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New Year’s Resolution: Knockdown the Scarecrow

scarecrowOne of my favorite lines in cinematic history is in the "Wizard of Oz." Dorothy cannot make up her mind when the yellowbrick road comes to a fork. Should she go left or right? The Scarecrow tells her to go both ways. Dorothy: Can't you make up your mind? Scarecrow: That's the problem. I can't. I haven't got a brain. Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain? Scarecrow: I don't know. But, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking. Dorothy: I guess you're right. I see scarecrow theology in that way. You can do an awful lot of talking without ever having to use your brain. The blogosphere can serve some real good if it leads to actual theological argumentation and precision. So let's all use our brains and knockdown the scarecrow once and for all in 2007.

This is good advice for all of us whether we are bloggers, theologians, students, professors, or preachers. Weak argumentation and cheap slogans are found on the net, in the classroom, and in the pulpit. Let's all make a New Year's resolution: No More Scarecrow Theology.

 What is "straw man" argumentation? A straw man argument is basically a logical fallacy where a person misrepresents his opponent's position. The person sets up a man made of straw (i.e. a position that is easy to refute), and then makes it appear that this is his opponent's position.  This can be done in several ways. A person can misrepresent an opponent's position, knock it down, and then assert that his opponent's real position has been defeated. A very common way to do this is to quote an opponent out of context. Another way is to refute someone who does not defend the position well and make it seem that everyone who holds that position has been refuted. That can also be done by picking the weakest argument of an opponent to refute, rather than dealing with his or her strongest argument.

 One common example of a straw man is in eschatological argumentation. Some pre-millennialists will paint the picture that "all Amillennialists are liberals." Certainly scholars like J. I. Packer, John Stott, and many others would take exception to such an statement. It might be true that a liberal presupposition lends itself to adopting an amillennial view, since liberals are opposed to a lot of things, but it does not follow that an amillenial viewpoint naturally leads to liberalism. This is just one example among many, and examples of straw man theology are too numerous to cite. If we are honest, all of us have done it at one time or another. Why? We wanted to feel like we "won" the argument without actually having to engage our opponent's actual position or strongest arguments. We wanted some slaps on the back, high fives, and cheap amens from those in our camp or our congregation. We wanted to persuade someone of our position by sloganeering. Usually we only persuade those who are scarecrow theologians anyways. We do not really convince those who think through issues clearly. But we did it. Let's just admit it and resolve to knock down the scarecrow once and for all.

 There are a LOT of words spent on theological argumentation, blogging, preaching, and teaching. This can be found on the internet, in the classroom, and in the pulpit. All of these words might convince other scarecrow theologians, and they might bring some amens from fellow supporters, but will all those words actually lead to a well-rounded and sound theology? Will all those words be for the glory of Christ and the good of the church? Only if we get rid of the scarecrow in 2007 can all this be for the glory of Christ.

Jon Akin

Reading the Bible Christocentrically Part 4: King Joash, The Terminator, and King Jesus

 ArnoldThe inter-connectedness of the Bible is breathtaking. In recent days I was able to preach through the story of Joash. Joash points quite vividly to the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. The parallels and plays in this story to the story of Christ are amazing. In 2 Chronicles 22:10, wicked Queen Athaliah "destroyed ALL the royal heirs of the house of David," but Joash is hidden away in the Temple. This is a dark time in the history of Judah. Again, all of the promises to David about a Son who will sit on an eternal throne over an eternal kingdom lie dead in Jerusalem tombs!

The evil queen, the seed of the serpent, has played a part in the cosmic war raging throughout the centuries. Genesis 3:15, right after the fall, tells us that the "seed of the woman" will crush the head of the serpent, but the serpent will bruise the heel of the head crusher. This enmity and warfare rages on across the world stage. John pulls back the curtain on this war in Revelation 12:4 where he writes, "the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born." This refers back to Gen. 3:15 and Matthew 2 where Herod tried to destroy Messiah as soon as he was born, but it also engulfs every attempt that the dragon/serpent made to destroy the Messiah before he came.

Holywood has shown a similar storyline in the first two "Terminator" movies. In Terminator 1, the machines send a cyborg terminator back in time to destroy the man who will be their undoing. On this attempt they try to kill his mother before she has him. In Terminator 2 they send another cyborg back through time to kill the man while he is a boy and weak.

 We see a similar play in the biblical storyline. As soon as the promise of a deliverer is made, Eve gives birth, and yet Satan moves Cain to kill Abel. The promise is dead, but God raises up Seth. Pharaoh is killing the male Hebrews when they are born, but God delivers Moses. Later in Israel's history, Hamaan will attempt genocide against the Jews, and then Herod will try to kill Jesus when he is a baby. All of these are attempts by the serpent to kill the line before the Messiah King comes! Athaliah participates in this by wiping out the sons of David. The promises lie dead in the tombs of Jerusalem! Yet, one is saved, King Joash.

