The Day of the Lord (NIDNTTE)

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) (5 vols.) The phrase “the day of the LORD” (יוֹם־יְהוָה֙) in OT literature is a phrase with deep meaning and significance.  This phrase is often found in prophetic literature in the context of a significant period of time in the future.  It’s a big topic!

One resource that discusses this phrase is the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTT).  Though it is a New Testament Greek dictionary, one strength of the NIDNTT is that it also talks about the OT background of many NT words and phrases.  For example, under the heading of “day” (ἡμέρα), it includes a discussion of “day” in Jewish literature, including the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible.  It’s a pretty detailed discussion!  Here’s a paragraph from that section I found helpful.  It is a little “thick,” but it’s worth reading:

In addition, the OT contains adverbial expressions of time such as בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (“on that day,” used of the past c. 90× and of the future c. 110×) and הַיּוֹם 2 (“today,” used of the present, c. 215×). The central part of [Simon] DeVries’s monograph [called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”] consists of a detailed examination and classification of these various passages, taking into consideration their literary form. Of theological significance is his conclusion that the function of the references to Yahweh’s day, whether in the past or the future, is to illuminate the present “today.”

“Historiography provides the model for parenesis, employing the image of revelatory event in the past to illuminate the revelatory significance of the present. Eschatology is, then, an analogical projection of the past and the present into the future, positing Yahweh’s coming action on his action already experienced” (DeVries, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 341). Any day may become Yahweh’s day, but only those days actively become his day when he manifests himself in judgment and salvation (cf. Ps 95:7 [94:7]; Jer 28:9 [45:9]; Ezek 33:33; Mal 3:2, 4, 17–18).

Again, there’s a lot to digest in those two paragraphs.  One great sentence in the previous quote that sticks out to me is the one I’ll end with – so you can think more about it as well!

“Eschatology is, then, an analogical projection of the past and the present into the future, positing Yahweh’s coming action on his action already experienced”

The slightly edited quotes from above are taken from the NIDNTTE’s entry on the word group “day”.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The [Non-scientific] Focus of the Creation Week (LeFebvre)

 I’ve been enjoying Michael LeFebvre’s book, The Liturgy of Creation.  It’s a study of the festivals, feasts, and calendar dates of OT Israel and how those things can help us read and understand the creation week in Genesis 1-3.  I’m not quite finished with it, but so far it has been thought-provoking and insightful.

One part that stuck out to me was LeFebvre’s note that often when people approach the creation week with spectacles of science they miss a main emphasis: the seventh day.  It is rather ironic: in trying to squeeze scientific data from the text (which wasn’t written from a scientific worldview) the person misses one of the main points of the text: the Sabbath rest of God.

The true beauty of the creation week is its invitation to sabbath rest.  This message of rest is both the demonstratable emphasis of the text and the one major theme of the passage on which the church’s voice has been unified through history.  From centuries past, there have been many different views on the nature of the creation days.  Some church fathers regarded them as metaphorical days and some as actual creation events.  The church has long allowed for a variety of opinions regarding the nature of the events described in the creation week.  But the focus of the text that has been consistently upheld by the church throughout her history is its message about the sabbath day.  Unfortunately, modern fascination to find science in the creation week tends to distract readers from its emphasis on the sabbath day.  The allure of worship rather than science ought to be our focus in the study of the creation week.

Robert Godfrey writes, ‘It is surely ironic that many people today who most insistently claim that it is obvious that the days of Genesis 1 are ordinary twenty-four-hour days miss the most important point about the days, namely, that one day in seven is holy to the Lord.’  There is actually a good reason why apologetic ministries tend to overlook the sabbath day focus of the creation week.  By nature, the agenda of an apologetic ministry is defined by the crisis it exists to address. Today the threat that ‘secular science’ poses to Genesis is aimed only at God’s creative work in the six days when ‘stuff happened.’  Thus, the major creation apologists – from all perspectives – generally focus on the six days and give little or no attention to the seventh.  This is understandable, but it dangerously skews the church’s attention away from the text’s internal emphasis, which is to labor in anticipation of the weekly sabbath.

Michael LeFebvre, The Liturgy of Creation, p. 132-133.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Helpless and Hopeless Humankind (Motyer)

Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary If you’ve used Bible commentaries even a little bit, you know that they are quite often hit or miss.  I’ve had it more than a few times that I purchase a highly recommended commentary and was disappointed with it so much that I turned around and sold it. Such is how it sometimes goes!

However, I’ve always been happy with Alec Motyer’s commentaries.  I was reminded of that today when studying the pretty tough and dark prophecy in Isaiah 13, where Yahweh uses the Medes to brutally wipe out the Babylonians.  It’s the Day of the Lord in all it’s fury!  Isaiah 13:14 notes that on that day (the day of Yahweh) the people (of Babylon) will be like “gazelles that are chased” [וְהָיָה֙ כִּצְבִ֣י מֻדָּ֔ח] and “like sheep that no man gathers” [וּכְצֹ֖אן וְאֵ֣ין מְקַבֵּ֑ץ] (JPS).  What does this mean? Obviously, it has to do with the Babylonians trying to escape the merciless slaughter of the Medes.  But what’s with the imagery?  Motyer comments briefly but well:

‘Like a hunted gazelle’ and ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ are complementary similies.  The first animal is endangered by the attentions of the people, the second is endangered without their attentions. So, finding the Lord as their enemy and losing him as their shepherd, humankind is indeed helpless and hopeless, with everything to flee from and nowhere to flee too.”

There’s more to this passage for sure.  But Motyer picks up the poetic imagery very well.  It also reminds us that rejecting the Lord is not the path of joy, peace, and comfort.  Instead, it’s a path full of hopelessness and helplessness.

