Simon's blog

Leviticus 16:7-10: Two goats

Oops, forgot to hit “publish” on this yesterday…

He is then to take two male goats, and make the goats stand before the LORD at the entrance to the Meeting Tent,
and then he is to put two lots over the goats: one lot for the LORD, one lot for Azazel.
Then is then to offer up the goat which has the LORD’s lot over it, and make it a sin offering,
And the goat which has Azazel’s lot over it should stay alive, right before the LORD, and should be sent off to Azazel in the wilderness for forgiveness.

Yesterday I sat down to write my devotion and thought, “Why on earth did I choose that passage from Exodus?” But I soon remembered. Today I sat down and thought, “Why on earth did I choose that passage from Leviticus?” I am still not sure. I think it might be just because the Azalel stuff is intriguing.

Still, this is a good time to remind us all that when people talk about what the Bible says, they generally exercise editorial selection in choosing a passage or set of passages, and this series is no different. If you have a different idea for a walk through the Hebrew Bible, that’s great; make your selection and we can compare them and dialogue together. “The Bible says” is a great way to start a conversation, but an awful way to finish one. Read more about Leviticus 16:7-10: Two goats

Exodus 19:3-6: The net widens

Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying:

“This is what you will tell the clan of Jacob and declare to the descendants of Israel:
You saw what I did to Egypt, and that I lifted you up upon eagles’ wings, and I brought you to me.

And now, if you follow what I’m saying and keep my covenant, then you will be my treasured people out of them all. (Mind you, all the Earth is mine anyway.)

And you will be for me kingdom-priests and a holy nation.

That is what you will say to the descendants of Israel.”

A lot has happened since yesterday’s passage. Abram took the walk with God and became Abraham. God, for his part, kept his promises. God showed himself to be faithful and gracious to one person; He’s established a beachhead for His love invasion, and now it’s time to widen the scope - from one man to a whole nation. It’s an outward, invitational trajectory. Read more about Exodus 19:3-6: The net widens

Genesis 12:1-3 - Love stripped bare

And the LORD said to Abram: “Walk away.

Away from your country,
Away from your relatives,
Away from your father’s house,
To a land that I will make you see.

And I will make you into a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And I will make you famous.

And then, be a blessing.

I will bless your blessers,
But I will have to put a curse upon that man who will not take you seriously.

You are going to become an example of blessing for every family on earth.”

If the Bible is a love story between God and the whole of creation, then we’ve come in at Act 1 Scene 3. So far, it’s not been going so well for God. He has been reaching out to humanity again and again, but again and again He has been rebuffed. Rejected by Adam and Eve, rejected by the people of Noah and the citizens of Babel, the miracle of the Bible, the point of the whole story, is that God keeps trying. He doesn’t give up on us easily.

So here God decides to take a new approach - to start again at zero. Read more about Genesis 12:1-3 - Love stripped bare

Hell and missionary motivation

Rob has just produced a cracking review of Lausanne III, which contained an intriguing quote:
Personally I don’t feel the need to have a clear and present image of unbelievers being subject to eternal torment, to motivate me to share the gospel. If others do I don’t object (although I may want to question how it shapes their approach). Piper’s seeming insistence that eternal punishment was the only legitimate motivation for mission was not only offensive to many present who hold different views but also a blatant attempt to rewrite Lausanne history. Stott himself refused to accept this position.
This reminds me of two things.

Is Evangelicalism fundamentalist?

What is fundamentalism?

Martin Marty, in his book “Fundamentalisms Observed”, defined fundamentalism as a selective recovery of a religious tradition in order to fight against a modernist worldview; Karen Brown called it an “extreme response to the failed promise of Enlightenment rationalism”; Castells called it a way of creating identity on the basis of communal resistance. Bosch, prescient as ever, said that

it would be strange if the present period of uncertainty did not also throw up candidates which propagate either a convulsive clinging to the past or an even more extreme “conservative” backlash (such as some current manifesta­tions of fundamentalism)

In other words, fundamentalism is a last-ditch attempt, by restating your argument harder and louder than anyone else, to rebel against an overwhelming change in society. We saw it (in Marty’s and Brown’s terms) as an attempt to safeguard pre-modern faith against the rising tide of modernism; now, as Bosch points out, we see it as an attempt to safeguard modern faith against the rising tide of postmodernism.

Events of the past week have made me realise that, according to these definitions, it is no exaggeration to describe the mainstream of current Evangelicalism as fundamentalist. Read more about Is Evangelicalism fundamentalist?

Five things I miss about institutional church

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There are plenty of “things you poor sad people in the institutional churches have to cope with that we enlightened bodies in the house churches are free from” articles out there. (oh, look, here’s another one, including the obligatory snipe at “Churchianity”. Urgh.) I’m not really a big fan of that; I love the Church, whatever model of church it may be; I think no part of the Church can say that it’s the best part of the Church; and I think we work best when we work together. Read more about Five things I miss about institutional church

My Lent challenge

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There are forty days in Lent. There are thirty-nine books in the Hebrew Bible. It’s almost too good to pass up. I’ve set myself the challenge of blogging through one passage of each book of the Hebrew Bible every day during Lent - writing an exegesis and simple reflection. I don’t know if I’m going to manage it, I might end up finishing Lent in September, but I’m certainly going to give it a shot. (And announcing it here makes me psychologically more likely to feel bound to it.) Read more about My Lent challenge

HNTRTB: Invisible moral compass

This post is the second in a very sporadic series on “How Not To Read The Bible”, my take on the attitudes we have when we come to read the Bible and how they can get us into trouble. It has also sat in my drafts folder for over a year.

The Bible, for the most part, is a storybook. We might think it’s a book of timeless truths, or doctrines, or rules for holy living, but actually, most of it is stories: stories of wanderers and kings, stories of a man called Jesus, stories of struggling young churches. Stories which make up one big story: the story, ultimately, of God. But as part of the stories, the Bible does contain one or two rules. For some strange reason, though, we often end up reading the stories as if they’re rules.

You’ve seen it many times yourself, I’m sure. Whether it’s snide commentaries on “Biblical marriage”, or the preacher who tells you that “if you take a survey of the Bible, you’ll find that it’s in favour of corporal punishment for children”, (No, I really did hear that) people just can’t seem to see the difference between what the Bible says from what the Bible approves.

And with good reason, too… it’s actually very difficult to do so. Read more about HNTRTB: Invisible moral compass