H. B. Charles set the chapel on fire today at SBTS. I recommend you watch rather than simply listen:
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Having translated my essay “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts” into Spanish, Saul Sarabia Lopez has continued to serve his Spanish language compatriots, this time by translating my essay “Biblical Theology and Preaching” from the book Text Driven Preaching into Spanish.
If you or someone you know operates in Spanish, please do access this and/or help others do so:
The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. . . the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.
If you are a preacher, join us for the Expositor’s Summit at Southern Seminary, where we seek to fan the flames of your passion, to strengthen the connections in your thinking, and to help you grow in your ability to preach the whole counsel of God.
If you are a layperson who doesn’t preach, you could still benefit from this conference:
- you may serve on a search committee for a new pastor;
- you may encourage other members of the congregation to think well about what preaching ought to be;
- you may encourage your pastor to do the real thing, preach, spurring him to shun the knockoffs and cheap imitations of true proclamation.
Will you join us for the Expositor’s Summit? If you can’t, please do pray the Lord to move in hearts, minds, words, and study.
On a period of questioning and doubt:
“I definitely went through a period when I thought I would make the experiment of unbelief, and it lasted several months, and it felt so wrong. It was as if the ceiling of the universe had come down, so that it was just over my head. By attempting not to think in religious terms, the validity of religious terms came rushing back, and from that point on I dreaded the idea of the contracted universe.”
On what writing is:
She describes the act of writing in ways in which others might describe the act of faith, “a continuous attempt to make inroads on the vast terrain of what cannot be said. . . I seem to know, by intuition, a great deal that I cannot find words for.”
On what writing does for us:
“I have met a good number of people who have written several books that were never published, and, in many cases, those have been the most important experiences of their lives, because the thing about writing is that you find out more about your mind, in a sense, than you would find out by any other means.
“You find out where your imagination lives, and what your favourite words are, and what kinds of things have an emotional charge that you would not anticipate they would have. You find out that you have an incredible store of memory that you would not otherwise access. And so you have the feeling of being a much larger life, in a way, than you would have known you were if you had not written.”
On pastors and their understanding of their role:
“There’s something shy and apologetic about their role, and this makes other people shy and apologetic, and sort of weakens the core of things. It seems to me that, as much as anything, it is the clergy’s loss of confidence in the meaningfulness of their role, relative to a congregation, that undermines them.
“I’m not saying they need to be assertive, or dominant, but that, when they baptise someone, they have to believe that they have done something important; when they preach, they have to feel that they are living up to the definition of the sermon.”
Biblical theology is vital for understanding the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The DMin concentration in biblical theology at Southern will equip pastors and ministry leaders to understand the Bible in accordance with the intentions of its Spirit-inspired human authors. Jesus taught the authors of the New Testament how to understand the Old Testament, and Jesus himself learned to understand the Old Testament from the way the Old Testament Prophets interpreted Moses. Our aim is to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective that is reflected in the writings of the Old and New Testaments, the interpretive perspective Jesus taught his followers. This is what it means to pursue Christian interpretation of the Bible.
Our aim is to build on the foundation laid in the student’s Master of Divinity program by strengthening the student’s skill in the biblical languages and in putting the whole Bible together for the purpose of expository preaching that declares the whole counsel of God. To this end we will pursue a course of instruction that includes review of Greek and Hebrew, along with overviews of Old and New Testament Theology and the way the biblical authors interpret earlier Scripture. The written project that will serve as the capstone of this degree will be a biblical theological sermon series, manuscripts of sermons that set the biblical text being preached in the context of the Bible’s big story and themes.
Here’s the course of study:
Introduction to Doctoral Research & Writing: This seminar introduces professional doctoral students to the standards of doctoral research and writing. Particular emphasis is placed on the standards pertaining to seminar papers, project proposals, and research projects. Stress is also placed on utilizing the necessary library resources for doctoral work.
Project Methodology: This course provides preparation for the research project and interaction between students, faculty supervisors, and resource persons.
