Sunday, February 19, 2017

Let Your Kingdom Come

(I normally dislike music embedded in web-pages but this was so well done I couldn't not give you the option.)

Let Your Kingdom come” This is the second imperative in the Lord’s Prayer.

Before we look at that imperative, lets get a little background from something Jesus did in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples began to rattle off a list of possibilities that the people had been saying. “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus is asking what do they think? And then he asks, “What do you think?” Most of us know what Peter answered. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

These verses are a source of some controversy and division across denominational lines. I don’t intend to address that here. What I find stunning is how Jesus answered Peter. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Peter did not discover this truth. It was revealed by “my Father who is in heaven”.

So then; The confession of “Jesus as the Christ” is evidence of someone who is living in the Kingdom. Consider the following scriptures; Rom 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” Matt 10:32-33 “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” 1 John 4:15 "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God."

Next, Jesus in Matthew 16:18-19 says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The implication of these verses are debated in Christianity. I draw your attention to them because I hope you will see that the Lord’s Prayer is a helpful rubric for understanding these verses. As I mentioned above I am not going to address the meaning of “the keys” or “the rock”, but I will discuss the ideas of binding and loosing.

What is Jesus talking about? Is Jesus giving Peter the authority to bind and loose whatever he chooses? This idea makes the imagination run wild with possibilities. So in order to tame the imagination I suggest we use the Lord’s Prayer as a filter, a hermeneutic if you will to inform our imagination and understanding. “Let your kingdom come” becomes then a helpful guide with which to understand what Jesus is saying in vs 20.

So then when I pray let your kingdom come, I am not attempting to affect conditions in heaven. When I “bind” or “loose” something on earth I should not expect those things to be bound or loosed in heaven. It should be the reverse, praying let your kingdom come, I am attempting to affect conditions on earth. When I “bind or “loose” something on earth it should be something already bound or loosed in heaven. As Tom Wright has mentioned in his book The Lord and His Prayer Heaven is to come down! "Think of the vision at the end of Revelation. It isn’t about humans being snatched up from earth to heaven. The holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to earth. God’s space and ours are finally married, integrated at last. That is what we pray for when we pray ‘thy Kingdom come’." (Pg. 24)

What are the things that are bound and loosed in heaven? Here are a few examples.

From Ephesians:
  • We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
  • God the Father chose us in Jesus “before the creation of the world” to be holy.
  • God has predestined us for adoption to sonship.
  • The Father has given us a surety of the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance.

From Hebrews:
  • Jesus Christ is our high priest in heaven.

From James:
  • Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

From 1 Peter:
  • An inheritance that can never perish.

Also the sermon on the Mount gives examples of what citizens of the Kingdom will look like.

From Matthew:
  • Poor in spirit
  • Persecuted for righteousness
  • Hungry for righteousness
  • Meek
  • Pure in heart
  • Peacemakers
  • Merciful
Pray that these things would be bound in your heart as they already are in Heaven. Pray that they would come down and be made manifest in our lives on earth for the glory of God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

I’ll close with this thought from Mt 5:16.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

To pray “Let your kingdom come” would look something like this. Loosing the good works in heaven;
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

Jonah’s Prayer

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

I called I cried
out out out
out to the LORD
out of my distress
out of the belly of Hell!

He answered me
He heard my cry

You cast me drove me
into into away
into the deep
into the heart of the seas
away from your sight!

Wait! I will look again
I will look again on Your Holy Temple

My life slammed shut forever
deeper deeper down
deeper in water
deeper in weeds
down in death!

What? You O Lord
brought me up from the pit

Those not I
ignore Your faithfulness
Those not I
love their self made ideas

I not those
render Yours to You
I not those
gratefully yell
Salvation is from the LORD!

Inspired by Jonah 2:2–9

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Useful & Engaging Introduction to Interpreting Old Testament Apocalyptic Literature

Too many failed theories that look to current events as fulfillment of prophecy should lead us to our obvious need for clear and informed exegesis of apocalyptic literature. I believe this book will help fill that need. Whether you desire to become more familiar with Old Testament apocalyptic literature on your own or in a classroom setting this text is a good choice and will provide you with the knowledge and skills to approach the scripture with confidence.

I would say that the target audience is upper level students of scripture that have had at least some exposure to biblical languages, but it is not required to gain a wealth of information for moving forward in interpretation. The author liberally shares helpful references for further study. It is assumed however, that the serious student will progress in biblical languages.

The structure of the book is straightforward and progresses in a logical and easily digestible manner. Don’t be unimpressed at it’s small size. In only six chapters of two hundred pages this little book packs a huge punch.

Chapter one answers the question “What is Apocalyptic Literature?” This was a challenging chapter for me because it is concerned with definitions that I thought I already understood. I had much to learn and reflect on. How can one be sure that what you are looking at should be labeled apocalyptic? “… it may be helpful to think of apocalyptic literature as a continuum, with some texts further along in their utilization of apocalyptic features than other works … Such variation contributes to the difficulty in defining what is meant by the term apocalyptic.” (p. 30)

Chapter two builds on the definitions given previously and answers the question “What are the major themes in apocalyptic literature?” This chapter introduces a wide range of apocalyptic literature from the Old Testament, intertestamental Jewish literature, and the Dead Sea scrolls. Each theme discussed offers examples from a wide range of apocalyptic literature. Chapter three “Preparing for Interpretation” is very engaging, after looking at the different types of figurative language you are given tools and introduced to approximately fourteen pages of resources that range from Textual / Grammatical resources and Bible software to pseudepigraphical literature. Although there is no bibliography in the back of the book, these pages as well as the generous footnotes throughout more than make up for that lack. This was perhaps my favorite chapter, a practical tool belt to fasten your study of the text.

