2 Timothy 2.2

Why is it that we often do little to no study? Sometimes our positions are even based on the unique wording of a specific translation of the Bible (usually the KJV). Frankly we preachers are often Exhibit A of this tendency. So, I was once again informed how much a false teacher I am regarding women in church. My critic believed 2 Timothy 2.2 was his slam dunk case against me.

I am a restorationist. Though I believe it is foolish to ignore the wisdom and traditions hammered out in the history of God’s people, ultimately we have to go back to the biblical text and let it sit in judgment upon all of our wisdom, traditions and opinions. So I confess,

No creed but Christ,
No book but the Bible


This being the case, it should be natural for folks in the Stone-Campbell Movement to be Berean and always question. We should be natural questioners of the received wisdom. But this is not always the case. Instead of questioning we go assuming a conclusion. Then we use our assuming as the standard for truth.

As noted, I was informed I was in error because Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, commanded that MEN (as in males) be charged with teaching. So my critic quoted 2 Timothy 2.2 in the King James Version.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

As anyone can see Paul clearly says in the KJV “commit thou to faithful MEN, who shall be able to teach.” This was supposed to be the end of the story. End of discussion.

But I have to question if my critic has studied this text. Does he assume that Paul wrote in King James English? Paul did not say, in 2 Timothy 2.2, that Timothy is to entrust males who are gifted in teaching. It does not even say that in the KJV. Paul says Timothy is to entrust reliable people, trustworthy people, with the message. Faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness is the qualification not gender.

The term at issue here is ἀνθρώποις. The King James Version in 1611 translated it as “men” which was quite a broad term in the 17th century. This is a generic term for human beings with no gender specified. “Men” often means “mankind,” “humanity” “people.” The English language has changed greatly in the four hundred years since 1611. Even in 1611 the term “men” did not necessarily mean male but persons.

Paul, and any Bible reader, knows this from the first page of the Bible. In Paul’s Greek version of Genesis in the Septuagint we read,

“And God said, Let us make humans/humanity [ἄνθρωπον] according to our image and likeness … And God made humans/humanity [ἄνθρωπον] in his image, male and female [ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ].” (Genesis 1.26-27, LXX)

ἀνθρώποις covers the entire human race both males and females. ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ is the differentiation of humans into the gendered male and female. Paul simply does not tell Timothy that he is to find trustworthy/faithful/reliable males to do the teaching. Timothy is not to mentor merely males so that only males equip the saints. Timothy is to find reliable humans and train and equip them for teaching the saints.

But we do not really have to know Greek, or the LXX, to know that Paul did not say “males” in 2 Timothy 2.2. Most modern translations clearly indicate the meaning here.

“entrust faithful PEOPLE who will be able to teach” (NRSV)

“entrust to reliable PEOPLE who will also be qualified to teach” (NIV)

“You should teach PEOPLE whom you can trust the things you and many others have heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others.” (NCV)

“teach these truths to other trustworthy PEOPLE who will be able to pass them on” (NLT)

“pass them on to faithful PEOPLE who are also capable of teaching others” (CEB)

“pass it on to faithful PEOPLE who will be capable of instructing others” (Kingdom NT)

“hand it on to reliable PEOPLE so they in turn will be able to teach others” (JB)

The “qualification” Paul gives is not gender rather it is their faithful walk with the Lord. They are faithful, reliable, trustworthy.

Paul was quite familiar with faithful/reliable/trustworthy women teachers. From his Bible he knew of the great liberator Miriam. He knew the mighty Deborah. He walked through the gates of the temple named for the wise Huldah. And he personally knew Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Junia, Euodia, and Syntyche, just to name a few.

Timothy’s job was to find people, women and men, who were faithful to the Gospel, people who were gifted by God and train them to teach.

In the end, the text my critic used to call me a false teacher states exactly the opposite of what he claims. This teaching ministry belongs, according to 2 Timothy 2.2, to males and females who love the Lord.

21 Feb 2022

The Prophet Huldah’s Unquestioned Authority

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: C. R. Nichol, Hebrew Bible, Women

Four Women have changed my life eternally:

Huldah

Phoebe

Rachael

Talya.

I never (ever) considered myself a sexist but I did hold the old (but not ancient) view that women could do nothing in church. Huldah, Phoebe, Rachael and Talya showed me The Way. It began with Phoebe. Then I was forced to wrestle with Huldah because of Rachael. I had ignored her and God’s word previously.

Huldah was, if we believe inspired writers of Kings and Chronicles, one of the most influential prophets in Israel’s history. In fact, most of the names we think of when we hear the word “prophet” are not even mentioned by either Kings or Chronicles. Jonah and Isaiah (“writing prophets”) are mentioned in Kings. Jeremiah is not, to my knowledge mentioned at all. In Chronicles, Isaiah is mentioned as is Jeremiah mentioned briefly as the author of a lament over Josiah (2 C 35.25) and in 2 C 36. 12, 21. He is never mentioned in connection with Josiah’s reform. Even Elijah and Elisha are mentioned only in Kings but completely absent from Chronicles. Only Huldah figures in the narratives of both Kings and Chronicles (2 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 34). And in these writings the authority of Huldah is unquestioned. It is even beyond question.

Her authority was unquestioned by the son of David, King Josiah.

Her authority was unquestioned by Hilkiah, God’s high priest (read that till we get it!)

Her authority was unquestioned by Ahikam, son of Shaphan.

Her authority was unquestioned by Abdon.

Her authority was unquestioned by Shaphan, basically the secretary of state.

Her authority was unquestioned by Asiah.

Her authority was unquestioned by the inspired author of Kings.

Her authority was unquestioned by the inspired author of Chronicles.

Her authority was recognized over the rediscovered book of the law. Had Huldah declared to Josiah and Hilkiah that the book was a fraud, the work of a false prophet, they would have obeyed her and burned the book. Thus, a woman prophet is the first person in recorded history to identify a piece of writing as Scripture. It was Huldah’s undisputed authority that “authorized” the book (Read this till we get it)!

Her authority was unquestioned by the Israelites.

Her authority was recognized by naming five gates to the temple in Jesus’s day, the Huldah Gates. In fact, Huldah is the only human with a gate(s) named for her. They did not even have a Moses Gate. Yet there were five Huldah Gates.

Sadly, I have met even preachers who not only do not recognize Huldah’s unquestioned authority but quite a few have never heard of her.

Things that make you go … hmmmmmmmm

C. R. Nichols 1938 book, God’s Woman (co-author of Sound Doctrine with R. L. Whiteside; Nichols’ Pocket Bible Encyclopedia; Mentor to Foy Wallace Jr; etc.) offered some perceptive insight to Huldah.

Anticipating the charge that Huldah is “the Old Testament” (the easy way to get rid of parts of the Bible that do not fit a sectarian agenda), he writes in God’s Woman,

Sex relationship was the same in the days of Huldah that it was in the days of the apostles. Huldah was inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach a group {=assembly!} of men, and she did teach them without violating the law of Jehovah. Though we do not have inspired men and women today, it does not follow that a group of men may not be taught by a man, or a woman” (p. 28).

It is important to wrestle with the fact that the prophet Jeremiah was ministering at the time of Huldah. In fact, Jeremiah had been preaching for at least five years by this time, according to Nichol (p.29).

We must ask the question, Why is it that Josiah sent the High Priest and other men to Huldah instead of Jeremiah?

When the king was disturbed by the contents of the rediscovered “book of the law” (i.e. the Bible in Josiah’s day) and wanted to know what it meant, and what he was to do, Josiah and his men “did not seek Jeremiah” (p.30).

They knew the prophetess Huldah was in the city, that she was a mature woman, and they elected, or the king commanded them to go to her for instructions. Huldah, the prophetess, was inspired by Jehovah to teach the high priest, the men with him, and through them the king. By Jehovah’s approval she taught them, for God inspired her to do the teaching. This woman, Huldah, taught a group of men without usurping authority over them, and women can teach men today without refusing to be in subjection to men!” (p. 30).

Huldah, the Prophet of God. Her authority was unquestioned by the King, the High Priest, the biblical authors of Kings and Chronicles. Her authority was unquestioned. She should be one of the most famous characters in the Bible … remember they named gates for her not Moses, not Elijah, not Jeremiah … but Huldah. Huldah was beyond doubt one of the greatest prophets and leaders among God’s people of all time.

When we genuinely understand what Huldah did and who she was our views just may undergo a revolution.

Also of Interest

Huldah Who? The Forgotten Ministry of a Lady Prophet

Though written before I was born, King (seemingly) directly addresses the America of 2022.
Read this book.

But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
” (Amos 5.24)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
” (Micah 6.8)

Someone once said that we build monuments to the prophets in order to neuter their witness. Bernice King, MLK’s daughter, said as much last year as she protested the misuse of her father’s name by whites in support for the status quo of injustice in America.

