2004 header for issue 18 and 19

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A Good Book

Anyone interested in getting the modern church to read and study the Old Testament could not fail to gain from this week’s Good Book: Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament. A Guide for the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003). Simply and clearly written, this book falls into two parts.

In Part 1 Kaiser asks why we need to preach the Old Testament today, what are some of the problems in doing so, and why so few churches seem to make expository preaching of the Old Testament a priority. The arguments in this section of this good book are worth paying attention to.

But the meat of the book is found in Part 2, where Kaiser goes through the main types of the text in the Old Testament: narrative texts; wisdom books; the prophets; laments; legal texts; praises; apocalyptic. He outlines the distinctive contributions that each of these types of text has to make to our theology and living, and then asks how we are to set about interpreting and applying each of these text-types: what points should we look out for? How are we to make these texts intelligible and relevant to our hearers? Each chapter in this section concludes with a short sermon illustrating how to preach the particular type of text which the chapter has focused on.

The book concludes with some useful appendices, including a work-sheet for the exegesis of Old Testament texts. This book may not be the last word on its topic, but it is certainly a helpful starting-point, and I commend it warmly.

(Reviewed by Dr Philip Satterthwaite)

CHAPEL NOTES

BGST Chapel , 12th May 2004

Taking as his text 2 Samuel 24, the account of David’s census, Dr. Satterthwaite spoke on ‘The Dangers of Blessings’.

2 Samuel 24 is undoubtedly a strange narrative which raises many questions. The narrator, for example, does not tell us why it was wrong for David to hold a census (see v. 10). Is it that censuses lead to a dangerous sense of self-sufficiency that draws down God’s judgment? Is the theme of the narrative the destructiveness of human pride? Or the dangers of the monarchy for Israel (the pride of the human king)? Or Israel’s continuing need, of God’s mercy, in spite of the fact that they have a king? Perhaps all three.

But the oddest feature of this narrative is found in the opening verse: ‘Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”’ The verse appears to say that God wanted to punish Israel, and so he made David act in a way that would justify him in punishing Israel; somewhat like a man who wants a fight provoking someone else to hit him so that he will have a reason to hit him back God as it were, temporarily undermines David’s good judgment so as to bring it about that he (God) can punish Israel.

The question naturally arises: Why would God do this? Dr Satterthwaite explored other interpretations of this chapter before setting out his own proposal, which was that in speaking of God ‘inciting’ David, the narrator means to make us reflect on the implications of God giving Israel a king.

To put the point differently it in what did the ‘inciting’ consist? Perhaps simply in the fact that God had appointed David king over Israel: to give such power to one man, even a ‘man after God’s own heart’ (1 Sam.13:14), would always lay that man open to the temptation to abuse that power. That is, 2 Samuel 24:1 is a striking and sharp statement of a more general truth concerning the monarchy: that, while it was a blessing from God, royal power could be tragically misused; it was, in that sense, an ‘incitement’ to wrongdoing.

Was God responsible for what happened in this incident? In a sense, yes, as he is in a sense responsible for everything that has ever happened in human history. But to speak of God’s ultimate responsibility for what happens does not remove our responsibility for our actions.

This led onto the general point that God’s blessings always (or often) bring dangers with them, not because the blessings are really evils in disguise, but because of who we are. Putting it differently: because of our sinful nature, if God blesses us, that may be dangerous for us, because the blessing may tempt us to sinful behaviour. This point was illustrated from Deut. 8:10–14 and Dan. 4:29–32.

Perhaps, then, we should be more cautious in praying for God’s blessings: or we should remember to pray that as well as blessing us, God will grant us the grace to respond well to the blessings, because it seems that it’s often how we receive the blessings that determines whether they really are good for us or not. This is something that BGST needs to bear in mind as we ‘seek God’s blessing’ for the move to new premises. 2 Samuel 24 stands as a warning of what may happen when a person – or an institution – blessed by God forgets to walk in humility and gratitude before God.

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Chapel on 5.5.04 was taken by Dr Quek Swee Hwa who spoke on “Quietness and Trust” from Isa. 30:15 and Ps. 42.  He began by saying that there are some things that cannot easily be passed on through foral teaching.  The art of quietness is a case in point. But quietness, as  understood in the synonymous parallelism in Isa.30:15 is more than just meditation. Its link with repentance tells us several things. We are all sinners before God and we are silent before Him because we have no real excuse for what we have done. But when there is true repentance a deep sense of peace comes over us and we are able to move on to “rest” and “trust,” the next set of motifs in the parallelism. As we have trusted in God’s goodness, love and forgiveness, we know that our faith in Him, combined with His faithfulness to us enables us to rest in God both in this life, and also as we pass on one day from this life to the next. God willing, in heaven above. So the Psalmist and every one who puts his trust in God can emerge from his self-talk and utter this refrain, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God ...”  And we can confidently say, “I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5).

NEWS BITS

  1. The two classes [BG211, Greek Exegesis I] & [OT/NT190, Ancient Cities] on 29 May have been postponed to 5 June. Students kindly take note of the new date. Time as usual.

  2. Dr Ng Peh Cheng conducted a Teacher Training workshop at the Salem Chapel on 15 May, 2004.

  3. We extend our warmest wishes to our alumni, Mr Albert Cheng (DipCS, 2000) and Ms Aileen Goh on the joyous occasion of their wedding on 29 May. May the Lord bless them with many wonderful years ahead!

Building Fund 24

A BLESSED 
BIRTHDAY TO ...


Mr Daniel Wang  10/5

Dr Chan Kit Yee  12/5

Mr Loy Chin Fen  12/5

Mr Chew Wee  15/5

Mr Koh Soo Keong  15/5

Mrs Rebecca Tay  15/5

Mrs Pauline Koe  16/5

Mdm Tan Soh Hiang  19/5

Ms Elaine Teoh  20/5

Prof. Daniel Chan  22/5

Mr Shi Pau Soon  22/5

Mdm Julia Ng  22/5

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