Carrick has also written a helpful “theology of sacred rhetoric,” The Imperative of Preaching. This along with a lecture posted at the GPTS website provides a helpful balance to an over-reaction by some to the moralistic approach to Scripture critiqued recently (and rightly) by Mark Ward.
The story of the Bible is the narrative of God coming to be with his people as their Lord, in his control, authority, and presence. After creation and fall, the story is about redemption, and thus about Jesus.
John Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 273.
I like the inclusion of God’s presence in his description of the story. Here is how I would trace the theme of God’s presence through Scripture in a thumbnail sketch:
At the Fall, mankind was thrust out from the presence of God (Gen. 3:8, 23f.). The covenant with Abraham, however, contained hope that God would one day dwell with men again (Gen. 17:8). The Tabernacle/Temple was a first step toward permitting God and man to dwell together again (c.f. Exo. 25:8; 29:35). But the Tabernacle/Temple was deficient (cf. Heb. 8:7) in that it restricted people from God’s presence even as it symbolized His presence. Furthermore, God’s presence could be lost through sin.
The themes of God’s presence, the Spirit, and the temple converge in the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was given a vision of the presence of God departing from the temple in judgment upon the people’s sins (11:22-23). This is followed by the promise of God’s indwelling presence, which will remedy Israel’s sin problem (36:27; 37:14). This, in turn, is followed by a vision of a coming Temple named יהוה שמה.
The incarnation of Jesus was a major step toward fulfilling Ezekiel’s vision. Jesus was Ἐμμανουήλ, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Or as John put it, “The Word became flesh and dwelt [ἐσκήνωσεν] among us” (John 1:14).
Jesus’ ascension was not, however, a redemptive-historical step backward “It is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus tells the disciples, “for if I do not go away, the παράκλητος will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This verse recalls John 7:39. There is a giving/sending of the Spirit that could only happen after Jesus was glorified and gone away. The farewell discourse links this giving of the Spirit with continued presence of God among men.
Paul continues to connects the concepts of temple and the indwelling presence of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 he speaks to the local church as “God’s temple.” He tells them that “God’s Spirit dwells in you.” He makes a similar statement about the individual Christian in 1 Corinthians 6:19. In these passages the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the church or the believer is motivation for holiness, which connects well with the new covenant promises that the Spirit will transform the lives of those in the new covenant (Eze. 36:27).
The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of the expectation of the more-than-restored presence of God. “Its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22). God will dwell with man for eternity.
Christian scholarship therefore is not ashamed of its presuppositions. In fact it glories in them,for it knows well enough that all approaches have presuppositions, whether consciously or unconsciously adopted. Christian scholarship knows where it stands and what it is seeking to accomplish. It understands that there is really but one alternative to the position which it has adopted. If it does not proceed upon the assumption that God is the ultimate source of meaning in life, and hence the ultimate point of predication, it knows that the only alternative is to believe and assert the ultimacy of the human mind. The human mind, however, is something created and finite, and from a finite source knowledge of the ultimate meaning of life can never come.
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The same may be said of some of the views that are being presented today, views which are widely acclaimed and even received with favour by some evangelicals. These theories have not the slightest hesitation in overriding express statements of the Bible. For that reason they are not in accord with Christian presuppositions and consequently they may be dismissed as mistaken explanations of Israel’s history and religion. This is not to say that there is no value in them or that they should not be studied. But the unlearned reader who simply reads the Old Testament itself and believes it to be true has a far more profound insight into the truth of Israel’s history and religion than he will find in the positions advocated by some modern scholars. One of the saddest signs of the times is that some evangelicals do not seem to recognise that fact.
May the writer be pardoned for mentioning personal experiences? Every now and then following a lecture, some young student will approach and say something like, ‘Why didn’t you pay more attention to Mowinckel, or, Do you not think that Von Rad’s writings are showing us some exciting new things in Old Testament studies?’ Now, surely, we should pay attention to what modern scholars are writing, and surely we can learn from modern scholars, but when we are making a serious effort to understand the history of Israel and its religion we shall learn far more by a serious exegesis of the Old Testament, an exegesis undertaken in a believing spirit, than we will from the writings of men such as Von Rad and Mowinckel who hold an extremely low view of the Bible. Christian scholarship rejoices in the confines that the infallible Word of God places upon it.
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And this brings us to what is probably the heart of the matter. True Christian scholarship will be characterised by humility. What, however, do we mean in this connexion by humility? We mean simply obedience to God. The humble scholar is the one who is truly obedient to God. But how shall one be obedient to God? The answer is that to be obedient to God means to do His will. We learn of His will, however, in His Word. Hence, we shall follow His Word in all that it says. Even though we may not always understand all the factors involved, we shall, if our desire is truly to be Christian, allow the Word of God to be our guide in all things. Its statements will direct our investigation, and we shall never dare to go contrary to those statements, for we know that they were breathed forth by Him who is truth itself and cannot lie. Christian scholarship then would be bound by the Bible, and rejoice that such is the case.
