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Archive for the ‘Biblical Theology’ Category

Keep my commandments

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God’s laws aren’t at war with each other. God never puts us in a position where we have to break a commandment to love our neighbor. The commandments of God define love for our neighbor. God’s commandments tell us what love looks like.

Duane Garner, If You Love Me

Written by Scott Moonen

May 19, 2020 at 1:25 pm

Worship is warfare (5)

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National defense:

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year. (Exodus 34:21–24 ESV)

See also: Worship is warfare (4), etc.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 10, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Assembly

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But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22–24 ESV)

The church is not analogous to a movie theater or sporting event. The church is analogous to the general assembly. Where the general assembly can meet to conduct business, the church must also be meeting to conduct business with her king. The life of the world depends upon this.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Sitting on a donkey

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On Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

We might argue that this is a symbolic mark of Israel’s kingship going back to Deuteronomy 17; although the king is not forbidden to ride horses, he is forbidden to multiply them. Several of the judges as proto-kings are noted for their sons who ride on donkeys. By this reasoning, the men who ride mules (David, Absalom, Solomon), which are donkey–horse hybrids, are symbolically pushing the boundaries of God’s law as they are known to have explicitly done in other ways (David with his wives, and Solomon with his wives, horses, and gold).

Both Matthew and John tell us that Jesus is fulfilling Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

But it is interesting that throughout chapter 9, Zechariah is referring to specific nations around Israel. This leads us to wonder if there is a proximate fulfillment of this prophecy that came before Jesus’s ultimate fulfillment. Very much of Biblical prophecy follows this pattern: a near fulfillment confirms God’s word, and a far fulfillment in Jesus completes the promise. Even in Jesus there are often ways that we say prophecies have been partly fulfilled already, although they are not yet completely fulfilled.

So, we recognize that Solomon was indeed the first promised son of David, but he fell short of the full promise, and Jesus is the greater and true son of David. Likewise, it is no contradiction whatsoever to recognize that Jeremiah was likely the first suffering servant, and yet Jesus was the true suffering servant, the greater Jeremiah. Ezekiel was the first son of man, but Jesus is the greater and truest son of man. Ezra and Nehemiah inaugurate a new covenant (sponsored by Cyrus whom God calls his messiah in Isaiah 45:1) in fulfillment of Jeremiah 31, and yet Jesus the greater Cyrus inaugurates the new covenant.

In his teaching, Calvin recognized that most of Zechariah 9 referred to post exilic Israel, but he seems to view verses 9–10 as a parenthesis looking forward to Jesus. However, by thinking in terms of proximate and ultimate fulfillment, we may be able to read verses 9–10 as part of a whole. The beauty of this approach is that we no longer have to limit our applying this passage to Jesus to these two verses.

Peter Leithart proposes an overall proximate fulfillment of Zechariah 9–14 as follows:

  • Zech 9:1–10 = Alexander the Great’s invasion of Israel
  • Zech 9:11–10:12 = battles between faithful Jews and Hellenizing Jews
  • Zech 11:1–3 = the fall of the Hasmonian dynasty
  • Zech 11:4–14 = the Jews’ rejection of Jesus
  • Zech 11:15–17 = the Jews’ being given over to false shepherds
  • Zech 12:1–19 = first Roman siege
  • Zech 12:10–13:6 = conversion of many Jews
  • Zech 13:7–9 = Christians flee Jerusalem, Romans devastate Judea
  • Zech 14 = fall of Jerusalem, establishment of church as New Jerusalem

In this reading, Alexander is the proximate king who comes riding a donkey. Although we have no other evidence that Alexander actually rode a donkey, Andrew Wilson cites Josephus in noting that Alexander was made quite conscious of his fulfilling Biblical prophecy.

So if Jesus is the greater Alexander, as well as the greater son of Zion who deposes Greece and all the nations, what else can we say about him beyond his bringing peace with his worldwide rule? Well, for one, as God’s people gather to the stronghold of the New Jerusalem, God restores to us double.

Restoring double reminds us of Job and his double restoration (Job 42). First and foremost, Jesus himself as the greater Job receives a double restoration of both Jew and Gentile in his resurrection (we are “his offspring” referred to in Isaiah 53). Double portion also refers everywhere to the inheritance of the firstborn; a key example of that is Elisha’s receiving a double portion, the firstborn’s portion, of Elijah’s spirit. Like Elisha, the church receives the firstborn’s double portion of Jesus’s Spirit. Receiving a double portion is itself a sure and encouraging proof of our adoption as sons, which God first announced in Jesus’s resurrection and in our baptism.

Rejoice greatly and shout aloud!

Written by Scott Moonen

April 9, 2020 at 9:15 am

His name

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Many commentators recognize that Moses organized Deuteronomy 6–26 as a sort of sermon elaborating on each of the ten commandments in sequence. Some of the parallels are quite striking and fruitful.

