Reading the Bible Better in 2019

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The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
— Psalm 19:7–11 —

On the eve of 2019, I want to share a new podcast that our church will host in the new year. In conjunction with our church-wide Bible reading plan, which is based on Robert Murray McCheyne’s classic plan, we are going to offer a weekly podcast that answers questions from the Bible and helps us to read the Bible . . . . and read the Bible better.

If this blog has been helpful to you over the last few years, perhaps this podcast will also be of interest. My hope is to help our church and those who listen in to read Scripture more and better—which I might define as seeing Christ more clearly and more fully in all of Scripture. As Jesus taught his disciples, all the Scriptures point to him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Yet, often we can miss how Scripture points to Christ.

For some time, I have found the most helpful books and teachers are the ones who help me see more of Christ from the whole Bible. In this blog, I have sought to share their observations and some of my own with you. In recent months, I have written very little on this blog as I’ve been finishing up a manuscript on a biblical theology priesthood.

That manuscript will be finished, Lord willing, by the end of January. After that I hope to resume more writing here. Until then, and after, I pray this podcast will serve as a catalyst for conversations about Christ from all Scripture and will complement the biblical-theological writing found on this blog.

If you are interested in listening to this podcast, you can find a button on the right side of my website, a webpage on our church website, and (in time perhaps) we’ll be able to link this podcast to Apple or wherever you find your podcasts.

As the hours tick down in 2018, let me encourage you to make plans to read the Bible in 2019. If you don’t have a plan for reading, consider using McCheyne’s reading plan. If you do have a plan, let me encourage you to read the Bible in community—ideally, in your local church. And if this blog or podcast can be of help to you in reading the Bible and reading it with an eye to Christ, then let me know some of the questions you have as you read Scripture. In print or on air, I will seek to answer them, as we seek to know more of Christ together.

Indeed, God’s Word is an incredible gift to us. May we see it as the treasure it is and shape our lives to read it and read it better, so that our wet be changed by it and our triune God would receive the glory he deserves!

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Lord’s Supper as the Origin of Christ-Centered Hermeneutics

jesus.jpegThere are many arguments for reading the Bible with Christ at the center. But where do they come from? Are they the product of biblical interpreters? Or is there a source found in Scripture itself?

In answer to this question, the best place to see the Bible’s Christ-centeredness may come from Christ himself. Not only does he say explicitly that all Scripture speaks of him (John 5:39), but in the Passover he interprets the most important event in Israel’s history as his own. As Alastair Roberts and Andrew Wilson note, “Jesus is specifically identifying the unleavened bread as representing his body, . . . and he is telling his Jewish followers to celebrate the Passover in memory of him, not just their liberation from slavery in Egypt” (29). Continue reading

Feeding on the Lord: So Much More Than a Metaphor

breadHunger. It’s one of the most basic of human desires. And in the Bible it is one of the most important concepts related to salvation, faith, and one’s experience with God.

Physically, hunger and our attempts to fill our stomaches are experiences that unite all mankind. While experienced differently in famine-afflicted Africa or affluency-afflicted America, an “empty stomach” is something that speaks to everyone.  We cannot go without food, and thus we search for something to fill us up and give us life.

Spiritually, the language of food, famine, eating, nourishment, and emptiness fills the Bible. From the plethora of fruit trees given to Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the Manna in the wilderness, to the loaves and fishes that Jesus provided for his followers, God has provided physical sustenance. At the same time, food has been a source of destruction—sin entered the world through eating the forbidden fruit; Esau lost his inheritance when he chose stew over his birthright, and Paul says that men ate and drank destruction on themselves when they wrongly ate the Lord’s Supper.

So clearly, food plays a key role in our physical and spiritual pursuit of God. At the same time, Scripture often speaks of eating metaphorically. Psalm 34:8 reads, “Taste and see that the Lord is God.” And Psalm 36:8 says that the children of man “feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Apparently, our experience with food—physical bread, meat, and drink—is meant by God to teach us what it means to feed on the Lord and drink from his streams of life.

