Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Altars of earth and undressed stone (Exodus 20vv24-25)

 It’s surprising how often one can go to the commentaries looking for help on a particular issue and come away not entirely satisfied.

(My preparation this week has been thwarted by my computer crashing several times and the document I’m sure I repeatedly saved having apparently disappeared too, so I can't find the notes I made earlier on this but that’s another story.)

Anyway, in Exodus 20v24, why does God command an altar of earth? And in v25, if the altar is made of stones, why is it to be made with undressed stones?

I’ve looked at 4 commentaries and 1 book, listened to a talk and done a bit of Googling and I’m still not entirely sure. http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/1590/why-should-an-altar-be-made-with-uncut-stone

The interpretation is potentially complicated by the fact that later dressed stones are used in making the temple, though they have to be dressed at the quarry so that no sound of a chisel is to be heard at the temple. http://biblehub.com/1_kings/5-17.htm

A general point could be made here regarding the Regulative Principle of Worship related to the 2nd Commandment. God is to be worshiped in his appointed way. He commands the worship that is acceptable to him. But why these specific commands?

Some commentators contrast these altars with the Cannanite altars. Certainly God is unique and unlike any other so called gods.

A point might be made about faith and works. Human beings contribute nothing here. God provides for his own worship.

Maybe a contrast is intended with the bricks of Babel and of Pharaoh.

Some commentators suggest that such altars were used to avoid the temptation to make graven images. Or that such an altar was more easily thrown down and less likely to become an idol.

The suggestion that undressed stones would be less distracting for the worshiper seems unpersuasive to me. The same objections could be made against the ornamentation of the tabernacle and temple, but God commanded that.

James Jordan suggests that an altar of earth represents human beings who are also made from the earth, according to Genesis. Altars are mini-mountains recalling Eden, which was raised ground from which rivers flowed, and connected to the fact that God often meets people on mountains, as at Sinai, of course. Believers are like mini-Sinais as at Pentecost when fire comes down on each person as on the mountain or as on an altar.  

The stone cut without hands in Daniel 2 points us towards Christ as the ultimate God-given altar by which atonement is made and through whom fellowship with God is enjoyed. 

Any help gratefully received!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Continuity of the Law

One of the basic questions about Old and New Testaments is whether one tends to assume continuity or discontinuity, though all Christians want to affirm some kind of unity and some type of change.

The Revd Dr Joe Boot makes an interesting argument in this debate that even after Pentecost the Apostle Peter in Acts 10 assumes such a degree of continuity regarding the law of God that direct revelation is required for him to realise that the Mosaic food laws are no longer binding on him - although of course he ought to have realised this from the teaching of Jesus (Mark 7:19). 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bible Praise & Worship Songs

Mrs Lloyd currently has a Seeds Family Worship CD in her car, which I drove today.


At times it sounds like a fairly bog standard modern praise and worship CD, which sometimes I can take or leave.

But the great difference is that Seed Family Worship draws directly from the words of the Bible.

So I found this rather changed how I listened to it. Here is authoritative, normative prayer and praise. Although not every Psalm might totally suit me (considered in myself) or my circumstances right now, here are words on which I can confidently depend - words of light and life, sweet and precious, which can make wise the simple. These are not words which I have to evaluate: do I agree with that? Is that right? Rather, these are words that weigh me, words before which to bow. I can imbibe these words in a way in which it would be foolish to listen to any merely human words, praying that they would re-shape and mould me into a person more like the Blessed Man of Psalm 1 or someone who has benefitted from Psalm 19.

I hope to drive Mrs Lloyd's car again soon.

Monday, June 08, 2015

A Pet Service Talk / Sermon Outline: A person's best friend

(Look away now if you are coming to the Pet Service at Bodle Street Green this year)

How would you complete this sentence?

"A dog is..."

(1) "A dog is a man [or person]'s best friend"?

(see Wikipedia for the origin of the phrase)

cf. husband or wife! - not just a friend but hopefully at least a best friend!

Why might someone say that?
e.g. loyalty, companionship, the dog doesn't answer back, always pleased to see you!

The importance of human friednship - see Proverbs, Vaughan Roberts' 10 of Those book etc.

(2) Jesus is the best friend of those who trust in him

A Biblical theology of friendship with God
Adam and Eve in the garden
Abraham - only person called a friend of God in the Bible
(The prophets)
Moses - spoke with God face to face as a man speaks to his friend
Job 16
Jesus the friend who sticks closer than a brother
Jesus calls his disciples his friends
- they are to do what he commands (unlike most friends! friendship with a king)
- he loves them so much that he lays down his life for them
- he tells them his business (unlike a servant) - cf. Abraham and the prophets

(You have to choose your friends well - friendship with the world is emnity towards God)

In what ways is Jesus a good friend?
Always there, always listens, never lets you down, powerful, wise, loving, knows us etc.

Friendship with God possible for us through the cross which makes enemies friends

Songs: It's great, great, brill, brill... to have a friend like Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus