Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Isaiah’s Leviathan

In that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, With His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted serpent; And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1, NSAB 1995). 


This is a warning of approaching judgment against sinful nations, as in previous chapters of Isaiah’s 8th-century-BC prophecies, the Lord’s “sword” symbolizing death and destruction. Egypt and Assyria are specifically named (vv. 12-13). 


The term “Leviathan” is typically a poetic expression, a serpentine sea creature emblematic of evil forces (cp. Psa. 74:13-14), similar to the metaphoric depictions of the Roman Empire as a seven-headed sea beast and Satan as a seven-headed dragon (Rev. 13:1-8; 12:3-9). 


Isaiah was prophesying about the Lord’s punishment of evil nations, using symbolic imagery. While fulfilled many times over, in particular the mighty empire of Egypt succumbed to the invasions and control of the Assyrians (671 BC), the Persians (525 BC), the Greeks (332 BC), and the Romans (30 BC). The Assyrian empire fell, after prolonged civil wars and uprisings, to the Babylonians, with the help of the Scythians, Cimmerians, Medes and Persians, by 609 BC. All of this was God's judgment for the wickedness of these nations.


--Kevin L. Moore


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Wednesday, 22 September 2021

If God is eternal and immutable, why the differences in personalities and teachings from the OT to the NT?

Rather than contrasting God’s Old Testament revelation of himself with that in the New Testament (i.e., pitting one against the other), it is better to view the entire biblical revelation as a gradual unfolding of the mystery of God and his divine plan.1 The Bible does not present an idealized, glamorized, or romanticized version of history or of God’s dealings with mankind, which helps us understand and appreciate the extreme “bad news” of sin and why the gospel message of Jesus Christ is such “good news.” 

 

Taken as a whole, the Bible’s story is of a loving and compassionate God seeking to redeem a lost and broken world, while maintaining his justice and holiness. The intention all along has been to bless all people of all nations of all time.2 But free moral agency rejecting the righteous ways of God, resulting in sin, corruption, and evil, persistently gets in the way.  Through the centuries the Lord has patiently endured, made the tough calls, has been rejected and ridiculed, but his mercy endures forever.3 Even so, the God of the Bible is also an infinitely holy God of indisputable justice.4


From our minuscule place in the universe, when God himself is judged as a petty human being, the biblical message is twisted and misunderstood (cf. Hos. 11:9). To portray him as a cruel, vindictive, malicious tyrant, most of the biblical record has to be ignored, his justice and holiness misconstrued, and divine attributes like love, grace, and mercy overlooked.5 God’s revelation of himself cannot be fully understood from the Old Testament alone, nor from the New Testament alone. There is a reason the Bible is comprised of both.


--Kevin L. Moore


Endnotes:

     1 Ex. 6:2-8; Jer. 31:31-34; John 14:6-7; Rom. 16:25-27; Gal. 4:4-5; Eph. 3:1-7; Col. 1:26-27; 1 Pet. 1:10-12.

     2 Gen. 12:3; 18:17-19; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 1 Kings 8:38-43; 1 Chron. 16:7-36; Isa. 9:2; 42:1-6; 49:6; Jer. 16:19-21; Jonah 1:1-2; Hab. 2:14; Zech. 8:20-23; Acts 3:25; et al.

     3 1 Chron. 16:34, 41; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Psa. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1-4, 29: 136:1-26; 138:8; Jer. 33:11. 

     4 Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4; Isa. 30:18; Rom. 2:4-9; cf. Ezek. 33:11.

     5 Ex. 15:13; 20:6; 33:19; 34:6-7; Num. 14:18-19; Deut. 5:10; 7:7-9; 13:17; 30:3; 2 Sam. 24:14; 1 Chron. 16:34, 41; 21:13; 2 Chron. 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Neh. 1:5; 9:17; Psa. 13:5; 17:7; 23:6; 25:6; 36:7; 40:10-11; 51:1; 63:3; 69:16; 103:4; 119:77, 156; 145:9; Isa. 30:18; 54:8, 10; 63:7, 9; Jer. 9:24; 16:5; 33:11; Lam. 3:22, 32; Dan. 9:4, 9, 18; Hos. 2:19-23; 6:6; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2; Mic. 7:18-20; Nah. 1:3; et al.

 

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Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Looking Upward: Mark 8:25

 An Unusual Healing 

Mark 8 records the Lord’s unusual healing of a blind man in two stages. After leading him out of town by the hand, Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and touched him, then asked if he could see anything. The man “looked up” and said he saw men like trees, walking (v. 24). Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes, and what happens next is obscured by a textual variant in v. 25. 


