This Day

This Day

In the third month of the going out of the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt, in this day they have come into the wilderness of Sinai..                                     – Exodus 19:1, Young’s Literal Translation

Most Bible translations render this passage in the more sensible phrasing, “on that day”, as in past tense, i.e., this is what happened at that time. It is a logical transliteration of the awkwardness of the Hebrew. However, as in so many other places in the Bible, the translators bring us an adulterated version, stripped of it’s deeper midrashic meaning.

We see from Young’s literal translation that the Hebrew says, “in this day they have come”, which seems to change the tense of the narrative. The great Jewish scholar, Rashi, paid careful attention to the Hebrew here and connects it to the Passover event 50 days earlier:

This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.(Ex.12:2)

The inference, which is explicit in Rashi’s understanding, is that the Passover event marks the beginning of months. This could also be understood as the beginning of new life. Fifty days later, Israel reaches the place of Mattan Torah, or the giving of the Torah.

The direct parallel of this event can be found in Acts chapter 2, which records the giving of the spirit, which lighted upon all who were gathered in Solomon’s Colonnade, where they were all in one accord in one place (Acts 2:1). The descent of the spirit and the manifestation of the utterance of foreign languages by non-native speakers, also parallels the Midrash’s rendering of “thunderings” which the people heard from the mountain of Sinai as the “voices of God”(Ex.19:19).

The important picture in our key passage, according to traditional Jewish understanding, is that the people arrived at Sinai in a place of unified repentance.

Clear out of your mind, for now, the tragic events of the golden calf which will soon follow. Here, this day, the nation is repentant and ready to receive the word of the LORD. This month, the first of months, and this day, the day in which new life is given. Continue reading

What is the Fear of the Lord?

What is the Fear of the Lord?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction

                                             – Proverbs 1:7

Often, the concept of the “fear of the Lord” carries a negative connotation in Christian circles. Many in the evangelical world prefer to focus on the “positive benefits” of believing in God, and feel that emphasizing the fear of the Lord is a negative motivation.

In reality though, it’s not an issue of positive or negative.

Too many times, the concept gets muddied by talk of God’s grace and mercy vs. His judgment, and the issue of the fear of the Lord becomes a code-phrase for which part of the church you align yourself with. You are not necessarily a Baptist if you talk about the fear of the Lord, though much to my delight, Baptists tend to be much more concerned with this concept than charismatics, though that is to be left for another discussion, not here.

The fear of the Lord has nothing to do with Jonathan Edwards pounding the pulpit in true Calvinist fashion with his cry of “sinners in the hands of an angry God!”.

What it does have quite a bit to do with is the free choice of man to either worship or go his own way. The fear of the Lord has to do with God’s grace and the dignity of the individual. How so? In our continued study through the Talmud, we continue to unearth parallels with the teachings of the master and the apostles. We will consider a passage which deals with the fear of the Lord and see how it may impact our view.

Continue reading

Understanding Paul, Part Two

Understanding Paul, Part Two

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the LORD, “then the offspring of Israel will also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”   – Jeremiah 31:31-36

Thus begin the terms which the LORD lays out through His prophet of the coming New Covenant. This is the same New Covenant which Christ initiates through his death and by being raised from the dead as the first fruits of the coming kingdom.

(Note: This post is longer than most of my posts. Allow 10 minutes to read it thoroughly.)

This is part two of our two-part series on understanding Paul. We should remind the reader of the purpose behind these two posts. I am not trying to give a dissertation on Pauline doctrine, but to respond to a post made by a fellow blogger, Pastor Keith Haney. He made some statements in his blog post “What Does God Expect From Me?” which I have challenged. (A link to that post can be found in part one of this series).

The first three ideas which Keith put forth which I dealt with were:

  1. The Law was put in place only for a certain period of time.
  2. The Judaizers (in Paul’s letter to the Galatians) taught that obeying the Law was necessary for salvation.
  3. The only purpose of the Law was to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah, and since his arrival the Law’s only current purpose is to prove to people their inability to keep it so that they recognized their need for a savior.

We dealt with these statements in the first installment, which can be found here: Understanding Paul, Part One.

The final three objections to Keith’s post will be dealt with here.

(I should make note that I’m not trying to pick on Keith Haney. He writes a good blog. I’m simply taking issue with the Replacement Theology which he, I think unknowingly, espouses through his misinterpretation of Paul; a common mistake in the modern church.)

These three statements which I will address are these:

  1. There was no “life of faith” before Jesus, only “imprisonment under the Law.”
  2. Water baptism into the church (becoming a Christian) makes the body of believers into a “new nation.”
  3. The Law created differences, distinctions and hostility, but through our adoption into Christ , all such distinctions have been removed “in Christ.”

There are also a couple of other statement which I disagreed with strongly, one of which I found galling:

  1. He attempts to mock a Jewish prayer, and wrongly attributes it to the Pharisees, as a way of trying to show how legalistic and harsh religion “under the law” was before Jesus. This will be shocking to some of you just how far from the truth Keith’s claim is.

Continue reading

Understanding Paul, Part One.

Understanding Paul, Part One.

…Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:15-16

This post represents some friendly dialog with a man I respect, and a fellow blogger, Keith Haney. We are discussing Paul, and the book of Galatians, specifically, but the gospel, and discipleship, more broadly.

Keith has been doing a wonderful series on discipleship which I highly recommend, but I disagreed with some points he made concerning his reading of Galatians. Rather than fill his comments section with incomplete and debatable statements, I decided it would be better to write in detail my objections, as well as offer some independent thoughts of my own concerning Paul and Bible interpretation in general, and perhaps we will all be the better for the exercise.

The blog to which this post is responding can be found here:

The name of the post is: “What does God expect of me?”

Keith did not attempt to explain the entire book of Galatians, but rather he highlights the concept Paul puts forth of the pedagogue, in chapter 3. Consistent with the discipleship theme, his purpose for doing so is to attempt to explain the role of God’s Law in the life of a believer. I agree with many things he says in the piece, but I believe he is in error concerning some key points.

My reason for doing this critique is that it is my conviction that the misreading of Paul has led to many incoherent theological positions. The false dichotomy of “law vs. grace” as promoted by Martin Luther, and perpetrated since, is the result of a misguided reading of Paul’s letters.

Continue reading