Monthly Archives: April 2012

From Proverbs to Ecclesiastes and the book(s) of wisdom

We know that Ezra is supposed to follow Chronicles because the last statement in the last chapter of Chronicles is repeated and elaborated in the first chapter of Ezra.

So how does Proverbs end and Ecclesiastes begin?

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vapor,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vapor of vapors, says the Preacher,
vapor of vapors! All is vapor.

I’ve never thought about the order or wisdom books in our English Bibles before. But it looks to me like Proverbs is supposed to be followed by Ecclesiastes. The Proverbs 31 man (not woman) leads to further thought and meditation.

(The Proverbs 31 man is the man who knows what to look for in a woman because he remembers what his mother told him. The Proverbs 31 woman can be derived from the text, but that is not the point. This is King Lemuel’s mother giving her son advice on a wife. Read it for yourself.)

I can’t help wondering if Canticles builds on Ecclesiastes. It certainly seems to extol love as the highest good. Which would fit well with the advice of Ecclesiastes, such as:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

And what about Psalms? If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then wouldn’t Psalms naturally come before Proverbs? Could this be how Solomon himself was prepared to be a wise man?

And then Job could be an introduction to both Psalms and Proverbs, the story of a wise king vindicated from his enemies–subject matter for both Psalms and Proverbs.

One book of wisdom in five movements?

Our fathers ate sour grapes so there is no need to repent or think we can avoid judgment

From Ezekiel 8:

And he brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’

Interesting reasoning. God was judging Israel for generations of idolatry. From this fact, the present generation had reasoned that there was every reason to continue practicing idolatry. God was judging the land. There was no point in repenting. Their best hope lay in the other gods who had gotten them in trouble in the first place.

It is like saying, “The previous generation gave us burdensome debt so we must now spend more than we have.”

It is this concrete situation that God refutes in Ezekiel 18:

The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel….

Please read the whole chapter.

This is not a treatise on personal responsibility designed to correct a chapter in a systematic theology textbook. The Israelites have decided it will no good to repent. Generations of sin and injustice are bring down judgment on their heads. They didn’t start the fire.

But even if there must be consequences, there is still time to alter the specifics of those consequences. God assures them they can repent and live or wallow in sin and die. It is not over yet; and pretending that it is too late is just a rationalization for more wickedness.

The valley of the dry bones… Where did the bones come from?

Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is one of the better known passages in that book. It is found in the first half of chapter 37. God raises the dead to new life.

But where did those bones come from? The answer is found earlier in Ezekiel. Specifically, we find in chapter 6:

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

So they nation is not just dead; they have been judged for idolatry. And God is still able to bring them back.

Tolkien bio, a rewarding read

As anyone who has ever read The Lord of the Rings knows, reading Tolkien’s masterpiece requires a huge time commitment, one that is, of course, well-rewarded.  Horne’s biography, on the other hand can be zipped through in an evening or two, yet I believe it will greatly enhance the reader’s enjoyment of Tolkien’s works.  I highly recommend this book.

via J.R.R. TOLKIEN, Christian Encounters Series, by Mark Horne « Randisbookbag Blog.

Evangelism: Soldiers and Support are both required (1)

In the third year — the year of judgment and resurrection — God told Elijah to show himself to Ahab. So, Elijah set out from Zarapheth in Sidon (he’d been hiding in Jezebel’s home territory!) and came toward Samaria.

He met Obadiah, Ahab’s Prime Minister, and told him to find Ahab. Here is how the conversation might have gone:

Elijah: “Well, behold the compromiser! Hey, puppy, tell your master I want to see him.”

Obadiah: “Listen, you fanatic! Because of you a lot of good people have been tortured and killed. Don’t call me a compromiser; I managed to keep a hundred of your fellow prophets alive after you left town! It’s extremists like you who make it harder for all the rest of us.”

Elijah: “Look, if all you softies would come out on the front lines and be counted, maybe we could accomplish something. But no, not you! You’ve got a cushy job with Jezebel. You want that nice retirement. As long as people like you stay in your liberal churches and try to `work in the system,’ we’re never going to get anywhere. Naked confrontation is the only way.”

Obadiah: “Oh, yeah? Well, let me just tell you something, Mr. Hero. Last month Ahab was about to put to death about five hundred of your people, and I talked him out of it. These people were under suspicion because of you and your activities. It was I who saved them. You’re needlessly stirring things up.”

Wait, wait! That’s not how it went, is it? Sadly, though, I imagine if a modern Elijah and a modern Obadiah met, that is probably how it would go.

You see, Elijah knew that he was only part of the solution, and so did Obadiah. God needed both the insider and the outsider. He needed both the prophet and the chamberlain. Is there something here for us, today?

via Biblical Horizons » No. 5: Elijah’s War with Baal.

I think there is something here for us. In fact, I think Jesus believed there was something in it for him.

We here many times about following Jesus in the Gospels–not as a term for faith and conversion but for literally following Jesus around the countryside:

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him (Mark 1:16-20 ESV).

We find out from the first chapter of John’s Gospel that Jesus already had a relationship with Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They had been prepared for the day Jesus would tell them it was time to go “full time.” Still, as written, this scene reminds us of Elijah again. While he had no argument against Obadiah, when he called Elisha to be his disciple, Elijah expected him to leave all other jobs behind.

So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him (1 Kings 19:19-21 ESV).

But if Elijah did not demand the same response he got from Elijah, perhaps Jesus had Obadiah’s in his own campaign in Israel.

It seems he did. As Obadiah served Ahab while remaining faithful, so in Jesus’ campaign there were others who helped him but remained embedded in ‘the establishment.”



Wisdom, Faith, and Militarism

n Deuteronomy 17:14-17, Moses indicates that Israel would eventually grow up to the point when they would have a king. This progress in the life of the nation would indicate a maturity beyond their priestly childhood into a kingly adolescence. The king would rule not only by use of the law of Moses but also by application of that law with wisdom, a knowledge of good and evil. In Deuteronomy 17, Moses outlines three commands specifically for the coming king in his rule over the nation: don’t multiply 1) horses, 2) wives or, 3) gold (16-17).

I recognize that the nation of Israel had a very specific and special role in the world at that particular point of history, which placed particular and peculiar requirements on them in fulfilling that role. I also recognize that the requirements upon that nation are not necessarily paradigmatic of civil rule for all time. Nonetheless, those requirements can be instructive to civil rulers today who desire to emulate biblical wisdom in their policies.

Israel got her king a generation too early due to her impatience to acquire and exercise a knowledge of good and evil before God’s time. Saul, though initially righteous, turned out to be a disaster. Yet, with the coming of David, in God’s providence, Israel was ready for a king. With the coming of David, Israel’s borders became established and secure. Her internal enemies were suppressed. Worship was set up in Jerusalem. And the nation became unanimously unified around that worship and the ruler God had placed there.

via Practicing the Kingdom: Walls Not Horses: Wise National Defense.

Haven’t had time to blog in awhile and still don’t. However, I have been thinking about a post on national defense. Thankfully, some great work is already done. Please read the whole post at Practicing the Kingdom.