Lecture 20: Worship is a Unity - Part 2
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Worship is a Unity - Part 2
Understand that Jeremiah 33:14 to 26, the Messianic passage that we studied the other day, is also in the same section of Jeremiah, so the new covenant passage in 31, 34, and the Messianic passage of Jeremiah 33:14 to 26 are in the same general context. So that is a passage of which you say, the new covenant, and what God's gonna do to write the law in their hearts, to make a covenant with only covenant partner who believes, is also connected by the notion of days are coming.
"Behold, days are coming" is a futuristic passage, a Davidic covenant, the eternal covenant, will be kept, and that the people of Israel will be led by this David. But by now we have to say, "who are these people of Israel?" They are the covenant keepers from Chapter 31. They're the people that, the servant of God, the descendant of David, will rule. So the Davidic kingdom, the eternal Davidic kingdom, is tied together with the new covenant. But let's also see a little bit of the progression.
You have in Jeremiah 31 the new covenant. Chapter 32 - God asks Jeremiah to yet another symbolic act that even though the Babylonians are occupying the land and laying siege, God tells Jeremiah to purchase property. So he does, then he says to God, "what was the point of that?" God's answer in Chapter 32 is that land will be bought and sold again, the people will be back in the land, that this is symbolic of the truth, that the people will be restored to the land the way Deuteronomy said they would be after they were driven out of the land.
So restoration is promised in Chapter 33 next, in which God says he will bring them in a new exodus back to the land. Then, the promise to David is stressed. Though it is not always the case in these Old Testament passages that you have a clear progression of ideas, if there is in this case, here's what happened. The new covenant is described, it will be fulfilled how: by a return to the land, the emergence of the Davidic king. And, again, there is a remnant ready to receive the Davidic king, and there was in the new covenant.
So we see, as we talk about linkages between the testaments today, one way to link is by discussing the nature of the people of God. We'll start with Israel, but as you know from Isaiah we'll not end with Israel, because promises are made to all the nations. Promises have been made to Abraham about all the nations already. So that was one passage that I thought had been notoriously absent from our discussion, and that I thought needed to be brought into it. Also perhaps notoriously absent, specifically from our discussion, have been a couple other topics I'll at least mention, so you'll know I think they're important.
In the future, where I teach Old Testament theology, if that happens, I will spend more time developing a serious doctrine of the human race. I have been preoccupied with the nature of God and the implications of that doctrine, because of so much theology lately, and so much worship lately seems to me to be very human-centered. It's focus is on what people want, and what people need, and what people think. Nonetheless, I do think, starting with Genesis 1, and 2 and 3, the seeds of an understanding of what it means to be a human being - our responsibilities, our failures, our chance for redemption, throughout the Scriptures, needs to be done.
One way of addressing the problem of having everything human-focused is to focus on God. That's one. A second issue would be, let's get a doctrine of human beings right in the first place. If we're gonna focus on people, let's at least focus on what the Bible says about them. And I think that will lead to both positive and negative things that we will see, but I would spend more time with that. And hope to do so.
Another issue that I think, that has been touched upon but needs to be pulled together in more detail - these are things I'm tellin' you that either don't know well enough to teach you, or that I believe as a self-criticism I oughta spend more time on is eschatology. Now, in a way, everything we have shown from the Old Testament heading toward the New is eschatological. Or at least it was from the standpoint of the Old Testament writer in some manner. It was at least futuristic. But the Old Testament has a great deal to say about the day of the Lord, coming judgment, and the end of time that needs to be dealt with.
And what does it mean for the Kingdom of God to come in the Old/New Testaments? Eschatology is an issue that William Dumbrell takes up in his biblical theology, so if you wanna read a biblical theologian from an Old Testament perspective that deals with eschatology, Dumbrell, which is spelled d-u-m-b-r-e-l-l, Bill Dumbrell, an Australian theologian, you would look at that.
"Covenant and Creation"'s one of them, and then the other one, the one that deals more with eschatology than that one, is "The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus." William Dumbrell, "The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus." His theme is really from Creation to New Creation. So I know that that subject needs to be dealt with. I confess that I don't have a lot of interest in eschatology. I know that I should, it's like a lot of other things in our lives, but I'm not one of those who thinks that just because I don't have a great interest in it, that means it isn't worth considering. It is worth considering, and a lot of work needs to be done on it, people certainly have interest in it, they're often disappointed when they find out what the Bible actually teaches. But somehow the Second Coming of Christ is not enough, we must also have "cool details."