Hebrew Review Course: This course is designed as a refresher for those who fulfilled basic Hebrew requirements during their MDiv programs.
Old Testament Theology: An examination of the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors in the OT. A particular focus will be placed upon the big story they presuppose and the imagery, symbolism, and patterns they use to summarize and further interpret that story.
Greek Review Course: This course is designed as a refresher for those who fulfilled basic Greek requirements during their MDiv programs.
New Testament Theology: An examination of the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors in the NT. A particular focus will be placed upon the big story they presuppose and the imagery, symbolism, and patterns they use to summarize and further interpret that story.
Use of the Old Testament in the Old Testament: An examination of the way later Old Testament authors interpret earlier Old Testament Scripture.
Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament: An examination of the way the New Testament authors interpret the Old Testament.
Contextualized Writing Seminar: This course is designed to aid the student in applying the program curriculum to the writing of the final project.
You can apply today at SBTS.edu.
How should we approach preaching the Minor Prophets? Should we move through the text chronologically, thematically, book by book, several books per sermon? A friend of mine posed these questions to me, and I thought I’d put my replies here in case they might help others as well.
The Chronological approach would be difficult to nail down, I think, because we don’t have kings listed at the beginning of each one establishing when the prophet ministered – so we’re not exactly sure when Jonah or Joel or Obadiah prophesied.
So without a statement from the author, the chronological approach moves us into historical considerations, and since the author doesn’t make clear historical statements, we’re inching away from authorial intent.
I prefer to stay with authorial intent, and we can say that the author intended to present what he actually said (and in these cases he didn’t say anything about dates or chronology . . .).
So for me the two preferable options would be either to (1) follow the author’s own structure in seeking the structures for your sermons–so you base the sermon or series on the structure of the books themselves (the sections in GGSTJ on these books give my attempt at their structure), or (2) choose a set of themes that you want to teach through–see for example the chart on p. 232 in GGSTJ.
If you look at GGSTJ 229–34, you’ll see that I think the 12 have been arranged to comprise one “book” that communicates a unified message. On p. 234 I summarize Paul House’s description of that message.
If you wanted to do three sermons that covered the whole 12 prophets, my recommendation would be do follow the three bullet points I give on p. 234 that come right out of a book Paul House wrote – he’s footnoted on that page.
If you’re in the Denver area, I’d love to see you tomorrow and Sunday.
Lord willing, I’ll be teaching from 9am to 5pm at Faith Baptist Church in Parker, Colorado on Saturday, June 9, 2012 on the Fulfillment of the OT in Revelation.
Then on Sunday I’ll be preaching from Revelation 5.
Would love to see you there!
Denny’s introduction was prophetic:
We all found out last month what the President of the United States thinks about marriage. He sat down for an interview with ABC News and announced to the world [in his own words],
“I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married…”
He went on,
“[Michelle and I] are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated…”
My reaction to what the President said probably wasn’t that different from yours. I thought that what he said was outrageous. I thought that citing Jesus as if He were in support of sexual immorality was blasphemous. But I also thought, there’s really nothing new here.
The president is a sign of our times not the cause of our times. If you think that the President has caused the massive revolution in our culture on marriage, you are just wrong. The changes have accelerated in the last few years, but the seeds were sown many decades before.
Our culture long ago embraced…
-The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s …
-The idolatry of sex and the diminishing of marriage…
-The ubiquity of the birth control pill and the severing of human sexuality from its connection to children and family.
-No-fault divorce and the idea that we can change spouses like we change sox.
-That there’s no difference between men and women, gender is just a social construct that we learn from culture, not something given to us by God at creation.
-And closely related to this, the idea that gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to human sexuality. And so we have a whole generation of young people who see nothing at all wrong with homosexuality.
No, our culture’s devolution didn’t begin last month with an announcement from the President. This slide has been a long time coming.
