Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

after the storm

Art speaks powerfully. The artistry of Israel's tabernacle captured a sense of God's majesty with its gold overlays, fine fabrics, rich colors, and sparkling gemstones. Images of cherubim, lush fruits, and verdant trees evoked memories of the Garden. Aaron's fabulous clothes illustrated his role as intercessor for the nation. The design of the tabernacle and its furnishings was important enough to God that he gave Moses detailed plans to follow and set apart two men uniquely gifted in the arts to carry out the work (Exodus 30:1–11).

In a recent web article, Christian leadership guru Michael Hyatt claimed,
"Art has the power to point us to the divine, to the ultimate Artist. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it can shine a light on questions we didn’t even know we had."

My friend, Jasmine May, author of Deep Waters, has graciously agreed to let me share some of her beautiful artwork with you. Like the artistry of the tabernacle, Jasmine's art speaks. While our journeys have been vastly different, we've both experienced pain and brokenness as well as healing.

"After the Storm" by Jasmine May
Her painting so stunningly portrays the state of my soul. The worst of the storm is over and the sun has begun streaming down from the clouds. The tree is surprised to look down and discover that she has not been destroyed. In fact, the power of the storm has stirred up deeper beauty. Her joy unfolds like a flower. Jasmine explains, "As the wind blows the leaves, it carries the seeds of the tree's beauty to the world at large, spreading life."

Thanks, Jasmine, for sharing this gift with the world and lifting our eyes to look to God!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dr. Philip Ryken: the gospel according to Exodus

Following an excellent message by Dr. Walton on "the gospel according to Genesis," Wheaton's President delivered an equally captivating sermon on Exodus. Dr. Ryken calls the book of Exodus "a geography of the soul." No matter where we are on our spiritual journey, we can find ourselves somewhere on the pages of Exodus—enslaved, hardened, set free, celebrating, wandering, complaining, committed, sinning. Leaders can identify with Moses' pilgrimage as a leader—overly zealous, reluctant, bold, rejected, celebrated, interceding, angry, overwhelmed, and radiant. As President Ryken said, "It's all here in Exodus!"

His big idea: We are saved for the glory of God.

If you have 18 minutes to watch this message, you won't be sorry you did!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

hot off the press

Just a few moments ago, I left my study carrel and took a momentous walk across the campus to the Billy Graham Center, where I ascended 5 stories and hand-delivered my first complete dissertation chapter to Dr. Block.
In 63 pages I explore the entire history of interpretation of Exod 20:7 and Deut 5:11, categorizing, listening, and finally critiquing each view. It's been a fun chapter to research and write, but I'm glad it's over (for now).

[Big Satisfied Sigh]

Dr. Block returned the favor by handing me my very own copy of Jacob Milgrom's commentary on the final chapters of Ezekiel. It's so hot-off-the-press that even Amazon doesn't have it yet!

It was a tremendous privilege to be part of bringing this book to press. This volume represents the last 5 years of Milgrom's scholarly work before his untimely death in 2010.

Dr. Milgrom, eminent Jewish scholar known for his work on Leviticus in the Anchor Bible series, was asked to write the final volume on Ezekiel for the same series, completing the work begun by Moshe Greenberg. Of all the commentaries available to him, Professor Milgrom found Daniel Block's Ezekiel commentary in the NICOT series to be most helpful. Block became his prime conversation partner. Since the evolving "conversation" no longer fit the parameters for the Anchor Bible series, Milgrom asked Block if they could pursue co-publication of the volume. Shortly thereafter Milgrom died, leaving the work to Dr. Block to finish. After a year of wrestling with fonts and footnotes, indices and italics, transliteration and bibliography, the book is finished. And isn't it beautiful! Wipf & Stock did a tremendous job with the cover and proved themselves once again to be the fastest and friendliest publisher on the planet.

To Dr. Block, and to the Milgrom family, with whom I've had an indirect connection all these months, Congratulations! Thanks to all of you for your persistence in publishing Dr. Milgrom's work. Students of Scripture will reap the benefits for many years to come.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

table talk: listening in on ancient conversations

Clement of Alexandria
I've spent most of today with Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther, though I did run into Tertullian unexpectedly in the library stacks. Yesterday it was Augustine, Origen, Ambrose, Gregory of Nazianzus, Hilary of Poitiers, and — my new buddy — Clement of Alexandria. I got lost in the stacks more than once trying to find all of them, and some are still hiding even today. Monday I listened in on medieval Jewish rabbis as they argued about the proper interpretation of what I'm calling the "name command" (Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11). I feel like an aural archaeologist, listening in on ancient sermons, reading ancient correspondence, digging through pages of books long-forgotten to find treasure.

Part of writing a dissertation is learning to listen. Before I start speaking I need to hear what others have to say. And they've been saying things for a long time. Things I, and all of us, need to hear. None of them wrote in English, so I'm navigating other languages (Greek, Latin, French, German) and a variety of translations, thankful for those who have labored before me. None of them shared my cultural context, so I'm also trying to understand what was important to each of them—what made them say it that way, thankful for friends who have more experience than I do in this strange, old world. By listening I've learned new words like apophaticism (don't ask me to explain that one), found new places in the library (the 270s) and online (, and discovered that I could spend the rest of my life listening and never get anything written.