But I think that issue, so that we might arrive at a better answer to the question what is the Kingdom of God, in what sense is it present now the way Christ talks about it, in what sense is it to come, the Old Testament has a lot to say about that. Also has a whole lot to say about judgment, including the Day of the Lord imagery in which all things are set right, and sins eradicated, and how that correlates with the New Heaven and the New Earth. So I think a more in-depth doctrine of human beings, I think more attention to the definition of the People of God, which is a pretty significant New Testament issue by the way, isn't it?
Jews, only? Gentiles who'll be circumcised only? What, Gentiles irrespective of Jews? The Apostle Paul deals with folks who held any one of those three views, in his letters. So it's gonna make some difference. People of God, doctrine of human beings, eschatology.
Now, I'm not gonna ask you to make a list of things I've left out, but I'm gonna start with myself, and say I think those certainly need to be considered. Also, in a class like this where we've been very synthetic, something else you'll need to consider as you go, this point is reflected in the Old Testament theology book itself, but not in the classes as we've conducted it, and that is that you need to spend time considering how each separate biblical book has its own theology that connects to the whole of biblical theology. In other words, what is the theology of Isaiah? What is the theology of Jonah? The reason I've been more synthetic in the classes, that is the direction I'd like to go in my own thinking, in my own teaching, writing… and I felt like having taught the class before the lack of synthetic discussion had been a detriment, like trying to get the whole of Old Testament theology, and so I picked these themes that we've talked about.
But don't forget that if you're gonna preach or teach or read about a specific book of the Bible, it has its own contribution to make. And again, part of building a biblical theology is to say if I'm gonna talk about the doctrine of election, the doctrine of election is in Genesis, and it has a contribution to make to that discussion. So does the book of Malachi, so does the book of Romans, it's not all the same, there are some things that are the same, but each one might make a contribution of it's own, so make sure you don't lose the specific theology in the synthesis.
In the search for synthesis, I've been justly criticized at times, in print and out of print, for not, uh, being serious enough about the differences. I admit that. However, the problem that I've faced most often ministering in scholarship has been that people so heighten the differences that, it's, again, we have two Bibles. So I've combatted that problem, but I'm gonna admit, from the get-go - not from the get-go, from the back-go - this is the end of it - that I battle with that problem, and so I would want to say there are certain distinctions that we need to wrestle with.
But more and more, I've come to say that after we have done our best work, we have done our most serious work, our most careful work, our most involved work, exegetically and theologically and reflectively, there are still some things we will not know.
I wanna say that after I've made the effort, not before. Because it can become an excuse, a cop-out. If we say, "oh, well, y'know… that's a mystery." That's another way of saying, "I don't care to expend enough effort to find out what I can know before I say what I can't know." That's a danger. But there's also the danger of pride at the other end, that says, "I have found out this much, I know everything." Biblical theology, Old Testament/New Testament theology, systematic theology, must be done with humility. You've heard me say from time to time - uh, and I say this without any sense of self-importance time to time I say, you know, I really, I haven't thought enough about this, this is where I am now. This is what I would say now. But I am convinced of a few things.
One, if you're going to do biblical theology in the future, you need to try to see the Bible whole first. To do biblical theology, ask yourself the question, "how may I see the text of scripture, the work of God, whole?" And if I'm used to dealing in parts, I'm gonna ask, "how can I take these parts and see wholeness in them?"
It's like saying, "here, I have a pile of bricks, but I see a sidewalk coming, or I see a barbecue pit in my future - how can I see this thing whole?" To do that, you're going to need a reading strategy. This is so simple that we can miss it. That you need a reading strategy that will help you see the Bible whole. And to that end, that's why I suggest the law of the Prophets and the writings because of its New Testament background, and then the Gospels Paul and the general Epistles of which 'course I'd include Revelations, and in the Gospels I tend to include Acts because Luke is a Gospel writer, it's a two-part work.