James Jordan aligns the third commandment with Deuteronomy 14:1–14:21a. Most of this has to do with eating, which is very interesting given what we know from Peter’s vision in Acts 10. This suggests that we positively honor the third commandment when we break bread with and generally welcome fellow believers (i.e., “discern the body”), and we violate it when we shun or persecute fellow believers (as in Galatians 2) or partake of the table of demons (1 Cor 10).

In other words, honoring God’s name is directly connected to honoring the people on whom he has set his name. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

See also: Delight

Written by Scott Moonen

April 6, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Biblical Theology

So far does he remove our transgressions from us

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Walking westward, therefore, from the courtyard toward the sanctum was a movement toward God, representing Israel to him—an ascent into the summit of the architectural mountain of God. Walking eastward from the sanctum toward the courtyard was a movement away from God, representing him to Israel—and a descent from the cultic mountain of God. . . .

The text is careful to portray the goats as a set: the high priest takes them both from the congregation of Israel, presents them both together before YHWH at the door of the tent of meeting, and then casts lots for them both . . . Indeed, there is historical precedent [SCM: Morales cites rabbinical sources, but Jacob’s goats in Rebekah’s meal is a clear biblical–theological precedent] for understanding these goats to be identical in appearance, and chosen expressly because of this likeness, as if it were one goat accomplishing two different aspects of atonement—purification and expiation, cleansing from sin’s pollution and the removal of sin’s guilt. . . .

Moreover, as both goats begin together at the doorway of the tent of meeting, their movement may be tracked along an east–west alignment, movements coordinated with the early narratives of Genesis in relation to God’s Presence. Here it is worth emphasizing that the goats, as one symbol, stand for the sake of Israel: the sacrificed goat conveying Israel favourably into the inner sanctum vicariously, the led-away goat conveying Israel’s sins away from the face of God.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 174, 179–180

From the day of atonement ritual, you would expect Psalm 103 to read, “so far does he remove our transgressions from him.” Surprise! Where does that place us? With Yahweh!

Written by Scott Moonen

March 30, 2020 at 7:49 pm

A reminder of sins every year

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With the tabernacle being a microcosm of the cosmos, its rituals, including those of the Day of Atonement, should be related to the reality of the cosmos. . . . The cultic drama of the microcosm’s cleansing points prophetically to a Day of Atonement not enacted on the cultic stage but rather upon its counterpart, the cosmos as true house of God. . . . The drama of the tabernacle’s defilement by the sin and corpse pollution of Aaron’s sons mirrors the drama of Adam’s own transgression and defilement of the cosmos. . . . What can be done? Is all lost? The answer provided in Leviticus through the Day of Atonement on the stage of the cultic drama, therefore, provides the answer for the cosmos as house of God as well—there must be a Day of Atonement for the cosmos. Ultimately, this annual purgation reiterates the need for a full and final cleansing—one that cannot be threatened or undone—for the covenant promise of humanity’s communion and fellowship with God to be realized.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 171–172

Written by Scott Moonen

March 30, 2020 at 7:17 pm

Not contagious

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Moral impurity should be distinguished from ritual impurity. Ritual impurity is impermanent, sometimes contagious, may defile the courtyard altar, and, while requiring cleansing, does not require forgiveness; moral impurity requires atonement (sometimes being cut off or death), defiles the land, along with the innermost areas of the sanctuary, but is not contagious.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 159

Written by Scott Moonen

March 30, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Exile

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As this pandemic and pandemonium forces our churches to close, and we gather in homes instead, I agree with Ben Zornes that we should not be taking the Lord’s Supper from house to house. I have written on this previously, and also stressed that the command to discern Jesus’s body applies directly to our receiving one another in corporate worship.

This does not mean that Jesus is not with us when we gather! Where two or three gather, he is with us (Matthew 18:20) by his Spirit. But it does mean that there is a kind of famine of God’s special presence and feast, as I have written in support of weekly communion.

The church doesn’t need to be disobeying civil orders right now. And livestreaming music and teaching is a blessing; so is gathering in smaller groups as we are able. It’s just that these things do not constitute covenant renewal, the “sacrifice of praise” before the throne as the ekklesia–assembly–body–bride. It is not true that our individual intercession is cut off. But it is true that the church’s heightened corporate and covenantal intercession, our role as Esther herself, has been cut off.

How should we understand this partial famine? For one, with the church’s intercession cut off, with an end to offering up a memorial of Jesus’s death (1 Cor 11), there is no more covenantal covering for God’s long-stored wrath toward the evils of our cavalier modern world such as abortion. This covering has allowed a merciful window for repentance, but now we should not be surprised to see God’s avalanche gather momentum, exactly and precisely because he hears and does not forget both corporate and individual prayers and cries.

But we also need to consider that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17), just as it did most dramatically in the first century. This event is not an attack by the world against the church; it is something God has brought about, and he is certainly disciplining us, removing unfaithful lampstands.

