You’re Not Moses, But Israel

Who do we most resemble in the Biblical text? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those wondering where I have been, last week I had a massive toothache. The antibiotic is starting to work now, but I wanted to take a break. Things should be back to normal entirely relatively soon, although future work is going to be needed.

I have a habit in Bible reading. I read in the morning, but before I go to bed at night, I read a short little bit. Normally, just a couple of verses. I think about those and examine them and keep in mind the best I can the verses I read earlier and see how it all fits. A couple of nights or so ago I was going through Hebrews and read this in Hebrews 3:15-16.

15 Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
    as Israel did when they rebelled.”

16 And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?

So who was Israel? Israel was a nation that had gone down to Egypt and originally been treated with favor. Now they were not. They were enslaved by a Pharaoh who did not care about the history of these people. They were people of a strange religion in a strange land. They were people in covenant with YHWH.

They were like us in many ways. We are the covenant people of YHWH as well since we are in Christ. We have a strange belief system to the people around us.

These people cry out to God for deliverance. They’re really asking Him if He’s going to honor the covenant. This is something common you see in the Old Testament. Many of the Psalms are not talking about reminding the people of their covenant, but God of His.

Then these people are delivered by Moses and what do they do after all the miraculous signs they themselves personally saw? They rebel. When they get to the Promised Land, they declare that God is against them and refuse to obey them. God tells Moses those people will never enter His rest and the people wander for 40 years until that generation dies off and a new one comes up.

Today in the church, it’s quite common to see ourselves in the same position as the heroes of the Bible. Now to be sure, we are to emulate them when they do right and live like them, but they are also exceptions. Many people expect to hear God speak to them because Moses did. They forget the numerous Israelites at the base of the mountain who realized how frightening a prospect that was. Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was trembling with fear at the presence of God.

In reality, we are not like Moses most often. We are more like Israel. We are often the people in rebellion against God and who do not think He will do what He said and that we have to handle things our own way. Every time we do that, we are in essence doing what Israel did. We are hardening our hearts.

It’s nothing we really want to hear. I certainly didn’t want to come to such a conclusion that would implicate myself as well, but I don’t see much other way around it. We can say it’s worse for us as well. We have the promise of the resurrection. Many of us could have a more sophisticated theology than the average Israelite in the wilderness back then. Those of us especially who are apologists are to be held to a higher standard since we specialize so much in the truth of what God says. We had better live it!

So why don’t we trust God more? That is something I am still pondering on more and more. Each of us will have to answer that on our own. We can keep in mind even Moses didn’t do all the trust right so if we struggle, we’re in good company.

We should also be more humble when we read the Bible. All the good promises are there, but they’re not there because we’re so special and earned them, but because God is so gracious and gave them. Many of us would like to be the heroes, and there’s nothing wrong again with wanting to emulate them, but too many times we’re like the failures and even the enemies in the Bible. Let’s all watch ourselves to make sure we’re living more and more like Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Birth of the Trinity

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Oxford press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

How did we get to the Trinity? Of course, the Trinity was never born, per se, but how did the early church come to the idea? Was it in the Old Testament and we just hadn’t seen it all these years? Could it be they read Scripture in a way today that we’re not familiar with?

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.

With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.

Then I said ‘Here I am. It is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God.”

When the writer of Hebrews has this passage, he says that this is what Christ said. If we go back to where it comes from, Psalm 40, we don’t see Christ saying this at all. It looks like what the Psalmist is saying. How do we get to Christ saying this? Are we just reading into the text?

As good Christians, we don’t want to say that. After all, do we want to accuse the writer of Hebrews of eisegesis? In fact, we can go further and say that our Lord Himself used this kind of reading. Did He not ask the Pharisees whose son the Messiah is only to be told the Son of David. Christ responds with Psalm 110:1 “The Lord said to my Lord.” How can He be David’s son if David calls Him His Lord?

Bates says this is called prospological reading where the text is read from the perspective of a divine conversation going on. Sometimes, the Psalmist or prophet seems to give us a peek behind the curtain, perhaps unknowingly, to conversations that have taken place long in the past. (Well, at least to us. Since all of God’s actions are eternal these are eternally happening.)

