My colleague, Alan Ingalls, has a very good post on Hebrew idioms at this blog. It is well worth the read and his sage advice is worth following–if one wants to handle the OT well in the pulpit.
Here is a link to a message I preached on March 26, 2014 at seminary chapel. My text was Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and the title “Success is not supposed to look like this!”
This post has nothing to do with OT Theology, the Song, church or preaching. It is a proud dad sharing an article his librarian son, Jeremy, wrote on Library student staff development. Catch the article here. The introduction is very good IMHO.
My daughter shared this really cute video about the proverbial relationship “doghouse.” If you understand “spending time in the doghouse,” you will appreciate the video. There is a follow up that provides the genesis of the video and it promoted this blog post concerning the Song of Songs a few days before Valentine Day.
Once you view the second video you realize the capitalism (and creativity) of retailers on Valentine Day. But in the Song there is no Valentine Day. Based on that observation some of you may wish to live back in Solomon’s a day! There was no gift giving expectations! There was no struggle with what gift not to buy for V-Day. While it is true there is no day dedicated to proclaiming love and affection in the Song, it is equally true that ALL the days (and nights!) of these two lovers are devoted to love’s proclamations and subsequent erotic actions! In this relationship everyday is Valentine Day! If this is true and February 14th is mainly for giving romantic gifts, you can almost hear your wallet crying.
In my study for this post, I had hoped to find that the Song would argue against such crass commercialism and the trappings of Valentine Day i.e. expensive jewelry, rich chocolate, etc. Instead I found that the female lover was worthy of a fine-jeweled necklace and rich ornamental earrings (SoS 1:10, 11). Her appetite also craved the food of the day, “love food” to keep her energy for their evening of passion (SoS 2:5)!
There seems to be no escaping the trappings of the 14th day of the second month of the year. So follow the Song; skip the vacuum and blender as gifts and think biblically in your offering. However, as you consider your 2014 V-day gift I would suggest that while you want to follow a literal interpretation AND application of the biblical text, in this instance skip the literal apples and raisin cakes,….. splurge for Godiva chocolates—in the shape of apples and dark chocolate covered raisins just to be closer to the text. Buying a bag of apples and a loaf of raisin bread could land you in the doghouse this weekend!
I just picked up, Literary Construction of Identity in the Ancient World (Eisenbrauns, 2010). This book is a series of conference essays on the Hebrew Bible as literature. The first essay I am reading is Joachim Vette’s, “Narrative Poetics and Hebrew Narrative.” His work is a brief history of the study of the biblical narrative literature. For those in interested in OT narrative it is worth the read.
One passing note Vette makes is the importance of the Hebrew. “The detailed analysis of Hebrew narrative syntax has long shown that no interpretation can neglect the Hebrew language without severe consequences for the quality of the interpretative endeavor” (p. 38, fn 85).
Since much of the OT is narrative and since narrative is the genre many pastors preach (when they do use the OT on a Sunday am), and since most preachers want to get the biblical text right, one wonders why more pastors are not taking Hebrew!
I have been reading Ecclesiastes often the past few months usually with tea and not coffee. It is a book that has been read from extremes: Qoheleth was a pessimist, skeptic, fatalist, or an optimist or by some a realist. I am in the last group. One of the realities of the book is death. In 7: 2 Solomon writes:
It is better to go to a house of mourning,
Than to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart (NASB).
While I have taught this in class and even preached it at funerals, I would not have guessed the topic would make its way into coffee houses around the world. Not many would rather go to a funeral home than Starbucks! But there are those wise individuals who gathering is known as the “Death Cafe” who discuss all things related to death and dying. See the article here: “At These Coffee Klatches, Death is on the Agenda.”
I have been on the calendar to speak at our seminary chapel semester. Since my good friend and colleague, Rod Decker (NT Resources) were in the midst of writing an article with the above title, we talked about sharing these in a joint chapel. Since our desire was to teach even as we shared our individual life journeys, Rod suggested we include a Q & A time as well. Six weeks before this sounded like a wonderful idea. I never expected we have to hand out Kleenex with our answers. I am posting the link for the actual chapel itself (here: scroll to Nov 15 Seminary Chapel). While I assume the audio is clear (I have not tested–the live take was tough enough), I have posted the articles here without tear stains. WhenYourWorldCrashesDown2
I do offer one caveat: neither Rod nor I are looking for sympathy or (God forbid) pity. We shared with our students in an effort to help prepare them as much as anyone can be prepared) for the time when their world crashes down. We also shared so they might have the courage to minister to others whose world suffers the same fate.
A few weeks ago at BBC College chapel I was asked to address sexual hot topics such as masturbation, pornography, homosexuality, and the like. I used the Song of Songs to help the students think biblically about these topics and draw conclusions that are inline with God’s viewpoint. Click here for those three chapel messages. (Scroll down the page for the entries in October 2013 College chapel: Mark McGinniss).
My colleague, Rod Decker, has a personal post on his blog this past week. In this reflective column he speaks of two “inescapable realities.” One is the reality of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. The other is death. As one reads you realize that these are not simply academic realities but ones that Rod is living.
His post has prompted me to personal contemplation and to suggest a third “inescapable reality.” Like Rod it is where I am living. This “inescapable reality” belongs between his two: suffering. As of September 10, it has been three years in which I have been suffering with Trigeminal Neuralgia. As mentioned in earlier posts, it is the most painful condition known to medical science outside of cluster headaches. Having experienced the excruciating jolts of TN every hour of everyday for the past three years, my experience supports the medical findings.
While not everyone will experience my specific type of distress, suffering (like death) is still an inescapable reality for all men. Solomon mentions it as “days of darkness” (Eccl 11:8), Jesus says, “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34); Peter reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and offers the admonition “to follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21-24); and Paul shares his physical suffering and the need for grace (2 Cor 12:5-10).
Whether one is living in midst of the second inescapable reality or facing the real possibility of experiencing the third—although all of us live here everyday since we do not know what any day would bring. But the truth is we do not necessarily acknowledge it or experience it in the same way one who has just received the terminal diagnosis does—the first inescapable reality is the only way to deal with suffering and death. Asaph declares in one Psalm: My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (73:26). Whether the flesh fails in death, or the heart (emotions) fail in suffering, I am grateful that I can rest in the first inescapable reality while I and those I love have to struggle in the other two. And there is coming a day when the first inescapable reality will swallow up the other two—forever (Rev 21:4)!
Rod Decker has an insightful (and needful) reminder about the power and necessity of the Word of God in ministry. It would be helpful if each youth leader and preacher were to ask himself if the Word truly has center stage in his ministry and (maybe most importantly) what in his ministry demonstrate that it is true.