How can the psalmist be so bold as to declare, “I will keep your statues” (Ps. 119:8)?
Note how he concludes the verse: “do not utterly forsake me.”
How can the psalmist be so bold as to declare, “I will keep your statues” (Ps. 119:8)?
Note how he concludes the verse: “do not utterly forsake me.”
“Heart-work is hard work, indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and heedless spirit will cost no great pains, but to set yourself before the Lord, and tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon Him, will cost you something. To attain a facility and dexterity of language in prayer and put your meaning into apt and decent expressions is easy; but to get your heart broken for sin while you are confessing it and melted with free grace while you are blessing God for it, to be really ashamed and humbled through the apprehensions of God’s infinite holiness, and to keep your heart in this frame not only in, but after duty will surely cost you some groans and travailing pain of soul. To repress outward acts of sin and compose the external part of your life in a laudable and comely manner is no great matter. Even carnal persons, by the force of common principles, can do this. But to kill the root of corruption within, to set and keep up a holy government over your thoughts, to have all things lie straight and orderly in the heart, this is not easy.”
John Flavel, Keeping the Heart (SDG, 1998), 9f.
Interpreters commonly attempt to explain away Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter. The text plainly says that Jephthah vowed whatever first exited his house upon his return, he would “offer it up for a burnt offering” (11:31). The text also plainly says, he “did with her according to his vow” (11:39). Often the reference to Jephthah’s daughter bewailing her virginity is used to support the thesis that she became a lifelong virgin. However, in a culture that highly valued marriage and childbearing, a daughter who would be burned as a sacrifice may well spend some months weeping because she would never be a wife or mother. It is no argument against this position that fulfilling this vow broke the Mosaic law. That is precisely the point. Israel’s judges had degenerated to the point that they were either ignorant of or flagrantly disobedient to God’s law. A comparison between Judges 11:24 and Deuteronomy 2:19 indicates the former is more likely in this case.
The Othniel account is brief (3:7-11), but it sets the pattern for the following judge accounts: Israel does evil, the Lord gives them over to oppressors, Israel cries out to the Lord, the Lord raises up a deliverer, the Lord gives the deliverer victory over the enemy, the land rests for a number of years, and the judge dies. In a more profound sense Othniel is the judge by which all the rest are measured. Interestingly, Othniel (or one of his ancestors) was a proselyte. Every time Othniel is mentioned in Judges, he is called “Othniel the son of Kenaz.” This makes him a descendant of Esau (Gen 36:11, 15, 42; cf. Num. 32:12; Josh. 14:6-14). Othniel was exhibit A for what Israel ought to have been doing. Israel ought to have been turning foreigners into zealous Israelites.
See Daniel I. Block, Judges, Ruth, New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: B&H, 1999), 150.
Though God’s people were to look to the future for the prophesied deliver(s), Israel itself was part of God’s plan of redemption. The nation was to be a priest to the nations (Ex. 19:6). They could bless the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3) by leading them to the true God (Deut. 4:1-8). But Israel was also part of the world’s sin problem. God predicted that Israel would fail to keep his law and would therefore suffer the covenant curses (Deut. 30:1-8). Israel, even in Moses’ day, was comprised of people with uncircumcised hearts. They needed regeneration so they could turn and obey they Lord (Deut. 30:1-10). Though Israel successfully conquered the Promised Land (Josh. 10:40; 11:23; 21:43-45), Joshua told the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord” (24:19).
The book of Judges confirms Joshua’s prediction. The people quickly turn from beings priests to the nations to becoming like, or even worse than, the nations. By the end of the book, one judge offered human sacrifices. Another judge was more concerned with Philistine women and personal vendettas than with delivering God’s people. Israel’s judges were unable to restore God’s people to God’s law.