 Joash is rescued and hid away for 6 years. Joash is not the first child and will not be the last child hidden away from an evil ruler. Moses was hid from Pharaoh, and Jesus will be hid from Herod. All three will have similar ministries, Exodus! In the seventh year, Jehoiada the priest orchestrates a coup to set Joash on the throne. They bring Joash out of the temple, which shows that he is the true Son of God/King. They crown him and proclaim him as king. Athaliah hears the shouts and songs of the people as they bring Joash to the throne. Then the Bible says that she looks and sees the king "standing" by his pillar (2 Chr. 23:13). This is similar to the heavenly vision of Revelation 5. John sees the lamb, as though slain, but standing! Yahweh has brought life out of death. Yahweh has brought victory out of defeat. And what is the crowning and victory of Joash accompanied by? Singing and praising (cf. Rev. 5:6 & 13)!

 Evil Athaliah and her followers are put to death (cf. Gen. 3:15, serpent's seed is being crushed). This may seem harsh to some, but these verses should be cross-referenced in your study Bibles with John 3:16. God loves the world so much that he will kill the enemies who try to keep the Son from coming. Joash defeats the enemies and he sets worship right again in Judah. The land is quiet.

 After this, Joash sets himself to rebuilding the temple. Why? Kings are temple-builders (cf. Solomon, Zech. 6:12-15, etc.). Solomon built the original temple. Joash re-builds the temple, and Jesus will build the final temple.

 King Joash is a Moses who leads his people out of bondage to an evil tyrant in order to build a dwelling place for God. His life points to the Greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. Not only does Herod try to kill him at birth, but Jesus is killed on a Cross. The hope for an eternal kingdom once again lies dead in a tomb in Jerusalem. Yet, on the third day, King Jesus does what the sinner King Joash cannot, he walks out of the grave. He crushed the head of the serphet forever. He ascended into heaven, and he sent gifts in order to build his temple (cf. Eph. 4:7-16). They thought they could tear this temple down, but Jesus raised it up in three days, and he is building it now through his Spirit on the foundation of apostles and prophets. This is a greater Exodus and a greater Temple, presided over by a faithful King-Priest!

 Jon Akin 

Reading the Bible Christocentrically: Part 3

2 CHRONICLES 17-20: JEHOSHAPHATarmageddon

JEHOSHAPHAT

 Jehoshaphat takes over for his father Asa in a time of turmoil. He strengthens his position in Judah, placing troops in the fortified cities (built by Asa). Yahweh is "with" Jehoshaphat because he walks in the former ways of His father David, who did not seek the Baals. This is a fulfillment of the promises to David (Obedient Son = Blessing, prosperity, etc.). He has riches and honor in great abundance. Jehoshaphat commits himself to God's Word by sending out princes and Levites city by city to teach the Word of God. As a result, the fear of the Lord falls on all the surrounding kingdoms, so they don't make war with Jehoshaphat. They fear the power of Yahweh and His Word. The Philistines and the Arabians bring tribute gifts to Jehoshaphat. We see here "Peace in the Middle East," as Arabs are bringing gifts to the King of Israel. Just imagine if Bin Laden were to bring camels as gifts to the Prime Minister of Israel.

      Jehoshaphat's great, great grandfather saw this happen during his reign. The nations heard of Solomon's wisdom, they knew that God was WITH him, so they were afraid (i.e. the God of the Exodus), and they came bringing treasures and gifts. They wanted to learn from Solomon's wisdom. The nations were recognizing that God had blessed Israel and her king. They wanted to be connected with that blessing. The Queen of Sheba wanted to learn the ways of the Lord. Not only that, the nations realized that Solomon and Israel were so powerful and exalted that they wanted to be on Solomon's good side, so they brought him gifts.
     
      The prophets prophesy that what happened in Solomon's reign (and partly in Jehoshaphat's reign) will happen again in an even greater way in the future. The Prophets tell us that a day is coming when all the nations will stream to Israel. All the nations will bring their gold and their wealth to Israel and ask to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isa. 2:3). The nations' kings will also recognize the power of Israel's King and will bring gifts to Him, indeed "all nations shall serve him" (Psa. 72:10-11)! Zechariah 8:23 "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is WITH you.'" Isaiah 60:1-6 tells of a great light that will rise over Israel, the glory of Yahweh will appear over them, and the nations will come to the light, and they will bring gifts of "gold and frankincense." Matthew 2 shows a fulfillment of this prophecy, where Magi bring these gifts to the king who has a star over him! But, this story even points forward still to the eschatological fulfillment. Revelation 21:22-26, "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it." What is happening in the reign of Jehoshaphat is only a glimpse, a snapshot, of what will happen when David's greatest Son rules. The nations recognize the light of Yahweh and His Word that are with Judah, and they fear and bring gifts.

