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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-15)

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More Schmemann:

It sounds like a paradox, but the basic religion that is being preached and accepted as the only means of overcoming secularism is in reality a surrender to secularism. This surrender can take place—and actually does—in all Christian confessions . . . . For the surrender consists not in giving up creeds, traditions, symbols and customs (of all this the secular man, tired of his functional office, is sometimes extremely fond), but in accepting the very function of religion in terms of promoting the secular value of help, be it help in character building bpeace of mind, or assurance of eternal salvation. It is in this “key” that religion is preached to, and accepted by, millions and millions of average believers today. . . . But if this is religion, its decline will continue . . . (109)

The Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom—not because she possesses divinely instituted acts called “sacraments,” but because first of all she is the possibility given to man to see in and through this world the “world to come,” to see and to “live” it in Christ. It is only when in the darkness of this world we discern that Christ has already “filled all things with Himself” that these things, whatever they may be, are revealed and given to us full of meaning and beauty. A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him. And this joy transforms all his human plans and programs, decisions and actions, making all his mission the sacrament of the world’s return to Him who is the life of the world. (113)

Other choice quotes from the upcoming conference readings:

Order is an outward thing. Be it as good as it may, it can fall into misuse. Then it is no longer order but disorder. So no Order has any intrinsic worth of its own, as hitherto the Popish Order has been thought to have. But all order has its life, worth, strength, and virtue in right use; else it is worthless and fit for nothing. God’s Spirit and grace be with us all. Amen. (Luther, “The German Mass and Order of Divine Service”)

We also had to read Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry:

Baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as “re–baptism” must be avoided. (4)

Churches which have insisted on a particular form of baptism or which have had serious questions about the authenticity of other churches’ sacraments and ministries have at times required persons coming from other church traditions to be baptized before being received into full communicant membership. As the churches come to fuller mutual understanding and acceptance of one another and enter into closer relationships in witness and service, they will want to refrain from any practice which might call into question the sacramental integrity of other churches or which might diminish the unrepeatability of the sacrament of baptism. (5)

In order to overcome their differences, believer baptists and those who practise infant baptism should reconsider certain aspects of their practices. The first may seek to express more visibly the fact that children are placed under the protection of God’s grace. The latter must guard themselves against the practice of apparently indiscriminate baptism and take more seriously their responsibility for the nurture of baptized children to mature commitment to Christ. (6)

This reminds me of Poythress’s very helpful article, “Indifferentism and Rigorism.”

Calvin has an interesting take on God’s exercising his sovereignty in the world by means of angels. From his commentary on Ezekiel 1:

. . . it seems to me sufficiently plain, that God signifies angelic inspiration by the four cherubim, and extends it to the four regions of the earth. Now:, as it is equally clear that no creature moves by itself, but that all motions are by the secret, instinct of God, therefore each cherub has four heads, as if it were said that angels administer God’s empire not in one part of the world only, but everywhere; and next, that all creatures are so impelled as if they were joined together with angels themselves. . . . Since, then, there exists no fixed condition of the world, but continual changes are discerned, the Prophet joins the wheels to the angels, as if he would assert that no changes occur by chance, but depend upon some agency, viz., that of angels; not that they move things by their inherent power, but because they are, as we have said, God’s hands. . . . [T]he Stoics fancied that fate arose from what they called a connection of causes. But God here teaches his people far otherwise, viz., that the changes of the world are so connected together, that all motion depends upon the angels, whom he guides according to his will.

In biblical theology, the eye is often the source of light. This potentially sheds light on exposing the works of darkness:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:​

​​“Awake, you who sleep,
​​Arise from the dead,
​​And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:8–14, NKJV)

The King James Version instead uses “reprove.” The eyes are not just a source of light but the organs of judgment. Instead of merely speaking, the eyes declare.

Does your world view deny to the government the possibility of evangelical obedience?

Written by Scott Moonen

April 9, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-14)

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O sacred Heel sore wounded!

Part of the assigned reading for the upcoming Theopolis regional course on worship is Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. Searching for an audiobook, I was pleased to find that Ken Myers recorded it recently! Peter Leithart says that he rereads this book regularly. Speaking of re–reads, Doug Wilson places That Hideous Strength high on his own list.

Some choice quotes from Schmemann:

Sunday therefore was not a “sacred” day to be “observed” apart from all other days and opposed to them. It did not interrupt time with a “timeless” mystical ecstasy. It was not a “break” in an otherwise meaningless sequence of days and nights. By remaining one of the ordinary days, and yet by revealing itself through the Eucharist as the eighth and first day, it gave all days their true meaning. (52)

“There is but one sadness,” said Leon Bloy, “that of not being a saint.” (54)

This brings to mind James Jordan’s great statement that a saint is someone who has sanctuary access, access to the feast.

