Monday, January 05, 2009

Notes on the Bible January 5-6

Genesis 13-18

The Trouble with Lot. Lot appears throughout this section as a trouble to Abraham. First, there is the dispute over land that takes up most of chapter 13. Second, there is the capture of Lot and the ensuing battle that takes up most of chapter 14. Third, there is the warning of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in chapter 18. The key individual in the ensuing chapter is Lot. One wonders what might have happened if Abram had not brought Lot along in chapter 12. That seems, after all, to have been the point of God's saying to Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house." Furthermore, Lot and his line fade almost into oblivion after Genesis 19.

The Trouble with Abram. After God gave Abram the promise in chapter 12, Abram endangered the possibility of its fulfillment by attempting to pass off Sarai as his sister (12:10-20). After the Lot episodes (chs 13-14), God reiterated the promise to Abram, confirming it with the covenant ritual. Once again, in the following chapter, Abram endangered the possibility of the fulfillment of the promise by heeding Sarai's advice. God graciously restored Abram, and reiterated the promise and the covenant, this time with the sign of the covenant. Whatever man does to endanger the fulfillment of God's promises, God overrules to his own glory and the completion of his promised work.

The Covenant Sign. We noted in chapter 9 that God takes the sign of the covenant as if it were intended for him, not for man. This attitude continues in chapter 17 with the sign of circumcision. Even if a son is born to covenant parents, he is not considered part of the covenant community unless he has the sign of the covenant. If he has not the sign, he is a covenant breaker (17:14). It's important to keep that in mind when we consider the signs of the covenant for New Testament believers.

Matthew 5

It is a commonplace among scholars that the Gospel According to Matthew presents Jesus as the New Moses. Thus, there are five major blocks of teaching material in Matthew that are seen as corresponding to the Five Books of Moses. These blocks of teaching in Matthew are chs 5-7, commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount; ch 10, the disciples' message; ch 13, the kingdom parables; ch 18, church discipline; and chs 23-25, the woes to the Pharisees and the Olivet discourse. Each of these sections ends with the statement, "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings" (see 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). Though it is impossible to find any real correspondence between the five teaching blocks in Matthew and the Five Books of Moses, the fact that we have five sections of teaching, each clearly marked at the end, tells us something about Matthew's organization of the material.

The Beatitudes. There has perhaps been more literature published on the Beatitudes than on any other single section of Scripture. I do not think they are intended to be a "new law" for the Christian. Nor are they a "kingdom ethic" that does not apply until the coming of the millennial Messianic kingdom. Rather, their purpose is to tell us something about the heart of the disciple of Jesus. This is made more clear by the fact that Jesus follows the Beatitudes with an exposition of the law.

The Exposition of the Law

Jesus' exposition of the law is not a "new law." Nor is it an expansion of the law. It does not tell us that in the Old Testament the law applied only to the action, but in the New Testament it applies to the heart. No, Jesus is clarifying the law, making the point that it had always applied to the heart.

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