Here’s another cross-reference that I found quite interesting:

Psalm 107:10-16 (emphasis mine) Isaiah 45:1,2
10 Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death
Bound in affliction and irons–
11 Because they rebelled against the words of God
And despised the counsel of the Most High,
12 Therefore He brought down their heart with labor;
They fell down and there was none to help.
13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble
And He saved them out of their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
And broke their chains in pieces.
15 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
16 For He has broken the gates of bronze,
And cut the bars of iron in two.
Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held–
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
2 “I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.

Presumably, Psalms was written before Isaiah. So was Isaiah quoting here?

Against Daily Bible Reading

OK. This sort of thing annoys me. It’s not Dan Phillips’ fault. His just happens to be the most recent salvo that I’ve heard, and I’m really feeling like I’m the odd man out. I don’t think people need a Bible reading plan. I don’t think your spiritual life can be evaluated by the sheer volume of scripture you consume.

Ok. Step back. Caveats: I’m sure nobody said that, did they? Nobody said that people who know stuff are de facto more spiritual.

But why, oh why don’t the people who tell us in these superlative ways about the importance of Scripture actually do what it says? We pass on the doctrine that scripture teaches everything that pertains to life and godliness,* and then fail to see what scripture actually says about itself. It never ceases to amaze me how often, or how thoroughly people are able to devalue the actual text in favor of a doctrine about the text.

I’m afraid I don’t have the time to write a balanced dissertation that carefully navigates all the rocks of misunderstanding that come from forcefully disagreeing with what everybody thinks. But here’s a challenge for you: Take up your Bible and find the reading plan actually outlined in scripture. No? Ok. Find me a model in scripture for regular Bible reading exampled by some of the giants of faith: David, Daniel, Jesus, Paul – Somebody like that. No? Maybe we’d better go back to the Bible and see how people actually used the Bible. What I see are instances of public teaching, public debate, and intense study when confronted with a question. Never once does a disciple come to Jesus and say, “Lord teach us to read our Bibles.” Instead, in the middle of a confrontation, Jesus says, “Have you never read?” Maybe knowing and following the scriptures is something else again from reading a little each morning like a daily vitamin.

Now, just for kicks, let’s take the same approach to see what the Bible says about prayer. Let’s see: “Seven times a day.” “I will awaken the dawn.” “About the time of the evening sacrifice.” “Early in the morning, he went up…” “Lord, teach us to…”

Yeah, that one’s there.

Now, that said, I do have a Bible reading plan, and I submit it for your consideration: For starters, I read a lot. A lotter than that. Sometimes I read with an agenda, and sometimes I don’t follow that agenda very well. I tend to prefer fiction (and I can read more of it without getting tired), so I have to make a bit of extra effort to include some non-fiction in my diet. Occasionally, the non-fiction book that I read is a book of the Bible. When that Bible book comes up, I read it with the same level of intensity that I read everything else. I take notes if something interesting or insightful stands out to me (which is a lot oftener than with, say “The Lexus and the Olive Tree“. Generally speaking, after reading the Bible all day for a week or so, I’m pretty much burnt out on the Bible for a while, the same as the day after a PT test, or the day after Thanksgiving. It may be a while before I can do something like that again.

* As it turns out, 2 Peter 1:3 doesn’t even mention the scriptures, or Bible reading, or anything like that, so why do people use it that way?

The Spirit of the Lord Rushed upon David

1 Samuel 16:13,

“Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.”

You read a text often enough, and you start to wonder what’s behind it. Who wrote 1 Samuel? Did he interview people? How did he know that? What does it mean, that the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David?

I’m assuming David told somebody, later, that he felt something. How else would he know that the Spirit “rushed” on him? The ’84 NIV says that the Spirit “came upon him in power.” Which begs the question of what it means to come upon somebody in power, as opposed to just coming upon them the normal way. We’re still left with the impression that David had some kind of experience that he felt. Maybe that experience had later results in terms of supernaturally increased ability to lead or sing (prophesy?), or go to war. But for it to be noticeable, at just that moment, David had to have an experience.

That semi-mystical experience then had enough theological value to be included in the text of scripture as an example of what it means to have the Holy Spirit come upon you.

Aw, Come on!

Reading in 1 Samuel today, and I come to the passage in chapter 15 where Samuel has to come to Saul and tell him that God has rejected him as king. Samuel says, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Then, six verses later, the text says, “And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

I mean, come on! Six verses between “God doesn’t regret” and “God regrets”? I don’t care what your theories are on how or by whom the bible was written. The guy who put that in there had to see that coming. I mean, really.

I’m reading the ESV, and I don’t really have the time to go looking to see what other translations put down, much less try to look up the Hebrew, so I’m stuck having to parse out all on my own in what sense God does regret and in what sense he doesn’t.


* Prayer is more important than Bible reading.
* Prayer is clumsy and ineffective without a sufficient Biblical foundation.

One of my difficulties in prayer the last 7 years or so has been that my theology was changing.

When I was in high school and earlier, I was pretty proficient in prayer. That is to say, I found it relatively easy to pray – frequently, in private or in public, and for relatively sustained periods. But going into ministry school, college, and even seminary, it became increasingly more difficult to pray, because I had a hard time agreeing with the sort of things I was used to saying when I prayed. I would start to pray something and realize I didn’t really think that was the way it worked. To give an example, I might have prayed something highly metaphorical, along the lines of “Lord, I pray that you would pour out your Holy Spirit in my workplace, that your river would flood in and overwhelm them, so that they are consumed by your fire!” And in the middle I would get stuck by the mixed metaphor. Moreover, it would occur to me that I really hadn’t said anything more significant than “Lord, please do something about this,” which of course left me with a very short prayer. It began to occur to me that I really didn’t know what I was talking about and that I therefore really didn’t have anything to say.

As I’ve been becoming more “essentially reformed” in my perspective, my sense of not knowing what I’m talking about has been lifting. I was helped especially last year by teaching Ephesians in my New Testament class. Ephesians has just the sort of big picture perspective that I needed to get into my mind. And that perspective has helped dramatically in my prayer life, as Valerie can attest. But now I have a new problem:

I can again pray now for nearly hours on end, but despite my best efforts, I can really only pray Ephesians.