We are not “nice” Christians come apart from the ugly world. If we do not stand precisely as representatives of this world, as indeed the world itself, if we do not bear the whole burden of this day, our “piety” may still be pious, but it is not Christian. (61)

Schmemann makes much of the fixed day, the statu die. This makes me reflect on Paul’s sermon in Athens somewhat differently:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31, NKJV)

There are layers to the day of the Lord. The church’s worship on the day of the Lord is simultaneously an announcement of the judgment of the world and a visitation of that Lord to his house, but also a temporary suspension of full judgment thanks to the priestly intercessory ministry of the church. But God’s bride calls upon him both for mercy and judgment, and God will not humor hardened hearts indefinitely:

At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!” Then Esther answered and said, “My petition and request is this: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, then let the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.” (Esther 5:6–8, NKJV)

Nathan Zekveld helpfully asks: are we instituting new purity laws, writing that, “As a pastor, I have seen increasingly that people need in-person worship and contact.”

​This people honors Me with their lips,
​​But their heart is far from Me.
​And in vain they worship Me,
​​Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7, Matthew 15, Isaiah 29)

Similar comments from a Russian Orthodox priest:

In Scripture, hiding one’s face always means, shame, distrust, unfavorable position, division and separation. Our Loving God has invited us to the feast, and if we come to the Lord’s Supper with fear that He will infect us with any kind of disease, and we demonstrate it by wearing a mask, we will insult Him in front of everyone.

I appreciated J. D. Vance’s recounting of his conversion and Mark Horne’s reflections on kingship and the crown of thorns.

James Jordan reminds us that God’s ways are higher than our ways:

Christ has created a heavenly host, and “host” means “army,” to accomplish His purpose of transforming the world. That army does not consist only of “sharp young single men and women.” Nor does it consist only of ostensibly “epistemologically self-conscious thoroughly Reformed theonomic postmillennialists.” This army includes mentally retarded people, feeble old people, hurt people, suicidal people, weak people, sinful people, people with minds warped by error, and much, much more. To the human eye, this army is not much to look at. It doesn’t look very tough compared to the kind of militant activism the communist party can sometimes command. It may not measure up to Douglas Hyde’s Dedication and Leadership, and it may not conform to the latest standards of “discipleship.” It is, however, the only army God has ever called into being. All the rest are only substitutes and counterfeits.

Last Saturday we were surprised to find one of our hives swarming, less than a month after installing it from nucleus! Asher did an outstanding job capturing it, and now we have a third hive. This week we scrambled to get them well established as well as preparing to give our other hives some more elbow room.

Which meant assembling many of these:

Written by Scott Moonen

April 2, 2021 at 3:04 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-10)

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Ezra pulls out his own hair at intermarriage with unbelievers:

When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.” So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. (Ezra 2:1–3, NKJV)

But Nehemiah pulls out other men’s hair:

In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. (Nehemiah 13:23–25, NKJV)

There actually is an occurrence of six hundred sixty-six in the Bible apart from Solomon’s gold (1 Kings 10, 2 Chronicles 9) and John’s land beast (Revelation 13):

Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city. . . the people of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six. . . (Ezra 2:1–13, NKJV)

Interestingly, some of Nehemiah’s numbers differ slightly from Ezra’s, and he counts six hundred sixty-seven sons of Adonikam. The numbers are similar enough that it is unlikely they are arrived at by completely different means (e.g., excluding and including women, or excluding and including males under or over a certain age). It seems to me that they must reflect numberings at different times.

Why is it that Asaph only perceives the destiny of the wicked in the sanctuary?

Behold, these are the wicked.
And always carefree, they increase wealth.
Surely, in vain I kept my heart pure,
And washed my hands in innocence.
Yes, I was plagued all day long
And my punishment arrived every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus”;
Behold, the generation of Your children I should have betrayed!
When I pondered to understand this,
It was oppressive to my eyes.
Until I cam into the sanctuary of the Mighty One;
There I perceived their destiny. (Psalm 73:12–17, James Jordan)

I think he perceives this in part because worship is warfare and in part because worship takes place in the heavens, in the future.

We should not be surprised that the wicked seem to outnumber and overwhelm the righteous. God is not limited by numbers. Micaiah was one prophet against four hundred (2 Chronicles 18). Solomon found one man among a thousand (Ecclesiastes 7). If God’s church is faithful, then five shall chase a hundred, a hundred put ten thousand to flight (Leviticus 26), and one shall chase a thousand (Joshua 23).

This was outstanding:

And this was touching and thought provoking. Pray for Peterson:

Charlotte and Asher have kept chickens for a few years, and we’ve been brainstorming how we can expand that. Asher settled on bee keeping and has been learning and strategizing for awhile. We took a class with our county bee keeping association this winter, and this week we set up our first two hives!