Still, I suspect that for all we know about food, we may struggle to understand what it means to feed on the Lord. If God is Spirit (John 4:24), then how do we feed on him? And if he is invisible, where do we go to find fullness in him?

Just this last week, I preached a message on feeding on the Lord. My repeated command: Feed on the goodness and grace of God. But how? I can imagine someone saying, “That’s sounds great, but what does that mean?” So here is my answer to that question: What does it mean to feed on the God who is invisible? Continue reading

Finding Theological Unity in The Twelve: Reading the Minor Prophets with Richard Fuhr and Gary Yates

roman-kraft-136249-unsplash.jpgHow do we put the Minor Prophets together?

That has a been a topic of discussion on this blog and at our church over the last few months. As we’ve preached Jonah, Nahum, and (now) Haggai, we’ve paid careful attention the literary structure of the Twelve. With help from Paul House and David Peterson and Jim Hamilton, we’ve considered how the Twelve is put together and how that arrangement influences our reading and interpretation.

Today, we continue that study with a fewbook qualifications and theological considerations from Richard A. Fuhr and Gary Yates. In their recent book, The Message of the Twelvethese two Liberty professors provide a reading of the Minor Prophets that finds unity in the “theological message . . . that emerges when these books are read as a collective whole” (42). In this approach, they engage with the differences between the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Masoretic Text) and the  Septuagint (LXX), the chronology of the books, the catchwords that may contribute to their order, and the overall theological message that unites these books. While more reserved in their approach than Paul House and his plot line reading of the Twelve, their theological approach helps identify some key themes in the book.

In order, we will consider some of their observations, which help us read the Minor Prophets as a theological whole. Continue reading

Reading the Bible Better: Finding Unity in the Book of the Twelve

tanner-mardis-612668-unsplash.jpgWhat are the Minor Prophets about? Should we read them together, as one unified book? Or should we read them as twelve discreet books, written (Nahum) or spoken (the other 11) by twelve different prophets?

These are questions worth asking when we study the Book of the Twelve. And as our church has studied Jonah, is starting Nahum, and will soon look at Haggai, I wanted to share another post on ways we find unity in the Twelve. Already, I’ve shared the helpful work of Paul House. If you haven’t read that, start there and then come back here.

In this post I will look at the work Old Testament scholar David L. Petersen (not to be confused with David G. Peterson, the New Testament scholar) and biblical theologian Jim Hamilton. In David Peterson’s survey of research (“A Book of Twelve?” in Hearing the Book of the Twelve, ed. James D. Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney, pp. 1–10), he lists five evidences of unity in the Twelve. And in Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgmenthe shows how each book is connected to the others through various catchwords and themes. We’ll look at each of these studies to better read the Bible and better understand the unity of the Twelve. Continue reading

Reading the Minor Prophets Together: Ten Observations from Paul House’s ‘The Unity of the Twelve’

12By 1990 there was no consensus on the structure of the Minor Prophets. Observing this fact, Paul House, in his book The Unity of the Twelve, surveyed the way scholars looked to chronology and regional location as possible ways “the Twelve” were ordered. Such approaches were significantly lacking, however, and so he concluded: “It is probable that historical research has not successfully uncovered the structure of the Twelve because that structure is governed by literary principles” (67).

In conversation with literary critics and scholars employing methods of canonical criticism, House shows why we should read the Twelve as more than 12 similar but separated oracles. Rather, by examining the structure and plot of the Twelve we can come to a clearer understanding of the unified message that the Minor Prophets is seeking to convey.

As others have observed in the Psalms, there is an intentional ordering in the Minor Prophets, better termed The Twelve. Historically, these 12 books are always found together and typically in the same order (63). For that reason, a unified study of their message is valid and valuable. And Paul House’s book, though technical, is an important for helping read and understand the Minor Prophets.

To get a sense of his argument and how the twelve prophets are unified, let me share some of his observations—first on the structure of the Twelve, then on the plot of the Twelve. Continue reading

Sovereignty, Satire, and Second Chances: An Introduction to the Book of Jonah

jonah04For being only four chapters and 48 verses, the book of Jonah demands a lot from its readers. In the original language, it becomes clear how well-crafted the book is. In four chapters, there are at least four chiasms that organize the book, and on the whole, Jonah is a literary masterpiece. At the same time, the book is best understand in combination with the rest of the Minor Prophets—consider the way Jonah’s rebellion mirrors that of Edom in Obadiah, or the way the king of Nineveh preaches Joel 2:12–14 (see Jonah 3:6–9).

