On Reading Leviticus: Four Reading Strategies for This Glorious Book

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

With a new month (March) comes a new book in the Via Emmaus Reading Plan. This year I am reading Track 1 and listening to Track 3. And for those who are reading along this plan, or for those who are interested in reading Leviticus—“The Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)Ever Read”—I offer this reading strategy with resources.

This year, we have read Genesis and Exodus, and now we come to Leviticus, which is arguably the centerpiece of the whole Pentateuch. As I have taught in this Bible Study, borrowing from the work of Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?) who cites many others, the book of Leviticus is the literary center and high point of the Pentateuch. Thematically, we might capture it this way:

Genesis begins in Eden, the Garden of God and ends in Egypt, a place of exile and death;

Exodus moves from Egypt through the wilderness to Sinai;

Leviticus is entirely written at Sinai;

Numbers moves from Sinai through the wilderness to the Promised Land (i.e., Israel sits poised to enter the land at the end of the book);

Deuteronomy prepares the people to move from exile in the wilderness into the Garden of God, the land of Canaan.

From this locational/thematic chiasm (and there are other literary clues that indicate an intentional shaping of the Pentateuch), we see that Leviticus is not a book we must “get through.” In the Pentateuch, it is the book we must “get to.”

We need Leviticus, so that we might learn what it takes to dwell near to God. This month, as we read Leviticus, we need to consider how this book gives us more than a detailed list of instructions for the priests of Israel. It invites us to approach a holy God and to do so through the finished work of Christ—the One who fulfills all the requirements of the Levitical system of sacrifice. In what follows I will offer a handful of resources to help you read this book, starting with four reading strategies for Leviticus. Continue reading

Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament: More Than 120 Notes on the Book of Joshua

joshua07This week we finished up our series on the book of Joshua. Here is a run down of all the notes, sermon, and related resources that we put together for that marvelous book.

120 Notes on (Almost) Every Chapter of Joshua

  1. Getting to Know Joshua, Son of Nun, and Joshua, Son of God: Or, 10 Things About Joshua 1
  2. Rahab’s Redemption: 10 Things About Joshua 2
  3. Baptism in the Jordan River: 10 Things about Joshua 3–4
  4. 10 Things about Joshua 5:1–12**
  5. A Text Filled with Types: 10 Things About Joshua 5–6
  6. How God’s Judgment upon Achan’s Sin Teaches Us to Find Grace in Christ: 10 Things about Joshua 7
  7. 10 Things about Joshua 8**
  8. His Mercy is More: 10 Things about Joshua 9
  9. Under His Feet: 10 Things About Joshua 10
  10. The Last Battle: 10 Things About Joshua 11–12
  11. 10 Things about Joshua 13–19**
  12. The Wisdom of God at Work in Israel and the Church: 10 Things About Joshua 20–21
  13. Old Testament Instruction for the New Testament Church: 10 Things About Joshua 22
  14. Love God, Flee Idols, and Remember That Jesus is with You: 10 Things about Joshua 23
  15. Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament: 10 Things about Joshua 24

** Placeholders for future ’10 Things’ on these chapters. Continue reading

Approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday: A Few Video Resources

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
— Galatians 4:4–7 —

Looking for ways to prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

A few years ago Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger teamed up to write a book called The Final Days of JesusIn it they produced a harmony of the Gospels, a “play-by-play” of everything that happened from the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the day of his crucifixion (Good Friday) to the day of his vindication (Resurrection Sunday). This is a great resource, but maybe one to schedule for next year.

In the meantime, consider a shorter series of videos based on the book. In what follows Justin Taylor has teamed up with Köstenberger and a number of other biblical scholars (e.g., Douglas Moo, Grant Osbourne, Nicholas Perrin, and Paul Maier) to lay out the historical background and theological significance of Christ’s final week in eight 4-minute videos. And explanation for the dates and the content of these videos can be found in their book.

