Social Justice in Ancient Israel 1

25 04 2008

Truett Seminary

Moshe Weinfeld’s Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East examines how the Old Testament and other ancient Near Eastern culture tackled the problem of social justice.

In the introduction of his book, Weinfeld points out that the concepts of justice and righteousness are “more associated with mercy and loving kindness or… are to be seen with the context of ameliorating the situation of the destitute.” The point of his book then, is to show that the practice of righteousness and justice in the OT and in ancient Israel is essentially acting on behalf of the poor and less fortunate classes of people.

He compares the practice of Israel with other Mesopotamian cultures: the Mesopotamian kings instituted liberty and freedom when they came into power. This proclamation of liberty appears to be a propaganda tool so as to win over the hearts of the people. For instance, King Cyrus sends the exiles home during the Persian Empire. In Israel’s case, on the other hand, the proclamation of justice and righteousness is done on the part of YHWH. Thus, the sabbatical and jubilee years (established periods of liberation) “were understood as divinely ordained institutions, in which human interests fulfilled no role whatever.”

In other words, the OT calls the people of Israel to consistently pursue justice and righteousness. This is not a negative command (that is, it is not a command not to do something), but a positive command. Justice and righteousness are positive actions, such as feeding the hungry or visiting the sick. Plus, there is a stronger call for the ruling classes to remember the plight of the disenfranchised.

The introduction is intriguing because it contrasts the divine inspiration and general goodwill of justice and righteousness of the OT with the often times oppressive nature of “justice and righteousness” in other ancient cultures.

More to come…


The Office

26 10 2007

After last week, I needed a break from writing and thinking in general. Thus, I won’t post again until sometime next week. In the mean time, enjoy this clip from last week’s The Office.

There is Hope

13 10 2007

Thanks, Robbie Seay Band.

Love Wins

It’s a big world, we are hoping
For a big change, we are broken
In the fading light of a dying sun
We cry for redemption

There is hope, there is hope, there is hope
But everyone who’s lost will be coming home
And everything that hurts will be whole again
And love will be the last thing standing

Can’t stop, you can’t stop the seasons
Don’t stop, don’t stop believing
Keep on dreaming of the day when it all will change
Believe in the end, love wins
If you’re waiting for the time when your sun will shine
Oh, look above cause love wins

If it hurts you, just breathe in
When it pains you, just believe in
The radiant light of the morning sun
We can find our redemption

Love is strong, love is strong, love is strong
It’s been there holding you all along
Everything thrown away will be new again
And love will be the last thing standing

There is hope, there is hope for my lonely soul
There is hope, there is hope to be made whole
There is life, there is life to be set free
There is life, there is life surrounding me

There is hope, there is hope for my broken heart
There is hope, there is hope for a brand new start
There is life, there is life give me eyes to see
There is life, there is life you have captured me

Jackson, TN, Recruiting, and B. Mac at his best

9 10 2007

I’m in Jackson, TN right now on a recruiting trip representin’ Truett for Union University’s seminary day.  I’m pretty excited, to say the least, as I’ve never been on a recruiting trip, so I hope that I represent my beloved seminary well.

Anywho, I acquired Brian McLaren’s new book Everything Must Change and read 1/3 of it on my flight to Memphis (rather than study for my massive scriptures 1 midterm).  I have to say, it’s quite good, and it may indeed be the book that he was “born to write” (HT: MH).

More thoughts later.  I’ve got to go to bed.

Big day tomorrow.


4 10 2007







DC*B’s new CD, Remedy, has me smitten. And now that I’ve listened to it sufficiently, I feel that I can at least attempt to describe it in words, which is really a difficult task in dealing with great art. I can talk about it until I’m blue in the face, but you really have to experience it for yourself to do it justice.

And to be certain, Remedy is great art.

Let me begin with what I don’t like about Remedy.

One, it’s only ten tracks. Now, ten tracks is pretty standard in most cases, but DC*B spoiled me with A Collision (which, by the way is the best Christian album of all time. Go ahead, try and think of a better one). True, many of the 20 tracks on Collision are simply interludes, but these interludes add to the listening experience. Remedy, when I compare it to the last CD, is a let-down in this regard: it just feels short-lived, even though it’s really not. But again, this is only a negative because I’ve been spoiled, and in reality, this critique is surface-level and unimportant. I’m just trying to find things I don’t like about the CD, which was difficult to do.

Two, there are a couple of tracks on the CD that are, in my opinion, average (average in Crowder terms, which is still pretty good). “We Won’t Be Quiet,” the song that Ted Nugent plays on, is quick, and in comparison with the rest of the CD I felt that the lyrics are a bit cliche. The melody seems jerky in the chorus. Even performed live at the CD release party, I didn’t enjoy this one as much. “Rain Down” is a re-release from an earlier CD, and I was kind of disappointed here, as well. “Can You Feel It?” feels like David Crowder Dance Party more than anything. I’m not sure that this is a negative, though. I’m still not quite sure what I think about this track.