Written by Scott Moonen

March 6, 2021 at 6:50 am

Metábasis eis állo génos (2-9)

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Some reflections inspired by Leithart, Meyers, and Roberts’ conversation “What is a Prophet“—Every visionary house of God is a blueprint from God that guides the work and worship of his people. We naturally think of this with the plans for the tabernacle that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 26:30) and the plans David received from God for the temple (1 Chronicles 28:19); there was a physical building to be built in order for worship to begin. But this is equally true of Ezekiel’s visionary temple (a picture of God’s church in the return from exile) and John’s visionary temple (a picture of God’s church in the new covenant), even though these temples do not have a direct physical manifestation. God gave these visions to Ezekiel and to John not merely to inspire his people to trust and marvel at the work he would do in these new covenants, but to instruct his people in the work that they must do; they are simultaneously prophecy and commission. Returning to Ezekiel 43:

“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them. This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:10–12, NKJV)

Thus: if the church’s worship does not immanentize the book of Revelation, then we ought to be ashamed.

It is also fascinating to think that the way a nation and church treats its prophets is how God will ultimately treat that nation, unless it repents. If you throw faithful pastors into prison, then you are surely destined for bondage.

The evil will bow before the good,​​
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous. (Proverbs 14:19, NKJV)

From this week’s To the Word reading:

Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”So the LORD struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. (2 Chronicles 14:9–12)

Apropos being snatched from a snare, our church submitted this contribution to the Psalm 124 project. As Revelation shows us, worship is warfare!

It is well known that no such bricolage is complete without an impromptu aerial edition:

Silencing the enemy and avenger!

Girard anticipated by several centuries:

We believe and confess that Jesus Christ,
in whom the law is fulfilled,
has by his shed blood
put an end to every other shedding of blood,
which anyone might do or wish to do
in order to atone or satisfy for sins. (Belgic Confession, Article 34)

If ever there was proof that the emperor had no clothes:

Written by Scott Moonen

February 26, 2021 at 5:38 pm

The Lost Supper

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I recently read, and greatly appreciated, Matthew Colvin‘s book The Lost Supper. Colvin builds his understanding of the Lord’s supper on a thesis earlier offered by Robert Eisler and David Daube. He summarizes the puzzle he is seeking to unlock with an opening quote from Daube:

“Jesus could not at the same time have introduced both the general idea of eating a cake of unleavened bread as the Messiah and the specific identification of that cake with himself. That is just not how rites come into being.” This is an important difference between [Daube’s] view and most Christian understandings of the eucharist and Last Supper: many Christians have a view of the effect of Jesus’ words of institution that actually renders them incomprehensible to the disciples in the Upper Room. (Colvin, 37)

Colvin and Daube are not arguing that we must backdate the modern Seder into the first century. But they are arguing—compellingly—that the first century Passover must have had Messianic echoes that reverberate today in both the Eucharist and the Seder. Colvin summarizes his conclusion as follows:

Thus, as we also found in the case of the words over the bread, we discover that Jesus’ words about the wine are more concerned with using the Passover to speak to his disciples about his own impending death and its significance within Israel’s story than they were about explaining the metaphysical relation of the bread and wine to his body and blood. His words over the bread identify himself as Israel’s Messiah; his words over the cup are a way of indicating that he will offer himself as a sacrifice, a new Passover lamb to accomplish a new Exodus; and that this will bring about the coming Kingdom of God. Messiah, new Exodus, and coming Kingdom: this is a deeply Jewish set of meanings for these rituals, full of the themes that were on every mind and heart at Passover. Jesus in the Last Supper is doing what we should expect for a Jewish Messiah’s last meal with his disciples; he is doing exactly what Jews have always done with the food and drink of the Passover: make them tell the story of God and Israel—past, present, and future—and by ritual participation inscribe themselves in that story, in those events. (Colvin, 92)

This idea that a ritual is a removal from time, a participation in both the past and future, is key to Colvin’s understanding. He quotes Alastair Roberts:

Much as in the case of a Passover meal, a memorial of a past deliverance anticipates future salvation and each repetition re-establishes us within musical cycles of memory and hope. It repeatedly stabilizes us by restoring us to Christ’s decisive, once-for-all, action in the past, and destabilizes us by exposing us to the fecundity of the future that this action opened. It ties together founding action with the anticipation of final judgment. (Colvin, 82, quoting Alastair Roberts, A Musical Case for Typological Realism)

Colvin rejects mere real presence in favor of robust participation:

Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples on Passover, far from culminating in a sacramental “real presence,” begins with presence and moves from presence to something higher. The disciples have Jesus “present”—sitting in front of their eyes—but they still do not understand who he is or how they are to relate to him. . . .