J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, p. 139.

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

The Translation of the Hebrew Bible: A Very Brief Overview

 The two prefaces to the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) Hebrew-English Tanakh are helpful sources of information concerning the text of the Hebrew Old Testament.  In these prefaces, one can read about the history of the Hebrew text, the accuracy of the Hebrew text, and information about the newer JPS translation of the Hebrew text, among other things.  Here’s one section of the 1985 preface that I appreciated.  It has to do with the history of Bible translation, specifically the OT:

Bible translation began about 2200 years ago, in the third century B.C.E., as the large Jewish population of Alexandria, Egypt, came under the influence of Hellenism.  When the Greek language replaced Hebrew and Aramaic as their venacular, and the Torah in its Hebrew original was no longer commonly understood, a translation into Greek was made for the Jewish community of Alexandria. This translation came to be known as the Septuagint, Latin for ‘seventy,’ because of the legend that the committee of translators numbered seventy-two, six elders from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the last few centuries B.C.E., the Jews who lived to the north and east of Judah also found the Hebrew Bible difficult to understand, for their spoken language had become largely Aramaic.  Translations into Aramaic, first of the Torah and then the rest of the Bible, became known as the Targums.

-from the 1985 preface to the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh-

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


A Captive Still[?!] (Newton)

 I’ve been studying a couple of the stories in the Gospels where Jesus powerfully casts out demons with a mighty word.  Since I was a little boy I’ve loved these stories since I know that the realm of darkness is real and it’s terrifying.  I’m so thankful that Jesus is a million times stronger than Satan and all the demons put together.  Here’s part of a hymn John Newton wrote based on Mark 5:18-19 (the story of “Legion”).  Although Newton wrote it from the perspective of the man with the “Legion”, I can’t help but think this hymn is also somewhat autobiographical.  (Note: “staid” means stood still or waited.)  Go ahead and read it out loud:

“Legion was my name by nature,
Satan raged within my breast;
Never misery was greater,
Never sinner more possessed:
Mischievous to all around me,
To myself the greatest foe;
Thus I was when Jesus found me,
Filled with madness, sin, and woe.

Yet in this forlorn condition
When he came to set me free,
I replied to my Physician,
‘What have I to do with Thee?’
But he would not be prevented,
Rescued me against my will;
Had he staid till I consented,
I would be a captive still.”

Later in the hymn, Newton does mention how Jesus changed the man’s heart to obey him, tell others about him, and live for his glory.  It is true that while we were sinners and enemies of God, he loved us, gave his Son for us, and changed our hearts to make us willing and ready from now on to live for him.  God be praised: sovereign grace can change the hearts of those who are enemies and haters of God and make them into loved and loving friends of God!

John Newton, Works, vol. 3, p. 408.

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

He Crushed Satan… (Cyril)

 I’ve come to appreciate Cyril of Alexandria’s 5th-century commentary on Luke.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, but it is interesting, edifying, and enlightening.  While studying the account of Jesus casting the demon out of the man in the synagogue (Lk 4:33-35; cf. Mk 1:33-26), I came across these helpful comments by Cyril.

The evil demons therefore were cast out, and made moreover to feel how invincible is His might: and being unable to bear the conflict with Deity, they exclaimed in imperious and crafty terms, “Let us alone: what is there between us and Thee?” meaning thereby, Why dost Thou not permit us to keep our place, whilst Thou art destroying the error of impiety?

But they further put on the false appearance of well-sounding words, and call Him the Holy One of God. For they supposed that by this specious kind of language they could excite the desire of vainglory, and thereby prevent His rebuking them, returning as it were one kindness for another. But though he be crafty, he will fail of his prey: for “God is not mocked;” and so the Lord stops their impure tongues, and commands them to depart from those possessed by them.

And the bystanders being made witnesses of so great deeds, were astonished at the power of His word. For He wrought His miracles, offering up no prayer, to ask of any one else at all the power of accomplishing them, but being Himself the living and active Word of God the Father, by Whom all things exist, and in Whom all things are, in His own person He crushed Satan, and closed the profane mouth of impure demons.

Cyril, Commentary on Luke, Sermon XII.

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

Light, Peace, Hope, and a King! (Smith)

  After studying and working through Isaiah 9:2-7, I appreciate how Gary Smith summarizes these verses in the “theological implications” section of his commentary.  FYI these verses in Isaiah 9 talk about a “shadow-of-death” kind of darkness that God shines his light into, which brings joy, victory, and peace.  This prophecy also speaks about a son born to God’s people who will rule on David’s throne with justice and righteousness forever and ever.  Here are Smith’s comments:

This message of hope functions as a reassurance that God’s previous promises to the Davidic dynasty will be fulfilled in spite of all the terrible, dark circumstances the nation faced in the time of Ahaz. Light, joy, the end of war, and a new, righteous, Davidic ruler empowered by God himself will replace the gloom that surrounded the nation in the middle of the Syro-Ephraimite War. This hope was an encouragement to Isaiah and his faithful followers to continue speaking about the things of God, even if most people would not listen or understand (6:10–11).

God’s promise to bring peace and justice to this world through the Messiah is also an encouraging message that people can share today, because the political situation in modern times is sometimes about as dark and hopeless as in the days of Isaiah. This good news offers another opportunity for rebellious people to turn from trusting in political alliances, mediums, and the spirits of the dead because God is their only true source of hope. Neither Ahaz nor any modern political figure can ever hope to bring about an era of perfect peace and justice. Only God’s wonderful plans will bring about these ideals, not the plans of Ahaz (8:10) or any other fast talking politician. God’s promises will only be accomplished through his chosen messianic ruler, so placing trust in any other solution is folly.

Gary Smith, The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI