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Friday, October 20, 2017

“The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest” by Walton and Walton. A Review




The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton
InterVarsity Press (IVP Academic)
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Ivpress.com
ISBN: 978-0-8308-5184-3; July 2017; $20.00

It is a piece of the biblical story that has inflamed some, incensed others, embarrassed many, and baffled not a few. What does one do with the violent conquest of Canaan by Israel? John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School, and J. Harvey Walton, researcher in biblical studies, have assembled suggestions that map out one way to read the conquest narratives in their recently published 288 page paperback “The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites”. This compilation is one more installment in the multivolume “Lost World” series spearheaded by John Walton. The present work slowly moves the technical and non-technical reader through twenty-one propositions toward their final conclusion.

“The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest” moves, step-by-step, along a line that attempts to tease out what the conquest narratives would have meant “to the people to whom it was originally written” (8). To accomplish this feat, Walton and Walton address the cognitive environment of the original audience and challenge present readers not to impose modern sensitivities and sensibilities to the accounts; “what matters is not what modern Westerners think about the methods, but what ancient Near Easterners would have thought” (11). One overarching claim by the authors is the proposal “that the Bible is given to us not to provide a list of rules for behavior but to reveal God’s plans and purposes to us, which in turn will allow us to participate with him in those plans and purposes” (15-6).

To reach their aim, the authors take apart every text that comes to mind, which has normally been translated and read as moral justifications for the conquest stories. Their working assumption, woven throughout, is that when “we see the people in Canaan suffer, therefore, we dare not assume that their suffering must have been earned through evil” (37). From Genesis 15:6 to Leviticus 18-20 and on through 1 and 2 Kings, Walton and Walton tangle with the Hebrew to bring out a different understanding of every passage than it has normally been translated or understood to mean. Since the authors appear to deny a universal moral law that people of Canaan had broken (77), then their conclusion is that there was no retribution for idolatry because “idolatry is not inherently immoral” (80), nor a reprisal for social and sexual immorality. Rather, in the conquests Yahweh is depicted as “carrying out the proper function of a god in the context of the ancient Near East” (78). To validate this last assertion the authors lean heavily on Ancient Near Eastern myths and tales.

So if the conquests were not conducted for reasons of immorality, then what was their goal? Here “The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest” pursues the Hebrew word, ḥērem, which is often translated “total destruction”. To my mind, this was the most beneficial portion of the whole volume. According to Messrs. Walton and Walton, ḥērem is about “identity, not ethnicity” (186). In other words, the aim of ḥērem was for removing “the identity of a conquered people” which was “a standard procedure of ancient warfare”. And so Canaanite identity “needs to be removed so that Israel cannot make use of it (191). The objective “is to remove the various Canaanite identities from the use of every individual who remains in the land, by one way or another,” including the command to Saul to wipe out the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 (214-29).

It is from this perspective that the authors apply the conquests, and especially ḥērem, to Christians. The Old Testament template of ḥērem “tells us, then, …that in order to serve God’s purpose we are supposed to purge ourselves – our personal allotment of “land” – of all identities other than “in Christ,” just as the Israelite tribes were supposed to purge their allotted territory of all identities other than the people of the covenant…” (244). Further, the imagery employed in the conquests is meant “to portray …God driving away the forces of chaos in a recapitulation of the biblical creation story,” and is designed to bring us to interpret the story “as the establishment of a new created order and to interpret the covenant as the manifestation of the order” (256).

Beyond the heavy dependence on Ancient Near Eastern tales to bolster their case, I found a few issues to be highly problematic. The first was the denial of a universal moral law for all peoples. This is implied in several places and stated clearly in a few others. For example, in one footnote, “…the definition of justice is relative to the context of the observers…This is why the Mosaic law cannot be understood in universal terms; it represents Near Eastern ideals, not absolute divine ideals” (121, fn4). One could add to this quotation statements made on pages 42-44, 76-78, 121, and 138, to point to a few places. This leads the authors to claim that the “cultural river or cognitive environment” in which Israel dwelt gave God’s people sufficient “moral knowledge” on how to be good (254). But it also seems to be the momentum that compels the authors to spill truck-loads of ink on stripping the moral justifications from the conquest narratives.

“The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest” is a mixed bag. It is easy to read and comprehend. Also, it makes some valuable conclusions with regard to ḥērem. But then there are areas that are deeply disappointing and unhelpful, to say the least. If you are attempting to get your mind and heart around the conquest narratives, I would cautiously recommend reading this volume.

Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Praise the LORD!" - 15 October 2015


Praise the LORD! Thank you that you have made us a crown of beauty and a royal diadem in your hand, O LORD. Thank you that we shall no more be termed Forsaken or Desolate, but shall be called My Delight Is in Her and Married. Thank you, LORD, that you delight in us and that as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride you rejoice over us (Isaiah 62.3-5)!

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on all of the nations of this earth, to include Angola; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; and Armenia. O God, you reign over the nations; you sit on your holy throne. May all of the princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to you, O God; you are highly exalted (Psalm 47.8-9)!

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on these United States of America. We pray what all of our brothers and sisters pray for their lands and nations: God, bless America, but not her sin and immorality. God, bless America, but not where she is unjust and prejudiced. God, bless America, but not where she opposes and resists you. God, bless America, where she seeks to fairly and rightly establish liberty and justice for all, free born, foreign-born and unborn. God, bless America, where she defends the fatherless and widow. God, bless America, as she receives and protects the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of the teeming shore, the homeless and tempest-tossed. God, bless America as she lifts her lamp beside the golden door (Statue of Liberty Poem)!

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on the State of California; on the people who have lost farms, homes, valuables, and loved ones; on the firefighters, and emergency crews; and on the aid workers and medical folks providing refuge and refreshment.

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on our congregation and all of the churches around our Cities, including Bryant Ave Baptist; Calvary Baptist Tabernacle; Calvary Missionary Baptist; Camillie Ave Baptist; and Capitol Hill Baptist. Saved by Christ alone, through grace alone, received by faith alone, and walking by the Scriptures alone; may we shine and exist to the glory of God alone.

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on your church throughout the world; and especially where she is fearful that the morning sun may well bring new hostilities; where she is poor and poverty-stricken; where she has been ground under jackbooted thuggery; and where she has felt the frigid and suffocating grip of secularism and statism. Lord, have mercy!

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on those who have turned away from you or never known you…

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on Alton Nolan, on others who have received the death penalty, and on those who are on death row.

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on those who have been swallowed up by darkness and heresy…

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on those who have found themselves in the hospital, the rehab, mental health institutions, prison; and those who are hurting and ailing…

We pray, Lord, that you would have mercy on us all, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"A Small Book about a Big Problem" by Ed Welch. A Review

A Small Book About A Big ProblemA Small Book About A Big Problem by Edward T. Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a teeny thing, just a little bigger than the size of a smartphone. But as they say, "Dynamite comes in small packages!" Ed Welch, licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), has compiled 50 short daily devotions into a small, 186 page hardcover with this intriguing title, "A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace." Each day's easy to comprehend reflection runs between 300 to 350 words, or two to three small pages, all of which are bite-sized and focused on one topic per day.

Like a good physician of the soul, Welch works the reader through the various angles and aspects of anger: causes, catalysts, and catastrophic results. The author also examines the whys and ways of change by looking into new routines, remedies and the Redeemer. This tiny volume is not afraid to address the seriousness of anger and the big value of it's alternative. For example, "Control and power are heady matters, and anger is the drug that seems to give access to them...Real strength is used to rule our spirit rather than to rule others" (92).

"A Small Book about a Big Problem" could be used in support and recovery groups, churches, counseling sessions, by chaplains in military or prison units, or personal soul-care. There are questions sprinkled throughout, and blank spaces that can be used for written reflections. This is an important book that is friendly and serious. I found myself stopping at places, praying, confessing my own sins, and thinking about my actions and attitudes throughout the past years and the present. I strongly recommend that if at all possible you run out immediately and snatch up a copy!

