Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Old Testament

Now I Know

I’ve Got a Problem

Tomorrow I’ll know more than I do today. Or at least, I hope so.

That’s the typical pattern, right? Who of us hasn’t been horribly embarrassed by reflecting on things we did and said five years ago? Yet, at that time, it seemed like the right thing to say or do.

Sometimes I’ve wondered: ‘If twenty-years-from-now me could speak with the me-of-right-now, what would I say to myself?’ I usually think that having this kind of input from my future self would be of value.

But, sadly, I’m not so quick to extend that grace to others.

Here’s what I mean: There are Christian brothers and sisters all around me who are 20 years ahead of me already; but do I listen to them? And when they speak, do I treat their words with as much reverence as I would the words from future-me?

The Problem Played Out

Recently I’ve been listening to an excellent new album by  James Hoffman. One song in particular resonated with me over the last day (it’s the song cued up below). In the song, Hoffman is singing about the experience of holding his newborn daughter. He’s reflecting on the truth of what his mother told him: ‘Now I know what my mother meant when she said I’d never understand — fully — till I held you.’


Continue reading

Let’s Not Knock Beauty

The longer I live, the more I see that balance is hard to achieve. That’s one of the (many) reasons why I need to keep coming back to Scripture again and again, repeatedly challenging my own worldview. I need to be constantly challenged to prove that what I believe about something (whether conscious or sub-conscious) is being corrected and informed by the mind of God.

One example of how I’ve been challenged lately is by thinking about beauty. As a father of three daughters, I’m responsible for thinking hard about beauty and trying to help my girls learn to value what God values.

Pendulum to the Left

In our culture, beauty, body image, being physically attractive — this is everything! Girls grow up in our day learning the fine art of taking photos of themselves constantly, always trying to make themselves look attractive.

Joe Carter posted some interesting facts on ‘female body image‘ back in April that indicate some very serious concerns about the emphasis our culture places on physical beauty:

3. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.

4. The best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction. The median ages for onset of an eating disorder in adolescents is 12- to 13-years-old. In the United States, 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

5. Only four percent of women globally consider themselves beautiful.

Clearly, our culture swings the pendulum toward a view of external beauty that places far too much of a burden on girls and women in particular. Young women are being led to live and die — literally — for beauty.

Pendulum to the Right

Conservative Christians, like me, are able to discern the disproportionate value being placed on externals. We see that it doesn’t line up with God’s heart (1 Sam 16.7), so we call on each other to esteem hearts over clothes. We hear the words of the New Testament that call us to modesty of dress (1 Tim 2.9-10; 1 Pet 3.3-6; 1 Cor 12.22-24), so we call on each other to prioritize good works and good character over fashion.

And that’s all right and good.

But, there’s a tension present in Scripture that needs to pull us in from both the right and the left of the pendulum, back towards the centre.
Continue reading

Some Guidelines for Reading Prophetic Literature

Back in the summer I began a series giving some ‘Guidelines for Reading the Bible.’ At that time I covered Old Testament Narrative and Wisdom Literature.

Today I’d like to move on and cover the Prophetic Literature. These books may be divided up into their three main redemptive-historical categories of pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic (all referring to the Babylonian exile of 605-536 BC).

All of the writing prophets have their ministry span falling between about 760 and 460 BC. Just like your pastor’s message to your church this coming Sunday will be different than the message preached to our people (addressing different sins and different cultural pressures, etc.), the prophets were addressing different people groups (either Israel in the north of Judah in the south). It’s important to know where and when these prophets are ministering so you can make sense of their warning / admonition / rebuke. A good study Bible will always help you here.

Prophets as Historians and Future-Tellers

Often when we conceive of prophecy and prophets we think merely of future-telling. But there is much more identity-grounding memory-jogging in the prophetic literature than anything else. As historians, they were to remind God’s people of their covenantal past and all that God had already promised & warned.

But inasmuch as they reminded people of what God had said in the past, the prophets could predict the immediate future (because they knew God would keep his word to bless & to curse appropriately). The prophets saw the future events of the ‘last days’ as a mountain range in the distance, as one singular unit. Living in the ‘last days’ now, however, we see that within the mountain range there are many peaks and valleys between individual predicted events.

Some Patterns in Prophetic Literature

  1. The Lawsuit: (1) Call (2)Accusation (3) Announcement, and often, (4)plea for repentance (e.g. Amos 4.1-3)
  2. The Woe (e.g. Isaiah 5)
  3. The Promise (e.g. Isaiah 40)
  4. The Poetry (e.g. Isaiah 52-53); also, proverbs, riddles, satire, etc.
  5. The Prophetic Narrative (e.g. Jeremiah 32)
  6. The Apocalyptic Prophecies (e.g. Daniel 7-12)

Continue reading

Some Guidelines for Reading Wisdom Literature

Who doesn’t want to be wise? Everyone wants to be wise! No one wants to make foolish decisions that they will later regret. And Christians especially want to know how to make decisions that are pleasing to the Lord.

