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Jesu, Juva

Archive for July 2015

Anvil

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Sire, it belongs, in truth, to the church of God, in the name of which I address you, to suffer blows, not to strike them. But at the same time let it be your pleasure to remember that the Church is an anvil which has worn out many a hammer. — Theodore Beza to the King of Navarre in France (1561)

Written by Scott Moonen

July 17, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Quotations

Tithe

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After Abraham defeated the Shemite king Chedorlaomer, he brought a tithe to the priest-king Melchizedek, who served him a meal of bread and wine (Gen. 14).

Similarly, in a preliminary fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, the nations of the world brought their wealth to Joseph, who gave them life by providing them bread (Gen. 41:53-57). In addition to this, Joseph seems to have had a position of cupbearer-advisor to Pharaoh (Gen. 44), so that it could be said that Joseph had become both chief baker and cupbearer (Gen. 40), the man of both bread and wine.

Thus, weekly communion: week to week we bring tithes, offerings and tribute to our priest-king (1 Cor. 16:2), and we find that Jesus, the greater Melchizedek (Heb. 5-7) and “son of Joseph” (Luke 4:22, John 6:42), is more, not less, prodigal than the shadows and types that came before him:

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says Yahweh of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal. 3:10)

Written by Scott Moonen

July 13, 2015 at 6:24 am

Table

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One of the things that is happening in the Lord’s-day worship service is that the church is conducting spiritual warfare. We see this throughout the book of Revelation, where it is the church’s songs and prayers that call forth God’s powerful action. We see it, too, in that God uses even the singing of babies to silence his enemies (Ps. 8:2 taken together with Matt. 21:16). Jesus prepares a table for his church in the very presence of her enemies (Ps. 23).

Thus, weekly communion: for when is the church not surrounded by enemies, and she must always find a table and an overflowing cup there.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 12, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Banquet

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One of the aspects of the church’s Lord’s-day worship is that we gather as the spiritual army of God to assemble before Jesus our commander. It is a sort of dress review or dress parade before our commander and king, in which we also receive instructions and orders for the coming week.

In the Old Testament, this military review occurred three times a year (Ex. 23:17), on three of Israel’s feast days (Ex. 23:14). This made it equally a kind of military banquet with the commander.

Thus, weekly communion: our dress parade before the king is always accompanied with a banquet.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Tryst

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The church gathered is Jesus’s bride. One of the aspects of Lord’s-day worship is that Jesus holds tryst with his bride.

Seemingly every other page of the Bible has something to do with food. Food is the chief avenue for the consummation of fellowship; if we are what we eat, then when we eat together, we become more united. We have already seen Jesus’s desire to eat with his church. Ahashuerus prepares a feast for his people (Esther 1). Esther prepares feasts for Ahashuerus (Esther 5, 7). Joseph prepares a table for his brothers (Gen. 43). Jesus prepares breakfast for his disciples, then instructs them to feed his flock (John 21). Melchizedek prepares a meal (of bread and wine!) for Abraham (Gen. 14), and Abraham later prepares a meal for Jesus and two angels (Gen. 18). In spite of their differences, Jacob and Laban share a meal to seal their covenant (Gen. 31:54). Jesus prepares a table for us in the very presence of our enemies (Ps. 23). Solomon and his bride banquet with and feast upon one another. In a sense, Jesus eats us into his body (Rev. 3:16, also considering we are the loaves of Lev. 24 and 1 Cor. 10), and we eat Jesus (John 6).

Thus, weekly communion: every tryst has its morsels and wine (e.g., Esther 5, 7), and every reunion its repast. Jesus provides not only enough wine when the groom meets with the bride, but also the best wine (John 2).

See also: Famine.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Tribute

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As I have previously suggested, the Lord’s supper has much in connection to the tribute, or grain, offering. The priests in Israel offered bread and wine to God every morning and evening (Num. 28:1-9), and additional bread and wine every Sabbath (Num. 28:10). The priests ate portions of the bread (Lev. 2) but had no portion of the wine, which was poured out entirely (Lev. 10:9). And interestingly, the tribute offering, together with the frankincense that accompanied it, is the only offering described as a memorial. Likewise, Jesus calls the Lord’s supper a memorial (1 Cor. 11, often confusingly translated “remembrance”).