When I moved to Grenada, MS in 1997, when Talya was a mere two weeks old, I had no clue how central that itty bitty town was in the struggle for justice during the Civil Rights Movement. It was a town wracked with racial division and had not had an election in years. Lawsuits went to the Supreme Court several times. My racial education had begun already in New Orleans (and I had read a few books) but I was still dumb (blind!) as dirt. Ernest Hargrove, Pastor of the AME church, and others soon were lovingly educating me however.

In June 1966, James Meredith undertook a Freedom March down Highway 51 that passes through Grenada, Mississippi. He did not get far, just south of Hernando, on Hwy 51, he was shot. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Atlanta in a meeting with the staff of SCLC when the news of the shooting arrived. Initially, King says, the report was Meredith had died. Everyone in the room was furious. Soon reports came that Meredith was alive and in the hospital in Memphis. King decided they needed to go to Memphis visit James and finish his Freedom Walk. While King was visiting, a young man named Stokley Carmichael showed up. Carmichael would end up walking with King down Hwy 51 through Grenada then to Greenwood.

Along the way, King remembers, Carmichael began voicing his doubts about nonviolence and by the time they had made Grenada, had talked about “Black Power.” By the time they reached Greenwood, he was shouting “Black Power.”

In 1967 King reflected on this journey in his epic book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community. King was not only a superb orator but he had a potent analytical mind. He explains to his readers (especially white ones) that Carmichael is/was not wrong. That’s right, Carmichael was not wrong. He understood at a gut level the frustration and rage, how could one not be raging angry in the face of such blatant evil while the majority culture turned a blind eye.

But King thought the rhetoric was unhelpful because white folks to quickly latch onto verbiage without understanding what was actually being said.

We fail to hear! Jesus bemoans this truth regularly.

So, King meticulously explains, to white readers, the why of the rhetoric and the legitimacy of the complaint. What King states reads as if it was written for 2020 and 2022.

The “Cry of Black Power,” did not suddenly drop “as if from Zeus.” But has a concrete historical birthing: not only the United States but Mississippi. He writes,

The state symbolizing the most blatant abuse of white power. In Mississippi the murder of civil rights workers is still a popular pastime. In that state more than forty Negroes and whites have either been lynched or murdered over the last three years, and not a single man has been punished for these crimes. More than fifty Negro churches have been burned or bombed [as was the case with Bell Flower M.B. Baptist Church right in Grenada!] in the last two years, yet the bombers still walk surrounded by a halo of adoration.”

If Carmichael, who represents the “young” to King (King was only 38), his anger and sense of hopelessness is the fault of white America. Why? Because black lives simply did not matter to white America.

That’s right. King illustrated this by an interesting story. Carmichael was with King in Alabama when Army veteran Jimmy Lee Jackson had been brutally murdered by the state police on February 26, 1965 for trying to register to vote (this was the impetus for the March from Selma to Montgomery). A white man, a minister, James Reeb, was also killed. I will let King tell the story.

They remembered how President Johnson sent flowers to the gallant Mrs. Reeb, and in his eloquent “We Shall Overcome” speech paused to mention that one person, James Reeb, had already died in the struggle. Somehow the President forgot to mention Jimmy, who died first. The parents and sister of Jimmy received no flowers from the President. The students felt this keenly, not because they felt that the death of James Reeb was less tragic, but because they felt the failure to mention Jimmy Jackson only REINFORCED THE IMPRESSION THAT TO WHITE AMERICA THE LIFE OF A NEGRO IS INSIGNIFICANT AND MEANINGLESS.” (my emphasis).

King says many other things we ought to hear. But right here he put his finger on something. “Black Power” was voicing the cry of a group that was convinced in their souls that their very lives, their existence as human beings, simply did not matter to the white power structure. That is why King begins his story with the bald statement, “James Meredith has been shot!” King’s implicit challenge to white America is not, Carmichael is wrong but “pony up and prove that not only his but every Black Life Matters!” (My words, not his). King goes on to say that Stokely’s critics are more white than Christian.

Martin never dreamed of a colorless society. He never once dreamed of a color blind world. He dreamed of a racist free society. He dreamed of a justice filled society. He dreamed of a society where Stokely Carmichael’s life as a BLACK man mattered because God had made him a black man. He dreamed of a world where God’s creational differences are the basis of celebration of humanity not the basis of oppression. That is what King dreamed for. God made Stokely black and that awful fact was to be recognized and valued. BTW God also never dreamed of a colorless world and God redeems it as part of the work of the Jewish Messiah. (See the link “I Don’t See Color!’ But I Do and So Does God … the Bible Celebrates Unity in Diversity.”)

I think America has de-fanged King just as Bernice King charged. White Christians have turned his “I Have a Dream” into some neo-Gnostic, colorless, white-washed nightmare. But for King, Black Lives Mattered … as Black Lives.

King still speaks to us even today. May we honor King by pursuing a life where justice and righteousness flow like an ever flowing stream (Amos 5.24).

All quotations from King come from Martin Luther King. Jr, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community with a Forward by Coretta Scott King. You should read this book. There is an Amazon link in the title.

24 Jan 2022

Jesus’s Sacrifice of Prayer in Hebrews

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Exegesis, Hebrews, Jesus, Jewish Backgrounds, Prayer, Worship
In the days, while in his flesh, he SACRIFICED prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard for his godly fear.

I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
    hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

(Psalm 141.1-2).

The “epistle” to the Hebrews is a homily. Hebrews is also a very complex homily (and easily misunderstood). I am partial to Gabriella Gelardini has attempted to return to the first century and ask what kind of social context the text fits.  The answer is the Jewish liturgical calendar that frames so much of the NT writings.  She has argued that Hebrews is an example of an ancient synagogue homily composed specifically for Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting that “commemorates and mourns over the sins of Israel and the covenant curse that followed them.” Even if we cannot be dogmatic that Hebrews was “specifically” for that occasion, such an occasion sheds great light on what is in the sermon (see Gabriella Gelardini, “Hebrews, An Ancient Synagogue Homily for Tisha be-Av: Its Function, Its Basis, Its Theological Interpretation,” in G. Gelardini, ed., Hebrews: Contemporary Methods – New Insights, pp. 107-27).

There are many overlapping worlds in Hebrews that are simply alien to Protestant North American readers steeped in centuries of anti-Judaism and often outright anti-Semiticism. There is not only the strange world of the act of sacrifice, but the even more alien worldview that sacrificing operates within. In the last generation there has been a veritable revolution in Hebrews scholarship because of studies in other areas: Temple studies; Jewish lectionaries and liturgy; the role of the Psalms in Second Temple Judaism; Second Temple literature like the Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls; and many more.

The role of “cultic” language in Hebrews had often been ignored by Protestant scholars. Here the word “cult” does not mean something associated with Jim Jones but the world of worship associated with Temple/Tabernacle, the “rituals” of worship.

Sacrifice in particular is prominent in Hebrews. But sacrifice is not always, even primarily, the killing of an animal. There are many forms of sacrifice that do not include killing. A prominent example would be grain or cereal sacrifices which are completely animal free. But sacrifice is a “cultic” act of worship. The Sermon of Hebrews associates this with the prayers of Jesus though almost all older commentaries never mention it and our English translations have been so conditioned by tradition and our unfamiliarity with that world we miss it. One of my favorite texts in the Bible however speaks to all of these matters above. Hebrews 5.7.

In the days, while in his flesh, he SACRIFICED prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard for his godly fear.

The term usually translated as “offered” is a “cultic” term associated with the offering sacrifice throughout Leviticus and associated texts in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. In other contexts, it is rendered clearly as “sacrifice/d“.

In Evangelical/Protestant traditions it is too Roman Catholic to refer to a prayer as a “sacrifice” but that is exactly what Hebrews does. The other ancient Jesus, Ben Sira, said,

The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds [of incense to the throne of God]
and it will not rest until it reaches its goal
” (Sirach 35.21).

Here we have a brilliant window opened up on the “spirituality” of Jesus of Nazareth. We see Jesus as one of the people (he is a Jew) who worships the God of Israel.

Though it is common to associate these words with Gethsemane, and that can only be one illustration of the words as F. F. Bruce noted. Rather the Hebrews Preacher is echoing the words of Psalm 22 which the Sermonator has already quoted in Hebrews 2.12. The Psalm begins by speaking,

I cry to you by day,
but you do not answer,
and by night ..
. (22.2).

This deep Jewish tradition of the righteous crying to God while under duress is found in a number of Jewish sources particularly the Maccabees (to whom the Sermonator says the world was unworthy of in 11.35-38).

“[A]ll the people with lamentations and tears, prayed to the Lord …” (2 Macc 11.6);

the priests … filled the temple with cries and tears” (3 Macc 1.16);

the Jews at their last gasp … stretched their hands toward heaven and with most tearful supplication and mournful dirges implored the Supreme God to save them” (3 Macc 5.25).

The Sermonator wants to locate Jesus within this Jewish tradition. Jesus is with the people who have also cried for deliverance. He (as High Priest) represents them.