Denny’s exposition of Ephesians 5:21–33 that followed this introduction was powerful and piercing, and funny too–you’ll probably hear me belly laughing when you listen to this.
And Denny’s conclusion was poetic. He had me and many others in tears with these words:
I wrote a poem for Susan on our third anniversary that was a bit of a vision of how I was hoping and praying we might end up. It’s a story that ends with a short prayer.
The old man took her tired hand
to hold for one last time.
The years had fin’lly pressed her to
her final breaths of life.
Their wrinkled hands in warm embrace
brought back the long-gone years,
The memories of their happy times,
and those dissolved in tears.
The old man saw in her ill frame
the girl that stole his heart.
He saw in her that gracious gaze
that filled their home with warmth.
His mind turned back to lighter days
when she did make her mark,
The children her love reared for them,
Her single heart for God.
He also felt the weight of grace
that marked her many years,
How she had borne him patiently
when he did cause the tears.
The old man said, “My love, the time
was cruelly short to me.
I cannot say goodbye to you
and let your passing be.”
“How can I ever say farewell
or ever let you part?
You are my only precious thing,
the joy of my old heart.”
And as his eyes began to well,
she reached to touch his face.
And then her quivering voice began
to give one final grace.
“This is the day the Lord has made,
The one He’s brought to pass.
This day was written in His book
before my first was past.”
“The Lord has granted us to spend
together all these years.
He’s also granted all the joy
and even all our tears.”
“And though this is a bitter day,
we owe Him so much thanks.
Dear, we made it! By Him we did!
Yes, we made it! By grace!”
Oh Father, grant that we may see
our days as at their end.
Oh let us know the weight of grace
in every year we spend.
We make this prayer unto You,
for there is no one higher.
This testimony of Your grace
we desperately desire!
This sermon is not to be missed. Listen here: Denny Burk, Ephesians 5:21–33, Husbands, Wives, and the Glory of God
This post is a quick response to a question in a comment on my post on Jane Austen and Jeremiah 20:7. The question was what commentaries have helped me most as I’ve worked through Jeremiah.
My answer is along the lines of what I recently said about what seminaries are for, because what has helped me most as I’ve preached through Jeremiah has been reading the text in Hebrew.
I’m not boasting about being able to read Hebrew, here. It took me a long time to learn it. In fact, I had 8 Hebrew related classes as a Th.M. student at DTS, and when I got to SBTS I was served up a nice big slice of humble pie when Peter Gentry and Russell Fuller proved to me that I needed to re-take elementary Hebrew. I was humbled, ashamed, offended, but I knew they were right. They served me well, and I went back through elementary Hebrew as a PhD student. My pride made it difficult to accept, but I wanted to be able to read Hebrew more than I wanted to preserve the appearance of being a big smart PhD student.
God mercifully gave me the opportunity to study. He mercifully gave me patient teachers willing to tell me what I needed to do. He mercifully allowed me to have the time as a PhD student to re-take those courses.
And being able to read the Hebrew text of Jeremiah as I prepare to preach that book is the most useful part of my sermon prep.
I’m not dogging people who can’t read Hebrew. We all have different gifts and different opportunities and different privileges.
I am saying to people starting seminary or Bible college, or people in process at such schools thinking about where best to invest their time: an education is more important than a diploma. Get yourself an education, whether that amounts to a degree or not. Ideally the degree will come along with the education, but if you’re picking between the two, the education is the more important.
That is to say, I think it’s more important for you to learn the biblical languages than for you to get your credential. So I recommend that you take the biblical languages early and often. You can get other advice from other people with other concerns. That’s fine.
God has spoken in his word. His word is better than the commentaries upon it. His word is better than biblical and systematic theologies written about it. His word is the tool that he will use to change lives. If you have the chance, why wouldn’t you give yourself to his word in its original languages?
I think a valid reason for pursuing a PhD is developing what Peter Gentry refers to as “sovereign command of the biblical languages.” Obviously that’s a high goal, but we’re talking about the very word of God and the eternal souls of men, right?