      We see this prophecy coming true even now. Jesus came teaching the Word of God city by city. He sent out His disciples two-by-two to teach God's Word. Then, he sent them (us) out through the Great Commission. They don't just go out, but they "draw in" the nations to the New Jerusalem, Christ. The nations are being gathered through the teaching of God's Word, and they are submitting to an Israelite King. They are saying, "Teach us your wisdom. Teach us to walk in your ways, for we have heard that God is WITH YOU."
 
 Foolishly, Jehoshaphat unequally yokes himself and forms a marriage alliance with Ahab. Ahab also entices Jehoshaphat into battle. Jehoshaphat knows enough to ask of the Lord before going into battle, even when 400 other prophets are saying Yahweh will give victory. Jehoshaphat rightly says "isn't there a prophet of Yahweh to ask?" Ahab says that there is still 1 man, but he doesn't like this prophet b/c he always prophesies against Ahab. Ultimately, Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh, prophesies Ahab's death in the battle. What is striking is that Jehoshaphat requests a Word from Yahweh, and he ignores it. Though Ahab dies in the battle, Jehoshaphat narrowly escapes. On the way home from the battle against Syria, Jehu the prophet confronts and rebukes Jehoshaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate Yahweh?… Wrath is upon you." Jehoshaphat repents and sets up a justice system in Judah based on God's Word.
     
      In Chapter 20, Moab and Ammon come up against Judah, seeking to drive them out of the land. Jehoshaphat is afraid, but he seeks the Lord (unlike Asa his father) and proclaims a fast. All the cities come to "seek" the Lord for help. Azariah's prophecy to Asa from chapter 15 is coming true. When Judah seeks Yahweh, He will be found by them. All the people from young to old stand in the temple, and Jehoshaphat prays to Yahweh. He addresses him as God of all the nations who has power no one can stand against. He is also the God of Israel who drove out Canaanites and gave them land as promised to Abraham. His people live there and built a sanctuary for Yahweh. If disaster comes, the people are to stand before Yahweh at the temple and cry out to him, and he will "hear and save." Jehoshaphat turns the attention of his prayer to their enemies. He says that God told Israel not to touch these peoples when coming into the Land of Promise. Yet, these people want to throw Israel out of the land. Jehoshaphat's imprecatory prayer is that God will judge these peoples and not hesitate. This prayer points back to Solomon's dedicatory prayer of the temple. When God's people are besieged by enemies, they will pray towards the temple, and God will deliver them (cf. Jonah 2). Again, we see Jehoshaphat's relation to the Word of God. He is taking God at his Word.

 A Prophet tells the people that the battle is God's, and He will fight for Judah. They can just stand and see God's salvation. The people with Jehoshaphat bow their faces to the ground and worship Yahweh. The next morning when the people start singing praises to Yahweh, he destroys their enemies. Judah gets to the place and all they see is dead bodies, so they plunder them for 3 days.
     
      There is a mention in the Prophet Joel about the "Valley of Jehoshaphat." Lots of ink is spilt from commentators' pens discussing WHERE this valley is, as if it were a geographical issue. I believe that the Holy Spirit, through Joel, is pointing back to this event in the reign of Jehoshaphat, and He uses it to point to final judgment on those nations that oppose God! Joel writes in 3:12-13, "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge (the name Jehoshaphat literally means, "Ya judges") all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow — For their wickedness is great." The cry of God's people, throughout history, is, "how long will you allow your enemies to prosper and your people to suffer?" God answers constantly that it will not be this way forever. The wicked shall not prosper forever. Jehoshaphat's victory here over the Moabites and the Ammonites foreshadows that Day of the Lord. The people of Jehoshaphat's day praise Yahweh for the victory, and He gives them rest. Again, the surrounding nations are afraid, b/c they see that Yahweh fights for His people.

      Though Jehoshaphat was a good king overall, committed to God's Word, he was not a perfect king. He unequally yoked himself with the Northern Kingdom. He did not fully obey the Word. His failures, with all of the other kings of Judah, foreshadow the need for a perfect Warrior-King. This King was the Word made flesh. This King sent out his disciples to teach God's word, city-by-city. This King is seeing the nations being gathered in. Gentile pagans are bowing to this King. This King appeared in human history, and the nations did stand against him. As Luke tells us in Acts 2 and Acts 4, the kings of the earth and the rulers took their stand and were gathered together against Yahweh and his Messiah. Indeed Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and even Israel gathered together against Jesus. Gentile armies came to destroy the anointed of God, and the cry came again, "How long Oh Lord? How long will the enemies of God prevail?" The answer came back, "Three days!" As the nations gathered against the Messiah, their own plans to destroy him ended up being their own downfall! As Joel prophesied about that day of the Lord there were signs in the heavens, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the defeat of the enemies of God, and the exaltation of Israel over her enemies. When the dust settled, one man sat at the right hand of God with all his enemies being put under his feet. The cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy concerning the Day of the Lord and the Valley of Jehoshaphat. King Jesus has destroyed his enemies and his followers are receiving the spoils. This King will one day appear in the Eastern sky at the sound of the trumpet, with all of His enemies assembled in the valley of Jehoshaphat. A sharp two-edged sword will come out of His mouth to "strike the nations." He will rule over the nations with a rod of iron, and the nations will stream to the New Jerusalem, bringing Him their honor and glory, saying, "teach us to walk in the ways of the Lord!"

