my books: friends & counselors #7

George Knight, in his comments on Leviticus 4.13-5.13 – which happens to be a portion of our reading today in the IMMERSE Bible reading project at MoSt Church – makes the following, moving observation on God and sin:

To a man, an inadvertent sin may appear to be quite unimportant. But God actually ‘smells’ an odor of it in his nostrils, that is to say, it comes right up into the very experience of his own person and affects him. Human sin reaches God, touches him, it hurts him, it moves him. But what happens is that it moves him to be deeply compassionate, and so God is ready to forgive man despite man’s insolent attack upon the revelation of his will and loving purpose.

Leviticus by George A.F. Knight (Westminster Press, 1981); p.34

my books: friends & counselors: #4

It is just so bloody! Why should I read it?

That, or the equivalent, is one of the most frequent comments I encounter when folks tell me why they rarely, if ever, read much of anything in the Bible from Genesis through Malachi.

Well, J. Gerald Janzen gives us insightful and practical answer in his commentary on Exodus 17.8-16 (the scene where Aaron and Hur hold up Moses’ arms as Israel and Amalek do battle at Rephidim):

… human history is a drama moved not only by love but by hate, not only by cooperation but also by conflict. It is a drama whose plot is a thick weave of peoples loves and their wars. The passages of the Bible that portray war at least make contact with the dark strands in our emotions and motivations. The way to deal with them, I suggest, is to stay with the story and to see what happens to the themes, motifs, images, and scenarios that relate to Yahweh as warrior (Exod. 15.3) as we move through the biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation.

What we find is a progressive transformation of these images, in such a way that the very theme of Yahweh as warrior who vanquishes the enemy becomes the theme of God who in Christ conquers the world (John 16.33), not with the sword, but simply by bearing witness to the truth as he is crucified by this world’s political and military powers (John 18.33-38).

One stage along the path of this transformation is marked in Isaiah 51-53, where the exiles invoke the old ‘arm of Lord’ to overcome their enemies with the sword (Isa. 51.9-11), and where the arm of Yahweh that is raised in response to this invocation is the suffering servant (Isa. 53.1-9) whose victory leads him to share the spoils of victory with the very “great” and “many” who were responsible for his death (Isa. 53.10-12).

… if we stay with the story and follow it in its transformations, perhaps our own tangled motivations and emotions, and resolves can undergo a steady transformation until we find ourselves in the place where the New Testament would leave us: Jesus’ warfare against untruth and evil, a warfare he conducts simply by his witness to the truth.

Exodus by J. Gerald Janzen (Westminster John Knox Press, 1997); pp.123-124.

links to 4 items worth your time

1. Waiting for God to Act

“We have been seduced by an idolatry that deceives us into thinking that God is mostly found in the big and loud, when in fact, God is almost never found in the big and loud. The ways of God are predominantly small and quiet. The ways of God are about as loud as seed falling on the ground or bread rising in an oven. The ways of God are almost never found in the shouts of the crowd; the ways of God are more often found in trickling tears and whispered prayers. We want God to do a big thing, while God is planning to do a small thing. We are impressed by the big and loud. God is not. We are in a hurry. God is not. We want God to act fast, but Godspeed is almost always slow.

“So we are waiting for God to act, but I would suggest that we are not so much waiting for God to act as we are waiting to become contemplative enough to discern what God is doing.”

2. A Nativity for Our Time

“What sorts of things should Christians really be upset by at Christmas?”

3. The Christus Victor View of the Atonement [essential reading]

“… the Christus Victor perspective inspires disciples to live counter-cultural lives that are persistently on-guard against the demonically seductive pull of nationalism, patriotism, culturally endorsed violence, greed, racism and a host of other structural evils that are part of the spiritually polluted air we all breath.”

4. 2,000-year-old ‘Pilate’ ring just might have belonged to notorious Jesus judge

“An intriguing 2,000-year-old copper alloy ring bearing the inscription ‘of Pilatus’ may be only the second artifact testifying to the historicity of the infamous Pontius Pilate. Unearthed 50 years ago, the ring was overlooked until recently, when it got a good scrub, and a second look. …

“While the name Pontius was common for Romans during the Second Temple, Pilate was not.”