Isaiah: Short thoughts on a long book

isaiahThe book of Isaiah demonstrates the trustworthiness of the Lord with regard to the two Kings that Isaiah advised. The aforementioned Kings are Ahaz and Hezekiah. A staunch comparison is drawn to delineate the way in which these Kings trusted the Lord. Ahaz did not trust God and suffered the consequences; however, Hezekiah did trust the Lord and Jerusalem was delivered. Much discussion has arisen over the topic of authorship. Many scholars believe in a three author approach to the work. They note that the literary styles shift and become more poetic and theoretical. However, Isaiah was an active prophet for over eighty years. Thus, it is easy to accept that his message and literary prose would change over time as he addressed different issues. The purpose of the work is to highlight the trustworthiness of Yahweh, the covenant God. The structure of the work suggests that the Lord will judge His people, yet offer hope. Ultimately, the work culminates in a Zion theology, promising the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

isaiah 35A modern reader of the book of Isaiah should note that all of the messages in Chapters 40-66 are meant for a future audience. Ultimately, reconciliation is God’s ultimate goal. Though Israel was unfaithful under King Ahaz, the Lord was not unfaithful to the covenant He made. When Israel fails to be God’s nation, the Lord restores them to Him so that they may declare God’s glory among the nations. Likewise, when we stray from the Lord, we can reconcile that relationship with Him and become whole again. Furthermore, the suffering servant mentioned in chapter 52 alludes to the coming Messiah. Leviticus 16 describes the process of laying the burden on the scapegoat. Isaiah 52 parallels that idea, identifying the coming Messiah as the scapegoat for the sin of the world. The Lord is sovereign and gracious and is willing to reconcile broken relationships.


Gay Marriage: A Biblical View

The Bible defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman (Matt 19:4-6). Marriage is the first institution ordained by God. The Lord said that it is not good for man to be alone and fashioned woman, to be a wife from Adam’s rib (Gen 2:22-24). The seventh commandment talks about relational intimacy, its primary purpose being to protect marriage. Gay marriage does not adhere to God’s definition of marriage, and is therefore unbiblical.

cover 1Marriage is the first human institution. It is designed to model the relationship of Christ to the Church (Eph 5:23-24). Ultimately, marriage is more about holiness than it is happiness. God designed heterosexual marriage for humans in order that they might experience a new understanding of Christ’s love for the Church.

Throughout the Bible, homosexuality is condemned as unnatural, immoral, and an abomination to God (Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-27). Further, the Bible say that homosexuals shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). Homosexuality is an abomination to God, and gay marriage does not align with the will of God or the original purpose of marriage.

Further evidence that God did not intend for homosexuals to marry is that homosexual intercourse lends itself to a high risk of disease, which is the reward for their error (Rom 1:27). Paul identifies homosexual men as sinners (1 Tim 1:9-10). Men are not permitted to lie with other men, as they would with a woman (Lev 20:13).

God created the institution of marriage to be between one man and one woman so that they may experience pure sexual intimacy, and a better understand Christ’s love for the Church. Homosexuality is condemned throughout the Bible, which states that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Thus, allowing homosexuals to marry as designed by God would compromise the sanctity of marriage.

Amos and Social Justice

Amos 3The book of Amos forecasts disaster for the northern kingdom of Israel in the form of Assyrian invasion and exile as a result of entrenched religious hypocrisy and social injustice. Amos is known as the prophet of social justice, writing during the pre-exilic period. One can safely assume that Amos committed his revelations to writing and that he is the genuine author of the work. During the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel, the Israelites were deeply religious, but were not holding true to the covenant stipulations outlined in the Mosaic covenant. The prophets of God, however, looked past the façade of the so-called golden age to the dry rot of social and moral decay in both Israel and Judah. Amos was wise in the way he chose to deliver his message. After being invited in to Israel to speak, he began by outlining all of the sins of the surrounding areas. For example, the Assyrians committed war crimes by running threshing boards over the wounded after the battle. The Phoenicians were violating international treaties, and the Philistines and Edomites were involved in slave trade. Upon hearing these accusations, the Israelites would have most certainly thought they were holier than the surrounding nations. However, when the time comes for Amos to evaluate Israel, he charges her with walking away from covenant relationship. Yahweh increases futility in their lives. Israel was taking advantage of the poor and the needy, and was not promoting social justice. Thus, Yahweh set a prophet to enlighten Israel of her ways.