But that’s about all I don’t like about it. There is much more to love!

The thing that strikes me the most about this CD is its call to action. Never have I encountered a worship CD that inspired me to get off my duff and actually take part in the service of God’s kingdom in the way that Remedy does. If A Collision was a masterpiece musically, then Remedy is a masterpiece lyrically. Usually when I listen to music, it takes me a few repetitions to really grasp the lyrics because I tend to pay more attention to the instrumental aspect of the song. Not this CD. I was immediately captured by what Crowder was saying.

Lyrically, the focus of the CD emphasizes God’s action, but more than this, it is a call to respond to God’s workings in our lives and in history. And the theme flows nicely, almost perfectly, from beginning to end, culminating in the final two tracks, “Remedy” and “Surely We Can Change.”

We begin with “The Glory of it All,” which proclaims the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Oh the glory of it all is he came here
For the rescue of us all
That we may live…

Each song seems to have subtle hints at the movement of God’s work into the lives of his people. Crowder is really emphasizing all throughout the CD that God has worked, and he is now calling us to be his instruments in the world. “Can You Feel It” moves further in this direction as this song emphasizes that God surely resides in his people. This track is fun, and as I said above, has a dance party feel to it.

“Everything Glorious” is truly an outstanding song in every sense. It’s a great worship song, it’s catchy, and it emphasizes God’s glorious creation. Again, Crowder hints at our capability to do the work of God: “You make everything glorious, and I am yours… What does that make me?”

“Neverending” is reminiscent of “Forever and ever” off of the A Collision CD. Fun to listen to, and again, spiritually profound.

“Never Let Go” is the token slow song on the CD. It emphasizes God’s faithfulness, as you can see from the title.

“Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Crowder is far and away the best at reworking the old hymns of the faith and making them relevant today. He adds his own chorus to the Wesley hymn…

So come on and sing out
Let our anthem grow loud
There is one great love

“Rain Down” is really the one track that I was disappointed in. I’ve heard it before, and I wish they had put something new here. Nonetheless, it works well with the flow of the CD.

“We Won’t Be Quiet” has some great guitar and cool voice effects. As far as the flow of the CD goes, it works well as we move more clearly from God’s action to our response.

Clearly, to my mind, the last two tracks are the best. They absolutely blew me away the first time I heard them. “Remedy” and “Surely We Can Change,” in keeping with the theme of the album, celebrate God’s action through Christ and call his people to respond. We move in “Remedy” from God acting as the Remedy to the final words of the song, “Let us be the remedy.” And “Surely we can Change” is really a heartfelt prayer/poem/song that calls upon God to aid the hurting, the suffering, those who lack courage, etc, and finally asks his people to be the agent that brings the relief, the remedy, if you will. If God has acted through Christ, “Surely we can change something.” And the CD ends with a powerful repetition of hope…

Oh the world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change

In short, if you haven’t already, buy this CD. Don’t burn it from someone else, please. It’s really a wonderful work of art. It leads me into worship every time I listen. Even more, it inspires me like no other CD I’ve ever heard to live out my faith. Over the past week, “Remedy” is the first thing I listen to in my car, and I am immediately made aware of the presence of God, and I am immediately exhorted to walk in the way of Christ.

My expectations were easily met yesterday by the Dave (Crowder, that is)

25 09 2007

My expectations were easily met yesterday by the Dave at last night’s Remedy CD release party. It was a refreshing worship experience that I greatly needed (plus, it allowed me to take a break from studying Hebrew). Sometimes I forget the fact that the people of God actually have a wonderful message that is expressed through life and through art. David reminded me of this fact last night. The music and lyrics off of Dave’s new CD are absolutely amazing and refreshing to hear. The CD has a purpose that is rarely seen in Christian music today. We need more artists like him to express the beauty of a life of faith. To my mind, few bands can capture this beauty like the David Crowder Band. I’m going to continue ruminating over this CD (I’ve only been able to listen to it once all the way through), and I’ll post some more thoughts later. In the mean time, chew on these lyrics from the last track entitled “Surely We Can Change.”

and the problem is this
we were bought with a kiss
but the cheek still turned
even when it wasn’t hit
and i don’t know
what to do with a love like that
and i don’t know
how to be a love like that

when all the love in the world
is right here among us and hatred too
so we must choose what our hands will do

where there is pain
let there be grace
where there is suffering
bring serenity
for those afraid
help them be brave
where there is misery
bring expectancy

and surely we can change
surely we can change

and the problem it seems
is with you and me
not the love who came
to repair everything
and i don’t know
what to do with a love like that
and i don’t know
how to be a love like that

when all the love in the world
is right here among us and hatred too
so we must choose what our hands will do

where there is pain
let us bring grace
where there is suffering
bring serenity
for those afraid
let us be brave
where there is misery
let us bring them relief

and surely we can change
surely we can change
surely we can change

oh the world’s about to change
the whole world’s about to change
the whole world’s about to change
the whole world’s about to change
the whole world’s about to change
the whole world’s about to change

