Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Old Testament Theology: Book Review, Part I

Thanks to Chris at Zondervan for the review copy of this book.

Bruce Waltke’s book, An Old Testament Theology, is a massive undertaking, not just for the author, but also for the reader. Reading it is a commitment of time and energy, physical (at least when you’re sick like I am right now), mental and spiritual. But it’s a rewarding experience, as you feel like you understand the Old Testament, and God as revealed in the Old Testament, even better.

Because of its size and quality, I’ve opted to review and interact with this book over a longer period of time than the normal book review. I’ll actually skip most of what he has to say about methodology, not because it’s unimportant or boring (it is neither of those things), but quite frankly, something has to get cut.

Waltke has divided his book into “blocks” of OT literature: “Primary History”, dealing with the Pentateuch and Historical Narratives, and “Other Writings”, with the Prophets, Psalms and Wisdom Literature falling into this category. Oddly enough, he opts to leave Song of Songs out of his analysis in this book. This strikes me as a bit arbitrary, though I realize that it is not a theologically heavy book. But granting that, doesn’t it say something about who God is, even if indirectly?

For Waltke, the theological center of the OT is the “irruption (breaking-in) of the Kingship of God.” The continuing story of how God (Waltke uniquely refers to God as “I AM” throughout the book) brings His kingdom to earth is the story that drives the Old Testament, and continues right on into the New Testament (“All the previous irruptions of the kingdom of God were but a shadow of its appearing in Jesus Christ”, p145). “To put it another way, the Bible is about God bringing glory upon himself by restoring Paradise after humanity lost it through a loss of faith in God that led to rebellion against his rule” (p144).

I found it refreshing, though, that he doesn’t try to cram all theological statements from each book into this category. “To systematize, however, all the biblical materials to the procrustean bed of this message, would falsify their intention. The proposed center accommodates the whole, but the whole is not systematically structured according to it. A cross-section approach to develop that message through various stages in Israel’s history would not do justice to the rich biblical material” (p144). The idea is that the kingdom of God is the central theme of the OT, but the goal is to show the message of each book, even the parts that don’t fit under this theme perfectly.

Chapter 6, entitled “The Bible’s Center: An Overview”, is worth slowly reading and digesting. Honestly, it’d be great for anyone looking for a relatively short overview of the Old Testament teachings on the kingdom of God (it comprises pages 143-169 of the book). One of the strengths of this chapter is showing how narratives are linked by related concepts. For instance, in the history of Israel, we see how God creates a people, giving them the law, providing them with the land and a king to rule over them. However, Israel rebels, which causes God to punish their sin by forcing them into exile, yet leaves them with the hope of restoration.

We see the same pattern in the Garden of Eden. “God also creates a people (Adam and Eve), gives them a garden as the land to sustain and refresh them, hands down the law not to eat the forbidden fruit, and makes them kings to keep his garden. But they rebel against God and disobey him, and as a result, they are banished from the garden, exiled from their home. Yet in the punishment comes a promise and a hope; a ‘seed of the woman’ will triumph over the Serpent on humanity’s behalf” (p150, all italics are original).

Thus, in the Garden story and in Israel’s history, we see the need for the irruption of God’s kingdom (man’s sin has marred creation, Israel’s sin has left them in exile) and receive a glimpse of how the irruption of God’s kingdom will happen (through the “Seed”, through the King or “son of David”).

So, I’ll be posting thoughts as I go through the book and show how Waltke develops this theme of the irruption of God’s kingdom throughout his book. My intention is that the nature of the posts will vary. Sometimes I’ll simply report what he says that I find particularly helpful or interesting. Other times, I may interact with what he says, perhaps even daring to disagree on occasion. I hope you’ll find learning from Waltke vicariously through me to be a rewarding experience, and may you even be encouraged to purchase the book for yourself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bruce Waltke & OT Theology

I have always had an interest in Bruce Waltke, the famed OT scholar. I was first introduced to him (not literally) in undergrad by one of my OT professors who studied under Waltke at Dallas Seminary back in the 1970's. There were three things that stuck out to me then, that have been reinforced since, which separate Waltke from so many other Bible scholars.

Waltke is wicked smart.