amos2A modern reader of the book of Amos should focus on social justice. True biblical faith manifests itself in wholesome talk, compassionate social concern, and sound doctrine informing godly behavior. Similar to the message of Amos, modern Christians should concern themselves with promoting and protecting social justice. The Lord’s grace manifests true repentance and restoration in those who follow. The Lord loves justice and hates evil, therefore, Christians should do the same. If the Church believes that we are responsible to be an agent for reconciliation and restoration in this world, we should be outspoken advocates for world-wide social justice.

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs


The book of Proverbs collected the wisdom of ancient Israel and offered both instruction and example in Godly living. The book of Proverbs does not have any real connection to the historical story of the Israelites as documented in Genesis – Esther. This helps prove the universal nature and value of practical wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the foundational theme of the entire work. Fear is the beginning of wisdom; ergo wisdom is the fountain of life. The Hebrews believed that wisdom could be passed from one generation to the next, thus they sought to record their instructions. Much like the book of Psalms, there are multiple authors, depending on which section of the book one is reading. Proverbs 10-22 were written by Solomon, whereas Proverbs 30 was written by Agur, and still others by King Lemuel. The Hebrews believed that true wisdom comes from God, and those who would gain understanding must learn the fear of the Lord. Much of the book of Proverbs seeks to examine the retribution principle. Based on human experience, it was right for one to believe that those who are righteous will prosper and those who are wicked will suffer. Proverbs also serves to evaluate the power of the tongue and human speech, teaching that one’s character can be determined from their speech. Ultimately, the way of wisdom is keeping to the path of righteousness, because only men and women of integrity will remain in the land.

The modern reader of Proverbs should seek to understand that the literary strategies utilized, such as parallelism, are techniques used to instruct and reinforce meaning. There are timeless principles embedded in each Proverb, which are still applicable to today. Second, a modern reader would do well to note the power of human speech, both written and verbal. Out of the mouth flows the well-spring of the heart. Words have great power, as Proverbs 18:21 states, they may be used to wound or heal one’s spirit. Words also increase futility, often replacing actions. Today’s youth are attacked with profanity, vulgar language and unwholesome speech. As I try to instill in my students and the church youth, if you say something enough, you are destined to believe it. Proverbs helps, in many ways, back up the wisdom taught in the Christian Church.


The book of Ecclesiastes demonstrates that there is nothing in life that is able to bring self-fulfillment or give meaning to life. The true question of the book of Ecclesiastes is what is the moral value of a life. The author of the work is identified as Qoheleth. Traditionally, Qoheleth is identified as Solomon, however, scholars cannot be certain in that assumption. The author uses allegories, metaphors, and other literary devices to convey his meaning. The message of Ecclesiastes is that the course of life to pursue is a God-centered life. This author focuses on the idea of that the clock is ticking and everything has an appropriate place in time. According to the author, one’s moral value should be attained in the context of fearing God. One’s heart should be inclined to obedience. Another notable aspect of Ecclesiastes is that it rebukes part of the retribution principle. The book of Ecclesiastes displays that even those who are righteous will face hardships and suffer in life. Ultimately, The author accepts the retribution principle in theory but denies its ability to predict how one might fare in life or to explain any person’s current situation.