So I’m not saying that I make no recourse to commentaries. When I need help, I make use of what I have available, and in God’s kindness I have access to a few books. Often, though, if I’ve done my work in the Hebrew text, I’m pretty clear on what’s going on and just glance through a few relevant books to make sure I’m not missing some juicy inter-textual connection or bit of background or historical information. Many commentaries are just rearranging one another’s footnotes.
The best thing is to hunker down over the Hebrew text, ask the Lord to give illumination by his Spirit, and then let the prophet speak.
When I work my way through a book of the Bible, I like to get a robust exegetical commentary along with a more pastoral one and work through them as I prepare to preach.
The exegetical commentary helps me with historical and background details, gives me a check on the way I’m reading the text, and alerts me to intertextual issues I may have missed. I think the best commentary on Proverbs for these purposes is Bruce Waltke’s 2 vol. NICOT set.
The pastoral one is especially useful because it affords an opportunity to see how someone has not only interpreted but illustrated and applied the text. The best commentary for these purposes has just appeared: Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.’s Proverbs, in the Preaching the Word series edited by Kent Hughes.
Ray Ortlund is gospel wise, and I’m thankful that he set his heart and mind to the book of Proverbs. May the Lord bless his word in this book!
If so, you’ll want to check out The Rhetoric Companion from N. D. Wilson and Douglas Wilson.
I’m not saying that reading this book will enable you to write a book like N. D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl or be as clever as Doug Wilson in a verbal swordfight. After all, it’s one thing for Michael Jordan teach you his moves, it’s something else for you to try to dunk from the free throw line. Some things have to be put there by God, and if God didn’t give it, there’s no getting it. These guys have talent.
But even if you’re not going to win the NBA dunk contest, working on your fundamentals will help you in pick up games and the church league ball. You won’t become Michael Jordan, but you can make the best of what you have. And you should. And this book can help you do it.
Please don’t object at this point that I’m introducing worldliness into this conversation. I’m not suggesting that what N. D. and Doug Wilson do is somehow more holy or more pleasing to God than what the rest of us do. It is the case, though, that N. D. Wilson’s fiction is being published by Random House and he’s appeared on Good Morning America and been featured on NPR. Meanwhile, Doug Wilson’s prose is an inimitable combination of G. K. Chesterton and P. G. Wodehouse. What theologian is more fun to read?
They’re playing in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean the pick up ball the rest of us enjoy on Monday nights is any less significant (or fun), and it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fundamentals of basketball. Hone your skills. Serve your people. Love them. Work on your technique. Practice your free-throws and ball handling. Learn how to see the floor. Read this book.
This past weekend it was my privilege to be in Fayetteville, AR, at University Baptist Church. I spoke on the theme of God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology.
These talks seek to summarize the Bible’s big story, highlighting the promises that generate the typological patterns.
The talks are now available on UBC’s website, or you can use these links:
What hath Whittaker Chambers to do with “Hope and Change”?
What hath communism and secular liberalism to do with the promises of God in the Bible?
What do racial equality and diversity, environmentalism, peace in our time, provision for all, the hope of socialism, the goals of liberalism, and the aims of all politicians have to do with Christianity?
On Sunday, November 20, 2011, it was my privilege to address “Hope and Change and the Promises of God” at Providence Baptist Church in Pasadena, TX.
This was an overtly evangelistic, gospel sermon. This was a sermon aimed at unbelievers pleading with them to embrace Christianity.
May the Lord be pleased to call many to himself.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD'” –Jeremiah 9:23–24
On Sundays November 20 and 27, it was my privilege to preach Jeremiah 8:4–9:26.
In this passage Yahweh comes looking for fruit on the fig tree of Israel and finds none (Jer 8:13). Yahweh is grieved to the point of tears by the unfaithfulness of Israel and weeps over their sin (Jer 8:18–9:1). Then Yahweh says in Jeremiah 8:21, “For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken.”
