Psalm 23: My Translation


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For my Hebrew class last year, I was asked to write up a super literal translation of Psalm 23 (below), and then build off of that to create a much more dynamic, creative, contemporary translation. This was the result.

psalm23

A Psalm in the spirit of David.

The LORD is tending to me
I want for nothing
He has me lie down in pastures of fresh, new grass
Beside the waters of rest
He gently guides me
He brings the life back to my soul
He leads me into the grooves of life well-lived because of who he is.

And yet—
Though I truly die in the depth of darkness,
there is no evil that I fear,

You are truly there with me
Your staff and your support: they comfort me
You host before my face a table opposite all that stands against me.
You clean me with oil over top of my head.

Overflowing abundance is my cup.

Surely, goodness and steadfast faithfulness will chase me down
for the whole of my life’s days

This will be my story:
I will return into the dwelling place of the Lord and stay—
for lifetimes upon lifetimes.

______________________________________

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A Sermon I Got to Preach on Isaiah 61 [VIDEO]


Believe it or not, I don’t really have much experience at all in preaching. Yeah, I’ve spoken and “preached” at some things, but I’ve still never offered the preached proclamation at a Sunday worship service. It’s an area I’ve wanted to grow in for a while.

To that end, I took a preaching class last semester for my seminary program. It was a powerful course that changed my whole relationship to both the Bible and the act of preaching. Each of us wrote and presented a sermon on an assigned text. The sermons were recorded, and I’m offering mine here today. It opens with some brief words on the context I had in mind when preparing this.

I hope it meets you and speaks to you, wherever you are. The video is above, the text and my manuscript are below. You can also download files for both the audio or the manuscript.

Special thanks also to an old friend, J. Chord Barnes of ASERWorks Media, for fixing some audio issues in the original recording and remastering it for me. Check him out at the link above. Continue reading

Faith & Grace Alone: Job & the New Perspective on Paul| Job 9


job-silohette

How then can I answer him,
choosing my words with him?
Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him;
I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
Job 9.14-15

Job says he is innocent, but he says he still needs mercy. What does this mean? Perhaps he does see not people in the simplistic way that we often do–or at least as simplistic as we see the ancient Israelites.

Just like in the Christian scheme, I’m starting to think that the ancient Israelites also thought that people were considered righteous only on account of graciously being in covenant with God. All the sacrifices, festivals, laws, etc. were more as signs that they were the people of God; they were not how people became part of that group in the first place. In other words, the sacrifices and laws were outward displays that they were fully righteous before God’s eyes; they weren’t the ways that they “earned” righteousness or forgiveness.
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In a sense, God CAN’T favor the righteous| Job 9.1-4


Then Job answered:

“Indeed I know that this is so;
but how can a mortal be just before God?
If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—
Job 9.1-4

It seems here that Job is no longer clinging to his earlier idea that he is indeed righteous and pure. Instead, he is admitting that his friend is correct: he is sinful and has done wrong things. But, he also points out that God is not a God that would insist that every single little sin and wrong-doing be brought to mind and confessed before relating favorably towards someone.

Job is saying that people are too sinful for God to structure the world in such a way that the righteous are related to in one way and the wicked in another, because everyone belongs fully in that latter camp. There can only be two sets of rules if there are two teams playing the game.

He is in effect saying what Paul says in Romans 3, that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, therefore there is no distinction among people. Ironically, then, Job’s defense here is not necessarily the he is righteous, but rather that he is far too messed up for his friends’ version of reality to be right.

Also of note, the rest of this chapter is more or less Job proclaiming the very things that God uses to rebuke him at the end of the book. Job really does seem to know this stuff.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Job’s Friends are Right! Job’s Friends are Wrong.| Job 8.5-7,20-22


If you will seek God
and make supplication to the Almighty,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore to you your rightful place.
Though your beginning was small,
your latter days will be very great.
Job 8:5-7

We mock Job’s friends, but what this guy says here is exactly what happens at the end of the book! Its practical, prophetic, and foreshadowing the end. We need to cut these guys a break.

“See, God will not reject a blameless person,
nor take the hand of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouts of joy.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
Job 8.20-22

Okay, though I defended this guy earlier, this here is BS.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God, Social Justice, & Social Welfare | Job 5.15-16


But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth,
from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.

