Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hebrews use of Psalm 95 and it implication for Christians

Hebrews 3:7–19 gives a negative example of faithfulness versus unfaithfulness. What event and what Old Testament passages are used by the author to discuss this negative example? Give an overview of the Old Testament events alluded to in this section. What does the author mean in Hebrews 3:12 by warning the recipients to avoid an evil, unbelieving heart that can lead to falling away from God? In what ways can a Christian fall away from God? Is this a warning to Christians? Why or why not?
            In this section of Scripture the author of Hebrews is referring to the incident at Kadesh Barnea. This event takes place after they are able to leave Egypt, but before they would enter the Promised Land. This is actually the event that would cause God to keep them in the desert for forty years waiting for one generation to die off. The author uses Psalm 95:7c-11 and it is in this section of Scripture where the events of Numbers 14. The Lord was leading his people (sheep) through his servant (Moses), when the people chose to harden their hearts toward God. They not only would not listen when the Lord was speaking, but they chose to put him to the test even though they had seen all the glorious things He had done in bringing them out of Egypt. Instead of following God (obedience) they chose to go after their own hearts desires (disobedience). According to Cockerill, “In this sense “hearing” his voice is synonymous with obedience and the opposite of hardening one’s heart.”[1]
            The author here is trying to encourage his hearers to persevere through the trials and hardships they may be enduring at the hands of an unbelieving society. Cockerill asserts, “Unbelief springs from the heart but becomes real in the concrete act of refusal to trust God (3:18).  The pastor envisions no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does he conceive of any obedience that does not stem from faith.”[2] So we should not associate ourselves with people who are going to lead us down a path away from God. This does not mean we are not to go to the people and tell them about Jesus. It does mean that our deepest and most intimate relationships are to be with other “brothers and sisters in Christ.” Guthrie helps us to understand the power of unbelief that manifests itself in many different forms. He says, “The thief doubts God’s provision, the sexually immoral person denies the sufficiency of God’s design for sexual fulfillment, the religiously proud does not trust God’s priority on humility.”[3]
            Christians can make the choice to not spend time in the spritiual disciplines and this will lead to a weak walk with God. Christ told us that all the father have given him cannot be taken from him (John 6:36-44), and if they do fall away we have to question if they were ever really a true child of God. John again tells us that if they leave and do not hold out to the end they were never really with us (1 John 2:19).

[1] Gareth Lee Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Edermans Publishing Co., 2012)175.
[2] Ibid., 183.
[3] George H.Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)146.

Jesus’ superiority to Moses according to Hebrews 3

Discuss the significance of Jesus’ superiority to Moses according to Hebrews 3. In what ways is Jesus superior to Moses according to Hebrews 3? What are the implications of that superiority for the original recipients of the letter? What are the implications for Christians today?
For the modern-day believer in may be difficult to understand the significance of Jesus’s superiority to Moses needing to be explained. The reason this is so difficult is because we have a clearer understanding of who Jesus is and are not solely dependent on the law and the prophets. It is extremely significant the comparison between Moses and Jesus, the author of Hebrews makes because previously he compared Jesus and the angels. According to Guthrie, “other evidence suggests that Moses held an even higher status than the Angels because of his special intimacy with God. Therefore, the author of Hebrews most naturally from his discussion of the Angels as Old Testament messengers (2:1-2) to the pre-eminent messenger of the old covenant-- Moses himself.”[1]
In chapter 3 of Hebrews the author compares the faithfulness of Moses and that of Jesus.[2] The pastor in his writing made two different comparisons between these two men, he pointed out that Moses was a servant in the house of God; while Jesus Christ was the son of God. Guthrie states, “the sphere of Moses his ministry was “in all of God’s house,” meaning that his authority and leadership extended over all of God’s people at that time.”[3] Guthrie also points out that, “Christ, on the other hand, was “over God’s house,” not in it.”[4] Also when dealing with the house, the author of Hebrews shows that the builder of the house deserves more honor than the house itself. Moses was part of the house himself and the steward over it, while Jesus was the builder and creator of the house. Cockerill assert, “there is no need to belittle Moses, for the greater Moses is, the more the Son’s superiority will be magnified.”[5]
The implications of this superiority in the original document, help those believers who received it appreciate Jesus that much more. For the believer today we can look and see the type of life that we should pattern ourselves after. While we understand Moses as a faithful steward, we ultimately seeing Jesus as a faithful son; and it is the pattern of Jesus that we should follow being co-heirs with him. Something that I found very interesting said by Richard D. Phillips, he says, “… Despite differences raced on every temptation of historical setting, Israel. In the church are one. This passage exposes the error of dispensationalism, which sees Israel and the church has fundamentally different peoples in God’s economy.”[6]

[1] George H. Guthrie, the NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 127.
[2] Gareth Lee Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Edermans Publishing Co., 2012)163.
[3] Guthrie, Hebrews, 128.
[4] ibid., 128.
[5] Cockerill, Hebrews, 168.
[6]Richard D.  Phillips, Hebrews: Reformed Expository Commentary. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006)86.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Should Christians View the Imprecatory Psalms?