First, we read an article written back in the 1960's about the "colophones" of the Psalms (the little notations "Written for the director of music. Of David", etc). He argued that our current understanding of how these colophones were used is incorrect. Have you ever noticed that in Habakkuk 3 the "For the director of music" notation comes at the end of the psalm rather than at the beginning (as in our book of Psalms)? Well, Waltke argues that Psalms should be understand that way as well (and pulls in outside sources like Egyptian poetry to buttress his position). This was one of my earliest introductions to evangelical scholarship, thus it has stuck in my mind ever since.

He also coauthored An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, a monster book we used in Intermediate Hebrew. It weighs in at almost 800 pages, and is bigger (dimensionally) than your standard book. It was also surprisingly easy to use for such a difficult subject.

Waltke also holds two doctorates, one in the OT (Dallas Seminary) and one in the NT (Harvard).

These three things stood out in my mind as showing that this man is incredibly intelligent (which is a nice non-Bostonian way of saying "wicked smart").

Waltke is a student of Scripture.

Waltke once taught at Dallas Theological Seminary, which is (arguably) the bastion of dispensational academics in America (probably the world). However, at some point (and I'm not entirely sure when) he underwent a change of theology, leaving behind dispensationalism. Depending on what side you stand on this issue (and I'm on the non-dispensational side), you may or may not like this. But what it said (and still says) to me is that he is a scholar who doesn't mind reexamining his position. Considering how many of us (scholars or laypeople) cement our feet in place and refuse to rethink our current theology, I find this aspect of Waltke's scholarship refreshing.

Since then, I ran across a quote (which I can no longer find) from the early 1990's where Watlke said something to the effect of "I don't think I really understood the OT until I began to read it narratively." It amazed me that someone who was a widely respected scholar (and not just by evangelicals), who had helped teach the Bible to thousands of students from the 50's on, could think he hadn't really understood the Bible.

All this to say, Waltke is a scholar who is constantly learning. It seems that his role as a student of Scripture has never ceased, no matter what "heights" in the scholarly world he has reached. Again, this attitude is a trait all-too-uncommon in the Church today (no, not just in the academy).

Waltke loves the Lord.

My professor once told us that when Waltke was teaching at Dallas, the beginning of the class period would be packed with people not enrolled in the class who would come just to hear Waltke pray. Now, I know of very few people I would go out of my way to hear pray. This says a lot about who Waltke is and the respect he commands, not just as a scholar, but as someone who loves the Lord.

These 3 things conspire together and cause me to admire not just the scholarship, but the humility and service of Bruce Waltke. And so, it's with excitement that I have been reading his new book, An Old Testament Theology. I'll be posting thoughts over the next couple months as a multi-part review/interaction. I do this in part because I get more out of the book because of it, but also because I know that some of my readers may never pick up a 1000 page book on OT Theology. Waltke wrote this book for the Church, so I'd like for everyone to glean from it's teachings. As Waltke says on page 19, "After all, this people has more at stake in understanding the Bible's message than anybody else- they are the ones committed to live out fully the implications of that message to the point of dying for its truth."

why am I here?

You might be thinking after reading the title of this post that I'll be discussing the deeper thoughts on life that we are all prone to have on occasion. Alas, such is not the case. Some of you may have remembered that I said I wouldn't be around much this summer because I had 2 mission trips and a vacation planned.

Well, we got back from Peru last week. Then I got sick. 104 degree temperature. Fainted. Went to the hospital. Stayed at the hospital. Pneumonia. Stupid doctor said I can't go on my second mission trip, the one my wife and I were supposed to lead.

So, my team is on the other side of the world, without me. I'm home, resting, reading and preparing for the coming year at church. It also means that I'll be posting more regularly, so stayed tuned (oooh, the suspense!).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Resurrection of the Body: Part V of V

Check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

This final post deals with some of the "so what?" questions that come up in my mind as we talk about the resurrection of the body. Many people can't figure out why it matters, so I hope to deal a little bit with that.

Some qualifying thoughts…

1. In this whole discussion of future benefits of Christ’s resurrection, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are present benefits as well. Since Christ has defeated sin, we can be free from sin today. Romans 6 carries out this thought. Paul hints at this in 1 Cor 15:17.

2. None of this is to deny the temporal nature of “the way things are.” We are told time and time again not to cling to the temporary pleasures of today.

What does it matter?

1. Because the Bible says so. This may appear flippant, but it really isn’t. If the Bible says that we will be resurrected, then we ought (at the very least) assume that it is important. This is especially true when we consider that this is the very completion of our salvation!