There is a stunning correspondence here with the way that Jesus encounters the fig tree that has borne no fruit, weeps over Jerusalem, and then is broken for the brokenness of his people. It’s not that Jeremiah is overtly predicting what Jesus would do, it’s more that the pattern that Jesus would fulfill is woven into the fabric of Jeremiah’s prophecy. I’m inclined to think, too, that Jesus probably had these parts of Jeremiah in mind as he approached Jerusalem, saw that fig tree, wept over the city, and went to the cross.
I am so grateful for the ministry of Tommy Dahn, and I express my gratitude to and for him in the sermon at Providence.
Since he wasn’t there when I preached the same text at Kenwood, I opened the sermon with an illustration about my weedeater.
May the Lord bless his word.
Saturday night, November 19, I had the privilege of doing an introduction and overview of biblical theology at Providence Baptist Church in Pasadena, TX (Houston area).
It was an honor to be at the church pastored by Tommy Dahn, who with Bruce Stoney ordained me to gospel ministry back in January of 2004.
You can hear the Intro to Biblical Theology, focusing on story, symbol, and pattern, here: An Introduction to Biblical Theology.
In 2 Corinthians 6:1–13, Paul gives evidence of his authenticity, and it has nothing to do with connecting with the Corinthians in cultural terms. In fact, Paul’s authenticity derives from the way that he is going against cultural norms. He proclaims a message that offends cultural sensibilities as it points away from worldly advantages to what God has done in Christ.
For preaching this message, Paul is treated in ways that are shameful in the culture, and it is this very shame and opprobrium that he has experienced that Paul points to when he wants to demonstrate his authenticity.
Paul’s suffering shows that he is authentic because in spite of being treated shamefully, he continues to preach the same message. This proves that Paul is not preaching this message to make his own life easier or his own name great but to declare the truth of the gospel. Moreover, even as people try to kill Paul, he lives, and the power of God to sustain life, to sustain Paul through all the affliction he endures, shows that it is God’s power at work in Paul.
When Paul wants to convince the Corinthians that they should listen to him, he doesn’t say anything about facial hair, technology, or anything that might score cool points in Corinthian minds. Paul makes a list of things about himself that demonstrates the bankruptcy of those values.
How do you show your authenticity? The way Paul did? Or does some other validating set of norms come to mind when you hear that word?
On Sunday, November 13, 2011, it was our privilege to ordain Noah Lee to the work of pastoring Faith Bible Church in Missoula, Montana.
Sermon audio here: 2 Corinthians 6:1–13, Commending Ourselves as Servants of God.
2 Corinthians 6:4–10 is a beautifully constructed passage, full of of ugly words made lovely by the truth of the gospel.
As I indicated in a previous post, it seems that Jeremiah 1:18–19 and Jeremiah 6:27–30 are bracketing Jeremiah 2–6 as a unit in which there is a progression from Israel’s sin to Israel’s rejection for their refusal to repent.
This would place Jeremiah 7 at a strategic juncture introducing the next section of the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah cycles through a call to repentance, an indictment of sin, and an announcement of judgment three times in chapter 7:
|7:1–7, Israel Called to Repentance: You Trust in the Temple but Deny It with Your Actions||7:16, Don’t Pray for Them (Repent!)||7:21–24, Repent of Your Worthless Worship: Your Deeds Nullify Your Sacrifices|
|7:8–11, Judah Breaks the Ten Commandments||7:17–18, Judah Worships Other gods||7:25–28, Israel Rejects the Prophets and Jeremiah|
|7:12–15, God Will Judge the Temple as He Judged Shiloh||7:19–20, The Temple Will Be Judged and All Creatures Will Suffer||7:29–8:3, Judgment on the Generation of God’s Wrath|
The first two statements of judgment (Jer 7:12–15 and 7:19–20) speak directly of the destruction of the temple.