And as a priest he, Jesus, “sacrificed” prayers to God just as the Levitical priests do in the temple. Not only in Gethsemane but his whole life. And he was “heard.” His sacrifice was accepted. It “pierced the clouds” as the other Jesus proclaimed.

Jesus died on the cross. He seemingly, at that moment, was not heard. The Empire proclaimed victory. Perhaps this is why Psalm 22 is the sacrifice Jesus offered while on the cross itself. Jesus also “sacrificed” Psalm 31 but Hebrews does not quote that text.  But Jesus died in faith. The resurrection was God’s answer to the sacrifice of prayer by Jesus.

All of life can be a sacrifice to God. This notion did not begin with Jesus. It is quite “Old Testament.” It is extremely Jewish. Prayer itself is worship. It is a sacrifice we offer to God.

Let’s offer some sacrifices …

Of Related Interest:

Hebrews: Common Assumptions; Uncommon Surprises

The Renewed Covenant

The “new covenant” is the REnewAL of the promises to Abraham and David by expanding the Mosaic covenant to include Gentiles in the definition of Israel. What God does in Jesus, Luke tells us, is in direct connection (i.e. continuity) with those promises.

He [God] has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promises he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever
” (Luke 1.54-55)

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David …
Thus he has shown the mercy promised
to our ancestors
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our ancestor Abraham”
(Luke 1.68-69, 72)

Is this not essentially what Paul says in Ephesians when he declares the “mystery?”

for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you [i.e. Gentiles], and how the MYSTERY was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words (i.e. 2.1-22), a reading of which will enable y’all to perceive my understanding of the MYSTERY of Messiah. In former generations this mystery was not known to humanity, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Messiah Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3.2-6).

Paul states plainly that Gentiles are indeed heirs to the covenants (plural) and now fellow citizens of Israel. They were once aliens to both.

remember that you [i.e. the Gentiles, v.11] were at that time without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth/nation of Israel, and strangers to the COVENANTS [plural, cf. Romans 9.4] of promise, having no hope and without God [i.e. they were pagans!] in the world. BUT NOW in Messiah Jesus you [plural, Gentiles] who were once far off have been brought near…” (Ephesians 2.12).

Baptism, though rarely understood for what it is in Galatians, is in Paul’s argument God’s gracious means of making pagan Gentiles into sons and daughters of Abraham. Baptism upholds the promise and covenant given to Abraham. The covenant with Abraham was not ever “nailed to the cross.” Paul’s entire argument in Galatians 3 is that Gentiles are now (as he states in Ephesians 2-3 noted above) heirs and citizens of Israel because baptism connects us to Abraham through the Jewish King. Frequently we stop quoting Galatians before we get to Paul’s actual point!

For in Messiah Jesus you [plural] are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah [Messiah is the Jewish Davidic King, Romans 1.3; 2 Timothy 2.8]. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Messiah Jesus. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are ABRAHAM’S offspring, HEIRS according to the promise.” (Galatians 3.26-29).

The “new covenant” is not (and never will be) the repudiation of the “Old Testament” (a phrase the apostles never once used much less heard of). Nor is the “old covenant” synonymous with the Scriptures (Gen-Mal). Rather the “new covenant” is the affirmation of the never ending promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel and David made new. I would go so far as to say the new covenant includes God’s covenant with creation itself (cf. Genesis 9.8-17; Hosea 2.18-19). It is important to remember that in both Hebrew (hadas) and Greek (kainos) can be and often are rendered renew (as in “the steadfast love of the Lord is NEW every morning.” That is God’s love is renewed every day. See my article: Jeremiah 31.31-34: Explorations on New and Renewed in the Bible).

David the Priest King, Worship Leader

So, if the new/renewed covenant includes the covenant with David rather than its repudiation is the Book of Psalms part of the Davidic covenant? I think it is. This is why Paul tells us to sing the Psalms (Ephesians 5.19) and the Hebrews Preacher says that Jesus is the Priest-King worship leader in the Psalter.

But some desperately want the Psalms to be “nailed to the cross” (a grosser misinterpretation of Colossians 2.14 could not be found) because it mentions instruments. I had a preaching brother say to me, “if the Old Testament is not nailed to the cross then instrumental music is not wrong.” Therefore he refused to even entertain the idea that the “Old Testament” was not nailed to the cross. His rejection of instrumental music dictated his “interpretation” of Colossians 2.14. So much for actual biblical authority! But basing theology on sectarian agendas is poor exegesis. (See “What Was Nailed to the Cross? Colossians 2.14).

In the Hebrew Bible David is not just the King of Israel. David is pictured as Israel’s worship leader, a priest. A number of texts in the Hebrew Bible demonstrate this though they are often unfamiliar to many. We will look at just a few.

When the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, David was in charge of the ceremony. Yahweh was clearly present for the event for we read,

God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 15.26).

The text goes on to say,

David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers; and David wore a linen ephod …” (15.27)

David is certainly in priestly vestments. The text states explicitly he is wearing what the Levites are also wearing. But the text goes on to describe the priestly leadership of David in remarkable ways.

They brought in the ark of God [David and company], and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and they offered burnt offerings and shalom-offerings before God. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the shalom offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16.1-3).

David is unabashedly described as a priest by the Chronicler. He is not only dressed like a priest but even a high priest (the linen ephod!) and he even offers the sacrifice and blesses the people … a clear allusion to the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6.22-24. Chronicles presents David is a Priest-King.

This is not unusual at all in the ancient world as kings from Egypt to Assyria to Babylon to Rome were viewed as having priestly functions.

Jesus the Priest-King, Worship Leader of the Renewed Covenant

By ascribing the Psalms to David, the Bible continues to have David function as the Priest-King who leads God’s people in the worship of God. This is not just an Aaronic function it is a Davidic function … and this is what Jesus does. Jesus is the King-Priest, the “son of David” leading God’s people in the worship of the one true God.

The Hebrews Preacher says that Jesus is the worship leader in the middle of the Gathered people. He, like David the Priest-King, leads the people in worship. The Preacher calls Jesus the liturgist or minister.

We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
a MINISTER/liturgist
[λειτουργὸς] in the sanctuary/holy place and the true tent” (8.1-2).

There are remarkable parallels between what Jesus is said to be doing in Hebrews and what David did in Chronicles. In Hebrews it is Jesus the Priest-King who is speaking and singing with the congregation in the Davidic Psalms (Heb 2.11-13).

For this reason, Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,
saying, I
[Jesus] will proclaim your name [Yahweh’s] to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I
[Jesus] will praise you.”

What does our Priest-King do in the sanctuary? He leads worship! That is what the High Priest does! He

1) proclaims the holy name of Yahweh

2) he leads in praise.

But it is Psalm 22.22, not a verse from the Gospels, that the Preacher quotes. In fact the Preacher of Hebrews quotes the Bible right and left but never once quotes any apostle or word of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. But the preacher does quote Jesus from the Psalms (and Isaiah!). The Preacher quotes Psalm 95 throughout chapters 3 and 4 saying that it speaks to his congregation authoritatively “Today” (Heb 3.7, 13; 4.7). It is what people today call the “Old Testament” that is the authority for the Hebrews Preacher’s doctrine. Read that again.

So, if the Son of David, the Priest-King, is singing the Psalms with us, then why is it that the Psalms do not teach us the way of worship to the One True God? Are we not “heirs” of the Psalms?

Jesus our Priest-King Teaches the Church through the Psalms

Clearly the Hebrews Preacher, like Paul, did not think the Psalter was old, obsolete nor passing away. They were “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (4.12, this is spoken about Psalm 95). In fact, as we saw, it is non-other than the voice of Jesus the Priest-King son of David in the Psalter.

I am convinced that, from a “New Testament” perspective, that we worship as they did in the Hebrew Bible. The Son of David heir of the promises to David, as the Priest-King, continues to lead the People of God which now includes Gentiles in the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel. We find throughout the Psalter the Gentiles addressed and commanded to come and join with Israel to worship the God of Israel (as examples see Psalm 96, Psalm 98, Psalm 100, Psalm 117, Psalm 149, etc, etc.).

This is one reason why, when we turn to the book that uses the word “worship” more than the rest of the NT combined, it looks, smells, and sounds so much like the Psalms, the Temple, and the Hebrew Bible … that book is of course Revelation of John.

Also of Related Interest

Hebrews: Common Assumptions, Uncommon Surprises

Psalms and the Temple: What Jesus and the Way Experienced

What are the Psalms, Hymns and Odes of Ephesians 5.19?

Grace the Last Word: Two Stories, One People or Why the Bible tells the Story of Israel not Once but Twice

The Five Megillot (i.e. Scrolls) are some of my favorite portions of God’s word. The Megillot are Song of Songs; Ruth; Lamentations; Ecclesiastes and Esther. Interestingly enough while working my way through Psalm 87, the story of Ruth came to my mind. So I went back and read the little book.