A modern reader of the book of Ecclesiastes should note that moral value should be attained though the fear of the Lord. Job was a righteous man in God’s sight, yet still suffered. This work shows that one cannot find happiness or fulfillment in anything other than the Lord. The Lord removes his protection from Job and allows the devil to test him. God has the confidence in Job to know that Job will not forsake Him. One must have the spiritual maturity to realize that everything comes from the hand of God. Life is a gift, and our purpose is to be righteous in the sight of the Lord. A modern reader would do well to adhere to Ecc 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

songsSong of Songs

The love poetry of the Songs celebrates the male-female relationship established by God at creation and the goodness of human sexual love expressed within the confines of God-ordained marriage. The author of the book, traditionally Solomon, details love and romance in a believing nation.  Mainly, the work addresses the truth that comes out of Solomon’s life or regret. It celebrates romance in the right context. Christian couples should be the exemplars of what true love looks like. The book has been interpreted in many different ways. Some scholars believe that the ‘key’ to the book has been lost. The dramatic interpretation adheres to the idea that the work is an ancient Hebrew play. Other theories, such as the wedding cycle, didactic, or allegorical theories, attempt to interpret the book as allegory. Regardless of interpretation, the work is viewed as instruction on and celebration of the physical nature of human beings created male and female by God. The book focuses on the chastity of young lovers, which was a start contrast to the sexual immorality of the cultures surrounding the Hebrews.

A modern reader of Song of Songs should realize that there are many different interpretations of the work. The Christian church popularizes the idea that Song of Songs depicts the relationship between Christ and the Church. One would do well to realize that Solomon regrets his promiscuity. The   positive dimensions of human love portrayed in the Song are important as cues for molding strong relationships. The topic of sex and relationships is often taboo in Church. A reader of Song of Songs would do well to comprehend how a biblical courtship should commence. Adhering to these teaching in the midst of the immorality of modern culture proves, for many, to be difficult. The Lord knows how wonderful the relationship between a man and woman is, and seeks to preserve its sanctity for marriage.

The Book of Pslams

The purpose of the book of Psalms is to use the familiar hymns of Israel to provide a cantata-like presentation of God’s kingship through his anointed representatives, the kings of David. Similar to a catchy song, the book of Psalms attempts to instill right theology in a memorable way. The book of Psalms has no set author. Many people, such as David, Asaph, Herman, Ethan, and the Sons of Korah are all credited with writing portions of the book. It was not until a later editor put the works together that the modern book of Psalms was canonized.  Each author would have had a specific purpose for each composition. There is not a unified purpose or message that can be attributed to the book as a whole. One must search for the purpose of each individual composition. Ultimately, the book attempts to reflect the nature of God and the response of the individual.

verseTo the modern church, the book of Psalms represents that there was always a faithful remnant in Israel’s history no matter how bad things got in the Kingdom. There was always an active, worshipping community. Through the different types of Psalms, such as Royal, Thanksgiving, Individual laments and Community laments, the reader is able to better understand the relationship between God and his creation. The Psalms display right worship, especially when focusing on God’s relationship with nature. The blessings and curses connected to the covenant were tied to the produce of the land. God is elevated above nature, and man is the pinnacle of his creation. Thus, as Psalms displays, mankind is to worship the Lord no matter what situation arises in life.

Archaeology, Wisdom Literature, and the Book of Job

jobIn regards to the Old Testament, the practice of archaeology has been both a blessing and a hindrance to the study of the Bible. Archaeologists oftentimes find shards of pottery, but seldom locate written records. It is these written records that shed light and give insight into Biblical studies. Archaeology can authenticate history, but it cannot authenticate theology, and from the biblical perspective, history devoid of theology is meaningless. Though multiple archives of written records, such as the archive of Elba, the Nuzi archive and the Amarna archives have been found, they seldom are able to cross-reference key biblical figures or biblical events. The most famous recent archaeological discovery is that of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  These scrolls have pride of place among the most significant contributions of archaeology to biblical studies. These documents date the OT writings nearly one thousand years earlier than previously thought. Archaeology does, however, inform our knowledge of the people of the Old Testament by adding facts and perspectives not derived from scripture.