Now, at this point I've made a choice of content informed by history, as opposed to an historical sequence. What I mean is, I am well aware that most people think that a lot of Paulines Epistles were written before the Gospels. I predict the day will come, when we'll know that those Gospels were written much earlier than are currently argued. The old argument was, there was no need to have Gospels until the Apostles were gone is absolutely ludicrous to me on the face of it. How having an Apostle in Jerusalem is gonna help you in Syria remember the teachings of Christ, I can't say.
And again, read Richard Bach among some of that, but I'm just spouting ignorance now without much time left. That's my prediction. Nonetheless, let's for argument's sake say several of the Paulines were written before the earliest Gospel. I've chosen to make a content decision that reflects history, in other words, even if the Gospels were written after Thessalonians, this is the starting point of Christianity. Christ's life. And we'll start with the Gospels and Acts, because Paul self-consciously reflects on Christ as he knew him. We see this. In a variety of text. And he's already dealin' with church problems that have to do with knowledge of Christ. And in the general Epistles, it's good to deal with Paul in a block, it's absolutely true that some of the general Epistles may have been written, and probably were written, before the last of Paul's Epistles.
But if you read the general Epistles, you will see they have many of the same themes that are distinct to them, not necessarily in opposition to Paul, but definitely different than Paul. And that Revelation fits in, at least the first three or four chapters sure fit in, so I've made a conscious decision to have a reading program that does not neglect history, that uses history to give us our background but to build biblical theology as content for it and so same thing, law, Prophets, writings, Gospels, Paul, general Epistles. This is not the only way to read for biblical theology, but it is a legitimate way, is my argument. But you're going to need a reading strategy if you're going to do biblical theology or teach it to others because, if you just skip around and today, read Jeremiah 31, and tomorrow read Romans 8, and the next day read Nehimiah 5, like a whole lot of devotional plans go, we are not gonna collect much information over time, but we'll have a lot of significant devotional moments, not making fun of that. But this is no way to build personal maturity and leadership over time. And that's supposedly what we're all involved in.
So I think you're gonna have to have a reading strategy, as simple as that sounds, I think I bumped into that as a college student. I was a literature major and a Bible major at the same time, and I decided that if I could read a hundred pages a day in my Lit major, I could read twenty pages of Bible a day, and what, I read the Bible through four or five times a year and things began to come clear to me.
That was very helpful at that point. So you can work carefully and systematically through the whole canon, you should be able to do it even if your average person can't, by the time you have a [inaudible] you should be able to read all the way through the [inaudible] without saying, "I just can't read about those sacrifices, I just can't make it." You should have enough personal maturity and endurance to do it.
Student 1: Are you saying it's best just to read straight through it? Or…
Dr. House: With a plan. If you wanna get the whole, if we're gonna do the whole biblical theology, you gotta pick something. And what I would do, I would pick law Prophets right what I just mentioned. It is not a horrible thing to read it through an English Bible order. I'm just gonna remind you that I think a biblical theologian has to think the thoughts of at least the New Testament writers after them, and they thought in terms of law, Prophets, and writing. That's my point. So if I'm gonna be able to most enter in to New Testament people to make the connection with the Old Testament and pull this thing together, it's not gonna hurt for me to think of the Bible the way they did.
Student 1: Is, is there a good Jewish… [inaudible] in English?
Dr. House: Oh sure. The Jewish Publication Society publishes an Old Testament. Or, you can just read your Bible in that order, based on the Old Testament theologies set up in that order. If you read it the way it is, you would still be able to pull out a whole lot of things except you're gonna have the writings and… the way the English Bible is set up is basically law, writings, and Prophets. And I think that's fundamentally a mistake if you wanna note that the Psalms, for instance, reflect on the law and the Prophets.
Again, there're gonna be a lotta worse things than readin' the Bible through in the English order. But I would make that shift in order to think of it the way the New Testament did, and to reflect on the text the way the writings do. Chronicles is reflecting on the canon from Genesis on, and it cites Psalms, it legimately should come at the end of the Old Testament. I have been astounded starting with the fact that the book of Chronicles takes almost verbatim whole sections of genealogy out of Genesis to get started. It quotes more scripture per page than any other book of the Bible, with the possible exception of Hebrews.