After another day of digging it will be time to take stock of what I've learned and make a big decision: who will I invite to be part of my first chapter? Who best articulates the various ways God's people (Jewish and Christian) have understood the name command across the ages? There won't be room at the table for everyone, so I'll need to draw up an elite guest list and decide how to moderate this discussion. I'm sure all the church fathers are on pins and needles waiting to find out if they made the cut. Meanwhile, the library workers will all give a deep sigh of relief that Carmen is done digging, for now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

priesthood of all believers?

There is a widespread, popular assumption that the Bible teaches the concept of the "priesthood of all believers."  This is usually taken to mean that each of us individually has access to God without needing a mediator (other than Christ).  Since all of us are priests, we are free to interpret Scripture on our own, and (in its most extreme form) the line between clergy and laypeople should be erased altogether.

In my research on 1 Peter 2:9-10 for my thesis, I was exposed to a book by John Elliott entitled, The Elect and the Holy, where he sets out to explore the biblical foundations of the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” Such doctrine is usually traced to 1 Peter 2:9, where Peter calls believers a “royal priesthood” (or “kingdom, body of priests” depending on how you translate it). Elliott traces the Old Testament development of that theme as it arises from Exodus 19:5-6, and demonstrates that when Moses called Israel a “kingdom of priests” (the source of Peter’s phrase in 1 Peter 2:9), this does not preclude the establishment of a Levitical priesthood just a few chapters later. In other words, “kingdom of priests” was NOT an attempt to abolish a distinction between clergy and laity. Jews were not being encouraged to strike out on their own. Exodus 19:5-6 was expressing that Israel as a whole was elected and set apart for God’s service.

Similarly, the New Testament church is elect and set apart for service. First Peter 2:9 describes the purpose of this election: “that you may declare the praiseworthiness of the one who has called you from darkness into his marvelous light” (my translation). Peter does not intend to do away with clergy and laity. He goes on to give special instructions to the elders in chapter five. Clearly he sees a role for church leaders.

Those entrusted with leadership roles in the church are responsible to explain the scriptures to those who do not or cannot understand. I am all for English Bible translations and personal Bible study (see my preceding post). But all of us wear glasses when we come to the Bible, and we need one another in order to see what we’ve missed because of our own faulty perspective or expectations. We need our leaders to guide our understanding of the big picture of biblical theology so that we are not swept away by wrong interpretations. The Bible is, as the Reformers insisted, perspicuous (that is, understandable), but we are not all equally skilled at understanding it. That is why God gave teachers to the church (Eph 4:11). There is no shame in not being a teacher. “Each one should use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Pet 4:10)  All of us are elect, and we all serve the Lord, but we still need teachers and leaders in the church to help us understand and choose the best path. Rugged individualism simply can't be found in God's design for the church.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Mom's stunning!"

Well, that's what it sounded like Easton said.

What he meant was, "Mom's studying."  Which was true.

I've been doing quite a lot of studying lately.

And loving it.

I'm working on my thesis -- an exploration of the Old Testament background of 1 Peter 2:9-10:

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may declare the mighty deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were no-people, but now you are God's people; once you were 'un-mercied,' now your name is 'Mercy'."

Peter is writing his letter to a mostly Gentile church made up of Christians who are scattered throughout an empire full of unbelievers who are making life very difficult for them.  They are discouraged and wonder if they've joined the right team.  Peter does not just think up nice things to say to make them feel better.  He bestows on them the very titles that were first given exclusively to the Jewish nation! (See Exodus 19:5-6 and Isaiah 43:20-21 for starters.) He is making the very radical claim that believers in Jesus the Messiah are the true Israel, God's treasured possession, chosen to carry out his mission on earth.  If they are suffering, it's because they have chosen to follow the Messiah who suffered and died on behalf of the world.  Their suffering is not a sign that they have done something wrong, it's confirmation that they are doing God's work.  And since they belong to Him, wonderful things await them.

I may just be studying, but that's stunning news.

Monday, September 13, 2010

a long nose (and other virtues)

I'll never forget the birthday when my grandma gave me a needlepoint she had made of a sweet little girl dancing.  Above her head were the words, "Patience is a virtue."  I'm afraid she was hoping that it would rub off on me.  It didn't.

I do okay being patient about some things: long lines (on the rare occasion when I'm not in a hurry), deadlines (when I'm not finished with my project), other people's birthdays (when I haven't thought of what to get them) and my own lack of growth in this area.  Um... yeah.  It's time to stop being patient when it comes to my impatience!

Patience is still a virtue.  And it's not one I possess, at least not in my own strength.  Call me Eager.  Driven.  Energetic.  Or call it what it is ... impatience.  Impatience and motherhood do not make a good combination.