In [Luke’s] narrative, the presence of Christ is not effected by the eating of the bread (still less by “consecration” of it); indeed, the resurrected Jesus appeared and was bodily present to his disciples on the road to Emmaus only in order to bring about the disciples’ participation in his new life, which is the life of the renewed Israel, the climax and fulfillment of Israel’s story. The goal is participation, not “presence.” (Colvin, 97-98)

Colvin’s project is very similar to that of Leithart with baptism: he understands the spiritual activity of the Lord’s supper to run along thoroughly corporate, social, and physical lines. It is a bodily activity as well as a mental one:

According to the Westminster Larger Catechism’s formulations, it is a positively daunting feat of reverence and emotions, requiring 14 different mental acts beforehand, another 13 during the Supper, and another 7 if they judge themselves to have partaken successfully, or 5 if unsuccessfully! Astonishingly, the Westminster Divines do not actually state that those “that receive the sacrament” must eat and drink the bread and wine. Every action specified in Q. 174 (as well as those in Q. 171 and 175) is something Christians do with their minds. By contrast, all of the commands of Jesus concerning the Supper—”take, eat, drink, do this”—are things that Christians do with their bodies. (Colvin, 100)

Thus, for Colvin, failure to discern the body is not a cerebral but rather a thoroughly public and corporate and social matter, consistent with much of the rest of 1 Corinthians:

The form this condemnation took is also the same as in the Exodus: supernaturally inflicted death. “Because of this [failure to draw the boundaries of the people of God properly], many among you are weak and sick and some are asleep [i.e. dead].” (11:30) If we are looking for a mechanism by which the eucharist operates, I submit that we have found it here: the communal meal, as an acted sharing in the salvific sacrificial death of the Messiah, marks the people of God as the ones who are to be spared God’s deadly judgment, leaving those outside the Christian community exposed to that wrath. It is inflicted by God’s own power.

This modus operandi should look familiar to us. In Exodus 11:4-7, YHWH announces that the Passover will work the same way. . . . The discrimen, the means by which this difference [between the Egyptians and Israel] is marked, is the ritual meal itself. (Colvin, 128)

The supper therefore naturally functions as a memorial to God rather than a mere reminder to ourselves:

Was Israel also commanded to remember? To be sure, and all the rituals of Passover to this day are aimed at inscribing the Exodus indelibly in the consciousness of every Jewish child. Yet in Egypt, it was not the Israelites’ consciousness, but the Lord’s response to his own commanded memorial (zeker) that effected salvation for the Israelites and destruction for their enemies. In Paul’s understanding, the eucharist operates not by the followers of Jesus thinking about it, but because it marks them as the people defined by Jesus’ sacrificial death, which God remembers and honors and to which he responds with action in history. (Colvin, 133)

All of this is simply a function of how meals work:

Paul’s arguments by analogy with pagan sacrifices (1 Cor. 10:20) and with Jewish sacrifices in the Temple (1 Cor. 10:19) are only possible if the eucharist works the way other meals work. What is special about it is not the way it connects its participants to a person, but the person to whom it connects them. (Colvin, 137)

Thus, the supper is a participation-communion-koinonia, side by side with all of God’s people, both in the past events of the crucifixion and resurrection, but also in our future resurrection and glorification. But this is only a specific instance of what happens throughout the entire service of covenant renewal worship. On the Lord’s day, together with all the Lord’s people, we really are caught up out of time and into the heavens. The bread and wine that we consume are heavenly–spiritual bread and wine; not just a foretaste of the coming feast, but an actual distribution of it. And all this is precisely what it means to worship in Spirit (John 4, Revelation 1).

Colvin closes with helpful practical thoughts on the Lord’s supper today. I largely agree with him, although I think that treating the supper as a feast should not lead us to make much of a common cup. He does not take up a critique of the pious notion of withdrawing oneself temporarily from the supper as a kind of contrition, but I think his principles warrant against that powerfully.

I’ve argued previously for real presence along several lines, but I take greatly to heart Colvin’s charge to think in terms of participation-communion-koiononia rather than mere presence.

However, my friend Randy also cautions that we have a sure hope even if bread and wine are taken away from us:

But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

Incidentally, as part of his argument, Colvin also makes a fascinating point about the Lord’s prayer. He argues that the entire prayer has an eschatological bent, including the petition for bread:

[This word] is thus “the coming bread,” the eschatological bread. . . . Thus, the force of the word is to make the petition a request for “the bread of tomorrow” or the eschatological bread. (Colvin, 57-58)

Written by Scott Moonen

January 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm

Do this

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John Barach writes:

The (Admittedly Oversimplistic) History of the Lord’s Supper:

Jesus: “Do this….”
The Church: “Let’s try this instead.”

Examples:

Jesus: “Sit down.” (The Greek indicates reclining, normal festal posture.)
The Church: “Let’s kneel.” Or: “Let’s stand.”

Jesus: Two prayers of thanksgiving, one for the bread, one for the wine.
The Church: One prayer.

Jesus: Giving thanks (which is what “blessed” means).
The Church: Petition, asking God to do something.

Jesus: Everyone eats the bread first. Only then is the wine handed out.
The Church: Some people start drinking wine before others have had bread.