With that in mind, the letters to the churches in Revelation are especially timely for the church to consider. With allowances for over-simplification:

  • Is our love for the world eclipsing our love for Jesus? (Ephesus) Are we dallying with the world? (Pergamum) Are we tolerating those who dally with the world? (Thyatira) It does seem that our love for the world and its ways is about to be sifted. Have we been faithful to tithe?
  • Be faithful and do not fear (Smyrna)
  • Hold fast; trust and obey (Philadelphia)
  • Correct your works: repent and be fruitful (Sardis, Laodicea)

One aspect of treasuring Jesus over the world is to cultivate a better sense of just what it is we have lost in this time. Woe to me that I stay home! (Psalm 120:5) Be glad to go to Jesus’s house! (Psalm 122:1) May all who hate the church be put to shame! (Psalm 129:5) How good and pleasant is our unity! (Psalm 133:1) We are a thousand times more blessed to dwell in God’s house than anywhere else! (Psalm 84)

Finally, with respect to the evil of abortion, have we been complicit in telling lies to the world about the true value of children by failing to discern our little ones to be among the body of Christ? “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Cor 11:30) It is amazing to me that God has orchestrated this so that little ones are not dying!

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131 ESV)

Written by Scott Moonen

March 23, 2020 at 6:32 pm

Various

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If you don’t yet follow Wrath of Gnon, you should.

This is beautiful: The Sound of the Hagia Sophia.

Here are some fascinating pictures of the locusts in Africa.

North Carolina had a couple of earthquakes in the western part of the state this past weekend, but we felt nothing here.

Christian Leithart thinks about how to panic sensibly.

So do Squirrel Nut Zippers. From “La Grippe”:

There’s an Asian influenza
Infecting us all by the scores
And it’s turning into pneumonia
We must go out once more . . .
So we must go out and dance around

Have a look at Jelle’s Marble Runs and see if you can resist getting completely absorbed.

For fun, the kids and I were working through the alphabet on a theme of food, somehow coming to focus especially on fish. Asher pounced on G with the offering: ghoti. Ha!

My county library has Lewis’s space trilogy available in audiobook form. I’ve just finished listening to it after first reading the books eight years ago. I’m freshly encouraged in the task of Christian living (Lewis is quite the Kuyperian Chestertonian, isn’t he?), and also again amazed at Lewis’s Issacharian insight into our times in That Hideous Strength. I need to revisit these more often.

Mark Horne just published his reflections on Proverbs. It is outstanding; pick one up for yourself and for each of the young people in your life. Mark also reflects on current events and how wisdom takes some work and wrestling. You should follow Mark too.

Lord willing, Peter Leithart is coming to the Triangle in April to teach on worship. I’m looking forward to it; join me!

I’ve been appealing to Occam’s razor lately as a rule for evaluating architectural decisions and their tradeoffs. In particular, architectural decisions must take into account not only ideal considerations, but also a team’s capacity to develop, maintain, and support these decisions. Simplicity has its own rewards regardless of the size of your team, but the smaller the team, the more aggressively you must press for that simplicity. Don’t multiply entities unnecessarily!

My pastor touched on Hebrews 12 and shaking this past Sunday. A preterist reading of this and the wider context adds (but does not subtract) helpful insights. Certainly we are to cherish the hope that one day we will live in a fully realized and glorious city (ch. 11), and that one day all that can be shaken will be removed (ch. 12). But the original audience was also to take great hope in God’s breaking early into time and history, and so are we. We have come already to the mountain–city, Zion–Jerusalem (12:22), and especially in worship we stand together in this place with Jesus and the angels and the communion of the saints. The entire book of Hebrews is an exposition of this reality and an invitation to enter into it.

From this perspective, the great “once more” shaking announced in Hebrews (as well as Matthew, etc.) was the tearing down of the old covenant and its ways, the very persecution and mountain that was bearing down on God’s people and in which the author of Hebrews is trying to encourage them. These old ways ended forever in AD 70; no more sacrifices could be offered by the line of Aaron but only by the line of Melchizedek. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was both a vindication of Jesus against the old ways, and a deliverance for his church, his body.

Thus, we see both that God works in history, and also that this history is moving to a glorious conclusion. So we can hope for several visitations, several shakings, several days of the Lord: (1) Jesus visits his church weekly on the day of the Lord; (2) Jesus visits tribes and nations at various times in history in judgment and to deliver his people; (3) as proof of his resurrection and enthronement, and vindication of himself and his promises, Jesus visited the world in AD 70 to finish the inauguration of his new creation; (4) we have a glorious hope that after his present reign (and our reign with him) is complete, Jesus will visit the world and deliver it to his father (1 Cor 15, etc.).

AD 70 was thus the promised sign of the son of man’s entering into heaven.

Written by Scott Moonen

March 17, 2020 at 12:58 pm