Nation’s Notes on the Bible

Abraham: Compromise and Conviction

Everyone needs a set of convictions by which to live.  Convictions are not merely strong opinions, let alone decisions or preferences of the moment.  Convictions are fundamental beliefs that some things are true and will always be true. Convictions are part of one’s character.

But are there times when a person of conviction should compromise with a world that does not recognize his convictions?

Jephthah, the Gangster Judge

If you like your heroes to be complex and unheroic, you should love the book of Judges.  It provides us with a gallery of this type of  hero:  good guys who aren’t really courageous (like Gideon or Barak), or men of faith and action who aren’t really very good (like Samson).

Into this latter category we find Jephthah, whose story appears in chapters 11 and 12.  Several problematic issues surround this deliverer of Israel.

There are 3 keys to interpreting his story: (1) the context of the book of Judges, (2) the complex character of Jephthah, and (3) the candid characterization of Jephthah’s vow and its consequences.

The Tragedy of Eli

There was a day before Eli was old, fat, and jaded.  There once was a day when his word carried spiritual power and authority.  There was a day when Eli was  a hero, who had stood against a tide of idolatry and apostasy; who had been the instrument of God to purify the worship of the people and establish righteous sacrifices at a lawful altar, to restore law and order in Israel.

Eli was a has-been, and that’s tragic.  Even more tragic: he was a might-have-been.

The Mystery of Mechizedek

David, a good friend and “graduate” of my kitchen table Bible study, sent me an email with a question about something that has puzzled students of Scripture for ages.

“I have a friend who is studying in Hebrews at the moment and he is absolutely confused about Melchizedek, who he is, where he came from and his role.  I remembered that you had given me a great explanation when I had questions about this very subject and offered what I remembered.  Unfortunately it wasn't a whole lot.  I was wondering if you could send me an email with some insight into Melchizedek so I can share it with my friend and keep it for reference.”

Here’s my reply....

Is It a Virtue to Be an Underdog? (Proverbs 30:21-23)

For a lot of reasons Americans like to root for the underdog.  It just seems right to us when someone who is expected to fail succeeds, when someone who has always lost wins.

Therefore when we read in the Bible a passage like Proverbs 30:21-23, we’re not quite sure what to do with it.

This is a most politically incorrect proverb!  It almost seems unchristian—didn’t Jesus teach that the meek would inherit the earth, and that the last would be first?

Read the rest here....

Galatians 1:8 - Did Paul really think he could be accursed and consequently lose his salvation?

A friend wrote an email with a question about Galatians 1:8.  It seemed to him that by saying “we” he included himself, and that Paul is at least indicating the possibility that this could happen to him.

Here’s my reply....

The Word & the Way

Is it really possible to have a pure heart in a dirty world?  There is more to this psalm than its incredible length, more than its remarkable ingenuity.  It is the story of a profound spiritual struggle, and of the role that God’s Word plays in that struggle, both to provoke it and to resolve it.

Find out here....

What is the Fear of God?

When preachers and Bible teachers discuss the fear of God, they typically make a distinction between “slavish” fear and “filial” fear.  They generally recommend the word “reverence” as a preferred synonym, and many contemporary Bible translations use “reverence” or some other euphemism in place of the phrase.

That’s not really wrong.  In fact, it’s all good, true, and necessary information for a start.

The only problem is that it all seems to me to miss the point.

So what then is the fear of God all about, and why is it relevant to followers of Jesus Christ?

Find out here....