As you prepare this Holy Weekend, these videos would be a great encouragement. To watch them all would take less than an hour (approx. 40 min.). In that time you would be greatly encouraged and instructed with how and why Jesus did what he did as he approached his cross, the reason for which he came to earth.

Psalm Sunday, March 29, AD 33.

Monday, March 30, AD 33.

Tuesday, March 31, AD 33.

Wednesday, April 1, AD 33.

Maundy Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

Good Friday, April 3, AD 33.

Saturday, April 4, AD 33.

Resurrection Sunday, April 5, AD 33.

For those in the Woodbridge, Virginia area looking for a Good Friday service, please join us at Occoquan Bible Church at 7:00pm. And if you are looking for a church home, we’d love to have you join us on Sunday (at 9:30am or 11:00am).

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Teach the Bible Through in a Year: Tips and Tools

If you have or if you would think about teaching through the whole Bible in 2011 or in any year, let me encourage you to think about a couple things that I learned as I taught through the whole Bible in 2010.

First, if you are a rookie pastor or just entering a church, WAIT!  I did this in my first year and I would not recommend it for others.  There are many things that demand attention especially in the first year of ministry and this one took up more time each week than I thought it would.  With that said, I have benefitted much from teaching through the Bible this year in a way that I believe will bear fruit in the life of my ministry in the years to come.

Second, and this goes along with number 1, if you are going to teach through the whole Bible, let me encourage you to make sure that you have been reading and teaching the Bible through for a number of years.  It is a good rule of thumb, to avoid teaching something that you have not done personally, i.e. if you have never read through the Bible in a year, it would be unwise to try to teach through it.  Moreover, this point is  important because at some point, or at many points, you will rely on the accumulated knowledge of the Bible that only builds up over many years of Bible saturation.

Personally, as I taught through the Scriptures this year, there were many times when I was dependent on previous Bible reading to provide explanation and fill in details of the text.  My schedule did not permit me to study every book like I had first intended and/or desired, so there was much I were many times I was going from memory–from seminary, personal Bible reading, books, or messages I have heard.  But this is the beauty of Bible overview, more than intricate exposition.  You help focus on the big picture, showing the unity of the Scriptures–a unity that I argued was to be found in Christ (cf Eph 1:10).

Third, set a pace for the year.  If you are going to teach through the Bible make sure those you are teaching are reading with you.  This will motivate you and they will better be able to follow your teaching.  To say it another way: Aim to keep pace with a Bible reading plan.  In 2011, we used the plan laid out by Denny Burk.

Fourth, don’t get bogged down with the details.  This is hard, especially for detailed-oriented teachers.  Aim to cover the big idea, themes, and ways in which the book fits into the larger categories of biblical theology.  Don’t spend your time on source criticism, who wrote 2 Peter, or when Daniel was written.  I would touch on these things, but believing the Scriptures to be God’s word, I focused on what was in the text more than what was behind the text.  In this way, I would encourage you to focus on biblical theology more than scholarly disputes–though sometimes you cannot avoid the latter (e..g is Genesis 1 a myth? [no]; was Paul the originator of Christianity? [no], and things like that should be addressed).

Fifth, create space in your teaching schedule to go over.  I took two weeks on Genesis, Exodus, John, Paul.  The first two books were planned to go two weeks, the second two were not.  Having space in the schedule helped alleviate the stress of ‘fitting it all in.’

Sixth, use outlines and information from other sources to help you, but just make sure you give credit where credit is due.  In my notes, I aimed to footnote the places where  I was directly dependent on the ESV Study Bible or some other place.  (See reflections at The Gospel Coalition on preachers and plagiarism).

Seventh, let the Scripture be your guide.  Fill your notes (if you use them) and your teaching with Bible references and Scripture quotation.  My goal on Wednesday nights was always to read as much from the Bible as possible to prove my points.  I aimed to synthesize the main points and to show from the text how I made that point. Spending time in commentaries and theologies did not help this, only reading the Bible did.