Reading the Bible Christocentrically: Part 2

Tombs of Jerusalem's Kings2 CHRONICLES 14-16: ASA 
 
 When reading a narrative a reader must look for clues, themes, etc that foreshadow what will happen at the end of the story. After reading the whole story, those clues and themes make greater sense, and are read in light of the rest of the story. When reading stories like Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, etc we do not dissect the earlier episodes without putting them in the context of the entire story. It would be like analyzing act two of Romeo and Juliet without seeing the clues and themes that foreshadow the tragic movement of the plot. The same must be done when reading the OT, because there are "clues" and themes that point forward to fulfillment in Christ. Recently I preached through several of the OT kings, and Asa was one king that I looked at.

ASA

 The story of Asa is found in 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa begins as a righteous king who does "good and right in the eyes of the Lord (14:2)." The land is quiet and at rest under his kingship, and even when Zerah the Ethiopian marches against Asa with a million man army, he is defeated. Asa is granted a miraculous victory from God and rest because he trusts in the Lord and cries out to Him for deliverance (14:11-12). This is the fulfillment of Yahweh's promises to David (2 Sam 7). David's sons are to be warrior-kings who fight for His people, in dependence upon God. God promises to cut off David's enemies and give rest to the people and the land. David's Son will be a Son of God (i.e. Adam, ruling as God's representative). There is conditionality. When David's sons are disobedient they will be chastened with the rod. When they are faithful there will be blessings of power, peace, etc. Asa's humble dependence upon Yahweh as a faithful son is already bringing those blessings.

 A prophet, Azariah, comes to Asa and preaches to him. He tells Asa that "The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." The King is the representative head for the people. When the kings are faithful the nation is blessed. When the kings are unfaithful the nation is cursed (i.e. sins of Manasseh eventually responsible for the exile). The head-body relationship of King Jesus with his church is not something that just shows up in the NT. The King embodies the nation as its head. So, there is ALWAYS a need in Israel for a king who obeys God wholly (i.e. who seeks Yahweh and does not forsake Him) so as to bring victory and peace for the people. Asa applies Azariah's preaching and brings religious reform to Judah and removes idolatry. He even removes the Queen Mother. Leithart writes, "Asa is a true disciple, who hates his mother to follow Yahweh (Lk 14:26; Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings, pg. 116)." His reform is bringing a reunification of Israel and Judah (e.g. Ezek. 37), because some from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon see that "the Lord his God [is] with him (15:9)."

 Yet, the story takes a bad turn, where Asa ends up relying on man, not God. King Baasha of Israel comes up against Judah (with a much smaller army than Zerah the Ethiopian). Asa makes a treaty with Syria, giving the treasures of the Temple to form an alliance with Ben-Hadad. Syria defeats Baasha and Israel. It is not stated why Asa relies on Syria rather than God. Two possibilities as I see it: 1) He thought he could handle a smaller army with his own ingenuity rather than God (pride) or 2) He was afraid.

 Hanani, the seer, confronts and condemns Asa for his action. God's judgment on Asa is that from now on war will characterize his kingdom rather than peace (i.e. cursing and chastening of 2 Sam 7). Asa relied on God against the Ethiopians, but in this matter he relied on the King of Syria. How could he do such a thing? "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars (16:9)." Asa is no longer a humble Son of God. He is depending upon man (the arm of the flesh). Asa does not receive the rebuke. He throws Hanani in prison.
      
  Asa ends up getting a foot disease, and the Bible says that "even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians (16:12)." A sick king symbolizes a sick nation. All the stability of his earlier reign is gone. Asa actually ends up having his own tomb constructed for himself, and he is buried there after his death in Jerusalem.
      
 Instead of reading this episode merely as an historical portrait of a Davidic King, we should read it as one episode in the big storyline of the Bible. This storyline is dominated with the theme (clues) of the Son of God/David/King of Israel/Messiah. Asa is a messiah, an anointed king. Israel is looking for and needs a faithful Son of David to rise up, who will be loyal to Yahweh, relying on Him only, who will defeat their enemies and bring peace. Yahweh will answer His Son in times of trouble, if the Son will only rely on Him. The problem is that David's sons are loyal and humble and dependent only for a little while. They all fall short, and the people's hopes for a warrior-king lie dead in Jerusalem tombs.
      
