have in the car.  We need a positioning device that will help explain how to get from our current location–Exodus 31, Leviticus 15, or Judged 19 to Christ. What we need is a Gospel-Positioning System.  Anyone know where to find one of those?

I didn’t.  But this week, I have attempted to put something together that may function like that.  It has six steps, and it serves as a general rule of thumb for getting from obscure OT laws all the way to Christ.  It’s aim is to avoid the traps of hasty application and mere moralizing.  It’s goal is to find Christ in all Scripture, but not by making strange leaps and speculative links.  Rather, its aim is to follow the flow of redemptive history and present a gospel-patterened schematic (another GPS), that can benefit any reader of Scripture.

Redemptive Roadmap: Gospel-Positioning System

1. Law.  In the law, you find instructions for living in ancient Israel.  These rules and commands were part of the covenant framework of Israel.  They were given so that people could live in God’s presence.  They were also given, so that the people with sinful hearts would learn that they needed something greater.  In both cases, they were designed to point people to God–to his holiness and his mercy. They list the standard expectations of God, and they point out our failures.   (Romans 3:20; 5:20; Gal 3:21)

2A. Prophets (1). Next, when Israel broke the law, God sent prophets to warn and later condemn Israel.  The purpose of the prophets was to incite repentance, but knowing the hearts of the people, God also sent his prophets to pronounce judgment (Jeremiah 25:4-5; 26:4-6).

2B. Prophets (2). At the same time that he sent prophets to proclaim judgment, he also sent prophets with a message of hope and salvation.  These prophets were given to Israel to point them to the Messiah who was to come (1 Pet 1:10-12).

Together, the prophets proclaim a message of salvation through judgment.  But this is only takes us to the end of the Old Testament.  These first three steps are what Mark Dever calls Promises Made.  What comes next are Promises Kept.

3. Christ.  God’s word of hope is always fulfilled in Christ.  He is the end of the law, and he is the one who fulfills all the predictions of the prophets.  He is the long awaited Messiah, and all the promises of God are yes and amen in him.  Thus he is the center of all the Bible.  (2 Corinthians 1:20).  

4. The Gospel.  Finding Christ in Scripture brings you to the door of the gospel.  The only question that remains is what will you do when you come to Christ?  Will you simply try to imitate his life and work?  Or will you humble yourself, repent of your sin, and believe that his obedient life and substitutionary death have effected your good standing before God?  If the latter, you have followed the Gospel-Positioning System to the right address.  You have found rest in Christ.

This is so vital, because so often we can miss Christ and the gospel, especially when we begin in the OT.  Too many Bible-believing Christians and preachers miss Christ and settle for  moral lessons and spiritual examples in the Old Testament .  But to do this ignores the way the way Christ intended for us to read Scripture (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 45-49).

How does this kind of reading differ?  Well, a GPS reading of the Old Testament moves from the text, through redemptive history, to Jesus Christ. Call it Christotelic if you like.  A GPS reading also sees how the Law is fulfilled (Rom 10:4) and the Prophets realized in Jesus Christ (Rom 15:4), and makes us all wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:14-16).  It does not take the short-cut to Jesus, but it follows the long road through the Scriptures until it comes to faith and repentance in Christ.  And then from there it calls us to action.

5. Christian Application.  Once we have rested our heart, soul, mind, and strength in the completed work Christ has done for us, then we are ready for action.  This is what Paul calls “Faith working itself out in love” (Gal 5:6).  It always flows out of the gospel, and it is also energized by the gospel.  It is filled with love and good works, but they are works that do not justify.  They are works that testify to the grace of God and the love of his Son.

A Final Caveat

Now let me say it: This is cheesy.  Any time you devise a system for reading the Bible, you are in danger of draining its spiritual power.  Any time the Spirit who leads us into all truth is replaced by a systematic method, something of the life of the reading experience is lost.  I get that.

Nevertheless, I am willing to take a risk, because for too long, too many people have read “by the Spirit” and have totally missed Christ, or just treated parts of the OT like ancietn ancestors.  They may be necessary for my existence, but I don’t know or care anything about them.

With that real danger in place, I think that memorizing this 5-fold pattern can make you and I far better readers of Scripture.  By seeing how the law was given to increase our trespass (1), to heighten our condemnation and our need (2A), to point to a later, greater hope (2B), to finally culminate in Christ (3), to trust in him and his work (4), and to live according to the gospel he proclaims (5), that I believe, will not have a spiritually-stultifying effect.  Rather, it will help our minds better understand the long history of the redemptive history, and how to get from places like Exodus 31 and Leviticus 15 all the way to Christ.

Tell me what you think!  Is this is a helpful tool?  What would you add?  Edit? What else needs to be said?

Soli Deo Gloria, dss