Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jm 1:1-18

1:3. What could be more boring than to be reminded simply that bad times and good times both come, and we should take the bad times with the good? But that's not what this text says.

It might be helpful to try and think outside the box about what James 1 is saying, and, once again, not reading what we think it's saying into it.

Because it might be the opposite. Wins and losses for example. "My team" won a big game yesterday. Lots of high fives on the sideline. That is, on one sideline. But the text doesn't say, in this case, consider it all joy, my brethren, when you win your various trials, but when you encounter them (1:2). High fives at the beginning of hard times. What? Not only that, but high fives particularly at the encountering of hard times -- particularly at encountering various trials of them.

The exhortation is like the depiction of the sun in Ps 19. Fewer things are more exuberant than "a bridegroom coming out of his chamber," which the Psalmist says the sun acts as if it does, and then? "It rejoices as a strong man to run his course" (Ps 19:5).

Somebody might say, well, that's the sun, and sunrise is inevitable, just as the run is. Really? Is either inevitable? If you know your science, you also know that science is based on the assumption of uniformity, not the guarantee of uniformity. Also, ask a runner, or a strong man! Or, this life! Is it a guarantee, that the course will be completed? Of course not. But the strong man rejoices to run, and our text says to consider it all joy at the beginning. Who can stomach that kind of advice!

One thing might help: the text doesn't say that winning the trial produces endurance, but the trial itself produces endurance. I once told a friend I'd like to go sometime into a discussion of the place of loss in the Christian life, and maybe the day after so many teams lost big games, I could start. Here is the start: Being in the game produced, and produces, endurance.

What if "it stunk" that you went through that, and that you're sick to your stomach and wanna go off and die, because of something that happened to you, something really bad? What if you failed at it, failed the test? Am I supposed to be happy that I failed the test? Certainly not!

Here is where there's another surprise in our text. What is the test, a test of? Somebody might anticipate that if I'm going to say "faith" I should go jump in the lake, because religious people should get over having to make everything into a religious act, and that the vast majority of doable things in this world have nothing to do with whether or not somebody has faith, of any kind. The vast majority of doable things would end up in failure if people trying to get something done were constantly checking for religious aspects of what they're doing. Of course.

But faith is not stuck with religion, religious activity, religious knowledge, religious feelings, etc. There's faith in getting out of bed! And there's no guarantee from God or anyone that you'll be able to do so tomorrow. Raising your arm to your face, if your arm works, still requires faith, and there's no guarantee of that either.

But why are various trials a test of faith? Ask somebody in a relationship. Have you ever had a relationship where you "have to" trust their judgment? I personally hate it. Inside of you is something that would rather die than not trust their judgment, you regard it so highly. Then, it seems like, by trusting their judgment, you will die, or have. So how are trials a test of faith?

I picture somebody again telling me to jump in the lake, because if I'm about to say that my sorry circumstances are put there by God, then I'm one sick individual.

Of course, not all circumstances are directly put there by God, as the text points out in one example (1:13). But we're not investigating the tornado, we're in the tornado. In the tornado, whatever your tornado handling skills are, may they increase! Even to strap yourself better in your seat, however. There's some faith there.

So to round out the idea, in relationships, trusting somebody's judgment is very hard. We may not succeed. In our trials in general, faith in God is very hard and it gets tested.

The last objection I'd like to deal with probably also occurs to you, if you're of a particular frame of mind. Why not just deal with hard times as they come, instead of this high five stuff, and thinking of trusting the judgment of others, even God? Partially, I of course agree with it, in saying above, that we have to concentrate on the particulars, not God and Bible verses (unless those are the particulars!).

My answer to that is, have you ever been told, "just deal with it?" It's an answer that usually comes from somebody to us, who has (temporarily, hopefully) forgot that they're in the tornado too, and the two of you might be of some help to one another. Maybe.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heb 13

13:2. "Let love of the brethren continue." There are days when I plead for this for my own sake, to continue. 1 Cor 12 has that great section giving advice to two groups: to the first, it says (12:21), "the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.'" To the second, Paul says "if the foot should say, 'because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body." (12:14). It is especially sad when they -- er, we -- er, I -- mess up.