Hebrew wisdom is like a mountain full of precious gemstones that must be carefully mined out of sediment and rock formations one by one. Wisdom literature, such as the book of Job, is composed of different literary techniques. Hebrew poetry contains techniques such as semantic parallelism, progressive parallelism, and grammatical parallelism. Authors frequently employed other techniques such as alliteration, acrostics, meter, ellipsis, inclusion and parallelism. Robert Lowth, a 18th century Bishop, was the first to identify the theme of parallelism in the Old Testament. The authors employed said techniques in order to make their works memorable, like a catchy song. Wisdom literature, as a genre, stems from the need for people to cope with the reality of human existence for sheer survival. Wisdom was believed to be passed down from generation to generation. An example of which can be found in the book of Proverbs. These sayings attempted to model what right relationship with Yahweh looked like. Such is the case with the book of Job.

job 1The purpose of the book of Job is to test God’s policies concerning justice. The book examines justice, emphasizing the importance of the suffering of righteous people. God’s policies are being put on trial. Most readers of Job search for the answer to the question of ‘Why do bad things happen to good people.’ This, however, is not the correct question to ask. Instead, one should ask ‘Why do the righteous suffer’. Job is presented as a patriarchal type figure, like Abraham. Through Job’s experiences, the retribution principle is debunked. This principle states that those who are righteous will receive blessings and those who are wicked will reap suffering. This presented a problem to the monotheistic Hebrews. Since there was only one sovereign God, suffering could not come from another source. Because this one God was believed to be absolutely just, suffering must have a logical explanation. The book of Job models that righteousness does guarantee one blessings. One must also realize that they are unable to offer God’s vantage point for the person who is suffering. Satan, in the book of Job, calls God’s character into question. Man, however, should not. The reader learns that there is never an evil intent behind the Lord’s plan, even if that plan breeds suffering for the righteous.

Job is presented as a patriarchal type figure, putting him around the time of Genesis. This would have been the most relevant time for Job’s message because of the suffering incurred by the Hebrew people after the time of Joseph and before the Exodus from Egypt. Though many Hebrews were faithful to Yahweh, they were still slaves. Furthermore, there was a predominate idea of theodicy. The common belief held that those who were righteous were blessed and the wicked would suffer. Thus, someone living in the ANE during the time of Job would have thought that Job must have committed a wicked crime in order to have endured so much suffering. This, however, is untrue. The book of Job provides the early Hebrew people with an answer to why righteous people face suffering in their lives. This example would serve to help them later rationalize and trust in the Lord during the trying times to come.

Esther: Seeing God in the Little Things

The purpose of the book of Esther is to show that God can accomplish his purposes just as easily through ‘coincidences’ as he can through grand miracles of deliverance. The book of Esther does not indicate an author. The work is set in the Persian Empire. The author seeks to defend the historical accuracy of the work, but the historical reliability is often debated. The literary styles of the book of Esther do not define the genre of the book. Therefore, it is considered to be in a class by itself.

esther 1Two major literary themes in the book are reversal and irony. A reversal occurs when the current state of affairs is turned around or when the plot develops in a way that is opposite or contrary to what one would expect. For example, Mordecai is elevated in society, and instead of being destroyed, the Jews are victorious over their enemies. The second literary device, irony, demonstrates that there is always more going on than meets the eye and more possibilities available than any single person understands or is aware of. One of the most obvious examples of irony occurs when the King asks Haman how he would honor someone, assuming it is he who will be honored, when in turn it is Mordecai. In addition, Haman is hanged on the gallows that he built for Mordecai.

Esther finds herself significant behind the scenes. Interestingly enough, the book does not mention Yahweh, but instead serves to show the Lord’s work behind the scenes. During the period of the book of Esther, the Hebrews were working to rebuild their homeland. There is a plot brought about by Haman to get Xerxes to allow enemies to destroy the Israelites on a given day. Esther approaches the king and in chapter 4 verse 4 said, “for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther’s faithfulness and fidelity is honored.

estherTraditionally, the Jewish people read the book of Esther annually at the celebration of the Feast of Purim. This festival recognizes the fact that the Jews were delivered from their enemies. God’s deliverance came by ‘chance’. The message of the book of Esther, and the celebration of Purim resounds: God’s methods may vary, but his purposes do not. Lastly, much like Abraham, the Jews in Persia were a revelatory people. God’s revelation came through the people. The Lord was faithful to provide a righteous remnant in order to fulfill his promises and preserve his people.