2. True reversal of what happened in the Garden of Eden. This is clearly seen in Revelation 22. “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there by any curse” (22:2-3). God’s plan is to reverse the curse that was levied against Adam and Eve in the Garden. The imagery of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21-22 intentionally echoes the Garden- and is even better!

3. God is not settling for plan B. By affirming that God’s original proclamation of creation as “good” and His desire to restore creation, we affirm that God is not simply a troubleshooter who had His plan thrown off track by those pesky humans. True, humans have marred creation with their rebellion. But even man’s worst rebellion has not ruined the inherent goodness in creation and its original worth to which God will restore it.

4. Helps reclaim eschatology in the Church. Much of the discussion on eschatology in American Christianity is dominated by talk about dates, tribulation, the Anti-Christ, the rapture, etc, that the hope that permeates the NT can be lost. Throughout the NT, Christ’s 2nd coming is seen as something to be longed for and a motivator for action. While most would agree, they still seem to get stuck on details the NT gives little information about and miss the victory that comes at the end. I find it heartbreaking the discussion of the “end times” tends to lead to confusion, fear or apathy (or some combination of these)- yet none of these were ever the intention of the NT authors!

5. There is comfort in knowing where we are going. It is interesting to note that where we go when we die is not where we will live forever. Where we go when we die is an intermediate state. Granted, it seems to be a wonderful place in the presence of God (Phil 1:23, 2 Cor 5:8). But that should make us long for what is beyond even that. If dying and going to heaven right now is better than this life, then how much better will living in a re-created world be!

In Romans 8, we see that Paul finds comfort during present sufferings in the fact that is “glory that will be revealed in us” (v18). But, note that the glory he is referring to is the redemption of our bodies- not simply dying and going to heaven right away (as true as that is). How different this is from the consolation we often give to others in suffering!

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we see that Paul comforts those who have lost loved ones- not by informing them that “they’re in heaven now”, but by reminding them that someday, Jesus is coming back and all His people will be reunited forever. This is, essentially, 1 Corinthians 15 in miniature. Yet, we consistently comfort those who mourn with thoughts about them being in heaven, which is comfort, to be sure. But, we are comforting them with something less than what God has planned!

6. There is value to the created order. In much of Greek philosophy the created order was something to be looked down upon. There was a higher spiritual existence that fair exceeded what we see here on earth. When one dies, their souls are transported to some disembodied existence where they remain forever. However, in the Bible, God values what He has created. This, of course, shouldn’t be surprising since He declared it all “good” when He first created it. Apparently, He values it enough that He was to see it completely redeemed.

This has some practical implications. First, in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul deals with the Corinthians who thought that the physical body was meaningless, therefore one has the right to do what they want with it (good Greeks that they were). Paul counters by pointing out that God is “for the body” and intends to raise us as He rose Christ from the dead (v14). Since God places such value on the body, so ought we.

Second, by analogy, we can make the same connection to creation as a whole in Romans 8. If God cares enough about the created order to redeem it fully, then we ought to care enough about it to honor it now, just as we should with our own bodies.

7. We share what belongs to Christ. This is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated aspects in modern Christianity. Those who are in Christ are “co-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Christians have an inheritance with Christ (because of Christ). This is seen here in resurrection. Christ has won victory over death, and shares that victory with His people- that is, they are raised from the dead just as He was.

There are other places with similar ideas. For instance, in Daniel 7 the Son of Man receives an eternal kingdom and is worshipped by the nations. In that same chapter, the saints also receive the kingdom- but are not worshipped. In Ephesians 1, Paul says that Christ was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God in the heavenlies. In chapter 2, Paul says Christ’s people are also seated in the heavenlies- but not at the right hand of the Father. The examples of Daniel 7 and Ephesians 1 show us that Christ shares in His victory, although there are certainly limits. In the same way, Christ shares His resurrection with His people.

In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul says that he wants to participate with Christ in His sufferings and “somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” In the next chapter, Paul talks about how Christians “eagerly await” Christ’s return when He “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (3:20-21). This echoes what Paul says in Romans 8:17- “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Christ shares His glorious resurrection with His people. That is what it means to be “in Christ.”