Jesus: Wine.
The Church: No wine. For centuries, church members get communion in one kind (bread) only. But today, wine gets replaced with grape juice.

Jesus: Everyone eats the bread first. Only then is the wine handed out.
Someone: “Hey! I know! Let’s DIP the bread in the wine!”

Scripture: Feast.
The Church: “Let’s make it mournful and sad. Maybe make the building dark.”

Scripture: Feast.
The Church: “Let’s teach everyone to close their eyes and think their own thoughts as if they were all alone in the building.”

Scripture: Break bread on the first day.
The Church: “Let’s not do it very often.”

Jesus passed around the bread and the wine so that, say, the bread went to John and then to Peter and then to Judas and then to Levi and so on.
The Church: Every member must receive from the hand of the pastor.

See also: The Lord’s table

Written by Scott Moonen

December 27, 2020 at 6:29 am

Worship is warfare (6)

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This event from David’s life is striking:

But the Philistines went up again,
and spread out in the Valley of the Shades.
So David inquired of YHWH,
and he said:
You are not to go up;
lead [your men] around, behind them,
and come at them in front of the balsam-trees.
And let it be:
when you hear the sound of marching on the tops of the balsam-trees, then you are to act-decisively,
for then YHWH will go out before you, to strike down the camp of the Philistines. (2 Samuel 5:22–24, Everett Fox)

I wanted to find a connection to balsam or mulberry trees in the New Testament but can’t think of one. However, apart from Chronicles, the only other place this word for balsam trees appears is in Psalm 84, as the Valley of Baca:

How lovely Your dwellings, O LORD of armies!
My being longed, even languished, for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh sing gladness to the living God.
Even the bird has found a home, and the swallow a nest for itself,
that puts its fledglings by Your altars, LORD of armies, my king and my God.
Happy are those who dwell in your house, they will ever praise You.

Happy the folk whose strength is in You, the highways in their heart,
Who pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it into a spring—yes, the early rain cloaks it with blessings.
They go from rampart to rampart, they appear before God in Zion.
LORD, God of armies, hear my prayer. Hearken, O God of Jacob.

Our shield, O God, see, and regard Your anointed one’s face
For better one day in Your courts than a thousand I have chosen,
standing on the threshold in the house of my God, than living in the tents of wickedness.
For a sun and shield is the LORD, God is grace and glory.
The LORD grants, He does not withhold bounty to those who go blameless.
O LORD of armies, happy the man who trusts in You. (Psalm 84, Robert Alter)

When the happy folk of Yahweh of armies go up to his house to worship him, this is a marching through the balsam trees.

See also: Worship is warfare (5), etc.

Written by Scott Moonen

December 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (16)

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I wonder if Leviticus 21:4 is another hint, together with Deuteronomy 25, that priest-pastors are levirs, husband–caretakers for God’s people:

He is not to make himself tamei (as) a husband among his people (does), to profane himself. (Leviticus 21:4, Everett Fox)

Whatever resulted in a court of Gentiles—and reluctance to eat together with Gentiles—in second–temple Judaism, it was a perversion of God’s commanded worship. It is true that you could not participate in Passover unless you were circumcised, but the uncircumcised Gentile God-fearer could bring offerings to God, and he could participate in the feast of booths. This perversion is part of the great judgment on the faithless priest–shepherd–husbands of Jesus’s day (e.g., Matthew 23:13-14).

YHWH spoke to Moshe, saying:
Speak to Aharon and to his sons and to all the Children of Israel, and say to them:
Any-Man, any-man of the House of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel
that brings-near his near-offering—including any of their vow-offerings or including any of their freewill-offerings that they bring-near to YHWH, as an offering-up— (Leviticus 22:17-18, Everett Fox, emphasis added)

Every native is to sacrifice these thus,
to bring-near a fire-offering of soothing savor for YHWH.
Now when there sojourns with you a sojourner,
or (one) that has been in your mids, throughout your generations,
and he sacrifices a fire-offering of soothing savor for YHWH;
as you sacrifice (it), thus is he to sacrifice (it).
Assembly!
One law for you and for the sojourner that takes-up-sojourn,
a law for the ages, throughout your generations:
as (it is for) you, so will it be (for) the sojourner before the presence of YHWH.
One instruction, one regulation shall there be for you
and for the sojourner that takes-up-sojourn with you! (Numbers 15:13-16, Everett Fox)

The pilgrimage-festival of Sukkot / Huts you are to observe for yourself, for seven days,
at your ingathering, from your threshing-floor, from your vat.
You are to rejoice on your festival,
you, your son, and your daughter,
your servant and your maid,
the Levite,
the sojourner, the orphan and the widow that are within your gates. (Deuteronomy 16:13-14, Everett Fox)

Thanks to my friend Nathan for this great quote from Thomas Boston:

Christians should wisely observe [God’s] providences . . . Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry, Deut. 32:4. Whatever faults we find with them, as we do many, it is for want of due observation. But at length he shall gain that testimony and recantation, ‘He hath done all things well,’ Mark 7:37. In these his works no flaw is to be found, no mistake; nothing too much, nothing too little; nothing too soon done, nothing too late done; nothing misplaced, nothing in or over; nay, nothing done that is not best done; nothing that man or angel could make better. The world will startle at this as a paradox: but faith will believe it, on the solid ground of infinite wisdom, though sense contradict it, Isa. 38:8, Jer. 12:1. O that they who will debate this truth would come near and observe.