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Nor need we really be afraid of the term fundamentalist. Better to be called a fundamentalist than to be found in the ranks of those who deny the Bible. In the long run the truth will prevail, and if Christian scholarship continues in devotion to God’s Word, it need not fear what man can say. Its purpose in the last analysis is the glory of God, and in seeking to accomplish this purpose it may well expect opprobrium.
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The Christian scholar need not endeavour to read everything. Scholars who seek to read everything are notably superficial when it comes to really fundamental matters. If a man tries to read all that is written in his field he simply cannot have the time to do the solid research that is needed if he himself is to produce something worthwhile. Discernment is needed that he may concentrate upon those works from which he may truly derive profit.
Isaiah, Hosea’s contemporary in the Southern Kingdom, made the same point: God did not want any more offerings.
The blood of bulls and goats brought him no delight, and the burning of incense was an abomination to God. He said that he had not required these people to come trampling through his courts. If they were to come before God, they must first make themselves clean (1:11-17; cf. 43:23-24; 66:3). The sacrifices were insufficient to truly address Israel’s sin problem.
Yet in these same contexts God spoke of a resolution to that sin problem. Their sins, though “like scarlet” and “crimson,” could be made “white as snow” or “wool” (1:18). God promised to “blot out your transgressions for my own sake” (43:25).
Isaiah revealed how God could do this justly. God said his Servant would be made “a guilt offering” (53:10; NASB). Many would be counted righteous because the Servant bore their iniquity as their sacrifice (53:11).
The roles of prophet, priest, and king are combined in the Isaianic Servant. This Servant will, as a true prophet, mediate God’s word to the nations (42:1-4; 49:6; 50:4). In doing this he will also fulfill the priestly role that Israel failed to fill. Furthermore, He will bring justice to the nations (42:1-4). This is the work of a king. The servant will be the king to whom all the other kings in the world will be subservient (49:7).
Isaiah’s revelation about this glorious person is not limited to the Servant Songs at the end of the book. As early as the second chapter, Isaiah spoke of Yahweh ruling as king from the Davidic city of Zion (2:3; cf. 18:7, 24:23; 31:4-5; 52:7). His rule is characterized not only by kingly judgment (2:4), but also by priestly and prophetic teaching (2:3). He will be to the people of Zion a Teacher, and they will all follow his teaching (30:19-22).
The rule of Yahweh in Zion may at first glance appear to be something different that the rule of the promised Davidic king, but Isaiah connects the two (other prophets may have also made and understood this connection; see Zeph. 3:15). A person called “Mighty God” will sit on the throne of David (9:6-7). This Davidic king will not only rule the world in righteousness (11:3-5; 16:3-5), but he will also restore the earth to Edenic conditions (11:6-9). How could a descendant of David—a man—be Yahweh ruling in Zion? Isaiah provides the answer to that question also. Isaiah told a king panicked at the threat to his life (which was also a threat to the Davidic line; 7:6) that a virgin would give birth to a son who would be named “God with us.”
Through the writing prophets the Lord continued to send prophets to his people, warning them of the judgment to come if they continued in their sin. “But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God” (2 Kgs 17:14).
These prophets prophesied of a coming day in which God would raise up the promised Davidic king. Though Uzziah, a relatively good Davidic king, sat on Judah’s throne during the time of Amos, God considered the Davidic booth fallen. The prophet looked forward to its restoration, and he tied the restoration of the Davidic booth with the restoration of Israel to the land and a return to Edenic conditions on earth (Amos 9:11-15).
The prophet Hosea predicted that God would put an end to the kings of Israel, and the people would realize that a king was no protection against enemies when their true problem was sin. But after a long time without a king Israel would return to seek God and his promised Davidic king (3:4-5). The Israelites begged for a king in 1 Samuel 8 so he could defeat their enemies and free them from the consequences of their sin. But in exile the people would be driven to admit, “and a king—what could he do for us?” (10:3).
Hosea also criticized Israel’s sacrificial worship. The Pentateuch presented sacrifices as a way for a sinful people to make atonement before God and have their sins forgiven. But these people had a problem that ran much deeper than specific sins. Their hearts were uncircumcised (Deut. 30:6), and as a result they did not love God (cf. Deut. 6:5). Through Hosea God says, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burn offerings” (6:6). Since sacrifices failed to penetrate deeply enough to solve the Israelite’s true problem, the Lord refused their sacrifices (8:13).