Clearly Jesus means us to draw connections between his supper and the daily offering of bread and wine. This is one of the many ways in which the worship of the church has become a sort of transfiguration of temple worship; for example, the church is the temple (1 Cor. 3), we offer a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13), and we draw near in worship (Heb. 10), which is sacrificial language. Likewise, as a kingdom of priests, we eat bread—and now drink wine!—together with God in his house.

Thus, weekly communion: if every priest offered memorial bread and wine every day that he stood in service in God’s house, how much more should we eat memorial bread and wine every day that we stand together as the house of God?

Written by Scott Moonen

July 11, 2015 at 2:06 pm

The man of lawlessness

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What follows are some reasons I think it is preferable or at least possible to think of the “man of lawlessness” of 2 Thessalonians 2 as being the Jewish high priest, priesthood, or additionally some power behind them such as Herod or the former high priest Ananias.

First, we should be alert to the fact that God operates covenantally, and that “judgment [begins] at the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). God is concerned with all sin, but is most concerned with faithful worship. This is operative in the pattern of what the Bible calls the “abomination of desolation.” Often interpreters connect this abomination with actions of invading Gentile nations. But everywhere that God threatens to—and actually does—depart from his house, leaving it “desolate,” it is the apostasy of his own people that is the precipitating factor. The pattern is this: God’s people practice abominations, God leaves his house desolate, and then it is left unprotected for Gentile armies to attack. So we should look to identify these abominations as activities on the part of God’s people. We see this pattern in Ezekiel 8-10 where it is the idolatry of Israel that causes God to leave his house desolate. We see it again in Matthew 21 when Jesus cleanses the temple and then leaves it desolate of his presence. We should be prepared again to see it when Jesus vindicates his name in AD 70, understanding that the Jewish and Judaizing persecution of the church serves as the primary antagonist, with Rome playing a secondary role.

Second, there was already an essential element of disobedience to God in the second temple high priesthood. God had declared in the restoration covenant that only Zadokite priests could come near to serve him (Ezek. 40:46). Beginning at least with Menelaus in 172 BC, the high priests were no longer Zadokite, not even under the Hasmoneans. Although the New Testament does not call attention to this, it is likely that this disobedience, which included the murder of the high priest and the buying and selling of the priesthood, was the abomination that left God’s house desolate so that Antiochus Epiphanes could later walk right in. There were continuing abuses of the high priesthood after Jesus.

Third, there are some subtle hints elsewhere concerning the one who “takes his seat in the temple of God.” Hebrews 10 stresses that every priest “stands daily at his service,” and that Jesus is the only priest who has “sat down,” by virtue of his permanent and final sacrifice. By contrast, Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for sitting in “Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2). Now, these are not all priests. And it is likely that this is speaking of their office of teaching and judging (as in Exodus 18:13), rather than a physical seat, and certainly not a seat in the temple. But it is a hint of an inappropriate “seatedness” on the part of the Jews, and the very context in which Jesus prophesies the final desolation of Jerusalem.

Fourth, very much of what is happening in the run-up to AD 70 is a sort of revival of Judaism, as the threat of Christianity catalyzes them, as the temple is completed and the last great Passover celebrated. This, I believe, also connects to 2 Thessalonians 2, in that the “false signs and wonders” were experienced by the Jews, and the “strong delusion” was a characteristically Jewish delusion: the thought that “God has blessed us with a great revival and will give us ultimate victory over the Romans and the Christians.” Again, it is the apostate house of God that is in focus, and the foremost representative of that house before God is the high priest.