The passages that are listed to go together in the reading (Ez 33-34, Heb 13, Ps 115, Pr 27:21-22) all are pretty big in importance.

Ez 34 contains one of the great themes of the Bible -- man (people) messing up, so God taking it on Himself, encouraging us to plan on Him getting us going again, by doing it Himself. In Hebrews I mentioned only one small thing that's hitting me. Who can forget the rest of the chapter? It is this chapter that makes people think "Sure sounds like Paul to me."

The Psalm (115) has that great contrast between do-nothing idols (115:4ff) and God, the Doer (115:3).

Even the Proverbs! One of them makes me remember not to test people too much, and another, not to be a fool, but to accept correcting comments from people.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heb 12: 14ff.

12:14. About this passage, there has been a divergence of opinion, just like about every passage.

And just as with other interpretations of texts (or lyrics, or literature, or poetry), sometimes a text catches us, and sometimes we attempt to catch a text and employ it for ourselves. It's fun, especially when "it really fits" some idea we're mulling over.

The divergence of opinion about Hebrews 12:14-29 often comes out when a presupposition, what we want the text to apply to, trumps what the text actually says, making us read the text in precisely the way we want it to apply for us. At the very least, we should be aware that's what we're doing, ourselves, by choice. And in literature and in pop culture, maybe lives don't depend on what we say, maybe they do. But at least most of the time they don't.

In the case of the Bible, with all the trust being put into it, it's a huge weapon in the arsenal of its interpreters. Some people look at it no more than as that, like the power of the phrase "Wizard of Oz, who lives in the Emerald City" in the story.

In the Bible's case, the claim is greater. It claims to be a huge weapon. In this case, take 12:14 as an example. How a person handles among those who care about it is important. One needs to do things do hold one's aim steady.

So, when we read, "Pursue ... the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord," what is an example of missing the mark?

How about a couple examples! 1. To read it as "Without pursuing sanctification, no one will see the Lord" -- that's not what it says!

2. To read it as "pursue ... the sanctification without which you will not see the Lord" is also missing the mark!

In this case, we have not only missed the mark, but tried to use a banana as a gun. This tries to make something a gun which is supposed to be food!

Christ is already, our sanctification (1 Cor 1:30). It's not that we are without Him. The food is there!

On to the pursuit!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heb 12

12:11. Somewhere along the line you've had similar experiences to apply to what we've been reading in Hebrews. Let me tell you a couple of mine.

Who hasn't, in a math class, trying to read a chapter of a math book, wanted to skip to the problems?

Second, when I was learning repelling, there was a learning session back in camp, and a learning session on the site, before we attempted to each try it. In the learning sessions, it all seemed so theoretical, and everybody (maybe) was having a hard time concentrating. We wanted to get into the practical stuff.

Same with Hebrews here. There has been all kinds of theoretical stuff about comparing ceremonies with Jesus, and this and that line of priests and what had to be repeated and what didn't. All kinds of stuff hard to concentrate on when you want to just get to the practical part, what I'm supposed to do.

In my repelling experience, so I got up there on the mountain, waited for them to stop talking, took it all in, belay on, on belay, and all that -- and promptly landed on my rear, the very thing they just finished guaranteeing would NOT happen if we followed what they said.

But Hebrews is gonna do the same thing to people who "skip" to the practical part, as they do sometimes in Romans, to get to the "good stuff," what we get to be doing.

However, Hebrews has another trick up its sleeve besides the technique of Romans, to do the training first. (Paul, in Romans, finishes the (more) theoretical part, and then commences in 12:1 with "Therefore...".)

Sneaky Hebrews starts weaving the practical stuff in slowly, a little at a time. And then, he refers back to the theoretical stuff right in the middle of the practical stuff.