With that said, let me confess: Some weeks as I taught, I would read lots of background material and biblical-theological commentary.  Other weeks I wouldn’t.  In preparation, the text always needed to be central and more often than not it was, but sometimes, I must admit, I spent too much time in the books and too little in the Bible.  The result was a less-stimulating personal understanding of the book.  So, for anyone going into it I would recommend finding a handful of shorter reflections on each book–maybe just one or two reliable resources–and then spend most of the time in the Scripture itself.  Make up your own outline if possible and ask God to help make the book come alive for you.

Eighth, pray!  It was only by the grace of God that I finished the course this year.  Many prayed for me and when I grew tired in some weeks, it was petitions for grace that were answered with time and thoughts to present God’s Word to God’s people.

If you are going to read or teach through the Bible in 2011, or in any year, let me recommend these resources.

First, the ESV Study Bible was a necessary resource that I relied on every week to give background information and to help me outline each book.  Zondervan’s Introduction to the Old Testament (Dillard and Longman) and Introduction to the New Testament (Carson and Moo) would also be excellent aids.  They supply a great deal of background information and will help field textual questions and scholarly disputes.

Second, I would urge you to consider Jim Hamilton’s biblical theology: The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment. Hamilton’s book pays keen attention to the literary structures of the individual authors while holding together two-fold unity that runs through the Bible–salvation and judgment.  Hamilton also highlights many important theological themes that emerge throughout the pages of Scripture.  I didn’t have this book when I started this study, but I wish I had.  The articles in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology would also be helpful, but I honestly did not avail myself of these like I could have.

Third, as I prepared, I often listened to Mark Dever’s overview sermons.  They were edifying and regularly pointed me to Christ-centered interpretations of the texts.  These sermons were collected into his two books: The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. You could read these books, but I would recommend listening to them as you walk, run, workout, or drive.  I found that having a different medium to ‘hear’ the message of Christ was helpful.  It ministered to my soul and it allowed me to ‘hear’ how someone else presented the big picture of each book.  In addition to Dever, The Gospel Coalition’s website has a number of other pastor-teachers who have given book overviews.

Finally, if you have not read Graeme Goldsworthy and his approach to reading/interpreting the Scriptures, I would urge caution, or at least patience, before teaching through the whole Bible.  This may seem like an overstatement–for how could one man’s interpretive strategy be so important?  But I would suggest that he, more than anyone else I have read, aims to show the gospel of Jesus Christ from all the Scriptures.  In this way, he has provided modern teachers with an interpretive method that flows from Luke 24 itself.  His works include his Trilogy (The Gospel & Kingdom, The Gospel in Revelation, and The Gospel & Wisdom), According to PlanPreaching the Whole Bible as Christians Scripture, and Christ-Centered Hermeneutics. In my preparation for teaching through the Bible in 2011, these 4 books proved to be necessary prerequisites for me to read through the whole Bible and see how each epoch, genre, and author pointed to Christ as the Spirit inspired them.  Again this might be a little overstated, but Goldsworthy has been formative for my understanding of putting the Bible together, something that proved to be necessary before starting this biblical tour in 2010.

Overall, I would highly recommend reading through and/or teaching through the Scriptures so that you might see and show how all things are summed up in Christ.  It is amazing to watch the story unfold and to see how every story whispers his name, to borrow Sally-Lloyd Jones‘ turn of phrase. In the process of teaching this series in 2011, my faith was strengthened by reading the Scriptures this year and beholding Christ, and my heart was gripped with gratitude for God’s grace in helping me read and teach through the Bible in 2010.  Even more, I was grateful for the faithfulness of the church members who joined me each Wednesday night, hungry to learn more about Christ and his word.  It was a precious group who joined together each night to hear God’s word and to go deep and LONG into the Scriptures.  I praise God for them.

Next year, I will be doing something a little different–see here–but I pray that God will continue to help us read the whole counsel of God with eyes open to see Christ and hearts burning like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Man’s Spiritual Toolbox

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking to the men of Terrace Lake Community Church, a sister SBC church, in our association.  We had a great time considering what Scripture teaches about manhood, and I wanted to lay out a few books, resources, and websites that would help them (and anyone else) continue to grow in masculine godliness.  Consider it a Man’s Spiritual Toolbox.