This is a neat converse of iron and bronze:

Now if, after all that, you do not hearken to me,
I will continue to discipline you, sevenfold, for your sins—
I will break your fierce pride!
I will give your heavens to be like iron, and your earth like bronze, . . . (Leviticus 26:18–19, Everett Fox)

But it shall be:
If you do not hearken to the voice of YHWH your God,
by taking-care and by observing all his commandments and his laws
that I command you today,
then there will come upon you all these curses, and overtake you: . . . .
The heavens that are above your head will become bronze,
and the earth that is beneath you, iron. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 23, Everett Fox)

I always thought that it betrayed a deep misunderstanding—of God’s word and his ways—for modern Israel to name their air defense system Iron Dome. Much like how we used to sing “they rush on the city . . .” with such oblivious gusto.

Leviticus 27 is not a later addition or afterthought to the book. One reason we know this is that there are credible chiasms where it fits well. Also, if we take Leviticus as a covenant document, this chapter fits perfectly in the “succession” section of the pattern, immediately following the “oath” or “sanctions” section. Leviticus would be incomplete without making plans for the sustaining of the sanctuary.

To the Word took us through Ephesians this week. Some reflections, past and present: (1) There is a very real shadow government that determines everything that takes place (Eph. 1:20–23), and we are privileged to participate in it by our prayers and worship (Eph. 2:6). (2) Once you see that Ephesians 2 is primarily about historia salutis rather than ordo salutis, it is difficult to unsee it. (3) The mystery here and elsewhere in the Bible is that of Daniel’s stone cut by no human hand: Jesus would inaugurate a new kingdom that would not be Israel über alles, but would rather supersede all other kingdoms. (4) There is a counterfeit and impotent stone, uncut by hand, reputed to be from the heavens, right there in Ephesus! (Acts 19:35) (5) Jesus’s giving gifts is not Paul misquoting David through the Septuagint; it is a brilliant application of totus Christus: what Jesus receives he shares with his bride. (6) You can find echoes of all ten commandments in the book. (7) The identity between covetousness and idolatry (here, as in Colossians) is profound and important. (8) It is interesting to me that the word itself is an offensive weapon (the sword of the Spirit), but faith in that word is a defensive weapon. I suppose that we must trust the Spirit to make the word powerful in and toward others, but we also have some direct responsibility to cultivate its power within ourselves.

Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Making room for Lenin, Stalin, and Mao is a sin (even if a foolish and unwitting one), and certainly a disqualification for leadership.

My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood. (Proverbs 1:10–16, ESV)

This is a year the evangelical church will look back upon with great regret. In so many ways, we have redoubled our effort to appear respectable to the world, and unsurprisingly we have been played. But friendship with the world is enmity with God. There is a slow-motion coup being attempted in the United States, under cover of a thin veneer of righteous platitudes and bald-faced deception. Many people in our bureaucracy, politics, journalism, media, entertainment, and big tech are well overdue for their stay in prison. And this is not just about the bloodletting of babies but also the grooming of our neighbors’ sons and daughters, and the general bloodletting of our neighbors’ households and livelihoods. To make room for this coup is to actually disobey Romans 13, grossly; to hate our neighbor grossly; and to disqualify ourselves from leadership. You know that they will not be satisfied with the heads of inconvenient troublemakers (aren’t all prophets inconvenient?) like Wilson and Gagnon and Baucham. No, they will also come for Greear and Chandler and Thabiti and even Mason—the omelet must have its stooges—and eventually for you and me. Bezhmenov, McCarthy, Solzhenitsen, and many others are being vindicated before our eyes.

Of course, you have to observe flesh and blood rather than chapter and verse to discern that I am right and Keller is wrong, to discern that our political future is not a simple and neutral debate over which reasonable people may disagree. I was going to say that it requires wisdom to see where this is going, but that is not really true: it is already out in the open, unmasked, so to speak, and brazen. And this is why identifying this evil is a qualification for leadership; the fact that the line separating good and evil passes through our own hearts does not acquit us of this responsibility, but simply requires us to overcome that evil too. A pastor–husband must know what needs to be done, and he may not fear seeming unloving when this requires him to speak words of warning in actual love.