The third description of judgment uses the imagery of the visitation of wrath enacted by Josiah in 2 Kings 23 to describe a future visitation of wrath. From the context, this visitation of wrath also pertains to the coming destruction of the temple, but imagery is used in Jeremiah 7:33 that will be used by John to describe the judgment Jesus will bring at his return in Revelation 19:17–19.
So a past visitation of wrath, what Josiah visited in 2 Kings 23, is being used to point forward to the future visitation of God’s wrath that Jeremiah is describing, which in part is the destruction of the temple that will happen in 586 BC. I say “in part” because another destruction of the temple will fulfill what Jeremiah is describing, the one Jesus spoke of in John 2:19–22, and both of these point also to the visitation of wrath Jesus will bring when he returns in Revelation 19.
Jeremiah is preaching in the temple (Jer 7:2), he indicts Israel for making the temple a den of robbers (7:11), and then he warns of the destruction of the temple (7:14). Jesus quotes Jeremiah’s “den of robbers” line when he cleanses the temple (e.g., Mark 11:17) because the wicked in Jesus’ day are like the wicked of Jeremiah’s day and because the judgment visited on the temple in 586 is a type of the judgment to be visited when Jesus, the replacement of the temple (John 2:19–22), dies on the cross.
In the midst of the third description of judgment, Jeremiah speaks of “the generation of his wrath” in 7:29. This is an interesting use of the word “generation,” and it supports the typological understanding of what Jesus says in Mark 13:30, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
The judgment Josiah enacted in 2 Kings 23 is used by Jeremiah when Jeremiah describes the “type” of thing God will do when he enacts judgment and destroys the temple. The judgment of God that will fall on the temple is also a type of the judgment of God that will be fulfilled when Christ dies on the cross, and Jesus will fulfill the pattern of Josiah when he visits judgment on the cosmic temple at his return.
In keeping with all this, the word “generation” does not refer to a group of people alive at a specific point in time but to “the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:3), the “crooked and depraved generation” (Phil 2:15), the “scoffers” (2 Pet 3:3) of all generations who gather together against the LORD and his anointed.
On Sunday, November 6, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Jeremiah 7: The Temple Sermon – Indictment of Unrepentant Israel at Kenwood Baptist Church.
Adolph Schlatter said of Friedrich Nietzsche:
The chief impression that I internalized from his lectures arose from his offensive haughtiness. He treated his listeners like despicable peons. He convinced me of the principle that to throw out love is to despoil the business of teaching—only genuine love can really educate.
Nietzsche believed in the superman, made by energy, intellect, and pride (Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 425–27). No energy can propel perfect righteousness, and no amount of energy will enable one to escape God. No intellect can recreate the universe, and no intellect will devise a way to avoid judgment. No pride fails to offend, and no pride will go un-humbled.
We will not be delivered by energy, intellect, and pride. We will be delivered if we repent of our sin and trust in Jesus.
God rejects those who will not repent.
Jeremiah 1 presents the calling of Jeremiah as a prophet like Moses. He indicted Israel’s spiritual adultery in chapter 2, called them to repent and be restored in 3:1–4:4, summoned them to wash their hearts from evil in 4:5–31, only to see Israel refuse to repent in chapter 5, which results in the verdict that Israel has been refined in vain and rejected in chapter 6.
The “Thus says the LORD” statements and the changes in theme structure this passage.
6:1–5, Looming Disaster
6:6–15, The Lord Announces Israel’s Punishment
6:6–8, Hearts That Keep Evil Fresh
6:9–15, Uncircumcised Ears
6:16–21, Israel Rejected Ancient Paths and Watchmen
6:22–26, The Lord Describes the Coming Enemy
6:27–30, Jeremiah the Tester of Metals
There are a number of similarities of language and thought between Jeremiah 1:18–19 and 6:27–30. In both places the LORD says to Jeremiah, “I have made you . . .” and the term rendered “tester of metals” in 6:27 in the ESV has the same consonants as the term rendered “fortified” in 1:18, and then in both places there are references to iron, bronze, and conflict between Jeremiah and the people.