In 12:3 he sneaks in a veiled reference to EVERYTHING he's said so far, in the two little words "consider Him."

The writer's whole practical concern is for his readers that they won't "grow weary and lose heart." Instead of barking "STOP IT" he writes chapters and chapters of foundational stuff, points out some pitfalls, gives them the foundation, and starts talking more and more practically about faith in chapter 11. So we're comfortably settled in to get our work done -- and he sneaks in his theory again in 12:3! "Consider Him!"

He sticks you with the summary of his theory right there in the practical part, where you weren't expecting it.

Might work.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ps 111

111:10. There's a difference between a "grunt," which is a not-so-great name for a worker at the bottom of the chain somewhere, doing "grunt work," and the highly trained specialist doing the work only a few can. Thinking about this Psalm is a chance to take a breather and use it to talk about that kind of thing.

Number one, it's "only" a Psalm: but the Psalms do the grunt work for most people who read the Bible, the grunt work of showing just how people express their own garden variety feelings -- fears, hopes, etc., to God.

The first thing to notice is that this Psalm is part of the Bible (and the One Year Bible schedule we're following in the blog) too, part of the older part of the Bible, before all the controversies of Christian doctrine within and outside of Protestantism even existed. Therefore, guess what -- work can get done that's not specialist work, that doesn't have anything to do with this New Testament verse and what it means, versus what somebody else reading it thinks it means, which is exhausting, however necessary. If the New Testament is like livin' in New York, a Psalm like this reminds you of a national park out west.

"splendor and majesty is His work" (111:3). That sure does sound like a national park out west, or somewhere.

"He has made His wonders a memorial" (111:4). None of this dwelling on the fact that the stars don't care that you exist. The makers of the memorial, not the memorial itself, are the ones who want something remembered. If the stars are actually a creation, then there are possibilities that a creator cares you exist enough to notice some memorials. It depends on how good -- in both senses -- the possible creator is. And how good the memorials are. In nature, there are some very memorable parts.

So Psalm 111 comes from a time in which there was no New Testament, very few if any copies of sacred writings which hardly anybody knew about. What is around for this writer to talk about? Well, this writer is one who writes that there's a compassionate God who makes a covenant that He will remember forever. As we get older, the claim to remember for things for a long time seems impressive. To remember something forever -- that's a pretty staggering claim.

Especially if it includes some kind of gifting for me. That seems to have inspired the writer to start writing, back there in verse 1. We can be somewhat self-centered, wanting to write things down, but not actually getting it done, until it maybe includes us somehow ...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Heb 11

11:1-4. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, then what does verse 4 mean? There are some possibilities to sort out.

By faith, the men of old obtained a testimony, verse 2. Abel is the first "men of old" example. Faith ... and the testimony they obtained. Two things. Let's look at the Abel example of these two things, plus whatever else it says.

Abel's sacrifice was offered to God by faith. Abel's sacrifice was something through which Abel obtained a testimony. That's three things: the testimony, the sacrifice, and the faith. What kind of testimony? That he was righteous. Who testified? God. What did God testify about? Abel's gifts ... and what did the testimony say? that Abel was righteous.

Abel obtained that testimony: that is, he was not only the beneficiary of it, but got the benefit of it.

Abel offered his sacrifice, his gifts, by faith. Adding the point of verse 2, although it was through the sacrifice that Abel obtained a testimony from God that he was righteous, he offered his sacrifice by faith.

Since this sentence directly compares one sacrifice to another, and calls one better than the other, we have warrant to do so ourselves, and follow along with why one sacrifice was better. Also, Genesis 4 itself makes a comparison. Why was Abel's sacrifice better than Cain's?

It is faith (the assurance of things hoped for ...) -- by that, that Abel offers a better sacrifice, and that leads to the rest. Therefore faith stands at the head of the whole sequence in time. Faith leads to Abel offering a sacrifice; that leads to God testifying about that; that leads to the testimony that Abel is righteous; that leads to Abel obtaining that testimony from God.