A modern reader of Esther should note that the Lord works in mysterious ways. The youth minister at Elizabeth Baptist Church constantly reminds the youth to “see God in the little things”. Most of the time he is referring to ‘coincidences’ that happen on mission trips, or small blessings that come to those who have been faithful to God. Christians are quick to look to God for the miraculous, when oftentimes; the miraculous comes in an unexpected, simple form. Esther’s faithfulness to Yahweh is rewarded, and the Jewish people are able to overcome their foes. Likewise, the Lord works in the lives of His people to help them overcome their foes and receive the blessings of Jesus Christ.

Nehemiah: Theological High Points

nehemiah 2Nehemiah is well known for the administrative skill he demonstrated in organizing the restoration community to repair and rebuild a large section of the wall of Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.. The book of Nehemiah presents a theological interpretation of the history of Israel. When the Hebrew people returned from the Babylonian exile, they were determined to lead a life that honored the one true God.

When the Israelites returned to their homeland, their enemies saw their occupation of the land as a threat. Nehemiah’s initiative to repair the walls of Jerusalem was undertaken against considerable resistance offered by a coalition of local alien enemies. The major theological highpoint of Nehemiah is the focus on the rebuilding of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The way in which Nehemiah facilitates this construction is an example of how one should execute spiritual leadership and oversight.

verseThe first seven chapters focus on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Chapters 8-13 focus on rebuilding of the spiritual life of Israel, which only escalates as threats from the enemy increase. Instead of simply leaving his workers defenseless, Nehemiah recognizes that the solution to foreign threats is to equip his workers with swords too. Ultimately, Nehemiah is able to inspire the people to complete the walls.

2verseAnother key theological highpoint is the reading of the Torah and the bringing of the people together. Nehemiah 8:8 says “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” The Levites would read from the Torah and explain the meaning to the people, thus paving the way for modern exegesis. The priests were charged with giving the fullest sense possible of the Word of God to the people.

Ultimately, Yahweh proves himself once again as a covenant keeper. Yahweh’s willingness to return to those who returned to Him assured the postexilic community of His desire to bless and restore the covenant people. Yahweh responded to the prayers of His people and maintained a faithful remnant in order to fulfill His promises.

A modern reader of Nehemiah should focus on the leadership and executive oversight exhibited by Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the example of what a Godly leader should be. He actively cared for his people and their situation, defining the reality of that dire situation. He reminded them that their city lay in ruin, and reminded them of the truth that they are called to rebuild the walls of the city. Nehemiah understood that prayer is essential to know God’s will. He was able to build a team of people who were dedicated to fulfilling God’s call. Though they were ridiculed and mocked, Nehemiah did not let the people lose hope. These examples from the book of Nehemiah should serve to encourage and instruct modern leaders as to how to appropriately work for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

Ezra: Theological High Points

ezra 2The books of Ezra and Nehemiah show the numerous ways that God was faithfully at work in restoring the people of Israel to their land after the Babylonian exile. Similar to the books of 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah form a single book in the Hebrew Old Testament. However, when the Greek version of the bible, the Septuagint, was composed, Ezra and Nehemiah were split into two separate books. Ezra is “best remembered for his reading of the Torah to the postexilic community and the consequent religious revival it inspired.

Interestingly, the book of Ezra begins with the same decree that ends the book of second Chronicles. Chronicles, however, shortens the decree and ends with an eschatological invitation whereas Ezra includes the entire decree. Most historians believe that the similarities between the books of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah stem from the fact that they were composed by the same author. Again, the author was intentional about the history included in the work, emphasizing particular religious themes. The chronicler’s compilation of Ezra and Nehemiah was motivated by keen theological interests.