This is a very interesting question and one that should not be taken lightly. There are so many differing views on how to answer this question, but before that can be done there has to be a defining of the what an imprecatory psalm is. According to John N. Day, “These psalms express the desire for God’s vengeance to fall on His (and His people’s) enemies and include the use of actual curses, or imprecations.”[1]  While that definition is okay it would benefit the readers understanding more if the definition used by C. Hassell Bullock is compounded on top of Days description. In regards to calling imprecations curses Bullock says, “it is a rather strong term and perhaps not the most accurate one. “Psalms of anger” or “psalms of wrath” would be a better phrase….”[2]
If you truly want to have an in depth understanding of imprecations and their original setting I would highly recommend you read its entry in “The Dictionary of the OT: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings” edited by Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns. In dealing with the imprecatory psalms in their OT surroundings, there are some like C.S. Lewis for example who try and ease the blow of the harshness by referring to these psalms as allegory.[3] However, it would be most beneficial to understand and take each individual psalm of imprecation and examine it.  There are some that deal with completely personal vengeance, while other deal with national tragedy. According to Day, “the Book of Psalms includes almost one hundred verses with imprecations, this article discusses three representative psalms: Psalm 58, and imprecation against a societal enemy; Psalm 137, an imprecation against a national or community enemy, and Psalm 109, an imprecation against a personal enemy.”[4]
The thing that should be understood most though is no matter how uncomfortable we as Christians are with these specific Psalms the Lord felt it proper to include them in the Holy Scriptures. According 2 Timothy 3:16 all Scripture is inspired of God and usefully for all aspects of life (my summary of the verse). This does not mean we have to understand it or find a way to resolve it. Again depending upon the author you are reading at the time, it can influence whether or not you think Christians should pray imprecatory psalms. What needs to be learned as Bullock has stated in several of his works is that as Christians we should “…confess our negative feelings while at the same time acknowledging how inappropriate and how much a part of our sinfulness they are.”[5] He also goes on to say in another paragraph, “They give to God not only their lament about their desperate situation, but also the right to judge the originators of that situation. They leave everything in God’s hands, even the feelings of hate and aggression.”[6]
Psalm 137 is one of the most difficult sections of Scripture for Christians to deal with because of the intense cruelty that takes place in it. Before expounding on the psalm in his commentary Broyles starts off by saying, “Most psalms are cherished by Christians; this one is not. Its closing verses strike us as unimaginable cruelty.”[7] As modern day readers we need to understand the pain that is being expressed in this Psalm the Isrealites are being taken from their home and watching everything they love be destroyed; their homes, the temple, and even their infants being murdered upon rocks. They were using this psalm asking God to stand up for his name sake, not just for their own. Broyles says in regards to the execution of children, “these expressions referring to the slaughter of children are a way of depicting the end of an oppressive dynasty.”[8]
Before modern day readers condemn anything we should first understand where it is coming from and does it fit our context. As Bullock tells us we should be able to take everything before God and leave it on the table for Him to deal with. We can be upset, but be so without sin.
Broyles, Craig C. Understanding the Bible Commentay Series- Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.
Bullock, C. Hassell. Encountering the Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic , 2001.
Lewis, C.S. Reflections on the Psalms. Orlando: Harcourt Brace, 1958.
Day, John N. "The imprecatory psalms and Christian ethics." Bibliotheca Sacra 159, no. 634 (April 1, 2002): 166-186. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed September 2, 2013).

[1] John N.Day, "The imprecatory psalms and Christian ethics." Bibliotheca Sacra 159, no. 634 (April 1, 2002): 166-186. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed September 2, 2013)166.
[2] C. Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic , 2001)228.
[3] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms. (Orlando: Harcourt Brace, 1958)22.

[4] Day, Imprecatory Psalms., 169.
[5] Bullock, Encountering., 237.
[6] Ibid., 237.
[7] Craig C.Broyles, Understanding the Bible Commentay Series- Psalms. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999)479.
[8] Ibid. 480.