“God intended human beings to have dominion over the animals, the man to have authority over his wife, and all human beings to be subordinate to him. In the narrative of the fall, Satan inhabits an animal, who takes dominion of the woman, who usurps the authority of the man, who blames it all on God (Gen. 3:1). So Satan seeks an exact reversal of the authority structure.”
John Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 257.
With the failure of the king to right Israel’s (and the world’s) sin problem, the focus turns to the prophets. The book of Kings contains more references to the prophet or the man of God than any other book of the Bible. Kings emphasizes the sure fulfillment of the prophetic word, and this emphasis should have reminded the people that God would fulfill the covenant curses prophesied by Moses if they continued in their disobedience.
The account of Elijah, the greatest of the prophets during the time of the divided kingdom, echoes in many ways the ministry of Moses. It is possible that attentive Israelites looking for a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18) thought Elijah was that man.
Just as Yahweh demonstrated through Moses that the gods of Egypt were no gods, through Elijah Yahweh demonstrated Baal was no god. The three year drought challenged the belief that Baal brought fertility to the land, and the miraculous provision of food in Sidon, Jezebel’s homeland, demonstrated that Yahweh could do what Baal was supposed to be able to do. In Baal mythology, during the dry season the god Mot held Baal captive in the world of the dead. Each year Anath rescued Baal and together they would restore fertility to the land. By raising the widow’s son from the dead during the drought, Yahweh demonstrated that even though Baal could not rise from the dead, as it were, Yahweh had power to raise people from the dead.
This contest climaxed on Mount Carmel. Elijah’s prayer was the same as the oft repeated purpose of God in the Exodus (Ex 6:7; 10:1; 16:6, 12; 29:46): “that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back” (1.18:37). The last part of the prayer is a request for the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 30:1-10.
Elijah may have realized the many ways in which his ministry was like Moses’, but after the climatic confrontation on Mount Carmel he saw that Jezebel was going to kill him just as she had killed Yahweh’s other prophets. [It is better to read וַיַּרְא with the KJV rather than repointing to וַיִּרָא. Keil perceptively notes, “For it is obvious that Elijah did not flee from any fear of the vain threat of Jezebel, from the fact that he did not merely withdrawn into the kingdom of Judah, where he would have been safe under Jehoshaphat from all the persecutions of Jezebel, but went to Beersheba, and thence onwards into the desert” C. F. Keil, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, (Reprint, Hendrickson, 1996), 178. Note also Ronald B. Allen, “Elijah, the Broken Prophet,” JETS 22 (Sep. 1979): 198-99.] So despite the fiery response from God and the immediate confession of the people, in the next chapter Elijah is found taking a forty-day journey to Mount Sinai. But Elijah realized that instead of being a prophet like Moses, he was “no better than [his] fathers” (1.19:4). He was not about to let Jezebel kill him, but he would be happy if God would simply take his life (like he did with Moses?). God did not take his life, but, interestingly, before Elijah is taken from earth he crossed the Jordan in a manner reminiscent of Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea.
In some ways Elijah surpassed Moses since, unlike Moses, who died and was buried by the Lord, Elijah was caught up to heaven in a fiery chariot. [Interestingly, it is Moses and Elijah who appear with Christ at the Transfiguration.] Even so, Elijah was not the prophet like Moses. That Prophet was still to come.
The Davidic covenant promised great things for David’s son. The ascent of Solomon to Israel’s throne appeared to be the fulfillment of many covenant promises. In Solomon’s day the people of Israel had become as numerous as the sand of the sea (1 Kgs. 4:20; Gen. 22:17). The boundaries of Solomon’s rule matched those promised to Abraham (1 Kgs. 4:21; Gen. 15:18). Solomon was also a blessing to the nations; people from all the nations came to hear Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kgs 4:34; Gen. 22:18). Solomon embodied the goal that Israel would become a priest to the nations (1 Kgs 10:6-9; Deut. 4:6-8). First Kings 5 begins the account of the Temple construction. This immediately brings to mind the promises of the Davidic Covenant: “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13). The benefits of his reign are even described in language that is used later to describe the Millennium (1 Kgs. 4:25; Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10).