That's the time sequence. The logical sequence, "because," is the reverse. Abel obtains the testimony that he is righteous, because he obtains it from God, because God testifies about his gifts, because Abel's gifts were a better sacrifice, because Abel offered them by faith, because he offered them by the assurance of things hoped for / the evidence of things unseen.

So the whole thing begins with Abel's faith. That's why it's in this position. Faith is how Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain.

It's a microcosm of how the work of a single day -- two very different people, although brothers, putting something supposedly together for God -- look so similar on the outside ... and one is a better sacrifice than the other, and brings back something to the giver, and why.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heb 10

10:26. BAGD says that "no sacrifice for sins remains" equals "no sacrifice for sins can be made" -- this accords well with the same use of the word, same TVM, "remains," there in Heb 4:6, where a future is being discussed. If we sin willfully as Christians, there is no sacrifice for sins that can be made in the future. There are no more sacrifices for sin coming down the pipe; cf. 9:28.

Thinking about Ps 95 in Hebrews 4, and seeing the phrase "since it remains for some to enter it" there in verse 6, the idea there is that Hebrews is explaining what 95:7-11 is talking about concerning God's rest.

Back in Heb 3:19, the exodus generation failing to enter Canaan is explained. Then Hebrews explains further about the rest from the fact that 95:7 addresses the readers of that psalm, long after Joshua (4:8), calling that time a "today." David "fixes a certain day, 'Today (4:7)'," the time of David's hearers. Hebrews explains that if Joshua had given them rest, David would not have spoken like that. The very fact that David addresses his hearers with a "today" makes the promise of rest apply to David's hearers, and by extension to the present hearers (4:3,9-11).

Hebrews then states that this "Sabbath rest" still remains "for the people of God." (4:9). Here is again the use of "remains" to refer to some future event in the plan of God. In 10:26 there is no sacrifice for sin that remains as a future event in the plan of God. It is not that sacrifices for sin that have already come about -- in particular, Christ's final sacrifice -- will be undone for certain people -- that would be an unfortunate ad hoc, an idea shoe-horned into the verse -- but that what he has been saying all along is continuing to be important for the readers -- the sacrifice for sin is Christ, since, among all the other reasons for Christ's excellence, also this reason exists too, that no sacrifice for sin remains to come in the future.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heb 9

9:28. This chapter emphasizes the importance of the blood of Christ, Christ's "sacrifice of Himself" (9:26), and its finality. To post about it is a privelege far beyond what I deserve to do. I ask that if you're reading this, perhaps rather than doing that, to re-read this chapter, Hebrews 9. Thank you God for this explanation of the greatness of Christ's sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ez 18

18:32. It's interesting that "the house of Israel" (18:29) complains about something in the teaching of this chapter (18:25), in particular, the case of the righteous man who "turns away from his righteousness" (18:24), who, God says through Ezekiel, "will die." Why so? is one question, and how so, another, and for what, a third.

Why so, for the sins committed by turning away from it. Plus one, including one, in particular one, that stems from turning away from righteousness: "treachery" (18:24).

Perhaps the house of Israel imagines two piles, two sets, one of their righteous deeds, and another, of sins committed, and says that God's way is not right because the first pile is ignored ("will not be remembered," 24) when the righteous man "turns away from his righteousness." Perhaps they think it should be balanced somehow, the sets weighed comparatively. Ha! Not so. Not only are they not summable together like an accountant's credits and debits, but it is treachery to sin.

The treachery is to turn from the good. The relationship between righteousness and life is generative: when there is righteousness, it is not alone, having no effect. It brings life. Therefore to turn from righteousness is also to turn from the life which it brings. That's treachery. That's unplugging from a "live" source, unplugging the life support, turning away from life as well as from righteousness. Sin doesn't subtract from righteousness, it ruins it.