That’s why we have the wisdom literature in our Bible (for my purposes here, I’m lumping in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, all in this category). These books are given specifically so that we could know how to live wisely.

But the problem is that when we pick up these books, we’re often filled with more questions than answers: How come these statements aren’t always true in my life? How come some back-to-back statements seem to contradict each other (Prov 26.4-5)? What are all these strange forms of sayings and strange images? How is someone ever supposed to live on the corner of a roof anyway (Prov 25.24)?

Here are ten hopefully helpful principles for interpreting Wisdom Literature. It’s important that we get this right, since this is God’s means of helping us to become wise.
Continue reading

Some Guidelines for Reading Old Testament Narrative

If you’ve ever begun to read through the Old Testament and been filled with more questions than answers, you’re not alone. Many of the stories of the OT are hard to understand and hard to apply.

We know that narratives are inspired and ‘useful’ for us (2 Tim 3.16-17), but how? Are we really supposed to cheer on Samson? Are we always supposed to take Abraham as a positive example? Are we really supposed to take the admonitions of God to Joshua as personal words of exhortation & promise to us?

Here are ten hopefully helpful principles for interpreting Old Testament narrative. It’s important that we get this right, since this genre of Scripture makes up about 66% of our whole Bible.
Continue reading

There’s No Saviour Here

Preaching through Genesis has had me spending more time thinking about the narrative structure of the Old Testament lately. Last week as I was studying to preach Genesis 20-21 it struck me again that one of the main points of the whole Old Testament is also one of the simplest:

There is no human saviour, only humans who need one.

One of the very first things God does when humans sin is announce that he has a plan to bring  a saviour, who will be born of a woman, so that right from the beginning our hopes are raised. With each new covenant and each new child miraculously born in the line of promise we’re to ask in anticipation: Is this the saviour?

But the narrative structure of the Old Testament makes it clear again and again that no human can be a sufficient saviour. Every spiritual climax soon descends into disaster and the heroics of faithful men are quickly followed by failure.

Think about the pattern:
Continue reading

Newsflash: The New Testament is Shorter

Call me Captain Obvious if you like, but the New Testament is shorter than the Old Testament. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that in some sense the length of the two covenant documents speaks to the relationship between the covenants themselves and what is required of the people who are part of those covenants.

Simply asking the question, ‘Why is the New Testament shorter?’ helps us to see the nature of the covenants in contrast. For example, here are at least two parts of the answer that I would give you to that question:

1. There are no genealogies in the New Testament

One of the things that makes the Old Testament longer is the accumulation of stories of family lines. So, for example, the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 is vital because it records God’s preservation of the line of Judah. The Old Testament is filled with both genealogies and narratives that preserve bloodlines.

The New Testament, on the other hand, has no genealogies (except for that of Jesus, which is the climax of the Old Testament). There are no stories of fathers and children, no stories of family lines being preserved.

This makes the New Testament shorter. It also illustrates one of the fundamental differences between the covenants. The older covenant was passed on from generation to generation through bloodlines and families (Gen 15.3-5), while the newer is passed on through gospel proclamation and faith (2 Tim 2.2). Therefore, the New Testament simply has the book of Acts which records how the gospel was proclaimed and believed. That’s all there is for narrative. There is no ongoing record of families which must be saved because God’s people will now be made up of ‘all nations’ as they become disciplines… adopted children.

2. There is no case law in the New Testament

A second reason why the Old Testament is longer is because Moses and many prophets after him are forced to belabour the teaching of the Law in any and every imaginable context (and even some rather unimaginable ones!). Every time I read through the Old Testament I’m amazed at some of the case law and think to myself, ‘Really? Someone did that? And they needed to set a precedent law against it?’

In the New Testament, however, there is a distinct lack of laws (note: I didn’t say distinct lack of Law). You would think that as the New Covenant was being received and applied across cultural boundaries and geographical regions and religious backgrounds there would be a lot more Acts 15-type-moments. But in reality, there aren’t, simply because the New Covenant isn’t about setting case law. That’s not the nature of this covenant.

For example, when the Corinthians ask Paul about whether or not they are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he does not deliver case law that is binding on all Christians. Rather, he holds up the ideal of freedom and then allows it to be swallowed up by the law of love so that individual Christians simply cannot answer the ethical question without coming face to face with the question, ‘What is love and am I willing to be governed by it?’ (see 1 Corinthians 8-10). He does the same thing again when it comes to the exercise of spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). Love is the law that governs all of Christian behaviour in the New Testament (John 13.34-35).

And so it is written…

When you’ve only got one law that trumps in any and every situation, and you don’t have to record genealogies and family histories spanning thousands of years, you can write a much shorter covenant document. Which is precisely what we have.

© 2018 Julian Freeman

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