And yet we are happy warriors; we are ministers and officers of such a shadow government, and the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh:

Why do nations conspire,
And peoples murmur a vain thing?
Positioned are earth’s kings,
And rulers take counsel together,
Against Yahweh,
And against His anointed;
Saying, “Let us break Their chains,
And throw off of us Their ropes!”
The One enthroned in the heavens laughs;
My Master scoffs at them! (Psalm 2:1-10, James Jordan)

God is doing a good work of exposing and testing and tempering right now. May we be strengthened, purified, and proven true!

C. R. Wiley and friends recently provided a delightful encouragement to study Protestant resistance theory from, of all quarters, a Roman Catholic. Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos is in my reading queue after Solzhenitsyn.

The Theopolis conversation on the manosphere and the church is complete. I encourage you to read all of the articles.

Roundup:

Written by Scott Moonen

October 16, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (15)

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We recently spent a week at the beach with our small group. It’s hard to pick a highlight. Good food, great fellowship. One thing I enjoyed was getting introduced to the game Dominion. Ironically, I had received this game as a gift last year but hadn’t yet had a chance to play it. It’s now a regular part of our rotation!

I reflected on voting this week. It occurs to me that another way to express the value of voting is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I would certainly appreciate a great many of my neighbors voting a certain way; I ought to do the same for them.

Speaking of voting, my friend Brad pointed out that child sacrifice is unusual in having a judgment on its even being countenanced:

Now if the People of the Land should hide, yes, hide their eyes from that man
when he gives of his seed to the Molekh, by not putting him to death,
I myself will set my face against that man and against his clan,
and will cut off him and all who go whoring along with him, to whore after Molekh,
from amid their kinspeople. (Leviticus 20:4–5, Everett Fox)

Aaron Renn of The Masculinist newsletter has started a podcast. I appreciated his recent episode reflecting on dangers and temptations in how we attempt to reach the culture.

I’ve been freshly struck reading through Exodus and Leviticus at the importance of worshipping God according to his word.

Now Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, took each-man his pan,
and, placing fire in them, put smoking-incense on it,
and brought-near, before the presence of YHWH, outside fire,
such as he had not commanded them.
And fire went out from the presence of YHWH
and consumed them, so that they died, before the presence of YHWH.
Moshe said to Aharon:
It is what YHWH spoke (about), saying:
Through those permitted-near to me, I will be-proven-holy,
before all the people, I will be-accorded-honor!
Aharon was silent. (Leviticus 10:1-3, Everett Fox)

Moshe and Aharon were returned to Pharaoh,
and he said to them:
Go, serve YHWH your God!
—Who is it, who is it that would go?
Moshe said:
With our young ones, with our elders we will go,
with our sons and with our daughters,
with our sheep and with our oxen we will go—
for it is YHWH’s pilgrimage-festival for us.
He said to them:
May YHWH be thus with you, the same as I mean to send you free along with your little-ones!
You see—yes, your faces are set toward ill!
Not thus—go now, O males, and serve YHWH, for that is what you (really) seek!
And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s face.

YHWH said to Moshe:
Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locust-horde,
and it will ascend over the land of Egypt, consuming all the plants of the land, all that the hail allowed to remain. (Exodus 10:8-12, Everett Fox)

I mentioned Exodus 22:5 and willful spreading of fire among thorns (i.e., wicked men) recently. The spreading of fire is at the same time a judgment from God upon a land that cultivates wicked men.

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8 ESV)

I was also struck by the fact that Leviticus 19 links the fourth and fifth commandments:

Each-man—his mother and his father you are to hold-in-awe,
and my Sabbaths you are to keep:
I am YHWH your God! (Leviticus 19:3, Everett Fox)

and the third, eighth, and ninth commandments:

You are not to steal,
you are not to lie,
you are not to deal-falsely, each-man with his fellow!
You are not to swear by my name falsely,
thus profaning the name of your God—
I am YHWH! (Leviticus 19:11-12, Everett Fox)

This latter association matches Ephesians 4, where lying and stealing are linked with grieving the Spirit.

Yes. As a result of this, the practice of 1 Cor 11 commonly commits the sin rebuked right there in 1 Cor 11! It is precisely failing to discern the body to forbid part of the body access to the table. See also Pharaoh above.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 10, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Metábasis eis állo génos (9)

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Happy birthday to my brother Jonathan! He writes:

Christians today (who make up the church, the body of believers around the world) are priests to God and men, in the sense that we minister to God and to each other (1 Peter 2, Hebrews). These priestly duties resemble, although in a much truer and deeper sense, the priestly duties of the Jewish priests in the Old Covenant (Leviticus 8-10). There was a clear pattern established that included daily/weekly activities which relate to us in the church in gathering, worship, prayer, proclamation of the Word, and communion (Hebrews 7-8). This is the whole argument upon which the commonly-quoted statement “Do not forsake meeting together” is built (Hebrews 10). There are important priestly duties that Christians must participate in to obey our great High Priest, Jesus, and to partake in His blessings. As the old saying goes, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but you can’t be a Christian if you don’t go to church. There’s much to be said here, but this lengthy point relates to churches refusing to close for extended periods in response to COVID-19, because obeying God is more important than obeying man, especially if man’s rules are inconsistent and/or illogical.