Self-consciously does so. It includes the Psalms in that, so I'm just saying. All I'm trying to do, it's not illegitimate, 'cause somebody said, we talk about canonical reading, "well, which canon, I'm, y'know, there're some canons where Job and Proverbs are flip-flopped." And I say things like, "it's still, in the New Testament: law, Prophets, writings." You got at least start thinkin' in those terms. So that's what I would urge. Remember then to do a second thing, get a reading strategy, but then go book-by-book exegesis, 'nother words, know what's in each book. You won't be foolproof on this, but if you said to yourself, "okay, gimme the highlights of Leviticus, or, gimme the highlights of Jonah," your laypeople think you can do that anyway.
They walk up to ya and ask you any ol' question they want to, they're gonna think you've got that in mind anyway. So have that in mind, and then have a mindset that says, "I'm building my theology as I go, Genesis to Exodus, to…" note distinct themes, and also note the same ones - I'm in Exodus already, I have these themes that have continued from Genesis, I have these new themes that are gonna go on and be picked up. Think like that, distinctively, but also synthetically, and then, having done that, say, "okay, if I had to, I can say, these are the major themes of the Old and the New Testament."
You can't have 500 major themes. You must decide what amounts to a major theme and stress it. You're going to do that in your preaching and teaching anyway, you might as well do it self-consciously. If you don't do it self-consciously, you'll listen to a whole bunch of tapes, uh, of your sermons, if you can stand it, then what you will realize is, there are three or four things I emphasize over and over again. That might be good. Or it might not be. Try to pull together senses, and keep thinking as you're reading. A minister or informed layperson oughta have two types of Bible reading going, one that's holistic, and one that's kinda specific. And it kind of depends on where you are and why you're doing each one.
Remind yourself that then when you get to themes, when you preach and teach a text, you would think of these themes. For instance, last Sunday, when I was preaching in First Thessalonians, what you have there is faith, hope, and love, adapted to this situation. But those are major biblical themes and how they play out there can even be true in a specific context. So begin to think in those ways, read and interpret in those ways, then you'll find yourself, I think, being able to use the small bits to create a big bit.
Remind yourself every day that you do this that this is a lifelong process. Used to think, if this was the beginning point, and this was the ending point, if I could write a book, or preach a series of sermons, or read or study or whatever, I knew I would never reach a goal, but I'd think I'm way up here. Now I realize, if I started here… I'm about here. This is a lifelong process. You're not gonna know everything at the beginning, but hopefully, y'know, if you're gonna live another forty or fifty years or whatever, you're gonna be farther along. But this is a long-term process.
I've had people been all, "aw, y'know, I'm 50." Well, in four years, you'll be 54. What do you want to have then? So dig in and begin to do this work, and then start taking note where your gaps are. Say, "I realize that this is an area where I really need to do work." What I just said, here are some areas that I just said to ya, I oughta be doin' some more work, if I wanna know what I wanna know. That'd be helpful, people. So work on those and you will find, I think my experience has been, I've had a growing appreciation for the Trinity. I've had a growing appreciation of what it means to be part of the people of God worldwide. I've had a growing appreciation for the church, even on the worst days. And I've sensed that, for instance, if I do a canonical study of suffering, I've grown up some.
So those are just some things I would personally address. I'm a big believer that you can either do fragmented theology or you can try to have something that holds together. And I would rather do the latter. If you don't want to do that, now you don't have to any more. You don't even have to try.
On preaching, and biblical theology, Graeme - G.R.A.E.M.E. is the first name - Gold, as in G.O.L.D., Goldsworthy is his last name, G.O.L.D.S.W.O.R.T.H.Y. Biblical theologian, from Australia, preaching the whole Bible as Christian scripture. Working from a salvation history approach, he's talking all about biblical theology, how to preach, how to teach, he has prior books to this one on biblical theology, this one's in the bookstore. It can get ponderous at times. But it's still, the goal is, how can I preach biblical theology and preach Christ from the whole of it. I think sometimes he gets Christ into passages where Christ is not, but that is a rare thing and this is in the right direction.
You also have, in your own faculty, Frank Thielman's done good work, on the theology of Paul, [inaudible] New Testament theology, and he has also done good work on the New Testament and the law. So you have local resources.