Chapter four offers guidelines for interpretation as well as practical help to avoiding common pitfalls. Perhaps the two that I appreciated most are: the need for “a humility that admits the limits of our knowledge and refuses to go beyond the clear data of the text” (p.128) and the discipline to restrain oneself from making arbitrary or fanciful timetables for Christ’s return. It is right to anticipate the Lord’s return but when it shall occur is unknowable. (cf. Acts1:17)

Chapter five walks us through helpful disciplines and offering practical guidelines for preaching apocalyptic literature. Making the apocalyptic relevant to modern hearers requires the ability to between the contexts of the ancient texts and the modern hearers. The author offers his own outlines of Daniel 7 as an example and leads the reader to how to accomplish this task on ones own. With pitfalls and problems discussed he moves from his exegetical outline to his homiletical outline. Chapter six allows you to practice with two more sections of apocalyptic literature, Daniel 8 and Joel 2. The author offers his outlines for each and five pages of reference material to assist in studying these sections. Lastly there is an appendix of material that covers the development of Jewish apocalyptic literature as well as a helpful glossary of terms that are used throughout the book.

This book widened my appreciation of Old Testament apocalyptic literature and the skills to rightly interpret it. I think anyone seeking to exegete with skill and humility will benefit from this work. I would like to thank Kregel Academic for sending me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Hallowed be Thy Name

Hallowed be Thy Name

This is the first of three imperative requests in the Lord’s Prayer. An imperative is a command or a request that is considered vital, a necessity.
Hallowed is a word we don’t use anymore. I struggled to use it in a sentence (other than the one in hand of course). Here are a couple of examples from online dictionaries. “The church stands on hallowed ground.” “The Ganges is hallowed as a sacred river.” So it is to make something holy, to consecrate, to honor, or to revere.
So from this dictionary definition I would say that this petition of the Lord’s prayer is this; Make holy God’s name, honor, revere, consecrate God’s name.

So then Jesus is teaching his disciples to consider God’s name holy. But I believe there is much more to it than that.
What comes to a 21st century western mind when we speak of someones name? Usually we think first of identity. In Jewish thought this is the last thing thought of. “a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named.” (emphasis mine) (

Jesus is teaching us to ask the Father (G-d) to make His Name honored, revered, and sacred. Therefore we ask the Father (G-d) for help to make His Name holy. That’s something He would want to give, right? I mean since I struggle with making His Name holy wouldn’t the Father (G-d) be more than willing to answer this prayer and enable me to fulfill this request? The first thing I realize as I pray these words is that I am unable to fulfill what I am asking for. That is a breakthrough in understanding. That is consistent with Jesus’ other teachings on humility and repentance in prayer.

I hear echoes of the Shema in the Lord’s Prayer. Especially in this petition.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

To pray “hallowed be thy Name” in my opinion is the same imperative as “You shall love the LORD with all your heart ...” Remember in speaking about a name Jesus wasn't referring to the letters YHVH. He was referring to the character, reputation, and being of the Father (G-d).

Echoes of the Shema

The ShemaThe Lord’s Prayer

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God                          Our Father

You shall love the LORD your God with                  Hallowed be Thy Name
all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your might.

Above you can see the similarities between the Shema and the Lord’s Prayer. For Israel The LORD is “our” God. For followers of Jesus The LORD is “our” Father.

The Shema is considered by Jesus to be the greatest commandment. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism. The Psalms mention the importance of the Name of the LORD.

Psalm138:2 ESV
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.

God has exalted above all things His Name and His Word

When we pray “Hallowed be Thy Name” we are in agreement with the Psalmist. We are in agreement with the Shema.

We are asking God to fill our hearts with love for His Name in the same way our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ loved The Name. In fact we are praying with Jesus the Son when we say “Our Father” and we are seeking His Spirit to fill our hearts with His Love when we say “Hallowed be Thy Name”. (Rom5:5

Let that sink in. Digest it. Meditate on it. Marinate in it. You may also need to pray as Paul did in Ephesians 3 for the strength to comprehend such love. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A Quick Look Ahead

The folks at Kregel Academic have been very kind to me over the years. Each year on my birthday they allow me to pick from their catalog of offerings or a very nice coffee cup.

On my last birthday I asked for the title Reordering the Trinity Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Roderick K. Durst. However they sent me by mistake (I assume) Commentary on Romans by Martin Luther, Translated by J. Theodore Mueller. (which I was excited to receive, see below)

When the book arrived in my mail box and I saw it was from Kregel my heart sank. You see I was impatient and while at ETS I purchased the book I had asked for. Now I thought I would have two copies. But I was delighted and excited to see this wonderful digest of Luther's great work. Thank You Kregel!

So looking ahead......

So you know that there will be an upcoming review of Reordering the Trinity. But here is a little teaser about the book. Durst is a professor of historical theology at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. In it he looks at the different ways that the New Testament uses the Trinitarian Triad "Father, Son, and Spirit" and the significance of the order they are found in. There are actually six possible forms. Durst has found them all and explores their meaning.

Currently I am reading another very different title from Kregel, Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature An Exegetical Handbook by Richard A. Taylor. I have been very pleasantly surprised by this one. I can't wait to finish it and post my review. Especially since my Pastor Sam Storms is about to begin a new series on the book of Revelation at my church Bridgeway Church. If you would like to follow along you can find the sermons online here.