Proverbs and OT Theology(?) (Waltke)

The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15 Some OT scholars find Proverbs problematic because as wisdom literature it doesn’t seem to fit into the OT.  Proverbs never mentions covenant for example, nor does it have a messianic emphasis.  G. E. Wright said that OT wisdom literature like Proverbs “is something of a problem.”  I appreciate how Bruce Waltke responded to this discussion in the introduction of his 2-volume commentary on Proverbs in the NICOT series:

The apparent lack of integration between Proverbs and the rest of the Old Testament, however, is more superficial than real. W. Kaiser rightly united them in terms of their common appeal to their audiences’ “fear of the Lord” (cf. Deut. 6:5; Josh. 24:14; Prov. 1:7; Isa. 29:13 [= “worship of me,” NIV]; passim). The Lord is God’s personal name, revealed to Israel in connection with his election of and his covenants with them (Gen. 12:8; Exod. 3:15; 6:2–8). To fear him means essentially to submit to his revealed will, whether through Moses or Solomon (see 1:7). Each in his own way seeks to establish the rule of Israel’s covenant-keeping God. Moreover, the theology of Proverbs complements the unified theology of Moses and the prophets. 

I have noted that Solomon ascribes the same attributes and actions to God as those ascribed to him by Moses and the prophets. According to all three, he is Creator of the cosmos (Deut. 10:14; Prov. 3:19–20; Prov. 1:7) and of all humanity (Deut. 4:32; Prov. 14:31; 29:13; Isa. 42:5). He is the same living God who will avenge wrong (Deut. 32:35, 40–41; Prov. 25:21–22; Nah. 1:2) and the same spiritual Being who comforts people and knows their ways (Deut. 23:14[15]; Prov. 5:21; 15:3; Jer. 16:17). He is the Sovereign directing history (Deut 4:19; 29:4, 26; Prov. 16:1–9, 33; 19:21; 20:24; Isa. 45:1–13) and yet present in it, withholding and giving rain (Deut. 11:13–17; Prov. 3:9–10; Hag. 1:10–11), disciplining his children (Deut. 8:5; Prov. 3:11–12; Isa. 1:4–6) and in his mercy answering their prayers (Deut. 4:29–31; Prov. 15:8, 29; Isa. 56:7). He is merciful (Deut. 4:31; 30:8; Prov. 28:13; Isa. 63:7), delights in justice and hates iniquity (Deut. 10:17; Prov. 11:1; 17:15; Isa. 1:16–17), and has aesthetic-ethical sensibilities (Deut. 22:4–11; 23:10–14[11–15]; Prov. 3:32; 6:16–19; 11:20; 15:9; Jer. 32:35).

 Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 65.

[As a side, many volumes in the NICOT and NICNT series are currently on sale over at Logos Bible Software.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Lord’s Day Worship x2 (Lloyd-Jones)

Preaching and Preachers (Deluxe, 40th Anniversary Edition) In the history of Reformed churches, the Lord’s Day practice has been to gather for corporate worship twice, usually morning and evening.  True, there is no command in Scripture to worship twice on the Lord’s Day.  However, I would say that a person needs a good biblical reason not to come twice if his or her church has two worship services on the Lord’s Day.

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones said it even more boldly.  At one point in his Preaching and Preachers he wrote that from time to time the Lord brings a special blessing upon a worship service and sermon.  That is, there are times in a church’s life where a service and sermon are blessed in such a way that people know the Lord was there.  It’s something awesome, something to pray for, something for which to be very thankful!  Here’s Lloyd-Jones:

So I say to these ‘once-ers’, if you do not come to every service you may live to find a day when people will tell you of an amazing occurrence in a service on a Sunday night or on a Sunday morning——and you were not there, you missed it. In other words, we should create a spirit of expectation in the people and show them the danger of missing some wonderful ‘times of refreshing…from the presence of the Lord’ (Acts 3:19).

That should be followed by a question: why is it that any Christian should not long for as much of this as he can possibly get?  Surely this is quite unnatural.  It is certainly un-scriptural.  Take the way in which the Psalmist in Psalm 84 expresses his misery and sorrow because he could not go up with the others to the House of the Lord. ‘How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!’ ‘My soul longeth, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.’  He thinks then of those who are having the privilege: ‘Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee.’ He thinks of them with envy because he cannot be with them. Nothing is comparable to being in the House of God.  ‘A day in thy courts is better than a thousand…’  Surely this ought to be instinctive in the true Christian. There is something seriously wrong spiritually with anyone who claims to be a Christian who does not desire to have all that can be obtained from the ministry of the Church.