A cursory look at Solomon might lead one to think that he was the promised king, but a careful examination reveals numerous unsettling failures. Though Solomon loved the Lord, he worshipped him at high places contrary to the Law (1 Kgs. 3:3; Deut. 12:5-6; cf. Provan, 45). He married Pharaoh’s daughter (1.3:1) contrary to Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3. He apparently placed more emphasis on building his own palace than on building God’s temple (1.7:1-12; cf. Provan, 70). He broke all three of the regulations for kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. He imported horses from Egypt (1 Kgs. 10:26; Deut. 17:16). He married many foreign women (1 Kgs. 11:1-3; Deut. 17:17; cf. Deut. 7:3-4). He acquired a great amount of gold (1 Kgs. 9:14; 10:11, 14-22). [Some tension exists between God’s promise to bless Solomon with riches (1 Kings 3:13) and Deuteronomy 17:17’s prohibition of gathering up wealth. This tension can be resolved by comparing 1 Kings 4:21-25 in which Solomon uses his great wealth to benefit his people (note the Millennial language in 4:25) and 1 Kings 10:14-22 in which he made himself a golden throne and filled his house with golden goblets and shields.] In the end, Solomon turned his heart from Yahweh to other gods. Instead of being the promised king, Solomon’s sin brought Israel under the covenant curses. The hope for the promised Davidic king was not extinguished, but the expectation was delayed (1.11:12, 32, 34-36, 39).
Provan, Iain W. 1 and 2 Kings. New International Biblical Commentary. Edited by Robert L. Hubbard Jr. and Robert K. Johnston. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995.
Douglas Stuart’s commentary on Exodus is a welcome contribution. His exegetical comments are helpful and to the point. For example:
When Jesus said, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27), he summarized the point of these two laws, as well as other relating to the Sabbath. Both of them emphasize that the Sabbath, whether of years or days, was intended by God to provide restoration and well-being for God’s people, not merely a cessation of all activity. [p. 530]
In addition to this, Stuart strongly defends Mosaic authorship (something can’t be taken for granted even among evangelical commentators). Another example:
It was once popular in many circles and is still popular in some to theorize that true, full monotheism emerged only during and after the exile, i.e., in hte sixth century BC at the earlist, as reflected in ‘Second Isaiah.’ By this theory the first commandment of Exod 20:3 was merely intended to make Yahweh the main God of the Israelites and to require them to worship other gods only secondarily. Since some of the scholars who have held that view actually date the Covenant Code earlier than the Ten Commandments and few date it as late as the exile, the present verse, properly understood, functions as a sharp piece of metal in the balloon of such a developmental theory about Israelite monotheism. [p. 533, n. 239]
Stuart also includes helpful contemporary applications. A final example:
Thus [based on the principle of the Sabbath command, that “the person who works endlessly and/or makes others do so oppresses himself and/or others”] the family that expects a wife/mother to prepare twenty-one meals per week without respite and serve the needs of the family equally on all days violates the command as would the dairy farmer who never takes a break from the twice-daily milking, or the policeman who does special-duty sifts on days off from reqular shifts, or the pastor who never sets for himself or herself a day off or its equavalent. [p. 533, n. 237] [Unfortunately, though as would be expected from a Gordon-Conwell professor, Stuart is egalitarian]
As the narrative in Samuel continues, all eyes are turned to David. David is the humble man exalted to be the anointed king. He is not geboah (1.16:7); in fact, he is the youngest (and thus the lowest) in his family. But kingship—even David’s kingship—did not solve Israel’s sin problem. David too was a sinner. Satterthwaite reflects on the closing chapters of Samuel: “Rape and civil war were singled out by the last chapters of Judges as two of the greatest evils of the pre-monarchic period (Judg. 19 and 20), and attributed to the lack of a king (Judg. 17:6; 21:25); they now reappear in David’s kingdom and even in his own household” (“Samuel,” 181).
Nevertheless God still planned for a king to restore this fallen world. The summit of the Samuel narrative is this declaration of the Davidic covenant, for this is a covenant that picks up the promises of earlier covenants and carries them forward. David’s last words reflect on the promise of this covenant that his house will provide a ruler who fears God. This will result in the blessing of all the people (2.23:3-5).
The Psalms often elaborate on the Davidic covenant. In Psalm 2 David declares that the nations of the world (“kings of the earth”) are opposing the Lord and his Messiah. The Lord will respond by establishing the Messiah as the Davidic king (he will rule from Zion) over all the world (2:8-12). The decree “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” is a decree of coronation. It probably looks back to God’s declaration in 2 Samuel 7:14 that he would be the Davidic king’s father and the Davidic king would be his son.
Psalm 110 also predicts the enthronement of the Davidic Messianic king (110:1-2). In light of Psalm 2, the enthroned Lord of Psalm 110:1-2 must be the Messiah. Like the Messiah of Psalm 2, he is enthroned by Yahweh (1:1) on Zion (1:2) from where he will rule over the enemies who have opposed his rule (1:1-2, 5-6). Verse 4 indicates that the coming Messianic king will also be a priest. He, being of the tribe of Judah, could not be a Levitical priest. This passage declares that his order would be that of Melchizedek.
Satterthwaite, Philip E. “Samuel.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000.