I have been struck (yet again) by just how “not silent” women are in the Bible. As Beth Allison Barr noted, the women in the Bible are frequently not very “biblical” (as has been traditionally understood). Some of the greatest leaders of God’s people have been women: Miriam the Prophet; Deborah the Prophet and Judge; Huldah the Prophet; Esther the Worship Leader; Anna the Prophet, Phoebe the Deacon; the Song of Songs Wonder Woman just to name a few. In the Scroll of Ruth we have a whole book that is centered on another Wonder Woman of God who breaks the mold of what so many consider to be biblical womanhood. (These women leaders ought to be mentioned and celebrated any time we mention biblical heroes).


There are a number of ways to read Ruth. But the fact that the book is associated with Shavuot/First Fruits/Pentecost is very important. The narrator simply assumes we know the worship calendar by telling us that it was the beginning of the barely harvest and that Ruth gleaned in Boaz’s field until the end of the harvest (1.22; 2.23). This places the action of the story between Passover and Pentecost. This “Pentecost/Shavuot” framework helps to draw numerous Hesed/grace themes to the forefront. (If you have not read Deuteronomy 26.1-15, especially the “Confession of Faith” in vv. 5-11, now is a good time to do so.). On the calendar chasm for modern American disciples see: The Calendar Chasm: World of Israel vs The Modern West.


First. God’s people are reminded that God has richly blessed us with bounty. We live by every word that comes from God’s mouth. But our Story – Ruth – teaches us God has not blessed us alone. The very grace we have received is to be shared with others, including aliens. Grace/Hesed creates koinonia.


The field of barley (=God’s grace) did not belong to Israel but to God, as such Israel could not hoard the free gift. The edges and the seed that fell on the ground was for aliens.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of our harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19.9-10).

But Shavuot/Pentecost states explicitly that Yahweh’s gracious bounty is to be shared at the table with all the “have nots” around.

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he [Jacob/Israel] went down into Egypt, and lived there as an alien … So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites, and the the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty the LORD your God has given to you and to your house. … leaving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans and the widows, so that they may eat their fill … to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows …” (Deuteronomy 26.5, 10, 12-13).

Levites, widows, orphans, and aliens. Aliens are mentioned three times. God’s people are commanded to be a blessing of Hesed/Grace to the aliens.

Israel was not allowed, by grace, to pick a field bare. One indication that Boaz reflects Yahweh’s Hesed is that he instructs his workers to even pull stalks out of the already bound bundles and toss them to the ground for the sole purpose of making sure Ruth, the Alien, had enough.


Shavuot and Ruth remind us that God loves the world and wants to use us (God’s People) to bless the world. Israel is God’s people, the instrument, the means, by which Yahweh intends to bless all peoples. Yahweh loves the aliens and provides them with “food and clothing” according to that magnificent passage from Moses (Deuteronomy 10.12-22). Celebrating that grace properly requires sharing that grace with aliens, orphans and widows (again see the “confession” to be given at Pentecost in Deuteronomy 26.1-15). Grace here is not mere pleasantries but concrete and specific material realities (in this case sharing the food and bounty of the earth with the alien, who happens to be your enemy!). Shavuot is about grace.


Second. It is difficult to miss that the Scroll of Ruth is about an alien. Not merely an alien. Rather the alien protagonist in the Scroll comes from Israel’s legendary enemy, the Moabites. The word “Moab” occurs in the short book of Ruth six times. The words “the Moabite” occur another six times in the book. In addition the word “foreigner/alien” occurs at least once. It is as if the narrator wants to smack us with “Ruth THE MOABITE!” The writer is saying, “I know we often do not have eyes to see or ears to hear, so I am saying, look at the Moabite, look at the Moabite, look at the Moabite! Ruth the Moabite. Get it.”

The question remains, do we get it?


The Spirit guided author is saying, “God’s people, pay attention to this!” Ruth has three strikes:

1) she is a woman;
2) she is a widow;
3) she is a Moabite!

But the Story of Ruth, especially on Pentecost, thunders the Gospel of Moses found in Deuteronomy (in response to ‘what does God require?”).


Circumcise the foreskins of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the aliens providing them food and clothing. YOU SHALL ALSO LOVE THE ALIEN, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10.16-19).


Ruth is Deuteronomy 10.16 in real life. Ruth reminds us that “we” did not always posses land to plant and grow crops on. Rather “we” too were landless, powerless, aliens. The knee jerk, the default position, response of God’s people is supposed be on the side of Ruth wherever and whenever she is found.


Why?

Because We are Ruth! It is easy to become possessors of grace (as if we own it) rather than dispensers of grace. It is easy to claim grace rather than be possessed by grace. That is grace has taken possession of us. It is easy to fall back into prejudice against the Moabites (of every name). In fact, it is even easy to quote the Bible to justify our lack of grace and generosity. But in Ruth we are shown what God’s Hesed looks like in 3D. (Hesed is the essential identity of God it is on his “name tag” in the God Creed, Ex 34.6). See Exodus 34: Pulse of the Bible. The Moabite, the alien, the enemy, is my neighbor.


Third. The story of Ruth reminds us that God’s story and “my” story are always intertwined. I am not a King David, Solomon, Hezekiah. I am not a prophet like Huldah or Amos. Nor am I an apostle like Matthew or Paul. It is easy to think “little ole me” is not needed, or important, in the grand scheme of things.


Thank God for Ruth the Moabite!

She is not a king.
She is not one of the chosen.
She is a nobody.
She is very much one of “the least of these.”

Yet, unknown to her, the God of Israel was using a nobody alien woman to change the destiny of world itself. She had no way of knowing that HER STORY that is so plain and ordinary is hardly ordinary because God was using her to write HIS STORY. What grace.


This is you and me beloved. There will be volumes in the library of the New Heavens and New Earth that speak of God’s story through you and me. As C. S. Lewis once noted “it is not an abstraction called Humanity that is to be saved. It is you.” Everything God does somehow involves you and me. Therefore everything you and I do is significant. Kings and Messiahs may flow from our lives.


Fourth. Sometimes the aliens are more righteous than God’s own people (cf. Romans 2.13-15). In fact Ruth the Moabite gives Abraham a run for his money in what she does in chapter 1.16-17.


Do not URGE me to leave …
your people shall be my people and your God my God.”


The Hebrew root for “urge” occurs twice more in the scroll, in Ruth in 2.9 and 2.22, where it has the meaning of molest, hassle, or abuse. Naomi is not gently telling Ruth to go away. The “bitter woman” is seriously trying to use any means necessary to dissuade Ruth from following her. But Ruth the alien, and no Israelite could possibly miss this, sounds like Yahweh!


She evokes one of the most deep and central promises of Yahweh that spans the Hebrew Bible: I will be your God and you shall be my people (cf. Ex. 6.7; Lev. 26.9-3; Ezek 36.28; etc) She, in effect, says “you cannot beat me away from you!” Israel entered into the Covenant with Yahweh at Shavuot/Pentecost and the Law was given at Mt. Sinai. Ruth not only sounds like God but she is demonstrating the kind of faith that Abraham had.


At this point Ruth the Moabite literally stands alone in the world. No God has called her. No deity has promised her a blessing. No human has come to her aid. She has broken ties, and left, with her family, country and faith and committed herself to an old Israelite woman who did not want her to be around any more.


This not only mimics what Abraham was called to do, the Moabite seems to genuinely surpass his “leap of faith.” Sometimes, indeed, the aliens can teach us much about the God we claim to know and worship while we dismiss their faith (Naomi did tell Ruth to return to her paganism!, cf. 1.15).


So much is going on in the little book of Ruth. It performs its work of grace upon us gently and subversively. I hope you will take the time to read this gem of a book. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit to instruct us in the ways of salvation, to train us in righteousness and to equip us for every good work of love to the glory of God (2 Timothy 3.15-16).


Shalom.

One of the most ironic photos of the Selma March in March 1965. Marchers are approaching the city of Montgomery.

Do you know Norman Adamson? Do you know O. B. Porterfield? Do you know Martin Luther King Jr? Do you know Fred Gray? Did you know these four ministers were all in the same city on March 25, 1965? They are a microcosm for the huge division that remains not only in the United States but within the body of those who claim to be disciples of the Jewish Messiah. We should know them and let them help us examine our own deep and hidden values.

I want to stress that the events in this blog are two years after Martin Luther King Jr addressed the ministers of the South in his epic Letter from a Birmingham Jail (full text in link) which was sent out on April 3, 1963.

Did we even hear?
Have we yet?

Jimmie Lee Jackson

Jimmie Lee Jackson and Selma

Last year for Black History Month, I wrote about the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26 year old black army veteran home from Vietnam, by Alabama State Troopers on February 18, 1965. Jimmie had been part of a peaceful protest demanding the right to vote. Nothing that radical you would think. Surely no one would object to a veteran registering to vote. But Jimmie was murdered, literally, in front of his mother and grandmother.