Not even the priestly class in Israel maintained the true worship of Yahweh (Jdgs. 17-18). The last account of the book includes an incident eerily reminiscent of the Sodom story. Amazingly, the story in Judges is darker than the one in Genesis. In Sodom, the angels blinded the men and no wicked deed was accomplished, but in Judges, the men of Gibeah “knew her and abused her all night until the morning” (19:25). They left her for dead, and the concubine’s master dismembered her and sent the pieces of her body throughout the land. Israel, the priest to the nations, had become worse than the worst of the nations (Sodom throughout Scripture is the illustration of human wickedness; Deut. 32:32; Isa. 1:10; 3:9; jer 23:14; Ezek. 16:46-56; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7; Rev. 11:8).
The nations needed a better priest, and their priest, Israel, needed better priests (The last two accounts in Judges feature wayward Levites, including a descendant of Moses himself; cf. Block, Judges, Ruth, 512). The text explicitly notes Israel needed a king. Four times it says, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). The closing words of the book are, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25). These words recall the actions of Adam and Eve doing what was right in their eyes. Israel was acting in the same manner that led to the distortion of human dominion at the beginning, and God said they needed a king to fix this sin problem.
The storyline of Scripture moves forward into the book of Samuel. Stephen Dempster says, “It is hard to imagine a worse situation than the end of the narrative of Judges, but this is it” (Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 135). The opening chapters of Samuel reveal that sin permeated the priesthood. Eli’s sons insisted on taking whatever raw meat would come up when they stabbed it with a meat-fork (1.2:13-17) despite Torah prohibitions (Lev. 7:22-25, 31-36; Deut. 18:3-4). Furthermore, they corrupted the women who ministered at the tabernacle (1.2:22; cf. Ex. 38:26) in a way that may have mimicked the forbidden cult prostitution of the Canaanites (Deut. 23:17). In summary statements, these men are called “sons of Belial” and men who “did not know the Lord” (1.2:12; this contrasts with Exodus which repeatedly says that the purpose for God’s miraculous deliverance was so Israel would know that he is the Lord: Ex. 6:3, 7; 10:2; 16:6, 12; 29:46; 31:13). Their actions were said to be blasphemy (1.3:13). Eli was little better. Despite his strong words, his remonstrance with his sons was ineffectual (1.2:22-25). Priests like this could not mediate between God and man.
God intervened at this crisis point in Israel’s history by raising up a prophet: Samuel. The necessity of a prophet showed the failure of the priesthood. The priests could receive revelation from God through the Urim and Thumim. They were given the responsibility of teaching God’s word. These tasks mirror the prophetic tasks of receiving revelation from God and declaring his word to the people. Samuel was a faithful prophet (1.12:3-5), but he was not sufficient to turn the people to God. Furthermore his sons became known for their wickedness (1.8:1-3).
Israel was in need of a righteous king, priest, and prophet.
Block, Daniel I. Judges, Ruth. New American Commentary. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H, 1999.
Dempster,Stephen G. Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Edited by D. A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.
See Part One
The sin that disordered man’s blessing of dominion also disordered his relationship with God. God revealed that sacrifice is necessary for sinful man to approach God. Some see this in the killing of animals to provide clothing for Adam and Eve (cf. Waltke & Fredericks, Genesis, 95). More clearly, the chapter directly following the account of the Fall reveals that humans now approached God in worship through sacrifices. The position of Leviticus in the Pentateuch further reinforces the necessity of sacrifices if sinful man is to approach God. Exodus closes with the erection of the tabernacle, which was a symbol of God’s presence (Exod. 29:46). This raised the question that existed since man’s sin drove him from the presence of God (Gen. 3:8, 23f.): how can God dwell with sinful man? This is the question that Leviticus exists to answer (Lev. 26:11-13), and it answers it with a detailed exposition of Israel’s sacrificial system (cf. Kiuchi, “Leviticus,” 152.).