In my Hebrew class this weekend we were translating Psalm 103.  The Psalmist tucks a quotation from Exodus 34 right into the middle of his own poetic celebration of God's goodness.  In verse 8 he says, "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, long of nose and great in lovingkindness."  Long of nose?  Unlike Pinocchio's long nose, which signified his dishonesty, this long nose is a good thing.  'A long nose' is the Hebrew equivalent of having a 'long fuse.'  The God who made us does not snap at us in anger.  His anger takes a long time to kindle.

I realized that dealing with my short fuse (or nose!) is not just a matter of acheiving a more peaceful home, but a matter of becoming more like God himself.  If God is slow to become angry with me, shouldn't I be slow to become angry with my children?

The New Testament offers some specific guidance for how I can become more like my maker.  Galatians 5 says that the fruit of a Spirit-filled life is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness, self-control."  These are not qualities we try to conjure up by sheer will power.  (I've tried.  It doesn't work.)  No, this is what our life will look like when we recognize our constant need for the Holy Spirit's power at work in us.

Come, Holy Spirit.  Stretch my nose.

Monday, March 22, 2010

kids ask the best questions!

A couple of friends at church have asked me to help them answer their kids' most profound theological questions.  Canaan asked a great one last week about the 10 plagues in Egypt.  Here's her question and my answer:

"Why do we not have those big miracles around here anymore?"

When God was delivering his people from Egypt he had to reveal himself powerfully so that they would know who he was, and that his power was greater than the Egyptian ‘gods’. It was an important time where God was setting Israel apart as his people, and the great signs he performed were something that they would always be able to look back to so that they would never forget that he had chosen them in a special way. (You could read the first several chapters of Deuteronomy together as an example of how important the exodus was in setting Israel apart as God’s people.) Some of the prophets performed mighty signs later (like Elijah and Elisha) to remind Israel that Yahweh was still their God. And when Jesus came he did signs to show us that he was Yahweh himself. He was in a way leading God’s people out of slavery a second time. This time, instead of bondage to Pharaoh, it was bondage to sin. Now we look back at his miracles as the signs that show us who he is and how he chose us to be his special people.
So, while there are sometimes miracles today, they don’t tend to be as huge as those told in Exodus and in the Gospels because God has already revealed himself as the deliverer and savior of the whole world. We have his Word to remind us of that, and he promises that there will once again be great signs when he returns to set up his kingdom on earth. But since he’s not revealing himself in a new way, signs are not necessary.

If your child is asking you questions and you're not sure how to answer, feel free to email me and I'll do my best!

Monday, February 8, 2010

what good is the old testament?

Top 3 Reasons to Read the Old Testament:

(1) It is impossible to truly understand Jesus without it.
(2) It is impossible to truly understand the New Testament without it.
(3) It is impossible to truly understand our identity as Christians without it.

These are not the only reasons.  But they are enough to make my point.

John Bright argues the same thing in his book, The Kingdom of God, where he says it is impossible to understand the New Testament apart from the Old because “Christ has come to make actual what the Old Testament hoped for, not to destroy it and replace it with a new and better faith” (193). This is bad news for the church today because it has long since forgotten the Old Testament. Bright laments the “widespread biblical illiteracy” that characterizes our generation of Christians. And he points out the danger of reading only the New Testament because it results in a superficial understanding of the Bible. Bright uses a building to illustrate his point: “If the Old Testament be a building without a roof [i.e. because its hopes are yet unfulfilled], the New Testament alone may be very like a roof without a building—and that is a structure very hard to comprehend and very hard to hold up!” (192-193)

A wonderful example of this is the book of 1 Peter. If you crossed out all of the Old Testament quotations and illusions in that short NT book there would be hardly a full sentence left over!  Peter bases his entire message for how the church should behave on their identity as the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-10) and in the example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-25).  How does that relate to the OT?

The ‘identity’ language is taken straight from Moses’ words to the Israelites in Ex 19:5-6 (which are later repeated in Deuteronomy 7:6 and several times later) where he calls them a “holy nation,” a “kingdom of priests,” and "God's treasured possession." Peter was not just making up nice things to say about NT believers.  What Moses said about Israel, Peter applies to a mixed church of both Jews and Gentiles! This radical shift is made possible by their faith in Jesus, the Messiah, who is the only true Israelite (because of his faith and perfect obedience). As Jesus took on the role to which Israel was called in Isaiah (Isa 42:1- as a light to the nations), he became the Servant whose suffering brought healing to the nations (52:13-53:12). Now the church, in following this suffering Servant, can expect also to suffer. Understanding the background for Peter’s words brings the rich depths of his theology into view. Without it we may scratch our heads and wonder why so many different metaphors are crowded into such a short letter.

This is just one example of why knowing the Old Testament is so vital.  It would not be exaggerating to say that it is impossible to accurately and fully understand the New Testament without a basic understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.  I challenge you to read 1 Peter and underline everything that you think you've read in the Old Testament before.  I'm going to try it one of these days.  I've heard there are as many as 40 quotations and allusions there.  (And if you're really up for a challenge, try Romans 9-11, where there are reported to be no less than 100 quotes and allusions in just 3 chapters!)