  There is a promise that a man will come along who will crush this power of death (Gen 3:15). He will be a Son of David (2 Sam 7), who sits on an eternal throne. Yet, every single king in the OT ends up dead and rotting in their own tombs because the wages of sin is death. Asa starts off so well with victory and peace, relying on God. Yet, he ends up digging his own tomb, where he lies dead, embalmed with spices (16:14).
       
   In the big storyline we see the familiar refrain of a Son of David buried in Jerusalem, and yet you come to the NT and there is a Son of David who does not need his own tomb. He borrows one for three days only. And when the ladies come to embalm him with spices on Sunday morning, as the Jews had done with every other King who died before, all they found were grave clothes because he was not there. Why? Because eyes of the Lord had run to and fro over the whole earth seeking to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart was loyal to Him, and those eyes rested on one man, Jesus Christ. He had every opportunity to rely on the arm of the flesh as Asa had (Wilderness, Garden of Gethsemane, Cross, etc.), but he relied on God. He did not forsake the Lord; he was found by the Lord. God lifted up his dependent child, out of the dust of death, and seated him on a throne where all of his enemies are being put under his feet. He is the warrior king defeating his enemies and bringing quiet to the land (Heb. 2). As this king's great, great, great, great……….Grandfather had written, "Now I know that the LORD saves His Messiah (anointed); He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright (Psa 20:6-8)."

Jon Akin

Reading the Bible Christocentrically

Ark and Dagon Interpreting OT history is often a confusing task for the church. How do you apply Israelite history to the modern church? There have been two dominant attempts to resolve this tension: allegory and historical-grammatical method. Allegory arose mainly with people who deeply believed the OT was of value to the church and about Christ, so they struggled to read it as Christian scripture. Their difficulty over the literal sense of the text led to an allegorical, spiritual interpretation of the text that sought to raise the literal sense to a higher plane. Historical-grammatical method deeply values the literal sense of the text, employing a kind of scientific method to read the text and find out what it meant in its own time. Neither adequately accounts for the complete message of the Bible as a work about Christ. A Christocentric hermeneutic should be used instead of allegory or just historical-grammatical method.

 Both the allegorical approach and the historical-grammatical method generate similar outcomes for the application of OT history. An allegorical approach basically de-historicizes the OT. On the other hand, the historical-grammatical approach can cancel out the OT as Christian scripture because its history meant something to Israel at the time, but it is difficult to see how it applies today. Those who subscribe to this kind of method usually only see application as learning from history so you do not repeat it (i.e. moralism).

 Can the Old Testament be read in its literal sense and still be of value to a Christian audience? Allegory says, "No," and historical-grammatical method does not know. The Bible answers this question with a "Yes," and that yes is Jesus Christ. The entire OT is about Jesus (Luke 24:27), and all of history points to Jesus (Eph. 1:10). This means that OT history is about Christ and moving towards Christ. Christ is Abraham's seed, so those in Christ are offspring of Abraham, heirs of the Israelite promises, and part of the vine of Israel (Gal. 3:29; Rm. 11). That means that Israelite historiographic literature is Christian historiographic literature. Jewish heritage is Christian heritage in Christ. Therefore, Christians cannot read Israelite history as if they are reading someone else?s mail. In order to read OT history as Christian scripture, the reader must read the narrative Christocentrically. All of the Old Testament is pointing to Christ, and if we are in Christ then it is pointing to us mediated through Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). The Old Testament does not first and foremost apply to the Christian; rather, it first applies to the Christ, and then it is mediated to the Christian. This means a typological, Christological reading of the Bible as a whole. The Bible is one book, and the Old Testament is the first part of that book. The little narratives should not be examined apart from the big narrative. Jesus and the apostles seemed to use this strategy. An analysis of the ark narrative of 1 Samuel 4-7 will demonstrate the deficiencies of allegory and historical-grammatical method, as well as the value of Christocentric reading. 

A. THE BATTLE (4:1-18)

 Israel goes to battle with the Philistines at Ebenezer and is defeated. In Deut. 28 there is a warning of cursing for disobedience. Israel's routing at the hands of the Philistines is described in terms of a covenant curse. How had Israel broken the covenant? In the context of 1 Samuel, the gluttony and sexual immorality of Hophni and Phinehas and Eli's failure to restrain them was one cause for the defeat (3:12-13). Another reason was idolatry (cf. 7:3, Psa. 78:58ff.).

 The Israelites propose to bring the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of Yahweh, into the battle in order to be saved. The ark was there for the victory at Jericho (Joshua 6), so the people try to use it here as a good luck charm. The ark does not help. The Philistines win, take the ark of Yahweh and kill Hophni and Phinehas. Yahweh is being led away captive by a foreign army, and his priests lie slain on the battlefield. When Eli hears about the capture of the ark he falls over backwards and breaks his neck because he is so fat and old. God's judgment has fallen on Eli for his sins.