# 1 : Manly Dominion (book)

Don’t be a passive, purple 4-ball!  In a world of chaos and disorder, Pastor Mark Chanski challenges men from Scripture (specifically, Genesis 1:26-28) to live with the God-given mandate to take dominion in their spheres of influence.  He addresses a variety of subjects, ranging from decision-making, to vocation, to the pursuit of romance.  We are using this book in our monthly men’s breakfast our church (Calvary BC in Seymour, IN).  If 1 Corinthians 16:13grips you– “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”– than this is a great book to motivate you to forsake passivity and pursue manly dominion under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

# 2 : Masculine Mandate (book)

Richard Phillips is a gifted exegete and author who continues to write books for the edification of the church.  This book, however, did not come from his pulpit ministry, but from a passion to reach men.  He takes his “masculine mandate” from Genesis 2:15, which instructs Adam to cultivate and guard the garden.  By extension, he argues from Scripture that men are to embrace this work of cultivation in everything they do, especially in the home, in the workplace, and in the church.  This book is similar to Manly Dominion, but has enough biblical exposition and different material that it is worth reading, as well.

# 3 : The Council For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (website)

This ministry promotes the biblical view that men and women are made equally in the image of God, but with different roles.  This “complementarian” view of men and women is expressed most fully in the Danvers Statement, drafted in 1988 to counter the rise of evangelical feminism permeating North American churches.  CBMW’s website has countless biblical resources and practical guides for cultivating a complementarian view of men and women in the church and Christian homes.


# 4 : Married For God (book)

A few years ago, in a research project, I read through about 20 different books on marriage.  There are many good books out there on marriage (John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage, Geoffrey Bromiley’s God and Marriage, and Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say I Do are at the top of the list), but Christopher Ash’s was, in my opinion, the best.  It takes many of the Edenic principles laid out in Genesis 1-2 and shows how marriage is not an end in itself.  It is not simply designed to ameliorate loneliness or quench the burn or youthful desires–though it does both of these–rather it is designed by God to radiate his glory and to catalyze his gospel.  Be fruitful and multiply undergirds the Great Commission mandate to “Go and disciples” and Ash’s books shows from Scripture how husbands and wives can live for something bigger than their own marriage–namely the glory of God–and thus in the process their are more united and satisfied in their own nuptial union.

# 5 : A Biblical Theology of Work (blog post)

Justin Taylor, as always, provides a bevy of resources to motivate men to work hard for the glory of God.  Piper’s chapter from Don’t Waste Your Life is the place I would begin, and then to look at all the other resources to show how a man’s work is not disconnected from the work of God in the world.  Another resource for Christian businessmen is Wayne Grudem’s Business for the Glory of God. For anyone who devotes minimally 40 hours a week to a job, and more likely the number is like 50-60 hours, it is vitally important to understand how to pursue your vocation in a way that please God and pushes you towards Christ, not away.

# 6 : Shepherding A Child’s Heart & Instructing a Child’s Heart (books)

In these two books, Tedd Tripp outlines a number of biblical strategies for raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  They contain both biblical truths which will renew your mind and practical tips to help implement things like discipline.  They have age graded sections as well to help shepherd children in all phases of life.  Stuart Scott and Martha Peace’s book The Faithful Parent is another excellent resource.  See my review of that book at TGCReviews.


Finally, in our weekend retreat, we talked about the need to think biblically and intelligently about events that are occurring all around us.  For instance, how should one think about the recent slew of homosexual teenagers who killed themselves because of harassment and bullying?.  Parents, particularly fathers, must be able to help lead their families to think “Christianly” about such things.  Pastors have the burden of helping their congregations interpret the world, but so do fathers.  Every father is the pastor in his own home.  Too many men have abdicated this role, but men who take seriously their masculine mandate will not just be strong providers or able defenders, they will also be warrior who ably wield the sword to defend their families from Satanic error, and gentle shepherds who know how to feed their families the promises of God’s word.