If that is true, that we cannot mix sin and righteousness like a sum of positive and negative numbers, then that answers the complaint. How so, then, is it true that the soul who sins dies? The soul who sins dies in the same way that the soul who turns from all his sins lives. The relationship between righteousness and life is generative. Life ensues from that. There is only one thing that righteousness brings, whenever it occurs: life! whatever point it occurs notwithstanding.

Again the complaint (18:29), this time perhaps about this side of the coin. Isn't it unfair that a person's transgressions in this case "will not be remembered" (18:22)? Again, the desire for a totaling might be behind the house of Israel's complaint. In this case, what is complained against is how turning from wickedness saves the life. They wanted to count the wickedness against the turning from wickedness, as if wickedness could veto the life.

We don't get to keep our former righteousness to balance to current sins. We aren't forced to keep our former sins as if they veto today's righteousness and life. That's quite an invitation, especially in light of such complaining.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ez 16

16:44ff. It's interesting that the RSV/ESV/NIV start a new paragraph at 16:59, not 16:60, and not just for pedantic reasons. God's dealings with the nation in this chapter are famous for their uniqueness and difficulty of categorization: what "everlasting" covenant, again, is coming (16:60)? For what reason(s)? How, again, will the nation fare under it (61-63)? What is this relationship between being confounded and the expressly stated act of God, "when I [!] atone for you for all that you have done" (ESV), or "when I forgive you [!] all that you have done" (RSV), (16:63)? This is very characteristic of Ezekiel, but very difficult to spot in other parts of the whole Bible: usually, complete forgiveness is not followed by the result that they never open their mouths again because of their shame, as it is in Ezekiel 16:63.

This combination is not just a chance result of a translation of a phrase or two. The whole idea of a restoration by God, combined with putting others in the relative right because of the comparatively greater record of wickedness of the people being restored, boggles the mind. How is it that the nation of Judah, as the nation being addressed by Ezekiel, as a group which God Himself pointedly is restoring Himself (16:53), has two sisters, corrupt, but less corrupt than she has been (16:46-47) as co-objects of restoration along with itself (16:53)? That in fact consoles these "sisters"! The nation must take these two in (16:61), so that it will remember, and be ashamed, and never open its mouth anymore! Is this like any description of a future new covenant you have ever heard of elsewhere?

This description of a covenant being made by God is similar to a section in chapter 36, which many Christians like to cherry-pick for 36:25-27, but should know better. You can't stop at 36:27, you have to go on to 36:28ff -- which breaks the spell, and Christians must see that vv. 25-27 are not for them to cherry-pick. In 36:31 there is that same restoration combined with remembrance and self-loathing we notice in this chapter, chapter 16. Let's not forget to whom both these chapters are addressed (36:32; 16:2), and regardless of the timing of these restorations and who Jerusalem and her sisters "are," let's all marvel at the common stated outcome of these chapters (16:62; 36:38): they will "know that I am the LORD."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Heb 7

7:25. We know that the writer is arguing for the greatness of this "change in the priesthood" (7:12). Heb 7:18-19 talks about the changeover between "the former commandment" and "the better hope."

"He continues forever ... consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost" (7:24). And this was not true of the former system. Its priests died.

What are the implications of Christ living forever? Less for us, if it is our death that ends all our relationships and our existence. However, this is not the perspective here: Christ's ability to save to the uttermost, because He continues forever, is stated. If someone says "that just means to the uttermost of our lives," what is that? Is that a time reference, or not?

Assume first of all that it's not a time reference. To save to the uttermost would then possibly mean "in every type of circumstance throughout life, until death." That implies, by restricting its domain of discourse in such a way, that Christ can rescue us from everything -- until we die.

How is that "a better hope" than the human being has who is unhelped by Christ the Priest? Isn't everyone, including every unbeliever, saved from dying until he or she dies? That is kind of a tautology.