Variation Among Texts


The Byzantine Majority Text (BMT) reads kaì epoíēsen autòn anablépsai, translated “and made him look up” (NKJV), whereas the NA/UBS Critical Text reads kaì diéblepsen, variously rendered “and he opened his eyes” (ESV), “and he looked intently” (NASB), “and he saw distinctly” (CSB). The main variant concerns the compound verb anablépō, on one hand, which is a combination of the preposition ana (“up”) + the verbal blépō (to “see”), meaning to “look up.” On the other hand, the compound verb diablépō, which is a combination of the preposition dia (“through”) + the verbal blépō (to “see”), means to “look through” or “stare straight” or “see clearly.” While this may not be of major exegetical concern, we could be missing a subtle spiritual truth by not investigating further.


The more popular reading among text critics (though not consistently translated) is diablépō, even though the word does not occur anywhere else in Mark’s Gospel (only in Matt. 7:5; Luke 6:42). Alternatively, the verbal anablépō is repeatedly employed by Mark (6:41; 7:34; 8:24; 10:51, 52; 16:4). This shows Mark’s familiarity with the word as he consistently uses it to communicate something to his reading audience. Let’s appreciate that Mark is not only an inspired historian but also a theologian and evangelist. 


Spiritual Significance of “Looking Up”


In Mark 6:41 and 7:34, to “look up” to heaven in prayer was a subtle way for Jesus to direct everyone’s attention to the heavenly Father (cp. Matt. 15:31). In Mark 10:51-52 a blind man receiving his sight is described with the verbal anablépō (lit. to “look up”), but contextually Jesus has been trying to open his disciples’ “eyes” of understanding (8:31-32; 9:10, 32, 34; 10:13, 24, 26, 32, 35-41), and this miracle serves as an object lesson to illustrate this deeper spiritual truth (cf. 8:18). In Mark 16:4 the women were oblivious to Christ’s resurrection until “they looked up” (again the verbal anablépō) and saw the empty tomb.


Back to the unusual miracle in Mark 8:22-26, Jesus seems to be illustrating the difference between partial understanding (vv. 17-21) and clear understanding (v. 29). The semi-healed blind man’s eyes had apparently been pointed downward, having “looked up” to faintly see people at eye level (v. 24). If the verbal anablépō is repeated in v. 25 (as per the Byzantine Majority text), the man is being directed to “look up” even higher (i.e., toward heaven), resulting in complete healing and clear eyesight. This would not only demonstrate miraculous power coming from above (cp. 6:41; 7:34) but would also illustrate that clear understanding results from a heavenly focus rather than an earthly focus (cf. 8:33; Col. 3:2; Jas. 3:17). 


Conclusion


Since the rest of v. 25 goes on to affirm that the man’s eyesight was fully restored and he could see clearly, a prefatory diablépō would seem redundant (“he saw clearly”) or out of place (“he saw distinctly”) or misses the spiritual point (“he looked straight”) or has to be construed to fit (“he opened his eyes”). Perhaps ancient copyists were attempting to avoid the repetition of anablépō in vv. 24-25 (unaware of this subtle spiritual truth?) and altered the prepositional prefix (from ana- to dia-) to align with the rest of v. 25.


Whether or not we appreciate the value of textual criticism and questioning decisions made by fallible text critics and translators, let’s make sure we are committed to “looking upward” for the answers to our greatest needs.


--Kevin L. Moore



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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

People are Watching and Listening: the Saving Power of What We Say and Do

Having instructed Timothy about his role and responsibilities as an evangelist and mentor, Paul writes: Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:15-16).1

With respect to “these things” (all that has preceded, cf. vv. 6, 11) and in contrast to possible neglect (v. 14), “Practice” [meletáō],2 also rendered “Meditate” (N/KJV), capturing the sense of mental exertion, and “Take pains” (NASB), “Be diligent” (ASV, NIV), perhaps an extension of the athletic imagery used earlier (vv. 7-10). The word translated “immerse” is from eimí (lit. “be”), also rendered “be [absorbed]” (NASB), “give” (ASV, N/KJV), “devote” (N/RSV). The reason for these imperatives, “so that all may see your progress,” underscores the significance of Timothy’s example (cf. v. 12; 5:25).3

 

Keep a close watch on” [epéchō],4 “Take heed to” (ASV, N/KJV, RSV), or “Pay close attention to” (CSB, NASB, NRSV) “yourself” – attitude and behavior (vv. 7, 12) – and “teaching” (vv. 6, 11, 13; cf. 1:3, 7; 5:7; 6:2); “Persist” [epimé],5 or “continue” (ASV, N/KJV, NRSV), “hold to” (RSV), “persevere” (CSB, NASB, NIV). 