Job 5:15–16

I want to take this to all of my conservative friends. They are right that much of the life circumstances of the poor are often from the “sword” coming from their own mouth. But we also see here that their lot is not only attributed to “the sword of their mouth”, but also “the hand of the mighty”. And either way, regardless of the cause of their situation (and its persistence), the people of God are called to follow God’s lead in a commitment to pursue their freedom from these types of bondage–both within them and without. The good news is that this not only gives them hope, but it also shuts the mouth of injustice itself.

And this doesn’t seem to just be in individual ways, but even in systemic ones. Does it not follow, then, that Christian can (should?) in good conscience see their role as political beings as a means by which to accomplish these systemic ends? Perhaps it’s not just for individual Christians and Churches to “serve the poor”, but Christians utilizing political capital to mobilize government resources to follow God’s lead? Just asking.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Fragments from a speech by Job| Selections of Job 6 & 7


For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
my spirit drinks their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Job 6.4

What a beautiful, yet tragic series of lines.

“Teach me, and I will be silent;
make me understand how I have gone wrong.
How forceful are honest words!
But your reproof, what does it reprove?
Job 6.24-25

It must not be easy to spend this time of sadness and pain, and also ask for teaching. Yes, he is asking for answers to the wrong questions. But it seems he’s still willing and wanting to listen.

“Remember that my life is a breath;
my eye will never again see good.
The eye that beholds me will see me no more;
while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone.
As the cloud fades and vanishes,
so those who go down to Sheol do not come up;
they return no more to their houses,
nor do their places know them any more.
Job 7.7-10

Oh, if only he could know about Jesus. On another note, I wonder how this connects to his “my redeemer lives” section later on.

What are human beings, that you make so much of them,
that you set your mind on them,
visit them every morning,
test them every moment?
Job 7.7-17-18

Well that’s interesting. Almost the same lines appear in Psalm 8, except there they are words of praise and worship of God. but here, they seem more like words of accusation, complaint and lament against God.

Why do you not pardon my transgression
and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
you will seek me, but I shall not be.”
Job 7.7-17-18

But resurrection!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Job, God, & Satan (Can I get some help from the scholar’s out there?)| Job 1.6-7


One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Job 1:6-7

Anyone out there know how the ancient Israelites would have received these words? I see no other parallel in the OT to something similar to this (maybe the Psalms about God’s combat with the other gods?). I find it so confusing.

The one thing I am confident of, though, is that the conflating that Christians often do with this stuff is out of line. The way that (especially Evangelicals) use these verses to set up a systematic theology of “Satan” is absurd and does damage to the texts. Also, there is no indication that this is the same entity that is the serpent in the garden, nor the “Morning Light”, nor the NT Beelzebul, nor the beast of Revelation. Heck, there’s no clear connection between this particular “Satan” and the NT “Satan”.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Who God is When We’ve Forgotten Who He is | Exodus 3.13-15


But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.

Exodus 3.13-15

Oh this could be for us. The people had been so far from there God, that they may have even the forgotten his name. I feel like this is a similar time to where we are now, with people needing to be told the name of God and reminded who he is and what he does.

God says that this is his name for every generation. Even now? Could this somehow be a model for how Christians today are to live in this world where people have forgotten the name and identity of God? What if we lived as if God is not “The One Who Must be Defended”, “The One Who Judges & Condemns”, “The One Whose Way of Living Must Be Forced Upon Societies”, “The One Who Must Be Pleased”, “The One Who Accepts All”, or even “The One Who Saves Us”.

How would our lives look if we read this Exodus passage, saw this name, title, and covenantal nature and lived embracing this name and identity: The One Who Simply Is, and Is Ours.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Our infinitely compassionate (and delegating) God | Exodus 3.7-8


Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey….
Exodus 3.7-8

Notice the verbs hear that God uses to describe how he relates to his people. He observes, hears, knows, and comes down. How intimate, tender, and powerful. Also, it’s a little funny that he says that he has come down to save if his people right as he’s commissioning Moses to do it for him.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Let’s just finish Esther already (On Purim & History) | Esther 9 & 10


Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur—that is “the lot”—to crush and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that the wicked plot that he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore these days are called Purim, from the word Pur. Thus because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews established and accepted as a custom for themselves and their descendants and all who joined them, that without fail they would continue to observe these two days every year, as it was written and at the time appointed. These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every family, province, and city; and these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.
Esther 9.24-28

Historically, I wonder: Is this it? Is this the reason for this story? As I said before, it genuinely doesn’t look like this story is historical, so it must have served some other purpose in the community. I wonder if the Jews were coming back from exile and had this random festival named after the plural of “lots”, and so they needed to write a story about how it came about. But if so, how do you go from the word “lots” to all of this story? Quite the stretch. So…what’s the historical core? This one’s tough.