Fifth, there are several senses in which we can identify the high priest as “proclaiming himself to be God.” First, in putting Jesus on trial and putting him to death, the Jews, and especially the priesthood, had exalted themselves over God and made themselves out to be the final arbiter, to be God. Second, in continuing to persecute Jesus’s body, the church, the Jews continued in this position. Third, in proclaiming “we have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15) but then revolting against Rome, the Jews revealed themselves to be aspiring to the same sort of idolatry of self-willed power exhibited by Rome.

Finally, we can understand the “one who restrains” the Jewish persecution of Christians as being the Roman rulers. Throughout the New Testament it is the Roman authorities who come to the aid of Christians over against Jewish persecution. It is only at the very end that Rome as well begins to turn upon the Christians, establishing the temporary unholy alliance of beasts (until Rome eventually devours Babylon-Jerusalem) that we see in Revelation.

James Jordan, to whom I am indebted for almost every single idea above, suggests that it is actually the church’s preaching that served as the restraint on lawlessness. Elsewhere Jordan suggests that the “mystery of lawlessness” is a sort of Girardian scapegoating mechanism, whereby the Jews were suppressing their own guilt (and ironically adding to it) by scapegoating Jesus and his church.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Days of the Lord

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We tend to speak of “day of the Lord” univocally, but Scripture uses it in a layered fashion: First, it can refer to Jesus’s weekly visitation of his people: “Lord’s day” and “day of the Lord” are essentially the same (e.g., Isa. 58:13). On the Lord’s day Jesus visits his church, walking among the lampstands (Rev. 1ff) and welcoming but also evaluating her. Second, it can refer to archetypal times when Jesus visits his people in judgment and vindication in a peculiar way, such as Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem (Isaiah 2) or Jesus’s destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (2 Thess. 2). Third, we can use it to refer to other times in history that fit this same pattern, when Jesus visits in judgment and vindication in a special way. Finally, we can use it in a sort of “capital letter” sense to refer to the final visitation of Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5) at “the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor. 15).

An interesting pattern to observe is how often the “day of the Lord” is connected to Jesus visiting his church. It is true that all nations will experience days of the Lord (Ezek. 30:3). Jesus is visiting to vindicate the faithful and to bring low his enemies, but judgment begins at the house of God. Apostate Israel is brought into exile. Apostate Jerusalem (the “Babylon” of Revelation, “where their Lord was crucified”—Rev. 11:8 together with 18:10ff) is destroyed. There is a special warning in this for the church, in that the day of the Lord will bring about destruction both without and within the church. We see this even in the weekly visitations as Jesus warns the lampstands, and if we consider the double-edged sword of the weekly Lord’s supper in 1 Cor 11.

Finally, if we think about a prophetic pronunciation that the day of the Lord is coming (whether we are thinking about its coming soon to our nation, or at the end of history), we can say that Jesus’s visitation is inevitable. We do not call people to repent so that they can somehow postpone Jesus’s coming; we call people to “die” in repentance so that they can pass through the coming fire and flood, and experience the resurrection that will certainly take place on the other side.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

Knock

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Revelation 3:20 is a well-known verse:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

In spite of the many artistic and evangelistic portrayals of this verse, the context establishes that Jesus is actually knocking at the door of his church, not at the door of individuals. Doug Wilson comments on this, saying that “This is, in the first instance, the door of the church at Laodicea, and then by extension, any church that has people who have drifted into a lukewarm approach to Jesus.”

From elsewhere in Revelation we can establish that a worship service contains prophetic preaching (trumpets) and singing. But those are not present in this verse. Instead, Jesus’s highest intention in meeting with his people is to share a meal with them.

Thus, weekly communion: why open the door but refuse the meal?

Written by Scott Moonen

July 5, 2015 at 8:42 am

Day

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Genesis 1 defines a day:

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5 ESV)

Exodus 20 gives us another point of reference:

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:9-11 ESV)

Certainly it makes more sense to hold that these texts are not equivocating, that “a day is a day,” rather than some unspecified lengthy period of time.

Creation is a real-life story, not a machine. For it to have an honest-to-goodness literary backstory rather than a mechanistic one is just what we should expect.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 5, 2015 at 8:33 am

Posted in Miscellany