Yes! The only thing I would add is that our priestly duty is also a ministry to the world, for the life of the world.

Perhaps you didn’t know, but the CDC considers masks insignificant to assessing your risk of exposure. They also consider that “most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.” I have no plans to get tested if I experience an ordinary fall or winter cold.

Keep an eye on Alex Berenson’s Day of Normality. I’m thinking of a picnic at Hilltop-Needmore Park, which we have done from time to time throughout this season, but I’m open to other possibilities!

I’ve been chuckling for a few days over this summary of Tenet: “With its international locations and stunt set pieces along with all the temporal weirdness, it’s actually quite like a Bond film called No Time To Die To Time No.” I’m looking forward to watching it.

Earlier this year, Michael Foster characterized 2020 as an audition for future leadership. Big Eva continues to fail their audition. Doug Wilson similarly indicates that the question is not only to patiently persuade here and now, but even more a question of “who will be listened to after the panic is gone.” But this is a timeless truth; Kipling reminds us that, “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . . you’ll be a Man, my son!” There is a kind of witness that has only temporary credibility, losing all credibility in the end.

Speaking of all this, Chadwick Boseman sounds like he was the real deal. Be like Chadwick Boseman.

One of the ways that I like to summarize Edwin Friedman is to say that fathers and leaders are “anxiety eaters.” Friedman would say that a good leader has acquired a kind of practiced immunity to anxiety. But Christians have an additional weapon: we serve the great anxiety eater on whom we are invited to cast all our cares. I’ve always loved the way Toby Sumpter put this in his essay, Free to carry more.

I loved this essay as well: A pandemic observed. We are physical beings but also social and spiritual beings. Any accounting we give of risk and potential, truth and love must address our whole persons. This has implications for things like lockdowns and masking, especially in worship but also in the public space. I have seen people linking lockdowns and masks to the sixth commandment, but we ought to connect them to the ninth as well, since we are equally at risk of spreading lies and fear, mistrust and suspicion. I mean to some extent lies about the effectiveness of lockdowns and masks, and the appropriateness of their being forced upon us; but I am thinking much more of lies about what kind of beings we are, what ekklesia and koinania and philadelphos are, what kind of story we live in, and how now we should live.

I take great issue with this. Don’t be distracted by the hats; it’s all about beards:

I wrote last week of a functional “real absence” view of the Lord’s supper. Although the phrase “real presence” means different things to different people, there are a few ways that I like to think of it:

  1. From reading John 6:53ff, whether or not you share my belief that Jesus and John are purposely referring to the supper, believers must agree that some kind of feasting on Jesus is inescapable.
  2. We are actually not surprised that Jesus is present in the supper, since he is always present when we gather (Matthew 18:20), and since we are always present with him for Lord’s day worship (Hebrews 12). Of course he is present: he is seated at the head of the table!
  3. Jesus is present in the supper because it is a memorial, and every memorial summons the king to preside in evaluation and judgment.
  4. We have been mistaken all this time hunting for Jesus in the nouns of bread and wine. We should have looked for him in the verbs, in our doing this in faith.
  5. Actually, there is one noun where Jesus is present: one another. We discern his body by discerning one another to be members of that body (1 Cor 11–12, etc.). Richard Hooker writes that “The Real Presence of Christs most Blessed Body and Blood, is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy Receiver of the Sacrament.”
  6. Calvin writes, “For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us.”

Consider all of the tremendous imitative energy that 2020 has produced in executive orders and decrees and scapegoating. This Girardian energy seems on a hair trigger to swivel toward the church, which Girard observes is how the powers and principalities always work. It’s interesting to me to consider whether the end result this time is the exposure and confusion and flight of the wicked; or persecution. An important question is whether this moment is a “deception of the nations” which Satan is currently bound from conducting. Maybe this is not primarily Satan’s work but rather the first stage of God’s own decisive work in sending judicial confusion and hardening. Pray for the sound of marching in the balsam trees (1 Chron 14) and for hornets (Deut 7:20, etc.)!

I wrote of the authorship of God last week. A friend pointed out that scripture doesn’t really speak this way, speaking instead of God’s creative–providential work, whether as potter or similar (Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, Proverbs 8, Job, etc.). There’s also a theme of God’s creation–providence as a speech act (Genesis 1, Hebrews 1, perhaps Psalm 19, and then we have the profound presence of both Word and Spirit–breath everywhere). So, to distill this, creation–providence is beyond authorial on God’s part: it is continuously, intimately, exultingly, and life–givingly performative. One thing that’s appealing about this is that this seems to capture both God’s transcendence and his immanence and incarnation.

Written by Scott Moonen

August 29, 2020 at 9:54 am