Biblical type-scenes (or, how Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne made it into the Bible)

20 09 2007

I’ve been reading Robert Alter’s book, The Art of Biblical Narrative for Dr. Ngan’s scriptures 1 class (that’s Genesis through Chronicles), and so far it’s been extremely beneficial for how I read the Bible. Of particular note is chapter three, entitled “Biblical Type-Scenes and the Uses of Convention.” For Alter, the biblical writers used literary techniques to tell a story and, really, to create art. One of these techniques is commonly known as the ‘type-scene.’

Now, before we delve further into what Alter talks about, let’s look at an example that we can all understand: superheroes. I like superheroes. I grew up watching the old school Adam West Batman series, the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that really cool Batman cartoon series that came out in the early to mid 90’s.

When we watch a superhero cartoon, TV show, movie, or read a graphic novel (the new “with-it” term for comic book), one of the things we notice is that almost all superheroes have a moment when they begin to realize their powers. For example, Peter Parker in the first Spider-Man movie goes through a series of scenes where he struggles to understand these strange abilities he obtains. After his uncle is killed, Parker realizes that his uncle’s words ring true: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Thus, Parker uses his talents for the greater good of society. We can see a similar “coming of age” story within the Batman mythology. Batman’s parents are killed by a robber when he is a young boy, and this event never leaves his memory. Bruce Wayne uses this memory, his never-ending wealth, and his physical ability to fight crime, and in a sense he avenges the death of his parents.

Notice that both heroes go through this same process, but within each story we can see similarities and differences that illuminate their respective characters. We can call these instances type-scenes. In superhero mythology, the hero discovers his call, and he must decide how to use that call.

The biblical writers used literary conventions similar to this. Alter uses the example of the betrothal story. Alter says that the typical betrothal story includes the main character traveling to a foreign land, the encounter with the girl or girls at a well, someone draws water from the well, the girl or girls rush off to their father, and a betrothal is concluded after a meal.

For instance, in Genesis there are a few betrothal stories. The story of Isaac’s betrothal to Rebekah and the story of Jacob’s betrothal to Rachel are of particular interest. Isaac himself, does not travel to the foreign land, but sends a servant. The servant in Isaac’s place meets Rebekah at the well, and Rebekah not only draws water for the servant, but for the servant’s animals as well. The servant explains why he is there, and Rebekah rushes off to her father’s house, and they have a meal with the servant. The servant travels with Rebekah back to Isaac, and they are finally betrothed. The interesting thing about this story is that Isaac plays a very passive role, while Rebekah plays a very active role. This characterization illustrates the larger narrative in the story of Isaac. It is Rebekah who takes an active role in making sure that her favorite son Jacob receives the blessing, while Isaac pretty much copies everything his father, Abraham, did.

In the next story we see that Jacob takes on an active role in finding his wife Rachel. He travels to the land of Laban, and sees Rachel at the well. It is Jacob this time who draws the water, and he has an obstacle to overcome – the stone on the mouth of the well. Alter writes that this “minor variation of the convention contributes to the consistent characterization of Jacob.” Jacob the heel-grabber is the one who wrestles throughout the narrative. He struggles with Laban, with God, and with his sons. Jacob, though, instead of receiving Rachel as his bride, receives Leah. The writers compare Leah to Rachel – Rachel was beautiful, but Leah had “weak/beautiful” eyes. In other words – Rachel was hot, but not Leah. Jacob is tricked by Laban, and the narrative continues as a struggle.

Now, these two stories show how the type-scene characterizes the actors in the story. What’s even more interesting, though, is when the writers play with the literary conventions so as to communicate something totally unique about the character as in the case with Saul. Saul begins what looks like is going to be a betrothal scene as some girls come down to the well. Instead of meeting one of the girls and seeking a bride, he pulls a Harry and Lloyd – “You ladies are in luck… There’s a town a few miles down the road.” Alter suggests that the reason the writer does this is to foreshadow that things aren’t going to go so well for Saul. Saul, in keeping with his character, did not find a wife at the well as was expected, and neither will Saul maintain his kingship.

I’ve tried to explain in this relatively short entry what Alter does in 15 pages. So if the argument is weak it’s because I sacrificed space for brevity. At the least, though, we can see that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is not “pure history” in the modern sense of the word. It is filled with narrative and exciting story lines. In essence, the Bible is a piece of literary artwork designed to tell the story of God and his people. So, next time you read the story of Abraham or David or Elijah, think about how Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne fit into the narrative.