King Ahasuerus laid tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. All the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was powerful among the Jews and popular with his many kindred, for he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his descendants.

Esther 10

So… Mordechai is the hero here? I guess it could make sense, but he plays such a bit part in the story. He’s consequential, sure; he’s just not around that much, is all. This seems more like the mythologizing of a popular leader in the Jewish diaspora.

And lastly, one last “Christian” reading of this story. If we can analogize this a little, Mordechai “intercedes” for God’s people, for their good and for their descendants. And they’re enemies (like death and sin for us) are comprehensively and almost over-the-top-ly destroyed. And God is faithful to accomplish all of this, even when he seems absent. With this book, that’s the best I can do. I genuinely don’t like this story.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God & Job | Job 2.11-13


Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Job 2.11-13

We speak so harshly and sarcastically about these friends. But they really are amazing. And though their view is flawed, they represent the views on suffering that are still most common today. And they are sincerely felt and sincerely held. They are genuinely offering Job what they genuinely feel is the issue. They are being human. But right here, this is amazing. Who of us would do the same thing? As I’ve continued through the book, I’m seeing that we’ve greatly oversimplified and wrongly characterized the “advice” they give Job. Hopefully, in the days to come, we can explore this more through #Marginalia.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Some emotional outbursts at Esther. I don’t like this book. | Esther 9


Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain power over them, but which had been changed to a day when the Jews would gain power over their foes, the Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who had sought their ruin; and no one could withstand them, because the fear of them had fallen upon all peoples. All the officials of the provinces, the satraps and the governors, and the royal officials were supporting the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them. For Mordecai was powerful in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces as the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering, and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred people. They killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews; but they did not touch the plunder.
Esther 9.1-10

What on earth? No gonna lie, this is maybe the first real deep reading I’ve given to Esther. I never internalized that this part was here. This is always skipped in popular retellings of this story. And I can see why. What was the point of this stuff? Save the Jews just to kill an even greater number of people? I can see why this book was so despised by many Jews. Once again, Esther is no model to follow after. I genuinely have no idea why this book is in the Bible. What little research I’ve done has said that there’s no evidence that this meant to be taken historically, so what purpose would this book have played in the community? Anti-imperialist wish fulfillment? A giant cathartic “what if?”

That very day the number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king.The king said to Queen Esther, “In the citadel of Susa the Jews have killed five hundred people and also the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict, and let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” So the king commanded this to be done; a decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed three hundred persons in Susa; but they did not touch the plunder.

Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and gained relief from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them; but they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness.

Esther 9.11-17

What? Oh, and 75,000 people killed? Yeah right. This is a despicable book.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Proof that God’s Right? When He Is. | Exodus 3.11-12


But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
Exodus 3.11-12

Haha. God pretty much says, “this will be the sign that I am right. When everything I’m saying ends up happening”. And so Moses’ assurance in the moment is a promise for the future.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

History, Theology, & Wrestling with God | Genesis 32.24-32


Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
Genesis 32:24-32

Some Historical thoughts: Where the heck did this story come from?  It’s certainly looks like a later insertion into the story (it has no connection whatsoever to the surrounding verses and is never mentioned again in the OT), but where did it come from? That last verse implies it may be simply to explain the dietary habits of Israelites that arose in some other way. But really, why appeal to such an odd, powerful, and incredibly profound story for such a simple message.

Some Theological thoughts: Holy crap, what a concentrated text of such meaning. Jacob “wrestles” with God, and it’s in the midst of his greatest stress and travail. It testifies to us how our greatest struggles in life are often wrestlings with God himself. We get a new name, we bear life-long scars, and it affects our ancestors for years to come. But we are blessed, and we know God all the more deeply. May we wrestle with God.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.