B. ICHABOD (4:19-22)                                                                                                           

 Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, is pregnant. When she hears the report she goes into premature labor and gives birth. She dies as a result of the birth, but before she does she names the boy "Ichabod" because the "glory has departed from Israel." The ark, the presence of God, has gone into exile (galah). This word for "departure" is a word used often for the exile of Israel and Judah (2 Kg. 17:6, Isa. 5:13, Jer. 1:3, Ezek. 12:3, etc.). Yahweh is in exile.

D. GOSPEL (5:1-12)                                                                                                               

The Philistines place the ark in Dagon's temple before Dagon, as if to say Yahweh is bowing in defeat to worship Dagon. The next day the Philistines enter the temple to see their god lying prostrate before the ark of Yahweh. Dagon is worshipping Yahweh. The Philistines have to pick their god up (cf. Psa. 115; Isa 46:1-4). When the Philistines enter the temple early the third morning they see Dagon has fallen to pieces. His head and hands are cut off, and he lies on the ground defeated before Yahweh.

Within the larger narrative of the Bible the ark narrative is clearly a foreshadowing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The warning of the covenant is exile for disobedience (Dt. 28:41-64). The people of Samuel's time deserve captivity and exile. But what happens is surprising. The people are not taken into captivity, but Yahweh himself goes into captivity to "serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known — wood and stone." Yahweh takes the curses of the covenant on Himself. This is a pattern recognizable within the larger narrative. He has been defeated and is forced to serve a foreign god as a captive in exile (i.e. Samson, Manasseh, Israel in Babylon, etc.). Yet, the gospel truth of the New Testament is seen here because Yahweh is a God who brings victory out of defeat and life out of death by substituting Himself for His people. 

 The gospel promise of Genesis 3 is being carried out in a foreign temple. God promised in Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent while at the same time bruising his own heel. From that point forward God started crushing heads, and this points to God's salvation through the seed of the Woman and His victory over the serpent. In Samuel the Philistines wake up on the third morning to the crushed head of Dagon, and in the context of Samuel this anticipates another Philistine head crushing. The seed of the woman, the Messiah, is prefigured in a little shepherd boy who puts his hand in a bag and slings a stone that crushes the forehead of the Philistine champion Goliath (1 Sam. 17:49-51). The humiliated shepherd boy defeats the exalted giant just as the humiliated Yahweh defeats the seemingly victorious Dagon.

This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. God takes on himself the covenant curses and judgments. He substitutes himself for his people. Jesus is taken captive by a foreign army. Jesus is humiliated by the Gentiles. Yet, what seems to be a defeat for Jesus ends up being his victory. He dies on one day. He lies in the tomb on the next. And early in the morning on the third day he is raised from the dead and crushes the head of the serpent. Humiliation leads to victory which leads to exaltation. If one reads the Bible holistically, centered on its fulfillment in Christ, then the ark narrative clearly foreshadows the gospel event. In isolation this passage may look like an historical event that simply shows Yahweh's superiority to the gods of the nations, but in the grand storyline of the Bible this event is much more than a demonstration of Yahweh's superiority. This victory of Yahweh over a god of the nations points forward to THE victory of Christ over the gods of this age at his crucifixion and resurrection. And it is no coincidence that Yahweh gains his victory on the morning of the third day. After the defeat of Dagon, Yahweh attacks the Philistine cities with plagues, tumors. This is a recapitulation of the Exodus. Captivity in a foreign country brings plagues upon the enemies and their gods. The Philistines devise a plan to send the ark away.

F. EXODUS (6:1-18)                                                                                                            

After seven months they decide to send the ark back. The priests warn them not to send it back "empty." This echoes the language of Yahweh's promise to Moses concerning the Exodus, "And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed (Ex 3:21)." They decide to send it back with five golden tumors and five golden rats because the Philistines have five major cities. They send the ark back, and it comes to Beth Shemesh.

G. CONCLUSION (6:19-7:17)                                                                                             

Yahweh strikes the men of Beth Shemesh because they look "in the ark of Yahweh." They get rid of it, and the ark ends up staying in Kirjath Jearim for almost a hundred years before David brings it up to Jerusalem, after defeating the Philistines (2 Sam. 6:2). The ark stays in Kirjath Jearim for twenty years until Samuel issues a challenge and the people actually turn back to Yahweh. They do battle with the Philistines and win because Yahweh fights for them.

