Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Dentist

Today, I went to the dentist. Not being a fan of people picking up teeth, cramming stuff in my mouth and being all up in my personal space (granted they were just doing there jobs)... I remembered this wisdom from two sagely Klingons.

I'm just saying.

And if you want to find a more "spiritual" application, here's one by a fellow pastor. Although comparing going to church to going to the dentist doesn't send thrills of excitement up my spine... more like chills. But he does have a point about independence and self-sufficiency. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Echoes of Genesis & Echoes of Christ in Ruth

Daniel Block writes, 

"In the book [of Ruth] we hear numerous echoes from and allusions to the narrative of Genesis (Gen 2:24; 12:1 in Ruth 2:11; Gen 12:10; 26:1 in Ruth 1:1; Gen 19:30-38 in Ruth 3:1-9; Gen 24:27 in Ruth 2:20). Many have noted that the only two occasions in which the narrator attributes specific actions to Yaheweh are Ruth 1:6; 4:13. Remarkably, both references to Yahweh giving "bread" (lehem) in Ruth 1:6 recalls Genesis 3:16 [sic 3:19], where Adam is promised "bread" (lehem) as a reward for hard work in a fallen world. Ruth 4:13 and Genesis 3:16 are linked by the rare nominal forms of the root hārȃ ("conceive, be pregnant"), hērāyôn and hērôn, respectively. It appears from the use of the 'ēlleh tôlědôt formula in Ruth 4:18 that the book of Ruth is to be interpreted as a continuation of the narratives of Genesis, where the formula occurs eleven times. Specifically, by reducing the genealogy to ten entries, the author presents the lineage of David as the third phase of history, preceded by phases that extend from Adam to Noah (Gen 5), and Noah to Terah (Gen 11:10-26). Remarkably, the four patriarchal generations are omitted from this scheme. Furthermore, by identifying Boaz as the seventh link in the chain, the author recognizes in him a watershed of human history, analogous to the periods represented by Enoch (Gen 5:21-24) and Peleg (Gen 10:25). (D.I. Block "Ruth 1: Book of" Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Writings and Poetry [Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2008] p.680)
1. This strong redemptive historical bent to the Book of Ruth should not surprise us. All of the Old Testament even with his various genres has a strong redemptive-historical emphasis. To miss it is to miss the ultimate purpose of Scripture.

2. It would seem then that Ruth understands the actions in the book as part of what establishes the line of David and continues the notions of the "seed" so prominent in Genesis. In Ruth we have a small linking of the promises made to David in 2 Sam. 7 to the promises made to the people of God in Genesis.

3. Naomi's sojourning is a type of exile where, like Israel's history, she forsakes the covenant and her covenant heritage. She has little hope of restoration except that the grace of God whereby YHWH keeps his hesed (Ruth 2:20). Naomi breaks the covenant. It takes a Moabite woman to show Naomi an example of hesed within the covenant community. As Ruth converts to the covenant God (Ruth 1:16; 2:12) she begins to see the even greater hand of YHWH and how YHWH keeps his unconditional covenant promises despite Naomi forsaking her inheritance. Naomi through her sin and God's hand of judgment is all but dead with respect to the covenant heritage--but God in Ruth 'resurrects' the line of Naomi.

4. A major point of the book then is the Hesed of Ruth and YHWH. On the one hand, Ruth is like Tamar in Genesis 38. Ruth is more righteous and keeps hesed while Naomi does not. Yet in this story, as in the story of Tamar, we see that God uses woman who should have been outside of the covenant to actually preserve the seed and ultimately the line of David. 

5. In the end of the book, while Ruth's hesed is an important theme--ultimately as Ruth keeps hesed we see the greater hand of God keeping his hesed. This is crucial for the book. As we look at Ruth at the end, we look past the example of Ruth and see the hand of God and the person of Jesus in that Ruth's actions preserve the line of David. God is being faithful and providing a Savior to his people. He is faithful to Naomi and despite her covenant breaking he provides a 'redeemer' to preserve her and her promised inheritance. Even more in Christ, God provides a covenant keeper on our behalf who can fulfill the requirements of the covenant as a Second Adam. Christ is the fulfillment of the "seed" promise in Genesis 3:15 and Ruth points us in that direction.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Hesed" a short definition

Today, I ran across one of the best short definitions of the Hebrew word "hesed" that I have seen. Most English translations translate it as "steadfast love" or "lovingkindness." So for example:

Exodus 34:6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love [hesed] and faithfulness,
There is no good English word that encapsulates the meaning of hesed. It is used to describe YHWH's covenant love for his people. It is also used to describe loyal relationships. I also heard a famous Old Testament scholar argue that in most cases it is the OT equivalent of the NT word "grace." This gets at an important aspect of it, but again leaves out some key elements. Particularly in our modern context we do not always associate the English word 'grace' with the kind of covenant committee that hesed often describes (and I would argue is necessary for a Biblical concept of grace). Other times the word has more overtones of loyalty and less of the emotional [read:fleeting and transitory] overtones that we think of with the English word "love."

With that in mind, while I was reading a summary on the book of Ruth, I ran into this definition, as it comments on Ruth 2:20.
Hebrew hesed cannot be translated with one English word. This is a covenant term, wrapping up in itself all the positive attributes of God: love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, grace, kindness, loyalty--in short, acts of devotion and loving-kindness that go beyond the requirements of duty. (D.I. Block "Ruth 1: Book of" Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Writings and Poetry [Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2008] p.682)
That about covers all the aspects of the word. I like the phrase "that go beyond the requirements of duty." Even loyalty can be seen as sort of dry and stuffy as an "obligation" as if one is "stuck." But hesed never has such negative overtones. In fact, it is crucial to the character of God in the Old Testament. As Naomi says:
"Ruth 2:20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness [hesed] has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”"
That is the character of God. Naomi had walked about from God, she had forsaken her covenant heritage for the sake of food when she left the promised land--and while her family received discipline from the Lord, YHWH still should his covenant love to her by providing a 'redeemer' so that their inheritance in the covenant would not be lost for ever. Even more, from this heritage the promised "seed" would be fulfilled through the future Davidic line. Without God's hesed in the book of  Ruth their would be no Jesus Christ.

Here in the book of Ruth, Naomi's family story in a nutshell is the history of Israel: they too were given covenant heritage by God and yet they too walked away. But God did not forget his covenant promises. God showed his hesed to people that were wholly undeserving. It magnifies the grace of God when we see it in light of our sinfulness.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...