Sacrifices imply priests. If Job reveals the state of true religion in patriarchal times, it may be that the father served as the priest for the family (Job 1:5; cf. Gen. 8:20; 12:7; 13:4; 35:1). Melchizedek, king of Salem, also served as a priest (Gen. 14:17), and this may indicate that for a time kings served as priests for their subjects. With the establishment of the nation Israel, God ordained a separate class of priests to mediate between God and man for the nation.
For mankind to receive revelation from God about his condition and about God’s expectations regarding worship, fallen man needed prophets. Abel (Matt. 23:34), Enoch (Jude 14), and Abraham (Gen 20:7) were all prophets, but among the covenant people, the office of the prophet originated when the people of Israel asked for someone to mediate between them and God (Ex. 20:18-21; Deut. 5:22-27; 18:15-16) (Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 25). Not only was Moses the first to fill this office, he was the greatest of Israel’s prophets (cf. Robertson 36-39). As his ministry drew to a close God told the people to look for a future Prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-22; cf. Acts 3:22-23).
By the close of the Pentateuch, God’s people knew that sin had disordered mankind’s dominion over the world, and they knew that as part of God’s restoration they ought to look for a Judean king and a Mosaic prophet. There was no prediction at this point of a coming priest, but the Israelites probably already realized the insufficiency of their sacrificial system and thus the need for something more than they had in their current priestly system. [While many liberals have suggested a tension between the Pentateuch’s sacrificial system and the prophetic critique, Childs suggests the basis for the prophetic critique is found in Leviticus 26:14-45, which predicts the judgment of Israel for its sins in the exile. In the exile Israel is unable to offer sacrifices and they must simply cast themselves on the mercy of God (Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context, 160f.).]
Watke, Bruce and Cathi J. Fredericks. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
Kiuchi, Nobuyoshi “Leviticus.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000.
Robertson, O. Palmer. The Christ of the Prophets. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004.
Childs, Brevard S. Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.
Robert Trail wrote, “Some ministers of meaner gifts and parts are more successful than some that are far above them in abilities; not because they preach better, so much as because they pray more. Many good sermons are lost for lack of much prayer in study.” . . . The church today desperately needs such preachers whose private prayers season their pulpit messages. The Puritan pastors jealously guarded their personal devotional time. They set their priorities on spiritual, eternal realities. They knew that if they cased to watch and pray constantly, they would be courting spiritual disaster.
Joel Beeke, Puritan Reformed Spirituality (RHB, 2004), 164.
[Keeping the heart] includes earnest supplications and instant prayer for heart-purifying and rectifying grace, when sin has defiled and disordered it. So Psalm 19:12: “Cleanse thou me from secret faults”; and Psalm 86:11: “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” Saints have always many such petitions pending before the throne of God’s grace. This is the thing which is most pleaded by them with God. When they are praying for outward mercies, perhaps their spirits may be more remiss; but when it comes to the heart case, then they extend their spirits to the utmost, fill their mouths with arguments, weep, and make supplication: “Oh, for a better heart! Oh, for a heart to love God more. Oh, for a heart to hate sin more and to walk more evenly with God. Lord, deny not to me such a heart whatever Thou deniest me! Give me a heart to fear Thee, love and delight in Thee, even if I beg my bread in desolate places.”
John Flavel, Keeping the Heart (SDG, 1998), 7.
From the time of Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical History 1.3), Christians have recognized that Christ held three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. These three offices are not a later theological construct. All three play a major role in the history of redemption recounted in Scripture.
The seed for the Christological office of king lies in the dominion blessing of Genesis 1:28-30. As the climax of God’s creation, as the creature made in the image of his Creator, man was to rule the earth as God’s vice-regent. The text does not provide extensive information as to what the nature of this unfallen dominion would have been like. Some speculate that humans were to extend the conditions of Eden throughout the world (cf. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, 83f).