 A typological, Christological hermeneutic is necessary to read the scriptures. God indeed works in patterns in history. These types find their fulfillment in the anti-type, Jesus Christ. The Bible says that all of God's promises find their "yes" in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). One huge pattern of the scriptures is the exodus motif. Israel is in bondage as captives in Egypt. In their humiliation God hears their cries. Israel is born as a nation through the plagues, the Passover and their release. They loot the Egyptians as they leave. In the wilderness they sin against God, and many die under judgment. The following generation, those twenty years and younger, conquer the land of Promise and drive out their enemies. This exodus motif is found in the ark narrative. God's presence is taken away captive to a foreign land. He is forced to serve another god. He defeats the god of that nation. He sends plagues on the land. He plunders them as he leaves. He punishes Beth-Shemesh for their sin (i.e. faithless wanderers in the wilderness). The ark rests comfortably in Kirjath-Jearim for twenty years, and then there is a new conquest of the Promised Land, in which Yahweh fights for His people. The nation is reborn. This cycle will occur again. Sometimes it happens on an individual scale (i.e. Manasseh's exile and return in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20). This motif will occur again on a national scale in the fall of Samaria and the exile of Judah in Babylon. The dead bones of Israel are captive in a foreign land, but there is promise of resurrection, rebirth, and the re-establishment of the kingdom. This fulfillment is seen partially in the return from exile. Finally, the exodus motif reaches its climax in Jesus of Nazareth. Israel continues to be under the rule of a foreign power. They are in exile in their own land. He is arrested by that foreign power, tried, found guilty, and executed. Jesus takes on Himself the covenant curses (Ezek.20:34-37). Then, three days later the dead bones of Israel are raised from the dead. The serpent's head is crushed. The power of death is now overturned. Humanity is released from bondage to death and sin. Jesus (Joshua) leads the exodus from bondage to the curse. He plunders the enemy, and uses those gifts to establish His kingdom (Eph. 4:8-12). The exodus motif will find its fulfillment when the deliverer, Jesus, returns. Even now Christians are exiles in a strange land that is ruled by principalities, powers, and the "Prince of the Power of the Air." Plagues will fall on this present world order (cf. Rev). Jesus will return for His people and lead a new exodus and conquest into a new land of Promise, the new earth. Only a typological reading sees the significant pattern that finds its culmination in Christ Jesus.

 There has always been a struggle in applying OT history to the church. Allegory cancels out history in favor of spiritual reading of the text. Historical-grammatical method analyzes what the text meant, but ends up with moralism as the only way to apply the text, which puts the scripture on same level as Aesop's fables. None of these methods adequately accounts for Jesus' claims that the OT was about him (John 5:39). If one accepts that God works in types in history, and those patterns are fulfilled ultimately in Christ, and then are mediated to those in Him, then one can seek to identify those patterns today and apply the living word of Israelite history to the modern church. Sadly, many (if not most) evangelical interpreters are held captive to Enlightenment reductionism that would elevate modern hermeneutical methods above the methods of Jesus and the Apostles.

Bill Curry on the Miami-FIU Brawl

brawlAs a lifelong fan of the Miami Hurricanes I was disgusted with the actions of this past Saturday night. I am embarassed by the response of the school, the school's faculty (President and AD), the school's coach, and the ACC. The punishments given to Miami players is a joke at best and almost criminal at worse. Larry Coker could earn my respect without another win by cleaning house (right before he is swept out of town at the end of the year for losing, not this fight). If Coker, Shalala, or Dee do not step up and do more, then all should be fired. There are many commentators in the sport's world who are making similar statements. They are blasting the University and it's response to this event. Few offer any reasons as to WHY this happened, other than the cliche that "Miami is Thug U." In the midst of this Bill Curry, former college coach and current analyst for ESPN, has offered a great analysis in my opinion. He says some hard and direct things that touch on family-life, leadership, and response to authority. His analysis is excellent and should be read by everyone in my opinion, especially fathers.

Curry says, "We live in a culture that celebrates belligerence like we once celebrated religious holidays. We live in a culture in which a large percentage of fathers have abdicated responsibility to raise their children. We live in a culture in which many parents would rather be friends with their children than disciplinarians of their children." Outside the setting of theological education or the church I have seen few who have the guts to make statements like this or even agree with its analysis. I respect ESPN for allowing it to be on their website, and I respect Coach Curry for writing it. I pray that God will use my wife and I, and many others, to teach the next generation what it means to respect authority.

 Jon Akin   

Which Lee Quote Is Your Favorite?

Faith of our Fathers: RG Lee Quotes

LeeRG Lee's preaching is meant to be heard, not read. So, for the final post on RG Lee (for a while) I thought it would be great to get a flavor of Lee's preaching. Below are several clips from his preaching. Please listen to several of them and comment on which ones are your favorites. Also, please include any thoughts that you have on Lee's impact on the SBC or your ministry.

1. Lee on the Invitation
2. Lee on Christian Duty
3. Lee on the Foolishness of Rejecting Christ
4. Lee on Jesus
5. Lee on the Bible
6. Lee on Jesus as the Theme of the Bible
7. Lee on Jesus' sacrifice
8. Lee on Resurrection
9. Lee on his own Death
10. Lee on Prayer
11. Lee on Righteous Indignation
12. Lee on Evangelism
13. Lee on Alcohol
14. Lee on the Bible and the SBC
15. Lee on Liberalism
16. Lee on the Unpunished Sin of Ahab and Jezebel
17. Lee on Ahab's Encounter with Elijah
18. Lee on Ahab's Death and God's Judgment
19. Lee on Payday

RG Lee was a Southern Baptist preacher. He served the Lord for over 5 decades of ministry. I pray that God will use these spotlights to awaken a new generation to his preaching, but most of all I pray God will raise up preachers like Lee who will stand before congregations week after week and year after year delivering God's Word in power under the anointing of the Spirit.