Here is the link to purchase the book: "A Small Book about a Big Problem"

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vespers - 8 October 2017


O our God and Father, who is making the first last and the last first, who has made little children the measure of your kingdom; please give us that wisdom from above which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3.17). As we operate, deliberate, expostulate, and at times, remonstrate, may it not be as enemies and adversaries, but as fellow human beings made in your image, made to have unending fellowship with you, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we grasp right from wrong and chose that which is right, for ourselves, our families, and our people. May partiality and prejudice be put far from us, and integrity and equality gain the upper hand. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, as we pray for our local, State and National leaders, we affirm with the Sage in Proverbs that the wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving (Proverbs 14.8); we cry out to you to endow our leaders with discerning hearts and perceptive minds and to see that the decisions they make are not mere abstractions, and that their deliberations are not about winning contests of muscle and might. Instead, they are called upon by the townsfolk, citizenry and inhabitants to guide us toward the common good. Their decisions are for and about real flesh-and-blood men, real flesh-and-blood women, real single parents worn thin and worn down, real fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who are unemployed and underemployed, tangible girls and boys who giggle and laugh, but who also see hard things and hear harsh words, etc. And so we pray for clear-headed discernment so that there will be true liberty and justice for all, the free born, the foreign born and the unborn. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Honestly, Lord, it is easy – all too easy – to let our positions and privileges go to our heads. Whether we’re pastors, politicians, parents, professors, police officers, or proprietors, we can effortlessly fall into the trap of believing our own propaganda and praise. But Lord, you are the potter, we are the clay. May we never harden to the point of brittleness or big-headedness. Keep our hearts ever and always soft and supple in your masterly hands so that we may be able to learn, grow and blossom. O Lord, hear our prayer. 

Finally, Father, since we recognize our lives, successes, upswings and downswings are in your hands; that though every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but you, O LORD, weigh the heart (Proverbs 21.2): we pray for this coming week. Smile on us in our day-in-and-day-out routines; guide our conversations with family, neighbors, fellow-workers, employees, fellow-parents, grocery clerks and baggers, doctors and nurses; and direct our plans and proposals we will be mapping out. Provide richly for us, and supply us with thankful hearts. O Lord, hear our prayer.

"Mighty God, Loving Father...." 8 October 2017


Mighty God, Loving Father, who sent your Son, Jesus Christ to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61.2-3); we lift up our hearts and hands and voices to give you praise, to thank you, and to rejoice in your goodness!

Creator and Sustainer, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; we pray for the nations and peoples of the world, and specifically Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria and Andorra; we pray for our own country, we pray our friends, foes and family with the Psalmist in Psalm 146: please execute justice for the oppressed…; give food to the hungry…; set the prisoners free, specifically those who are innocent or unjustly imprisoned…; open the eyes of the blind…; lift up those who are bowed down…; pour out love on the righteous…; watch over the sojourners…; uphold the widow and the fatherless…; and bring the way of the wicked to ruin…; for you, O God, reign forever even unto all generations. Praise the LORD (Psalm 146.6-10)!

Lord God who forgives all our iniquity, who heals all our diseases; who redeems our life from the pit; who crowns us with steadfast love and mercy; who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 103.3, 4; 147.3): there is loads of pain and grief from this week. There is the agony that has been plastered all over our news sources from Las Vegas; there is the quieter grief of one of our neighbors down the street; and there is the sadness and woe of other events that will never make it in the police blotters or the Oklahoman. We pray for them all….have mercy, O God, and bring hope, healing, restoration and renewal.

Lord Jesus, you who loved the church and gave yourself up for her; smile on your church world over, along with this congregation, and Beverly Hills Baptist; Bodine Baptist; Bread of Life Baptist; Britton Baptist and Brookwood Baptist churches. According to your plan and work, do sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, and present the church to yourself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish; and may she submit to you in reciprocal love, abandoning herself to your affectionate embrace and ardor (Ephesians 5.24-27).

Because of your plentiful goodness, we add our voices to the redeemed of Isaiah 61, and say: I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61.10). In the name of Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord, we pray and say, Amen!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"O Lord, You Know..." 1 October 2017


O Lord, you know what we have need of even before we ask; therefore we pray with greater confidence that you hear our words and what we cannot even express in words.

We pray for the troubled and tormented peoples in our world, suffering from floods, droughts, hurricanes, unemployment, military threats and fears. We pray for the leaders of the nations, President of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi; President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu; and President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Please establish peace, judicial integrity, economic stability, and healthy recovery in all lands, for the good of all, so that the Gospel of Jesus may spread unchecked, and that your Church may dwell in peace and quietness. Guide our own national and State leaders away from envy, greed, power-mongering, and injustice toward legitimate fairness, moral integrity, and contentment with what is good in your sight.