Still, if Jonah demands a lot from its readers, it gives even more. In its four scenes, it gives its readers an incredible vision of God, his grace, his power, and his purpose among the nations. In other words, in the rebellion of Jonah, a (false) prophet of the Lord, we find much about God’s grace.

Over the next two months, our church will be spending ample time in this book, along with a few other Minor Prophets. So in this post, let me introduce a few themes we will see again and again—namely, God’s sovereignty, the book of Jonah’s satire, and the promise of second chances for sinners who repent and turn to God. Continue reading

Getting into Jonah by Seeing the Book’s Literary Structures

chiasm_textIn a pair of articles on literary structure and the book of Jonah, Ernst Wendland argues for what makes a chiasm valid, with a test case in the book of Jonah. As our church begins to study Jonah, I share the outlines from his second article. You can find his reflections on chiasms here.

They demonstrate how much the biblical authors, in this case Jonah or another prophet well-acquainted with Jonah, incorporated literary devices to express their arguments. For casual readers of the Bible, these outlines suggest that their are depths untold in the meaning and message of Scripture. For teachers, these are the structures we must find as we seek to understand the author’s original intent.

All the chiastic structures outlined below come from Ernst Wendland’s Text Analysis and Genre of Jonah (pt 2) (JETS 1996). The highlights are my own.

The Overall Structure of Jonah

A. (1:1–3) Yahweh calls Jonah the first time and he flees from Nineveh

B. (1:4–16) A life/death crisis; exhortation by the captain; Jonah’s unwilling message to the pagan sailors of the ship; result: they all repent and pray

C. (1:17) Surprising transition: Yahweh saves Jonah by means of a great fish

D. (2:1–9) Jonah’s response, a pious prayer: thank you—for letting me live

E. (2:10) Instruction: Yahweh’s miraculous object lesson is complete—Jonah is safely delivered

A’. (3:1–3) Yahweh calls Jonah the second time and he travels to Nineveh

B’. (3:4–9) A life/death crisis; Jonah’s unwilling message to the pagan people of the city; exhortation by the king; result: they all repent and pray (an even greater number)

C’. (3:10) Surprising transition: Yahweh saves Nineveh by “repenting” himself

D’. (4:1–4) Jonah’s response, a peeved prayer: please—just let me die

E’. (4:5–9) Instruction: Yahweh’s miraculous object lesson in the plant, worm and wind—Jonah is sorely afflicted

F’ (4:10–11) Conclusion (thematic peak): Yahweh’s last word to Jonah and to every current listener: “Salvation belongs to Yahweh” (cf. 2:9)

Four Chiasms in Jonah

In addition to the overall storyline of Jonah, each chapter shows remarkable literary arrangement. Again, following the work of Ernst Wendland, consider how each chapter is structured.

Screenshot 2018-03-15 10.28.45Screenshot 2018-03-15 10.32.25Screenshot 2018-03-15 10.34.39Screenshot 2018-03-15 10.36.16

Reading Jonah

With these structures in mind, you are now better equipped to read this fascinating book. Even more, with these structures in mind, we find more clearly the original emphases. For more the literary structures of Jonah, see

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Final Days of Jesus: A 40-Day Reading Guide

final daysThis week marks 40 days until Resurrection Sunday. While some celebrate with Lent and others do not, we should all prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To help in that endeavor, let me encourage you to pick up and read The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.

A few years ago I put together a 40-day reading plan for that book.  The outline lays out daily Scripture readings from the Gospels, many intra-biblical connections to the Old Testament, and the page numbers to read from The Final Days of JesusIf you are interested in that 40-day reading plan, you can find it here.

Here is the devotional guide’s introduction. Let it be an invitation to a slow, worshipful reading of the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Continue reading

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

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