If that were all there was to it, then the reason the writer gives for why Christ is able to "save to the uttermost" doesn't make much sense. It's two reasons: 1) He always lives; 2) He always lives to make intercession for "those who draw near to God through him." That's a time reference.

The geneology-based priests of Aaron, as long as they lived, made intercession for those who lived during their lifetimes. Therefore under the Old Covenant there was always a priest available to intercede. But there wasn't the same priest over all time. Christ continues forever.

Remember one of the things that the writer claims Christ has accomplished: having tasted death, to destroy the one who has the power of death, 2:14, delivering those "in subject to lifelong slavery" through "fear of death." (2:14).

There are those, soldiers and warriors for example, who are trained to not fear death. Countless stories of their courage show that they in fact do not fear death. This is slightly (!) different than the description of Christ in 2:14. There, it is a deliverance of those who, whether they fear death or not, were subject to lifelong slavery through the fear of it. Unfortunately, banishing the fear of it once, doesn't mean it's automatically and forever gone.

Soldiers sometimes call the necessity of re-training a "re-qual." The skills, both mental and physical, are subject to the "re-qual," the re-qualifying tests and training. In the same way, the Old Covenant needed to repeat things "daily" (7:27). The writer constantly brings out the necessity under the Old Covenant do things repeatedly, yet it never made anything perfect. But Christ "has been made perfect forever." No re-qual applies to Christ's work -- and he remains alive to intercede for us.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Heb 6

6:20. Calvin makes a good point at the beginning of his comment on the chapter, in saying "they then act most unreasonably who remain in the first elements, for they propose to themselves no end, as though a builder spent all his labor on the foundation, and neglected to build up the house."

How many of us by illustration have books that we've started, should have finished, but didn't or haven't until now? Books. Tasks. Careers. Family matters. It also applies in matters of salvation -- not its foundation, but going forward from the foundation.

Here is even a place in which the common practice of younger Christians is appropriate in mocking those "who remain in the first elements." Didn't the Lord also explicitly mention the mockery of those not finishing their tower, in Lk 14:29-30? How appropriate this is, in view of the letter to the Hebrews' purpose, for exhorting the hearers to not go back to "first principles," in particular, the Old Covenant. Calvin says "the foundation is laid for the sake of what is built on it."

We can develop an understanding of the place of 6:4ff. in this context as well. The author's concern is to "go on to maturity." (6:1). "And this we will do if God permits." (6:3). Then, as a final codacil to this task, (not as the main doctrine of salvation, as some would have it), before he starts with the things pertaining to going on to maturity, the writer of Hebrews brings up a strategy that doesn't work. Why? Perhaps there is yet another reason he hasn't explained why some want to go back to the foundations he mentions in 6:1. There may be a well-meaning attempt to re-gather those who have fallen away, by starting at the beginning again with them. The author does a very short recap of why this fails.

In short, if someone is "crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm...," (6:6), they are not going to be helped by the "foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God," lesson one, again. They have gotten to farther in the book and harmed themselves by rejecting not only the book, but their own later experience. They need not chapter one, water, but their weeds to be burned.

A well-meaning attempt (by going back to what all agreed upon before, and starting over with the Old Covenant beginnings), in order to regather those who are exposing Christ to open shame, the writer says is impossible. So he goes on. So consider that another reason to move on to maturity -- even for the sake of the possible deserters -- going back to first principles doesn't help.

What does the writer of Hebrews says helps! Surprise, the "unchangeable character of God's purpose." (6:17) This is good to remember in all cases: "the soul," here (not "some souls," as in a "you're soul is out, mine's in..." -- the writer is not separating wheat from tares here!), "the soul," as such, has something to hold onto, not just itself or the Old Covenant temporariness. And as we know, if the anchor of the soul were only a weight inside of us, whether we're far away, or close, we would really sink. But it's outside us.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ez 9

9:9. This is a paradigm verse for handling some of the current popular atheisms in the culture. Before we dismiss the idea as unfair, to criticize someone's atheism as borne along by sin, let's look at the passage.