Jimmie’s murder galvanized black Americans by the thousands. One week later, a march was organized from Selma to Montgomery demanding the right to vote in honor of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

The marchers, led by John Lewis whom Donald Trump publicly maligned, were met at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” by police in a brutal display of hate (if you have never seen the film, Selma, you should do that immediately). The horrifying beatings at the bridge, worthy of Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler, were broadcast on TV. America had to look itself in the mirror, something it does not relish doing. I want to share about four ministers + one response to this event.

Norman Adamson and Martin Luther King Jr.

Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. called on people from all over the country to come to Selma and finish the march. On March 21, King led 25,000 out of Selma on Hwy 80 for the third attempted march. They arrived in Montgomery on March 25 where King would give his “Our God is Marching On!” (video clip in link) speech beneath the waving Confederate Battle flag on the Alabama Statehouse. Full text of “Our God is Marching On! (in link).

Norman Adamson, a native of Arkansas was minister for a Church of Christ in Chicago, made the arduous journey in response to King’s call. The bigotry in America was bad but in the church it was “stench to the nostrils of God, and therefore subjects them [i.e. bigots] to eternal damnation.” Bloody Sunday was a day of infamy for Adamson. So, he joined hands with black folks and “my Caucasian brothers and sisters” in the name of simple justice. Adamson believed it was God’s work and a manifestation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So he marched in obedience to the cause of Christ. How can we love God whom we have not seen and hate our fellow humans who are God’s image bearers and have seen.

Martin Luther King Jr. giving his “Our God is Marching On” sermon at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March.

On the night of March 25, after 25,000 marchers arrived in Montgomery at Martin Luther King Jr’s, he addressed the crowd. Quoting James Weldon Johnson, King said,

We have come over a way
That with tears hath been watered.
We have come treading our paths
Through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out of the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam
Of our bright star is cast
.”

Then in a note of victory King proclaimed,

Today I want to tell the city of Selma, today I want to say to the state of Alabama, today I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world, that we are not about to turn around. We are on the move now.”

King continued,

My people, my people, listen. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands in Mississippi and Alabama and all over the United States. (Yes, sir) I know there is a cry today in Alabama, (Uh huh) we see it in numerous editorials: “When will Martin Luther King, SCLC, SNCC, and all of these civil rights agitators and all of the white clergymen and labor leaders and students and others get out of our community and let Alabama return to normalcy?”

But I have a message that I would like to leave with Alabama this evening. (Tell it) That is exactly what we don’t want, and we will not allow it to happen, (Yes, sir) for we know that it was normalcy in Marion (Yes, sir) that led to the brutal murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson. (Speak) It was normalcy in Birmingham (Yes) that led to the murder on Sunday morning of four beautiful, unoffending, innocent girls. It was normalcy on Highway 80 (Yes, sir) that led state troopers to use tear gas and horses and billy clubs against unarmed human beings who were simply marching for justice. (Speak, sir) It was normalcy by a cafe in Selma, Alabama, that led to the brutal beating of Reverend James Reeb.

It is normalcy all over our country (Yes, sir) which leaves the Negro perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of vast ocean of material prosperity. It is normalcy all over Alabama (Yeah) that prevents the Negro from becoming a registered voter. (Yes) No, we will not allow Alabama (Go ahead) to return to normalcy.

King ends with the haunting question that he, Fred Gray, and Norman Adamson wrestled with. It is the age old question heard all through Scripture itself, “How Long!?” Do we have ears to hear?

I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” (Speak, sir) Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, (Speak, speak, speak) plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?” (Yes, sir)

Then King, and others, went to the home of Fred Gray, the preacher for the Newtown Church of Christ and civil rights attorney for Rosa Parks, King himself and the entire group of marchers. There they planned coming activities in Montgomery and other places in the South. For more on Gray, see Fred D. Gray: Hero Lawyer.

Fred Gray the frequent target of smear attacks by people identifying themselves as Christians

O. B. Porterfield

The day before, March 24, there was yet another minister with a message for the people of the city of Montgomery, the State of Alabama and the United States, on the “the crises” at hand. He did not march, nor preach on the steps of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, nor the Statehouse. Instead, he took to the airways. O. B. Porterfield preached a message on the TV station WKAB, it was a Wednesday night. It was a message he repeated many times.

Jimmie was dead.

Bloody Sunday had occurred.

Norman Adamson and Martin Luther King Jr were literally on the road walking toward Montgomery on Hwy 80 as the sermon aired on TV.

O. B. Porterfield preached for the Cleveland Avenue Church of Christ in Montgomery. What should be our response to the “Crises” he asked? What he said was, according to newspaper advertisements, repeated numerous times around the city.

Porterfield addressed what he believed to be the destruction of the United States generally and Alabama in particular in “the crises” that had begun in Montgomery Alabama by Rosa Parks, Fred D. Gray and Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

We can only wonder how different history would be if white ministers like Porterfield preached a different message.

Porterfield begins by stating the entire crises was nothing but a communist plot to destroy America (first full paragraph). No preacher could have anything whatsoever to do with this “mob” that was descending upon Montgomery. In fact, “neither I nor any Minister of the Church of Christ” could have anything to do with this mob because our job is “spiritual,” he declared. Those ministers (like King, Adamson, and Gray) are “hypocrites” and need to “go away.

Porterfield proclaimed the march for civil rights had nothing to do with justice, nothing to do with “spiritual things,” and nothing to do with “Christianity.”

Far from Christianity in fact. Porterfield claims that he drove “to Selma personally and looked at these people.” There were older, younger, lots of blacks and some misguided whites. The preacher declared “a large number of these boys and girls are the scum of the earth! They are as low a class of group of people as I ever saw.”

Porterfield, sounding as if he is from 2021, declared, “I am trying to impress you tonight that the question is not a question of segregation versus integration; it is not a question of civil rights; but it is morality versus immorality.

Porterfield then proceeds to quote from Governor George Wallace that the protesters are people of ill-repute. They are actually communists and likely send their support to the “Viet-Cong.” The irony should not be lost because Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was murdered by the police, had been sent to fight the Viet-Cong.

Remember the photo taken on the march. Note the words at the bottom of this newspaper advertisement

Porterfield moves to praise the Alabama State Troopers under Al Lingo (who was part of the KKK), and Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark “and his good deputies” who enforce the laws against the law-breakers. The minister then extends this invitation,

[T]onight, I extend to Col. Lingo, Sheriff Butler, Sheriff Clark, Governor Wallace, and all law enforcement officers, a special invitation to worship with us at the Cleveland Avenue Church of Christ, and you will be treated with the courtesy you deserve, we will honor you by complimenting you for these trying hours that you have endured.

No such invitation was issued to Martin Luther King, Jr, Norman Adamson, Fred Gray or any person of color.

The sermon ends with a pledge to send the text of the sermon to President Johnson and a plea to avoid the march. The way to keep peace in Montgomery is “don’t encourage the march, but instead LET’S SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE MARCH [sic] and pray to God that our words will be the right ones during these trying times.”

The sermon met with immediate calls to the TV station for copies. It was printed and distributed by the thousands. And then Porterfield preached the sermon repeatedly throughout Montgomery and the State of Alabama.

The next day, as noted, King and the marchers, including Norman Adamson, arrived. King would meet with minister Fred Gray. All enduring the scorn of a sizable portion of the white Christian community in Montgomery led by O. B. Porterfield and other ministers of the Gospel of Reconciliation (I use this phrase on purpose).

Plus One

Viola Liuzzo was one of Porterfield’s “scum of the earth.” A 39 year old mother of five, murdered because she dared to believe God calls us to practice justice and righteousness.

One other person arrived that day on March 25, her name was Viola Liuzzo. She was one of the “scum of the earth” that Porterfield noted. Liuzzo was a 39-year-old white mother of five from Detroit. She, like Norman Adamson, responded to the call of King to protest the blatant murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson and demand that the law be upheld for African Americans.

Liuzzo was seen transporting Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old African American, marcher in her car. She was shot in the head by the KKK on the very road that marchers came down.

Reflections

When I, from my vantage point in 2021, look at the events of February and March of 1965 it is as if I am reading yesterday’s newspaper. Then is still now!

I see preachers like Norman Adamson and Fred Gray, both black, convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is deeply about justice (civil right is justice).

Then I see ministers today like O. B. Porterfield, typically white, who think it is all about Communism and the Gospel has nothing at all to do with this. They talk about law and order while there is no law and no order for their own brothers and sisters of color. Further, his assessment of the people involved sounds just like what I hear from many today. Nearly identical terminology is still used to talk about those who march today whether it is Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matter or even President Barack Obama. The slander against John Lewis by President Donald Trump has a long pedigree. While actual consideration of the issues being protested is ignored and waved away with bliss.

The sad reality is that Porterfield’s attitude (and sermon) are hardly isolated incidents. See my article on W. A. Cameron, Racist Theology Begets Racist Preaching: A Sermonic Response to Brown v. Board of Education. Porterfield was regarded as a faithful preacher of the gospel of Christ. He opposed liberals (I first came across him in Mississippi when he mailed out publication to thousands of churches). He was a stalwart against “digressions” from “the pattern” and the one true church. I am convinced that one reason America, and the church, is where we are in 2021 is because we have had plenty of sermons that are more like Porterfield and not nearly enough of King, Gray or Adamson. The difference in perspective between these black brothers in Christ and the white brother could not be starker.