8. Treats death for what it really is- an enemy. There are hints in the church of the popular notion that death is just the beginning of a new journey (see Gandalf in LOTR). While our life as Christians certainly doesn’t end at death, the Bible itself treats death as an enemy that must be defeated. Death is not a part of God’s original plan for creation, it was the consequence of human sin. We know this by nature as well; death doesn’t simply feel like a new beginning. It hurts. It should; it’s a consequence of rebellion against God.

9. The resurrection points to the total view of the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God” is the primary focus of Jesus’ preaching. Contrary to much of popular Christian opinion, this kingdom is not simply a matter of collected souls for some disembodied existence. Rather, it is His kingdom here on earth. This kingdom is inaugurated in Jesus, and is carried out through the Church. This kingdom involves feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc. In understanding that God’s people will be resurrected in (imperishable) bodily form, we see that this is the final “installment” of the kingdom.

Part of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom was His healings; these 2 things cannot be separated. In God’s kingdom, sickness & demon possession are seen for what they are- not a part of God’s original plan. In Jesus, these problems begin to reverse. As Jurgen Moltmann stresses, the kingdom of God- when it has fully arrived- is the restoration of the natural (original) order of things: “Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ thing in a world that is unnatural, demonized, and wounded” (The Way of Jesus: Christology in Messianic Dimensions p99). These miracles point to what is to come- Moltmann says “But in the framework of hope for the coming of God and his kingdom, Jesus’ healings become inextinguishable reminders of this future” (In the End, the Beginning: The Life of Hope p65). Resurrection is ultimate healing- it fully restores what has been destroyed.

10. Avoids an “incomplete redemption.” The common view of “life after death” understands redemption as souls going to heaven. However, God’s plan of redemption is far more complete than that. He has not only given people souls, but bodies. Those bodies are affected by sin just as the soul is. God’s plan is not to discard what has been marred by sin, but to redeem it and set it free.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book Review: The Majesty of God in the Old Testament

Thanks to Caitlin at Baker Publishing for the copy of this book to review.

Walter Kaiser’s new book, The Majesty of God in the Old Testament: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching, sets out to help reclaim the subject of the majesty of God in our churches. This book, as the subtitle indicates, is geared towards preachers and teachers, though I imagine it would be useful for small group discussion leaders, as well.

The book is broken down into 10 chapters, each covering a different passage focusing on a different aspect of God’s majesty. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Magnifying the Incomparability of Our God (Isaiah 40:9-31)

2. Magnifying the Greatness of Our God (Daniel 4:1-37)

3. Magnifying the Word of Our God (Numbers 20:1-13)

4. Magnifying the Wonderful Name of Our God (Jeremiah 31:1-44)

5. Magnifying the Pardoning Grace of Our God (Micah 7:11-20)

6. Magnifying the Holy Spirit from Our God (Zechariah 4:1-14)

7. Magnifying the Awesome Character of Our God (Psalm 139:1-18)

8. Magnifying the Glory of Our God (Ezekiel 1:1-28)

9. Magnifying the Grace of Giving from Our God (1 Chronicles 29:6-19)

10. Magnifying the Holiness of Our God (Isaiah 6:1-13)

Now, his actual sermon style and outline is not necessarily something you have to copy, though I suppose you could (but cite your source!). But his outlines, especially, are useful for understanding how a passage is shaped. For those of us who’ve heard Dr Kaiser preach (he was President at Gordon-Conwell when I was there), you can see him throughout the book, from the sense of humor (dealing with Num 20:3-5 he notes that the Israelites “now let their cattle ‘horn in’ on the argument”, p58) to his use of interrogatives and keywords.

What will probably be the most helpful aspect is his ability to bring various aspects of biblical studies into the sermon preparation. To give some examples, he uses archaeology to help us understand just how great Babylon was in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and how that helps us understand Daniel 4:1-37 better. I know I didn't realize how massive and beautiful Babylon must have been, it helped me better understand Nebuchadnezzar's pride. He shows how word studies can be useful, especially in discussing the importance of “name” (ch 4) and “word” (ch 3). His thoughts here can be invaluable and I highly recommend them.