The early church engaged in this and in fact, so did the early opponents of Christianity. This doesn’t mean that every reading like this is valid, but Origen and others did lay down some ground rules. Those are quite helpful for many who will think that this is an approach that can just lead to chaos and anything can mean anything.

Bates throughout this book that is incredibly inspiring seeks to enter us into a divine drama taking place and how the early church saw the text. Numerous texts are explored in-depth including countering various ideas, such as a popular adoptionist idea as has recently been argued for by Bart Ehrman. Bates also wants to return us to the idea of not divine identity but divine persons thinking we’re losing something of the idea of how we should speak of God when we don’t speak of persons.

Bates’s argument then is that when Christ came, the readers of the Old Testament indeed looked back in hindsight to see if they could see Christ speaking there, and they saw several passages. These they fit into the divine drama that had been taking place behind the scenes. This can also make us go back and read the Old Testament with new eyes. We’ve all known about this kind of reading before as we see it in the New Testament. We just never knew how seriously it was undertaken and what an impact it had.

If there was something I’d say I would like to see better, I think the title can be misleading. Every now and then there’s something about the Holy Spirit, but really very little. The book emphasizes more on the deity of Christ I think than the whole of the Trinity. Perhaps that can be saved for another work.

This is still an excellent book to read. If you want to see a fresh new reading of the text, try this one out. This is definitely an area that New Testament scholarship needs to further study.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/24/2014: Peter Davids

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For many of us, the meat of the NT is usually thought to be found in Paul, which is a shame since we usually avoid the Gospels in that way. We will then when we want our dose of information about the end times turn to the book of Revelation. In between are these epistles not nearly discussed so much called the Catholic Epistles.

Fortunately, that group doesn’t include the Deeper Waters Podcast.

That’s why I’m proud to bring on another person from Houston Baptist University. Davids serves there as the visiting professor of Theology.

PeterDavids

In his own words….

“Born in 1947 in Syracuse, New York, of English extraction Peter Davids later moved with his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he graduated from E. C. Glass High School. He later went on the study at Wheaton College (BA in Psychology), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.Div.), and the University of Manchester (Ph.D., 1974). His first teaching position was in Germany. After being confirmed in the Anglican communion in 1976, he was founding faculty of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry near Pittsburgh, PA, where he was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1979. It was while teaching there that his first book (James in the NIGTC) was published. He subsequently taught and ministered in Canada (1983 – 1996), Austria (1996 – 2002), Houston, Texas (2002 – 2006, 2011 – present) and again in Canada (2006 – 2010). He is currently Visiting Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University. He is the author or editor of more than 10 books, most of them covering the Catholic Epistles. He is also committed to church ministry, having been preaching since he was 15. While at Wheaton College, he married the former Judith Lee Bouchillon of Houston Texas, who is a pastoral counselor and spiritual director. Together they have had 4 children, three of them living, and now have 8, almost 9 grandchildren, all of whom live in Canada.”

And yes, almost 9 grandchildren because the latest one is due to come on May 30th? Will he cooperate and be born then? We don’t know, but congrats to the mother and father and to Davids as a proud grandparent.

Naturally, with eight epistles, we’ll only be scratching the surface, but I hope that we will say enough that it will inspire you to read the epistles yourself a bit more closely and come to realize that these parts of the Bible are just as much Scripture as the rest and be thankful that God put them in there for us to benefit from.

Now I’d like to be able to tell you that there’s a link you can go to directly to listen to the show and I’d like to tell you what the call-in number is, but this time, I do not know how. Somehow I am going to have to record this using a Skype recorder and then leave it to that to get up on ITunes or a place like that.

This has to be done because sadly, we do not have the donations coming in to do this. If anyone was interested, we can get a position on blogtalkradio for $40 a month or $400 a year. This is definitely what I would prefer as it is much easier and efficient, particularly for someone not technologically skilled like myself. If anyone wants to make that possible, please hit the donate button and let me know or go to RisenJesus.com, the ministry of Mike Licona and say you want to keep the Deeper Waters Podcast going as is. (Note that all donations to Risen Jesus have the benefit that we get every penny.)

Until that happens or I find the funding on my own to get the show up, that’s the way it’s going to have to be.

But I will be recording the show at the same time as always and let’s hope that I do it right! I hope that whenever it does go up, you’ll be listening as well!

In Christ,
Nick Peters