It is with this image of a warrior-shepherd that I include the 4 final tools for the toolbox.

# 7 : ESV Study Bible (book)

More than any other single resource today, the ESV Study Bible is a wonderful tool and study guide to help you understand the Bible better.  It has excellent study notes on every chapter of the Bible, compiled by many of today’s best evangelical scholars.  It has an online feature that is second-to-none.  You can adjust the settings to how you like them, you can store your personal study notes online, you do advanced searches in each book of the Bible or across the whole Bible, and all of its articles on doctrine, archaeology, ethics, and dozens more are available online.  It is a must-have for every serious churchman (and pastor).

# 8 : New Bible Commentary (book)

Going one step beyond the Study Bible, this single-volume commentary is a resource worth owning.  It provides solid exegetical commentary from an evangelical position.  The comments are not lengthy, but are illuminating.  It would be a worthwhile addition to your personal library–something every Christian man should develop over time for the sake of his family.  Listen to Rick Warren as he talks about building a Christian library in his Desiring God National Conference talk, “The Battle For The Mind” (less than 3 minutes from -37:30 to -35:00).

# 9 : Systematic Theology or Bible Doctrine (books)

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is a modern classic in theological and devotional literature, but despite its daunting size, it is not beyond the reach of any maturing Christian.  Rather, it is simply phase 2 spiritual training.  It is for those mature men (and women) who already possess an established pattern of Bible Reading.  If that describes you, than this book is for you!

Reading a volume of systematic theology is like preparing for a marathon or losing 75 pounds.  It takes planning and a Spirit-empowered determination to conquer the opposing challenge–if this is a problem (see # 1-2 above).  To be honest, Grudem’s book is a massive undertaking.  Still, its biblically-saturated contents are worth the investment.  They will take you through every major doctrine in the Bible and present you with a systematic presentation of the Bible that will help you navigate circumstances in life with a more thorough grasp of God’s word.

The facts:  Systematic Theology is 57 chapters in length, broken into 7 sections, which include sections on the Word of God, God (Theology Proper), Humanity and Sin, Christ and the Holy Spirit, Salvation, the Church, and the Future.  A simple reading plan could be 1 chapter a week for 57 weeks.  In 13 months, you could finish this book that would open your eyes to behold the wisdom and beauty of God stored in his word.  Don’t read it alone; recruit 3 or 4 or 30 likeminded brothers and challenge each other to read it together.  Just like working out with football team in high school, this biblical workout will strengthen your faith and trim the fat of your theological error– Yes!  Right now, you and I have theological error crouching in our hearts and minds that need biblical excision.  If the 1100+ page Systematic Theology is too much, check out Grudem’s slimmer version, Bible Doctrine (34 chapters and less than 500 pages).

# 10 : Albert Mohler and his Daily Briefing (podcast / website)

Albert Mohler is the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and to interpreting the world in light of the Bible.  Among all the things that he does, sometime in wee hours of the morning, he records a 10-15 podcast that provides cultural commentary from a Christian perspective.  I try to make this a regular stop each day, to listen to his reflections on the political, cultural, educational, legal, and other social fronts that are regularly endanger the church and Christian families.  Mohler’s “Daily Briefing,” along with other resources on his webpage, AlbertMohler.com, would be a weekly stop  to help you think biblically about issues that you and your family will face.

There are so many other resources available and things that could be on this list (maybe, that should be on this list), but this is a start.  If someone takes seriously their “masculine mandate,” they will sacrifice to get such resource.  Acquiring these resources means intentionality and investment (time and money), but ask yourself: “What is more important?”

I would posit that there is nothing more important.  Some day, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:1-5; 2 Cor 5:10), and every word we ever spoke will be examined by our great King (Matthew 12:36).  In that moment, what will matter is the time we spent getting to know Jesus and the time we spent learning to walk in a manner worthy of his calling and sharing his good news with others.