We all are aware, or can easily become aware, of how insurgencies and counter-measures proceed and escalate: one act is said to be justified as a response to some other recent act, and it seems like so long ago that it originally started, that it is impossible to assign blame to a beginning.

That's the kind of "explanation" offered here for the actions of the house of Israel and Judah. First point: the Lord did this and that in the past. Second point: the Lord doesn't see what we're doing anymore.

This is not the only form of atheism, but this form of it, where its assertions are both an excuse ("the Lord does not see") and an attempt to explain the cause ("the Lord has forsaken the land") -- are not self-consistent! If the Lord has forsaken the land, it is because He saw what they were doing! Indeed, that's one of the points of Ezekiel in today's One Year Bible chapters. Ezekiel is NOT pointing out what they are doing TO God, God is pointing it all out TO Ezekiel!

C.S. Lewis describes a state in his atheistic days when he was both asserting that God did not exist, simultaneously with being angry for God not existing. This, we notice, is the Ez 9:9 thing too.

9:4 says what people in the meantime can do about it. Groaning gets noticed, by God at least. People wonder what good groaning can do, but sighing and groaning (9:4) is an honest response to it, far more honest than some other forms of response, such as, as perpetrators try and do sometimes, making empty promises, or making excuses.

And so the etiology of a kind of atheism is showing here, we back in the day, about 590 B.C. The doing of destructive stuff, coupled with saying that God has left the building, coupled with saying God doesn't see it. Those kinds of patterns have been around while.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Heb 4

4:10. Sometimes the newer translations help solve an exegetical concern -- sometimes not. In this verse, with all the substitutution (RSV/ESV/NIV) of proper noun or capitalized pronoun compared to the older (AV/RV/ASV) translations, I think we might have gone retrograde. The question is if 4:10 is a sabbath rest, or just another word for heaven.

"It all starts" with a common ad hoc, the presupposition that everything about what happens to people "must be" about their going to heaven or hell, and laying that down onto Old Testament stories. For example, it is pure presupposition -- and incorrect -- to think that whoever did not enter the promised land with Joshua due to disobedience was also going to be going to hell! That is incorrect (as well as ad hoc), since of course Moses himself did not enter due to disobedience. It's a good idea to read this chapter remembering that Moses did not enter the promised land, due to disobedience.

Although 4:3 is very clear that we who have believed enter ("do enter," AV/RV/ASV) that rest, the rest hearkens back to 3:18 and 19, where the OT people are spoken of, by God Himself, that they would not enter His rest, in the Psalm. Again, this warning should not be taken to be about heaven and hell, due to the counter example of Moses, if for no other reason.

There is a rest that the OT generation in the wilderness did not enter, but others do, and others might not. Heb 4 elaborates on it.

From 4:1-3 we know that the promise of entering his [God's] rest still stands, and that "we who have believed" enter that rest. Since the readers are not of the time of Joshua, we are not talking about entering the land with Joshua here! And we might be about to think of it as being heaven, until the writer brings up something very extraneous to that thought: "although his [God's] works were finished from the foundation of the world." at the end of verse 3. The prospect comes in that we are talking about the rest that God rested when he finished his work of creation.

The rest that the wilderness generation did not enter was not just Canaan, but the rest of "another day" (4:8). Just as the wilderness generation did not enter Canaan because of disobedience, God appoints another rest, speaks of it as different than that of Joshua's conquests (4:8), and speaks of it as remaining yet, for the people of God.

Now verse 10. Without the capitalization, you might just see that it is the rest of having finished your own course of what God has wanted for you to do, the set of works that God has put aside for you! 4:10 (RV) says "For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his." Notice the lack of capitalization, and the resultant parallelism. If you've entered your rest, you've rested from your own works, just as God rested from His own. That is what we should be diligent to enter: to finish the course of the good works that God has called us to do.