One of the remarkable things about the Bible is it’s willingness to expose the weaknesses, errors, and sins of its major characters. One of the especially endearing features of the Old Testament is its openness about its heroes flaws — and of the flaws and failures of the nation as a whole. This is a poor piece of propaganda for the nation — we see its sins and its errors and its flaws. It is not propaganda. It is not an apology for the nation at all. It is not a glorification of its heroes. We see them as deeply flawed. It is a glorification of God’s character and grace.
לֹא לָנוּ יְהוָה לֹא לָנוּ כִּי־לְשִׁמְךָ תֵּן כָּבוֹד עַל־חַסְדְּךָ עַל־אֲמִתֶּךָ
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” (NRSV)
Adam Clarke paraphrases the first part of this verse this way:
We take no merit to ourselves; as thine is the kingdom, and the power in that kingdom, so is thy glory.
In the Old Testament, even the official religion and ritual of the people comes under heavy criticism:
“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation — I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:10-17 NRSV) (more…)
כִּי אֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־גָדוֹל יְהוָה וַאֲדֹנֵינוּ מִכָּל־אֱלֹהִים
“For I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is above all gods.”
In this verse both the personal name of God (יְהוָה) Yahweh and the term “Lord” (אָדוֹן) adon appear. In the original language the words lie side by side: as if to emphasize that it is Yahweh and none other who is Lord above all other powers.
As I understand it, the word “worship” comes from the old English term worth-ship. Worship recognizes the worthiness and power of the God we know through Jesus Christ.
Worship acknowledges that I am not at the center of the universe: God is. Worship works against narcissistic self-absorption. It says I have a Creator. It says there is One who is greater than I am. It calls me into relationship with the One who is greater than I am. It calls me into the Presence of the One who is greater than all people — and all the powers of this world. (more…)
I don’t know where such ideas come from — but a moment of thought will dispel them. The great Bible characters did not have lives that were devoid of difficulties or setbacks or griefs or disappointments. If this did not happen with them, how can I reasonably expect it for myself? Jesus grieved over Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew setbacks and discouragements in his ministry. How can I suppose my life can be free from such things?
The path of the Lord is not easy, it is worthwhile. Those who choose to live as Christ has taught make a positive contribution to life — to their own life and to the lives of others. We move along a difficult path characterized by faith and love and hope. And, by doing so, we bring more faith and hope and love into the world. (more…)
יִשְׁלַח מִשָּׁמַיִם וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנִי חֵרֵף שֹׁאֲפִי סֶלָה יִשְׁלַח אֱלֹהִים חַסְדּוֹ וַאֲמִתּוֹ
“He will send from heaven and save me, he will put to shame those who trample on me [Selah] God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.” (NRSV)
• steadfast love חֶסֶד
• faithfulness אֱמֶת
And, what can be said? There is a great depth of meaning here. These words are deep and beautiful because of the meaning they gain through their frequent use in the Scriptures. The nature of God’s deliverance may not be known in detail. It never is. But, we know how God acts. We know something of God’s character. “God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.” That’s all we need to know. (more…)
This is one of many of the Psalms that begins with a scribal note.
לַמְנַצֵּחַ אַל־תַּשְׁחֵת לְדָוִד מִכְתָּם בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי־שָׁאוּל בַּמְּעָרָה
To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
It’s hard to know what to think about the scribal notes at the beginning of the Psalms. I often ignore them. Our modern translations, which set them apart from the rest of the Psalm — printing them in italics or in smaller type — encourage this attitude. And, then, it’s also true that in the English (as distinguished from the Hebrew) text they are not actually numbered with the rest of the Psalm. In English, the scribal note at the beginning is labeled (if anything) verse 0. Easily ignored.
Because I read along in Hebrew (well, let’s not overstate this — I’m using an interlinear text), I often start reading the scribal note before I realize it. In Hebrew, it is verse 1.
And, while I usually skip these — and I don’t really know what to make of them for sure — I can still see three distinct stages in my attitude toward them. (more…)
In the simple, stock opening with which this letter begins, we already gain insight into Paul’s sense of calling and vocation. We see his conception of who he is, and what he knows his task in life to be.
As he turns to the next part of his greeting — again nothing unusual here at all — he expresses his view of who the Colossian Christians are.
τοῖς ἐν Κολοσσαῖς ἁγίοις καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν.
“…to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (NASB).
They are: “saints (who are) in Colossae” and “faithful brothers in Christ.” (more…)