You can find Lloyd-Jones’ quote on page 154 of Preaching and Preachers.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

What To Do With Our Emotions? (Groves & Smith)

Untangling Emotions When it comes to emotions in the Christian life there are extremes to avoid.  For one thing, we don’t want to totally ignore our emotions or always suppress them.  Emotions aren’t necessarily sinful.  On the other hand, we don’t want to make too much of our emotions.  How we “feel” about the gospel is certainly not the gospel.  Just because I “feel” a certain way about a verse in the Bible doesn’t mean you have to “feel” the same way about it.  And sometimes our emotions are misleading for various reasons.   The topic of emotions is a complex topic!

If you want a good resource on emotions in the Christian life, you should check out Untangling Emotions by Groves and Smith.  This book is a teaching tool written by two Christian counselors who have thought about this topic and studied it in some detail.  There are three main parts: 1) Understanding Emotions, 2) Engaging Emotions, and 3) Engaging the Hardest Emotions (anger, fear, grief, and shame).  Basically, this book is a Christian answer to these questions: “What are emotions, and what should I do with mine?”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“The problem is not that your body has emotions.  The problem is that your body, like your mind, soul, and strength, has been affected by sin and has a skewing effect on your emotions” (p. 55).

“…Emotions make a terrible central priority for your life” (p. 88).

“Emotions become demanding taskmasters when you believe they are the core of who you are” (p. 141).

Some of the material in this book overlaps material in other counseling books I’ve read, so it’s not an “all new” resource on the emotions.  And although Scripture is used quite often, I would’ve liked to see more exegetical work explaining what Scripture teaches about our emotions.  However, despite these two caveats, this book is a very good resource for thinking about our emotions from a balanced Christian perspective.

Untangling Emotions by J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Principles for Productive Word Study (Walton)

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols.) Word studies are a helpful tool in the exegetical toolbox.  There is a lot more to studying Scripture than doing word studies, to be sure, but word studies are helpful in determining the meaning of a text or texts.  Now there are wrong ways to do word studies.  There are exegetical fallacies that are quite common in word studies.  Nobody is immune to these fallacies; we all make mistakes from time to time when it comes to word studies.  I’m sure others have heard some doozies!

However, there are good helps for good word studies.  One that I highly recommend for word studies in the OT is “Principles for Productive Word Study” by John Walton (it’s in the NIDOTTE).  I can’t summarize the whole article here in a brief blog post, but below are a few parts of this article I’ve found helpful:

In order to understand what an author invests in the meaning of a word, we must think about what goes into the choice of a word. Biblical authors did not use some special heavenly language with mystical meanings. Like any other author, a biblical author chose a particular word because it carried precisely the meaning that he wanted to communicate. That sounds too obvious to mention, but it must be realized that there are other alternatives….

When we choose to use a particular word, we are often not conscious of the parts that make up that word. For instance, we use the word “awful” without even noticing that it is a combination of awe + full. English is full of compound words, some easily recognizable, such as “understand,” others not as readily noticed, such as “syllabus.” Our usage of these words does not imply knowledge of the parts, nor does it intend to convey what the parts meant in their individual forms. Therefore, when we analyze the word choices of the authors of Scripture, we should not assume that the use of a compound word assumes knowledge of or carries the meaning of the parts.

Avoid the “cafeteria” approach. In a cafeteria the diner moves through the line choosing whatever food he likes. In a similar fashion some interpreters feel that it is their free choice to decide which aspect of the semantic range to associate with a particular occurrence of a word. Sometimes this is done to the neglect of categories established in the semantic range.

The fact that a word can have a particular meaning does not prove that it does have that meaning.

Again, there is more to this helpful article.  Walton gives some positive ways to do word studies and gives pitfalls to avoid in them. If you are someone who does word studies in Scripture, you should read this article.  Although it is specifically for OT (Hebrew) word studies, there are principles in it that apply to NT (Greek) word studies as well.

John Walton, “Principles for Productive Word Study,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, pages 161-171.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

To Thy Grace I Ascribe It (Augustine)

The Confessions of Saint Augustine Many of us have heard the story about Augustine stealing pears when he was a teenager.  Indeed, he stole them not because he was hungry or poor, but simply because he wanted to sin (he “lusted to theive”).  Afterwards Augustine even said that he didn’t even really enjoy the pear but he did enjoy the theft and sin itself.  Only a few pages after he talked about stealing pears he wrote these words in his ConfessionsWhenever we hear the pear story, we should remember these words too!

Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, which Thou hadst pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit. Now, behold, let my heart tell Thee what it sought there, that I should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to ill, but the ill itself. It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved mine own fault, not that for which I was faulty, but my fault itself. Foul soul, falling from Thy firmament to utter destruction; not seeking aught through the shame, but the shame itself!

What shall I render unto the Lord, that, whilst my memory recalls these things, my soul is not affrighted at them? I will love Thee, O Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name; because Thou hast forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of mine. To Thy grace I ascribe it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast melted away my sins as it were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also whatsoever I have not done of evil; for what might I not have done, who even loved a sin for its own sake? Yea, all I confess to have been forgiven me; both what evils I committed by my own wilfulness, and what by Thy guidance I committed not.

 Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. E. B. Pusey (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Panic, Prayers, and Praise (Lloyd-Jones)

 In Philippians 4:6 Paul says “Do not be anxious about anything.  Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God” (NET).  D. M. Lloyd-Jones noted that Paul was being specific with his order of words in this verse: prayer – petition (both with thanksgiving) – give your requests to God.  Here’s Lloyd-Jones:

“[Paul] differentiates between prayer and supplication and thanksgiving.  What does he men by prayer? This is the most general term and it means worship and adoration.  If you have problems that seem insoluble, if you are liable to become anxious and overburdened, and somebody tells you to pray, do not rush to God with your petition.  That is not the way.  Before you make your requests known unto God, pray, worship, adore.  Come into the presence of God and for the time being forget your problems.  Do not start with them.  Just realize that you are face to face with God.  In this word ‘prayer’ the idea of being face to face is inherent in the very word itself.  You come into the presence of God and you realize the presence and you recollect the presences – that is the first step always.  Even before you make your requests known unto God you realize that you are face to face with God, that you are in His presence and you pour out your heart in adoration.  That is the beginning.

But following prayer comes supplication.  Now we are moving on.  Having worshipped God because God is God, having offered this general worship and adoration, we come now to the particular, and the apostle here encourages us to make our supplications….”

I think perhaps Lloyd-Jones may have overstated the case.  I don’t think that it’s always wrong to start a prayer with petition or request.  For example, many Psalms start out with requests to God (e.g. Ps. 17, 69, 70, 86, etc.).  And there are other places in Scripture where God’s people begin their cry to the Lord with a petition (Elijah on Mt. Carmel [1 Ki. 18:36]; see also Judges 6:6, Mt 15:25, etc.).

However, Lloyd-Jones’ point is a good and solid one to take to heart: when we are anxious, we should often start our prayers with praise and adoration.  When worried, we should begin our prayers with worship and praise to put things in perspective: God is on the throne and he hear us for Christ’s sake.  How can we be anxious if God (who loves us in Christ) is on his throne?

The above quote is found in Spiritual Depression, p 267.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Regeneration: Spiritual Resurrection (Hodge)

Systematic Theology As Christians, we’re familiar with the Bible’s teaching about the new life God has given us in and through Christ.  In his mercy, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through Christ’s resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3).  We can’t give ourselves credit for this new life – it’s “of God” (John 1:13).  “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth” (James 1:18 NASB).  Here’s how Charles Hodge described regeneration:

[In Scripture, regeneration] is called a new birth, a resurrection, a new life, a new creature, a renewing of the mind, a dying to sin and living to righteousness, a translation from darkness to light, etc. …

By a consent almost universal the word regeneration is now used to designate, not the whole work of sanctification, nor the first stages of that work comprehended in conversion, much less justification or any mere external change of state, but the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection; the beginning of a new life. Sometimes the word expresses the act of God. God regenerates. Sometimes it designates the subjective effect of his act. The sinner is regenerated. He becomes a new creature. He is born again. And this is his regeneration. These two applications of the word are so allied as not to produce confusion. The nature of regeneration is not explained in the Bible further than the account therein given of its author, God, in the exercise of the exceeding greatness of his power; its subject, the whole soul; and its effects, spiritual life, and all consequent holy acts and states. Its metaphysical nature is left a mystery. 

…Regeneration is an act of God. It is not simply referred to Him as its giver, and, in that sense, its author, as He is the giver of faith and of repentance. It is not an act which, by argument and persuasion, or by moral power, He induces the sinner to perform. But it is an act of which He is the agent. It is God who regenerates. The soul is regenerated. In this sense the soul is passive in regeneration, which (subjectively considered) is a change wrought in us, and not an act performed by us.

 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 3, 5, 31.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015