Maddy Is Home!

First Family PhotoMaddy Akin arrived home two weeks to the day she was born. She left the hospital at a whopping 3 pounds 8 ounces! I want to thank everyone who encouaraged and prayed for us during this time. Even as we learn to care for someone who is completely helpless and dependent upon us, we also were reminded of how helpless we are and in need of God's help. He has been, is, and always will be our helper. God tells his people, "Listen to Me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you and I will carry you; I will bear and save you" (Isa. 46:3-4). God carries us from birth to old age to death and even to resurrection. He bears us. He acts on behalf of the helpless. Thanks so much for the prayers.

Jon, Ash, and Maddy Akin

Madelyn (Maddy) Akin

Madelyn (Maddy) AkinTo the right is a picture of my new daughter, Madelyn (Maddy) Akin.

My wife and I were expecting a beautiful baby girl around September 12. God had different plans. Because of complications brought on by PIH (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension) little Maddy came seven weeks early. This provided quite a scare for her mother and me. Maddy weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces and was 15 inches long. Our little girl is quite a fighter. She is very little and has immature lungs, but she is maturing quickly. Mom has improved quickly and her blood pressure has come back down.

So many thoughts run through a new father's head as he contemplates the meaning of fatherhood. Most church folks tell me that I will have new perspective on God's love for His Son and for us. As you hold your first child and tear up at how much you love this little one (all three pounds of her) you are spellbound by the fact that God would love you more and would give his Only One to save the lost. The Bible clearly teaches that family life points to realities about God's relationship with man. God designed marriage to point us to the one-flesh relationship of Christ with His church (Gen. 2; Eph. 5). God designed the fruitfulness of childbearing in a marriage relationship to point to the multiplication which results from the relationship of Christ and his church (Gen. 1; Psa. 127; Mat. 28). It's no mistake that Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be "born again" to enter the kingdom of God. It's no mistake that Paul calls a new Christian a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5).

It is also no mistake that Jesus tells his misguided disciples to let the "little children come" (Mar. 10). As the disciples harass parents who bring their children to Jesus, he gets "indignant" with his disciples. He tells them not to hinder the little children. He tells them that if they want to enter the Kingdom of God, then they have to become like a child! As I stare at this little miracle, whose head is smaller than a tennis ball, whose head I hold in the palm of my hand as I feed a bottle to her, and as she grips my wife's finger so tight her little knuckles show white, I do learn anew what Jesus meant in Mark 10. This little girl is so helpless and dependent. She can barely do anything for herself. She relies completely on her parents (and the nurses and doctors) to take care of her every second. That is how we should (must) come to Jesus. We cannot come in our own strength. As we mature and become "wiser" we seem to forget this, and we seek to live life based on our own strength.

If you were to ask the "average person on the street" how they can have a right relationship with God, most would tell you that you need to be a good person, do good works, etc. It's kind of like one of my favorite oldies songs "Last Kiss." A boy and a girl on a date get into a car wreck and the girl dies. The boyfriend sings:

Where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me;
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be GOOD;
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.

That's where most people are on reconciliation with God. We depend on our own work to get ourselves into a correct relationship with God.

Self-sufficiency and self-dependence are first class tickets to Hell. You want to come proud. You want to come as a mature adult. Then, Jesus says you don't get to come. If you want to come to Jesus, then come dependent and utterly reliant, like a child. That is faith! Maddy is a reminder to me, not only of the goodness of God in creation and pro-creation, but of the goodness of God in new creation! As I look at this little girl who has wires and tubes attached all over her tiny body I am reminded that this little blessing entered a world under a curse, the curse of sin and death. And yet, two thousand years ago another prayed-for child was "born of a woman" and he became a curse in order to destroy the curse. He laid three days in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day, the curse was undone because the new creation of God stood up and walked out. Paul reminds us that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." How does one become a new creation? Come like a helpless child to the one who conquered the curse and ushered in the new creation. As I look at my little girl, Maddy Akin, I am reminded as she acts with me I am to act with Christ. And if I come in dependence to Christ (and if my little girl comes in dependence… as her mother and I will pray everyday of her life that she does), then I will hear the words uttered first at the Jordan River and later at the empty tomb, "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased." My wife and I pray that this little handiwork from God, who is fighting and maturing everyday, will remain dependent on her Maker and one day experience the new creation of God in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, where the book says, "there will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"

Jonathan, Ashley, and Maddy Akin