There were a couple weaker points, though part of that is merely a matter of interpretation. But still, he tries to argue that the Holy Spirit indwelt believers in the OT, yet only proves that the Holy Spirit was active amongst God’s people prior to Pentecost, which isn’t really up for debate. He makes much out of Moses saying “must we bring water out of this rock?” (Num 20:10), arguing that Moses was including himself in God’s activity when he should not have been. Kaiser asks, “Who said anything about Moses and Aaron bringing water out of the rock?” (p60)

Um, actually God did, right there in v8: “You will bring water out of the rock....” Moses clearly did something wrong in this passage, but confusing his personal pronouns was not the problem.

But those points shouldn’t detract from an otherwise helpful book. In fact, the first chapter, on Isaiah 40, was terrific; I plan on utilizing it in the future. And I’m in complete agreement with Dr Kaiser that the majesty of God is an underdiscussed topic in our churches today. I’m grateful he has written this book to help us in that deficiency.

On a final note, here’s hoping Dr Kaiser has many more healthy years ahead of him. He has been such a strong encourager and servant of the church for so many years; I pray that the Lord continue to use him in his (semi)retirement.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Review: Simple Spirituality

Thanks to Adrianna of IVP for the copy of this book for review.

Christopher Heuertz is the International Director for World Made Flesh, an organization dedicated to showing the love of Jesus through advocacy and ministering among the poorest people in the world. He is a man who lives out some of the most challenging verses of the Bible- those that call us to help those in need (not just feel bad for them) and sacrifice what we have on behalf of others. While not written for this purpose, I came away respecting Heuertz: he is a man who practices what he preaches. Too few have that honor.

There are 3 things to keep in mind while reading Simple Spirituality:

1. It is largely autobiographical. It is not a true autobiography, but contains stories of Heuertz's journey to "see God" and understand things the way they really are. Hence, the subtitle of the book, "Learning to See God in a Broken World."

2. It is a call to help the poor. Again, that is not the entire point of the book, but this comes across page after page. This book is a very real, very powerful call to take seriously Jesus' words and example.

3. It is a book on spiritual disciplines, 5 in particular: humility, community, simplicity, submission and brokenness. It is not a spiritual disciplines book in the classical sense, like Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, but it sees the disciplines in light of Heuertz's own story and the global (poor) community.

Keeping these 3 points in mind is helpful because it allows you to read the book for what it is, rather than hoping for something it is not. Thus, it is not a treatise on helping the poor, though it contains elements of that. It is not an in depth look into the biblical teachings of the disciplines, though that's in there too. And it is not a book about the life of Christopher Heuertz, though he writes time and time again of his own journey. These 3 elements are combined throughout this book, and I, for one, thought it was refreshing.

There were a few terrific points, some of which ought to go without saying, but alas, they need to be said anyway.

1. Heuertz notes that "As I learned to love GOd, my love was not motivated by fear or the threat of hell (not even the promise of paradise), but rather by the character of the One who is by nature lovable" (p36). It's true that much of American Christianity is based on the fear of hell or the hope of heaven, which is fine to an extent. But what about serving God because He is worthy to be served, not because of what He can do for us (or against us)? Isn't He worthy of being followed regardless of reward or punishment?

2. Throughout the book there is a simple (that's a big word for this book) following of Jesus' commands. If Jesus says "feed the poor", then, well, go and feed the poor!

3. "The worth of a person is directly related to the fact that he or she is created in the image of God" (p54). Thus, "our dignity comes from God, allowing our identity to be found in God" (p55).

4. "Many of us think that our personal geographical context justifies our disengagement from the hurt and pain of the rest of the world. ...fellow believers in the Sudan or Sri Lanka or Peru are as much an intrinsic part of the body of Christ as are the Methodists, Presbyterians, or Catholics down the street" (p81).

5. His chapter on simplicity was great; for instance, "essentially, simplicity is letting God truly be God, surrending to that in all areas of life as an act of submission to God and humanity" (p84).

6. On brokenness, he states, "We are broken when we recognize our utmost need for God and leave everything behind to have our needs met in God" (p129, italics original).

7. Finally, I'll quote one full paragraph from the chapter on community (p72). Next to it I wrote the word "OUCH."

While Christianity is fractured, the Muslims, who are famous for their brotherhood, take the appealing edge. Poor people know their need for community. They affirm their need for one another. They find strength in numbers. How can the church expect those on the margins to join it if the church can't offer them the one thing they know they need?