The Gospel is very much about racial reconciliation (justice) beloved. See my article, The Gospel is about the Stuff of the World. But Porterfield helps us see ourselves. This is why we need Black History Month. This is why we need a kingdom vision while reading history. We have much to repent in the white church.

May God have mercy.

See Also Among others

Racial Concerns in Churches of Christ: Trends Since the King Years, 1950-2000

Gospel Racial Reconciliation: Compass Points for Beginners Like Me

Learning & “Thinking” about Race as a Southern White Disciple

I discovered Cameron’s racist sermon while doing research on another project in the early 2000s.

Racist Theology begets Racist Preaching

God is not racist. The Bible is not racist. Christianity is not racist. Jesus is not white (he is Jewish). These are historical and theological truths.

Tragically many Christians have been, and are, racist. But in the first 500 years of Christianity, Asia and Africa are the dominant story lines, not Europe. Of the “Seven Ecumenical Councils” in the history of Christianity, not one took place on European soil. Most of the decisions reached in those councils were hammered out (on the Old Testament canon, NT canon, Trinity, etc) in “synods” in Africa in fact. Christian exegesis was first nurtured in Africa. Christian scholarship was created in Africa. Traditional spiritual disciplines first took root in Africa. Before Paul went to Europe, Christian faith was already in the heart of Africa in Meroe by a Eunuch (remember our post on the Ethiopian). The intellectual ferment of Christianity traveled from Africa to the North (Europe) not the other way around.

In fact historian Thomas C. Oden has gone so far to call Christianity a “traditional African religion.” It has, after all, been there for 2000 years. (See Thomas C. Oden’s excellent book, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity.” And his scholarly website, The Center for Early African Christianity). We, north American disciples, sometimes forget the facts of history and some how in the back of our minds come to imagine that Christianity is white and everything of value has come from white.

Years ago I discovered a sermon that caused great angst. on Sunday, August 15, 1954 at the Disston Avenue Church of Christ in Gulfport, Florida, W. A. Cameron got into the pulpit and preached a sermon called “The Origin and Development of the Negro Race. The sermon was a smashing hit and he was invited to preach the exact same sermon the next Sunday (August 22) at Pinellas Park. The sermon was published in booklet form and distributed all around.

Did you note the date? The epic Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court was May 17, several weeks before this sermon. The sermon is a response to the “busybodies” on the Supreme Court as Cameron calls them.

Cameron is concerned about “race mixing.” He is concerned about the inferior race. He begins by giving a convoluted account of the genealogy of the sons of Noah bringing us to the Curse on Ham and Canaan. Cameron follows a racist interpretation of Genesis 9 that was created by pro-slavery apologists in the 1830s and has had a long afterlife.

Cameron states that Cush, the descendants of Ham, were placed in Africa in sort of a quarantine by God. He says, and the caps are his,

“DO YOU REMEMBER WHERE WE LEFT THEM? IN THE LAND OF ETHIOPIA.THAT’S WHERE JEHOVAH AND HIS BOOK, THE BIBLE LEFT THEM.” (p.5).

In fact, “Today, the black man would be in his own country, where Jehovah put him and left him, and wanted him” if not for the slave trade. But some wanted money.

When blacks somehow managed to leave their location, they always brought ruination upon those they mingled with. Moses caused all kinds of trouble by marrying a Cushite. And look at Solomon, he married a black woman, what did she do? She destroyed Solomon leading him into idolatry (p.7). Race mixing is dangerous! (His one appeal to the Song of Songs is convoluted).

The last two pages of Cameron’s sermon are difficult to read, I confess. It is a good bet Cameron knew nothing of the historical facts we opened with. For Cameron, the “NEGRO’S DEVELOPMENT,” well “IT’S NILL” (his caps).

“They have always been cursed with a sence [sic] of fear, ignorance, superstition and an inferior complex. After 4,298 years they are still right where God left them. We will do well to let them alone, and not try to upset God’s plans.”

But what about the seeming intelligent black folks that are around, Cameron asks. If we did not think a sermon could descend any further, we are wrong. Answering his own question, the preacher who supposedly is concerned with “sound doctrine” states bluntly.

“We have to admit that we have had some very well educated negro’s among us. Some who have made good in business and various trades. How do you account for that?”

“Yes, all those negro’s who have a generous fertilization of white blood have invariably left the evidence of it behind them. But the genuine negro article is just what he has always been.”

I remember when I first discovered this sermon in the 1990s doing research on race in the Churches of Christ. I was stunned by something so blatantly bigoted. But Cameron would tell you he is not a racist! Just like so many today, racism often has a gentle smile.

What is the white relationship to the black race? Cameron noted that Franklin Roosevelt once said that he and his cousins were “47 points removed.” Well we, white people, will find “ourselves 110,269,195 points away from him [i.e. the black man] –Brother, how close kin are you to Ham? ? ?”

The implication here is, the white race and black race are not even remotely related to one another.

Cameron closes with an exhortation to Harry S. Truman (who created the Civil Rights Commission in 1947) and the Supreme Court which issued its ruling on desegregation earlier in the summer before that fateful sermon.

“Now, if those busybodies who are trying to run everybodies [sic] business, and who are not yet able to run their own affairs, will close up their shop and leave the Negro where God left him. And leave Gods [sic] instruction to the white man concerning the Negro exactly where and how God left it, all will be well.”

And so closes a Sunday sermon in 1954. No one thought Cameron was anything but a sound gospel preacher. He opposed the digressives, stuck to the “pattern” and was asked to preach his message around the state and publish it.

It is interesting to me, that Cameron never once mentions the Ethiopian Eunuch. Here is where this story gets personal for me. Sometimes our biases are SO DEEP that we miss the plainest of facts that are literally in front of our faces. I am not sure Cameron would have known the Eunuch was BLACK. I grew up having sermons on baptism and the Eunuch was always included. But I can recall the day, and the conversation, when it was said out loud to me that the Ethiopian was … well … Black. No one ever told me he was white that I recall. But no one ever told me he was black either. And I remember, being a preacher in New Orleans Louisiana when a black preacher (Robert Birt) stated with clarity the Eunuch was BLACK. It was like scales falling from my eyes. It was not part of my consciousness. It is downright embarrassing to admit this (but I have on many occasions because we need to see our blindness).

Cameron helps us understand race relations in the United States. His sermon is not isolated. His theology is not unique. His theology and his homiletic under-gird a huge swath of American Christianity.

The more we read black literature we will find vociferous protests against this kind of theology and preaching, from Olaudah Equiano to Mary Prince to Harriot Jacobs to Frederick Douglass to David Walker to W. E. B. Du Bois to Martin Luther King Jr. You will find it protested in Uncle Tom’s Cabin!

Charles Reagan Wilson in his epic study of the religion of the Lost Cause, Baptized in Blood, states forthrightly that ministers were the keepers of orthodoxy on the racial ideology not only in the South but America.

Why do we expect our brothers and sisters to have the mind of Christ with the preaching of this kind of racist theology? Millions of Americans are still alive who were nurtured on this kind of horrific Bible reading. What did the disciples think that day with Cameron’s supposed gospel sermon? Why was he asked to preach the same sermon again for another congregation? And why was it published in booklet form and distributed among the congregations? These are questions that today’s church must ask and answer honestly and forthrightly. This sermon says as much about those who listened to it as it does the one who delivered it.

Black History Month gives us a kairos moment, a Holy Spirit moment, to look into our own souls and ask:

Why are we “here?”

How did we get “here?”

I repudiate Cameron. I not only repudiate his sermon but the theology that the sermon rests upon. I repudiate it as beyond false doctrine. It is demonic. That is not hyperbole beloved. It is the truth. It is from spawned in hell and and has wrought the fruit of hell across the land of the USA and the church that dwells within the USA. We have much to repent of beloved. We have much work to do to come clean from our participation in the kingdom of darkness rather than the kingdom of light.

We must look at our presuppositions that allowed such a theology to be born inside our hearts and minds in the first place. That my friends is where the real work is. It is more than just saying, “Oh how could Cameron say that.” We have to look at what allowed Cameron to come to those beliefs in the first place.

May God Have Mercy Upon Us.

Reading Paul’s letter to a twenty year veteran of ministry

First Timothy

Today we read Paul’s first letter to Timothy for our through the Bible in a year reading.

It is sort of sad that First Timothy has often been reduced to two texts in many Christian circles. The first is a controversial passage about women (2.12) and the second to a list of “qualifications” for elders and deacons (and deaconesses) in 3.1-13.