These directives are of utmost importance, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,reiterating the principal aim of spiritual salvation emphasized repeatedly in this letter (v. 10; 1:15-16; 2:3-7, 15) and the next (2 Tim. 1:9, 10, 12; 2:10; 3:15; 4:8, 18). “Salvation involves perseverance; and Timothy’s task in Ephesus is to model and teach the gospel in such a fashion that it will lead the church to perseverance in faith and love and hence to final, eschatological salvation.”7

 

As we “adorn the doctrine of God” (Tit. 2:10), let us be mindful of William J. Toms’ observation, “You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” As Christians, what we say and what we do comprise a living document, “to be known and read by all” (2 Cor. 3:2). 

 

--Kevin L. Moore

 

Endnotes:

     1 Unless otherwise noted, the text used here is from the English Standard Version in bold type.

     2 Employed in the NT only here and in Acts 4:25 (quote from the LXX).

     3 Note also Matt. 5:16; Tit. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:11-12. The work of a localized evangelist is within the fellowship of the local community, so “the really important work of the Christian Church is never done by any itinerant evangelist but always by its settled ministry” (W. Barclay, Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon 101).

     4 Also occurring in Luke 14:7; Acts 3:5; 19:22; Phil. 2:16. 

     5 Elsewhere in the NT, John 8:7; Acts 10:48; 12:16; 15:34; 21:4, 10; 28:12, 14; Rom. 6:1; 11:22, 23; 1 Cor. 16:7, 8; Gal. 1:18; Phil. 1:24; Col. 1:23.  

     6 See also Ezek. 3:16-21; 33:1-11; 1 Cor. 9:23, 27. Note the mutual responsibility of the teacher and “the ones hearing” [toùs akoúontás], involving receptive and responsive hearts (cf. Matt. 7:24; 10:14; 11:15; 13:9, 13-15, 23, 43; 15:10; 17:5; Luke 8:21; John 4:42; 5:24; 6:45; 8:43, 47; 10:3, 16, 27; 18:37; Acts 2:37; 3:22-23; 4:4; 8:6, 12; 10:33; 13:7, 16, 44; 15:7; 18:8; Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:2; 1 Thess. 2:13).

     7 G. D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus 109.

 

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

How did Timothy receive his “gift”?

While working with the Ephesus church (1 Tim. 1:3), Timothy is directed to devote himself “to the public reading of Scripture,”1 accompanied by “exhortation” and “teaching,” apparently linked to the “gift” [chárisma] he is not to neglect (1 Tim. 4:13-14a).2 He received this gift “by prophecy …” (1 Tim. 4:14b). Earlier in the letter Timothy is commissioned to fulfill his ministry, “in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you …” (1 Tim. 1:18). 

Prior to the completion of the NT, prophets were positioned in the local congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5). As a fairly young Christian, Timothy’s potential in God’s service was recognized by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:1-2), where there were elders in each church (Acts 14:23). Paul invited the young man to join his mission team (Acts 16:3-5), and Timothy was entrusted with a “gift” through or by means of [diá] prophecy, implemented through or by means of [diá] the laying on of Paul’s hands (2 Tim. 1:6; cp. Acts 19:6).
 

The local church leaders were also involved in the initial stages of Timothy’s ministerial work, not “when” (ESV) but “with” [metá] (in addition to) the laying on of the hands of the presbutérion, the “presbytery” or “eldership” (1 Tim. 4:14c). This was not a “council” (ESV) separate from the local church (note 1 Tim. 3:1-7) but the group of congregational leaders who “laid their hands on” young Timothy as a customary endorsement and confirmation, approving and appointing him to this ministry (cp. Acts 13:2-3; 1 Tim. 5:22). Any miraculous manifestation of Timothy’s gift would have been actualized through the laying on of an apostle’s hands (2 Tim. 1:6; cp. Acts 8:18).

 

--Kevin L. Moore

 

Endnotes:

     1 Unless otherwise noted, the text used here is from the English Standard Version.

     2 Cf. Rom. 12:6-8. First-century prophets had control over the exercise of their gift (1 Cor. 14:29-32). 

 

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