Heuertz is able to draw lessons from life and call us rich folk (yes, even us lower middle class Americans are rich in comparison to the majority of the church) without being condescending or manipulative. That is no small feat, given the tendency of many to use guilt trips in attempt to spur God's people into action. I think Heuertz is able to accomplish this because his story is about he came to learn these lessons. You get the sense that he simply wants the reader to learn the lessons he has learned.

I did have a few questions throughout the book that weren't answered, though I suppose that's bound to happen.

He calls the church to help the poor, citing Jesus' words and example. But, do they (Word Made Flesh, his organization) call the poor to "go and sin no more"? Heuertz doesn't answer this, but I'll admit this isn't the point of the book. But still, you can cure an idolatrous leper of his leprosy, but his greatest sickness remains: his idolatry.

Who are the "children of God" (p55)? Who makes up "Christ's body" (p140)? He often blends Christians and non-Christians into these definitions, yet I'm not sure, biblically speaking, we can include non-Christians into these terms. Certainly not "Christ's body", but I'm not even sure the Bible ever refers to non-Christians as "children of God." I may be wrong, and I'm willing to have someone point examples out to me, but that particular term seems to be reserved for those who are in the covenant people of God. With that being said, I'm not sure it matters too much when it comes to who we help- we're called to help whoever is in need (see the parable of the good samaritan). But it's a question worth asking.

Both of these questions are not answered, and I can't expect them to be, I suppose. This is especially true of the first question; this book is not about the practices of Word Made Flesh, so I can't wait around for him to tell me about how his organization handles such situations. But, if I ever have the pleasure of talking with Chris Heuertz over a cup of coffee, I'll ask him.

Finally, I'll point out that the Bible teacher in me would cringe periodically with his "what is the ___ (Goliath, 5 stones, etc) in your life?" style of hermeneutics.

This book was interesting to read on a plane ride to Peru, where I went on a short trip to help a poor town, and a church in that town, in the middle of the Andes Mountains. It was a helpful reminder that the comforts and treasures of our culture are fleeting and unnecessary. It was a reminder that those I was travelling to help are no less important than I am, not less made in the image of God.

If you're looking for a book that teaches you about the classic spiritual disciplines, then maybe you should go with Foster's book. If you're looking for a biblical teaching on possessions and money, I'd recommend Craig Blomberg's Neither Poverty Nor Riches. But if you want a book that combines some of both, Simple Spirituality is a great choice. It's an insightful look at how we can approach and learn the disciplines from the perspective of helping those in need, wherever they are.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Lead Us Back: Songs of Repentance

I’ve felt for some time that one aspect of biblical worship that is largely missing from our modern worship is songs of repentance & confession. In some cases that’s because we generally prefer our songs to be “uplifting”- we want people to connect with God, not feel bad about themselves. In other cases, it may be that we just don’t have that many good songs of repentance. I can understand that, song writers probably write songs of repentance, but those songs may be too personal for corporate worship.

The “uplifting” concern worries me, largely because such encouragement is ultimately shallow. We want the feel-good benefits of the grace of God, without acknowledging why that grace is needed in the first place. But without knowing how great our sin is, how can we ever know how great God’s grace is?

This morning I was listening to some songs from an album called Before the Throne, put out by Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. You can download 4 of the songs from that album for free; I highly recommend you do so soon. I’ve grown to love these songs, as evidenced by the fact that “In the Shadow of Your Glorious Cross” is the most played song on my iTunes. In this case, though, it was the song “Lead Us Back” that was particularly powerful. It is a song of corporate repentance and lament over our sin. The lyrics are by Bobby Gilles and Brooks Ritter. This song has its finger on the pulse of the church, and poetically describes some of our shortcomings. I found myself convicted of the sins mentioned in this song; and convinced of my need for God’s grace. I hope you take the time to read these, listen to the song and reflect.

Falling down upon our knees
Sharing now in common shame
We have sought security
Not the cross that bears Your name
Fences guard our hearts and homes
Comfort sings a siren tune
We’re a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You

Lord we fall upon our knees
We have shunned the weak and poor
Worshipped beauty, courted kings
And the things their gold affords
Prayed for those we’d like to know
Favor sings a siren tune
We’ve become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You

You have caused the blind to see
We have blinded him again
With our man-made laws and creeds
Eager, ready to condemn
Now we plead before Your throne
Power sings a siren tune
We’ve been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You

We’re a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You
We’ve become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You
We’ve been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You