But though First Timothy is a letter to Timothy it is read publicly to the entire congregation gathered for worship in Ephesus. In this letter we find a minister who is in a troubled, conflict-ridden, church and it seems that Timothy is nearly ready to throw in the towel. So, Paul has several “agendas” as he writes to Timothy. They are, I suggest:

1) Affirm and bolster Timothy’s courage in the face of wearying conflict.

2) Affirm Timothy’s authority in the face of out of control and divisive leaders, this includes elders, deacons and various people who desire to be viewed as Bible teachers.

3) To affirm the message that Timothy is to teach and proclaim.

4) To deal with the pressures in the congregation via public letter to Timothy.

When we read First Timothy we need to mentally make the shift in our mind that Paul is talking to a man who has at minimum twenty years of ministry experience under his belt. We seriously misread Timothy when we imagine he is a young teenager. Rather Timothy is a veteran of numerous assignments from Paul ranging from coauthoring Thessalonians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon and also working in Corinth and other locations. Timothy is not a padawan. I think that most of the material in First Timothy, including the material about women and elders, falls into one of the four “agendas” of Paul summarized above. Some examples.

Unqualified Teachers Cause Trouble

First. Paul deals with the reality that some desire to be Bible teachers/leaders without doing the necessary work that it takes to correctly understand Scripture. First Timothy 1.3-11 addresses this forthrightly. Doing a little reading between the lines (but I do not think I am reading this INTO the letter) we see that both women teachers and elders come up after 1.3-11. The material about women has to do with teaching and elders are supposed to be “apt to teach” and not “recent converts” (3.1-7). Timothy was himself nourished on the Hebrew Scriptures learning them from his Jewish mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) from the time of his youth (2 Timothy 1.5-6; 3.14-17). No doubt that training was enhanced by Rabbi Paul as well.

Paul says that there are quite a few who “desire to be teachers of the law [=Bible in the first century], but do not know what they are talking about” (1.7). Notice the language that shows up in vv 8-9 seems to be the antithesis of what “bishops” are supposed to be models and, btw, of the harsh behavior of some women.

Paul follows this up (1.12-20) by reminding Timothy of the model of Jesus himself who has “display[ed] the utmost patience” by making an example out of Paul by appointing him to ministry. That mercy has been extended to Timothy through Paul. Everyone will not that not be a fan (so to speak) but his ministry is not a matter of them liking him per se but that God has “appointed” appointed him. Some may disrespect Timothy (and Timothy needs to be ‘worthy’ of respect) just as some may look down on Paul because he was not one of the Twelve or because he was once a blasphemer (1.13). As Paul was “appointed” so Timothy also had received specific prophecies for his kingdom task. It is as if Paul is saying to Timothy, in front of the whole conflicted congregation: Do Not Cave to those who want to be leaders but have not been trained in Scripture.

That Paul affirms Timothy in the face of conflict seems plainly evident when we read the entire book. Even in the present context, Paul confesses that he writes as he does because “certain persons” have “shipwrecked their faith,” then Paul brazenly names at least two of them (1.18-20).

Can you imagine being in the Ephesian gathering on that Lord’s Day? I cannot prove this, but I suspect that Hymenaeus and Alexander (1.20) are in fact elders, or at least deacons, and are an example of what Paul said in 1.3-11 and said would happen in Acts 20.27-30, where Paul warned the Ephesian elders that those who would disturb the faith were from within their own group.

Unqualified Teachers Addressed

Second. In chapters 2 and 3, Paul addresses the very faction (it seems to me) that Timothy is afraid (and I do think Timothy is afraid of them). I have met some pretty abusive teachers in my life. “Teachers” who believe they are nearly infallible. Their harshness and arrogance was in direct proportion to their failure to “know what they are talking about” (1.7, NIV). Sometimes they were preachers, sometimes they were elders and believe it or not sometimes even women. I do not think Paul is being sexist in the slightest, being a jerk is not limited to one gender.

Notice how in chapter 2, Paul continues to address the notion of “conflict.” That is conflict is what is floating in the background of the words on the page being read to the Ephesian church. Paul directly addresses men (males) he says they should pray and “lift their hands without anger or argument” (2.8). Prayer is to be engaged in so that shalom reigns. The Greek word for “quiet and peaceable” (2.2) is the exact same word that most translations render as silence in 2.11. In reality the term has nothing to do with vocal cords. It has to do with attitude, deportment and demeanor. We import the silence of women into this text. Paul is addressing the same tense issue in both male and female troublemakers in the Ephesian congregation.

Basic Misunderstanding

Third. In chapter 4, Paul deals with the apparent fruit of teachers who do not know/understand the Bible (remember 1.7ff). In chapter 4.1-5, it seems to me clear evidence that Paul is addressing former pagans and not former Jews. While the Law of Moses does indeed forbid certain foods as unclean, nevertheless abstaining from food, sex or wine is not now, and was not then, a typical Jewish point of view but a pagan one. This is known as asceticism. There were many pagan ascetics and the lifestyle was popular among various Greek philosophers (especially Stoics).

But the Jewish view, that is Hebrew Bible, celebrates the material world as a gift from God. This includes sexuality (Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as well as Genesis are starkly clear on this). This includes food. Lots of food, feasting in fact, is associated with Israel’s worship whether the Feast of First Fruits (Deut 14.22-29), Passover (Deut 16.1-8) or Weeks (Deut 16.9-12) or Tabernacles (16.13-17). Purim, at the authoritative command of Esther is a time of “feasting and gladness” (Esther 9.22). Feasting is the very image of goodness and blessing in the Prophets (cf. Isaiah 25.6-8; 55.1-8; etc). And while the Hebrew Bible does indicate that a few foods are unclean no such idea is ever associated with wine. Wine but also “strong drink” (or “beer” in some translations) flows (cf. Deut 14.26). Wine is one of the most “potent” symbols of divine blessings in the Hebrew Bible. In the Wisdom literature these three come together as the triad of blessedness from Yahweh.

Go eat your bread/food with enjoyment
and drink your wine with a merry heart;
for God has long ago approved what you do …
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love

(Ecclesiastes 9.7-9; cf. 3.13 and all of Song of Songs which is awash in sexuality, food and wine, cf. 5.1. See my article The Song of Songs and God’s Good Gifts: Wisdom’s Way with Food, Sexuality and Wine).

Deuteronomy sums up the Hebrew Bible’s view, “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.” (Deut 8.10). Paul sounds very much like Moses.

There are times of temporary abstinence of food, sex and wine in Jewish thought. But not because those things are evil or even bad but precisely because they are gifts. We abstain from the gift for a moment to focus upon the Giver. Such times are fasting or a Nazarite vow (something Paul himself repeatedly did, Acts 18.18; 21.23-24). So, Paul sets aside all this false teaching by declaring the Hebrew Bible’s doctrine of Creation, “everything is created by God” therefore it is “good” when received in thanksgiving (cf. Psalm 104 where even wine and food is declared to be the gift of God for humanity, Ps 104.14-15). Paul goes so far to call such serious misunderstanding of God’s good gifts as “renounce[ing] the faith” and the “teachings of demons” (4.1). The Hebraic doctrine of creation shall not be compromised in Paul’s teachings. It was a Jew from Nazareth that turned water into wine, he did not turn wine into water.

How Timothy Responds

Paul finally arrives in 4.6-16 with direct words to Timothy about how he is to conduct himself. He is to conduct himself honorably. He is to be the living embodiment of healthy teaching (i.e. sound). What is meant by healthy/sound teaching is not, in First Timothy, a matter a list of qualities for elders and deacons or church organization. That is healthy or sound teaching is not merely or even primarily church structure. Never has been and never will be.

Healthy teaching is the kind of teaching that does not result in the horrific behavior that is on display in the Ephesian church. Healthy teaching does not result in 4.1-5. Healthy teaching does not result in condescension, arrogance, abuse of others, or lack of love. As Paul noted from the beginning “the goal of any teaching is love that comes from a pure heart” (1.5).

How do we overcome the lack of proper understanding of the Bible? How do we learn about men and women being equal in God’s design with no domination of either? How do we over come arrogance and selfishness and such poor understandings of God’s good gifts? Paul’s answer is Timothy should “devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhorting, to teaching” (4.13). Regardless of what others think, teach. It is important to note that in the historical context of Timothy and the Ephesian church, “scripture” here is what people call the “Old Testament” today. Timothy is to baptize the Ephesian congregation in the Hebrew Scriptures (through the Greek translation called the Septuagint). This matches with those who want to be “teachers of the LAW,” but do not know what they are talking about or “confidently affirm” (1.7). Today many preachers rarely preach or teach from the Hebrew Bible but Paul told Timothy to do it.

Paul goes on to tell Timothy how to handle those who are wealthy in the church. He is to “command those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant …” (6.17f) rather they are to be generous. Money and generosity are ubiquitous themes in the law, the prophets, and the wisdom literature that Timothy is commanded to devote himself to reading, and preaching that reading, to the church. But the theme that Paul keeps coming back to is Timothy’s courage in the face of congregational conflict. Some description of conflict shows up over and over again. And it is taking its toll on Timothy. So, Paul even gives Timothy medical advice. In the absence of Tums … dude drink wine (5.23)!