Before the original intent of mankind’s dominion could be realized, Adam and Eve sinned and the entire world fell under God’s judgment. The sin of the first couple affected more than their spirits. The blessing of dominion was distorted by sin. After the Fall, the very ground resisted mankind’s dominion (3:17-29). In some ways, the creation seemed to now have dominion over its ruler: “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (3:19).
Genesis 4:17-26 reveals that the creation blessing has not been annulled. Cain is fruitful and he multiplies. Some of his descendants are recorded, and the multiplication of descendents is implied by the building of a city. Lamech’s bigamy should also be viewed in the context of the multiplication of progeny. Nor was dominion aspect of the blessing removed. The cultural achievements of Genesis four are all instances of subduing the earth. Some men assert their control over the animal world by domesticating animals. Others learned how to manipulate creation to create musical instruments. Men also learned how to forge minerals from the earth into tools. These cultural achievements are recorded in the line of Cain to demonstrate that the creation blessing still retained force among fallen man.
God also reaffirmed man’s dominion over the earth after the Flood. He gave the animals and plants into man’s hand (9:2-4). But the disorder of sin is also apparent in this passage. Man may rule the beasts, but the beasts will eat him (9:2). Though God also lays down a basic law of social order (Murder is a capital offense; 9:5-6), when men once again organize themselves socially, they exercise their dominion in defiance of God (11:4). For sinful man, the blessing of dominion became a curse, and man’s dominion needed to be curtailed (11:6).
At this point in the story the dominion of man over the earth does not appear to be beneficial, but the closing chapters of Genesis raise the issue of kingship in a more hopeful manner. This time the king is the solution. Jacob prophesied a king from Judah would rule over a restored earth (49:8-12; This interpretation presumes the translation, “until he whose right it is comes” (HCSB; cf. T/NIV). This translation is based on (1) the reading שלה rather than שילה in thirty-nine Hebrew manuscripts, (2) the translations of the LXX, Syriac Peshitta, and Targum Onkelos, and (3) the probable allusion to this verse by Ezekiel 21:26-27. For a survey of the views and detailed augmentation for this interpretation see Smith, 206-23).
The promise of a Messianic king in this passage is commonly recognized, but his dominion over a restored world is often missed. The prediction of a restored world is found in verse 11 A world in which vines can be used for hitching posts is manifestly overflowing in agriculture. Likewise washing clothes in the juice of crushed grapes indicates the extravagance of this future age. Smith notes this creates quite a contrast with the present world of famine, thorns, and sweat (Smith, 215f.). This prophecy invests the promise to Abraham, “kings shall come from you,” with greater significance than would have been at first apparent.
Beale, G. K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God. New Studies in Biblical Theology. D. A. Carson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.
Smith, Bryan. “The Presentation of Judah in Genesis 37-50 and its Implications for the Narrative’s Structure and Thematic Unity.” Ph.D. diss., Bob Jones University, 2002.
This is a fascinating thought worth pondering:
Inaugurated eschatology does indeed constitute a common theme across the NT books. But one can still see differences in the detailed textures of the way in which it is integrated within different NT books. Vos notes one striking difference between Paul and Hebrews:
“The representation of the present age is not the same in both. For Paul the present age is the evil age and the new age is the perfect age. Paul thus presents a bisection of universal history, with the resurrection of Christ as the dividing point. In Hebrews, however, the old age is the Old Testament. Thus Hebrews presents not a bisection of universal history, but a bisection of the history of redemption, which results, therefore, in a philosophy of redemption and revelation. The writer of Hebrews does not regard the old Diatheke as something evil, but rather as the world of shadows (the Levitical world).”
One may extend Vos’s observations to other NT books. Revelation represents the present age as the age of intense spiritual war, culminating in the final battle and the consummation era of peace. Luke represents the present age as the age of the spread of the gospel, culminating in final answerability at the judgment (Acts 17:31). John represents the present age as the age of the revelation of the glory of God in Christ (John 14:9), by means of the presence of Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit as “another helper” (John 14:16).