For men, devoting yourself to a lifetime of growth in godliness as a husband, father, grandfather, employee, employer, company president… whatever, requires that you pursue it by the renewing of your mind.  God calls us to excellence and he provides us with everything we need for life and godliness.  Too many men, make up their masculinity as they go, instead of learning from the wisdom (and mistakes) of others– others who have learned from the Scriptures and will help us better apply God’s truth to our lives.

These resources will serve you well as men, husbands, fathers, and laborers for Christ. I pray God will make you strong and fruitful men, who do everything in the love of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

4Gospels for You

How many gospels are there?  One… Four…  More?  A new website hosted by Peter Williams, Simon Gathercole, and other Cambridge scholars looks at this question and other gospel-related subjects in their new website, 4Gospels.com.  From the looks of it, this site will serve as an excellent resource for biblical scholars and Bible readers interested in understanding one gospel in four witnesses over against a plethora of other competitors.  Here is how they describe their website: 

Welcome to 4Gospels.com, a site run by scholars and postgraduate students based mainly in Cambridge, England, providing accessible information on the 4 Gospels in the New Testament as well as many other writings which are or have been called gospels.

More importantly, these young scholars are outspoken in their affirmation of the inspiration and authority of the biblical canon and will serve the church well with what they have written and what, Lord willing, they will write in years to come.  When Via Emmaus gets an overhaul at the end of the summer, this site will definitely find a place in its recommended resources. 

For an interesting and illimunating peek into the scholastic world of Williams and Gathercole, check out their 9Marks interview with Mark Dever (Nov. 2006).

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

(HT: Owen Strachan).

New Studies in Biblical Theology Index

Andy Naselli has prepared an invaluable service for those committed to mining the biblical-theological depths of the Bible.  He has compiled a Scripture index for the twenty-four volume (and growing) New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson, with contributors like Andreas Kostenberger, G.K. Beale, Stephen Dempster, and others.  This is how Naselli describes it:

I recently prepared a master Scripture index for the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D. A. Carson. I combined the Scripture indexes into a single spreadsheet and placed an asterisk by each page number where there is a discussion rather than merely a reference or brief comment. This is an especially valuable resource for those who are working on individual texts and would like to consult substantive discussions in the NSBT series.

Next time you need to research something in the Scriptures, this would be a great help.

Thanks, Andy.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss.

(HT: Garrett Wishall).

Christ-centered, Old Testament Resources

This week Drs. Duane Garrett, Peter Gentry, and James Hamilton discussed the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament and the interpretation of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.  The lively conversation was well-attended on the campus of Southern Seminary and the discussion raised a number of nuanced issues concerning sensius plenior, typology, allegory, interpretive methods, the duplication of apostolic hermeneutics, and the extent to which the Old Testament author’s knew they were writing of Jesus Christ.  In short, they covered a range of key interpretives features of biblical theology.  You can listen to the whole discussion here, while Jim Hamilton makes some follow up comments with pertinent link in his post: How much Christ in the Old Testament

Here are some other resources that may prove helpful in reading the Bible and seeing Christ and the gospel in the Old Testament.

First, James Grant highlights two helpful resources on the the Old Testament concerning its canonicity and its Narrative Structure.  You can find both of these on his blog, In Light of the Gospel: The first reference is to Richard Gaffins’ “Reading the Bible as Canon”.  The other is a link is John Woodhouse on the OT Narrative.

Second, a newer series of books offers to help biblical theologians and pastors see the gospel in the OT.  The Gospel According to the Old Testament Series looks like an incredible series of reflections that highlights, as the title says, the gospel in the Old Testament.  These books are not commentaries, though.  Instead, it seems that they take aim at OT characters.  Some of the books in the series focus on David, Ruth, Elijah & Elisha, Jonah, and others.  Some of the authors are Biblical Theology heavy hitters: Tremper Longman, Iain Duguid, Raymond Dillard, and David Jackson, to name a few. (HT: Chad Knudson)

Hope you find these prophetable!

Sola Deo Gloria, dss