Month: March 2013

Confessing Sexual Sin (Psalm 51)

Nathan confronts David (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)Where do you confess your sexual sins?

David confessed his in the best-selling book of all time.

I probably wouldn’t want to do that.  (In case you weren’t sure, I was talking about the Bible, not God Behaving Badly.)

We discussed this topic in a recent class after studying Psalm 51, David’s confession after committing adultery.  Read about it here in this recent post for Biblical Seminary’s Faculty blog: Confessing Sexual Sin (Psalm 51).

Image of Nathan confronting David (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld) from

Horshack’s Zeal (Psalm 119:48)

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes
 (Psalm 119:48).

Horshak Hand Raising“Ooh-ooh-ooooh, Mr. Kotter, Mr. Kotter.”  

When I think about lifting up hands, it’s hard for me to not envision Horshack (played by Ron Palillo, who passed away in 2012) desperately trying to get Mr. Kotter’s attention in Welcome Back, Kotter, an ABC sitcom in the late 1970’s.  (As you probably know, a young John Travolta played Vinnie Barbarino.)  Horshack’s hand would shoot straight up and wave back and forth as he hope to be called upon.

While we lift our hands for a variety of reasons in addition to attempting to get the attention of a teacher–to wave, to celebrate, to catch falling projectiles–the psalmist here seems to be thinking of hand-lifting in the context of praise, as he declares his love toward God’s commandments.

And yet, there is something about Horshack’s zeal and his desire to engage with his teacher that fits right into Psalm 119, as the psalmist is eager to connect with God over his word.  The hands lift up enthusiastically as the psalmist finds delight in God’s statutes, which leads him to meditate upon them.

The line, “which I love” is a bit unusual for this verse, as it makes the first half of verse 48 too long, and it’s appearance in this line is suspicious since the previous verse has the same line.  Some scholars will assume it was just a scribal error, accidentally repeated from the previous verse.  Perhaps…or maybe the psalmist just wanted to repeat his love for Scripture and said, “Who cares if this line is too long?

While most of the 176 verses of Psalm 119 mention one synonym for God’s word in each verse (e.g., promise, rules, law, precepts, testimonies, etc.), verse 48 is unusual as it gives two synonyms (your commandments, your statutes).  Only two other verses in the entire psalm include two synonyms (16, 168).  Interestingly, both of these other two verses come at the end of a 8-verse section just like verse 48, which is the final verse of the Vav section, where each verse in the Hebrew begins with the letter Vav.  So, the repetition of the Torah-synonym may be a way to close out a stanza.

How does one lift up one’s hands toward God’s commandments?  

I’ve taken a three-month break from blogging on the Psalms due to my health problems.  As my health has improved, I’m going to start blogging on Psalm 119 again, but I doubt I’ll be able to blog on it weekly.  We’ll see.  

Lazy Literature Interview in English (and German)

Julia Weisenbergers blog

Julia Weisenberger asked me a few questions for her blog.
Is the Old Testament still relevant?
Why focus on the bad-behaving God of the Old Testament?

Here’s the interview in English (2013).  Or if you’re ambitious, check it out in German (Julia is from Germany).

In my answers, I mention Quentin Tarantino, Eddie Murphy and the Covenant Code.

I also comment on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Shack, and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I’ve just gone over 50,000 hits today.  Tell your friends…



Only Ten Hours!?! The Bible Focuses on Abraham

The Bible Joshua

“What?  They skipped Creation?!?”

Last night we watched The Bible on The History Channel.  The big question I had ahead of time was, “What will they skip over?”  You communicate a lot about what you think is important as you decide what to focus on and what to ignore.  (Good news if you missed last night, they will re-broadcast episodes; click here for schedule of re-broadcasts).

Anyone who teaches this Bible (pastors, Sunday school teachers, seminary professors) face this problem on a regular basis.  When I teach Genesis, I have almost 40 hours and I struggle to teach all of the book.  What do you skip?

To tell the story of the Bible in only ten hours, you knew they were going to skip a lot of stuff.

So, when I saw the series begin with an ark floating on the water I assumed they had skipped Creation, the Fall, Cain and Abel.

Turns out I was wrong.  Noah re-told the story of the first few chapters of Genesis to his family while the rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew.  It was quick, but still well-done.  A creative way to go over material that would be difficult to film in a narrative manner.

The first hour focused on Abraham (I won’t bother calling him Abram for the first part).  Jacob and Joseph were skipped.  What can you do?  I respect that decision.  Abraham is more important to the rest of the story.  (Although Jacob is Israel…)  It was better to go into depth on Abraham than tell the story of each of the Patriarchs quickly.

They included Abraham’s call, particularly focusing on his bringing nephew Lot with him.  (God told Abraham to leave his family–should he have even brought Lot?  Lot only caused Abraham problems.  Just wondering…)

I was surprised they included the story of the 5 kings vs. the 4 kings where Abraham delivers Lot from captivity (Gen. 14), but then they skipped the story of Melchizedek.  I’m sure the author of Hebrews was crushed by that decision (see Heb. 5:6; 7:1-25).

In regards to the story of Sodom, they choose violence over sex in the city.  The Sodomites don’t want to rape the angels, they attack them.  One of the two angels transforms into a warrior with martial arts moves.  Lot doesn’t offer his two young daughters, and Lot’s daughters don’t seduce and commit incest with dad.  Frankly, I support those decisions.

Check out the Brick Testament online (the Lego Bible) sometime for the sex that The Bible ignores (even with Legos, it’s pretty bad sometimes).  Or the Brick Testament book on Amazon.

Overall, I enjoyed the first episode and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and creativity of how they told the story.  The slight changes they made were minor (early on Abraham tells Sarah and Lot that God was going to give him descendants as numerous as the stars, but the stars image doesn’t appear until Gen. 22:17).

Well worth watching.  I’ll probably purchase the series, unless someone at The History Channel decides to send me a free copy because I’ve blogged about it now twice…

Next week begins with Joshua (that’s him in the picture).

What did you think of The Bible?  What would you have skipped over?