Concluding Thoughts

First Timothy is not just about being a minister. First Timothy is about becoming a healthy (sound) local church. The local church, like a family, has very different individual members. But the members of the family must live in respectful, caring, loving and even sacrificial relationships with one another. We do not inflict wounds upon our own family. That includes dad, mom, brothers and sisters. Or in the church setting that includes, ministers, elders, deacons (male and female), teachers, everyone.

This is why Paul comes back to the heart of the Gospel over and over in 1 Timothy. Christ Jesus has been revealed “in the flesh” to bring reconciliation between God and humanity and between humanity and humanity. The local church is simply not what God dreams for his colonies of new creation when conflict is the norm for congregational life.

Well I am glad that I took the 25 minutes to read through First Timothy today. I hope my reflections are true to the text as a whole. Keep on reading. The Journey is nearly complete.

Shalom.

On the eve of Halloween, in the spirit of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, I am going to share “Three Totally Freaky False Theses Some (including preachers) Teach Regarding the Old Testament.”

They are indeed freaky … scary in fact!

God of Anger, God of Wrath

I begin with the granddaddy of all the other freaky false thesis promoted about the so called “Old Testament.” The God of the “Old Testament” is angry and unloving, he is just a God of wrath. I had one elder years ago tell me (actual quote), “its like God became a Christian in the NT!” After listening to my preaching for several years this elder confessed “I have learned more about the Old Testament from you in four years than all my whole 70 years.”

This commonly held freaky false thesis is so incredibly pervasive and is tied directly to a fundamental misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the contents of 76% of the canon of Scripture. How a people can be described as a “people of the book” when they systematically downplay over three quarters of it is beyond me. But the Hebrew Bible explicitly states just the opposite about Yahweh:

Yahweh, Yahweh,
a God merciful and gracious,
SLOW TO ANGER,
abounding in HESED [steadfast love] and faithfulness
keeping steadfast love for the thousandeth generation
forgiving wickedness rebellion and sin

This is the Golden Text of the Bible. It is repeated in the Hebrew Bible in whole or in part over a dozen times and echoed another dozen. But I confess that this statement that thunders throughout the Hebrew Scriptures I was completely unaware even existed. Over the years I have come to call this statement the “God Creed.” For more on it see my article Exodus 34: The Pulse of the Bible.

Jonah was not afraid of Yahweh’s wrath. Just the opposite, God was way to slow to get angry. He was afraid of God’s love [Hesed] and throws it back in Yahweh’s face in Jonah 4.1-2 when he quotes the very text above in order to convict God of the crime of a love too deep!

When John says that “God is love” he is actually paraphrasing Exodus 34.6-7. John 3.16 speaks of Yahweh’s love not Jesus’s love. Some are shocked beyond belief when they find out that Moses talks more about love than the Apostle Paul (some factoids on “love” for comparison: Deuteronomy 21x vs Romans 14x; Deuteronomy 21x vs Acts 0x). The entire Hebrew Bible, according to the great rabbi Abraham J. Heschel is but a long commentary on the infinite, long suffering, patience of God with Israel testified to by Yahweh himself in this amazing text. Read Psalm 103, Psalm 136, Psalm 107, etc etc. We could go all day on this freaky false thesis. May it die a quick painful death.

Salvation by Law/Works Righteousness

Another freaky false thesis commonly taught and believed regarding the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is that relationship with God was based upon “law” or “works.” This is a fairly typical Protestant thesis rooted in Martin Luther himself. This thesis, like the one above, is rooted in a deep misreading of the Hebrew Bible (sometimes no or very little reading) fueled by an equally misguided reading of Paul.

But Paul never (much less Jesus!) once said, nor implied, that Israel’s relationship with God or salvation was based on works righteousness. Paul does not even say the law was a means of salvation. The Book of Romans itself destroys this thesis, as does virtually any place you put your finger in the Hebrew Bible itself. Paul in Romans, to begin with, insists that his teaching of salvation by grace thru faith is in accordance with the “Old Testament” itself. Abraham – Old Testament – is the pattern of grace. Paul then quotes David too (Romans 4) as proof that salvation was based upon God’s grace through faith. Paul bases his argument upon the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms (Abraham, David and Habakkuk, 2.4). It is the OLD TESTAMENT that teaches the “righteous will live by faith!” It is a serious freaky false doctrine that is explicitly contradicted in the Law itself. Consider the following paradigmatic texts.

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments … If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 7.7-9, 12)

After Yahweh your God has driven them out before you {this is grace/God did it!} never say to yourself, ‘Yahweh has brought ME {note the singular} here to take possession of this land because of MY righteousness.’ No! it is because of the wickedness of these nations that Yahweh is driving them out {God did it/grace!}. It is not because of your righteousness or even your integrity … understand then it is not because of your righteousness that Yahweh your God is giving you {gift!! Grace!!} this land for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy. 9.4-6)

Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you
.”
(Psalm 143.1-2)

Israel is saved by an act of God called the Exodus. The grace of the Exodus is the backdrop of all of “Old Testament” faith. Every part of worship, the Sabbath, the Passover, the pilgrimages, etc constantly brought the Israelite back to the basis of their salvation — GRACE! See more in Psalms 105, 106, 107 together (and dozens more texts).

Exodus comes before Sinai.
Calvary comes before Pentecost.
Grace comes before Faith.
It always has.
It always will.

No Faith Relationship with God/Devoid of Spirituality

Another of the most bizarre (the most bizarre is #1 because it lies about who God is) freaky false thesis about the “Old Testament” is that Israelites and Jews never had a “personal relationship” with God. It was ritualistic. It was “carnal” to use the old word I heard growing up (“carnal” was understood as bad, negative, anti-spiritual). Again all of these freaky, scary, false theses have their beginning in cherry picking New Testament texts out of context and misunderstanding of the Old Testament itself. There is no better place to go to witness the Spirituality of the Israelite than the Book of Psalms. In fact the Psalms are a rebuke to the shallowness of most modern (so called) personal relationships with God.

Take Psalm 51, for example, was written for/by David and expresses his anguish. It was preserved and used by ordinary Israelites for a thousand years before the coming of Jesus! It expressed not just David’s longing but every Israelite …

Create in my a clean heart,
O God and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
…”
(Psalm 51.10-11)

This portion of the Psalm is utter nonsense if the Israelite had no clue what it was like to be in God’s presence, to have awareness of the Spirit, to have previously experienced the joy of salvation. That is the Psalm is testifies to the reality that Israelites had a deeply personal Spiritual connection with God. Over and over in the Psalms we see incredible honesty and intimacy with God as the norm for Israelites. As the Israelites would sing,

I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory,
Because your HESED/steadfast/never ending love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you

(Psalm 63.3, see the whole Psalm).

One thing I asked of Yahweh,
That will I seek after:
to live in the house of Yahweh
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of Yahweh,
and to inquire in his temple …
Come, my heart says,
‘Seek his face!’
Your face, Yahweh do I seek,
Do not hide your face from me

(Psalm 27. 4, 8)

I love Yahweh,
because he has heard my voice
and supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live

(Psalm 116.1-2)

Yahweh is my portion
(Psalm 119.57)

Examples from the Book of Psalms can be multiplied until we quote all one and fifty of them.

Though not part of the Protestant Old Testament, The Prayer of Manasseh clearly reveals what a typical Jew thought along these lines in the centuries leading up to Jesus and in the Messiah’s day. The Hebrew Bible is chock full of stories of people deeply aware of their relationship with God. (See Psalm 139 as just another example). May we let this freaky false thesis die and indeed restore the same depth to our relationship with God we see in the Psalms.

Three Theses Nailed to the Church Door

The three freaky false theses commonly held in Protestant, Evangelical and Restorationist circles listed above are often stated in a myriad of ways that boil down to these three here. For instance, the freaky false doctrine that the Old Testament is basically “legalism” is destroyed by all three actual truths presented above.

If you are a minister or teacher I urge you to consider including the Hebrew Bible in your teaching on a regular basis. As 2022 is approaching it is a good time to plan, and study for, lessons coming up. We cannot get more “first century church” than when we are preaching and teaching the wonders of the Hebrew Bible to the disciples of the Lord … begin with the Holy Spirit inspired prayer,

Open my eyes, so that I may behold WONDROUS things in your instruction” (Ps 119.18).

Dear merciful Lord, deliver us from freaky false understandings of your living word that is sharper than any two edged sword that encourage us to ignore and misunderstand the vast majority of your word, that your servant Paul said equips us doctrinally, makes us wise, and is holy, good, just and Spiritual (2 Tim 3.15-16 & Rom 7.12,14,16).

We thank you for your mercy and Hesed and forgiveness when we have promoted these and similar scary theses. Open our eyes so we may see the wonders of your love, your grace, your glory.

Be exalted O Lord over our lives and in our hearts because you teach us.

Amen