Give ear to our concerns as we pray for those who are still in their unbelief and for those who have deserted the Christian Faith….may they turn around and believe in your Son Jesus Christ, and have everlasting life.

For your Church in all places, this congregation, the Baptist Temple; Bethel Baptist; Bethlehem Primitive Baptist; and Bethlehem Star Baptist churches; we pray. Strengthen our resolve to glorify you and enjoy you in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. Please hold us back from following harmful paths, and prosper us in walking in the light as you are in the light. Help us to love our enemies, forgiving those who have wronged us, as you loved us and reconciled us to yourself when we were your enemies.

Almighty God, whose joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8.10), whose kingdom is a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14.17), and whose love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5.6); we pray for ourselves, our immediate and extended families, and for one another. May your Spirit wash over us with joy, so that righteousness may flourish in our homes and callings and peace thrive always and in all ways. May your Spirit make your love for us, to us, and in us more real than ever. 

Finally, LORD God, the Almighty, who gives power to the faint, and to the one who has no might you increase strength. Even though youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; yet those who wait for you, O LORD, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. O God, for those sick or sore we pray…, for those weak or weary we pray …, for those beaten or bruised we pray …, for those limp or lifeless we pray …, we implore you to lift them up on eagle’s wings; renew their strength; rouse them with renewed hope and life to run and not be weary, to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40.29-31). Amen.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Praying for Legislators at Specially Called Meeting (September 2017)

I was asked to join Joel Harder of Capitol Commission (in the picture below), and Doug Melton from Southern Hills Baptist Church in a prayer lunch for the Oklahoma legislators who are in a called special meeting (26 September 2017).




Here is the part I led:

PRAYER FOR ALL LEGISLATORS: DR. MIKE PHILLIBER
Let Us Confess Our Sins:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.7, 9).

And so, it is very appropriate for us to spend a moment silently confessing our sins.

Silence….

We confess to you, O God, that we have sinned against heaven and in your sight; and are not worthy to be called your children. Yet you do not retain your anger forever because you delight in mercy. Therefore have compassion on us, subdue our iniquities, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea; for the sake of him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his own blood, Christ Jesus your Son and our Savior. Amen (Luke 15:21; Micah 7:18-19; Revelation 1:5).

Let Us Pray for the Joy of Salvation because of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Silence…

Almighty God, whose joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8.10), whose kingdom is a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14.17), and whose love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us; may your Spirit wash over us with joy, so that righteousness may flourish in our homes and callings, and peace thrive. May your Spirit make your love for us, to us, and in us more real than ever. Amen.

Let Us Pray for Divine Wisdom:

Silence….

O our God and Father, who is making the first last and the last first, who has made little children the measure of your kingdom; please give us that wisdom from above which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3.17). As we operate, deliberate, expostulate, and at times, remonstrate, may it not be as enemies and adversaries, but as fellow human beings made in your image, made to have unending fellowship with you, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we grasp right from wrong and chose that which is right, for ourselves, our families, and our people. May partiality and prejudice be put far from us, and integrity and equality gain the upper hand. Amen.

Let Us Pray for Discernment:

Silence…

Lord, since the wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving (Proverbs 14.8); we cry out to you to endow us with discerning hearts and perceptive minds and to see that the decisions made here are not mere abstractions, and that the deliberations are not about winning contests of muscle and might. Instead, these men and women are called upon by the townsfolk and inhabitants to guide toward the common good. These decisions are for real flesh-and-blood men, real flesh-and-blood women, real single parents worn thin and worn down, actual unemployed and underemployed, tangible girls and boys who giggle and laugh, but who also see hard things and hear harsh words, etc. And so we pray for clear-headed discernment so that there will be true liberty and justice for all, the free born, the foreign born and the unborn. Amen.

Let Us Pray for Teachability:

Silence….

Honestly, Lord, it is easy – all too easy – to let our positions go to our heads. Whether we’re pastors, politicians, parents, professors, police, or proprietors, we can fall into the trap of believing our own propaganda and praise. But Lord, you are the potter, we are the clay. May we never harden to the point of brittleness or big-headedness. Keep our hearts ever and always soft and supple in your masterly hands so that we may be able to learn, grow and blossom.

All of this we ask because of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and High Priest. Amen.

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