All this leads me to think that after the introductory chapter that presents Jeremiah’s call (Jer 1), 1:18–6:30 is the first major section of Jeremiah’s book, a section bracketed by 1:18–19 and 6:27–30.
Sometimes people talk and write as though the book of Jeremiah is a sort of loose collection of sermon notes or transcriptions. I’m inclined to think, rather, that Jeremiah is a carefully arranged, carefully structured, finished literary product.
On October 30, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Jeremiah 6: Refined in Vain and Rejected at Kenwood Baptist Church.
 Werner Neuer, Adolf Schlatter: A Biography of Germany’s Premier Biblical Theologian, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1996), 44.
In an earlier post I suggested some ways to determine how Jeremiah has structured his message:
repeated words and phrases, changes in content or theme, and changes in point of view (for instance, from first person to second or third) are all indicators of turning points in Jeremiah’s presentation.
In Jeremiah 5 it seems to me that a repeated grammatical form, the imperative, serves as the structural marker for Jeremiah 5:1–31. The LORD gives commands to Jeremiah in 5:1, 5:10, and 5:20, and each command is followed by a change in content, so that the flow of thought in the chapter falls out like this:
Jeremiah 5:1–9, Israel Unrepentant
Jeremiah 5:10–19, Israel Under Judgment
Jeremiah 5:20–31, Israel’s Under Isaiah’s Hardening
There is also a flow of thought moving through these early chapters of Jeremiah: Jeremiah is called as a prophet like Moses in chapter 1, he indicts Israel for her spiritual adultery in chapter 2, calls them to repent and be restored in 3:1–4:4, instructs them to wash their hearts from evil in 4:5–31, and then the nation refuses to repent in chapter 5.
On Sunday, October 23, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Jeremiah 5: The Refusal to Repent at Kenwood Baptist Church. May the Lord give us repentant hearts.
I’ve argued that Jeremiah was a prophet like Moses, and Jesus is the typological fulfillment of this pattern that began with Moses. Luke presents both Peter and Stephen asserting that Jesus is the prophet like Moses announced in Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (Acts 3:22–23; 7:37), and Matthew, Mark, and Luke are pointing to this in their transfiguration accounts (see esp. Luke 9:31, 35).
The Lord told Moses that he would be “as God” to Pharaoh with Aaron as his mouth (Exod 4:16). It’s as though Moses represents God and Aaron becomes the prophet of God.
Moses spoke for God. One aspect of being a prophet like Moses, then, is speaking for God.
In Jeremiah 4:19–22, Jeremiah is speaking in the first person (“My,” “I”, etc.). It seems that Jeremiah is speaking of himself in verse 19, “My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!” And he continues to speak in the first person through verse 26. By 4:22, though, it appears that he is speaking as or for Yahweh rather than himself when he says, “my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding.”
The key phrase here that makes me think that the “I/My” is Yahweh rather than Jeremiah is “they know me not” (Jer 4:22). It seems that the problem the people have is that they don’t know God. Even if this is merely Jeremiah saying that the people don’t recognize him as Yahweh’s prophet, the cause of that would that they don’t know God, so it still points to Jeremiah speaking for God.
It seems to me, though, that what’s in view is not that the people don’t know Jeremiah (though they are not heeding his message). The problem is that they don’t know God. So in Jeremiah 4:19–22, it seems that Jeremiah begins speaking of himself in the first person and ends by speaking for Yahweh in the first person.
I take this as another way that Jeremiah is a prophet like Moses. God made Moses to be as God to Pharaoh (Exod 4:16), and God made Jeremiah to speak for God to the people of Israel.
This trajectory will be fulfilled in the one who came as God incarnate and spoke as God to the people. Jeremiah, then, is an installment in the typological pattern of the prophet like Moses who speaks for God, a typological pattern that Jesus fulfills.
If you want more on this passage, here’s my sermon on Jeremiah 4:5–31, “Wash Your Heart from Evil.”
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