The focus of the book of Ezra is on the rebuilding of the temple. A nation without a temple is a nation without a God. The author of Ezra sought to emphasize the importance of reestablishing covenant relationship with the Lord. The rebuilding of the temple was a physical manifestation of “God’s fulfillment of earlier promises to restore the remnant of Israel. When the Hebrews returned to their homeland, they had been transformed under the ministry of Ezekiel. The first six chapters of Ezra consist of lengthy genealogies, aimed at establishing the legitimacy of the priesthood. The last half of the book focuses on rebuilding Israel’s spiritual life.

buildThe theological highpoint of the book of Ezra is the spiritual rebuilding of the people of Israel. Ezra committed himself to encourage the people. He set his heart to study the law and the Torah of Yahweh to practice and teach its statutes. In essence, he prepared himself for his coming role. “The call to spiritual renewal and social justice by the two reformers [Ezra and Nehemiah] was aimed at correcting abuses and gross misconduct among the returned remnant and instilling hope and boosting the morale of the people. God’s faithfulness to the covenant revealed that He was not done with His people. The Israelites had faith and “trusted God for the accomplishment of feats that served as concrete manifestations of His covenant keeping ability.

A modern reader of the book of Ezra should take note of the way in which Ezra prepared himself for his work. Ezra knew that he was to bring about a spiritual renewal among the Israelites, so he set himself to study the Torah in order to practice and teach its statutes. Today, this should serve as encouragement to those who have heard God’s calling on their life. Like Ezra, seminarians work diligently to study the Word of God in order to prepare themselves for their coming ministry. If one lives a life that is pleasing to God, following all that he has commanded of them, then the Lord will give them the desires of their heart, and use their life to His glory.

2 Chronicles: Theological High Points

1The chronicler’s history offered hope in postexilic Jerusalem by assuring the present community that of the sovereign Lord of Hosts, having been active during the reigns of David and Solomon, would continue providentially to intervene in Hebrew history to accomplish the prophetic vision of Zion. In 2 Chronicles, much like in the first, the author seeks to focus his discussion on reform efforts and the good kings in Judah’s history. The kingships of David and Solomon “served as models of an ‘ideal’ Israel under theocratic rule for the present community.

The reader should remind themselves of the qualifications of a successful king as laid out in Deuteronomy 17. Those criterions are largely taken out of the books of Chronicles. The first part of 2 Chronicles focuses on Solomon’s desire to rebuild the temple. Though he practiced syncretism, and sought to acquire gold and women, the author reminds the reader of the “good side” of Solomon’s half-hearted kingship. The last half of the work centers on the kings who brought reform in Judah, namely Hezekiah and Josiah.

The worship of Yahweh was an integral part of the chronicler’s theocratic ideal for postexilic Jerusalem. The author emphasized the importance of both individual and corporate worship. True worship, according to the chronicler, is rooted in love for God as well as the fear of the Lord. Worship stemmed from the condition of the heart, and was valued as an attitude leading to an active experience before the Lord. Of special importance to the chronicler was the significance of worship as word. The Israelites, and Yahweh, valued oath taking, song, and liturgical responses as an active expression of worship. The Levitical priests were charged with overseeing the worship and representing the Israelites in sacrifices and communal worship events.

2Second Chronicles ends with a significant political decree. The Cyrus Decree ends the book of 2 Chronicles and begins the book of Ezra. However, the chronicler leaves out half of verse 3. Ezra 1:3 says, “anyone of his people among you – may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.” The chronicler, however, says “Anyone of his people among you – may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.” This omission and revision can be interpreted as an eschatological invitation. The chronicler is alluding to something that is yet to come, granting even more hope to his intended audience. In this manner, the end of 2 Chronicles attaches itself to the Davidic Covenant, bolstering the foundation for a Messianic theology.

A modern reader of 2 Chronicles should remember that all of the promises made to the Israelites also hold true to modern day readers as well. The end of 2 Chronicles offers an eschatological invitation to the audience, alluding to a coming messiah. The audience of the chronicler spent roughly 70 years in Babylonian captivity. While they were there, the prophet Ezekiel ministered to them. The group left for Babylonia as half-baked pagans but came back as fervent monotheists. Similar to the Israelites, the Lord uses ‘wilderness experiences’ in our lives to refine our faith and increase the desire to serve him. A modern reader should use the scriptures for encouragement, even those that have been widely debated. Second Timothy 3:16 confirms that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”